Veterans Day 2020

On this Veterans Day 2020, a fitting commentary to this year was provided by our American flag. It typically flies proudly from the roof in our front yard, but yesterday I found it on the sidewalk, slightly worn and tattered. It looks like it was pulled off its bracket by winds no doubt related to Tropical Storm/Hurricane Eta, which is traveling up the west coast of Florida. (I should add that it is late in this busiest-on-record hurricane season. We’ve used up the alphabet and moved into Greek. I’m not even surprised, 2020, but I digress.)

It’s been a rough year for our flag, which sadly will no longer see the light of day. But I still love it and all for which it stands. Flags can be replaced – they are just symbols, after all. But today I am thinking about people whom I love who fought for what that flag represents. Specifically, I’m reminiscing about my dad, Arthur L. Manning, Jr., and my uncle, Luther C. Cox.

My dad was a gunner in a B-29 in the Pacific campaign. During part of his tour, a war correspondent, Richard Tregaskis from the Saturday Evening Post, flew with his crew. My dad’s face is one of the young men surrounding Tregaskis in a featured picture in the series of articles entitled Road to Tokyo.

I don’t remember hearing much about the war when I was a kid. Perhaps it was because memories can be painful, or more likely it was because I was a kid and didn’t ask. In Dad’s golden years, though, he’d talk freely. He kept up with his crew or their widows until he was the only one left. So much so that their names were familiar to me. I am sure he was the last of them because he was the one who kept them together in each other’s hearts and minds all those decades after the war. Dad died three years ago at the age of 94. In the last years of my memories of him, he’s always wearing his hat. He was a proud veteran and loved his country fiercely.

Uncle Luther was a navigator of a B-24 bomber in World War II. He survived the crash of the “Double Trouble” when he was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea on a cold January day in 1943. For the next two years and three months, he would be a guest of the Fuhrer; but he survived that, too. He retired an Air Force lieutenant-colonel and went on to teach ROTC at Orlando’s Oak Ridge High School. Also surviving his internment was his journal, which was featured in the Florida magazine of The Orlando Sentinel on June 24, 1984. He published a book, Always Fighting the Enemy, a World War II Chronicle, which includes writings and drawings from his journal along with stories he kept in his heart.

Uncle Luther in Italy

I spent a lot more time with my uncle after I was married because we lived in the same state. He was ten years to the day older than my mom, and we celebrated their birthdays together. He was kind of a legend to me. I was and still am in awe of his surviving being shot down and all that time in POW camps. There is so much about him to admire. He and his wife adopted two children from Europe and brought them home to the states. I have many fond memories with Mark and Dee, and even though we live in opposite corners of the country, we visit with Dee and her husband about once a year. Thanks, Uncle Luther!

On October 31, Bob and I went to the Lockheed Martin Space and Air Show here in Sanford with our son and his family. I was pumped to see the Thunderbirds, but I had no idea that the entire program was going to thrill my heart and stir up so many patriotic juices. At the beginning of the show, several new Air Force recruits were sworn in, which moved me to tears.

Following is a little glimpse of the air show. Enjoy; and God, bless America!

It was a little loud for our grandsons.

Beyond the Samples at Costco

I think Sesame Street had the right idea about the people that you meet in your neighborhood. You know, the people that you meet as you’re walking down the street each day? That applies to Costco, too (my other neighborhood).

Let me back up a little. Whenever my dad leaves the house, he is wearing his WWII B29 crew veteran hat. Over the years of going places with him, I’ve grown accustomed to people stopping and thanking him for his service. I’ve seen people engage in long conversations with him, shake his hand, and buy him lunch. It always means so much to him for someone to take the time to show appreciation.

Now it’s hard for me to walk past a veteran without stopping and thanking them for their service – especially a WWII vet. They are easy to spot because the pride they take in their service and their country is so often displayed via their hats.

During my last trip to Costco I met a gentleman who is a WWII vet. His name is Mike Morro. I stopped to thank him for his service and we ended up having a wonderful conversation. He served in the Pacific like my dad did, and then he re-enlisted in the 1970s as a doctor in the navy. This delightful gentleman will turn 90 this summer; and he is still politically active, cares for his country and is a responsible citizen.

img_1555I was impressed that not only did he carry a picture of himself in uniform, but he carries one of his father who served in WWI. There is a lot of history in that wallet!

He pulled out a couple of other pictures and before showing them to me said, “Now, I’m not sure which way you voted in the election, but look at this.”

There he was in a photo with Mike Pence and holding his Veterans for Trump sign. You have to respect an 89-year-old man who is so articulate and active, not to mention polite, respectful, and down-right friendly. It’s easy to see why that generation is called the greatest.

Thank you, Mr. Morro, for your service to our country, and thank you for taking a few minutes to talk beyond the sample line at Costco. It was such a pleasure to meet you!

fullsizerender

Mike Morro and I at Costco (I have to remember to wear make-up when I leave the house. You never know who you’ll run into!)

 

Growing Old is not for the Faint of Heart

“When we’re old, we’ll be new friends again.” There are lots of cartoons and greeting cards that offer good-natured joking about getting old. Sudden realization: I joke about what I’m afraid of.

Bob and I were recently reminiscing with some friends of ours. Many of us are in the position of caring for elderly parents or simply having elderly parents who are still on their own but benefit from living close-by us. One particular friend (we’ll call him Danny, because that’s his name) was reminded of a memorable 40th birthday party that is now a little too close to reality for him (and us) now that he’s in his sixties.

We weren’t there, but the descriptions were quite vivid – nursing home theme, doctors in white coats, people with memory problems, a dirty-old-man in the group, food that you didn’t need to chew, wheel chairs, etc., etc. They had a great time welcoming Danny into his forties, you know, the decade right before it all goes downhill and life is over. Seriously, it was all in good fun (at least that’s what they told me, but I don’t know if I trust their memories).

photo credit: Wikipedia

Fast forward over twenty years. Now we are watching some of our parents in that same scenario only it isn’t quite so humorous. It’s reality. I have blogged about this in the past and told you how caring for Bob’s dad has challenged my sense of humor. There have been times when I have been like Darth Vader. I’ve gone over to the dark side. Those were the times that made it difficult for me to blog about Life on the Lighter Side. I thought about starting a separate blog and calling it Life on the Darker Side, but that was a little depressing. And, I didn’t want to be responsible for drawing people to the Dark Side.

Through the ups and downs I have been acutely aware that there is within me the lighter side. Yes, Young (comparatively speaking) Anderson, there is some good in you yet. I can feel it. But the good in me is not of myself. I am thankful to Jesus that he is in me. He is the light of the world and that light abides in me. That is great news. His light dispels the darkness. I know he prepares my way before me so that helps me not to be afraid of the future (or the present for that matter).

So here’s what prompted me to share this with you. This year has been one of great difficulty for Bob’s dad, who turned 91 in January. He spent a week in the hospital in January and then five weeks in a nursing care facility for rehab. He has come through this with, in our opinion, flying colors. That is why the news we received from his assisted living facility, in which he has resided for the past 2 ½ years, was so difficult. By law he had to be reassessed before going back to his home. The assessment was not positive. They denied him. The doctor over his ALF was the same doctor over his nursing home. This left us in the lurch.

He took the news with a mixture of courage and disappointment. I believe his words were, “That stinks.” It does.

That threw Bob and me into a search for a new home for him. Because his mind is pretty sharp, we didn’t want to put him in a nursing home. But, because his body and eyesight are showing the wear of his 91 years, finding an assisted living facility was going to be challenging.

The main reason for his denial at his former home was he falls a lot. We do mean a lot – he fell 22 times in the four months that ended in December. To his credit, he is an excellent faller. I guess because of all that practice. He never once hurt himself more than just a bruise or scrape. But, the main thing about ALFs is that the resident needs to be safe behind his own closed doors. We made changes for him to make him safer. We presented these to the powers-that-be. Ultimately, we cannot argue with them. We can only disagree with their decision.

Thankfully, we found a new ALF that agreed to take him in on a 30-day respite, but only for him to stay in the memory care wing. It has double the staff and would give them a chance to evaluate him before considering moving him to the other wing.

Before the big move, Bob and I took his dad back to his old ALF to say his goodbyes to his friends there. We wheeled him in to the sound of cheers from the staff. “Dale’s back!”

They were shocked to find out that he was not coming home. One by one nurses, techs, and kitchen staff came by to hug him, give him a quick back rub and say how sorry they were. They hugged us, too. I cried. We have come to love those people. They had become his family and they loved him.

Dale had a best friend there, Peter who lived across the hall. Peter’s wife died in December. Dale was encouraging him to write his memoirs. We gave Dale and Peter some time to talk. Both men were vets from WWII. Peter was in the RAF. I loved hearing his British accent and his stories were fascinating. I could see why Dale wanted him to write them down. It was a privilege to witness their friendship in action and oh so difficult to see them say goodbye.

Dale and Peter

Dale and Peter

By March 31 we will know if Dale has found a new home or if our search will continue. Meanwhile, we visit a lot and we hope. He knows what’s on the line here, and he is toeing that line with all the might that one would expect from a WWII vet.