The harvest is in.
How shall we measure bounty?
With a grateful heart.
Today is Thanksgiving in the US, but any day of the week, anywhere in the world seems to be a fitting time to be thankful. May your blessings be abundant. ~KB
Today is the 248th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Tomorrow is Veterans Day. These two days have always been important to me. Many members of my family and acquaintance have served in the armed forces. Most notably my father, who served in Korea as a member of the United States Marine Corps.
My father taught me the Marine’s Hymn when I was little. Every year on November 10th we’d celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday by singing it. We never missed a year. That first November 10th when I went away to college, he called and greeted me with, “Happy Birthday Marines! Ready?” I always was. We sang.
Dad loved The Corps. He loved and respected the men he served with and anyone who earned the right to wear the uniform. He credited the Marine Corps for making him the man he was. And I’ll tell you, he was something. He lived his life with the values he brought to and took away from his time in the Marines. I consider it a collaboration.
When people ask me about my father, I’ll tell them he was a Marine. Then I correct myself. He is a Marine. He was quick to point out to people who used the past tense that the oath doesn’t have an expiration date. In that spirit, I believe that not being alive hasn’t changed his promise to bear allegiance and faith to the Constitution of the United States. Marines are sticklers like that.
I’m grateful to The US Marine Corps for the man it helped forge and for a tradition I have now continued for 25 years on my own. It isn’t quite the same, singing the Hymn as a solo. But I can feel him next to me smiling at and proud of the nation he served so faithfully. That’s why today I’ll cue up the band and literally sing the song of my father.
I hope he can hear me and knows that I remember this day and the next. And that I remember the history and the sacrifice of all those who have served in every branch of the United States Armed Forces. I will always remember and I will always keep the faith.
Semper fidelis, Dad.
The Marines’ Hymn“From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.“
I bought myself a present on sale last week. It arrived yesterday. I’m enjoying a cup of Twinings Christmas Tea in my Isabella Stewart Gardner mug. I’m rather pleased with the whole situation. That is all.
dawn reveals stark limbs
disrobed by Hallows' Eve's winds
Having run out of toothpaste, I stopped at my local CVS. I stood in the oral hygiene aisle looking around for my preferred brand of minty freshness. The shelves in this store are lower than head height for me, affording me an unobstructed view into the next aisle. As far as I could tell, I was alone in that part of the store. I perused the aisle, fending off the tempting claims of competing products. I may have muttered something aloud about Satan and not being in the mood for apple picking.
Suddenly, a spark of light caught my eye. I looked more carefully between two bottles of mouthwash on the top shelf to see a pair of blue eyes staring straight back at me! There was a person, a short person, in the next aisle watching me. The eyes never blinked. Their gaze steadfastly unaltered by discovery. Yet they didn’t surprise me. Instead, they amused me. The eyes exuded a benevolent curiosity. They may even have been laughing a little. I offered the eyes a huge smile, and then they ducked!
I couldn’t help but laugh. Did the eyes suddenly understand how appropriate it was to be caught spying between two bottles of Scope? Or was an overheard biblical reference in the face of too much advertising itself too tempting to ignore? Either way, I wished those blue eyes a pleasant afternoon as I walked away with my usual brand in hand.
A reply was neither received nor expected. It occurred to me that the shelf obscured whether the eyes had the means to offer me a reply. Which made me giggle again because, although we never actually met, I’m pretty sure I could pick those disembodied eyes out of a lineup. Some things you just don’t forget. I’m sure the eyes won’t either.
Conversations with my mother tend to be pretty funny. She has a hearty sense of humor and a feisty wit. She enjoys a good debate. It’s best to be well rested and hydrated before you engage her in verbal sparring. It’s also best if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
During one of our recent phone conversations, she told me I’m a good kid, which is nice to hear, particularly at my age. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy maternal praise? She then remarked how wonderfully all five of her children treat her and how lucky she is. I told her it’s because she has always been good to us and there when we need her. There was a pause. I figured she was absorbing the compliment. Then she resumed in a low tone, “I’m your mother…” followed by another brief pause. Naturally, I thought the next words were going to be “I love you.” Nope. Her full reply was, “I’m your mother. I had to. The courts would’ve come after me.” She’s a savage. I can’t think about it without laughing.
Should you ever have the pleasure of chatting with my matriarch, never assume you know where the conversation is heading. She’ll explain, with glee, what happens when one assumes.
My earliest hockey memories include my brothers teaching me to skate and Fred Cusick’s play-by-play during Bruins broadcasts. Cusik’s elated cries of, “Save, Gilbert!” flew out of the TV with remarkable regularity. Those words and this photo are how I remember #1. Well, he always had the mask on, but I knew this face was under there.
Gilbert was a stellar goaltender for the Boston Bruins from 1973 to 1980, which is saying a lot considering he shared the net with the future Hall of Famer Gerry Cheevers. He was also famously between the pipes for the infamous semi-final overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens, which was dubbed the “Too Many Men on The Ice Game”. The Canadians would beat the NY Rangers to win the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals. It’s a heartbreak that Bruins fans bear to this day. No one blamed Gilbert. They wouldn’t have made it that far without him.
In 277 regular-season games with the Bruins, Gilbert had a record of 155-73-39 with a 2.95 goals-against average and a 0.890 save percentage. It’s no wonder that when a puck was stopped on ponds all over New England (but definitely not Hartford) and even parts of Canada, all the kids yelled, “Save, Gilbert!” For 7 seasons of my childhood, Gilles Gilbert gave Bruins fans a reason to hope when he stood in the net.
I often tell people I had a charmed childhood. Most of that characterization is, of course, because of my wonderful family. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the many sports legends who passed through Boston in the 70s and 80s. As for legendary Bruins, my brothers would probably tell you that Bobby Orr is the best Bruin “evah” (yes, you must pronounce it that way). But I have great respect for the man behind the mask. If he can’t keep the biscuit out of the basket, all the scoring in the world won’t help. Gilbert ate biscuits three meals a day.
I was sad to learn about my hockey hero’s passing today. He mentioned in interviews that the fans here treated him well and that he loved playing for them. I’ll take my turn now to say that I enjoyed watching him play. Thanks for all the saves, Gilbert. I hope Fred Cusick gave you a shout when you skated through the Pearly Gates.
Although I did spend time with him, I don’t actually remember my paternal grandfather. He died about 6 weeks after my second birthday. What I do know of him is anecdotal. The stories my family share about him keep him a part of my daily life. He’s animated by their enthusiastic retelling of his escapades and his voice is their chorus of laughter when they get to the conclusion.
Fortunately, there are lots of pictures of Grandpa. While I’m in some of the photos, the vast majority of them are pre-me. But somehow, I feel as if I had been there for all of them. Like when he and my siblings posed in the back yard with corn husks in their noses or while he sat on Salisbury beach with Nana when my father was just a lad. That’s how vivid other people’s memories have become for me. I can even tell the stories with all the original detail as if I had borne witness to the event myself.
And that’s exactly what I am going to do now.
Grandpa liked dogs. Back in those days, my father said there was always a litter of puppies up for grabs somewhere. The plethora of puppies notwithstanding, Grandpa had a tendency to bring home strays.
One day while walking down the street in Boston, a car struck a stray dog not far from where my grandfather stood on the sidewalk. Traffic stopped, people gathered, the animal was declared a goner. My grandfather was a very handy man. He looked at the bleeding dog and thought he could fix him. What did the dog have to lose? And the family was, at the moment, without a canine companion. He wrapped the dog up in his jacket and took him home to his workshop where he discovered that the dog needed a lot of stitches and a lot of nourishment. Grandpa provided both.
Friends who knew the story thought it was incredible, but as a result of many months of my grandfather’s careful ministrations, the dog completely healed and thrived. He was an Irish Setter. A stunningly beautiful dog that was, for all appearances, a faithful companion to my father and his parents. Until the day he wasn’t. He’d done a runner.
My father was heartbroken. My practical grandfather thought the dog had gone back to the life he had known on the street. The call of a wild heart and all that. The little family got used to not having the dog around and life seemed to go back to normal.
A few months later, Grandpa was walking down the same stretch of street where he had rescued the dog. A man was walking toward him. Next to the man trotted a beautiful Irish Setter on a leash. Grandpa shook his head wistfully as the man and the dog passed by. Until it hit him. That’s The Dog!
He called out to the man, “Hey, Mister, that’s my dog!” The man turned around, surprised. He asked how he knew he was his. Grandpa asked him if the dog had a long scar along its belly. He did, indeed! Grandpa proceeded to explain the accident and how he stitched the dog up and nursed him back to health. Then the man told him that a few months prior he found the dog outside his door begging for food and took him in. They both looked down at the dog who was blissfully unaware that he was the subject of controversy.
The man held out the leash to my grandfather with the intent of returning the dog to his rightful owner. My grandfather threw his hands in the air and said, ” No! You can keep him! That is the most ungrateful animal I have ever met!” He turned on his heel and walked off in the direction he was originally headed. My father got a Doberman Pinscher puppy shortly after. They were best friends for years.
And now I’ll share a little secret with you: I have no idea what the dog’s name was! I’ve heard this story dozens of times and for all of the detail my father gave me in his account, not once did he mention what they called the dog. Come to think of it, I never even thought to ask. It never occurred to me until today.
I’m beginning to think this story is more of a parable than an anecdote. The lesson is the practical reality that treating others with kindness is never a guarantee that it will leave a lasting warmth in their hearts. But even if gratitude isn’t offered, a good deed is still worth doing. When we think about how much someone means to us, we’re recalling how they make us feel. We remember those who treat us fairly and with kindness, and who lighten our heart. Those who don’t, well, they stand as an example of what we wish to avoid. Both types of people (or dogs) end up in the stories we hand down. We simply need to decide whether or not we want to be the one whose name gets lost in the telling.
Every day that dawns
is a celebration of
my very first friend.
Every Mom should have a walk-up song. If my mom played for the Red Sox, hers would be Handel’s The Arrival of The Queen of Sheba.
Knitting socks is fun.
But until they both are done,
One is for hopping.