Saturday, July 10, 2010


This past week, the previous conversation with my brother about being numb to loss came rushing back at me with a vengeance.  With the absence of someone to kiss me on the head and tell me everything was going to be OK, I felt  a deep auguring of the soul when I had to bury two very good friends on Wednesday.  They both died the Friday prior an hour apart.  Now their funerals were also an hour apart, on the same day.

One, Don, a retired Firefighter whose funeral services mirrored that of a President of the United States - Firefighter style, and the other, Mildred, a simple powerhouse of a woman, who lost a fight with Alzheimer's that she didn't even know she was fighting. 

Since retiring, Don loved to play Euchre and shoot pool with is lifelong friend, Joe. I most enjoyed the polite trash talking that went on between the two of those fellows.  Gentlemanly, yet hilarious in delivery week after week.  Joe would say he let Don win, then the next week vise versa.  In addition to Don's other lifetime achievements, which were numerous, he was a distinguishably decorated Korean War veteran.

Seeing Don being lifted to and lowered from the top of a Fire Truck, with the FWFD Bag Pipe and Drum Corps blowing Amazing Grace sent chills through me like I have never experienced.  I served in the Coast Guard Ceremonial Guard, and in the Cape May USCG TRACEN Honor Guard and have performed my funeral detail duties in countless numbers, but this one, Don's, was the most honored of them all I ever had the distinct privilege to witness.  The kilts, the bagpipes, 21 gun salute, Taps....surreal.  I thought to myself,  that I should have worn our family's tartan in solidarity, but I hadn't. I chose a different uniform for the showing, and civilian wear, as I stood in the shadows for the days events. My tears ran dry as my heart heaved with pride and deep sorrow; that double edged sword you feel when you are sad for a loss, yet proud of the send-off they are receiving..

The American Legion Post 296 Ceremonial Firing Squad was on hand to fire off the 21 gun salute, fold the flag and present it to the family, while the Fort Wayne Fire Department Bugler echoed taps following Don's Grandson's presentation.  It was as if Taps echoed through a vast and foggy valley with the tune being carried on the wings of angels.

Mildred lived a quiet, hard working life spending 32 years at General Electric. She is the mother of Nancy,  good friend of mine from the American Legion. That's all I'm going to say about Mildred.

As previously mentioned, their funerals were an hour apart.  I've never rushed to a funeral before, and found myself  late to Mildred's as Don's was full of honors that made time stand still as the second hand raced around the face of my watch.

I don't know if I feel numb or not.  In shock, perhaps.  There are now 2 less people in my world of 6 degrees.  Don was within the 2nd degree, and Mildred the 3rd, yet both were loved by me as if they were my own family.  They were those kind of people. I tried to bury myself in work and did, then when it was time to back it all up, the data was lost and 15 hours of distraction was erased for me to begin again another day.

I just don't know what else to say, so I will not attempt it.

Friday, June 25, 2010


There is an old saying that is quoted as "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". I'm not really sure of it's origin, but it bottles the essence of those who have a nature of determination in their spirits.

Those who manage disasters, life crisis, more than just "bumps in the road" and do it well, seem to mange things in a methodical tick list fashion, all the while keeping their calm (or not). Moms seem to own the market on crisis management. They look beyond the crisis, beyond the immediate shock and once the original capture of the mind is taken in, within minutes, can foresee the outcome in a more positive light and express comfort to those who they are assisting, all the while saying "it'll be alright". When there seems to not be a positive outcome to be seen, comfort and compassion are always in the forefront.

I volunteer for a local American Legion who has seen it's fair share of natural disasters. In 2003, the flood waters of the St. Mary's River rose within it's walls and the once debt-free Post, then became victim to a 384K SBA Loan for renovation purposes.  Some brilliant fucker on the Board of Directors only 7-9 short months prior to the disaster, decided they could save allot of money, by cancelling the flood insurance. What a delight that was for the members then, when it was time to clean up from that mess, with no insurance company Adjuster to guide the process and limit the liability.  Admittedly,  that bit of shit that was dealt their way, was their fault.  Having to deal with that faulty decision today as the Finance Officer,  doesn't make that go down any better. I wasn't apart of that Board of Directors.  As their current Finance Officer, I still want to take those fuckers to court that made that decision that ruined the spirit of the Organization, our mission to the Military and their families and has now left us scrambling , even now, to regain what we once were known for... the best and most bad-ass place to come in town to eat, play and have fun. I'm considering my options.

The night of June 23, 2010, we took another hit. This time, insured.  A spot tornado took off the roof of the vestibule area, uprooted a tree, damaged our signs, blew the AC and Walk-in cooler covers off the roof and our electrical system from the vestibule to just inside the interior walls and everything along that panel are a cluster fuck.

The alarm company called me first at 11:48pm telling me that a window breakage sensor had been set off in the front area of the building. We were in the middle of what was the first of two solid rounds of 75 MPH winds, lightning and torrential rains. I couldn't go investigate just yet.

There was a calm in the storm for about a 30-45 minute time period in our location. Dick Arend, a good and kind man whose job I took over, lives about 3 blocks from the Post. The American Legion buildings are known as "Posts", for those who don't understand the lingo. Dick went to investigate.

Dick called me once he arrived to let me know the extent of the damage and said, "it's a mess". That was the understatement of the year. Like the good mentor he is though, he remained calm in the literal middle of the storm, and I took his lead and did so as well. He'd turned off the alarm, because the window sensor was now apart of the great outdoors and if we armed the building, it would just go off once again. This left us vulnerable. I called the Fort Wayne Police department and explained the situation, asked them to please keep their eyes on the Bldg as they were able, and gave them my home phone number to call in case the had information for us from later in the evening.

Round two came along, with winds more fierce than round 1. In between round 1 and 2, our Post Commander had come to the building and reset the alarm. Not knowing the conversation Dick and I had already had about that with the alarm company, the alarm company called be once again at 3am to let me know the alarm had triggered again, but it was the back door entry sensor this time. They informed me that the police had been dispatched and asked if I would be coming to meet them. I answered "no, but tell them to call me if they find a true breach has been made". I didn't see the reasoning of driving out in 75 mph winds just yet, and along with that lovely serenity prayer of mine, gave up something that was out of my control and gave prayerful diligence to asking the one that could, to act in my absence in our behalf.

I am a tick list kind of person. The first act as Finance Officer, was to place a call to the insurance company, which I did at 3:20am after the call from the alarm company and having Dick's verbal assessment of the situation. I left voice mail with the agent to please have the adjuster out first thing in the morning. I then returned to bed with no solid sleep to be had as my mind was restlessly reviewing the auto-formatted tick list now present in my head.  

Determination was on the job.

If I am nothing else, I am an American patriot. As I drove closer to the Post, the picture to the left here was my first visualization.  Old glory, hanging upside down, ripped from the grommets that held her at the head of the majestic flag pole; my heart was heavy. Our POW-MIA flag, thread barren from the fight, display in tact, weathered from the storm and yet, on the flag pole, was proudly supporting our Nations flag as the men that it stands for have and are, serving our Nation today. To see this, was a moment in time that was filled with heart wrenching irony.

The Commander and I arrived ahead of the insurance adjuster and calmly and methodically scoped out the damage. It could have been worse, and there is never a good time for things like this to happen to anyone. Blessings counted. (tick list, 1st position, checked off)

After the initial walkabout, I went directly to the cabinet where we keep our flags, and secondly to the flag pole to replace the tired warrior with a new life, lest we forget.  John Dudley, a member of the Sons of the American Legion , accompanied me to the flag pole where I bought down the weathered warriors.  He was on guard so as not to let Old Glory touch the ground in any way on her way to retirement. We didn't have an extra POW-MIA flag, but we always have Old Glory on standby in various sizes and materials. We respectfully attached her to the halyard and slowly raised her into position. After securing her, I stepped back, and saluted her proudly.  This may sound weird, fabricated, and just outrageous, but I need you to know that once she was in position, the clouds allowed the sun through and the original picture at the top of this blog, was taken at the base of the flagpole with the sun in full force.  Irony?  Perhaps.  Whatever it was, the timing of it all was  a spiritual experience.

Determination was on the job.

The one thing current era veterans have in common with those warriors who built this Legion Post, is the determination to make a difference.  If you've never been spat on when returning from a war, or walk in silence as your mind races back into the zones where you watched your buddy's arm being blown off or his brain splatter onto your uniform; chances are you don't "get it". If you've never been 18 years old and put on the front line as IED fodder and crapped your trousers knowing any minute you could roll over an IED that will end life as you know it; chances are, you don't "get it". If you've never been a military spouse, child, sibling or parent of someone in the military, you definitely don't "get it". The pride runs deep and to the heart. Only those who have been there and done that can know. The American Legion was formed in 1919 to unite a band of brothers and now, sisters, together to look out for each other and our families.

The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest veterans service organization, committed to mentoring and sponsorship of youth programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting a strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow servicemembers and veterans. -
Learn more about the American Legion .

On a personal note, it makes me sick that those who serve up the food (Haliburton) make more money than the people they serve it to. But that is another topic entirely.

I suppose I did fail to mention, now that I am reviewing my blog entry for the day, that Post 296, in 2005 was revisited by freakish flood waters, undoing the renovation we had just gone in debt for.  Sigh. Then the rooftop AC unit went our 3 years ago, another 15K in debt.  Shit magnet? Nah, just freak weather beyond our control. Surreal though, very surreal.

Although my heart is heavy with this new crisis to manage and we only have a $1000 deductible for this incident to weather, this one is manageable. However, I still have $362K to go to make this place debt free again and to restore it to it's crowning glory. How the fuck I am going to do that? I have no earthly clue. Fact is, as much as I would like to say I am "all that", I can't do it alone.

I think big. I am a positive thinker. Nothing is ever a "no", until I hear it for myself, and then, I explore all possibilities and counsel with others before I give up hope. Wait, I don't think I've ever given up hope on anything, so scratch that last statement.

What we need, is a rabbit out of a hat. Maybe a cussy one. A power-hitter, or a combo of two or three that would do a benefit show for us and other Legions like us - we could get back to the business of our mission. Could Sid be our savior? (grinning, with a nod)

I am officially PLEADING with the Daves (we are in Indiana), Craigs, Randys, Carsons and Fallons of the world to come do a benefit show for the veterans and our Post in Fort Wayne, IN.  Our Post capacity is 400. 

December would good. I believe this calendar was left laying here on this month for a reason. Call me superstitious. The picture is worth a thousand words.

All we're asking for is your time once, unless you decide it is worthy of more. Have your people call my people at 260-447-3777 if you can help.

If plastic is your weapon of choice, donate securely via PayPal to You do not have to have a PayPal account to use your credit card to help us.

A video of what we found yesterday morning can be found on U-Stream under Legion Damage.  Please excuse my shout out about the golf ball hitting my car - that moment was just another straw to this camels back that was already fragile from the bail that just landed upon it.

For those who would remotely advise is to pack it in and give up, my response to you would be "You don't know us very well, do you?"

Determination is on the job.  Ain't too proud to beg for my brothers and sisters.

American Legion David Parrish Post 296
130 W. Tillman Road
Fort Wayne, IN  46807
Twitter: @AmLegionPost296

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I'm not a fan of leftovers. I used to be alright with them, but a strange life event changed my mind, and fast.

Only a year after Mom died, my Dad remarried the woman he was married to before my Mom was on the scene. This is the woman who we heard horror stories about all of our life, and now, we were expected to accept her. Why? Time mellows the soul, or so I hear. I believe that, to some extent. In this case, I had no real personal reference point to really know if that was true with her or not, so I tried to just go with the flow. It sucked.

I am a fan of frugal spending. Leftovers fit in the general scheme of frugality.  I think it's the Scot in the bloodline. I'm just a bigger fan of nutrition. Not just food, real fuel. My favorite vegetable is green beans. Fresh, steamed or flash fried green beans. There were many a day in the summertimes of my life where I spent it alongside my Mother as we snapped and de-strung bushels upon bushels of fresh green beans from the garden. My fingers were always sore for days after a snapping session like that. The best part was the rinsing and steaming within an hour of the pull and enjoying the fresh bounty of the harvest.

That was "before", and the "after" was an awkward adjustment for a 16 year old to make.

Every new "step-mother" does the suck-up thing to the kids to try to win their favor. You know it's true. So green beans was the thing "she" decided to leap into to gain my favor in a small, seemingly thoughtful way. She was the worse cook I'd ever come to know, even to this day. She tried though, I'll give'r that.

"She" was nicknamed "Bat-Woman" by my Brother and me. Or should that be me and my brother? Whatever. She would always keep the curtains drawn and keep it dark inside of the house that before her arrival, beamed sunshine to every corner and crevice. The only thing missing was her vertical reversal into sleep mode to complete the cave-like atmosphere.

I was a free spirit at 16. Great friends, Navy ROTC and the beach, made up the daily route. Being at the house was what I avoided most, for reasons obvious to those who would know how it feels to see your Mother's pseudo replacement fail miserably in the comparison department. Bat-woman wasn't trying to replace Mom. I know that. But damn, my Mother was beautiful and "she" looked like a prune. Seriously, a prune.

Her big effort of attempting to win me over with green beans, consisted of starting dinner at 9am and having it simmer on the stove all fucking day long. By the time Dad would get home (I tried to coordinate arrivals so he would be there when I got there too), the green beans were so shriveled and blackened from the burned, buttery simmer-fest, that they were unrecognizable. I wasn't going anywhere near that shit. Ick.

So with me not feasting on her failed effort for approval, she would whip out the Tupperware, put the green beans in the refrigerator, and reheat the same shit the next day for another eight hour simmer. She really thought we'd eat it eventually. I'm never that hungry.

After the multiple variety simmer-fests day after day, I learned to eat before I got home. There were a few occasions over the year and half before I went into the Coast Guard, where I would call Dad at the office and he and I would go somewhere to eat before it was time to make the afternoon appearance, just to avoid her food. Dad would call her to say he had a dinner appointment with a business friend "to close a deal", and would be home about an hour behind the normal schedule. No worries though, the same shit that had simmered all day would be served again the next night.

Shameless Name Dropping:
Mrs. Hammond, who is the mother of my best friend back in the day, is also Charlie Daniels' Aunt Geraldine. She always had an extra place at the table and understood my dilemma with the love and compassion that mirrored my Mother's love. I still call Mrs. Hammond every week to check in and see how her and Mr. Hammond are doing. They have a fairly big family. All of the major occasions of the year are always a gathering of my old pals at the Hammond's house, so that is when I especially make the call. I like checking in with everyone at the same time and laugh with my friends once again. It's food for the soul. If it wasn't for Mrs. Hammond and Mrs. Stinson, Jamie's Mom, I would have starved. The Stinson's (Savage surnamed family, remarried) and the Hammonds were my respite and soft place to fall whenever I felt like a 16 year old does when you are still enough to let the grief seep back in. I love those two families. Every single one of them. Charlie, he's just a regular guy. He may be a big deal to some, but he's just Charlie to me. I was invited to LaRue's (Charlie's late Mom) for Thanksgiving dinner in Leland, several times when Charlie was home, and it was always a great family experience. From Charlie's viewpoint, I was just another brat friend of Loretta's to him.  My Mom worked with his Mom at Central Drug Store in Wilmington.

To this day, I am funny about leftovers; not in a humorous way, in a freaky kind of way. Some paranoia of bacterial ick keeps me from wanting to eat things once cooked, handled, then recooked or warmed up. It doesn't matter if I was the handler or not, I don't do leftovers. Bat-Woman tainted me for life. Ha! I said taint.

I'm sure at one time or another, I will scribe more about Bat-Woman, just for therapeutic purposes. Fanny's Crack is full of untold stories. Some funny, others tragically accurate.

I still enjoy green beans. I cook them correctly to preserve the nutrients. I like them crunchy with a touch of cherry tomatoes, fresh rosemary and thyme.

I can't believe I just blogged about Bat-Woman's fucking green beans. Take that, oh twist of fate! The rest of the Bat-Woman story is still in my head. It was never in my heart.

She died 6 years after my Dad by suicide.

The churches I attended, which were numerous over the years and of different denominations, teach that those who take their own life, rob themselves from eternal grace. I find some solace in that, actually. My Mom and Dad are reunited without interference from a cave dweller.

...or that is how I choose to feel it in order to cope.  In hindsight, Bat-woman herself was a reheated, shriveled up leftover. I think that's what initially stained my senses to the food variety of the same type.

I still have trouble reconciling my Dad's choice for companionship in his latter years. Just before he died, he was making arrangements to move in with myself and my son in Charleston. I think he knew something was up and he wasn't long for this world, and wanted to go out happy by choosing a sublime exit.

Sublime - [French sublimer, from Latin sublimare] (1): to elevate or exalt especially in dignity or honor

He succeeded, and with dignity.  Now I'm someones leftover.

Cyclic shit just blows my mind.

When writing this, and saving it, I discovered an old blog I started.  I wonder if I should go back to that one, or continue this one. Let me know what you think.  It's at CrossBuzz

If you read my blog, please let me know.  You can comment anonymously in case you lack the balls of truth.

Monday, June 21, 2010


One particular prayer has been a daily part of my life for the last 22 years, until today.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Until shortly after my 33rd birthday, anytime that I ever asked God to do anything for me, it seemed selfish.  The struggle continues to this day regarding serene acceptance of things I cannot change, especially when I see abuse, hunger, war, and the fucking BP oil spill bullshit.  My Mom used to say that if you ask the Lord for the same thing twice, it was a sign of an absence of true faith. TRUE faith is praying a sincere and selfless prayer and believing in it being answered if it was really God's will, according to Mom.

What are the things we CAN change?

My family's life events would make some heads spin. They did mine. Yes, we had the whole mixture of success stories, social prominence, drugs, spousal abuse, alcohol abuse, adultery, prescription drug abuse, molestations, and a reasonable degree of overcoming it all (depending on your definition of overcoming). Why would anyone want to overcome social prominence or success stories?  The road to both were paved with pain and veiled in blindfolds. Things are not always as they seem from the outside looking in.  If I could have changed the negatives, I would have. I was missing one important ingredient in the formula for change, and still do.

My brother and I were talking over a smoke the other night, and somehow the topic of death came up.  He shared with me
You know Cathy, since Mom and Dad died, anymore I'm just numb to death.
It was a sad admission, but I agreed that I too feel the same.  Neither of us have lost our compassion for those who suffer a loss, however our entire family with the exception of ourselves, are now dead.  Mom, Dad, sisters Margaret and Nancy and most recently, our oldest brother Richard. We aren't really numb. We're emptied of that kind of emotion because two of the three most devastating losses one could experience, have already occurred for us. Parents, Siblings and I pray I never know the third.  My brother and I do love each other.  Both having no one left for advice but each other, just look at each other and laugh whenever we ask each other a deep question of life.

With everyone else but us now gone (of the original family unit), I told him I hoped he wasn't numb about my death when it comes, but he certainly has permission to get that way after the funeral if he so desires it. Without him, there's no one left to give a damn.  Permission to grieve has been mutually granted.  We both feel like orphans at times, but we suck it up and move on because ultimately; what else can we really do? That's where that whole serene acceptance is force fed down your throat as if a rape was taking place.  It is utterly and completely against your will, you MUST accept the loss.

We both went through counselling for our losses and experiences at different times in our lives.  Neither of us found it to be too productive to rehash the losses and relive them over and over again while paying someone to listen to it.  Never once were any suggestions made on how to overcome, deal with or move forward.  They just sit there with pen and paper, scribing your "condition" that eventually evolves into the medical tablet of judgement - a permanent record of your depression, feelings of loneliness and contempt for any deity in existence; immediately followed with a script for a brain chemical altering drug that is supposed to make you feel better about it all. We paid for that?

Aren't family funerals off the charts?  People you hardly know apologize to you for the death of your loved one. "I'm so sorry". "Who the fuck are you?" (I always wanted to say but never did). Then there are the family members that you either haven't seen in years, or have never met at all, come out of the woodwork out of some freakishly fake obligation.  I'd like to break their kneecaps, those fuckers. If you want to see me, don't wait until I am dead to gaze at me with a blank stare on your face. I guess that's some of those THINGS I cannot change but would like to. I digress.

Understanding how to be serene and accept things I cannot change is the battle of a lifetime for me. Changing the things you can doesn't take courage, it takes compassion and will.  Fortunately, my compassion is still in tact, and some days I will, other days I will it not.

Wisdom to know the difference.  I know how to accept things I cannot change. I don't call that wisdom, it is simple common sense.  Does it really take courage to change the things we can?  No.  It takes influence. Can we change ANYTHING without influence?
in·flu·ence [ ín floo ənss ]

(plural in·flu·enc·es)
1. effect on something: the effect of something on a person, thing, or event
2. power to sway: the power that somebody has to affect other people's thinking or actions by means of argument, example, or force of personality
3. special advantage: the power or authority that comes from wealth, social status, or position
4. somebody who can sway another: somebody or something able to affect the course of events or somebody's thinking or action
Without influence, we're back to praying for serenity to accept the things we cannot change.  A vicious fucking cycle of redundant bullshit crappery.  Without influence, second verse, same as the first.

Sure, I can change my hair color, curtains, sheets, clothes, friends, employers, spouses or significant others,  the clocks back or up an hour on demand, the temperature in the room, the water in my dog's bowl, the slipcover for the sofa, or other menial crap that means nothing in the big picture of life.

When it comes down to it, changing anything really meaningful where your footprint remains upon it as a positive, forced from within the chambers of your heart; influence is required.(Random acts of kindness are omitted from this example)

My new prayer is:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can for the good of my life and that of all mankind as I am able; the influence required to fulfill those goals without boastful pride; and the wisdom to know the moments I should be still enough to hear your voice of counsel when the serenity, courage or influence are absent. - Cathy J. Cross - June 21, 2010.