Veterans Day 2019

Let me start off by thanking everyone who served in the military regardless of branch. Without your service, in both peacetime and war, we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we have today.

I was thinking about my Dad this morning. He served 28 years of active duty in the Army and was medically retired in 1972. He was 53 and was suffering from a wide range of health conditions probably brought on by his military service.

My Dad died at age 62 and 10 days. He was actually born on April 3rd and not April 13th like it says on the grave marker.

On May 5th, I officially outlived him. Unlike him, I never smoked, I never was in a war zone, and I was never exposed to Agent Orange. With the exception of not smoking, I wasn’t exposed to the things he was thanks to his service and that of millions of more men and women just like him.

So on this Veterans Day, remember and thank those family members and friends who did serve. Thank them for the lives we live thanks to their hard work and sacrifices.

Memorial Day

The 3rd Infantry Regiment or The Old Guard is the oldest active duty infantry regiment in the US Army. They are charged with providing the casket teams at Arlington National Cemetery. The soldiers in these teams perform this duty with solemnity and reverence for the fallen. My best friend’s son John served as a platoon leader with the 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment after his service in Afghanistan.

On this Memorial Day, I’d also like to remember my father. He is not buried in Arlington but is buried next to his parents and siblings in North Carolina. He served in WWII in the Caribbean, served in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation during the 1950s, served in Korea post-Korean war, and finally served in South Vietnam for two tours of duty. He was medically retired in 1972 and passed away nine years later in 1981. He was 62 and 10 days old when he died in his sleep. This year I passed a milestone as I have now outlived my dad.

The footstone provided by the military makes it seem like he died on his birthday. His actual birthday was April 3rd and not the 13th. I think my mother made the decision not to force them to correct it.

Picture Of The Day

Today marks the 44th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. The poignant picture below shows the evacuation of Americans and South Vietnamese staff from the roof top of the US Embassy in Saigon.

HUGH VAN ES/UPI/NEWSCOM

Newsweek had this on the scale of the airlift:

It was the biggest helicopter lift of its kind in history—an 18-hour operation that carried 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese to safety. Yet in sheer numbers, the feat was overshadowed by the incredible impromptu flight of perhaps another 65,000 South Vietnamese. In fishing boats and barges, homemade rafts and sampans, they sailed by the thousands out to sea, hoping to make it to the 40 U.S. warships beckoning on the horizon. Many were taken aboard the American vessels, while others joined a convoy of 27 South Vietnamese Navy ships that limped slowly—without adequate food or water—toward an uncertain welcome in the Philippine Islands. Hundreds of South Vietnamese also fled by military plane and helicopter, landing at airfields in Thailand or ditching their craft alongside American ships.

My father who was drafted into the US Army in December 1940 for “the Hawaiian Department” was to serve two tours of duty in South Vietnam. His first tour was in Cam Rahn Bay from October 1967 until October 1968 and then again from April 1970 until the end of March 1971 in Lai Khe an Bao Loc. He was thus in Vietnam for two of the more momentous events of the war – the Tet Offensive and the Cambodian Invasion.

Celebrating The Important Things

While I didn’t tune out entirely this weekend from social media and the news, I also didn’t dwell on it excessively. I had more important things to do.

Things like watch little kids scramble all over the place at Kaeideum in Winston-Salem. It is a children’s science museum with tons of hands-on activities.

Things like being there as Olivia had her third birthday party.

Things like going out to dinner with Granny Karen and Papaw Jeff as we all watched the birthday girl eat lamb gyros and french fries fed to her by the Complementary Spouse.

There will be time today and tomorrow and the weeks afterwards to figure out why a 19 year-old who had lost his parents, who had been bullied and ostracized, who had mental problems, who had been expelled from a high school went back to that school and killed as many as he did. There will also be time to investigate why the FBI dropped the ball on this guy. And the fight against those who would roll in the blood of the victims in order to curtail our civil rights will continue as always.

As for this weekend, it was for Olivia and family.

A Rite Of Passage

As we go through life we all have rites of passage. It might be a momentous occasion such as our graduation from high school or college, our wedding, or, sadly, the death of a parent. Rites of passage can also be simpler things such as our first kiss or our first hit in Little League.

I had such a rite of passage on Friday:  I closed on the sale of the house I grew up in. The house had been in the family for just a few months short of 51 years.

My mom bought the house in September 1966. She had been looking for a house in the Sunset Hills neighborhood of Greensboro for years and finally found one in her price range. Her goals in buying this house were to cut down on her commute to the high school where she taught and, more important in her mind, to allow me to walk to Our Lady of Grace School which was a mere 1 1/2 blocks away. She also wanted me to be in a neighborhood where there were a lot of kids my age with which to play. I just didn’t have that in Asheboro.

I was nine and had just started 4th grade when we moved in. My grandmother soon joined us as the stairs in her house in New York were getting to be too much for her. She would live there until she passed away in the house in 1972.

This house was my permanent residence until I left for grad school in Chapel Hill in 1979. Even then I would come back many a weekend to see my mom or just hang out. My mom lived there until her dementia and another broken hip made it impossible. Save for the occasional renter and my sporadic visits, the house sat empty for the last number of years.

Given all the things this house saw, I have been asked whether I am happy or sad about selling the house. Actually, I am quite happy. Aaron, the new owner, is excited about buying the house and he loves the fact that basics of the house have not changed since it was built in 1927 (or so). Aaron has plans to make this a home for he and his partner and I think it will be the showplace that I had neither the time nor the inclination to make it. He will transform something that was becoming a burden for me into a source of joy.

So goodbye old house. Protect Aaron and his partner from the elements and give them another 50 years of memories just as you have given them to me.

Life Causes A Change In Plans

The Complementary Spouse and I had plans to attend the SHOT Show and the Media Day at the Range. We had our plane tickets and our hotel reservation. We had received our badges that would allow us into the SHOT Show and to Media Day. We have been getting dozens of press releases by email daily. I was excited to get my hands on the Colt Cobra and see how it differed from the older Colt revolvers. We had started to map out who we planned to visit and on what day.

Then real life interrupted.

Sunday a week ago the nursing home where my mother-in-law Grace resided called to let us know she had what they suspected was a stroke of some sort. She wasn’t able to hold her head up and had some weakness on one side. From there, her health started to rapidly decline. After a consultation with her care team, it was decided that she should be transferred into hospice care. Hospice care doesn’t mean that death is imminent but rather that the person’s life expectancy is six months or less. That said, there are many elderly in hospice care who live over a year. This was not to be our case.

On Wednesday we were told that she was declining even more rapidly than we expected. My sister-in-law Cindy who was with her said we needed to get there sooner than later. We used Thursday to make work arrangements for being gone and left for St. Louis on Friday. Though we tried to get ahead of the snow storm that swept across the Southeast, we still had to slog our way through slick roads and snowy conditions a good part of the way there. Fortunately, we missed some of the big wrecks that virtually closed down Interstate 40 in places.

We arrived in the late afternoon. It was obvious to all that Grace was in the end stage of her life and that it was good that we arrived when we did. Soon after we arrived, we were joined by some of Grace’s grandkids who had driven over from Kentucky to say their goodbyes. We spent the evening in the room reminiscing about Grace’s life and how she enjoyed her children and grandchildren. Eventually, all of us except Cindy and the Complementary Spouse went to where we were staying. The two daughters had decided that they would keep watch over Grace throughout the night.

Grace died on Saturday just after noon. She was surrounded by many of her family as she took her last breath. It was a quiet, peaceful, and dignified passing.

I am one of those lucky people in that I got as good a mother-in-law as one could ever hope to have. Grace treated me as much like a son as a son-in-law. I remember her saying to the Complementary Spouse that if we didn’t hurry up and get married, she would just have to adopt me. She loved me and I loved her.

As to the SHOT Show, it will be there next year. Family will always come first.

The obituary for Grace is here. She was a wonderful and kind woman and I will miss her terribly.

May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sorry For The Light Blogging

Sorry for the light blogging this past week. We just got back this weekend from St. Louis where we were visiting family and friends.

I did get to visit with fellow gun blogger Charlie Foxtrot and his wife. He helps us on The Polite Society Podcast and he blogs at Not One More Gun Law. After a lifetime of living in Southern California, he is still somewhat amazed at the change in the role of the gun culture in local politics. He noted that politicians in California would never mention their NRA-PVF grades especially if they were better than a “F”. By contrast, in Missouri, candidates fight over who is more gun friendly and brag on it.

I also got to visit a really great reloading shop in St. Charles. Graf’s Reloading – not be confused with Graf & Sons – is a full-service shop dedicated to reloading. While they have a small gun counter, reloading is their specialty. Seeing row after row of just bullets in any weight, style, or caliber was amazing. If you are in the St. Louis area and have time, they are just off of Interstate 70 in St. Charles. I found their prices to be very competitive and cheaper than the Bass Pro Shop down the street.

My granddaughter Olivia Grace traveled with us to St. Louis and was a big hit. She is fast approaching one and a half. As the picture below shows, she might have a future in reloading as she was quite interested in the bags of bullets.

We also trolled a number of thrift shops while in the St. Louis area. I picked up that cast iron pot in the picture at thrift shop and think it will be just right to serve as a lead melting pot. For $4 it can’t be beat.

Ocean Triggerfish (Repost)

NOTE: I am reposting this 2011 post in memory of Bill who was killed in a car wreck in Texas on Tuesday. He was on his way home from work when a truck crossed the center line and hit his pickup. He leaves behind his wonderful wife Annie and dog LB. Tight lines, Billy. I know Heaven must have fish as Christ built his church using fishermen.

The name Ocean Triggerfish sounds pretty gunnie to me.

A new Texas state record and body of water (Gulf of Mexico) record Ocean Triggerfish was recently caught. It weighed 11.2 lbs compared to the previous record of 8.8 lbs. The average for the Ocean Triggerfish in the Gulf of Mexico is in the 3-5 lb range. More from the website rodnreel.com:

Other Names : Ocean Tally, Great Trigger, Ocean Triggerfish

Range & Habitat : This fish is more common in the southern Gulf of Mexico, but is scattered in all offshore waters. It is an open-water species, less likely to be found near reefs, rocks, and offshore oil and gas platforms.

Identification & Biology : This fish is bulkier than other Gulf of Mexico triggerfish, but it still has a deep, laterally compressed body. Its body is longer than the gray triggerfish and the anal and second dorsal fins are longer. Body color is brownish-gray to dark gray, almost black. Little is known of its biology.

Size : Ocean triggerfish average 3-5 pounds, often larger

Food Value : Good, but difficult to clean

The reason I care about this is because the angler that caught the new Texas state record Ocean Triggerfish is my first cousin Billy Sheridan of Brazoria County, Texas. He caught the Ocean Triggerfish while out fishing for yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. He caught a few of those, too.

Billy is a hardcore angler and would rather fish than eat or sleep. I remember going fishing with him many a time when we were kids growing up. So congratulations to my cousin Billy on a fishing record that is well-deserved.

Learning Patience

This week is teaching me patience.

We had intended this week to be one of having fun with family out in St. Louis. While we have had a small graduation party for my nephew Grant and introduced Olivia Grace to another wing of her family, most of the week has been spent at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

My mother-in-law fell on Saturday while getting out of bed at her memory-care center. She got a nasty bruise on the chin and she had trouble putting weight on her leg. This was the second fall in as many weeks. A mobile X-Ray was inconclusive so her doctor suggested a short in-patient stay to allow her to get an MRI and CT Scan. So she was transferred to the hospital on Monday afternoon. The doc said that my mother in law would probably get the MRI quickly and the doc could evaluate the results shortly after that.

It took over 24 hours to get that MRI done. The results were that she had two fractures in her pelvis and would need rehab.

Her nurses, patient techs, and rehab people have been great at MoBap.

Her case managers, or whatever they call them here, not so much. To be honest, and I’m biting my tongue so I don’t say anything worse, they need lessons in how to communicate. I have gotten to the point where I just have to bury my head in a book or the computer so I don’t lash out at them. The Complementary Spouse has been a great advocate for her Mom and as a nurse she can speak the language. She has been patient to the extreme and has finally gotten them working for her Mom.

Medicare rules must vary from state to state. My mother-in-law was admitted for observation. One would think that after a diagnosis of a fractured pelvis, a BP spike, AND going into afib, she would have been reclassified to in-patient status. According to the case managers this was not the case. She only got reclassified to in-patient status due to her chin bruise becoming infected and that was only yesterday. The case managers and utilization review say that can’t go back and reclassify her. Color me skeptical on that claim.

The reason that status matters is because under Medicare guidelines a person needs three days in the hospital as an in-patient (three midnight rule) in order to have Medicare to pay for rehab at a skilled nursing facility (nursing home). Fortunately, in our case, my mother-in-law will be admitted to an acute rehab facility where the three midnight rule isn’t needed. Hopefully, it will happen this afternoon.

To top things off, the hospital somehow, somewhere have lost my mother-in-law’s eyeglasses. What next?

The week has had some bright spots. I got to meet Charlie Foxtrot who has been helping us on The Polite Society Podcast. We had a great lunch on Wednesday and a great time meeting one another. The other bright spot is that I’ve found some really good bourbon that I can’t get at home as well as a great place to buy it. Imagine a liquor store in a former Best Buy location with many select barrel offerings and you have Lukas Wine and Spirits. I will be patient and wait until I get home before cracking the seal on the bourbon I purchased.

Keep your fingers crossed for my mother-in-law that she gets moved to her new location sooner than later. A prayer or two would be welcome as well.

UPDATE: My mother-in-law was moved to SSM St. Mary’s Rehab on Friday afternoon. I knew things were starting to look up when we were talking to the transfer EMTs. One was a North Carolinian and the other a South Carolinian. Moreover, the lead EMT was a graduate of Western Carolina University where I just so happen to teach a class each semester. Perfect!

The difference between the two facilities was like night and day. The room was bigger, the staff was more devoted to the patient than to the computer, and everyone was just a quantum leap more friendlier. I think this is going to work out just fine.

She’ll be in acute rehab for at least 2 weeks so long as she shows improvement. Our goal is to get her on her feet again and walking. She was walking without any assistance prior to the fall.

Keep your fingers crossed and prayer wouldn’t hurt.