Saturday, June 12, 2010

12 of 12 - June 2010

A sad 12 of 12 for me today, as I lost my father last week on the 3rd. To say that the last week has been difficult would, of course, be an understatement. It just seems unreal that it has been over a week since I've seen him or talked to him. I keep thinking he is just on a trip and will be home soon. I know I have a lot of rough days ahead of me as it all becomes real.

I appreciate the many kind words and displays of sympathy from so many friends and family members, especially those who have already lost a parent and where therefore able to give me some insight and perspective into what was going on. I'm also thankful to those closest to me who have managed to give me constant love and support while also giving me the space I need to try and grieve in my own way. It is a delicate balance, but you (and you each know who you are) have given me just what I've needed as I've needed it.

Sleeping has been the hardest part - I just hate to go to bed because if my brain gets too silent, I end up getting really sad and so I end up climbing back up out of bed and roaming the house working on random projects...

2:15 a.m. - an astrological reading for a friend (Pisces with a Capricorn ascendant). My aunt Charlsie was a world-renowned astrologer with thousands of clients around the globe. She taught me how to plot a chart and do a reading when I was a preteen. She did many readings for me over the years, advising me on boyfriends (this one is a double Leo - he loves himself more than he will ever love you) and career moves (your true destiny won't open up to you until you are almost 50, so just make sure you learn all you can and enjoy what you are doing in the meantime). She always did the math herself and plotted each chart by hand with a ruler and colored pencils. I always feel like a cheat when I run a chart from a computer program.

11:30 a.m. - Had about 2 hours of sleep, then piddled around the house until a little before noon and than headed down to Mom's to write thank you notes. I just snapped the clouds, but when I loaded the photos, I thought it looked like a dinosaur or dragon's head about to bite something.

12:15 p.m. - While at Mom's, we went through a few of Dad's clothes, picking some to donate and some to keep. This is a keeper - his flight jacket from his dear friend Gabe at Boeing.

12:16 p.m. - it even has his nickname sewn into the lining.

2:10 p.m. - So, this is a joke that got out of hand. Way out of hand. I was having my hair cut and colored Thursday evening, and I got a text from my friend JD suggesting I color it pink (it was occasionally pink back when we knew each other in the 80s.) I got my friend and stylist Brooke to pull out the pink hair color so I could take a photograph and send it as a joke. Somewhere along the line, the joke became a reality as Brooke convinced me that a pink streak would be fun. So, here you go - Retro Joni. (By the way, no, that is not an overexposed photo. I really am that white.) Thank God he didn't make a joke about me getting a tattoo or an additional piercing, cause sometimes I will do anything to make a friend laugh.

2:17 p.m. - Went next door to see Katie and stumbled across her cat Bob. Hi Bob. (Drink!)

2:27 p.m. - Puzzle that Katie and Brian (mostly Brian) were working on. I stared for about 10 minutes and finally found two pieces that fit together. Least I think they were supposed to be together. Brian might have pretended they did just so I would be satisfied that I contributed and finally leave and not mess with his puzzle any more.

2:40 p.m. - and on to the real reason I went to see Katie - sonogram photos. They found out that they are having a boy, and here is his little foot. I would have shown the photo that determined he was a boy, but that seemed a little bit too sketchy of a thing to do to the poor kid. I mean, would you like the neighbor lady showing your stuff on her blog before you ever knew what a blog was?? Did I mention that after my fall down the stairs last month, Katie has decided that maybe she won't be calling on me for babysitting duty after all. Although, thanks to me and my clumsiness, she does now know the direct route to one of the local ERs in case she ever needs to know.

3:55 p.m. - Went over to Lowes with my neighbor David to get some soil to plant the beautiful hydrangea plants that several of my friends sent for Dad's services. While we were there, we checked out some of the other flowers and plants.

4:12 p.m. - and I ended up with 2 more hydrangea to fill out the area where we are going to plant them tomorrow after church.

8:10 p.m. - After an attempt at a nap (I slept 45 whole minutes!), I ran by work to pick up something I left on Friday. This is my bonus shot - a recreation of a shot of the windows from the outside of the hanger in my February 2010 12 of 12 entry. The photo above was taken of the same windows from inside the hangar.

9:05 p.m. - and then I stopped by the 24 hour post office to mail a package. There is always about 20-30 people in line at that post office no matter what time I go. Of course, there is also only 1 agent working while the other 6 windows are always closed, so it takes for ever to get through the line. But I'm getting closer - only 3 more folks ahead of me.

10:05 p.m. - Back home finally, and here is my final photo. It is really just a photo of a photo that my friend in Texas sent me from his shopping expedition today. I would say it related to an inside joke, but I'm sure most of you already have an idea of what that inside joke is in reference to. What can I say? Sometimes we both still have the sense of humor of two 12 year olds. But it made me laugh, and I need to laugh, so good job on that one.

Guess that is it. Hope you enjoyed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


My father passed away this past week. I've pretty much been on auto-pilot ever since. I want to write more about the last few days, but it is all still very raw and painful. So instead of focusing on his death, I'd like to focus some more about his life and the things he left me with. I know my entries of late have already been a bit on the emotional side, but I hope you will bear with me as writing helps me both heal and honor him as best I can.

Today is the 66th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Now, my father was a very patriotic man, but he never served in the military. Dad was in the ROTC in high school, and he and his classmates proudly stood honor guard in East Point, GA as the train carrying the body of President Franklin Roosevelt returned to Washington, DC from Warm Springs, GA following his death in 1945.

He planned on enlisting after high school and follow in the footsteps of several of his uncles and older cousins, but was turned down because of a broken arm (football injury) that never healed correctly and impacted his ability to hold and fire a rifle properly. So instead, he went on to college at Georgia State. Shortly after that, his own father passed away suddenly and Dad left school to go to work in order to help his mother take care of his younger brother and baby sister. But he was so very proud when his younger brother Paul grew up and joined the Navy during the Korean War.

As I was growing up, Dad always wanted to make sure that I was aware of the sacrifices that others made so that we could live free. Every year a few days before the school year started, Dad would call me out into the backyard where we would sit on the steps, and he would give me "The Speech." The Speech was the talk he gave me to explain how lucky we were in our country be provided with the opportunity to go to school and receive a good education. He would explain how children in some parts of the world didn't have that chance, and how in some countries, little girls were not afforded an opportunity to go to school at all. Then, he would explain to me that while I would pay nothing for my education, many who came before me had paid the ultimate price. Therefore, my only job as a child was to study hard, do my school work and ensure that I got all I could out of my education so that those men did not die in vain.

Me & my brother Steve at Pearl Harbor on the anchor of the USS Arizona

Through the years, our many vacations would take us to locations where he would reinforce the story of military sacrifice. I was 7 years old when our family went to Honolulu on vacation and visited Pearl Harbor.

Dad, Me & Steve on the boat to the USS Arizona Memorial

As the boat took us across the water to the memorial over the USS Arizona, Dad pointed to the oil still seeping up from the ship almost 30 years after it was sunk. He said they were the Tears of the Arizona, and he told me what he remembered as a 12 year old boy on that December day in 1942 when we were attacked. (Years later, as the events of 9-11 occurred, I understood some of what he must have felt that day.)

Wall of casualties at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor

When we reached the big white memorial, with the names of almost 1,200 who were lost that day etched in the the marble wall, he reminded me that these were some of the men who paid for my education. It made quiet an impression on this 7 year old.

Some years later, as a 19 year old college student, I went with Mom and Dad on a European vacation. During the trip, we rode a hovercraft over the English Channel from the White Cliffs of Dover to the Beaches near Normandy.

Omaha Beach as seen from the Normandy American Cemetery

As we reached the coast of France, the hovercraft took a slight detour from the direct route and took us out towards Omaha Beach where you could see where part of the D-Day landing occurred. It was overcast that day and there was a foggy mist in the air, and I felt a cold shiver as we made the approach. I wondered how those young infantry men who were probably about my age at the time must have felt that early morning almost 40 years earlier as they waited on the order for the assault to begin. Everything seemed to go quite around me, the sound of the hovercraft, the voices of the other passenger. It was surreal silence that was probably only occurring in my head. And as I looked over to my Dad sitting next to me, I could see the tears in his eyes.
Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer

I saw those same tears, and matched them with my own, a few hours later when we visited the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer where the bodies of over 9,000 American servicemen who paid for my education were laid to rest.

Now I wasn't always a straight A student, and I'm not going to pretend I came home from this trip and suddenly made Dean's List every quarter. But I've always tried my best, and I've always remembered my Daddy's lessons and the sacrifice of those young men.

I'll end this with a quote from the movie Saving Private Ryan. "I've tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes, I've earned what all of you have done for me."