A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.
Miss you mama.
I remember this poem for my distant past…
The woman was old and ragged and gray
The street was wet with a recent snow
She stood at the crossing and waited long,
Of human beings who passed her by
Down the street, with laughter and shout,
Came the boys like a flock of sheep,
Past the woman so old and gray
Nor offered a helping hand to her -
Lest the carriage wheels or the horses’ feet
At last came one of the merry troop,
He paused beside her and whispered low,
Her aged hand on his strong young arm
He guided the trembling feet along,
Then back again to his friends he went,
“She’s somebody’s mother, boys, you know,
“And I hope some fellow will lend a hand
“If ever she’s poor and old and gray,
And “somebody’s mother” bowed low her head
Was “God be kind to the noble boy,
Now that our visitors from Korea have arrived safely. Welcome to America Sohee and Junsoek!
And after a long flight on United Airlines with crappy miguk food, they were ready to chow down on some Korean goodness…
…I just hadn’t seen him in awhile.
Last night at the Bull and Barrel I had the pleasure of encountering an old dart buddy who doesn’t get out to Itaewon much these days. It had been a few years since we last talked but I was pleasantly surprised that he was up on all my latest happenings. Well, at least the ones that were posted on this pitiful blog.
It was great seeing Fred again. And to encounter someone who actually reads LTG was a definite treat. What are the odds?
But I suppose you could say that about any first birthday.
Sydney Renee had a nice little shindig today which she undoubtedly will not remember. Unless one day she reads my blog.
It seems like every social event brings calls for some of Jee Yeun’s Korean food. Accordingly, she cooked up a big batch of galbi on the grill.
Me and the birthday girl.
And the guests of a certain age enjoyed this bouncy castle.
Dressing formally in the traditional hanbok.
And as if by magic an ice cream truck arrived. They must have child seeking sensors in those things.
Anyway, it was a good time on a special day…
The obligatory picture of my incredibly cute granddaughter enjoying her spaghetti dinner.
While I was in Memphis last week I got to spend some time with my dad’s brother, Bud. He was wearing an 8th Air Force ball cap so I asked him to tell us about his service. From his enthusiastic telling of “war stories” it seemed clear that the time he spent on those B-17s were among the best years of his life. He told me about training to be a pilot, eventually washing out, and then being sent to gunnery school. Which is how he wound up being the belly gunner on the B-17, which he called the best damn plane every built.
He got to England late in the war and flew 19 missions before the Germans capitulated. He said the guys in the early days had it a lot worse because they didn’t have the P-51 fighter escorts that he enjoyed. Even so, he remembered having one of those ME-252 fighter jets in his sights for a brief instant, but it was too fast to keep a bead on. He was glad that they never faced them in force.
Their biggest problem was flak and it was apparently pretty scary stuff. The got hit frequently (he said after one mission they counted over 100 holes of varying size in the fuselage). And once they took a direct hit over Germany, it killed the navigator and severely injured the co-pilot. They lost both starboard engines which made it difficult to control the planes and maintain altitude. They managed to make it as far as Belgium where they crash landed. Apparently the Germans had pulled out only days earlier and they made it back to London without being captured.
Anyway, the thing he told me which really struck me was this: They would normally fly a mission in 3 day rotations, sometimes more often depending on the targets, and less depending on weather. Duty rosters were posted on the lavatory door (I guess so everyone would see them eventually). And if your name appeared on the roster, you didn’t make any plans. I said why, so you could prepare? And he said “no, because everyone always assumed they wouldn’t be back.”
I can’t imagine the courage these guys had to have.
This is not Uncle Bud’s plane, unfortunately I don’t have a picture of his.
My dad, Walter Lee McCrarey, grew up in Memphis. My grandfather was a riverboat captain, and like him, my dad loved the Mississippi. Dad also spent most of his adult life sailing the oceans of the world with the U.S. Merchant Marine. In fact, he first went to sea at the age of 15 in 1942 serving on the freighters carrying precious war cargo to the UK.
Dad wasn’t a particularly religious man, nor did he have much sentimentality regarding his mortal remains. Many times he reminded us that it wouldn’t make a whit of difference to him if we threw his dead body on the curb when he gone. Instead, we donated his body to the University of South Carolina Medical School in accordance with his wishes. When the medical students were done with him, he was cremated and the ashes were returned to the family.
Well, I was mindful of the fact that he didn’t want any big deal made of his remains, but I nevertheless had a box of “cremains” staying in my house and I wasn’t satisfied with that arrangement. In consultation with my brothers, it was decided to place some of the ashes at mom’s grave site (she was sentimental that way) and the rest would be deposited in the Mississippi river where they would eventually make their way to sea, just as he had so many years ago. And so that’s just what we did.
Dad (standing, 3rd from left) with some of his buddies on a fishing expedition. I’d like to imagine it was near the same spot on the river where we deposited his ashes.
Dad in his early days with the Merchant Marine.
In his later years at sea he was still keeping those big engines turning…
And he never lost his love for the open sea.
Brother Keith carrying dad’s remains to the riverside.
This is the spot we picked to say our final goodbyes.
Keith recited one of dad’s favorite poems:
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
And then we poured him into the muddy waters of the Mississippi river.
So we said our goodbyes in the best way we knew how. And then we went on with the business of living.
Time, beckoning me
Goodbye my love,
Till it’s gone forever
Goodbye my friends,
Till it’s gone forever
So we’ve been occupying our time babysitting granddaughter Sydney while her parents enjoy a Bahamian cruise. She’s been a joy so far. Only 9 months old but she is easily entertained and sleeps through the night. The only downside I suppose is I’m watching a lot of Nick Junior on TV. But hey, it’s a chance to relearn all those life lessons I’ve forgotten (or ignored).
Anyway, as a proud grandpa (aka “Papa John”) indulge me a few photographs of my sweet little girl:
Beating the notorious South Carolina summer heat in her very own redneck swimming pool.
She caught a whiff of Jee Yeun cooking up something Korean and crawled into the kitchen for a closer look. No doubt she’ll be eating kimchi soon.
Hope all you mom’s out there have a great day. That means you Renee and Lauren!
I surely am missing my mother.
Camping on the Kern River circa 1958.
Today is Parent’s Day in Korea. If you still have living parents, tell them you love them and give them a big hug. Sure wish I could.
We took Jee Yeun’s father to the chicken hof this afternoon. Drank beer and ate chicken Korean style. Jee Yeun’s mom is visiting family “in the countryside” so she missed out. Dad seemed happy with his white envelope. Hell, who wouldn’t be? It’s the perfect gift.
Jee Yeun’s daughter and boyfriend gave me a very nice box of goodies. Chock full of all the treats and snacks they witnessed me devouring these past few months. It was very thoughtful of them and much appreciated.
And that’s about all I’ve got say on the topic. Cheers!
Today is the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I’m missing her and of course wishing things could have been different for her. She loved life, her grandkids and great-grandkids, the holidays, and all the simple joys it is so easy to take for granted. I’ll always regret not having been a better son for her. She always asked so little from her family and unfortunately, too often that is all got. Ah well. In the end I was with her for what little comfort I could give. She told me “I love you for coming home to me”, and I will always have that moment to remember.
This is the last photo I took of her, a day or two before she died. She would have hated it of course, but it was both a special and sad time and I think she’d be happy to be remembered, regardless of the circumstances. I love you mom.
This morning Jee Yeun left for Korea. The house without her seems so empty and quiet. You kind of fall into a rhythm when you share your life with someone, and her departure has left me feeling particularly out of sorts.
She’s going home to help take care of her sister he recently suffered a massive stroke. She will also be with her family to celebrate the lunar new year, and that’s a good thing. Finally, she will be doing all the heavy lifting associated with moving house. She’s taking an apartment in the same building at Gireum station, just two floors lower down.
I’ll be following in two or three weeks. I have to finalize matters associated with my parent’s estate before I can leave the country. It’s a real pain in the ass, but at least I have some powerful motivation to get it done.
Welcome home to the Land of the Morning Calm sweetheart. I miss you and I love you.
Had a great start to the new year visiting my seafaring friends Rod and Patty Headlee.
They purchased this 43′ sailboat in Annapolis, MD and were completing refitting at the time of our visit in New Bern, NC.
Ain’t she a beauty?
I believe the name Second Chance derives from the fact this boat originally manufactured in 1969 has been completely refurbished and made seaworthy for her new life as home to Rod and Pat in whatever location the winds of fancy may carry them.
This is the forward stateroom where me and Jee Yeun spent the night. A little cramped but comfortable. We were rocked to sleep by the gentle motion of the marina waves and serenaded by the singing of a stiff breeze through the rigging wire. A slightly larger stateroom aft is where Rod and Pat quarter.
The head. It’s operation was just complicated enough that I’d usually make my way out to the marina lavatory. There is also a small shower to the left which went unused during our visit.
The dining area featuring Sebastian the seagoing cat. Notice the net full of snacks hanging above. The boat was provisioned for several weeks of sea travel, so every nook and cranny was filled with the necessities for a self-contained life.
The galley featured a stove with oven and a bread maker…
It takes a big man to admit that he is probably not “right sized” for long term living at sea on a sailboat.
No TV on board but we did enjoy a little live music.
We trekked into New Bern where Jee Yeun made a beary nice friend…
Rod bought some supplies at this old fashioned hardware store. A much more pleasant experience than shopping at Home Depot, that’s for sure.
We lunched at this popular local eatery and then said our farewells. Rod had been closely monitoring the weather for a good 3 day window to make it down to Florida. The seas can be treacherous off Cape Fear this time of year. The had hoped to be in warmer waters by October but the refitting took longer than anticipated. They plan to spend a month in the Bahamas and after that probably the west coast of Mexico. Their home port is Los Angeles, but they really love being in the South Pacific, spending a lot of time in Pago Pago and American Samoa.
I really respect their success in living the life of their dreams. I do not envy that lifestyle however. A life at sea is really hard work. When sailing, someone must always stand watch. And maintaining the boat and it’s critical components is a never ending chore. I guess I prefer a life of
On the drive home, we spent the night in North Myrtle Beach. Winter is the best time of year at the beach in my opinion, mostly because I had crowds.
America’s East Sea as viewed from our crappy (but $40 per night) ocean front room.
Jee Yeun enjoys her coffee and the Carolina sea grass.
The temperature was right at freezing and there was a cutting ocean breeze that chilled to the bone. It was so cold that the seagulls flocked around Jee Yeun trying to keep warm.
But there is something to be said for the solitude of the oceanfront in winter.
My first Christmas without mom and dad. She sure did love the holidays. I have some of her decorations up around the house, but they just can’t capture her spirit.
My father died today. He spent the better part of his life as an engineer with the Merchant Marine. It is a maritime tradition that when a member of the engine department passes away he is said to be “finished with engines”.
My father had been in failing health for some time but if pressed to identify the cause of death I’d have to say he died of a broken heart. Losing mom after 61 years of marriage took both an emotional and physical toll. I think he survived as long as he did so he could be there to take care of mom. Without her his life lost meaning and purpose.
He was 83 years old and by any account he lived a long, and often hard, life. He was nothing if not strong willed. His passing was inevitable but I was surprised by how quickly he went in the end. I believe he just decided it was time to go, so he went. By all accounts it was a peaceful and easy departure. Perhaps that’s the best any of us can hope for.
His desire was to have his body donated to the medical university. After jumping through some bureaucratic hoops today we were able to make that happen. Dad was always generous in his own quiet way and certainly wouldn’t want a big deal made of his parting gift. And he made it very clear that a big funeral was not for him. So I hope this simple tribute will suffice to do justice to his memory.
Dad, you were an amazing man and truly one of a kind. You’ll be missed by all who knew and loved you.
My father was a lover of poetry and some of my earliest memories are of him sitting in his easy chair reading his favorite poems out loud to us kids. And I distinctly remember him reciting this one on some long ago day:
Under the wide and starry sky
This be the verse you grave for me;
–”Requiem” Robert Louis Stevenson
I just wanted to update y’all regarding my dad. He was moved to the hospice ward at the hospital yesterday. I’m sure you understand the implications of that.
He was hospitalized last week with pneumonia, and he has gotten progressively weaker. He’s been unable to swallow so he was being fed though a tube in his nose to his stomach. That’s a short term solution and they wanted to insert a tube directly through his stomach. In his condition that’s a risky surgery, but necessary given the alternative. Against my advice, he declined the surgery.
So, the goal of Hospice is to keep the patient comfortable. I’ve not given up hope that he will regain the ability to swallow and can take nourishment by mouth. If not, well, he’ll just fade away.
Sorry to be sharing this sad news, but thought you’d want to know.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there in the great wide open.
And speaking as one who is spending his first mother’s day without a living mom, indulge my imparting a little advice.
Sons and daughters, do more than the card and the “I love you”. Take the time and make the effort to do the little things to make your mother feel special. She’s easy to please I’d wager and letting her know you care will mean the world to her.
Don’t be like me wishing you had done more when it is too late for anything other than regrets.
Here’s the song my nephew sang after the funeral. I find it hauntingly beautiful.
Mother don’t worry, I killed the last snake that lived in the creek bed
So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Mother I made it up from the bruise on the floor of this prison
So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Mother don’t worry, I’ve got a coat and some friends on the corner
So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Last night the McCrarey’s invaded Puddlin’ Duck for some darts. Brother Keith (visiting from California) and my son Kevin joined me in the weekly competition, with daughter-in-law Lauren and Jee Yeun handling the cheerleading duties. Who’d a thunk that you’d find so many McCrarey’s in an Irish pub of all places?
Now, Keith and Kevin hadn’t played in a dart tourney before and by virtue of the vagaries of the blind draw format wound up being teammates. And they defied odds by winning their first match in a hard fought battle. Kevin seems to have a natural knack for hitting the double out and that served him well.
Of course, they advanced to meet me and my partner Pat in the next round and we showed them no mercy. Darts does not recognize family blood after all.
It was a good night for this McCrarey though as I achieved tournament victory for the first time here in South Carolina.
Nothin’ is finer than winning in Carolina, to coin a phrase.
Anyway, we all had a great time and I expect Kevin may become a regular participant. And no doubt he’s going to be beating me with regularity before too long. He didn’t say it, but his face said “payback is hell”.
Let the darts fly!
It’s actually too good to excerpt and I’m sure I would butcher the effort anyway. Go have a read. You won’t regret it. And if you do, well, just put it down.
What a week. Drove 1145 miles to Enid, Oklahoma so my mom could be buried in the family plot near her mother. Actually, she was buried in Goltry, a small and sad outpost on the windswept and desolate Oklahoma panhandle. I believe if you look up the word depressing in the dictionary you can see a picture of Goltry.
The day of the funeral was windy (as I expect everyday in that godforsaken land must be) and bitterly cold. Mom wanted a simple graveside service and that is what she got. My Aunt Pat (of fruit salad fame) led the service and the grandkids present each gave a moving tribute as to what Grandma Bonnie had meant in their lives. Tears were shed and then it was done.
Well, we had a family gathering at the Western Sizzlin’ (apparently one of the finer dining establishments in Enid) and then those of us who were so inclined retired to the Ramada Inn bar. The eight of us then proceeded to wash away our sorrow (at least temporarily) through massive quantities of beer and various other alcoholic beverages.
My nephew Jason and his wife Rosie brought out a guitar and sang “Upward Over the Mountain” in honor of my mom. It was an incredibly beautiful song and an appropriately moving moment that seemed to give each of some measure of closure. I know mom would have loved it.
By unfortunate coincidence, the funeral day was also daughter-in-law Lauren’s birthday. We did a toast in her honor. Although Lauren was toasting us with fruit juice. Because she found out that morning that she was pregnant with my son’s first child. Apparently after quite some time trying.
Kevin revealed that in one of his final conversations with mom she had asked him to promise to take his son to church on Sundays. He told her “grandma, I don’t have a son”. She said “just promise”.
Renee is convinced that the first thing mom did in heaven was to pull some strings. I don’t know about that. But it was a day of days for sure and I wouldn’t put anything past my mom.
Things seem really different around here in the absence of mom’s presence. I’m equally torn between relief that her suffering is over and enormous sadness that the life she loved so much is gone. But I guess that’s really the way it works out for most people, isn’t it?
She wants to be buried next to her mother in Goltry, Oklahoma. It’s a tad over 1100 miles from here and I’m in the mood for a road trip. So I’ll be hitting the Interstate on Friday.
Last night I played darts for the first time since I’ve been “home”. Found a nice little Irish pub with three boards named The Puddlin’ Duck. I joined the “league” which amounts to a weekly blind draw double elimination tourney. There were fourteen of us throwing tonight and I felt warmly welcomed. So, I’ve got Wednesdays covered at least.
Played so bad though even Jee Yeun was embarrassed for me. I overheard her telling my new mates that I really wasn’t that bad. Well, not to make excuses but it has been awhile since I’ve thrown and it being a new venue surrounded by strangers and all it’s understandable I’d be off my game. Right? Right?
Anyway, it will be better. It’s got to get better.
Places I Go
John McCrarey: Yeah, it all looked good.