Category Archives: Past, Present and Future

Remembering Field Trips

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            One of my favorite parts of school was field trips. I cared much less about where we went than that we went. I hated being cooped up indoors, in the same place, day after day. The teacher would drone on and on about dead people (History), or places you knew you would never see (Geography), or math you knew you would never use (I actually used quite a bit). And all of this, while you sat quietly (the hardest part) in the same uncomfortable, little wooden chair, and pretended to pay attention. In case you haven’t guessed, I wasn’t a very good student, at least in my early years.

            Then finally, the day circled on your calendar came, the field trip. The prison doors swung open, and, bag lunch in hand, you along with your fellow inmates, happily piled onto chauffeured limonene (school bus), on a quest for adventure.

            One of my most memorable was, I believe, in sixth grade. This was our last year at Gasteyer School, before we all moved on to the Jr. High. They actually, for the first time, gave us a choice. The trip was to downtown Chicago (about fifteen miles). The first part was set. Across the street from the Art Institute was the Borg Warner Building. At that time, they had a science exhibition in the lobby. Science was one of the few subjects I found interesting. The second part was a downtown movie. This is where the choice came in. We voted for either “Gone With The Wind” or “Dr. Dolittle”. From what I remember, it wasn’t even close. Which do you think an eleven-year-old would rather see, another history lesson about old dead people, or a guy who can talk to animals? No-brainer!

            The movie was just all right: too much singing. The exhibition however, was very interesting. I can’t remember a lot of details. I think there were a lot of sparky electrical things and a few motors. I believe one was a see-through engine. But the exhibit I found fascinating was smell-o-vision (not sure that’s what it was called). It was an actual large screen TV (probably all of 27 inches) with a repeating program. The difference was, you could actually smell what you were seeing. I thought, surely this was what we would all have in the future. I was even more certain when the camera panned over a field of flowers, and later a rain storm in a forest. It felt like I was there. Then they switched to the wet dog on the beach. Let’s just say, some ideas are better in theory. I was just glad the dog was only running on the beach, and not stopping to do anything, or discovering a fire hydrant.

            Sometimes it’s fun to remember those fun days from school, or other youth adventures. Take a minute or two and try to remember some from your childhood. If you want, write them down. Who knows, maybe that could be the way you begin your own memoir.

Crystal’s Corner

            My first school was in Roseland in Chicago.  It was a red brick tall Victorian building surrounded by an iron fence.  We very rarely went on field trips.  I do remember going to Brookfield Zoo, probably in the spring.  My brother, who was two years older than me was also on the field trip with his class.  The teachers took us all over the zoo in groups.  It was very organized and we were told to stay with the group many times.  Of course, I stayed with my group.  I didn’t want to get in trouble or lost.  Brookfield Zoo is a huge place and as a child it was fascinating but also intimidating.  I was glad we were with the teachers, in groups.

            However, that wasn’t true of my brother, Larry and his friend, Georgie.  Georgie was very adventurous, and not one to care too much about rules.  My brother was more obedient, but when he was with Georgie, anything could happen.  In the afternoon, we piled into the buses.  I thought that Larry was with his group.  I think they were on a different bus.  Then I heard a teacher saying, “Has anyone seen Larry Carlson or Georgie Bailey?”  No one answers. 

            This made me very afraid, that the buses will leave without my brother and Georgie.  This was a very strict and crowded school.  Every class was filled to the maximum.  They ran out of books sometimes.  So, I believed they could just leave my brother and Georgie at the Zoo and not really care.  I wasn’t too happy with Georgie at this point, but his sister, Debra, was my best friend so I didn’t want him to be left at the zoo either.

            Finally, one of the boys said that they were in the reptile house, and didn’t leave with the rest of the group.  So, one of the teachers had to go to the reptile house to find them, and bring them back to the bus.             I am sure they were teased about that for days and days.  I don’t think I told my mom or dad about it.  My brother and I had a code; and we didn’t always tell about stuff that happened at school.  But I told him, when I had a chance, to never do that again.  He said he knew the school wouldn’t leave them at the zoo.  They liked the snakes and other reptiles, and didn’t want to be dragged to other places in the zoo.

            After we moved to Dolton, I am sure we did go on field trips.  They took us to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  In 8th grade we had a choice to see the play “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” or see a White Sox game.  I wanted to see the play, but there were more boys than girls voting, and we ended up at the White Sox game.  It was a really hot sunny day and we were in the sun.  We were not very close to the infield, but we could see what happened at the game.  We brought our sack lunches.  I thought the whole thing was boring.  I didn’t go to another White Sox game until I went with Ron and his friends from work.

It was much more fun with Ron and his friends. I also had a few sips of really cold beer and Ron bought me a Chicago style hot dog with all the toppings and a big pretzel.  He was surprised that I got excited at the game when the White Sox were hitting the ball.  Carlton Fiske was my favorite player.  He was the catcher, but also a great hitter.  I wasn’t a sports fan before we got married, but I decided to take an interest so we could watch games together.  I found a player I liked on all the Chicago teams: Michael Jordan on the Bulls, Walter Payton on the Bears, etc.  Then I would get excited when my guys did anything great.  I picked some really good players. 

OK, this has nothing to do with field trips, only a trip to Oregon with my parents when I was about the same age. That was the first gun I ever shot, and the first goat I ever milked….I think she liked me.

Holocaust

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            Through the years we have broached many marriage and family topics, and even some of historical significance. However, with the apparent rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes, I feel compelled to give some perspective on one of the greatest travesties of the last century, the Holocaust.

As a child I grew up fairly isolated from relatives. I knew my dad’s brother, Max Meinstein, and my father’s Uncle Max and aunt Audrey. I just called them Tante and Uncle. They helped raise dad when he came to the US, before the War, and before his parents arrived.  

I was probably around eleven when we visited the home of dad’s his youth, Zirndorf, Germany. One of my few vivid memories was the local graveyard. There was a section dedicated to the Meinsteins and our relatives. Row after row of relatively small, unadorned headstones, dating back to the 1700s. Many of the older ones were illegible; washed clean by the years of wind and rain.

            Suddenly I had a real sense of history, of belonging, and roots. Years later it occurred to me that, during those early trips to Germany, my parents and I visited with my mother’s relatives and friends, but never my fathers. I thought it curious, but never enough to ask a question.

            I know in his job as a CIC operative, during and after the war, dad had many encounters with death camp survivors, NAZI criminals, and other first-hand witnesses of the horrors of the Holocaust. He mentioned only a few, which I included in our book. While he never shared details of other events, except that he was present at several camps after the war, I always sensed that, the experience had changed him.

            His view of Germany, the world, and even God were changed. As a child he witnessed his nation shift from common purpose nationalism, to political unrest and extremism (sound familiar?). The quiet neighborhoods, with neighbors helping neighbors, were slowly becoming more tense. Political debates were replacing peaceful coexistence. Tensions between political ideologies grew. Fights broke out. Different groups were named as scapegoats for the nation’s troubles.

            As fascism took hold, and Jews became the focus of Hitler and his followers, there became only two options. Jews could either leave the country, or lay low, hope and pray. Dad and his family did the former. Many of his relatives living in and around Zirndorf did as well. A number moved to different parts of America, from New York, to Michigan, to Florida, and Texas. Others moved to different countries. Israel and Africa are two of which I know.

            The latter group, who chose to stay, didn’t fare well at all. Our book documents eight of dad’s relatives, who were part of the six million Jews, killed as part of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing process. May we never forget and always remember those lost. ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’

            So, what can we learn from this sad time? I have been fortunate enough in my life to meet at least some of my Jewish relatives. In my life, I have also been fortunate to see many parts of this great country, and to Europe several times. I have been with people of different races, religions and ethnicities. What I have found is that, every group has it’s good and bad, but we are all trying to get by the best we can. We love, and want what’s best for our children. Our beliefs are rarely original, but subject to our environments. In summary, people are just people.

            Until most of us acknowledge that, and start focusing on what we have in common, more than our differences, we are at risk. Until we realize that God loves all of us, we will continue to disappoint Him, and fail to fulfill His purpose for our lives. When He says to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’ (Mark 12:31), He is talking about looking out for the wellbeing of all people (think Good Samaritan, Luke 10:29). Can you imagine a world where everyone believed that?

Dad’s soccer team in Zirndorf, Germany circa 1930 (the coach has his left hand on dad).

Crystal’s Corner Registration at Bradley University

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            I came to Bradley University as a Junior.  When I was in community college, we met with our advisor and they helped us make our schedule.  So, I would receive my classes in the mail, with all the information about two weeks before classes started.

            So, when I came to Bradley in August, I thought I would be receiving my schedule the same way, but instead I think I got a letter telling me to come to Bradley Hall to register.  Fortunately, my roommate Debra, was also a Junior and her fiancé had been at Bradley for two years.  He explained to us what was going to happen.  He also informed us that because we were Juniors, we would get into the classes we needed to graduate as Seniors. 

            Going into Bradley Hall that day was stepping into chaos.  There were tons of people standing in lines and wandering about.  I got into the first line for one of my classes pretty quickly, and was accepted into the class.  Then I went to the next line.  I don’t think very many of my lines were long.  I was mainly taking my English major classes.  I did have to take a Calculus class, and that was crowded.  So, I might have just gotten in line early.  I couldn’t believe that a school like Bradley could be so disorganized with registration.  It was such a prestigious school.  Of course, this is before the computer systems had taken over the paperwork that had to be dealt with at colleges.  I was just glad that I got through the process very quicky, without any problems.  Some of my friends had problems getting into the classes they needed, and had to adjust their schedules, and stand in more lines.  I did notice some students swearing as they were refused to be accepted in classes.

            I had not found APO yet, so I didn’t know that the students that were helping with registration were from APO.  I just knew that they were friendly, encouraging and helpful.  I thought that was nice.  I may even have seen Ron that day, but didn’t know him yet.

            I think God planned the way we met and got to know each other.  I had to establish myself at Bradley, and get used to being there before I met him.  I wasn’t ready yet.  Getting to know Debra and my friend, Paula, helped me to adjust.  I was very homesick at first, and had decided to stay at Bradley for about 6 weeks before I went home.  That was a long time for me, but I think it helped me to get settled.

Ron: Some things seem so fun, and even funny, when we look back on our lives. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have the funny stories, without having to go through the stuff? My sophomore year it took all of 8 hours to register. Sophomore were low on the totem pole.

I know this has nothing to do with Registration but I like it. Brandywine Falls near Cleveland (we were just there celebrating our 43rd anniversary}.

Registration

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            Ok, it’s time for a fun story, from the past. Because APO, our fraternity, did community service project throughout the whole school year, Bradley University’s administration loved us. We helped give the school a good name in the community, and beyond. Our reward was, they gave us more work.

            However, as opposed to our usual volunteer status, they paid us. It really wasn’t a lot of money, but it was nice to know we were appreciated. One of our jobs was helping out at registration.

Unlike today, where so much is done on line, back in the 1970s, everything was manual. You sat in a large auditorium, and the classes, which still had seating, appeared on a large screen. You would write down the classes and times you desired; then the fun would begin. As hapless students wandered back into the halls of the ivy-covered Bradley Hall building, they were directed. It was somewhat similar to cows being herded. They were directed from room to room to pay their various fees, and verify their class selections. Occasionally, by the time they got to the signup room a class had been filled. Then it was back to the auditorium to start over. Of course, if one class changed it might conflict with other classes. So those needed to be changed as well. By the end of the day, many students were wandering around in a daze.

That’s where we came in. We were the directors. Basically, we stood in the hallways on all three floors, and answered student’s questions, and helped to direct them to their next room. We also provided moral support, and some minor psychological therapy. We would say things like, ‘I know it seems impossible, but you can do it. Just one step at a time.’

I don’t know how it happened, but my first day on the job was assigned the most important job of the whole event. I made the coffee. I had never made coffee before. However, I quickly mastered the basics. Turn on the giant percolator. Water goes in the bottom, grounds in the basket, and push the on button. They were so impressed; I was assigned a primo post. It was on the third floor by the payment office. Since everyone needed to stop, all I needed to do was direct whoever made it that far into the office.

About the third day I had a brilliant idea. I used a table to block 2/3 of the hallway. Then I put up a sign on the room door at eyelevel, with a large arrow, saying everyone must stop here. Then I simply stood in back of the table and watched. I thought my plan was fool proof. However, in there dazed and confused state, I watched as about one out of every three college students simply dodged the table, and the sign, to walk past. I then caught and redirected them. I spent the rest of the day sitting on that table and pointing into the room.

Of course, when my time to register came, I don’t think I did much better. At least I knew that I had to stop in that room.

I got this picture of a couple of my fraternity “Little Sisters” working their assigned posts at Bradley registration. Ahh, don’t you miss the short skirts of the seventies?

Dad’s Germany

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            For me, writing our book was an act of love, a remembrance, a tribute to our parents and times long past. By the time I was nineteen I had visited Germany, and Europe four times. Dad was like the greatest tour guide ever. He drove around Europe, and spoke about its history, people and places as if it were his home, and he had never left.

            The red brick two floor, slate shingled building, on the Zirndorf cobblestone side street, looked so typical, and unremarkable. It had been, so many years earlier, the home of his youth. The graveyard, in the same town, served as a reminder of things past. I had previously, no idea about the depth of our family’s heritage, or how deeply German we were. I walked all the way back, in the section dedicated to our family, until the tiny (by American standards) headstones were illegible from weathering (around the 1700s).

            Even as I scribed, to the best of my abilities, his accounts of his youth, I could barely imagine what it must have been like. I was thirteen once; a spoiled, carefree, all American boy. At thirteen, he was torn from his small-town home, and sent, alone, to a foreign land, to Chicago, to live with relatives, until his parents came a few years later.

            Even as he assimilated well, there was a certain irony about his story. His return during WW2 must have been extremely difficult. He would be fighting a fight, which he knew had to be fought. However, he would also be fighting against some of the friends of his youth, members of his old soccer team, family acquaintances, teachers, etc.

            Even as he mouthed dirty krauts, and other derogatory wartime slurs, he knew better. I remember a 1985 song by Sting, “Russians”, where he asserts, ‘there is no such thing as a winnable war. Mothers love their children’, no matter what the politicians do. We are all, basically the same, at least in God’s eyes.

            I never thought about that, as I cheered for John Wayne, and the rest of the Green Barats, as they killed all of those Krauts on the silver screen.

            Even as it was his job to interrogate German prisoners, dad spoke, with some pride about those prisoners, drafted to service, who hated the war, and what their homeland had become.

            Sadly, these days, as our own country seems similarly divided, I am concerned. There is a saying; ‘those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’. Also, ‘those who stand for nothing will fall for anything’.

            America was founded on principles of freedom and democracy for all. That is what our fathers fought to protect. What seems lost today is, we aren’t always going to agree with each other, but we need to respect those who disagree. I think that’s what is missing today, in politics, and on the streets of our country, mutual respect. I’m certain, if they were still here, our parents would have agreed.

            Someone once said, “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. I’m sure I heard that somewhere?

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We want to thank you in advance! Have a blessed day.

Dad’s youth soccer team Germany circa 1930: Coach’s left hand on dad.

           

Injustice

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            I believe I have a somewhat unique perspective when it comes to the racial protests and rioting occurring currently. Peaceful protest is a right and privilege given to us by our ancestors and protected by our constitution. The violence is not. However, I feel like I’ve been here before.

            I didn’t understand in the 1960s, when race riots were occurring. Being from an all-white community, I never had any relations with non-white individuals. All I knew was that everyone was supposed to be equal. After all, it had been 100 years since all of that had been solved. I didn’t understand when I heard Dr. King and others speak. He seemed so passionate, but why? When friends, who also had never been with non-whites used the N word or other racial slurs, I didn’t get it. I suppose they were parroting their parents. My parents, being German, and my father also of Jewish decent, knew a little bit about prejudice. I was raised to consider each individual separately.  To this day I am very grateful.

            If you are still reading, consider this. What is the most important commandment? Jesus believed it was to Love God with all you are. The second is to Love you neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor?

            When I went to college I was exposed, for the first time, to a variety of cultures. While in the seventies, there was still some tension, it never got bad on campus. I made an amazing discovery. Every person of another race or ethnicity, who I interacted with, through classes, the dorms, socially or sports was unique. Almost everyone with whom I spent significant time, I got along with, and found mutual interests. They were just people, fellow students, trying to better themselves.

            When I got out of college, my first job, as a chemist, was on the south side of Chicago, in a not so nice area. Stores were in cages; fast food was handed through carousels in bullet proofed glass. Murders, street violence, and drugs were not uncommon. Most of our plant was black as was the neighborhood.

I was lucky to find some really great people working there. Some became close friends. They cared about me and I them. We often ate together, went to parties, played sports, and watched games together. They also told me who I could trust, and people and areas I needed to avoid.

People in the neighborhood also treated us well. One day, when another chemist and I hit a few tennis balls at lunch, in a nearby park, a nice older lady brought out some lemonade and talked to us for a while. Another time, when I accidentally plowed my car into a snow drift, a group of kids who were off for a snow day, grabbed shovels and dug me out.

The point is simple; people are people. Some are good, and as my mother-in-law used to say, ‘some must have had a rough life’ (her excuse when people acted badly).

My skin is a little darker than Crystal’s, but I don’t think she holds that against me. Jesus was probably much darker skinned than most pictures depict him. We are all God’s creations. We are all the neighbors we were instructed to love.

No, I didn’t get it fifty years ago, but now I do. Sadly, not enough has changed. But I am ever hopeful. The answer is not in violence or vengeance, but in change of hearts and acceptance. So, continue to peacefully protest injustice, advocate for right and justice, and be tolerant of those who are different but peaceful. Be the good Samaritan. Live and let live.

We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black. Robert Kennedy

A nation divided against itself can not stand.        Abraham Lincoln quoting Jesus

June 6th 2020 Coshocton Ohio Courthouse square – There is hope.

Happy New Decade

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            It wasn’t until after Christmas that I realized, not only are we looking at a new year, but a brand new decade. As usual, the New Year is a time of reflection. What occurred in the previous twelve months and what do we resolve to make the next twelve better. Admit it, it’s February and many of you have at least compromised your resolutions. I just resolved to live healthier. I figure, the more nebulous the resolution, the easier to keep. P.S. I’m doing fine.

            However, when I look back at the last ten years, a lot has changed. Sadly, in that time we have lost the last of our parents. Three (my mom and dad, and Jim Carlson) died over the last decade. My dad died was the last, at the age of 98, just last May. We still think of and miss our parents often. As our book nears completion, it gives Crystal and me comfort that their stories will live on.

            Ten years ago, Lisa was a high school senior and I was working as an RN. Since then Michelle and Alex were married. Between them and Liz and Brad we have been blessed with four more grandchildren. That gives us seven all together. To paraphrase the movie “Jaws”, ‘We are going to need a bigger table’.

            While no future is predictable, we will continue to make plans. In what was hopefully the first of many, Crystal and I have just returned from a vacation. It was a nice getaway to central Florida. Future trips are already planned. Crystal wants to add book tours and lecturing to our future. It goes without saying, staying involved with our family will continue to be a priority.

            Of course, only God knows for sure what the next ten years will bring. We just need to live each day the best we can, and continue to seek His will.

            Hopefully, you will do the same.

Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Decade

Ron & Crystal

Our Loss is Heaven’s Gain

Vacation Down Memory Lane in Chicago

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            Crystal and I recently took a trip to back to my old stomping grounds in the Chicago area. The trip had several purposes. First, it was the beginning of a new phase in our retired life. Now that dad has gone on to be with mom in heaven, we have a lot more free time. When I first married Crystal, I promised to show her more of the country and the world. We finally can, and are planning some trips. Second, our trip was to take care of some details of dad’s estate. Finally, we went to catch up with some friends and neighbors. That last one is the subject of today’s post.

            It’s amazing what memories can flood your brain when visiting former residences. The first day there, Crystal and I took an extended walk near the downtown Chicago lakefront. The walk almost proved too long for Crystal (which I heard about often). It’s amazing how much change there has been over the years. Many new and tall buildings, some over 100 stories tall, have overtaken the skyline. As we stood close to the new Millennium Park and looked north, I saw the building known as One Prudential Plaza (formerly, and as I remember The Prudential Building). It was built in 1955, about a year after I was born. When I was around five, at 41 stories, it was still the tallest building in the city. Dad took mom and me up to the top to see the view. The elevator almost knocked me over. I loved it. I thought the view amazing. The buildings looked plenty tall enough for me. Over the beautiful Grant Park, you could see the home of my Chicago Bears, Soldier Field. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look much different now than I remember. Although, it might closely resemble the Roman Coliseum, instead of feeding Christian’s to lions, this stadium is about feeding Lions (Detroit’s football team) to Bears (sorry, couldn’t resist).

            After a Chicago style pizza, we headed back to our hotel room in Plainfield. The trip back reminded us of what we don’t miss, the traffic. The next day it was on to Oak Lawn where I grew up. To our delight, Mrs. Baker was home. Living in the brown brick house directly across from my old house, she is probably the last original neighborhood resident I remember from my youth. They moved into that house in 1957. Two years later, we arrived. Now 90 years young, it was fun and sad to remember good old times and people while commiserating about all the changes in the area.

            My old playmate, Jeff Baker,was in from Colorado for a visit. The oldest of the Baker’s seven children, he seemed so far from the carefree adolescent with whom I used to play. Darting in and out of the room with his cell phone attached to his ear, he seemed so focused. Apparently his boss wouldn’t leave him alone while visiting his mom.

            As we walked out of the Baker’s house, I looked across the street at my old house. I was flooded with memories. The house itself looked pretty much the same. The yard, however, wasn’t nearly the pristine “Better House and Gardens” type dad always kept. The joke around the neighborhood was that a weed wouldn’t dare show up in his grass. He was so proud of his yard that he wouldn’t even trust me to mow it. Instead, I made my candy money mowing for some of the neighbors.

            Next to the Bakers live the Preisers. They were good friends to my parents, but weren’t home for our visit. Before, they moved in, the house was owned by the Pozdols. They too had a Ron. He was my age, their middle child, and we got along quite well. His father was our scout master and a really great mentor to us kids. I remember sitting in a field with Ron for three hours watching an ant hill for our ‘Insect Life’ merit badges. Ron got bored, so he ripped the wings off a moth to see what the ants would do. Oh the carnage! Fortunately, the battle didn’t last long and the boring peace returned.

            Next to the Pozdols lived the Browns. They were an older couple who had one son, Billy a few years older than me. Mrs. Brown was so nice to us kids all the time. That kind of balanced her often grumpy husband. Mr. Brown was a fixture on his front porch summer evenings, with a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other. He yelled at us when we played softball in the street. “You kids know there is a park just a block away.” He worried we would hit a parked car, even after I assured him that we were too good, and aiming away from the cars.

            A couple houses down from the Browns were the Byczeks. They’re oldest; Tim was my best friend growing up. We went through school together and hung out whenever possible. With a couple other friends, our usual Friday nights were spent either playing pool in his basement or ping pong in mine. Occasionally, there was a movie night. John Wayne was our favorite star. After the movie, it was always McDonalds. Back then you could get a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, and get a nickel back from your dollar.

            Summers were spent playing softball in the nearby field, now a large school. Mom would be ready with Kool Aid and cookies. The rest of those fleeting years included school, scouting, and in the winter, skiing.  It seemed such a simpler time.

Finally it was time to leave. As we drove away for quite possibly the last time, I peered in the rear view mirror,  remembering the good times, and visits with Crystal and the girls. And then sadly, as we drove away, mom and dad waved from the porch. Mom usually was crying.

            When she was gone, for a few months, until we could move him closer, it was just dad on the porch. And then, as dad and I drove away that last time, only the house remains. It outlasted my parents, and will most likely outlast us too.

            And so it goes. The house on Oak Center Drive still appears in good shape. It will probably need a new roof in a couple of years. But that is someone else’s concern. There is, from what I hear, a new young family for it to protect and serve.

            After Oak Lawn, we visited with some old friends, Laura (Crystal’s childhood friend), and Bob (her husband), whom we haven’t seen in forty years. We couldn’t visit Crystal’s old neighborhood because, as Crystal put it, it’s no longer safe.

In the end, our trip gave us what we needed. As we enter a new phase in our lives as empty nesters without parents, a look back gives us some perspective, and a greater understanding of who we are and how we got here. I think that’s always a good thing.

Our old house now

Me after a storm and our house about 45 years ago

German Thanksgiving and Dad’s 98th Birthday party

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Dad turned 98 years old on November 15th. He is having more problems. But we got together as a family and celebrated a combined celebration which we call German Thanksgiving. We didn’t make a turkey dinner. Instead using mom’s recipes, I made all of dad’s favorite German foods featuring Sauerbraten, dumplings and red cabbage.  Crystal and I, our girls, and grandkids definitely share the excitement dad and I once had when mom made them for us. It was a wonderful thanksgiving combined birthday celebration, commemorating dad’s nearly one century of life.

 

For me, it was also a time of reflection. Until recently I hadn’t realized that dad was born exactly two years and four days after the Armistice was signed ending WWI. His life and my mom’s began in Germany under the shadow of that ‘war to end all wars’. Even though I don’t remember much history, a subject I hated studying when I was young, I do remember learning about the horrors of trench warfare and the extremely punitive nature of the Treaty of Versailles which followed.

 

My parents have both witnessed to me about the prolonged years of oppression and poverty suffered by the German people. This led directly to the call to nationalism which led to a second ‘war to end all wars’. Of course, according to Hitler, the demise of the homeland was largely the fault of a minority group of which dad was a part. It didn’t help that dad’s family had been in Germany for over 300 years or that many had died fighting for Germany. Two of dad’s uncles died in WWI. None of that mattered.

 

Fortunately, after dad and his family escaped to America, they were safe for a couple of years. Many of dad’s relatives weren’t so fortunate, killed outright or dying in the concentration camps.

 

Of course, dad joined the American army and returned to Germany where, after the war, he met mom. That eventually led to me. So….happy ending?

 

The point I wish to make is that, in a long and full life, my father has seen so much change. As we recently celebrated Veteran’s Day, I wonder if any of today’s youth in this world of Amazon and smart phones can really picture that time.

 

I was recently reminded of an old poem which might help.

 

In Flanders Fields

By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

I want to take this occasion to thank my dad, Crystal’s dad, and all veterans for their sacrifice and the gift of our freedom. If we fail to guard it, it will be taken away.

 

From all of our family ages 1 year olds, Ayla and Addy to Dad, at 98 years old,

Happy Turkey Day!

Dad opening presents 11/17/2018

Dad’s Grandfather Herman Meinstein and his wife in Dad’s hometown of Zirndorf Germany circa 1900.

40 Years

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It’s been 2 score, double life sentences (no chance of parole), 0.4 centuries, 3 daughters, 6 grand children, 4 states, and uncountable opportunities (challenges/problems) since Crystal and I tied the proverbial knot. That’s right, on April 1st of 2018 we had another April fool’s day, and Easter (praise God), but my most important reason for celebration, to assure any future earthly happiness, was Crystal and my 40th wedding anniversary. My mother, Mimi, had a saying to describe a long period of time in German, that pigs don’t live that long. I guess it sounded better in German.

As I write this blog, it is my truest desire to come up with some words or a formula that will help people live better lives, and maybe even give a boost to the institution of marriage. I guess that’s one reason Crystal and I wrote our memoir. Just as a reminder, our memoir’s name “150 Years of Marriage” was coined in anticipation. Since we started by interviewing Mary Jane Carlson, who died in 2006, I know that our three couples total hadn’t yet hit 140 years. Since my mom’s death in 2012, only Crystal and I can add to the total. As of April 1st 2018 our three couples are at 159 years. By the time we are published maybe we should change the name. Think of it, in just another 41 years, “200 Years of Marriage”……..OK, maybe not.

Dad is now 97. I see him frequently. When I do, we will inevitably take a quiet drive along the Scioto River. This river drive is no secret. On a nice day there is a flurry of activity. There are walkers, runners, and people fishing. There are bike riders, and skate boarders, people walking dogs and pushing baby carriages. There are also boats on the water and occasionally we see the OSU sculling teams working out.

Water fowl are also frequently around in abundance. Occasionally, we will see gray or blue heron. But, more frequently, there are seagulls, ducks and Canadian geese. Most often, the ducks and geese are in fairly large groups. But what I find interesting is that you rarely see them by themselves. Often they are in matched pairs. I am given to understand that they generally mate for life. They share responsibilities such as finding food or raising families. They fly together and swim together. Oh, their bonding isn’t perfect. Male geese are well known philanderers. Sometimes their honking seems akin to a squabbling couple. But they generally stay together until one dies. I sometimes wonder if they were put here as an example for us. Crystal has, on occasion, called me a silly goose.

What is the difference between a marriage lasting 4 years and 40 years? Three things: choosing well, commitment, and a lot of luck! I guess Crystal and I have all three. Crystal will tell you that we were brought together by God. While I don’t disagree, you would think God’s plan would have moved a little smoother. Between job changes, multiple moves, serious health problems, family issues, etc., etc. etc., you have to wonder. But maybe that’s part of it. We haven’t had a perfect marriage. I don’t know if that exists. However, looking back, when the “opportunities” were presented, we closed ranks and worked together. I would even say they may have brought us closer together.

Today, when we sit on the couch and watch “Monk” or some other, as our kids would say, corny show, Crystal will periodically reach over to hold my hand. I guess that’s plenty corny too. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s kind of cool. When I think about the number, 40 years seems like an impossible amount of time. But when I reach back for Crystal’s hand, it’s like no time has passed. I can remember being twenty-something and falling in love with the girl I was supposed to be with. Maybe God got it right after all.

 

HAPPY 40TH Crystal!

 

Crystal’s Corner

Yesterday, April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday, was our 40th wedding Anniversary.  It was a bright warm sunny day like our wedding day. Of course last night it snowed. Forty years ago, on the first day of our honeymoon, we had to scrape the ice off of our car in Chicago. In so many ways, it doesn’t seem like 40 years, four decades, but it has been a long journey.

We got together with all of our daughters and their families and Ron’s Dad at a Greek Restaurant in Columbus.  It occurred to me as I looked around the long table, that none of these people would be here, if Ron and I hadn’t gotten married 40 years ago.

In our memoir, 150 Years of Marriage, we talk about when we met, dated, got engaged and married.  We also talk about our childhoods and our parents’ courtships and marriages.

I can remember very clearly our time at Bradley University, our engagement, planning the wedding, our wedding day, and our honeymoon in Arizona.

I also can remember living in our studio apartment for several months before we moved to a two bedroom apartment.  We entertained our family and friends in that little one room apartment and enjoyed every minute of it.  Nobody seemed to mind sitting on folding chairs, our small couch, or the bed to eat with us in that small space.

We moved seven times during our marriage.  We have lived in two apartments, a townhouse, and four houses in four states.  We are the best packers you have ever met.

Both Ron and I are cancer survivors.  I have had more than 10 surgeries including three C-Sections.  So actually, still being together, and in somewhat good health is kind of a miracle.

We are so grateful to God for our marriage, our wonderful family, our sense of humor and our deep abiding love for each other.

We know we wouldn’t have survived all of our difficulties and changes without God’s help.  Wherever we have lived, we have been sent to a church family, who helped us.  We have found wonderful friends and neighbors and kindred spirits.

We also have had a very close relationship with our parents and families the whole time.  We travelled often on holidays to get together, and now our girls travel to see family often.

You know you have succeeded as a parent when your grown children are hardworking, responsible, kind, loving and caring individuals.  We have also been blessed by two very special and loving son-in-laws.

We have six unique and terrific grandchildren that we cherish and enjoy.

At our table yesterday we had Ron’s Dad who is 97 years young, and our two youngest granddaughters who just turned one, and many ages in-between.   Four generations celebrating our Savior Jesus and our 40th Anniversary.  I don’t think life gets any better that this.

Even though life has thrown a lot of curve balls at us, every day I am happy to be Mrs. Crystal Meinstein and to see Ron smiling at me.

Our fortieth, the ducks are just sleeping on the Scioto. Both pictures taken April 1st 2018.