Friday Fodder

Hello readers. I hope this finds you safe and healthy. This is, yet again, another blog that is full of random thoughts in no particular order.

Baseball

My home team, The Detroit Tigers, have not been much to watch in the past. I guess I was spoiled in that I got to watch the magical year of 1984 and a World Series Crown. Since then, they have struggled. “We are rebuilding” has been what us fans have been told for years! In 2006 we went to the World Series and lost. So, in 30+ years, we really haven’t had much to cheer about.

Despite that fact, I really miss baseball. Today in my Facebook memories, a picture popped up that I posted two years ago. The picture is the view of the baseball diamond that is literally behind our house. “One of the things I love about our house is that I can walk out on the porch and catch a good ball game all spring and summer long,” is the caption. Sigh. Not this year. Even the neighbor kids aren’t out playing ball.

I have mentioned in the past that my favorite Tiger from the 1984 team was Aurelio Lopez. Senor Smoke, they called him. There was something about his pitching style that I liked. As a 14 year old kid, I used to pretend I was him. When I was with my dad, or my buddies from school. We’d pitch to each other calling balls and strikes. When I was alone, I had a square I drew on the side of my house that represented the “strike zone,” I used to throw the ball at. There used to be a square spray painted on the wall of our elementary school, and you could stand in the parking lot and throw tennis balls at it – calling your own strikes.

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I miss hearing baseball on the radio. I miss watching it on TV. There is some talk about teams being allowed to play without people in the stands. While it would certainly be weird to just hear the sound of a ball coming off the bat, I would miss the sound of the crowd cheering for a home run. At this point, however, I would welcome baseball in any form.

The Boys

After my self quarantine of over two weeks, I was able to pick up my sons. They will be staying with me for a little over a week. Despite having seeing them briefly when I took my oldest’s birthday gift to him, and their short visit in my driveway, I felt like I hadn’t seen them at all! Sure, video chats helped, but to actually be with them and give them a hug means so much.

My youngest still has school work that he is doing online and will continue to do through the end of the school year. Because he is a senior, my oldest had the choice of continuing with the final marking period or taking the grades he had when all this Covid stuff came down. He had excellent grades, so he chose the latter and is officially done with school. We’re still waiting to see about graduation and stuff. We haven’t booked a place for his graduation party yet, because we just don’t know when we’ll be able to hold it!

We were able to celebrate my son’s 18th birthday here. We made a cake and sang Happy Birthday. Choices were limited, but we told him he could chose what he wanted for his birthday dinner. He chose pizza (no surprise). It was nice to be able to do that.

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They are always on their devices. They have an Xbox, a Wii U, a Nintendo Switch, and countless games on their cell phones. I am trying to get them away from that stuff, but with the cold weather, it hasn’t been easy. At least today it is supposed to be in the 50’s and we can get outside to play catch or take a walk.

Recently, I taught my youngest how to play chess. It is not my favorite game to play, mainly because I suck at it. I decided that I was going to teach him cribbage. My grandpa taught me how to play when I was about 9 years old. We played the game open handed (where you could see each other’s cards) and I walked him through things. He beat me, and I am hoping to play a few more games while he is here. I am also hoping to get my oldest to play, too. It is ALWAYS nice to have something to do when there is a power outage, or when you are bored.

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In preparation for the boys, I made sure to put clean sheets on their beds, and straightened up their room. While I was in there, I raised the blind on the window to let the natural light in. We have a huge tree that is outside their window. The birds were driving Maizey crazy flying back and forth. She sat like this meowing and jumping at the window for about 5 hours!

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I remember a time when parents put their kids to bed and then stayed up and watched TV before going to bed themselves. However, it’s been the opposite here. Sam and I are ready for bed by 10 and last night they were still up at 3:30am!!! What is up with that?!?

Layoffs

As stated in previous blogs, I am off work on doctor’s orders. While I am here recovering, I have been lucky enough to spend it with family. I have been praying for my co-workers and others who are still working at the hospital. The labor pools at hospital continued to grow because of ambulatory sites being closed, and those workers being put in the pool. This meant less hours for those working. To make matters worse, this week hospitals in the state announced massive layoffs and cuts. Some positions were completely eliminated!

Many of the layoffs are temporary and employees can take advantage of unemployment benefits (while keeping their health care benefits). If I am being honest, I wish that this had been an option from the beginning for many of us. It would have been much less stressful (and safer) for people. I know I would have opted to just be home with family, instead of having to go through a the mental breakdown I had to be home.

I continue to pray for my friends who are still right there in the thick of things. I continue to pray for the many healthcare workers across the state, and throughout the country, who are doing what they can to save lives – while trying to stay safe themselves. I just want life to be back to normal. I want to go and do the job I was trained to do. I’m just not sure when that will happen and if I can even do that!

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Skinny Me

I was out in the garage this week looking through a few boxes. I was looking for some notes from some classes I took years ago (more on that in an upcoming blog). I stumbled on something that I had totally forgotten about – an old magazine I was in.

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Mobile Beat Magazine is still around and it is mainly for mobile DJs. I used to get it when I was DJing more. It had great ideas regarding set ups, equipment, contracts, etc… It also put out a top 200 list every year of the most requested songs from that past year. I still look at it when I do get out to DJ (which is rarely ever now). This particular issue did a story about mobile DJ’s who were also radio DJ’s. I was interviewed and I was one of those featured in the article. My ugly mug even made it in the magazine!

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It is funny to see this picture.

  • I am about 100 pounds heavier now.
  • The glasses are gone thanks to Lasik surgery.
  • The hair is gone because of …. natural causes.
  • The station is gone, because of typical radio politics.

The shirt I am wearing was given to me by my buddy Tim, who is now working in major market radio on a morning show. He and some buddies (Doug and Phil) used to have this set up in their basement where they “played radio.” In all honesty, the stuff they did was better than the stuff you hear on many radio stations today. They would make tapes and I loved them. They called it “Fake Radio” and had me voice some liners for it. Making those up were a blast. I loved that shirt and was sad when it finally was so tattered that I couldn’t wear it anymore!

Ella

My baby girl continues to be a source of happiness. It is amazing how much she has grown in just 10 weeks. She is “talking” so much! I could listen to “baby babble” all day! I love how she smiles at me when I talk to her. There is NO better feeling. While putting clothes away this week, my wife slipped on the tutu and bow my friend Margaret had sent. She slipped it on over her PJs and it looked great. Looking at her, I can totally see her wearing something like this for dance classes.

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I am so guilty of taking a million pictures of her. I will totally be “THAT” dad who will drive her crazy with my camera! “Dad! Enough with the pictures!” I will sit and go through the pictures and claim a “favorite,” only to go through them another day and claim another as “my favorite!” My latest “favorite” is this one:

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I love this little girl SO much.

I love my children SO much. Blessings – each and every one of them!

Until Next Time …

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Back in Time?

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All writers get writer’s block.  I am hardly a “writer”, but sometimes stare at the blank page and wonder what to write about.  Since I began blogging, I have stumbled on blogs written by others who share some of the same interests as me.  I have followed blogs that feature movies, TV, music, nostalgia, positive thoughts & quotes, and more.  There have been many instances where I read another blog and an idea will pop into my head.  My friend Max and I tend to “borrow” ideas from each other often.

Many ideas I adapt from those blogs.  For this blog I am literally stealing the idea, and giving credit, and creating some rules for it.  The Anxious Teacher wrote a blog after watching Back to the Future III.  You can read it here:

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What a great idea for a blog!  If you had a time machine – where would you travel?  As I thought about this, I wanted to limit myself to a few things.  First of all, because I have watched the Back to the Future movies, I know that if you go back and change something in the past – it will affect the future.  So Limit #1:  If I go back, I am simply there to observe.  Many of the things I thought I would like to go back and witness happened over a period of time, so Limit #2 – no real time limit.  Limit #3 – wherever I go, I will be dressed appropriately as to not raise suspicion.  I know, it’s silly, but it’s my blog and my rules.

I actually thought about adding what I would call the “Ebenezer Scrooge” element to this.  What is that?  Well, remember when Scrooge was transported into the past, present & future?  He could witness everything, but he could not interact with anyone.  Those events happened and the people were not aware he was even there.  Perhaps that would be the best thing, right?  That way, if I went back in time, I would not be tempted to change things.

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General times and places

As my blogger friend said, I think it would be very cool to visit the old west.  I have watched many westerns on TV and in the movies.  I have read many books set in the old west.  I think it would be pretty cool to walk through one of those western towns.  How cool would it be to visit the saloons, or the general store?  I think it would be cool to don a cool cowboy hat, boots & spurs and ride a horse to get from place to place.

I also think it would be cool to visit the ancient times and watch the building of the pyramids, or buildings like the coliseum.  Those historic buildings are still standing.  How awesome would it be to see just how they put them together?

As someone who has been a huge fan of the 1950’s, I would love to live a year or two in this decade.  It’s fun to see how the ’50s are portrayed in movies like Back to the Future, and I would love to see it in person.  I would love to hear the old radio stations playing those early rock and roll songs.  I would love to see those classic films in a theater.  I would love to have a meal at a real 50’s diner or drive a classic car!

I would love to visit the 1940’s, too!  The music of the great band leaders, the early music of Sinatra, and of course, those great old radio shows! Of course, World War II was going on, but it would be interesting to see how life in America was at that time.

Everyone wants to visit the future … that peaks my interest, but is it something I would do?  I don’t know.  I’d be tempted to come back to the present and use the information for personal gain, or to alter outcomes.   I’m not sure visiting the future would be something I’d want to do – unless I knew it was something specific I wouldn’t be able to see.

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General People of Interest

I would love to watch Beethoven or Bach (or any composer, really) writing and composing a piece of their music.

I would love to watch someone like Edgar Allen Poe or William Shakespeare writing a poem or story.

I would love to sit on a set and watch them shooting a Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy film.

I would love to be in the room where the First Continental Congress held meetings and watch men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others in action.

I would love to attend a taping of an old episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or a taping of the Dean Martin Show.

I would love to be in the audience at a Rat Pack show in Chicago or Las Vegas.  Come on!  Dean, Frank and Sammy!!

I would love to be an extra in one of my favorite movies.

I would love to watch Elvis in the recording studio.

I would love to watch Thomas Edison working on the phonograph or the electric light.

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Specific Events

I would love to watch the moon landing (on TV or from space).

I would love to watch the first flight with the Wright Brothers.

I would love to see JFK’s inauguration.

I would love to see a Beatles concert.

I would love to see Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address.

I would love to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I would love to witness the launch of Titanic on her maiden voyage.

I would love to be in the stands at Tiger Stadium at the final game of the 1984 World Series.

I would love to be in the crowd at 1985’s Live Aid concert.

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Personal Things

I know I put some limits on what can or cannot happen if I went back in time, but if there were no limits there are a few things I would like to do with that time machine.

I would love one more conversation with my mom.

I would love one more pinochle game with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more Christmas Eve with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more radio show with Rob.

I would love one more cribbage game with my grandpa.

I would love to play my trumpet in one more high school band concert.

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Just One Day

For whatever reason, writing this blog made me think of the Nat King Cole song, “That Sunday, That Summer”.  The lyrics of the song say:

“If I had to chose just one day, to last my whole life through, it would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you.”

With a time machine, you could go back to one day.  You could pick the day.  You could relive whatever happened that day.  What day would that be?

I don’t know that I could pick just one.

What I do know is that there are plenty of days that I am looking forward to that haven’t happened yet – the birth of my daughter, the graduations of my sons, etc…. I am perfectly content moving forward and experiencing the days to come.

Here is sit, remembering the past – loving the present – and looking forward to the future.

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Fun and Games

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“Life is more fun if you play games” – Ronald Dahl

Over the holiday, we had a mini game night at my aunt’s house.  It was a lot of fun.  Game nights are something that I feel are missing today.  Oh, sure, there are plenty of video games, but families are missing out of creative fun with board games.

I remember growing up and always playing board games.  We had some at home and we had some up north.  I remember playing Clue (which I was never really good at), Connect Four, Yahtzee, Battleship, Sorry, and Life (which I really never understood as a kid). Battleship and Sorry were probably my favorites.  They were easy to play and didn’t take 9 hours to play (like Monopoly, which we hated)!

There were also two card games that were favorites up north and at home:  Uno and Cribbage.  According to Wikipedia, Uno was developed in 1971 and became popular in the 80’s.  This would make sense as my first memories of the game are during summers in Caseville.  Cribbage was also a game I played up north with my grandpa and my dad and eventually played at home and with friends once I got my own board.

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In the mid-80’s, Trivial Pursuit was THE game to play!  I think I read somewhere that it sold over 20 million copies in one year.  There were various editions that came out after the original success (Sports, Entertainment, and Baby Boomers to name a few).  I’m not going to lie, some of the questions were damn hard!  The game was a staple at radio stations, as many of the questions were used to give away prizes.  Today, you can find three to four copies at any Goodwill or Salvation Army store.

My Favorite Games

In 2019, I am making a vow to spend more time playing games.  Whether it is with my kids, my wife, or with friends.  Here are some old favorites and some new ones (not including the ones mentioned above).  Game nights can be filled with laughter and the world needs that.  So here is my list:

  • Scrabble.  Yes.  The word game.  Grab a dictionary and start spelling.  Get to know the words that use “z”, “q”, and “x”!  Every now and then, change it up and allow common nouns, dirty words, and onomatopoeias!  I still love playing this game.
  • Pictionary.  I suck at drawing, which makes this game even more fun to play.  Charades with a pencil!  Love it!
  • Scattergories.  This remains one of my favorite games.  I love the big honking die with all the letters on it.  My version is probably the original version, so I still have the original categories.  I hear that the newer version has some new ones.  Either way, I love the challenge of coming up with answers that no one else has.  I love trying to come up with Double and Triple point answers.
  • Apples to Apples.  Random things on cards that you match with a subject card.  You have to be real creative sometimes to make it work.  Sometimes you have the perfect card, sometimes you have to go with a card that means nothing, and sometimes you just have to play to the judge.  A fun game that my kids love too!
  • Cranium.  What I love about this game is that it takes some aspects of other games and combines them in one.  It has four categories:  Creative Cat (which may involve drawing or sculpting), Word Worm (which may make you spell a word forwards or backwards, solving anagrams, fill in the blank type answers, or word definitions), Data Head (which is your basic trivia stuff or true and false questions), and Star Performer (where you play charades, impersonate celebrities, or hum a song in hopes that someone will guess it).
  • Taboo (and Celebrity Taboo).  What is great about this game is that you have to get your team to guess the answer on the card without mentioning the five things most associated with the answer.  I haven’t been able to find Celebrity Taboo for some time, but I liked it better!  Imagine trying to get someone to guess John Lennon without saying: Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Yoko One, Imagine, or Twist and Shout!
  • Guesstures. Someone described this game as “Charades on Speed”, and that really is a great way to describe it. Cards have easy and hard words on them.  harder words are worth more points.  There is a timer device and the player has about a minute to get his team to get the answers before the timer eats the cards.
  • Catchphrase. It’s come a long way since the original version.  Now, it is electronic.  It’s a battery operated disc that generates random words and has a timer.  Each time tries to get their members to guess the word on the disc, and when they do, they pass the disc to the other team.  Whoever gets caught with the disc when the timer goes off loses the round.
  • Can You Name 5? (sometimes called Name 5).  This game was a lot of fun.  The name says it all. Random categories have teams naming 5 baseball teams, classic rock groups, types of running shoes, and more.  You can play as a team, against a team, all play and other ways.  some categories are not as easy as you might think.  Great time for sure!
  • Scene It.  If you love movies, TV, Disney, or Harry Potter…you will love this DVD game.  The best stuff is when you have to watch a TV show or movie clip and answer a question about it, but there are other categories too.  Sound Clips, fill in the blanks, what’s missing, and other fun stuff.  My kids love playing this game….just be sure you haven’t lost the remote to the DVD player!

While all of these are tons of fun, I have two absolute favorites:

  • Balderdash and Beyond Balderdash.  The original was all words.  The goal of the game is to bluff and get others to think your answer is the right answer.  The word might be “Glacket”.  Maybe it’s that little ball in the spray paint can?  Maybe it’s the plastic piece at the end of the cord on window blinds?  With Beyond Balderdash, the categories include words, dates, movies, initials, and people.  You can really get creative with this game and I absolutely love it.  I still have pervious answers saved in the box that made me laugh out loud!
  • The Game of Things.  Much like Balderdash, you have to create an answer, but the twist is that the reader reads all the answers and people have to guess who wrote what answer.  All of the topics start with “Things …” (Things you shouldn’t wear to a funeral, Things you shouldn’t kiss, Things you wish you could get for free…).  As you can imagine, the answers can be very funny.  One of my favorite cards was “Things you shouldn’t put on the kitchen table”.  It was hilarious that every single player wrote something about an “ass” as their answer!  Lots of laughs that night!!

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So, what board games are a must play for you?

 

 

I only got 11 years …

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I was 11 years old when I was forced to deal with a death in the family. As an 11 year old, you don’t really understand or comprehend what that really means. “What do you mean we’re not going to see him again?”, “Why do people die?”, “There are a lot of bad people in the world, why is he the one who had to die?” Those are many of the questions that ran through my mind as I tried to make sense of it all. My grandfather would have been 95 today. This year he’ll be gone 37 years. Still, after all that time, the lessons I learned from him (either by his example or by him vocally) remain with me.

One of the things I remember most about him was playing cribbage. He had a cribbage board that we played on when I was at his house. He always beat me. He was good! One day I noticed that there was something written on the back of his board. He told me that when I finally beat him, I could “sign his board”, too. Well, now I had something to play for! On February 3, 1980 it happened. “Super fourth grade student wins the big man on this day. Super student feels great. Big man feels bad. I love it” is what I wrote. He got me back on my own cribbage board – twice!
On my cribbage board, he wrote: “Skunked Charlie on this board 7-18-80. H.D. And we know who Charlie is, don’t we” is what he wrote the first time he beat me. Followed immediately by, “Did it again on 12-31-80 – on New Years Eve”!cribbage

That was the last game played on that cribbage board!

Summers were spent in Caseville, MI (long before the Cheeseburger Festival began). We’d go up to the trailer and spend days fishing at the back lake, riding the mini-bike, and eating dinner at the picnic table. I remember helping lay down the rocks for the driveway. I remember one holiday weekend the family was there and my grandpa had left his glass of peppermint schnapps on the table. I thought it was water and when I tried it I remember thinking “wow, this is tastes different” and drank it all (which was maybe 2 ounces). When he came to the kitchen looking for it, he found the glass empty and me sitting in a chair. “Buddy, you are gonna sleep well tonight”, he told me.

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In Caseville, there was only like one or two radio stations that came in. Early on, there was no TV at the trailer, so it was the radio or cassette tapes for entertainment. Two tapes I remember very well. Johnny Paycheck’s Greatest Hits Volume 2 and Willie Nelson’s Stardust. My grandpa played that Willie Nelson cassette over and over and over! It drove my mom and others crazy! I remember him saying that his favorite song on the album was September Song. Probably just a coincidence but he passed away in September. That album remains one of my all time favorites.

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I remember we were out walking the railroad tracks during one of the summer stays. Whether we were in Caseville or on a trip up the road to Port Austin, or Pidgeon, I don’t recall. They had put in new rails. As we walked my brother and I spotted old railroad spikes. These are the big nails that they pound into the rails. My grandpa told us each to get one. They were old and rusty, but he said he would “fix” them. He worked a a place where he nickel plated them for us and I still have mine to this day. A fun memory for sure.

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I only got in trouble with him twice. Incident number one involved water balloons. Kids are stupid. For some reason we thought it would be fun to roll water balloons out into traffic at the end of my street and watch cars run them over. So here we are at the corner, during lunch time rush hour rolling these things in to traffic. Who drives by? Grandpa. He honks his horn and makes eye contact with me while he is waving his finger at me. Without saying anything, he was saying, “Get away from the road dummy! You could get hurt”. I remember when my dad got home from work and after dinner we were told we were “going to see grandpa and grandma”. The entire trip my stomach churned. I was sweating. NO ONE had said anything about the balloons since I saw him drive by. Upon arriving, my dad casually said something like, “So I hear we had an issue with some balloons today…” He pulled me on his lap and told me how dangerous it was for us to be that close to the road, and how it may have caused an accident. Never did that again.

The only other time I was in trouble, was also the only time I saw him angry. He had a big basement with a bar and pool table. Behind the bar was a door set into the wall that you couldn’t really tell was there because it was paneling and the door blended into the wall when it was closed. I don’t recall much of what was in there with the exception of a table lamp that was a hobo or something and a box of dance wax. Here’s all I knew about it: when you put it on the floor, it made it slippery. To a boy of 8 in a basement sliding around in his socks on a slippery floor – it’s pretty fun. I remember my aunt, who is only 4 years older than me, came down and probably instantly realized what I had done and said she was going to tell on me. She did. My grandpa, who was always so gentle and jovial was livid. Wow. When his voice boomed at me I was scared to death. I never felt more ashamed in my life. I don’t recall the words he said, but I remember crying, and him hugging me afterward. I’m glad that I only truly mad him angry once.

The last time I saw my grandfather, he had come over to our house. When he left, I was sitting on the floor in the front room with headphones on listening to “Minnie The Moocher” from the Blues Brothers Soundtrack. Knowing my grandpa’s love for big band music, I told him that when I saw him next time, he just had to hear this song. I never got up to say good bye to him. I didn’t hug or kiss him that day. He went on a business trip across the state and we talked to him from his hotel a night or two before he passed. I don’t recall much, but he told me he had pizza and beer for dinner. I do remember telling him I loved him. That was the last time I heard his voice. He had a heart attack while on that trip and died September 24.

The first real life lesson was learned by me that September. If there is someone special in your life who means something to you – tell them! If you love someone – tell them! Never pass up the opportunity to hug or kiss someone! You may never get the chance to do it again.

After he passed away, my brother, my father and I all went golfing in Caseville. My dad and my grandpa used to golf all the time when they were up there. This time, dad took me. As we left to go to the first tee, the starter asked if it was ok to pair us up with someone. Out walked a man who was the spitting image of my grandpa. I remember how nice he was and how he helped me stand and putt (it was one of the first times I ever golfed). It was like HE was there with us. I remember afterward, we got in the car to go back to the trailer and I said, “Dad, didn’t that guy look like….” and before I could finish, my dad firmly said “YES”. Deep down, I wonder …..

I only had him in my life for 11 years, and those 11 year were very special ones – because he was in them.

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