What’s in a name?

The title of this blog is a reference to a great quote by William Shakespeare:

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Based on Mr. Shakespeare’s quote, names really shouldn’t matter that much. I think many of us would disagree with him. I mean, a name is often the first thing we learn about a person, right? It is also one of the most common questions asked of expecting parents regarding their unborn child – “Do you have a name picked out?”, “Have you thought about names?”, “What are you going to name him/her?”

Can you see where this blog is going??

Weekend Recap

On Friday, my dad celebrated his birthday. My oldest son was at a friend’s house, so it was just me, Sam, and my youngest who drove down to visit him. Because of traffic, it took us a bit longer than expected to get there. When we walked in, I hugged him and wished him Happy Birthday. We all joined dad and Rose in the kitchen. I had found a neat book on Amos & Andy at a used book store and bought it for my dad, and gave it to him for his birthday.

Once we were all seated, Rose looked at me and said, “So what’s the baby’s name?” I chuckled and reminded her that we were not telling. She replied, “Well, it’s your dad’s birthday and it would be the perfect gift!” I chuckled again, and tried to change the subject. Sam reminded everyone that it was my idea not to tell anyone the name. Rose, then went on to say that she didn’t “see what the big secret was” or why we’d “want to keep it a secret”. I again, tried to not give in (even though Sam had said we should tell because we’ve been calling her by name and she was afraid to let it slip). Rose, however, didn’t want to let it go (which made me laugh even more, cause I wasn’t about to let the cat out of the bag).

At this point, Rose stated that she knew the name already anyway. So I asked her what she thought it was. So she says, with all the confidence in the world, “(First name)(Middle Name)”! Now I thought she might be able to guess one of them, but the fact that she picked out both of them – in order – caught me off guard! My face filter was non-existent! I was stunned. I looked at her and asked, “How did you know?!” Once she explained, I guess it really wasn’t that hard to figure out.

So, what’s our baby’s name, you ask?? You’ll know in a paragraph or two …

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Picking a name

You may recall that I mentioned in an earlier blog that our baby is a miracle. The chances of me having a baby were like 4%. Sam and I were actually leaving a doctor appointment and we were discussing baby names. We were not even expecting yet! I don’t even remember how the discussion started. If I know Sam, she probably said, “What about _____ if it’s a girl?”

At any rate, what I remember about this conversation was that we had a girl’s name picked out almost immediately. There was little discussion. The name was THE name. We both liked it. We loved the way it sounded. We both liked the reason behind it. That was that. We then began discussing boy names – because a boy was a possibility, too. Hell, there was also the possibility of twins!

Over the course of the next few weeks/months, the topic of a boy’s name kept coming up. We had a few that we liked, but none really stood out. When we found out that we were actually expecting, we went out and bought a baby name book – for boy names. We each had a different color highlighter and when a name we liked was mentioned we highlighted with the appropriate color. The ones with both colors would be considered if the baby was a boy.

(Side note: Sam is about nicknames. So she wanted the name to be one that could be shortened to a nickname.)

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I guess it was at this point that we heard about a place nearby that could tell the sex of the baby at 15 or 16 weeks old with an ultrasound. That’s when we went to find out. I think we both were leaning towards a girl, we both had a feeling it was a girl, and were both thrilled to find out that our baby was a girl! Now, I know that there were plenty of people who were told the baby was a girl and then found out it was a boy, so we waited a bit longer until the OB/GYN ALSO did an ultrasound and confirmed that we were indeed having a girl.

We decided to tell everyone that we were having a girl. Everyone, of course, has asked about the baby’s name. We had said that we were going to keep that secret until the baby arrived. Now at home, Sam and I refer to the baby by name when we were together. She will send texts to me that say “_______ is really kicking me tonight” or “_____ is doing flips in my belly” or “______ likes those cookies you made.”

As I mentioned before, Sam was worried that because we were both calling her by name (well, her nickname), that one of us would accidentally say the name in conversation. I told her that if that happened, we’d tackle the situation at that time. Neither one of us was expecting Rose to shout out the first and middle name this weekend. I didn’t think that I would lose my face filter and basically say, “Yep! That’s it!” Yet, that is what happened. So my dad, got a good birthday present!

This, of course, meant that we had to call Sam’s parents and tell them, too. Then we had to tell the boys. Then we had to tell her grandma (who’s been wanting to know since she found out Sam was pregnant). Then we told my aunts (my Aunt Linda also guessed the name correctly!), and Sam’s sisters. And now, here we are, spilling the beans here, and on Facebook.

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She’s got a name …

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Looking at it now, I guess it would be easy for people to figure out. Sam’s mom and my mom were both Pamela. (Sam’s mom may have been onto the name, as she texted me last week wanting to know my mom’s middle name!) My grandma’s (Dad’s mom) name was Rose, and Dad’s Rose is going to be her grandma, so Pamela Rose covers all her grandmas! It really is the perfect name and a wonderful tribute to four special ladies!

Remember that Sam likes nicknames. We are going to call her Ella.

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I truly think Dad was moved by the name, I think Rose was too. Dimitri was there and overheard the name, so he found out Friday, too. We let him tell Dante’ the name. Dante’ was overcome with emotion, knowing that his sister was going to be named for his grandma. It was a very special moment to see.

Sam knows how special this is for me, too. We have talked about the role that my mom must have played in this. “She handpicked her, knowing that we wanted a girl”, etc… For the anniversary of my mom’s passing, Sam had this made for Ella, and had me open it:

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Yes, I cried. It is perfect.

With each passing day our excitement grows in anticipation of Ella’s arrival. Each week, I go to the “Week by Week” pregnancy book to see what is going on with her. She’s always compared to a fruit or vegetable (This week your baby is the size of a pea, a plum, a lemon, a cantaloupe!). Sam always tells me when she is kicking and puts my hand on her belly so I can feel it too. Sam’s sister gave us one of those things that we can put on her belly to hear the heartbeat. I never seem to be able to find it, but Sam did this weekend. That sound is such an amazing thing to hear!!!

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Ella is due in February. As we continue to count down the days until she arrives, I cannot help but think about how blessed she will be. She is already loved by her mommy and daddy, her brothers, her grandparents, and aunts and uncles – and will be spoiled by all of us!

I cannot wait until she is here. I cannot wait to hold her. I cannot wait to sing to her. I cannot wait to see her showered in love and affection by her family. Until then, I’ll keep kissing and talking to Sam’s belly, singing to her, and letting her kick my hands.

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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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Getting Saucy … sort of

Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets.  I’ve had a few….” One regret I have is waiting too long to ask my grandmother for recipes.  By the time I thought to do this, the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia had begun to overcome her and it was too late.

It is not like we never tried to ask, because we did.  Our questions were often responded to with vague or generic answers.  The only thing I can duplicate pretty accurately, is my grandma’s breaded steak.  I can do this, because I watched her do it once.  It’s not hard.  You take the steak, dip it in olive oil, dip it in Italian bread crumbs and broil it.  Simple, right!?  She once walked me through how she made her chicken and gravy, but I have long forgotten how.

The one thing I have been trying to duplicate for years is her spaghetti sauce.  I have come close – very close – but it’s just not right, yet.  I have asked friends, and some family, and have tried to incorporate things in hopes that it would be “THE” missing ingredient….without any luck.  Granted, some of the suggestions have brought me closer, and each time I try something new, I am afraid I may mess it up more.

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One thing I DO know, is that grandma used sugar in her sauce.  I am told it is a Sicilian thing.  Whether or not to use sugar in your sauce is a heated topic among Italians.  Some people find it utterly disgusting.  Personally, I love a sauce that is a bit sweet.  I also know she used a lot of garlic.  She always used basil (“You have to use good, fresh basil!”) and a bay leaf.  Never oregano – she (and many Italian grandmas) used to say that you only used oregano for pizza sauce.

I also know that she always used Contadina products!

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I remember she had a pantry down in her basement that had literally HUNDREDS of cans of Contadina tomato sauce and tomato paste!  (We used to call her pantry Kroger because she also had rows of dish soap, canned vegetables, and other things down there.) When I first attempted to make the sauce, I knew I had to start with this.

I used my friend Christina’s grandma’s recipe as a basic guide.  I have expanded on it since my first attempt.  A cousin said that her grandma used to put a stick of butter in her pot of sauce.  Another cousin (and my aunt) both suggested a Bechamel sauce be added to thicken the sauce, which it did.  I thought my grandma used a little wine, so I tried that, too.

I have used ground beef, ground sausage, ground pork, and stewing beef in the sauce to see if that makes a difference.  To a degree it does, but I know grandma used to cook all of those in her sauce at times.  I have tried more seasoning and less seasoning, bullion cubes instead of salt, and white wine and red wine, but still come up short.

My radio buddy, Jim Bosh, is Italian and he has hosted dinner parties for holidays and such in the past.  His sauce (and meatballs) are about as close as I have tasted to my grandmas.  I can’t remember if I ever sat down with him and discussed making the sauce at length, but I know he has offered a suggestion or two.  I also remember him telling me that no matter how many times I try to make grandma’s sauce, there will always be one important thing missing – Grandma.

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January 8th…

Today’s blog is a salute to some people who have made an impact on me.  I guess I should start with the obvious one – Elvis Presley.

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The “King of Rock and Roll” was born today in 1935.  His music was influential in so many ways.  I grew up listening to his music because my dad was a big fan.  I still remember the blue vinyl album for Moody Blue that dad had in his record collection.  Perhaps, I should do a follow up to this blog of my favorite Elvis songs?

Next – Larry Storch

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Larry is 96 today!!! I remember watching F-Troop and always laughing.  Larry was quite the funny guy who appeared in everything!  He was on Gilligan’s Island, Love Boat, Get Smart, and so many other shows.  As a kid, I remember watching him and Forrest Tucker chase ghosts with a gorilla in The Ghost Busters.  He was also known for some time for voicing the Joker in the Batman cartoons.

Next – Graham Chapman.

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Graham Chapman was born today in 1941.  He is best known for his work with the Monty Python comedy team.  I first came to know their stuff through the Dr. Demento show on the radio.  Their comedy records were very funny.  I then caught some of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus on TV.  Wow – it was hilarious!  All the Pythons were funny and their ability to play multiple roles and many characters was always amazing to me.  I especially liked Graham as King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Next – one of my all time favorites – Soupy Sales.

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Soupy Sales was born today in 1926.  I remember watching Soupy on Channel 20 as a kid.  All of his crew was on the show – White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie, Hippy, and a slew of guests that even included Alice Cooper.  He’d read the paper and funny horoscopes, give us the Words of Wisdom, and there were plenty of pies in the face.

In the 80’s, Soupy hosted a radio show called the Moldie Oldies Show.  There were new characters and bits like “Believe It Or Don’t”.  I listened faithfully and taped every show I could.  Some of the jokes were older than dirt, but they still made me laugh out loud.

I was lucky enough to meet Soupy at Pine Knob before a show.  He was just hilarious.  I remember leaving with my sides aching from laughter!  I still have a couple of his joke books, and his autobiography in my book collection.  I also still enjoy listening to his album from the 60’s The Soupy Sales Show and one from the 80’s called Still Soupy After All These Years.

He was one of the funniest guys – ever!

Finally, January 8th is special because it was the day my grandparents were married!  Let’s face it, without them, I wouldn’t be here!

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Today would have been their 75th wedding anniversary!  They were two very special people.  I miss them every day.

 

The Ghost of Christmas Eve Past (and Yet To Come)

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For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve was always spent with Grandma and Grandpa P. when we were kids.  I don’t necessarily know that there was any particular reason for this, I only know that from a very young age, this was the tradition. I also remember that dreaming of a White Christmas was hardly ever necessary.  If my memory serves me right, as a kid, there was maybe one or two Christmases that were we didn’t have snow.

The excitement for Christmas Eve was a bit different from Christmas Day.  Grandma and Grandpa always seemed to ask for our Christmas list early …. like July early!  She obviously planned ahead and shopped throughout the year, which must have saved her a ton of hassles finding things.  We usually were dressed and ready to go to Grandma’s house by 2 or 3pm. We would leave knowing at least one thing we were getting – a winter coat.  She got us one every year (which we hated, because she’d take us out shopping for it as early as October!).

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Christmas Eve dinner was always the same with very little variance.  Ravioli was the main dish.  There would be a feast that included breaded steak, sausage or meatballs, dinner rolls, and just about every other things you could imagine. Grandma prided herself on being able to make dinner that could feed an army! Grandma always made her Ammoghio (pronounced Moy-Gyoo) sauce to go on top of the steak.  This was made up of olive oil, tomatoes, some seasonings and a WHOLE LOT of garlic!  I never ate it as a kid, but as an adult – I love it!  Everyone who ate it smelled like garlic for like a week!

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There was always a dish with olives (green and black), sweet pickles, and veggies.  You would also find a big bowl with pistachios, and another one filled with nuts of all kinds.  The nuts were still in the shells, so you had to crack them open with the old silver nutcracker that was probably older than my grandma!  I can’t remember, but I think there was also a bowl or two of M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses out to snack on, too.

For dessert – there were ALWAYS cannoli! Early on I think she made them from scratch (I may have her recipe somewhere), but I really remember her getting them from the Italian bakery.  There were also always plenty of cookies!  Grandma spent days baking them and by the time she was done, I think she had like 400 dozen!  She used to store them in these big tin cans that Better Made Potato Chips used to come it.  She always made chocolate chip for me, oatmeal for my brother, cut out sugar cookies and these little ice box cookies that none of us ate … well, I can’t say that … we fed them to the dogs and they seemed to like them a lot!

I recall the year that my grandmother bought my brother and I every Star Wars Figure that was out.  There were one or two that were very difficult to find, but she found them.  We each got a set!  Then there was the year she bought us the Atari 2600!  This was long before the fantastic graphics of Play Station or X-Box.  The games on this thing were very primitive as far as graphics went!  Oh, the hours I spent playing Sea Hunt, Pac-Man, and Pitfall!!  Even after all of the gifts were open, there was always an envelope for us.  For many years there would be a crisp $100 bill in it.  $100 was a LOT of money and I was always amazed at how new the bill was – it was almost like she had printed it herself!

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One Christmas Eve I remember particularly well.  Unlike previous years, when we came in the house, we were ushered immediately downstairs.  Usually, we went into the sun porch off the back of her house, where tables would be set for dinner and food would be out.  This year, dinner was in the basement.  We hardly EVER went in the basement, so I wasn’t sure what was happening.  In the middle of dinner, we heard a noise from upstairs.  Someone was walking (actually stomping, I think) around upstairs.  I think she had my great Uncle Ralph some in and do it.  My grandma said that Santa was probably up there leaving presents.  It was well before midnight, and you know how kids are – we knew that Santa came at midnight and we questioned it.  Grandma said she had called and “made special arrangements with Santa”.  Looking back on it now, I can totally see Grandma like Don Corleone of the Godfather making “special arrangements” with Santa!  At any rate, soon after the noise was gone, we were allowed to go upstairs and into the porch.  I am sure I am over exaggerating when I say that the porch looked like Toys R Us!  It was loaded with presents and a bike for both my bother and me.  I don’t even know how we got the presents home!

After dinner and presents, my brother and I would go watch movies, play the video games, or with our toys, while the adults went back into the porch to smoke and play cards.  Pinochle was what they usually played, although I seem to remember one year they also played gin rummy.  Depending on the people who were present, sometimes dad will play his guitar, Uncle Sam would play his accordion, or grandma would sit on the old Hammond organ and sing songs and play. Grandma played by ear and had no sense of tempo (or time signature for you musical folks), so she was either hitting wrong notes or playing ahead or behind everyone else.  From a child’s perspective, the music wasn’t very good, so my brother and I would go to another room.

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When I had finally learned how to play pinochle, I was a welcome addition to the card table.  My dad played, but he was usually done after a few games, so I gradually took his place as a “regular” at the table.  I LOVED this!  We could play forever!  Grandpa and mom were always partners.  He would often over bid my mom because he thought he had a good hand, then they would lose the hand.  They would get so mad at each other.

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I remember before I started playing, they would play cards until well after midnight.  My brother and I would be struggling to stay awake, our job was to remind mom and dad of how late it was getting – God forbid Santa not come because we weren’t home and in bed! Dad would constantly remind us that he paid for Santa to bring toys, and Santa would “circle the house” until we were home and in bed before delivering the toys.

When I began working in radio, it seemed that I was always on the air on Christmas Eve.  One of the “on air” traditions that I started was to call grandma and ask her how the preparations for dinner were coming. She would go into detail about what was on the menu and what time dinner was.  She would often razz me on the air and warned me not to be late.  She was an instant hit.  It was amazing how many people would call and ask if I was gonna check in with Grandma!

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Over the years, the faces of Christmas Eve changed.  Some years there were more relatives than others.  Aunt Rose became a staple after Uncle Sam passed away.  After Grandpa passed away, friends of the family often came by and the pinochle games continued.  As the years passed, there seemed to be more reflecting on Christmas Eves of the past with laughter and sadness.

Over the last few years, Christmas and Christmas Eve has undergone many more changes.  While many of the voices of Christmas Eve have been silenced, those wonderful memories warm my heart.  I look back at the memories fondly, and I also look forward to the new memories that will be made.  This year, my two amazing sons will be with us Christmas Eve morning to open presents with us.  They are older, but still full of excitement.  When they saw the gifts under the tree their reactions were typical for their age.  Dimitri, 11, saw the big box and said “Whoa, is that for us?”, while Dante’, 16, said “Is this all of the presents, or will there be more?”

I sit writing this as everyone in the house is still asleep.  Sam and I have joked around at what is in the big box under the tree more than once.  The camera is ready to capture the moments from this Christmas Eve, ready to provide them both with memories to look back on themselves in years to come.  I hope that someday, they will look back at Christmas Eve as one of their favorite holidays, just like I do.

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Happy Birthday, Pops.

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Today would have been my Grandpa P’s 96th birthday. In a previous blog, I wrote about my mom’s dad, and today I want to write about my dad’s dad – Pops. This blog is sort of a rewrite of a blog I wrote years ago on the anniversary of his passing.

When my mom’s dad passed away, I had to deal with the loss of a loved one for the first time. It was an eye opening experience that changed me forever. I realized that the people in your life aren’t always going to be around. I made a promise to be closer to my remaining grandparents.

I was very close to my grandpa. When he passed away, it was one of the most difficult times of my life. When I describe him, I often tell people to think of Abe Vigoda from the Godfather (some may remember him as Fish on Barney Miller). Abe reminded me a lot of my grandpa.

He quit school at a very young age. I don’t recall how young he was, but I recall him being in elementary school or maybe junior high. He quit to go to work with his father (my great grandfather). He worked to help bring money in for the family, as times were rough and money was tight. When he was young, they had one of those cars with the crank in the front of it that you had to crank to start the car. As I remember the story, he was trying to start the car one day and the crank snapped back and caught him in the nose. His nose was broken and it remained crooked the remainder of his life.

I used to love listening him tell stories about when he was young. He often talked about the days that him and his friends would hang out on “Joseph Campau Ave.” in downtown Detroit. Detroit was very different then. He and grandma would tell stories of how they could leave the house unlocked when they left and how they could sleep out on the sun porch during the summer without ever having to worry about being robbed or hurt.

Speaking of grandma, one of the stories that they both loved to tell was how they ended up together. The story goes that grandpa saw grandma walking and wanted to ask her out. She kept telling him no, but eventually broke and decided to go out with him, after he bugged her too much. I used to love hearing those stories.

When he was young he was stationed at “the CC Camp”. I’m not really sure what he did there, but some of my favorite pictures of him are when he was a young man there. He never went to war, because of his nose. They wouldn’t let him serve because it was broken. Even though he didn’t serve, he used to tell me many stories about World War II and we would often watch shows about the war on PBS when we spent the night.

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I have mentioned before that grandpa was responsible for giving me my first cup of coffee. I was like 11 or 12 and it was probably more cream and sugar than coffee. He also gave me my first “job”. I used to come over and cut his grass. Before the term OCD was ever used regularly, grandpa was very strict about the way he wanted his lawn cut. I had to check with him before I started to find out if I was cutting the grass vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. He was a stickler for straight lines! We used to call him “eagle eye”. He’d stand outside while I mowed, making sure that I was keeping the mower straight. I was always afraid of making a mistake!

During the summer, you could count on him having the Tiger game on TV or on the radio. The excitement of hearing the Tigers during their 1984 season (when they went on to win the World Series) is a memory I treasure. I was familiar with the current team members, but he would share stories of the 1968 World Champions as well as many other great ball players – he always seemed to bring up Rocky Colavito. Another Rocky he would talk about was boxer Rocky Marciano.

Before he retired, he worked at the same company as my dad. It was about 2 miles down the road from my house. During the summer time, it was always a treat when he would stop by the house on his lunch break. He was probably out at the store buying his lottery tickets for that day, but he would always pick up something for my brother and I. He would stop by with candy bars – usually Mr. Goodbar or Chunky. I remember Chunky used to be wrapped in a foil – it wasn’t sealed like they are today. It was literally a piece of silver paper wrapped around it. Today, Chunky is divided into four sections so you can break off pieces to eat it. Back then, it was just one big hunk of chocolate (with nuts and raisins)! Those two candy bars still remind me of him. He knew that my friends were usually over playing, so it wasn’t odd for him to drive up with 5 or 6 candy bars, so my friends could have one too.

When I think about Pops, I am reminded of the laughter. He made us laugh a lot. Because of his limited schooling, his vocabulary wasn’t always great. He mispronounced many words and would flub words when reading. Some people may think this is cruel, but we used to write scripts for him to read while we recorded them on a cassette tape. I did this primarily because I never wanted to forget what he sounded like. I am glad I did this, because I still have the “tapes” saved in a digital format. Personally, I think he liked being the center of attention. He loved be the star. He never doubted we loved him, he read these scripts because he knew it made us laugh. It made us happy. We acted out plays with him on tape, too! Sometimes, while he read through the script, he’d be laughing so hard, he could barely make it through. I remember one week I wrote a bunch of stuff for him and when we came over that Sunday to visit, I gave it to him. When he saw how many things I wrote for him he yelled, “God Doggit!” – that still makes me laugh … and I can still hear him saying it! I find myself saying it today!

I also remember that he was really ticklish, so we’d record him laughing while we tickled him. Sometimes he’d laugh so hard his false teeth would fall out!

Pops bought me my first lottery ticket. I think I was like 13 years old. He had this old raggedy book called “Skippy’s Lucky Lottery Dream Book”. The way it worked was, when you had a dream, you’d look up the subject and there was a 3 digit number. You play that number in the lottery and hopefully, you’d win. Early in my 7th or 8th grade year, I had lost my house key. I had a dream that I found it at his house. I looked where it was in the dream, but it wasn’t there. He, of course, looked up “found keys” and found the number – 195. He told me he was going to play that number for us, and if it won, I could have the money. Sure enough, that week, it came out. I remember he came over with an envelope with 42 dollars in it. He was true to his word. He never said, but I am guessing he played it for himself, too.

He and grandma taught me how to play Pinochle. That’s what they did almost every holiday. We’d have dinner, and the adults would go in to the sun porch and play cards. My brother and I would basically sit and watch TV, bored out of our minds while they played cards. I finally asked to learn and they taught me. They were patient and taught me well. My dad was happy that I learned to play, because he never really liked to play all night like everyone else. I, however, loved playing and was a welcome addition to the card table.

When I got my driver’s license, I would go over there on the weekends with Joe or Steve and we’d play Pinochle all night. Grandma would have coffee on and a Long John Coffee Cake for us. Grandpa didn’t like to lose. He’d get so mad sometimes! There were stories about him cutting up decks of cards when he was losing, but we never saw him get that mad. We saw him get mad … just not that mad! He was the kid of guy who at one point, you’d try to throw the game his way because you didn’t want to see him mad….lol.

My friend Steve used to make him so mad. Steve and I were always partners and sometimes, we’d get really lucky. A trickless is a hand where one team gets all the tricks and the other team gets nothing. It doesn’t happen often, and I remember one night Steve and I did it with back to back hands! We were happy as hell, but that was where the game ended that night!

One time Steve got up and went to get coffee. He opened the fridge without asking permission. My grandpa was so mad. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Where are your manners? I don’t go to your house and go in your fridge!” I was surprised at how much this bugged him. He was probably losing at cards, and he lost it at this little thing. Steve felt bad, and apologized.

Pop’s also used to help me with my paper route. The station where we’d pick up the papers was over by his house. He’d pick me up, take me to the station, we’d get the papers and he’d drive me and Jeff around so we could deliver them. He had a gold Caprice Classic with tan seats. I remember he used to put a blanket down over the seat because he didn’t want the ink to get on the seat. Jeff and I used to laugh and make noises and stuff while we were with him. He never really understood what was so funny. Because of those days on the paper route, he called Jeff “the crazy one”. I’d go over there to visit when I was older and he’d say, “Hey! How’s the crazy one? Do you still see the crazy one?”

As he got older, he got more forgetful. One time, my grandma asked him to take her to the store. He went out the the garage and got in the car, but left grandma at home. My dad had to go looking for him. Grandma called the police and they were looking, too. My dad pulled into the parking lot of Farmer Jack (I think) and found him sitting in the car. Dad asked him what he was doing and he replied, “I am waiting for your mother!” My dad had to break the news that she was still at home. He was so flustered.

He deteriorated pretty quickly after that. He was more forgetful and often repeated things. I don’t recall if it was on Christmas Eve, but I remember him sitting in his chair looking at the TV guide. Occasionally, he’d look up and say, “Murder, She Wrote” is coming on” and then stare back into the book. It was hard to see him like that.

I’ll never forget seeing him in the hospital on the night he passed away. I remember when everyone walked out of the room whispering to him how much I loved him and how much I was going to miss him. He had basically just been laying there the whole night, but as I spoke to him, he reached up and grabbed my neck. I remember being startled, but I again told him I loved him and it was ok to go.

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Grandparents are a wonderful gift. I remember the looks that my mom and dad had when they first held my oldest son. The smile just got bigger when my dad got to hold his second grandson. Seeing them, I realize the love that my grandpa had for me and my brother. I was blessed to have him for 24 years of my life. He was a very special man and I miss him very much. The memories I have of him bring many smiles and keep him alive in my heart. I wrote a song about him. It never was recorded, although I had hoped it would. I have shared it on Social Media before. Perhaps I will add it in a separate blog sometime….

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Happy Heavenly Birthday, Pops! As I wrote in my song – I still love you and I still miss you!