Conversations With My Father

May 8, 2018 marks a year since my Father passed from this world.

I was sorting through some old documents on the computer the other day, and came across this blog post, written in September 2015 that never got published.

I  think it’s worthy to share now…….

 

September 5, 2015

I miss Dad.

Oh, he’s still with us in the physical sense, but his mind has been tumbling in turmoil for about eight years now. We never used the word Alzheimer’s until this past year, before then we just referred to it as Dad’s dementia.  

After the last visit home a few months ago I realized Alzheimer’s is winning the battle. My Dad can’t remember what happened 2 mins ago much less the day before. In observing him, it seems his mind keeps him in a world of turmoil, frustration, bewilderment, confusion, and yet peace.

He’s frustrated because he doesn’t understand what is being said to him, bewildered about his surroundings, confused when he tries to dress himself, and at peace when he is alone. That peace is short lived, though, because he constantly calls out to his beloved bride of 64 years if she is not in eyesight.

To find comfort, many times I’ve thought back to the days when Dad had his wit and wisdom, and the lessons I learned from listening to him.

One such memory I cherish are the phone calls we shared after I started at NASA in 2001. I would call him while driving into work in the early morning. Those days he would wake before the sun came up and be reading. 

My new position at NASA had me excited and this was an opportunity to share details about my work, and ask for advice. He always had good advice. I treasured these calls. I always counted on him, he was always there.

Those days are long gone, and I pray the memories always stay with me.

 

 

Postscript: Rest in Peace Dad, you continue to live within those you touched.

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Patience

The practice of being patient is challenging, yet so important in this age of immediacy. We become stressed when we don’t get what we want immediately. Voice Assistants like Alexa and Apps using AI data to help us navigate through this world are commonplace.

Yet, sometimes success comes to those who are patient.

Patience can close a business deal, make a tense discussion end peacefully, or save a life or someone from injury.

Recently, while traveling to St. Louis from Alabama the beautiful wife and I found ourselves in a fierce snowstorm that all weather experts had missed in their predictions. Low visibility and high volume of snowfall forced the cars to stay in the right hand lane at a slow crawl of 35 – 40 mph for about 100 miles on Interstate 24.

As the day wore on some people got impatient, decided to speed up, and use the passing lane. Many of them would go into the ditch to the left, or slide into the ditch on the right as they tried to get back in the line after passing.

Whenever this happened, the long line of cars would go even slower for awhile.

After some time passed another car would try to pass, and the same thing would happen all over again.

I told my beautiful wife to call ahead and tell our hosts we were arriving late on this day for I was not going to risk harm to either of us.

Did I get restless, yes, but I would remind myself of the consequences of recklessness. I, instead, drove with ‘even tempered care’, and a ‘steady perseverance’ so we arrived safe and sound late that evening.

Patience was the mantra for that day.

What I Learned in 2017

I thought I was done with 2017 (see last post),  until Marcus Engel, a motivational speaker, trauma survivor, and author who I follow (https://marcusengel.com/) asked what I had learned in 2017.

 

With much thought given to this question the past few days, here’s some of the highlights of what I learned in 2017:

Big Data is part of almost everything we do in the world, and we must keep using it for the good, and not evil.

Not everyone wants globalization, but technology and business keeps pushing that way.

Not everyone who considers themselves tolerant are tolerant.

Get rid of those connections on social media who continually complain, use negative talk and have angry outbursts. They don’t contribute to constructive discussions.

One can learn a lot from listening to positive influencers.

The adage of “Living in the Moment” is so important for wellness of oneself.

Death of a loved one is tough, Focusing on the celebration of their life helps get through the grieving process.

 

 

 

 

(full disclosure: this is an edited version of what appears on Marcus’s FB page)

Reflections of 2017

Reflecting on 2017, an emotionally,  challenging year. I realize I am, thankful.

I am thankful for:

My wife, Kathryn, who encourages me, challenges me to be my best, and is a great role model because she is always learning.

My Father, Edward Joseph, who was a loving, caring Father, and died on May 8th, 2017

My Mother, who carries on the Young legacy

My Daughter, Hannah who gave birth to Avery Quinn on June 26, 2017 and juggles the challenge of a career and raising a family gracefully.

My Cat, Booga Boo, The Booger, Buddha, who comforted us every day for 14 years, taught us love, and died in June.

My opportunity to work at NASA, where there are so many intelligent people, who are passionate in what they do.

My wife’s friend, Amy Duvall, who, at 39 died of breast cancer in October and showed us how to live with courage.

 

Look Out 2018, here I come!

A History Lesson from Manny

Recently in Miami my wife and I decided to visit the Holocaust memorial near South Beach.

When we initially entered the memorial I experienced the same somber emotion as I experienced at Pearl Harbor, and Ground Zero.

As I was reading a panel outlining the history of the holocaust, I heard an unassuming voice behind me ask if this was the first time I had visited this memorial. I answered yes, and the second question came forth, “What do you think of it?”

I wasn’t expecting the question and was hesitant for there were many emotions running through my head while gazing at an image of several starving naked concentration camp prisoners on the panel in front of me.

The person asking the question came slowly around to the front of me, and stopped. I looked down at a small elderly man who’s faced showed a long hard life, he was unshaven, but not unkept.

I still had not answered the question, but he began talking about what was depicted on the the panels in front of me. He stated the history books will never get the number of concentration camps correct, for there were many places not marked, and the numbers of dead were probably more than stated. He talked of how Hitler had broken the pact Germany made with Russia, and how Stalin, in Russia had also killed many Jews.

As he talked I noticed there was a steady flow of information with no hesitation, his voice firm, and unwavering.

His command of the history depicted on the panels was astounding, and as I turned my gaze back at him he raised his right hand, and showed me the mark the Nazis put on his forearm many decades ago.

Tears immediately welled up in my eyes, I realized he had lived the Nazi horror, was witness to the atrocities, and experienced hell on earth all those years ago.

Through all of this emotion I kept listening, for he was still talking.

1939, at age 13 he was taken and put in a camp in Poland. He was put to work in the factory that built  airplanes the Nazis used against their enemies. His Grandfather was an Officer in the Polish Army, and when Hitler invaded they were crushed in two weeks because all the Poles had were horses and swords.

He talked of the liberation in 1945 and how the US and allies started handing out their rations to the prisoners, which was a mistake for the stomachs of the freed prisoners were not use to the nutrients and many got very sick.

Luck was with him after he was liberated, he went to Italy for 18 months, and then to the US on a military transport, bypassed Ellis Island, entered the States through a military base.

As I listened, I realized that Kathryn had not yet caught up with me, so I asked her over to meet this amazing gentleman. 

When she she got to us he gently took her hand and kissed it very gentleman like, and continued to talk of the atrocities, and life as a concentration camp prisoner. As he talked he again raised his right hand and showed Kathryn the mark of the Nazis. She wept with me, as he kept talking.

His family and friends were taken from their homes and businesses  by the Nazis and transported by train to various camps. None of his family survived, except him. He believed he was lucky to make it because he was a young male who could work in a factory making war machines.

His voice was matter of fact, yet there was no trace of anger, hatred, or contempt. He said there were good Germans, one of them being Werhner Von Braun, and his team of scientists and engineers who helped America get to the Moon.

Our teacher went on to tell us that he taught school for 30 years in New York, fought in the Korean conflict, and met his wife on a blind date. He raised two daughters, has 3 grandchildren, and has traveled the US many times over.

He talked of the horror he witnessed but he didn’t talk of hate for those who murdered and persecuted, he instead talked of how we have to live peacefully and respectful with each other, for what we have in the world is what we make of the world. He spoke of hope, and peace.

This 90 year old man drives 70 miles one way, 3 times a week to the Memorial to talk to those who come learn about the Holocaust. He likens it to visiting a cemetery, where memories of family, friends, fellow Jews are housed. There are fewer of his kind, and he laments the younger generation seem not to want to learn.

We listened, wept, and learned. I asked if I could take a picture, and he said he would take us to panel 67 where his family is remembered, for a photo. 

After handshakes and hugs we parted ways so Manny Roth could quietly find another family to teach.

 

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Manny Roth, our teacher for the day.

 

 

 

Visit the Miami Holocaust Museum site

Staying Informed Today

Gone are the days of the trusted news reporter. We realied on  Walter Cronkite when it came to reporting the news. Today, it’s anyone’s best guess what is true, and what it not. With the maturity of the internet, everyone (including me) is published, and everyone (again, including me) has an opinion. So many of the “news” organizations are slanted to one side or the other, so it’s really hard to get true, fair, unbiased “news”.

OK, I realize there is no such thing as totally “unbiased” information since there will always be some slant when humans are involved but, how do I get the best, unfiltered information these days?

I have no desire to get caught up with the emotional fervor which is so common on the social sites, I just want to be informed with as little slant as possible. 

So many times I have researched and dug deeper when reading an interesting story only to find inconsistencies when going to other sources. 

This has become really hard.

There are too many “news” stories with inaccuracies, and I have come to the realization that it’s up to each of us to find what the facts are to each story. 

Cable News networks tend to sensationalize most stories, and use “experts” in a panel style setup to talk (ad nauseam at times) about the ongoing story. These talking heads can be slim on credibility, and are often listed as a “(news channel) contributor”, some have previous government employment in appointed positions.

One of the more credible business channels I watch lists graphically the background of the “expert” being interviewed. This helps add credibility to what’s being discussed.

I shy away from most third party platforms (Google news, Facebook, LinkedIn) unless I can pick and choose what I see. Let’s face it, Facebook is all about the amount of “likes” a page gets which doesn’t mean what’s on it is valid.

With Google News and LinkedIn you can semi-customize your feed, but questionable sites can still get through their algorithms on the general feed. One product I like is the Amazon Echo which has a decent customizable news feed.

I realized a couple of years ago that I needed to come up with some guidelines to keep me away from getting sucked into the emotional one-sided rants that seem so prevalent today. I did a lot of experimenting, and finally came up with these:

  1. Consider the site or channel (is it normally slanted to one side), the sources referenced (named or not), and how the story is presented. So many times the TV news channels use “experts”, I always ask myself, how did they become an expert? If their credentials aren’t mentioned or shown, and they are not a household name, I usually take my attention elsewhere.
  2. When I find a story that is interesting I go to multiple sources to perform deeper research into the subject. I usually give up if I can’t find other sources. If the story is close to home, I contact people I know and trust to find out more.
  3. Filter Twitter by using lists: Twitter, unfiltered, Can be a real caustic mess, but if you filter it by creating lists, it can provide some good credible information. It took me a long to time set this up, but I found it to be a quick way to get credible information. After the last Presidential election I found myself managing it a lot more (adding and deleting accounts).
  4. When reading stories always be aware of red flags like “reports are saying”, “anonymous sources”, “seeking confirmation”, and other non confirmed verbiage. I find credibility ends with these statements most of the time.
  5. Any headline that reads: “Here’s What you need to Know”, or is telling you what should be important I find offensive. I can find my own information out, and come to my own conclusion as to what is important to me. I recently came across a Headline from The Atlantic which infuriated me: “Five Books to Make You Less Stupid About the Civil War”. My father was a civil war buff, and the family library has many books on the Civil War, many of which I have read. To think the author of this article is telling me I am stupid is very offensive.

Since the internet came into existence there is so many places to find information, it just takes longer to find a decent unbiased account of it.

I hope these guidelines help, and am always open to suggestions or discussion.

The Circle of Life 

The world welcomed my second grandchild, Avery Quinn Wilson a few days ago.


Hannah, Avery’s mother was born in 1991, the same year my Grandfather died.


Now, in 2017 Avery Quinn came into the world the same year my father died.


This past May, we celebrated my father’s wonderful life as he laid dying of Alzheimser’s.


Now, we celebrate the beginning of Avery Quinn’s life and all the hopes and dreams of what it will bring.


The circle of life. 

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