29 February 2012


Yesterday was my first trip here since the Reagan Administration.

Before email, before pagers, when fax machines were the cool way to share info, when "portable" computers weighed around 50 lbs, when I was still on my first of several Dodge minivans, before two of my kids were born, before cell phones, I came here a few times on business.

Back then the Pittsburgh airport was known as the "air mall". It's common now to see the same stores in the airport as you do in your neighborhood. But back in the day, there was only one place like that and it was PIT. Travelers, including myself, would ASK to connect through Pittsburgh even when a one way was available (this was in the day when you called a travel agent to book a ticket). Even guys were caught up in the idea of shopping during a layover.

Today it seems just like any other, but there was a time when this was the most special airport in the country .

28 February 2012

A loved one in winter is always welcome

We had a wonderful visit this week from our niece Kristin. Something about seeing family members in the dead of winter that makes the time memorable. Being the northern most outpost of the clan, visitors come by seldom, and rarely this time of year.

We gave her our usual grand tour of the twin cities. Thanks to a warmer than normal winter we had to skip the ice fishing, snow shoeing, ice skating or any of the other array of activities that would have usually been available. We settled for a few restaurants, a trip to Stillwater, the JJ Hill House, the Catherdral of Saint Paul, and of course Mall of America.

The best times were just talking. She shared with us her life in Delaware. Her work with inner city kids is a wonderful ministry and one she is very passionate about. It is great to hear about all the ways the Lord is using her.

We shared with her some of the deep dark lore of her family history from the period prior to her birth. Nothing really bad, just a few random stories she had not yet heard.

There were also plans discussed for future visits. This seems to be deeply woven in the culture of families. Whenever we are with loved ones the subject always turns to plans for next summer, next Christmas, next fall, or that next amazing road trip. I guess its a way of us all saying that we want to be together again and share more times like these. Which is as it should be.

09 February 2012

I miss my wife, but....

My wife is gone for the week. I have the house all to myself.

I come home, run on the treadmill a while. Then I enjoy a really good cigar, in my living room, with ESPN, and a nice roaring winter fire.

I miss her, but when I have one of these, well, the absence is a bit more tolerable.

She comes back on Monday, late in the day. The trick is figuring out when is the latest I can stop smoking and have the house still smell reasonably nice. I'm thinking Saturday night, but that's cutting it close.

No matter, I earned this.

04 February 2012

Christmas is over, sort of

Today was the day I took down the last of the Christmas decorations. The ones on the outside of the house. This year we decorated the outside with wreaths that were lighted at night. Around Christmas day I realized to my horror that I had all the bows in the wrong place. All around the neighborhood wreaths had bows at the top, mine had them at the bottom. How did I miss this? Note to self for next year....

In the back of our basement hang the wreaths. They will gather dust until some time around October, when I'll start fooling around with them, checking lights, replacing bows. In the summer, when Christmas seems so far off, they hang there in silence ready for service on a moments notice. It's nice to see them there, even if I am not allowed to display them publicly.

In a nearby closet are all the Christmas decorations. Packed away finally. We took the inside ones down a little sooner than normal this year. I'm not sure why, something to do with the boredom of a New Years Day. Once Christmas Day is past my wife starts secretly packing things away, like a Mission Impossible to see how much she can remove without my noticing. One day it's "Hey, where's the big Santa?". The next morning it's "My dearest, what happened to the NOEL candleholders?". A few moments later, "Where are the NUTCRACKERS and who kidnapped baby Jesus !!!!" I know the answer, they are all part of the long parade of decorations back to the Christmas closet.

My one victory this year was leaving the outside lights on much longer than in the past. Usually I turn them off on January 6, which is Epiphany for the western world and Christmas Day for the orthodox Christians. Seems about the right time. But the last few years I noticed that a few of my neighbors kept their lights on long into the winter. This year I joined them and kept mine on until the end of January. We had no snow this year, and the lights added a bit of merriment to an otherwise dull and dark and grey and brown landscape. I set them to turn on/off at dusk/dawn which meant they were on when I came home from work, and still going when I left in the morning.

My wife's stepfather, Onis, was born on Christmas eve. He will be buried in two days. After 101 years and 102 Christmases. Down here we all have boxes of little ornaments and trinkets that we haul out once a year. He is at that place beyond the horizon, where it is always Christmas and always Easter. For him, the real thing is just now beginning.

See you later, Onis

Onis Smith, third grandfather to my children and stepfather to my wife, is finally spending this day in the presence of our Lord. He was so looking forward to this, after spending 101 years and 42 days visiting this planet. Below is a a post I wrote at Thanksgiving 2010....

I am spending thanksgiving morning with a friend who is 99 years old, and a few days away from 100. We watched the Macy's parade and now The Godfather. What goes on in the mind at that age? Here are a few of his comments this morning. Some of these are things said to me, other are prayers uttered as the mind slips back and forth between places and times.

"The birds have gone south, why can't I?

O Father, my heavenly father, I love you, thank you. I'm 107, born in 1910.

I didn't expect to be this old, I'd give anything if my son was here.

I can still hear some, but see very little.

My wife, I'd give anything if she was here. She's my second wife, she'll be my last one.

How I miss walking through the trees, rather have trees than flowers. O God, our Father.

My brother and I never did get along, don't know why. He was always a momma's boy. God only knows where my son is.

O father, take me home. To Harrison. It's not far.

I wish the birds would come back, but I don't think they will, I don't blame them.

My wife, my beautiful flower, why did you take her away from me?"

He sleeps a lot, comments on what he sees outside his window, and prays. His prayers are an ongoing conversation with God. Expressing regrets over past mistakes or failings. He is a good Godly man. I hope that when my mind begins to fail as his is, I will have the Lord and my family continually on my mind, as he has on this 99th year and 335th day of his life.