A tragic loss of life…Etched in our hearts forever…The journey continues…

 

My father George was a fine man. He’ll remain in our hearts forever.

As revealing and vulnerable as we are in our daily posts, we carefully reserve a certain sense of privacy in our lives.  From time to time, we find ourselves in a quandary asking the question, ”Will revealing a sensitive personal situation benefit or enlighten even one of our worldwide readers?”  

If we have the opportunity to do so, we may choose to be as open as we are today.  We write and post photos here daily to entertain, to inspire and to share some of our research in regard to traveling to a particular location or as in our case, the world.  We, like you, learn as we go, fumbling along the way hoping to share valuable information we’ve gleaned from our mistakes and from our triumphs carrying the lessons forward into the next phase of our travels.

My 95 year old Uncle Bernie and his girlfriend.

Today’s story is not about travel, although we had to travel to Boston for the experience.  Today’s story is not intended to inspire, to educate, or to enlighten.  The sorrow of others doesn’t entertain.  But, it does bring us closer in touch with our own loss and grief, if only for a moment or a day.

It’s a sad story, as are the stories of each and every one of us in dealing with loss of a loved one.  Its a story of a loss so powerful that it has shaped my life and the lives of my two dear sisters…the loss of our father 54 years ago on October 18, 1960.

Uncle Bernie, his girlfriend Chavy and Phyllis.

His name was George.  He was 46 years old when he met a tragic end to his life.  He was manager of a metal casting foundry.  It was his last night on the floor having been promoted to a corporate position starting the following Monday morning.  It was Friday at 1:00 am, October 16, 1960. 

Our phone rang.  My mother, startled by the phone at the late hour, answered frantically.  We heard her scream.  Minutes later, as she pulled on her coat, she hollered to us, “Your father’s been injured at work.  I’m going to the hospital.  I’ll call when I know.”  The door slammed behind her.

My father on the left, brother Red and sister Ida and their mother, my grandmother, Ethyl.  Uncle Bernie was yet to be born.

I was 12 years old.  My sister Susan was 16 and Julie was four.  We were scared but, he’d been injured in the past which was never life threatening.

An explosion occurred.  His clothing caught on fire and he ran. A co-worker dropped him to the floor beating out the flames with his bare hands as my father writhed in excruciating pain.  He had third degree burns over 98% of his body. 

My heart pounded as we walked toward the grave of my father.  As we reached his grave site, the pounding eased and a sense of contentment washed over me.  I felt a sense of peace and of gratitude.

He lay conscious in agonizing pain, blinded, unable to breathe for two full horrifying days, succumbing on the third day. The battle to survive was too enormous even for this fine tower of strength and determination, a man of great character, a man of great will.

As my sisters and I waited in the living room of our home in a small town near Boston, wondering when we’d hear how he was doing. We’d lived in Boston for only two years, having spent the first years of our lives growing up in California to which we returned a few months later.

We had no knowledge of what had happened to him until around 3:00 am when a reporter pounded on our front door asking for a photo, “Of the man who was dying after being severely burned and was “unrecognizable,” he said, “Hey, girls, get me a photo of your daddy so we can put it in the newspaper.”

My father, George, passed away almost 54 years ago.  Memories of him linger in my heart and mind all of these years later.

We slammed the door in his face.  We fell to our knees on the living room floor , hugging one another, crying hysterically, scared and alone.  It wasn’t until daylight when family appeared and we were finally told the truth. 

He passed a few days later.  My mother’s screams rang through my ears for many years to come.  He was gone.  Somehow, each of us had to find our way to grieve, to heal and to move on.

Cousin Phyllis lost her daughter Edie and husband Arnie in the last decade.  Her strong spirit and passion for life shines through her loving demeanor. 

Yesterday, my Uncle Bernie (my father’s brother), my cousin Phyllis, Tom and I visited his grave site in Boston.  My sisters and I returned to Boston in the 1970’s to visit the cemetery and see our grandmother, uncles and other family members.  That was 42 years ago. 

The four of us spent the day together at the cemetery and later reminiscing over a memory filled lunch at a local restaurant sharing stories, laughing and crying.  It was a day I’ll always treasure, powerful and meaningful.

It was this reason we’d  chosen the most recent transatlantic cruise.  It ended in Boston.  One more time we could see Uncle Bernie (and of course, Cousin Phyllis), whom along with his brother, Uncle Red (Phyllis’s dad, who passed away in 2002) had come to visit us in Minnesota many years ago for a memorable week together.

All the loved ones lost.

Tom hit it off so well with the “uncles” that he too became one of the “boys” linked to the memory of my dad, George.  It was no different today.  Tom and Uncle Bernie each ordered a cocktail toasting to being together once again.  During lunch, Uncle and I often held hands, each in total awe of being together once again, love deeper than ever.

Memories fade, sorrows ease and life goes on.  If my father were able to hear me, all these years later, I’d say, “Daddy, thank you, for being the special man that you were and for loving me and my sisters. Thank you for the role you’ve played in  shaping my life so that now, in my senior years, I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.  I’m living life to the fullest, on my terms, fulfilling the dream I never knew I had, with a man that in many ways reminds me of you…strong, loyal, determined and filled with love.”

A single flower growing at the cemetery reminded me of how fragile and fleeting life is.

Today, we continue on our year’s long journey.  Soon, our flight departs from Boston, Massachusetts to Vancouver, British Columbia where we’ll spend six days preparing for the upcoming cruise to Hawaii beginning on September 23rd, ending in Honolulu, Hawaii on October 5th.

We’ll stay in close touch each and every day reveling in the wonders surrounding us.  Whether its a waning sun, a smiling face or sudden burst of laughter, it all matters.  Life is short.
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Photo from one year ago today, September 17, 2013:

On this date a year ago, we posted our flight information from Mombasa, Kenya to Mpumalanga, South Africa departing on November 30, 2013.  No photos were posted other than the flight information.  Please click here for details.

 

Day 2, Boston…A thoughtful gesture from the hotel…Tom’s new laptop…Mini shopping spree!…Sad memories…

The generous gift sent to our hotel room by management of Four Points by Sheraton Norwood.

We apologize for the lack of photos today.  Many photos will be posted tomorrow.  Yesterday’s required shopping left me needing my hands free and thus, no additional photos. 

Yesterday morning, after meeting Kelli Boyer in catering at Four Points by Sheraton Norwood as she hosted morning coffee in the lobby we engaged in a delightful conversation. I felt as if I’d known her for a long time.

Later in the day after returning to our hotel room after a much needed and enjoyed shopping trip with Cousin Phyllis, I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful platter in our room containing fruit and cheese accompanied by a full bottle of Pinot Noir and Pellegrino. 

As a gift from Kelli and the hotel management, we couldn’t have felt more appreciative of the kind gesture. It’s always the little things in life that leave us feeling warm and fuzzy, often, the most simple gestures, with the most heartfelt of intentions.

Yesterday morning at 10 am we arrived at Costco in Dedham, MA, purchased a new membership when the old membership had expired long ago. Immediately, we dashed to the laptop department and were disappointed to find that they didn’t carry Acer laptops.

The options were few when Tom wanted to replace his cracked screen laptop with one with one terabyte with a lighted keyboard and Windows 8.1. With screams of protest by millions of Windows 8 users worldwide, Microsoft has reduced the installations of Windows 8 or 8.1 worldwide on new computers.

With no laptops in stock meeting his criteria, he had no choice but to purchase the HP display model. Neither of us have ever been motivated to buy a floor model of any product fearing, as most do, it would be inferior in some manner.

In this case, with little time or motivation to shop further, he decided to make the purchase for US $100 less than the already reduced US $599. After tech support worked on it for a while to bring it back to its factory settings, we perused the huge store, in awe of everything we saw. 

We felt like kids in a candy store on visual overload. With no room for additional weight or space in our luggage we only purchased a pack of four much-needed battery-powered toothbrushes, a shaver, and blades package for me that should last a year at US $29. (We can’t believe the cost of razor blades these days).

With women’s razor blades in short supply outside the US, as we moved from location to location I’ve had no choice but to purchased packages with a new shaver and one extra blade at grocery stores outside the US. It was impossible to ever find replacement blades for any of the razors I’ve purchased having to buy new razors every few months. Very confusing. 

After the US $585 purchase at Costco, we headed back to our hotel to drop off Tom and our purchases. He had no interest in shopping with Phyllis and I. She arrived at noon to pick me up for a shopping trip and lunch. 

The prior evening she had insisted on taking our laundry to her favorite laundress to have it washed, dried and folded. The bag was so heavy Tom carried it out to her car. 

When she arrived the next morning, the laundry was done at a meager cost of only US $23! We’d spent US $34 washing and drying a mere two loads in London while we sat and waited for almost two hours.  We were grateful Phyllis helped us. There’s simply not enough time in Boston to sit in a Laundromat.

As mentioned earlier I needed to purchase bras at Victoria’s Secret, a few lightweight cardigan type sweaters at Phyllis’s favorite outlet store, and toiletries from a Walgreen’s store. Three new bras later at US $148 (no photos necessary), two cardigans, and a shirt later, we headed to lunch. 

By 4:30 we were back at our hotel room where we saw the beautiful fruit, cheese, wine, and water tray sent by management as appreciation for our mention and quasi review in yesterday’s post.

Never having expectations of any type for posting excellent comments about venues, we were shocked and pleased. We nibbled on what we could sending Phyllis home with the remainder. 

Last night, exhausted from not enough sleep due to the many time changes over the last week sailing across the ocean, we had a casual mediocre dinner at Outback, returning to our hotel by 9 pm.

Today, we’ll pick up Phyllis at her home in Stoughton in time for me to help her with a few computer issues.  Then, we off to pick up Uncle Bernie so we can all head to the cemetery of our beloved family.

Of course, it’s raining.  It rained the day was Father was buried in October 1960. Regardless of the weather, we’re going. If we stood outside in the rain for 90 minutes in Versailles, France, we can stand in the rain at my Father and other family member’s gravesites.

With little time for taking photos in this past almost 48 hours in Boston, we wrap up this short post today. In less than one hour, we’re out the door once more.

Tomorrow, we’ll post the story of my Father’s tragic death with photos. It will be an emotional experience for me and for Tom, an experience of information gathering to enter into Ancestry.com. 

Perhaps today, the visit with 95-year-old Uncle Bernie may fill in some of the blank in my family history that has been impossible to find. Oddly, he has more of a passion for family history than I. Some love researching their family history and others are ambivalent about it.

I guess in generations to come, our family need only read this blog to discover more information than they’d ever want or need. Ah, would that any of us could read about our grandparent’s lives and world travels in the 1920s.

See you tomorrow, albeit with red-rimed eyes and a lump in my throat as my long-ago past is quickly brought into the forefront surely eliciting a sense of sorrow and loss, hopefully ending in a sense of discovery and peace.

                                        Photo from one year ago today, September 16, 2013:

We weren’t sure if this was a monkey or baboon in the window of the thatched roof of a neighboring house in Kenya, where we lived for three months, one year ago. For details of that date, please click here.

 

 

Boston…Tom watched a Vikings game…They lost…How unusual?…New laptop for Tom…Costco, here we come!

 

The entrance to One Bistro Bar and Restaurant at Four Points by Sheraton Norwood. Excellent!

Within minutes of checking into the fabulous Four Points by Sheraton Norwood near Boston, we turned on the high definition TV so Tom could watch his first Minnesota Vikings game in almost a year. 

He missed four of last season’s games when the app he’d purchased to view games wouldn’t work in South Africa no matter how hard we tried. How ironic that the Minnesota Vikings were playing Boston’s New England Patriots yesterday. Too bad Minnesota lost once again, not surprisingly so with the loss of Adrian Peterson.

There’s never been a restaurant that we’ve visited worldwide that better accommodated my way of eating as in last night’s dinner at One Bistro at Four Points by Sheraton in Norwood, MA. We hope for one more dinner before we depart on Wednesday. 

In any case, he was thrilled to watch the game while I stayed busy getting a few toiletries out of the smaller bag that we’ll need here in Boston over the next few days. We have no plans to unpack the large bags.

The long impeccable hallway to our huge room, the largest, most well-equipped hotel room we’ve had in two years of travel.

Today, Cousin Phyllis offered to drop off our laundry when there wasn’t enough time yesterday. Almost completely out of clean clothes, we’re wearing the same clothes we wore yesterday, not an unusual occurrence in this crazy life of ours.

While at the cruise terminal, we dropped Tom’s laptop bag and his already broken screen finally took its final hit. He needs a new laptop. Today, we’re heading to the closest Costco to renew our old membership and purchase Tom a new laptop.  I’ve decided to live with the HP laptop I’d purchased in South Africa after I, too, dropped the old laptop, breaking the screen. 

The lush garden veranda at the hotel. 

In the past few days, we purchased a new camera on the cruise which was priced better than the online price at Costco, a Canon Power Shot SX50 HS, priced at US $369 (cost of the camera was not included on yesterday’s total bill for the cruise). I never imagined I’d purchase digital equipment on a cruise when everything they sell is usually overpriced. 

The camera, tax, and duty-free were priced at US $30 less than the competition resulting in an overall savings of approximately US $60. Let’s face it, every few years, we’ll need a new camera and laptops with the tough wear and tear in traveling the world. 

Another view of the veranda.

A more expensive heavier SLR camera is not necessary to achieve the quality of photos we find to be acceptable for our site.Plus, the lighter weight camera prevents me from upsetting my now healing shoulder injury of many moons ago.

Quickly, I’m learning to use the new camera and its zillions of settings. I enjoy experimenting using more advanced settings other than always using selecting “auto.” Now that I’m learning to take moderately decent photos, it’s fun to play around.

It’s late in the season for blooms but, I managed to capture these.

As for the new laptop for Tom, he prefers another Acer Touchscreen with a 15.3″ lighted keyboard. He doesn’t save much on his hard drive so he doesn’t require the giant specs that I do. We should be able to find him a perfect solution under US $700. His laptop lasted almost two years.

Other purchases today? Yep, embarrassing as this is to say, I need to purchase two new bras. I’ve owned only two bras these past two years, rotating and washing them often. They’ve finally bit the dust. Today will be my first foray to Victoria’s Secret store in two years. In any funny way, I’m kind of excited.

Let’s face it, the USA is opulent in ways we’d long ago forgotten. We’re enjoying our time at the hotel in awe of all the things we’d taken for granted when we lived in the US.  It doesn’t inspire us to return but, as in many places we’ve visited, we relish in the surroundings.

After that, we’ll make a quick trip to a Walgreen’s, which I’ve also missed, for a few toiletries, new power toothbrushes, and a few cosmetic items. It’s been difficult, if not impossible, to purchase some of the simplest products while outside the US these past 20 months.

How do we feel to be back on US soil? I’d expected to feel elated or, if nothing else, a little in awe. Instead, we both agreed…we love our simple life in often remote locations. The traffic, the noise, and the commotion we encountered at the cruise terminal and later at the car rental area at Logan Airport only confirmed our decision to live differently than in our past life. No offense is intended for those who live in big cities or surrounding areas. We all strive to find our “place in this world” wherever that may be.

The sun was filtering into the hotel lobby early this morning.

We aren’t the people we used to be. Although, we must admit that when we entered our huge modern hotel room, our mouths were agape at the amenities that have been far removed from our reality these past few years. We don’t require as much as in the past much of which years ago, we easily took for granted.

Last night, we dined at the hotel’s highly recommend restaurant, One Bistro, with Cousin Phyllis for the best meal I’d had in ages. (Contact Kelli Boyer at Four Points by Sheraton for conventions, parties, and group functions). Fabulous food!

The beautiful breakfast buffet in the hotel.  Perhaps, we’ll try this on Wednesday before we fly to Vancouver.

Phyllis had so sweetly left an awaiting gift bag of goodies for us at the desk to receive when we checked in.  Filled with nuts, cheese, bottled water, and magazines (to read on our upcoming flight on Wednesday to Vancouver), we couldn’t have been more appreciative. She knows exactly what works for us as she too, reads our daily posts. 

Hopefully today, we’ll see 95-year-old Uncle Bernie, spending quality time with him and Phyllis over these two short days in Boston. Photos will follow of our time with them.

We won’t have time for sightseeing while we’re in Boston. Someday, we hope to return when the time comes to tour the US but, that’s way down the road. We still have so much world left to see.

                                       Photo from one year ago today, September 15, 2013:

It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago that we dined at Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant in Diani Beach, Kenya. For details of that date, please click here.

 

Boston, Massachusetts, our hotel booking for next September…why Boston?…a sorrowful loss lingers on…

My parent’s wedding photo.

Spending the first 10 years of my life living in sunny California, I was saddened when our parents told my two sisters and I that due to our father’s employment and desire to be near his mother in her later years, we were leaving our ranch home in Long Beach to move to Boston. 

Our grandmother, whom we adored, owned a triplex on a dreary residential neighborhood with a state mental institution at the end of the street to be found by a relatively short walk up the steep road, difficult to navigate in the snow and ice of winter. 

In 1958, we left that California home, which my parents rented long term to the baseball player, Gil Hodges from the LA Dodgers.  Moving into the main floor of our grandmother’s triplex in Boston was traumatic.  I felt frightened by the neighborhood, the school, the mental patients who wandered aimlessly in the streets during the day and were prompted to return to the hospital at night by the sound of an earsplitting horn.

In a perpetual state of terror, I remained quiet and to myself focusing on my studies.  My father meant the world to me. 

In those days, children didn’t speak of being frightened, fearful that parents would disapprove of weakness.  His gentle demeanor along with his frequent hugs and kisses went far in helping us get through.

In October 1960, my father was killed in an industrial accident, living three days with third degree burns over 98% of his body. 

Life was changed forever.  How could I live without him?  He is buried in Boston.  Soon, I will visit his grave.  I still miss him today.

A few months later at Christmas, my mother and 16 year old sister who was granted a driver’s license only days before we left, drove us the long scary drive back to California.  We spent Christmas Eve in a dumpy hotel in Lubbock, Texas.  No gifts, no celebration, only sorrow filled hearts.  I was 12 years old. My younger sister was four years old, sent ahead on an airplane with my mother’s parents, our grandparents, who’d come from their home in California to Boston for our father’s funeral.

We moved into an apartment while waiting for Gil Hodges’ lease to run out. It was almost another full year, requiring us to change schools two more times.

Moving back into that house was angst ridden.  At that point, the emotional toll over the loss of this beloved man was almost more than we could bear.  Each of our lives became fraught with sorrow but somehow filled with an unstoppable desire to survive and… to succeed. 

In our own ways, each of the three of us sisters, found a determination only grief can manifest.  Today, the three of us couldn’t be closer, loving and respectful of one another and able to laugh together as with no one else.

In 1976, the last time I was in Boston, my sisters and I returned to visit our grandmother and family members (with whom we’d stayed in close touch over the years) and to visit our father’s grave.

Returning on September 14, 2014, once again I’ll see our few remaining family members, my dear cousin and my treasured uncle, my father’s brother, who continues to enjoy life at the age of 94.  And, once again, I’ll visit my father’s grave.  The prospect of this visit fills me with a deep sorrow that tightens my throat, as the tears flow freely.

This, is why we chose a cruise ship from London that ends in Boston.  Tom, an ancestry.com buff, has pieced together not only his roots but mine as well.  He’ll be at my side both in love and in his desire to complete some of the missing pieces in my family history.

Many of you have known such loss, easily relating to my story.  Recently, a dear friend on Facebook shares her loss of a sister and in her grief, I am brought back to my own, as some of you may feel on this part of the journey with me.

Life is short.  Life is fragile.  Life is filled with ways in which we can heal and which in essence, becomes a choice.  It’s a choice to celebrate the life of the ones we’ve lost, of the ones we’ve loved and to carry with us the gifts that their lives gave us, that linger on forever.

Here’s the link to our hotel in Norwood, Massachusetts, close to Boston.  The hotel required payment in full for the good rates we received for an upgraded room for these dates:

Room charges
Sunday, September 14, 2014
$175.00
Monday, September 15, 2014
$175.00
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
$175.00
Tax recovery charges and service fees
$61.44
Total
$586.44