Friday, May 31, 2013

The Trib, The Sun-Times, and 180 degrees.

I'm still upset. Shock, anger, and sadness filled my mind and heart yesterday, upon hearing that the entire staff of photographers at the Chicago Sun-Times and its suburban papers were let go. Approximately 30 people were abruptly dismissed. One of them, a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Wrap your mind around that one. A major, metropolitan newspaper no longer has a staff of photographers. The newspaper industry that I was a part of for 27 years has sunk to a new high of lows.

I know most of the people who were dismissed. One is a great friend and former co-worker. I spent ten years working in the Chicago market. Some of it at The Daily Herald. Some of it at The National Sports Daily. I always wanted to work in a big market. I got there after spending three and a half years in Macomb, Illinois, at the Macomb Daily Journal. I worked hard and honed my skills to be able to build a portfolio worthy of the quality required to work in a competitive atmosphere, with some of the best photojournalists in the country at that time, in the 1980's.

I didn't make it to Chicago the first time I tried. And that's what this story is about. I knew I'd write about this someday. Yesterday's events made me think back. The timing seems right to share this story.

My photojournalism career began in Macomb in August of 1983. After a couple of years of working six days a week, and split shifts for $11,700 a year, I decided I had enough material and experience to attempt to make the big leap to the "big time." I had been working hard, at a craft I loved. Still do.

Maybe it can still happen, but back in those days, a person could call a publication, talk to the photo editor, and ask if one could drop in to show a portfolio to the editor. Whether there was a job opening or not, the editor would almost always agree to meet with the photographer, critique the portfolio, and show them around the photo department. It was possible to meet the picture editor eye to eye. Not deal with a human resources person via a computer, the manner in which business is now conducted.

A portfolio in those days consisted of approximately 20 single images and maybe a picture story or two. Nearly all the photos were black and white. The portfolio was not on a disc or zip drive. They were 11X14 prints, mounted on black matte boards. The stories were made up of smaller prints, presented in the order of the story, and mounted on 2-4 boards, taped together on the backside, and folded in on themselves.

It was not uncommon to spend an average of one hour per print in the darkroom, to achieve the technical quality necessary to put that image in your portfolio. It had to be PERFECT!

A luxury was to have two portfolios, allowing the photographer to apply for two jobs at once. The portfolios were mailed in "Fiberbilt" shipping cases. They were heavy. A cover letter and resume' were thrown in, along with recent clips and tearsheets of the photographer's work.

Of course one hoped for good news. To get the job. But 99% of the time you could be guaranteed two things. Acknowledgement that the portfolio had been received. And, if you didn't get the job, a typed note thanking your for applying, HAND SIGNED in ink, by the photo editor.

Now, 99% of the time, you receive neither.

So. I was ready for prime time. Or at least thought I was, after a couple of years of working in a small market. I made calls to The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, and asked if I could come up and show my work, knowing there were no openings at the time. Both papers agreed to see me.

Jack Corn was my contact at The Tribune. Robert Schnitzlein was my contact at the Sun-Times. The Trib is on Michigan Avenue. The Sun-Times was across the street, along the river. A short walk. My appointments were timed perfectly. One after the other. Chicago was new, big, and intimidating. I hadn't been downtown, by myself, many times.

The Tribune was the first stop. I got through the lobby, and up the elevator to the floor that was home to the photo department. Once there, it was interesting to see how a big paper operated. There was a lot of activity. Quite a contrast to my one man show back in Macomb.

I met Corn, shook his hand, thanked him for agreeing to meet with me, and the two of us retreated to a small, quiet area, away from the fray. I opened the shipping case and invited him to look. During a review/critique, the conversation can flow, or it can be quiet. If it was quiet, I'd look to the editor's eyes as they looked at my work, searching for a sign in their expression as to whether the print was "thumbs up" or "thumbs down."

Corn wasn't too positive. I don't recall any specific words. What I do recall is this. As he sat there looking at my work, he was casually letting his cigarette ashes fall onto my prints! Indifference and disrespect. The whole process lasted about a half hour. I was given some feedback, none of it positive, and sent on my way.

Jack Corn is still alive. I hope he reads this blog. I want him to understand that how a person treats another can have a big influence on that person. There's nothing wrong with the brutal truth. But it's how it's presented. I want Jack Corn to know he was an egotistical asshole. At least that day.

I made the walk to the Sun-Times feeling like a beaten dog. I thought it couldn't be any worse there, but I wasn't counting on it.

The process at The Sun-Times was much the same as The Tribune. Check in, find the photo department, etc.

Robert Schnitzlein was no nonsense as well. But he spun his advice and critical feedback of my work in an encouraging way. Mr. Schnitzlein could tell I was still green, and not ready to work in Chicago. But he gave me constructive advice on how to improve my work. I remember him telling me, "We hire young, aggressive tigers."

He sent me on my way with goals, a smile, and told me to keep in touch.

The difference in how I was treated by one man and another man was 180 degrees.

Mr. Schnitzlein moved on to work for Reuters. I wish he could read this blog too. I would like him to know what an impact he had on me, and my subsequent work back in Macomb.  He passed away in 2006.

I spent two more years in Macomb, then got my big break when I got a job at The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago. And it is while working there, that I got to know many Tribune and Sun-Times shooters.

I believe there is a tie in with my story, and what happened to the Sun-Times people yesterday. Just how far the industry has fallen. Civility and respect too. The bottom line rules. Workers are expendable.

The Sun-Times people were called into a meeting, read a short statement, and sent packing. The Sun-Times executives dropped their cigarette ashes all over my friends yesterday. The opposite of how they conducted themselves 28 years before.

Different people. Different management. I understand that. But it is maddening.

An entire photo staff was wiped out.

And the dumb asses in "corporate" wonder why they're on the way to going out of business.




Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12th

May 12th, 1973: I saw dad for the last time at about 11 this morning. Then, at 2 p.m., the funeral went out to the cemetery. Lynn didn't want to see dad. She said she wanted to remember him the way he was in Tacoma.

The funeral was just a regular type, on a clear, windy, beautiful Spring day. I kept wanting to go back and just sit there. But people dragged me off. Gary stayed all night tonight to help out.

My final words to dad were this morning, when the casket was still open. They were, "I'll see you someday, dad."

May 12th, 2013: It was a Saturday in 1973. On a Saturday, four months earlier, I'd have woken up and mom would fix me breakfast. From there, who knows? Off to do something with a friend, or help out at the hardware store. Now, the store was closed, and we were burying dad. Life had changed quickly and dramatically.

I'm not sure about 1973. Maybe we went to the funeral home one last time to say our good-byes. Maybe there was a second visitation leading up to the actual funeral service. I can't imagine the service lasting for three hours. I'm sure it didn't. The time frame indicates 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Regardless. Family and friends made one last trip to the East side of the square and into Plattner Funeral Home. I wish I could remember the minister's name. We didn't go to church much. I don't recall any friends of dad speaking during the service. That practice hadn't really caught on yet in 73'.

In yesterday's blog, I wrote of Lynn's decision (which I supported then, and do now) not to view dad.

I said my good-bye. At some point the service began, and we sat through it. I'm pretty sure our family was in a side room, able to view the casket, but around a corner and out of sight of the main chapel. Near the end of the service, a partition was pulled shut, the casket was closed, the partition reopened, and we were led out to the waiting cars. Dads friends brought him out to the hearse, and the procession headed west to the cemetery.

How about my "clear, windy, beautiful Spring day" line? I must have been practicing to write a novel someday! Cliche' as all get out. But that's exactly how the weather was that day.

We got to the cemetery and the service picked up again. It was hard to sit there. People were all around, but you feel alone. Like you're on an island of grief. That surreal feeling kicked in again. This just CAN'T be happening!

And at the end of it all, though I didn't want to leave, we had to. But no one had to drag me away. There was no drama.

Everybody got in our cars and drove away. Back to our lives. Except for dad.

Lots of people congregated back at our house on Prospect Street. Cars lined it, up and down. Mom and I weren't left alone. I can't emphasis enough, the support we got during the whole ordeal. Mom, Dad, and their friends. And me, from my friends and classmates. Nothing unkind or out of line was ever said to me at school. My classmates were awesome. They still are.

Mother's Day was the next day. Someone pulled me away from the fray and we went back uptown to pick out a Mother's Day card. Mom held onto that one. I think it might be in the same box as dad's visitation registry book.

Back at the house, I got out of my suit and back into my jeans. The nervous energy I had was unstoppable. In our backyard, right by the ditch that lines Clinton Street, there was a mound of dirt. The mound was there to help support a utility pole. Neighbor kids were around. We were outside, the adults in the house. I decided this would be a good time to take a bicycle, use that mound, jump the ditch, and land on Clinton Street, Evel Knievel style.

I got up speed, came to the mound, lost nerve and momentum. The front wheel hit the far side of the ditch, the seat post came over from the back, and put a nice gash in the back of my head. Somebody helped me to the bathroom and we home remedied the wound. Some adult popped their head into the bathroom, sensing a problem. We waved them off. Mom didn't need any more problems that day.

Gary refers to my cousin, Gary Gray. He is mom's nephew. Aunt Jean is mom's sister. Gary is her son. I love Gary, and looked up to him then. I still do. Gary wound up working at the hardware store for a couple of years or so. He's four or five years older than me.

When the crowd had really dispersed, and most people had gone home, Gary and I shot baskets in the backyard that evening. I just couldn't sit still. I wanted to do anything to occupy my time and mind.

I'm not so sure that whole experience didn't trigger something in me. To this day, I'm not much of a sit still type guy. There's a lot of world out there to be seen. I like to be on the move and checking it out. Who knows what tomorrow brings?

That's pretty much it. There was all of that going on for three months. The end came, and then life went on. Though with a huge void. There's no great ending to this blog. I wrote about my experience for three months. Have come to the end of it, and life will go on. The void is there, but time helps heal.

There will be a couple, maybe three more, blogs on this subject. Some follow up thoughts and notes.

Cancer is not kind. I miss dad.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11th

May 11th, 1973 & 2013: The same day, 40 years apart. No diary entry was made on that day. What would have been a Friday in 1973. There was no opportunity or no desire to make one.

Anything from that day, the day of visitation for dad, is memory recall. And there isn't a lot of it.

For sure, I would have missed school this day. And the day before, the day after dad's death. And I'm fairly certain, for the first time in years, maybe since Grandpa died in 1963, the hardware store was closed for anything other than a scheduled day. And the store was only closed on Sundays.

In blogging today, it just struck me that Grandpa and dad died 10 years apart. Ten years goes by like the blink of an eye from the perspective of a 54 year old. Back then, it seemed like a hundred years between Grandpa and dad's deaths. A lot of growing up happens to a kid between the ages of four and fourteen.

Friends and relatives had all made their way to Pittsfield by now. Whether it's a funeral or a wedding, people are around. Something is happening all the time. And one is being pulled from all directions. Things are scattered. There's never enough time to give everyone the attention one wishes to.

 What I remember from that day is this.

Mom, myself, and a few close family members went to the Plattner Funeral Home mid-late Friday morning to view dad. Maybe this is common practice, though I don't remember doing this after mom's death in 2004. For lack of a better term, this was a "run through," before visitation was to open to the public late that afternoon and evening. It may have also helped some of us get over the initial sadness of seeing dad in a casket, enabling us to be slightly more composed when greeting people later on.

We made the trip uptown and went in. It was hard. I don't remember how any one of us dealt with it. Some tears and composure. Or a complete breakdown. I'm thinking the latter. I believe I specifically  remember Uncle George being along for support.

Through the anguish, the one thing I did notice, and was uncomfortable with, is that dad wasn't wearing his glasses. He wore glasses most of his life. From the time I was born and knew him. He just didn't look like himself without his glasses. Thinking like a "child" again, I debated on saying anything. But this really bothered me. I brought it up to mom and the issue was corrected by the public viewing. There was no questioning or debating it. After I brought it up, I think others agreed.

Lynn opted not to view dad. And I support her 100%. It was her choice. And I was mature enough to understand her decision, even at that age, and that moment. She wanted to remember dad from our visit to Tacoma in March. Not the way he'd become as a result of the disease.

We weren't at the funeral home too long. From there, it was back home to wait and ready for the evening. I don't remember anything from this time period.

Visitation may have been from 5-7 p.m. The turnout of people was tremendous. I ran across the registry book a few years back, looking for something else. It's packed in a box. There may have been 300 people pass through that night. Like most any visitation I've been to, there were a lot of tears, but there were also some laughs and stories.

Did time fly by, or drag? I don't remember. But eventually, it was over. The last people came through and expressed their sympathies and said good-bye to dad.

We went home and prepared for the funeral the next day.

I remember thinking how tomorrow would be the last time I saw dad. Ever.




Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10th

May 10th, 1973: Tom Plattner came down to the house today to set the funeral arrangements. Peachy Foreman, a guy that works at the hardware store, had this to say. "I was up early, and after we had that rainstorm, there was the most beautiful rainbow in the West. I'm sure that was your daddy, going to heaven."

Aunt Betty and I are going to St. Louis to pick up Lynn today. The funeral will be Saturday at 2 p.m at Plattner's. Although I wanted dad to be buried in Quincy, next to grandpa, there is no more room. So the burial will be in the new addition of the West Cemetery.

May 10th, 2013: And life went on. There was the next day. But it sure felt empty, and it sure was sad. Mom, me, friends of dads. All of us had to begin wrapping our minds around the concept that he was gone forever. We'd never talk to him again. Looking back 40 years later, I don't think we had the slightest of clues as to the impact of losing him would have on mom and me. I've only begun to figure some of it out in the last five years or so. I guess I'm slow.

I wasn't up early enough to see the rainbow Peachy spoke of. I don't even remember it raining later in the night, after dad died. Peachy loved dad. He took dad's death hard. Peachy's beautiful words usually echo in my mind every year on May 10th.

Tom Plattner was another of dad's good friends. As was John Sutor, the other funeral home director in town. I don't know who made the decision, or how it was made, to select Plattner. Dad and Elmer Meyers had defeated Plattner and Dale "Wimp" Willard, in a one hole playoff during the Labor Day Sweepstakes golf tournament at Old Orchard Country Club in Pittsfield back in 1967. I was so happy for, and proud of dad that day. Plattner and dad had known each other a long time.

From what I've been told, the building that housed Plattner Funeral Home, on the East side of the square, was the first location of grandpa and dad's hardware store when they moved from Quincy to Pittsfield. A fitting tribute, if my facts are correct. Dad would lay in rest in the building he once worked from.

Plattner made his visit to our house pretty early. Once again, the kitchen was the center of activity. There were several people around to help mom. Friends and neighbors, offering help or bringing food. Like always, find yourself in need, and you find yourself stunned at the number of people willing to help and comfort you. It was amazing.

I was milling around the house, getting ready for the trip to St. Louis, when I happened to overhear conversation at the kitchen table. Mom was there. Plattner, Peachy, Ed Pease, others too. They were working on coming up with the traditional six pallbearers. They had five of them, but were a little bit stumped on who the sixth should be.

As a "child" listening to adult conversation, my instincts told me to keep out. I hesitated a second or two before saying, "I think I might have an idea." Suddenly, all the adult eyes were on the kid. It felt good. An adult moment for me. I was being listened to, not dismissed. "What about George Goodin?", I suggested. Their eyes lit up. "That's a good idea," someone said. Mom liked it too. I had just contributed to my dad's funeral arrangements.

The five men already selected were some of dad's best buddies. Ed Pease, Albert "Bud" Schimmel, Donald "Peachy" Foreman, Paul Beckenholt, and Byron "Barney" Roodhouse.

Goodin was a little bit more of an outsider. Not as tight with dad as the others, but well known and well liked around town. He, just like Mr. Beckenholt, worked at G&W Furniture. I thought of Goodin, based on one of my favorite "dad stories" from a few years prior.

Goodin and dad were on opposing teams during a golf match one day. The bullshit was flying. George told dad that if dad could beat him, George would subject himself to a mohawk haircut. The golfing intensified at that point. Dad got hot and made a big run. Goodin didn't bother following the score. He beat dad by a single stroke and kept his hair.

Dad would later recount the story. He was a stroke or two ahead of George, really late in the match. Dad elected not to say a word. He was just going to present the card at the end of the match and drop the hammer. Dad regretted this strategy. He said he wished he'd brought the score to Goodin's attention at that late point, and put a lot more pressure on him, forcing him to choke. I've said it before. Dad and his buddies had a lot of fun with each other.

While mom was kept busy, and taken care of around the house, late that morning or early afternoon, Aunt Betty and I headed to St. Louis and Lambert Field, to pick up Lynn, who was flying in from Tacoma. It gave me something to do to occupy my time. And it would keep Aunt Betty company too.

Due to the big flood of 1973, beautiful Route 79 was closed. From Louisiana, Missouri, we had to continue West to Route 61, travel South to Wentzville, and get on I-70 East there. At the airport, we waited for Lynn to arrive. For some reason, I don't recall us actually going to the gate, but waiting in a bigger lobby area. Aunt Betty excused herself, probably to use the restroom, and told me to keep a watch for Lynn. I was leaning against a support beam or something, when I saw Lynn approaching. I remember feeling like a lost puppy, but not breaking down when I saw her. "Hi, Lynn," I said.

The three of us made the trip back to Pike County. I don't recall a single word, or thought from any conversations in the car, during the two hour ride home.

I also recall little if any, from the rest of the day and evening, once we got back. Lynn would stay with Aunt Betty at her house. I think mom and I were alone, though one of mom's sisters may have come to town by this time. The house was seeing a lot of activity, all hours of the day and evening.

Visitation would be the next evening. Friday the 11th.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 9th

May 9th, 1973: Dad is now today, not rational. He hardly knows anybody. But he did love everybody.  For about 9 p.m. on May 9th, 1973, my father died. We all loved him, and would do anything for him.

May 9th, 2013: What a brief, somewhat unattached, and sort of cryptic entry, in that original diary. But then again, I'm surprised I had the gumption to write anything at all. I'm sure it was written through a flood of tears.

I'm a big fan of Warren Zevon. When Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer a few years ago, a film crew followed him around as he put together his last album. In that film, Zevon says, perhaps borrowed from another source, "All good stories end in death."

Virg Kriegshauser used to have a more basic saying when things ended. "That's all she wrote."

May 9th of 73' was a Wednesday. Throughout the day, there was no indication it was going to be dad's last. At some point in the past week, he'd been moved from home, back to the hospital. His condition was that bad. Those "in the know" probably were aware this was the final stage. The "death watch" had been on for seven days or so. Maybe I knew it too. But I guess I just pictured him going on and on, in that condition, for a longer time. To this day, I have a hard time letting go of some things. It was sure evident then.

His condition was bad. I'm sure he was heavily sedated. I attended school that day. But I'm betting mom was with him most of the day. Not at the store. I don't think I saw dad on the 9th. Whether by coincidence, or by design of the adults. I can't recall the day I last saw him alive. Maybe two or three days before.

I know it was a nice, Spring day. When I got home from school, one of the first things I did was hop on my Honda Mini-Trail 50. Usually, it was ridden on the track made in the yard. Today though, I got it over the ditch in the backyard, and across Clinton Street to a big farm field that has since been developed. 20 acres or so, it provided more room to ride, but it was more boring than the track in the yard. Not yet planted for the season, I rode up and down the rows.

At some point, the mini-bike experienced trouble. Stalled and quit running. There are no excuses for behaving like an asshole, but, I was already on edge. This set me off. I threw the mini-bike down and began kicking it. Then, hearing something, or sensing something near, I stopped and looked around. One of our neighbors, Phil Casteel, was walking towards me. I blushed with shame. He'd surely seen what I'd been doing.

Phil and Carolyn lived just up the street. Two of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. Christian people. They had three children. Tom and Marcia were grown and out of the house then. The youngest son, Michael, was still around. Mike was probably six or seven years younger than me.

Casteels volunteered, or were asked to help out, and feed me dinner. Phil had walked to the field to invite me, and tell  me what time to be at their house. This is another indication that mom was probably sticking close to dad's bed side. And another indication those in charge did not want me there too. To see him die.

The mini-bike was done. I got it back to the garage, hung around the house alone for awhile, then walked up to Casteel's house for dinner. Their kitchen table was near windows too. Just like ours. Phil, Carolyn, Mike, and I ate. The mood didn't seem all that somber, but I think conversation was sparse. Michael has recently told me, even though he was still a young boy at that time, he was aware of the situation and felt sorry for me.

Dinner was nice. I don't think it had been more than over when a call came in to Casteel's home. Or a car just showed up in their driveway with no notice. It was Ed Pease, one of dad's best friends. I was handed off to him and bid the Casteel's good-bye after thanking them for dinner.

There may have been silent communication between Pease and Casteel's More so, if he'd called first.

I got in Ed's car. He was a big man with a voice to match. Sort of like Paul Harvey. Deep, and a good tone. He didn't have a lot to say, and he didn't make much eye contact. I didn't think anything too much of it. I assumed we were headed to the hospital to see dad. Or to Aunt Betty's house to hang out.

"I'm afraid your mother's got some bad news for you," Pease spoke, about halfway to the destination. It could only mean one thing. But I had to ask. "Is he dead?" Or, "He's not dead, is he?", I quizzed Pease. Ed said nothing. Just stared ahead, out the window of the car.

We pulled up to Aunt Betty's house, directly across from Illini Hospital. A bunch of cars were around. We got out of the car, walked up the steps that cut through the small hill on the sidewalk to her patio, through the door that led into her sun porch, and up a step into the kitchen. All this happened in slow motion.

Once in the kitchen, things sped up. I moved my head from left to right, looking around, trying to get a read on what was going on. Everybody had congregated in the big kitchen. I have zero recollection of who was there, except for Pease and Aunt Betty. Mom was not there. I felt panic and anxiety.

Not much time had passed before the noise of the back door shutting signaled more people arriving. It was mom and Dr. Bunting. They'd made the short walk across the hospital lawn to Betty's house. Mom was crying hard. Bunting was stoic and supporting mom. His right arm around her shoulder, his left hand on her arm and elbow.

It was that moment when I knew dad was truly gone.

Everyone remained in the kitchen. I bolted into Aunt Betty's den, landed in a big, overstuffed, round chair, and wailed. Someone made a move to come console me. Dr. Bunting advised them to let me be. "Let him bawl," I heard the doctor say from the kitchen.

I had noted in my diary that dad died around 9 p.m. I would swear it was earlier than that. I remember it being still light. The late stages of dusk.

I cried and cried until I couldn't cry anymore. I don't know how late we stayed there. Eventually, people dispersed. Mom and I made it home. I don't remember if a friend or relative stayed with us that night.

My original diary entry is disjointed because I think I'd made part of an entry, thinking that would be it for the day. When dad died, I added that announcement later.

Obviously, I remember a great deal more from that day than was put to paper. The details are so real. Living it and recounting it were, and are, surreal.

Three months to the day. He was diagnosed February 9th. He died May 9th.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 2nd

May 2nd, 1973: I haven't been very faithful in writing, but I thought I better let you know about dad. He is not very well. He was in the hospital for about a week. They were trying to get his strength back, and to just let him rest. Well, eventually, he did get to come home. But I don't think he has gained an ounce of strength back. His crap is runny, and he has to have someone stay with him while I am at school and mom is at work.

I think now, I must face up to the fact that he may be laying in bed and dying. There are brown spots where he took the cobalt. And he was once a strong man, he is now very weak. There is hardly enough skin on his rump to cover his bones. And the clincher is that he has things mixed up mentally. Last night, he woke up at 4 a.m. and asked mom, "Who took me to St. Louis in an airplane?" (He has been in bed since Good Friday.) And tonight, he thought Mary Ruth had left him $80. (There was no money to be found.)

So. All we can do now is hope and pray.

May 2nd, 2013: Reading the original diary notes, and typing them in here, was a smack in the head. Dad was at the end of the line. April must have been a horrible month. Looking way back to the beginning, I'd guess he had stage four lung cancer when he was diagnosed on February 9th. Things had gone downhill so fast.

It was a just a matter of time now.

I have filled in a few blanks from April, with a few situations and incidents I remember. I wish I hadn't suspended the diary. I wish I could remember more details.

The cancer had obviously spread to his brain. There was the "airplane ride" moment. Mary Ruth refers to our good friend, Mary Ruth Kendall. I can't recall if Mary Ruth had been to the house for a visit, or not, the day dad dreamed of her leaving money. He was convinced she'd left the money on a table or nightstand. I remember us responding to dad's inquiry by actually looking about the room. We wanted him to see us making the effort to find the "money." We didn't want to dismiss him. Anything we could do to put him at ease, physically or mentally, we did.

And to this end, I have no idea whether he was being sedated and medicated while at home. Surely he must have been. Margaret Dixon would have been the one to administer the stuff. Dad was in moderate pain, I'm sure. But he didn't complain much. Maybe, hopefully, due to the medication. No kid or wife wants to see their dad or husband suffer. No one in any situation like this, would want to see a loved one suffer.

Going back to his state of mind at this point.... I have read and heard, that terminal patients with brain cancer, often revert back to their past. I've also been told that, even though they can't communicate, one of the last things to leave them is their hearing.

Dad was coming up with a lot of stuff "out of left field." Some of it made no sense at all. But I can remember him rambling on at one point about running around with Art Biddle. I knew Art as the local dairy man. He owned Biddle Dairy. It was located behind the post office. There was a loading dock. Sometimes, Art would sit out there on the dock. He had delivered milk, in glass bottles, around town. One of his stops used to be Phil and Carolyn Casteel's house, on our street. The kids in the neighborhood would run to his truck while he made his stop there. It was a "UPS style" truck. Sliding door, easy in and out. Art might let us ride a couple of houses in the truck, before giving us the boot and going on his way.

Apparently, Art and my dad did some running around together when they were younger. Maybe when dad was single, and between his first wife and my mom. Before I was born, for sure. I knew nothing of this. It was fascinating to me, that the cancer in his brain was triggering memories from 20 or more years prior. There were other recollections from dad too. But I don't remember every one them.

I abandoned my original diary again after May 2nd. I didn't pick it up again until May 9th. Somewhere in the next seven days, dad left 717 Prospect Street  for the last time, and was taken back to Illini Hospital, there in Pitttsfield.

The blog will return on May 9th. The day he died.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May 1st, Part Two

May 1st, 1973 & 2013: This is the second of two blogs on dad today. These are the final two incidents that I can remember taking place in April. The month I did not write in my original diary. One incident involves a new bicycle. The other, mowing the lawn. The chronological order of the April incidents I've blogged about has proven to be a bit jumbled.

I'm almost certain I had a new bike well before May 1st. I can remember riding it back and forth from our house to visit dad in the hospital earlier than this. I'd go visit dad alone. Mom was at the store until five. I'd ride home from school, then ride back to the hospital to visit dad.

Visiting dad in the hospital made me feel grown up. It was role reversal. I was looking after him. Not him looking after me, like he had when I'd been in the hospital a couple of times. If only it were as simple as a broken bone for him. He watched me get better. I watched him die.

The new bike came about like this. Dad had lost his Schwinn franchise a year or two before, when he couldn't meet Schwinn's unreasonable demands to build a separate shop and be able to sell "x amount" of bikes in such a small town.

We'd picked up the Huffy line. Good bikes, but no Schwinn. I wanted a Schwinn. A Continental model, in the "opaque blue" color. However, It wouldn't look good for the son of the guy who sells Huffys to be riding around on a Schwinn.

Dad was in pretty bad condition. Not totally "with it" in his mind anymore. Very weak in general. By no means did I want to exploit his condition, but I wanted that bike. Mom suggested I approach him.

One day, I tip-toed up to the right side of the bed where he was resting. I think mom was with me too. I don't remember word for word, but he granted me permission to buy the bike. There wasn't even a discussion. He just said "yes," or "o.k." I was surprised. He'd never been a pushover before. And this could have an affect on bicycle sales at the store. I thanked him.

I was happy, but not excited, or gloating. In some ways, I almost felt like I'd taken advantage of him. "Put one over on him." I felt a little guilty.

I'd hung a leather tool kit bag from the front handlebars. It was big enough to accommodate a radio. In an early blog, I talked of how popular Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" was. Late winter had moved to spring. The unavoidable song on the radio at this time was "Stuck in the Middle With You," by Stealer's Wheel.

The last vivid memory of April involved the riding lawnmower. I'd been handling the mowing chores for a couple of years or more by this time. When I was younger, dad would sit on the rider, I'd stand on the rear fenders, hold his shoulders, and mow with him. Only a low tree branch would force me to bail off.

Mowing season had arrived. This might have been the first one of the year. The lawnmower was sitting in the breezeway, I was filling it with gas and getting it ready. Dad was actually out of bed, skinny as a rail, in his robe, and out on the breezeway with mom, watching me prepare to mow.

"Did you check the oil in that?" he asked me. "Yeah," I answered. His gaze didn't leave me. I looked at him, then looked away. He knew I was lying. I knew I was lying. I have forgotten what he said, but it wasn't pleasant. The look he gave me, the words he spoke, said I was going to have to man up and be a lot more responsible around the house.

Dad detested liars. This was likely the last time in my life I got "the look," and an "ass chewing" from him.

May 1st, Part One

May 1st, 1973 & 2013: A two part blog about dad today. I've looked ahead at my original diary. It picks up again tomorrow, May 2nd. As a true procrastinator, a born journalist working on a deadline, I've got to squeeze two more April tales in before the story goes downhill, turns sad, and concludes.

As explained in yesterday's blog. Events happened in April that I remember, but didn't enter in my diary. The diary was suspended for a month. I don't think I cared to face the facts, and put my observations on  paper.

Yesterday's blog was about dad and Uncle Ray. And a stolen moment between the two, that I got to hear. In retrospect, that probably happened a week or ten days before this time period. Dad was still able to be up, and around the house at that point. But he was definitely weak.

He was not so, as I remember today's incident. He was bed ridden, and the cancer was taking his mind. He was becoming incoherent. It was obvious, but I refused to give up. It's strange to think this way. I've nearly given up on myself a few times in life. But as sick as he was, I refused to give up on dad. I was still waiting for a miracle.

This time, it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Dad was in bed. Mom was in the kitchen, or doing something around the house. The Celtics were on television in the family room. Late season or playoffs. I guess it doesn't matter. I've talked of dad being a "closet" Celtics fan, and how I became a huge fan at a young age because of sensing that in dad.

I wanted that bond with him, this afternoon. To watch the game together. I made the suggestion to mom. "Can dad come out and watch the game with me?" Her reply was something like, "Oh no, hon. He's way too sick for that."

Years and years later, I was sitting on my sofa here in Galesburg. I had the Celtics on the tube. Dad's rocking chair, the one he loved sitting in so much, was in the room behind the t.v. I didn't move, or set anything up. I just took a frame or two.

The Celtics and dad's rocking chair. 



Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 30th

April 30th, 1973 & 2013: If you've been reading along, you know I failed to maintain my diary in the month of April in 1973, when dad was sick, and dying of cancer. But there were a handful of events, four or five, that I remember clearly. And though the chronological order of those happenings is somewhat jumbled, they are crystal clear. Even after 40 years.

Here's another one. A funny one, but a "racy" one. Read on if you care too.

As dad's condition diminished, he spent more and more time in bed, in his and mom's bedroom. His energy was all but gone. The cancer was spreading to his brain. He was not mentally "out of it" yet, but he was frail. Pitiful, actually. He'd once been pretty rotund.

There was a period of time in April when he was sent home from the hospital. He'd wind up back in the hospital again. And that's where he'd die. But this incident took place at home.

Not knowing how long he'd live, we'd had central air-conditioning installed at the house. The idea being that it would keep him cool and comfortable over the summer. This was quite a luxury. Before this, we had 2-3 window fans. In the summer, the big thing was to get our baths when it would cool down. Then, sit out on the patio in the summer evening before going to bed. Avoid the heat of the house as long as possible. Falstaff was consumed by the parents. Occasionally, a bullfrog would visit from mom's flower beds.

When I look back on those times, repeated over and over for many summers, I think of a line from a James McMurtry song. "Mama used to roll her hair. Back before the central air. We'd sit outside and watch the stars at night."

The second addition that spring, was an extension telephone. The one and only phone was in the kitchen, not far from the back door. The extra phone was put in mom and dad's bedroom. Again, it looked more and more like dad would be spending time in bed. If the phone rang, and he were able to talk, or if mom or a caregiver were in the room... it would save many steps, and a rush to the kitchen phone.

One evening the phones rang. It was Aunt Erma and Uncle Ray, from Macomb, calling to check in. The conversations went on. Everyone talked. And with two phones, more than one could listen and chime in.

Dad was using the phone in his room. Mom had said her piece and was off doing something. I was on the kitchen phone, listening to the banter between Uncle Ray and dad. Their talk had been serious, but as things were winding down, the subject matter went in a different direction. Uncle Ray obviously believed I'd already hung up the phone in the kitchen.

"Are you still getting a little pussy?" Uncle Ray asked dad. There was a pause. I don't even know that dad knew I was still on the line. "Well, age starts to take care of that too," dad answered, something along those lines.

I hung up the phone with the stealthiness of a cat burglar. Very gently laid it back in the cradle. Not a sound.

Soon after the call ended, dad got out of bed for some reason. I was in the kitchen and headed to my room. He was in his room and headed to the kitchen. We passed in the dining room. There was enough light that I could see him looking at me, a wry grin on his face. He knew I'd heard the conversation. I said absolutely nothing. Neither did he. A silent exchange. A knowing moment. Funny stuff.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 27th

April 27th, 1973 & 2013: Though I'm not sure of the exact date, somewhere near the end of April, dad was discharged from the hospital and sent home. There was nothing more that could be done. Whether the decision was made by dad, mom and dad, mom, dad, and Doctor Bunting, I really don't know.

As dad came home, arrangements had been made for him to have care during the day, while I was at school, and mom was at the hardware store. She was spending more and more time there, having gotten a "crash course" in running a the business from dad when he was diagnosed. The "hands off" approach she'd had in all those years before were going to come back on us the next couple of years after dad would die. Mom tried, but she was in over her head. The store eventually was sold. Around 1976, I believe.

The lady who would look after dad was Margaret Dixon. She lived right across the street from us, one door north. She was a retired nurse. Mrs. Dixon lived alone in a small house. She kept her property neat as a pin. Margaret drove an Edsel or Studebaker, I think. Her dog's name was Pepper. Margaret had a gravelly voice. She was single, in a neighborhood full of kids. But she fit right in and tolerated all the commotion over the years. She was a perfect fit for looking after dad. I don't know what her compensation was. She might have given her services for nothing. It wouldn't surprise me.

It was right around this time that I was finally made to understand where this was all headed. And in no uncertain terms. It took Aunt Betty to do it.

I was riding with her, in her car. She'd come to our house to pick me up. It was late afternoon or very early evening. I remember it was warm, and the spring had that great quality of light that time of day. Mom must have still been at the hardware store. The fact that I was not riding my bike makes me think something was up. Aunt Betty, mom, and I were likely going to meet at Aunt Betty's house, which was directly across the street from the hospital, and go visit dad a day or two before he was released.

I can remember the exact location. We'd just turned off Clinton Street, heading East on Washington Street. We were in front of the hospital, about a half block from her house. The conversation had centered on dad during the short car ride. Aunt Betty wasn't trying to be mean at all. I must have asked a question that opened the door for her to lay it on the line.

"Kent. Your daddy is going to die."

I don't recall crying. But the conversation ended. We were at her house by then anyway.




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 24th

April 24th, 1973 & 2013: As the month of April wore on, dad continued to wear out. My last blog mentioned all the rain we were getting in 1973. It created an epic flood, at least for that time period. 40 years later, history repeats its self. By this time in 1973, though, I remember some really nice spring days. Water was rising in the two rivers that separate Pike County, but there was a mix of sunshine too.

As dad's condition worsened, he spent more and more time in Illini Hospital. The hospital is located on Washington Street, not all that far from our house on Prospect Street. From our driveway, to Clinton Street, and North on Clinton three blocks.

I'm not certain, but I recall dad bouncing back and fourth from the hospital and home for a good portion of that month. I can't recall how much time he was able to spend at the hardware store, but I don't think much. I didn't keep a diary in April. But by this time, anyone with any intuition would recognize dad was winding down.

When he was at the hospital, there was one room in particular that dad seemed to be assigned to. It was on the second floor, and it was the most southwest room on the floor. Right in the corner. It was a big, airy, bright room. The windows were big, and you had a good view of the surroundings. Right out the windows was the big, green, hospital lawn. Across Clinton Street was George Webel's big white house. Doctor O'Connell's veterinarian clinic was to the southwest. Across Washington Street was Marshall and Jane Chassion's huge brick house, complete with its own little patch of woods, running along Clinton Street.

This room sort of became dad's room. On occasion, he had a roommate. But most of the time it was just  him. There were the two beds. A north and south. Dad was in the south bed, further from the door and hallway.

During his brief, early hospital stays, he was also on the second floor. Also a south room, but located more towards the middle of the building. I think a nurse's station was nearby. This room was smaller and darker. It was in this room I can remember a situation from earlier on in dad's plight. He was sitting in a wheelchair, about to be taken out of the room for tests or something. As they were about to wheel him out, he said something to me, I don't recall exactly what it was, and he teared up.

The big room, where he spent most of his time, belied the worsening situation. As hospital rooms go, it was actually "cheery."

This was the room dad received a steady stream of visitors. Dad had many friends. Dad and his friends often played practical jokes on each other. "If you're going to dish it out, you have to be able to take it," he told me many times.

A couple of years earlier, in January of 71' or 72', the second floor of the hardware store building caught fire. It was in an office we rented out. Water came down through the ceiling and caused quite a bit of damage in the store. Most items had to be individually cleaned. Some were lost. John Blake, a friend of dad's who owned The Bowl, came in the store soon after the fire. Water was everywhere. Blake handed dad a half dozen kitchen sponges to clean up the mess, tongue firmly in cheek.

On this spring day in 1973, at the hospital, I happened to be in the "big room," hanging out with dad. There was a knock on the door. In came Roger Yaeger and Ben Johnson. Yaeger's family owned Floyd's Jewelry. That business was two doors down from the hardware store, to the north. Ben Johnson owned a Massey Ferguson implement dealership west of town. They were good guys. Johnson, in particular, was (and still is) a real character. Ben could tell a joke a day for a year, and you would not hear the same joke twice. Most of them were raunchy.

Yaeger and Johnson came bearing gifts for dad this day. A Playboy magazine and a colorful flower. The flower was in a vase. The vase was an empty Michelob bottle.

The laughter made the room even lighter.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

April 11th

April 11th, 1973 & 2013: The original diary, journaling dad's fight with cancer, came to a halt in the early part of April, 1973. I'd grown bored of writing. Or, my defense mechanisms took over, and I didn't care to chronicle what was happening to him. What we were seeing him become. However. There are some specific incidents I remember from that month. 40 years later, I'm finally getting them recorded in these sporadic, April blogs. My original diary picks up again in early May.

The rain... All this rain in the past couple of days reminds me of another scene that took place in our kitchen. Pittsfield and the area had been getting plenty of rain in 1973, around this very same time. In fact, it eventually led to a big flood that spring. One of the worst in many years. Not as severe as the 1993 flood. But close.

Dad's condition was really worsenening. And it was getting worse, day by day. April was a month where he was in and out of Illini Hospital. By this point, I believe the cobalt treatments were near complete, or completed. They'd been a complete failure. He was losing weight and energy by the day. This is not exaggeration.

But, during this one rainy spell. It must have been early-mid April, just like now, he was home. The kitchen was yet again, the scene of this incident. Dad was in his robe, looking skinny and gaunt. The kitchen sink was a two bay sink. Located at the southeast corner of the room, it was set right in the that corner of the countertop. You could stand at the sink and have a nice view out two windows. One faced east, to a big, blue spruce tree. One faced south to the patio.

Dad was standing there at the sink, kind of hunched over. His head was bowed down some, but he appeared to be looking out the windows. From where I was sitting, at the kitchen table, the scene looked like that famous black and white photograph of John F. Kennedy, also hunched over, silhouetted against the windows of the oval office.

I wandered over to him. He'd been standing there for a couple of minutes. I'm not sure where mom was at this time. I saw why he was facing away from me. He had tears in his eyes.

"What's the matter, dad," I asked? "Nothing," he answered. "I just wish it would quit raining."

Gloom. Gloomy outside. Gloomy inside.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April 2nd

April 2nd, 1973: Dad went to see Dr. Bunting about his neck today. But Dr. Bunting swears up and down that it's not malignant. But he did give dad all kinds of pills. And dad just rested tonight.

April 2nd, 2013: I sounded like a "broken record." Always and still the optimist. Even though there was a lump in dad's neck. It didn't grow by magic. It was very likely cancerous. Had to have been. The disease was spreading upwards in his body.

Dr. Bunting would certainly not deceive my dad, or parents, with a diagnosis. The only thing I can think of, and it's taken me 40 years to put two and two together, is that my parents may not have been telling me the whole truth. Telling the truth was probably dad's number one rule in life. Certainly in the top two or three. But being too truthful with a 14 year old kid about the fact that cancer is killing you, would probably cause more trauma than necessary for the kid.

Later in life, even now, sometimes it takes awhile for me to figure things out on my own. Despite the cynicism and sarcasm, there's an optimism. I hope for the best. It's a natural defense mechanism to filter out the cold, hard facts in some situations. I was a lot more innocent then than now. My parents were probably not telling me the whole truth. Whatever they would say, I hung on every word.

It would take a blunt statement from Aunt Betty, in the next few weeks ahead, to make me understand where this was headed. I don't fault my parents if the "white lies" route was the route they were taking at the time. All I have to do is put myself in their shoes. Who knows what is right or wrong in those circumstances? No parent would tell a six year old they were dying. If I'd been 17 or 18, I would deserve the truth, and probably know the truth. 14 was an awkward age for me to fully comprehend what was happening. Maybe I really knew? I can't answer that question 40 years later.

I must have known enough. I was figuring it out. We were watching dad decline day by day. There had been a lapse of seven days of not making diary entries while we were visiting Lynn. Then, there was a more recent lapse of five days. In the past, I chalked those lapses up to denial or laziness. Likely, laziness.

But my original diary entry on April 2nd, 1973, would be my last one until May 2nd. A whole month.

This couldn't be laziness. I think this is the point where my mind involuntarily shut down my desire to put my thoughts and observations in writing. It was becoming really real. More sad and painful. Subconsciously, the defense mechanism kicked in. Not even wanting to write a diary like Jerry Kramer's "Instant Replay" was worth it.

Dad was soon to begin a series of extended hospital stays, becoming a physical wreck. And when the disease finished his body, it took his mind.

There are some details, incidents, and stories I remember from April of that year. Not the specific days they occurred, but what happened. A couple are actually pretty humorous.

In the next four weeks. Between today and May 2nd, I'll write 3-5 blogs and describe what was going on during that month of April.


Monday, April 1, 2013

April 1st.

April 1st, 1973: We drove to Macomb today, to see Uncle Ray. And, I might have seen him for the last time. He has to go through 20 cobalt treatments. And with his age and his weight against him, I don't think he can take them all.

April 1st, 2013: There had been no diary entries since March 26th. I'd let five days pass. Skipping days of journaling was getting to be a habit. And it was about to get worse. That was, and is, a shame.

Uncle Ray had been diagnosed with cancer at not all that long ago. After dad's diagnosis. I've talked to his son Jon. Jon told me a charcoal sized, coal black, chunk of tissue had been removed  from his throat early on, after the diagnosis. Uncle Ray had been a long time cigarette smoker, had quit them, and taken up a pipe. He was a small man. Short and thin. Frail looking, but I think he could be tough if pushed. I've mentioned him before. A World War I veteran.

I didn't make any specific notes about what the day was like in Macomb. How long we stayed, or of any incidents involving sad moments or sad words.

Reading my original entry makes me think I was trying to be "grown up," and face the fact that we could lose Uncle Ray. It was still that mentality of something happening to the "other person," not someone in my immediate family. Uncle Ray had 16 years on my dad. That would have put him around 73 at the time.

Uncle Ray outlived dad by 10 months. Just like I suspected, he was a tough old man.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sunday and the Boston Celtics

I developed a passion for the Boston Celtics in the mid 60's. They got a lot of television exposure in those days. That's how I "found" them. They were a great team. My dad "sort of" liked them, and they played on a cool, parquet floor. To say I loved them is not an understatement. The 1974 team is my all-time favorite.

A year and a half into my career as a professional photojournalist in Macomb, Illinois, the light "went on" in my head, and I decided to try and use my position in an attempt to get photo credentials to shoot a Celtics game. I'd shot a few Cardinal football games in St. Louis, and felt it was time to branch out to another sport. 

A Bulls vs. Celtics game in Chicago was the obvious location choice. Logistics and cost made it a no-brainer. Chicago Stadium was pretty cool too. It was built in 1929. Only Boston Garden, built in 1928, was older, and had more character. 

Using Macomb Daily Journal letterhead, I composed a request to Bulls media man Tim Hallam, to shoot a game when the Celtics would visit. Tim responded with a call. I know it was by phone, because I remember his words. 

"Naw. Unless you have a player of local interest, I can't do it. I'd have to have a good excuse to justify it, if one of the big boys ran over you."

Strike one. 

Four years later,  I worked in the Chicago market. I dealt with Tim for ten years while covering the Bulls. He's a nice man. He was just doing his job. And I never have told him this story. But at the time, I wasn't happy with him. 

Not to give up, I figured "what the hell?" I'll put the same request in to the Celtics. How cool would it be to shoot them in the fabled "garden?" I mailed a nearly identical request to Jeff Twiss, the media man for the Celtics. 

No more than three days later, I got a call on the intercom that connected the darkroom to the newsroom. "Kent, come down here. You have a phone call."

"Hello," I said. A man spoke. "Kent, this is Jeff Twiss." "Who," I asked? He responded. "Jeff Twiss, of the Celtics." "OH!" was my reply. The letter had made it through the mail in record time, and Twiss responded in record time. Also with a call. I wasn't expecting to hear anything that soon. His call caught me off guard. 

"I got your request here," he said. "What game would you like to come out and shoot?" At this point, my jaw was on the ground, and I was dancing around the newsroom, tethered by the phone cord. He gave me my choice of a game with New Jersey, or one with the Knicks. Remembering the rivalries between the Celtics and Knicks in the 60's, I chose the Knicks. 

The game date was Easter Sunday, 1985. Not sure how I'd get there, or pay for the trip, I was going to go. If I had to drive. If I had to hitchhike. 

My annual salary was around $12,000. I had to fly. But it wasn't going to be first class. I looked for a bargain. 

People Express was a no frills, discount airline. Passengers paid their fare by cash or check while in flight. Don't believe me? Look it up. Unbelievable in today's world. I booked a round trip from O'Hare, to Logan International. 

On the flight east, the attendant came around to collect. I got out my checkbook. She was polite, but asked, "Do you have a major credit card?" Having ANY credit card was "major" to me at that age. "Yeah," I told her. "I've got an Amoco card." She laughed and said, "Well, if this check bounces, we''ll just throw you out the door on the flight home."

The money saved flying a discount airline was lost on the choice of lodging. The Logan Airport Hilton. I'm not a Hilton kind of guy. But the flight got in late, and the hotel was right there at the airport. A shuttle, or cab ride away. 

Staying at a Hilton had perks. It was the first time I'd ever seen a stocked mini fridge. I thought, "Ahhh, this is awfully nice of them." I helped myself to a Hershey's bar and Heineken. The next morning at checkout, I found out I had to pay for that stuff. 

I woke early on Easter morning. I had packed light for a one night stay. One bag of clothes, and my camera gear. I'd be heading back to the airport immediately after the game, and had to drag everything along that morning. Taking the metro train, I wound up downtown.

With time to kill, I caught a few sights. North Church. The U.S.S. Constitution. It was a warm, sunny morning. People were out, and they were friendly. "Happy Eas-tah to ya," they greeted me in their Boston accents. 

Finding my way to North Station and Boston Garden, it was difficult to get an good exterior shot of the building. It wasn't as open and free standing as Chicago Stadium, or The Arena in St. Louis. There were other structures around it. 

I presented my credential and was through the turnstiles. Walking into the home of a sports dynasty. Bill Russell played here. Dave Cowens played here. Larry Bird was playing here. 

My photo credential
Right there along the baseline of that famous parquet floor, a spot had been reserved for me. "Kent Kriegshauser/Macomb Daily Journal." I looked around the place in awe, and with reverence. I wished dad could have seen this. 

A game is a game, is a game. This one was just another game during regular season. Of no real importance to anyone other than me. I made pictures on the 4-5 rolls of slide film, and no more than 2 rolls of black and white film, I'd brought along. At the other end of the court, I spotted legendary Celtics photographer Dick Raphael. A big man, he was shooting too. Not from the floor, but sitting on a milk crate. 

Just before halftime, I left my spot and climbed the steps to the upper section. There, I photographed down on the floor below, and all those championship banners above. 

The game passed way too quickly. I hoped for overtime, but it didn't happen. The Celtics won. 

I packed up, took a cab to the airport, and was on my way back to Chicago. Halfway through a whirlwind trip. 

The earlier check hadn't bounced. I was not thrown off the plane on the way home. 

It was late when the plane landed in Chicago on Sunday night. I had to be back at work early the next morning. I wanted to be at work the next morning. I wanted my photo credit under a Boston Celtics photograph that day in the Macomb Daily Journal. Who needs the Associated Press? I'd just been to Boston!

It was a long drive home. Highway time from O'Hare to Macomb, took longer than air time from Boston to O'Hare. I was really tired by this point. There were a few tedious moments when the eyes closed, the head bobbed forward, and the wheels found the shoulder of the road. 

Rolling in around dawn, I'm not sure I even went home and slept. It was all adrenaline. Film was processed, prints were made. Photos I'd made of the Boston Celtics less than 24 hours before, were published in the Macomb paper. Sports editor Joe Stevenson joked and said the readers "Would probably think the photo credit was a mistake."

 I came to appreciate that Tim Hallam turned my request down. And Jeff Twiss did not.

The Boston experience remains a highlight of my photography career. And one of the biggest thrills of my life.

Thanks, Jeff. And happy Easter to you. 

Celtics Vs. Knicks. Easter Sunday, 1985.




Friday, March 29, 2013

Schwinn Bikes and Good Friday, 1972

NOTE: THIS BLOG IS NOT RELATED TO THE STORY OF DAD AND HIS CANCER...

Schwinn bicycles were THE bike to have at one time. The Cadillac of bicycles. Built like tanks. Always stylish, innovative in design, and built right here in the good ol' USA, in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. They were a top shelf product.

Pittsfield Hardware, the store my grandpa and dad owned and operated for years, had been affiliated with at least a couple of hardware wholesalers. Witte, in St. Louis, was one. Later, Hardware Wholesalers Incorporated (HWI), in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

But, the store was able to choose outside vendors. Selling Schwinns was one such arrangement. The relationship between Pittsfield Hardware and Schwinn had been ongoing for several years.

The store moved a lot of bikes. We usually had six to eight models sitting on the floor. More in the warehouse. Those on the floor sat right under the front windows of the north room of the store. High visibility for those walking past on the sidewalk.

When I was little, I'd grab a "Pixie" model, (one with training wheels), and race it up and down the aisles of the store. If the hardwood floors had been oiled, I could spin the rear wheel moving forward, or skid for a few feet if I locked the rear brake. No customers were harmed during these exercises.

Donald "Peachy" Foreman was dad's right hand man. He could fix anything, assemble anything, and even engineer things. He was the "bike man," no doubt. Kids needing their bikes fixed came looking for Peachy.

The bikes arrived in cardboard boxes. I can still smell the combination of metal and cardboard. I'd be anxious to see what Peachy and dad had ordered. What model, what color? Assembly generally meant attaching seats, handlebars, pedals, and a few more accessories. The five and ten speed models required a bit of "gear tweaking." and setting the alignment of the brake pads.

In the 1960's, "sissy bars" were popular. They were seat post extensions, rising three feet or so above the normal seat post. "Banana" seats, "Rams Horn" handlebars... Peachy gave some items his own stamp. He called handlebar tape, "ape tape." and toe clips for pedals, "rat traps."

Schwinn used to put out high quality catalogs. Lots of the bike photography was done at Knotts Berry Farm. There were descriptions, color options, and costs listed.

In the late 60's, 1969 I think, Schwinn hit a grand slam with the introduction of a model called the "Orange Krate." A slick rear wheel, small front wheel with a drum brake. A shifter on the center post. Banana seat. Made to look like a top fuel dragster. It was a revolutionary bike, listing for the huge sum at that time of $100.

The store got one. The bike was so exotic, so special, I was told up front, there'd be no "test riding" this one. It sold to a classmate of mine. He was the envy of the town.

Dad had a special deal with paper boys. The guys who delivered the Quincy and Jacksonville papers  could buy bikes on credit. Make payments just like people do with cars. They could put $5 down, and make payments of $1 a week. Dad wanted to sell bikes. He also wanted to teach kids responsibility.

The Schwinn and Pittsfield Hardware relationship went on for years. A win-win situation for both parties.

In the spring of 1972, the success of the Schwinn brand apparently gave the company a big head. They were huge, they were the best. They decided to change the rules of the game with whom they dealt with. Out of nowhere, with no warning, dad got a call from them, telling him that, in order to keep his Schwinn franchise, the store would have to meet at least two conditions. 1. Be able to sell something like 200 bikes a year. 2. Build a free standing, independent bike shop, separate from the hardware store.

Pittsfield's population is around 4,000 people. There was no way we could sell that many bikes. And, even if we could, there was no way dad would, or could, invest the kind of money it would take to build the separate shop.

The marriage between bike company and hardware store fell apart quickly. Dad was going to lose his long standing Schwinn franchise. All because of Schwinn's greed and arrogance. Dad was genuinely hurt. He was a little bit angry, and mostly bitter.

The final conversation he had with the company, was a phone call on Good Friday of that year. The store phone was mounted on a post near the back of the store. Right by the steps that led up to his little loft office, and near the catalog area.

Mom and Aunt Betty happened to be at the store that day. They were standing around, listening to the conversation. The exchange grew heated. Dad's anger and frustration were obvious to the two women.

Finally, it was over. Schwinn hung up first. But mom and Aunt Betty didn't know this. This is when dad's sense of humor kicked in. Mom and Aunt Betty still stood listening, thinking the conversation was still ongoing.

Dad offered one final comment to "Schwinn" ( a dead line at this point).

"There's just one more thing I want to tell you." Dad paused for the affect.

"I hope every one of you sons of bitches drops dead on Easter Sunday," he said in a calm voice.

The women were horrified. "Oh, Virg," they said in unison.

It's true. A legendary Virg Kriegshauser story.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26th

March 26th, 1973: Dad started his second series of cobalt today. He says this series tires him out awful bad. But outside of that, he feels just fair. We are concerned now, with a growing lump in his neck, which worries us.

March 26th, 2013: The 26th was a Monday. We'd been home from Tacoma for five days. Dad got a little chance to rest up and rebound from the trip, before this second series of cobalt treatments. The first round involved seven or so, if I remember correctly. I'm not sure of the number they were targeting in this second, and what would be the last series. If there were plans for a third series, they were never needed.

The original diary entry notes that dad commented how the treatments wore on him. But, this was his first treatment. He was either jumping to conclusions, based on the first series. Or, he made the comment the same evening, having returned from another ride to Quincy and back. My diary entry must have been made late in the evening. I almost always wrote my diary from my "office" in the basement. I was out of sight, out of mind, down there. Mom and dad probably thought I was racing my h.o. cars.

His strength and stamina were fading anyway. He didn't have the strength to remain "up" for the treatments. I have no way of knowing where his will to live was. I am of the belief that a person's will accounts for a lot of the battle. In the beginning, the dog was wagging its tail. Dad was in control. Lately, the tail was wagging the dog. Cancer was taking control.

Now the neck issue, noted in that days entry. I wonder if it was on the same side of his body as the shoulder issue? I don't remember. A lump had popped up, catching his, or the doctor's attention. I wonder how this was received? How it was diagnosed?

I know where this story goes. How it ends. With the benefit of hindsight, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the cancer was spreading. Spreading upwards in his body. Making its way to his brain.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24th

March 24th, 1973: I don't think dad feels good at all today. But the doctors predicted this, because the cobalt is starting to wear off. He goes back for more treatment Monday. I also found out that Art Cookie died of cancer (dad told me this). Then he threw some gum wrappers toward the ash tray, and threw them completely off the table. I don't think he had his mind in the right place.

March 24th, 2013: I'd skipped four days of making entries in my original diary. The last one being March 20th. The day we returned from the trip to see Lynn and her family. I'm not sure why I had done so. Maybe I was busy, trying to get caught up with school, and everything else, after being gone for a week.

The original diary entries are beginning to reveal the fact that dad was feeling worse. Even my optimism was waning. Dad's too. Much of the time before, he'd always say he felt "good," or "strong." He wasn't saying things like this so much anymore.

In hindsight. He definitely was getting worse. His condition was deteriorating. There's been no mention of any hospital stays yet. There had been only one, early on, during testing. That was for a night or two. Nothing recent, however.

The trip to the northwest had been put together in a pretty quick fashion. Supporting the theory of urgency.

He was gearing up for another round of treatments. I wonder if he knew it was futile by this point? That he had to go along with them, just in case they may prolong his life? He had a lot to live for. Mom and me. The store. Mainly himself, I'd like to think.

Tacoma may have been a turning point. Lynn had Roger to lean on. Mom and I were a little more on our own. Not that it would make it one bit easier for Lynn. It was hard on everyone. But, he was getting worse. The trip to Tacoma was accomplished. I am second guessing him, but I wonder if his will was beginning to falter? Dad was no quitter. But cancer is ruthless.

Art Cookie was a Pittsfield man. If I recall, he was a general contractor. A carpenter. He was a good customer at the store. His son's name was Jimmy. His wife Ruth may have been a cook at Higbee Junior High School. I don't know the exact date Art died. Or, what type of cancer he had. But dad noted it out loud at the table one evening, just before supper. I'm not sure if mom was in the room or not.

Dad hardly ever chewed gum. The only thing I can think that was about, is that he wasn't smoking, and the gum was a substitute. He gave those gum wrappers a flick after telling me about Mr. Cookie, and was a mile off target.

Spring was near, but the mood was getting darker. Harder for dad to hide his worsening condition, and to appear strong. The shit was beating him.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20th

March 20th, 1973: We got back from Tacoma tonight. Mom didn't mind the flight after all. Everybody got a little emotional at the airport, before takeoff. But, we all enjoyed our stay. Lynn and Rog are coming back in June. Dad hasn't felt good today or yesterday.

March 20th, 2013: The trip home from Tacoma was on a Tuesday. I don't remember who all was along, to take us to the airport and see us off. Likely, just Lynn. Roger would have remained home with Rodney and Julie.

We had spent exactly a week there. Rodney was school aged. I was in eighth grade. I'm sure Rod took the week off from school while we were there. Both of us had some making up to do. Julie was younger, and missing so much school wouldn't impact her as much.

West to east flights are available at almost anytime. But the majority of them originate late in the afternoon to early evening. It's roughly a four hour flight. And, you jump two time zones coming home.

Aunt Betty was there to meet us in St. Louis. I recall that it was dark when we got in. I think she may have been driving a Buick LeSabre, a big car with lots of room. The luggage was piled into the trunk, dad likely rode shotgun, mom and I rode in the backseat. It was a quiet ride home. Some chit-chat about the trip. I may have snoozed some. Dad didn't feel well anyway. We were all worn out in general.

Based on my original diary entry, and the fact that dad wasn't feeling well, I doubt he opened the store the next day. He may have gone up eventually, though.

Mom was surely happy to have survived flying, a week away from home, and glad to be back to her own space.

For me, it would be get home, go to bed, and back to school the next morning. I was anxious to get those new blacklight posters up, and did so as soon as I got home from school the next day.

Looking back, the photos made from that trip, and the one I posted two days ago, were the last photos of dad ever made. We didn't make anymore. And I don't recall anyone else doing so either. The only other time we may have had a camera along, would have been a visit to Macomb, to see the Polers. With Uncle Ray having been diagnosed with cancer too, I think "fun times and picture days" were over.

Lynn was able to walk to the gate with us, and wait for our boarding call. What I can describe next surely had to have been one of the most difficult moments in my father and half-sister's lives.

When the boarding call came, I was naive' enough to think the three of us would say good-bye to Lynn, and that would be it. Some kind of understanding had been discussed or worked out, though.

Mom and I said our thank yous and good-byes. Then, mom took her cue. Dad lagged behind while we went ahead and boarded ahead of him.

What happened next, would have taken place in no more than 3-5 minutes.

Mom and I sat on the plane, waiting for dad. She looked worried and anxious. I picked up on it, and became real still and quiet. There had already been tears. But this was a real intense moment. I was too young, and too much the optimist, to realize the significance of what was going on between dad and Lynn.

I have never pried Lynn for details, but I did ask her, some years back, in general terms, what was said in those few minutes. Lynn told me it was one of the few, if not only time, that dad actually spoke the words, "I love you," to her.  Just like with mom and me, it wasn't his style. My dad certainly was not the romantic type. I've stated that before. He didn't have to tell us he loved us. We knew it and felt it.

Lynn was 33 or 34 then. She knew, and dad knew, that this might be it. Corys had made plans to come back to the midwest in June, assuming dad would be alive.

Dad eventually boarded, and was remarkably composed. We got in the air, and were on our way home.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop as I type this. So, I really can't cry. But, those last minutes dad had with Lynn had to have been brutal for both of them.

Absolutely brutal.

I feel sorry for Lynn.












Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18th

March 18th, 1973 & 2013: We were in Lakewood, Washington, to visit dads daughter Lynn, and her family, from the 14th through the 20th. The time spent in the northwest, and with the Corys, was winding down on this date.

It is difficult to recall specifics and details from the trip. But in general terms, I remember it going well. A positive experience for everyone. It needed to happen.

Most of the time, we all just hung around Lynn and Roger's home. They had a ranch style house. I think it had three bedrooms. Rodney, my nephew, had his room, and twin beds. I slept in his room. Mom and dad probably slept in Julie's, my niece, room. Or maybe Lynn and Roger's room, with Lynn and Roger taking Julie's room. Room was sparse. It was cozy for a week.

While the grown ups did their thing during the day, talking or whatever. Rod, Julie and I would occasionally join in whatever they were doing and "bug" them for awhile.

Cory's had a collie. A good sized one. The three of us would run from the dining room, into the living room, take a leap onto, and off the sofa, and back out to the dining room. The dog followed every step. Including the sofa leap. We riled the dog up, our actions riled the adults up.

There is a state run game farm a short bicycle ride from the house. Rod and I, maybe Julie too, would ride down to the property and look through the high, wire fence at deer, pheasants, peacocks, or whatever else we could see, including some big trout hatcheries.

We also took two major side trips. One to Olympia, the state capitol. Not to see history, and how the government works. But to tour the Olympia beer brewery. The parents sampled the goods. I may have bought a souvenir. Olympia was a big sponsor of the Vels-Parnelli Jones, Indycar team back then.

We also piled into a car and drove a bit of a distance up to Mt. Rainier. Far enough up, to a tourist shelter and information station, that there was still plenty of snow. Rod and I inner tubed down the hills on the snow.

While it was fun and games for us kids, I'm sure there were plenty of serious conversations going on with the adults. I recall none of them. I didn't catch a word. I'm betting most serious talk went on at night, after the younger set had been sent to bed. Those conversations had to have been "heavy." I've never asked Lynn, or discussed with her or Roger, what went on, or what the tone was during those talks, assuming there were some.

Corys had a pachinko machine. Pachinko machines come from Japan, are a bit like pinball without the flippers. A small steel ball is launched into the playing area, and filters down through a series of hundreds of little wire pins. They're part amusement, part gambling. I had never seen one before, and was fascinated. Any free time I had was spent in front of the pachinko machine. Eventually, a machine was shipped to Pittsfield. But it arrived so badly damaged from shipping abuse, that it was thrown in the trash.

And Rod, four years younger than me, had his bedroom all done up in the blacklight motif. Posters, a couple of mobiles... He would have been 10 years old, I think, at the time. Maybe nine. He's not a hippie now, sure wasn't then. But his room was decorated like a hippie's room. Rod rubbed off on me. At some point, we went shopping. I came home with 4-5 posters and a mobile of my own. I transformed my own room into an opium den, minus the opium.

I don't remember doing a lot of homework out there. I surely took some books. A week away from school was a lot to miss. It would have been hard to catch up one week, in all my classes. And though I don't believe any of my teachers would have given me a free pass. I am sure that they might have been easier on me in some ways, due to the circumstances of the visit.

I can't stress enough, how much support we got from friends of mom and dad, my classmates. Anyone who knew us.

There were some photos made during that trip. Not many, but a few. And I find this very interesting.
Mom was still the chief "photo taker" in those days. She used a little Kodak Instamatic, 110 format camera. The flash was a four sided cube that would rotate. Four flashes to each cube.

Flash cubes were either not packed, did not go off, or were deemed unnecessary at the time the photos were taken. I don't think there were more than a half dozen photos taken on that trip. That's all I have.

The nature of the trip may have also factored in as to how many shots were made. This was no vacation. Not a joyous occasion.

All of the photos are very dark and murky. Every single one. The non believers would simply chalk this up as a technical error. Either the camera, or mom, didn't do their job. The flash failed, or mom misjudged the lighting conditions.

I find it ironic that the the photos match the overall mood of that trip. For several months a year, the northwest can be a bit gray and gloomy anyway. It was a great visit. yes. But the underlying tone was very serious. Also gray and gloomy.

It's almost as if an outside source made sure those photos were void of detail. That they were purposely made to be dark, to mask any sadness that may have been otherwise visible.

Dad plays cards with his granddaughter, Julie. Dad didn't smile a lot for photos. Check out his smile!







Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 14th

March 14th, 1973 & 2013: Today's blog is all from memory. 40 year old memory. A little speculation. A few details as razor sharp now as they were then. Dad, mom, and I, flew to Lakewood, Washington to visit Lynn and her family. Lynn is dad's daughter from his first marriage.

Dad's sister, my Aunt Betty, drove us from Pittsfield to Lambert Field, the St. Louis airport. We flew into Sea-Tac, the airport that sits approximately halfway between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.

Dad was showing what the disease was doing to him. I know this from the benefit of photos that were taken on this trip. Weight loss was the most obvious. His skin was turning an odd color, too. No one had any idea of how much time he had left. Everyone hoped for the best. But, just in case... And, we'd never visited Lynn and Roger as a family anyway.

The drive from Pittsfield to St. Louis was always a beautiful one. And it usually meant a special occasion. Once across the Mississippi River at Louisiana, Missouri, the trip down Route 79 was fantastic. Rolling hills, the bluffs to the right, the river to the left. Little towns. Clarksville, Annada, Elsberry, Foley, and finally, O'Fallon, where 79 met Interstate 70. From there, it was 70 East to the airport, or on into St. Louis.

Forrest Keeling had a good-sized nursery along the route. We'd made stops there in years past. Usually on Mother's Day. Mom would shop for flowers and plants while dad walked with her and waited patiently. I'd be bored to death and pouting. There's a house in Clarksville that sits on the east side of Route 79. For as long as I can remember, even now, that house is painted a bright purple. Clarksville also had a small ski lift that went up the bluff to a lookout point and souvenir shop. South of Clarksville,  dad once pointed out an old box car. It sits off the road a ways. Been sitting there since it derailed in a train wreck years and years ago. It's still there today, weathering away.

Annada was known as a speed trap. Somewhere in this area, is a big farming operation. For years, a ribbon of white, wooden fencing, carved the property into pastures. I believe it's wire fencing now. In other changes, much of Route 79 bypasses a few of those little towns now. But then, it was pure Americana.

Trips to St. Louis meant something special. Far and above rides to Quincy, Jacksonville, Springfield, or Hannibal, Missouri.

The Beatles concert in 1966. Visits to the St. Louis Zoo. Christmas shopping with mom, Aunt Betty, and Aunt Erma at Famous Barr and Stix, Baer & Fuller. Route 79 was the road that led to those events. Another such trip was a Cardinals Vs. Packers football game that dad and I attended in December of 1970. It ended in a 10-10 tie. That trip with dad was one of only two, real, "father and son" type things that we were able to do. The other being the Indianapolis 500 earlier that year.

There's  lot of history along that highway. As a kid, as a teenager going to concerts, and as an adult on a motorcycle ride. It all floods back to me when I ride up or down that route these days. Usually 2-3 times a summer. Tears have been shed under the visor of my helmet. Happy tears. Good memory tears.

It was good that Aunt Betty drove us to the airport. For two reasons. One, the traveler that she was, she knew that airport forwards and backwards. I remember mom and I picking her up from one of her travels abroad. I'd taken a wooden dowel and a clothes pin. I used the clothes pin to attach a home made sign to the dowel. "Welcome home Ant Betty," was the message. My spelling is fair now. It was worse when I was 7-8 years old.

Secondly, Aunt Betty was also good at keeping the mood as light as it could be. She could steer the conversation in positive directions. It's about 90 miles from home to St. Louis. The airport would be slightly less. There was plenty of time for lost thought.

We parked, got our luggage checked in, and went to our gate. Of course, in those days, Aunt Betty would have been allowed to go to the gate with us, and see us board.

The covered passenger walkways that lead from terminals to planes were not common in 1973. Sea-Tac had them, due to all the rain they get out there. Not in St. Louis. As I recall, we walked down a couple of flights of steps and out the door to walk across the tarmac to the plane, and up steps to board it.

This was a big moment for me. I was the kid. But I was doing something for the second time in my life, that dad and mom and never experienced. Flying. In my mind, I was "supervising" my parents.

And I remember this next moment like it just happened a few minutes ago. As we were making that walk from the terminal to the plane, I was off to dad's right, just a couple of paces behind. I could see excitement in his expression as he was about to experience something for the first time.

"It's a Whisperjet," he grinned, noting the model of the plane, painted across the tail wing of the Eastern Airlines jet.

Mom wasn't as thrilled. She was tense. She looked tense.

Once in the air, I think everyone relaxed a bit. Smoking was routine in those days. Mom probably consumed a half pack. Other passengers too. Four hours in smoke filled, aluminum tube. Ah, those were the days.

I can't remember if the trip was full of talk, or quiet. I might have played my supervisor and experienced one role, and explained to my parents, what to expect in Washington.

The plane came down over the firs and pines that border the airport property, and we were there. Lynn and company were there to meet us, and drive us to their home. Maybe a 45 minute trip.

We'd be in Lakewood, at the Cory's for the next week.






Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12th

March 12th, 1973: We are flying to Tacoma to see Lynn on Wednesday. and mom is scared to death that dad will get sick out there. But, Dr. Bunting said, "O.K." Dad also says he feels fine. Mom said we were coming back on Monday, and dad was thinking more on Wednesday. So, dad said, "O.K, Dorothy. I don't care anymore."

We saw a movie today in school, and 19-20 people die of cancer. Mom is also scared of flying. But hell, we'll make it.

March 12th, 2013: I'd taken a week off from making entries in my original diary. Either from laziness. Or from not wanting to put pen to paper, and acknowledge how things were going, and where they were headed. It honestly could have been laziness. The last entry was March 5th.

Now, after a week off from this blog, and revisiting the original diary, I can clearly see what a difference a week makes. And not for the better.

It's weird. Things had apparently digressed to the point that a trip to the northwest was scheduled.  Sort of a turning point. Maybe a sign of resignation at the time. And it screams the same, now, 40 years later.

It basically boiled down for time for dad to say good-bye to his daughter. Dad was sick. No one knew how long he'd live. But he was deteriorating quickly. I understand this now, better than I did then.

It's kind of funny, in a not funny way. Mom was scared dad would get "sick" out there. Obviously, she meant his condition could worsen, and we'd be far from home. If you know me, and my warped sense of humor, I'd ask now, what would be the worst that could happen? He was dying anyway!

And heck. By this time he was taking better care of himself too. I think he'd stopped smoking during this stage. (More dark humor intended).

Mom was afraid of flying, yes. But I just don't believe she wanted to travel to Tacoma in the first place. I have mentioned tension, on mom's part, towards Lynn. There was really no reason for it. It was minor and unnecessary. But it was there. Mom was really about to be tossed from her comfort zone of home.

The 12th was a Monday. We'd fly out on Wednesday the 14th from St. Louis. I was looking forward to  the trip. Excited by it. For me, it meant a week off from school and a ride on an airplane. Aunt Betty and I had been out there in the summer of 1969. I liked the northwest. The smell of the pines and firs, and the view of Mt. Rainier from Lynn's house.

Judging by my original notes, there must have been a film during health class, or some other class, about cancer. I failed to note the time frame in which those 19-20 people die. Minutes, hours, a day? Whatever the time frame, I'd bet I watched that film with the thought of,  that stuff happened to other people. Not my dad.

The exchange between my parents was one of only two times in my life that I witnessed actual tension between mom and dad. When dad responded to mom about the length of our stay out there, it was with real... well, not anger. But he was not happy mom was making a fuss.

The only other incident I can remember, when I saw dad sort of snap at mom like that, had me in the middle of the situation. I was wanting a new, upgraded, mini-bike. Mom was sort of taking my side. Dad wasn't convinced I needed one. It was the one and only time I ever heard my dad use the "f-bomb." Not aimed at mom, mind you. But the mini bike. "All right, Dorothy. Let him get the......"

So. At some point during this recent, "missing week," Things had gotten to the point where plans were made for the visit. As I recall, it was sprung on me. I wasn't involved in the discussions that led to it. I would imagine that my parents were concerned about missing that much school. But, not taking me was out of the question for the most part. I'd stayed with aunts and friends before, when mom and dad went to hardware shows. This was entirely different. Mom and dad must have discussed it with Lynn and Roger. Apparently, it made more sense for us to go to them. Not them to us. At least this time.

For this trip, the store would be left to Peachy and Pat. Arrangements were made for me to keep up with my homework. And someone helped out by feeding the two dogs and two cats while we'd be gone.

Aunt Betty would drive us to St. Louis, and pick us up when we returned.

It would be impossible for me to make diary entries in Tacoma. Or nearly impossible, without drawing attention to myself. This made for another gap in my original diary entries. But, even without the benefit of original notes, there are enough memories to write about from the trip. I just don't know the exact dates they would have occurred on.

My original diary picks back up on March 20th, when we returned home. We were gone a week. From the 14th to the 20th. Mom lost, dad won, on the decision to stay a week. Dad usually won.

This blog will be sporadic until the 20th. There will a few posts as I recall a few memories from that trip.

I'll skip tomorrow and come back Thursday. The day we flew out.

Dad and Aunt Betty in a very early photo of the two. I'd sure like to have that tin crafted race car!