Friday, November 30, 2007

A Date With 12 Angry Men

Victoria and I were fortunate enough last night to be given tickets to the play Twelve Angry Men at the Palace Theater.

On our way we got a quick dinner at Quizno's. Our tickets included a parking pass so we were able to park in the theater garage and take the enclosed walkway to the theater.

The Palace Theater is very nice, and our seats were in the loge section, the 2nd row of the balcony. The view was great and the play was excellent.

For a play with no action, the dialogue was very fast-paced and kept you on the edge of your seat for the entire 90 minute show. (There was no intermission). I highly recommend this play.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aunt Gene

Remarks – Aunt Gene – 11/20/2007

Aunt Gene never married or had children of her own, but she certainly had a large family. She loved her siblings and her nieces and nephews, staying involved with us and bragging on us every chance she got.

A lot of what I know about Aunt Gene’s earlier life, I heard from stories. And she was a great storyteller. She had an amazing memory well into her 90’s. She was able to remember details of events that happened decades earlier. She memorized the birthdays of all of her family, as well as what seemed like almost everyone else she knew.

A few years ago, the night after my dad passed away, I visited Aunt Gene for a few hours, and she shared several stories about her earlier years, growing up with my grandparents, my dad, Uncle Howard and Aunt Margie. Sadly, numerous stories died with her.

The next day I told her I was working on a eulogy for my dad and that I wanted to add a few laughs to honor dad’s sense of humor. She told me that she didn’t think a eulogy was supposed to be funny, so I’ll try to keep this one on a more serious tone.

Being younger, my first memories of Aunt Gene are of her living in New London and caring for her mother. Visiting Grandma and Aunt Gene on Sundays after church was a very common activity for us. I remember Aunt Gene giving pennies or nickels to Chris and I almost every time we saw her.

Later on, her generosity changed flavors. My kids remember her passing out Nestle chocolate bars whenever we visited.

Aunt Gene had a distinguished professional career. I learned from her how she would take the train from New London to Cleveland on Monday mornings. She worked at Sherwin-Williams, spending her nights with some of her cousins. Then she would take the train back home on Fridays to spend the weekend at home.

Most of her career was spent in Elyria, working as an executive secretary to the Vice President of Bendix. She made many friends at Bendix, as well as anywhere else she went.

Aunt Gene was proud of her work and of the connections she made, in work and throughout life. She loved telling everyone that her neighbor was related to Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Cliff Stoudt, and that her nephew Tim played piano onstage with award winning actress Cloris Leachman. And in her final years at the Carriage House in Norwalk, she enjoyed making friends and was proud to introduce her family to the judge down the hall.

Not that she revered people just because they were famous. Aunt Gene used her sharp mind to keep herself informed in the areas of current events and politics. President George W Bush doesn’t know it, but he just lost one of his biggest critics!

Once Aunt Gene told me that she never paid for anything “on time” in her life. This confused me at first, but then I figured out what she meant. She never paid for anything “over time” or had to pay interest. Even the new house she had built, she paid cash.

This isn’t to say she was tight with her money. She loved to share it with her family. She gave gifts unsparingly at birthdays and Christmas. And her graduation gifts were so generous, it became known among our family as the “Aunt Gene Scholarship.”

Aunt Gene was also generous with her time. She served in the YWCA and also volunteered at the Elyria Methodist Home for many years. And of course she spent many years of her life living with and caring for her mother, my grandmother.

In Exodus 20:12, God gave Moses the 5th commandment: “"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Many of us have heard, this is the only commandment with a promise. Aunt Gene’s time spent caring for Grandma is an example to us all of honoring our parents, and God certainly fulfilled his promise with a long life of 95 years

Aunt Gene loved to spend time with her family. I remember picnics in the back yard of her then new home in Elyria. And there was Aunt Gene’s ever-present camera, to snap a picture whenever anyone visited.

Aunt Gene also had a movie camera. Some may remember the blinding lights. After watching the home movies, Aunt Gene would then run them backwards for laughs. Does anyone else remember watching Abbot & Costello ice skate backwards? Or seeing the fence they knocked down flying back into place?

Several times we nieces and nephews got to spend the night with Aunt Gene. Once she took me grocery shopping, and this led to some confusion. I stopped in the aisle and started laughing “Ho ho! Ho ho!” It took a while for her to realize I wasn’t laughing, but was asking for my favorite chocolate snack cakes, the Ho ho’s.

Sharon also remembers spending the night. They went shopping at Higbee’s and Aunt Gene ordered Sharon a Shirley Temple, a pretty exotic drink for a country girl!

Another thing Aunt Gene enjoyed was attending band concerts, school plays, graduations, and other activities that we nieces and nephews were involved in.

In her later years, when she could not get out of her house much, Aunt Gene occupied herself by reading. She would read the start of the book, and then read ahead to see what happened. Later she would come back and read the sections she skipped. She once told me that by the time she put the book down she figured she had read every page at least 2-3 times.

She had a scrabble board that she would play by herself. Right hand against left hand was the way she described it. That’s called a no lose situation!

On my train ride home from work on Friday, after hearing of Aunt Gene’s passing, I read the following verse that made me think of Aunt Gene: Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Aunt Gene demonstrated her ability to live in peace and was a great example to us all, and after a long and prosperous life, she finally is seeing the Lord.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ask Any Girl

Stepdaughter Emma was involved in her high school drama club this fall, working on the set production for Ask Any Girl, based on the 1959 movie (I think). Victoria attended on Thursday & Friday and the whole family was planning to attend on Saturday.

Unfortunately, Saturday's performance was canceled. The school was hosting an ROTC event in the afternoon and several people collapsed. This led to a fear of carbon monoxide or some other dangerous gas leak. So the school was shut down.

We'll find out later today if Saturday's performance will be rescheduled.

I did get to see several of the drama team when they had a post-play party at my pizzeria on Friday night.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Halloween for us started on Saturday when Brooke, Rachel and I went to the trick-or-treat party at the local community college. Basically we waited in line for about 45 minutes before parading through several campus buildings where students passed out candy in the halls. At the end the girls colored pictures for a coloring contest, then Brooke got in line for a balloon animal while Rachel showed off her pirate costume on stage for the costume contest.

Later on Saturday we carved pumpkins. We take our pumpkin carving seriously at the "family of 9", using patterns and special pumpkin cutting tools. Below are this year's results:

Victoria did an awesome job on this skeleton fish!

Nathan carved a pirate face.

Brooke made a wise owl.

Jacob made his pumpkin into a lizard.

And Rachel, with her dad's help, made a scary wolf.

Luke didn't carve a pumpkin this year since he spent most of Saturday at a friend's birthday party.

On to Wednesday. Dad rearranged his parenting time schedule so that he could pick up the girls and bring them trick-or-treating. Luke stayed and went to church with his mom, and Nathan was ill with asthma. Jacob went with his cousins D & D.

Rachel again wore her pirate outfit, while Brooke was a dead princess and little George dressed in a warm Tigger suit. Even Dad got dressed up, walking along with the kids in his Anderson Varejao wig.

One of the houses we stopped along the way was local radio personality Bob Frantz, who moved into our neighborhood about a year ago.

We had a talk before we started and the kids followed my rules:
  1. Stay on the sidewalks, don't walk on people's grass.
  2. Say "Thank you" when someone gives you a treat.
  3. Say "Trick Or Treat", don't just hold out your bucket.
It took us the full hour and a half to walk our neighborhood, including both sets of clusters off our main road. The weather was nice and everyone was friendly. By the end, the kids baskets were overflowing into the little green wagon that George rode in part of the way.

George's basket was so heavy he could hardly hold it, but he wasn't about to let go of it!

As you can see from the final picture, the kids made out pretty good.