Continuing from the last post, Frankie and I met at my youngest brother’s birthday brawl and have been together ever since. Two years later we were married and 4 years after that we were blessed with our own little bundle of joy. Actually, we both had kids from previous marriages who were living with our ex-spouses which was a good thing because we were still partying like there was no tomorrow. We hadn’t planned on having any more kids and were content to wind up our nephews and nieces and send them home for their parents to deal with.
All that changed when nearly losing Frankie to medical problems from all that partying scared us straight. Much to our friends’ amazement we quit drinking. God said “Good job, here’s a gift!” Our friends thought this was just hilarious. They delighted in telling us that raising a baby at our age would keep us young. There were times when I thought keeping up with that little bundle of energy was going to kill me! Then there were the surprises like the one in the shot above. At the time, Laura had one tooth. One VERY SHARP tooth! In that photo said tooth is buried in my nose and she’s giggling like a maniac. I, on the other hand was screaming for Frankie to pry her loose but Frankie was too busy laughing like a maniac. Like mother, like daughter I guess.
As I said, we both had kids from previous marriages. That’s my daughter Brenda with Laura on her lap. Laura thought it was most excellent to finally get a baby sister at the ripe old age of 18. Shortly after this photo was taken Brenda got married and started a family of her own, calling me from Kentucky the following year to announce the birth of my grandson. I tried telling her I was too young to be a grandfather but she was just like her mother, my ex, and wouldn’t listen to a thing I said!
The next thing I knew, Brenda was really not listening and presented me with my second grandson. As you can tell from her expression, Laura was more than a little jealous because her mama was paying attention to another child and she was no longer the baby of the family. Luckily, Brenda and her family live in Kentucky so there aren’t many photos of Laura with steam coming out of her ears.
Occasionally, all of my siblings manage to congregate at Mom & Dad’s house and, on rare occasions, the first fights stop long enough for all of us sit down for a photo, (left to right) My middle sister, Linda. My oldest sister (who would have been a pony if Santa Claus hadn’t screwed up) Sharon aka Crazy Horse. Dad with my youngest sister, Stormy and her son Patrick in front. Mom with my brother Robert aka Dutch next to her and youngest brother David next to him. That’s me down front, looking to see if the escape route is clear because I have Laura on my lap and need to get her out of range before the fists and beer cans start flying again. I no longer drank beer by this time so usually picked up something heavy instead of a beer can.
Since Frankie and I owned firearms we were determined to teach Laura how to use them. I didn’t care if she never fired another shot as long as she lived but I wanted her to understand how firearms worked and what they could do so that she would never be tempted to play with one. When she was 8 I bought her an air rifle and started her out shooting BBs at plastic sups. She took to it like a duck to water. In this photo we’re on vacation here in Southwest, Virginia. Four years later we moved here. The boy on the right is Linda’s son, Christopher. There wasn’t a soda can, cup, cardboard box or plastic bottle in the county that didn’t get perforated by those two that summer.
As I said, Laura’s love of firearms took off from day one. When she was 10 I bought her a .22 caliber rifle and she was a natural sharpshooter from the first shot. In high school she joined the US Army Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC) and signed up for the 3 position rifle team. That year she was the first freshman in battalion history to shoot 240 points out of a possible 300. She went on to co-captain the team, compete at the JROTC National Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio twice and eventually rose to the rank of Cadet Colonel and commanded the battalion during her senior year. She’s on the left, front row, in the photo above, taken at her last nationals. Her boyfriend, John, is standing behind her.
This past June Laura graduated from high school and, soon after that, moved into her own apartment in town. She’s a freshman in college now and wants to pursue a career in education. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know my little girl wants to be a teacher and not a soldier!
She sure is the spitting image of her mama at the same age, isn’t she?
I left a few gaps in this narrative. My 14 year military career is best left in the foot locker where it belongs. Maybe one of these days………..My first marriage is a nightmare I’ve spent nearly 35 years working to forget and that’s best left that way as well.
We still go back home to visit Mom a couple of times a year. I’m the oldest of my siblings and, now that Dad has passed on, I’ve become the de facto head of the family. Each time we get home my brothers and sisters take turns calling me aside to tell me “Mom needs to do this or that but she won’t listen to me. If you tell her it’s a good idea she’ll do it.” Mom is almost 87 years old and still sharp as a tack. If there is a decision to be made and she wants my advice, she’ll ask for it.
My younger siblings are also on their very best behavior when I’m around because they realize that I haven’t mellowed with age. They also realize that I no longer fight fair and will seriously injure any of them who gets on my bad side before they get a chance to injure me. At my age those lumps, bumps, scrapes and bruises from fighting with my hands just take too damned long to heal so I’m liable to pick up something heavy and brain one of them. I often wonder how many scraps hey get into out behind the garage where I can’t hear or see them when I’m home.
As I said, Brenda is just as hard headed as her mother. Despite my protests that I was too young to be a grandfather, she just kept ignoring me. Everett “Junebug” on the left and Dustin “Dusty” in the middle. The little one on the right is my grand daughter Faith. I call her Monkey Butt but if anyone else does she’ll hand ‘em a knuckle sammich!
Man, I can’t wait until one of them makes Brenda a grandparent!
In observance of Veteran’s day I posted a blog on my Blogger page entitled Our Family of Veterans. As we honor the service and sacrifice of those men and women, as well as that of all veterans, this post is for one in particular; my father.
Dad served in the US Navy through World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and numerous minor conflicts around the globe. He served in what was referred to as the “Rocks & Shoals Navy”. Chief petty officers (CPOs) have always been the backbone of the Navy just as non-commissioned officers are are in any military force. In my dad’s Navy most disciplinary matters were handled by the CPOs. If a sailor had a problem following orders he was invited to the stern of the ship, the fantail, where he and the chief would settled the dispute, stripped to the waist, with bare knuckles. If the chief won the sailor would do as he was told and if the sailor won he would get his way. It was a rare occurrence for the sailor to come out on top and nearly every chief I can remember from the days when I was growing up had a set of scarred knuckles.
My dad was a hard charging, hard drinking American sailor and anyone who had ever been around the Navy could spot him as a CPO in or out of uniform. He served his beloved Navy loyally and faithfully for 26 years and would have stayed in longer but for the turbulence and changes brought about by the war in Vietnam, both in the Navy and the nation. When Admiral Elmo Zumwalt was selected to serve as Chief of Naval Operations one of his first policy changes was the relaxation of grooming standards for enlisted men. With sailors being allowed to grow their hair longer,sport sideburns and mustaches and other changes Dad declared that he "wasn’t serving in any damned hippy Navy!" and he put in his papers to retire. He said it was bad enough having a long haired hippy at home (me) but he wasn’t putting up with it at sea.
Dad and I butted heads over our differences for years but we eventually got most of our problems ironed out. We never did see eye to eye on a lot of issues but we learned to respect each other for the men we were. Then I married Frankie and she really hit it off with Dad. She was responsible for keeping the peace between Dad and me on more than one occasion. We lived with Mom for several years and when our daughter, Laura, came along that was icing on the cake because he adored her. She was Pop Pop’s little darling.
In his later years Dad suffered from many severe medical problems; asbestosis, diabetes, heart disease, emphysema and finally Alzheimer’s disease. During more than one medical crisis he refused to allow paramedics to treat him or take him to the hospital until Frankie asked him to go. He trusted her and she could get him to cooperate when no one else could.
On July 3, 2003 Dad couldn’t breathe, even with the help of the oxygen generator beside his bed. While Frankie called the rescue squad I overrode the limit settings on the machine, giving him all the oxygen it could produce but it just wasn’t enough. The paramedics put him on 100% oxygen from a portable bottle and that helped enough that he was able to argue about going to the hospital. Knowing that the bottle only held a 30 minute supply, Frankie was able to convince him to get in the ambulance and go to the hospital. The doctors told us there was really nothing they could do and Dad only had hours left so they were transferring him to a hospice.
The next morning I took Mom and Frankie to the hospice to see him. I dropped them by the door and went to find a parking space in the crowded lot. Just as I got the doors locked and started up the walk Frankie and Mom came back out. They told me that they had walked into his room where the nurse told them he had been unconscious since he arrived and he was very weak. Frankie took his hand and told him she was there. He opened his eyes, nodded his head and stopped breathing. We don’t know if he even realized Mom was also there but we take comfort in the knowledge that he knew he wasn’t alone as he breathed his last.
I went into the hospital the next day for urgent spinal surgery. When I was released I spent the next several weeks heavily medicated, confined to a recliner and forbidden to even ride in a car. I missed the memorial ceremony when Dad’s ashes were spread from the stern of a boat on his beloved Chesapeake Bay. Between the medication and the pain I was really out of it and the grief never really set in until the following year when we attended a 4th of July fireworks display. The lump in my throat and hollow feeling in my chest that night had little to do with the aerial display. Every year since, those sensations return as we celebrate and I remember. Through the sadness I find comfort that it’s somehow fitting, a man who gave so much in the service to his country should pass away on the anniversary of it’s birth.
Home is the sailor
home from the sea
and the hunter
home from the hill
Arnold Ray Allen CSC, USN (ret.)
1 December 1923 – 4 July 2003
Fair winds and following seas, Chief