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!
This photo, taken in 1958 on Chic’s Beach where I grew up, illustrates why I still have sand and salt water in my veins. I’ve been a beach rat most of my life. That large boxer dog, Pete, was my protector from birth and best buddy. According to the pedigree papers that came with him when Dad won him as a pup in a poker game in Port Deposit, Maryland, his real name was Conawingo’s Royal Flush but I always knew him as Pete.
It’s ironic that this is one of the earliest shots I have with Dad in it. His ashes were spread just offshore from this piece of shoreline after his death on July 4, 2003. That he passed away on the anniversary of our nation’s birth seemed fitting for a man who gave nearly a third of his life in service of his country.
Dad was in the US Navy, as was Mom when they met. Mom was discharged in 1953, after 9 years service, when she became pregnant with me, and put down roots in the laid back beach community of Chesapeake Beach (Chic’s to locals) in the northwest corner of what was to become Virginia Beach to raise me and my siblings while Dad traveled the world, eventually retiring in 1968 after 26 years of service.
I’ve done my fair share of traveling, as well, in my 50 plus years as a Navy brat, US Air Force enlisted man and as a civilian. No matter how far I’ve roamed over the years I have always returned to this stretch of shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay , at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, to recharge my soul.
As I type I can almost taste the salt air and hear the gentle hiss of the water kissing the sand.