About the Spirit

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This blog started out with "about me" in the title. My whole life has been "about me". I hope that the entries that I make will be about the Spirit and how He has changed my life because it has always been about Him and how He works through us.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sleeping in a rowhouse

Sleeping in a three bedroom row-house with ten kids and two parents can get pretty cramped. I remember sleeping with four other brothers and sisters in one double bed in a very small bedroom. The three older kids slept at the head of the bed (up-top) while the two smaller kids slept at the bottom. That way the older kid's feet were in the younger ones faces all night. You know there were a lot of "rights of passage" in our family and this was one of them, as one kid grew and left home you moved up to the top of the bed. Of course when my oldest sister Alice decided that she would rather sleep on the sofa rather then in bed with four of her sisters (she was in her teens) one of the sisters was moved out of our bed and took her place and I being the oldest male moved to the top of the bed and no more smelly feet! Alice slept on the sofa (which my dad called a "teat) for years with her head on the arm of the sofa. Almost every morning she got up with a kink in her neck and went around groaning with her head slanted to one side. Mom would sneak up behind her and snap her head back to normal. Alice would let out this God-awful scream that you could hear down the block and then she would be alright. I don't think there was ever a time that I didn't have at least one of my brothers sleeping with me. To me a military bunk was heaven!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



I’m having a very hard time dealing with Mar’s death. It was like losing a part of myself. I can not think of Mar without remembering our childhood together. As those memories coming flashing back I only see two people, Mar and me...

Mar was three years older then me. We had a sister, Susan, that was born between us but she died when she was five. So, Mar was the one that I looked up to, we were pals and as it is with pals we both laughed and cried together.

Our family had what you would call a “pecking order”. Everyone had to go through a time when it was their turn to do the tasks that the older kids no longer wanted to do and the younger kids were just to young to be able to do...but their turn was coming.

Mar and I were the ones that had to go out in the rain or snow looking for a store that sold a certain kind of cake or ice cream for dad or to go to the grocery store and buy things on credit even after the grocer told mom she couldn’t have any more credit. We would always yell “put it on the book” as we scurried for the door hoping that the grocer wouldn’t embarrass us in front of other customers that knew our family.

Mar and I would run away from home at least twice a month. Once we left early in the morning and walked for hours only to turn around and go home after it got dark...we were dismayed to find that no one knew we had left.

Once we were told that we had to clean the cellar. Now cleaning the cellar was like being sent to purgatory. We knew that we must have done something against God and humanity to be assigned to such a gruesome task. Our cellar was where mom put all the clothes that she got from Goodwill where she worked. She sorted clothes that people donated to the poor. Mom would take one of us to work with her for one day during the summer. She would sort through the clothes (mountains of them) and pick out stuff for us to wear during the coming school season. Sometimes we got to pick something that WE wanted to wear and I thought I was really cool going to school in old second world war uniform shirts and pants that I had to roll up to make them fit. Well, she would put the clothes in large laundry bags and bring them home and they would wind up in the basement. this went on for years and the basement was full of bags chuck full of clothes that were forgotten except for when my older sisters, who no longer lived at home, came by looking for clothes. They, and some of us still living at home, would go down the basement and start looking through the bags (mom called it “rooting”) and throw clothes all over the basement floor. After a while you couldn’t walk down there and so somebody...Mar and I had to clean it up. It was a nasty dirty, and dusty job (dirt floor) and me being allergic to dust was sneezing and crying the whole time. We found a surprise cleaning that basement once...fleas! It seems that our little mongrel dog wanted to contribute to our misery. We came out of the basement that day with a very itchy rash. Mom felt so bad that she treated us to a Tasty-Kate and Pepsi.

Once when mom and dad were going through one of their trial separations, mom moved out with us and we lived in an apartment over top a jewelry store. There were so many of us in that small place that mom would send Mar and me to Paterson Park every day. We left early in the morning with a lunch ( usually a peanut butter sandwich) and were told not to come back until supper time. there was a pond in the park and we spent all day watching people fish for Sunnies and feeding our sandwich to the minnows. In case any of you have been wondering why the pagoda meant so much to us it is because that is where we spend much of our time during the day. We would race each other up and down the stairs. We would sit on the top floor and look out over the park and make believe we lived in the country.

Yeah, Mar and I went through a lot together. Once we were left at home, only the two of us, and there was nothing to eat. So we fixed mayonnaise sandwiches but didn’t have anything but water to drink. We found something in the closet that we had seen dad put in his drink and decided to try it. It turned out to be alka-seltzer that we threw down the sink.

Mar changed my life. She knew that I was having problems at home with dad so she and her husband John spend a lot of time with me allowing me to visit as much as I wanted when Teresa was a baby. I was a sixteen year old kid taken out of school after an eighth grade education by my dad to find a job and give my pay to the family. Mar knew of my problems because Mar had gone through the same scenario. As a matter of fact that was one thing she regretted in her life not being able to read or write very well. John was a sailor and began telling me how being in the Navy changed his life. He convinced me that if I didn’t go out on my own I would fall into a routine where I would never leave the inner city. I decided to follow in his footsteps and joined the Navy. Thanks to Mar my life was changed.

I will miss Mar. She spent the last years of her life trying to get our family back together and it left a deep wound in her heart that never fully healed when she realized that it was not to be.

One day we will meet again, Mar, me and mom and dad, and all the family. We will meet in Love... a love which all of us have been searching for all these years. When through our Lord Jesus Christ all our sins will be forgiven and we will stand before the Father whom is pure Love and all the pain will be gone...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

Just got home from Jonnies school where he and I celebrated Veteran's Day together.

I arrived about ten minutes early and stood outside the classroom door as the kids inside looked at the door to see who was outside finally the teacher allowed for the kids to leave their chairs and they came to the door to welcome me. Jonnie looked a little shy as he greeted me and his teacher told him he could talk to me in the rear of the classroom as his classmates readied themselves for lunch. I took my commendation ribbons out of my pocket and asked Jon if he wanted to wear them. He jumped at the chance and stood real still as I pinned them to his 'Peterson' jersey. As we were walking out of his class he began to put his jacket on and I asked if he was gong outside and he explained that his class had recess right after lunch. Funny though, he didn't put his jacket fully on...he kept my ribbons exposed for everyone to see and his stature became very military as he held his chest out and tried to walk like he was marching. I had a wonderful lunch with a grandson who was truly impressed with his granddad and this made me very proud. I left my ribbons for him to wear all day and I gave him a picture of my ship to keep. I had a great day with my grandson and I thank everyone for allowing us to do this...
Oh, and Jon gave me a picture that he had drawn of my ship out of memory and it really does look like my ship. It's on the shelf with all my other Navy stuff.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Navy Education

I know, I know, it's been over a year since my last post. I truly don't know where the time went, but today is Veteran's Day so this is my day to say thanks to the Navy and thanks to those that served with me, who, in every meaning of the phrase 'changed my life'...
"Education"--- To my dad meant getting through the sixth grade, then leaving school getting a job and helping the family by giving your pay to him. It meant that now you will be treated as an adult, there was actually people that was going to listen to your opinion and you didn't have to go to bed with the kids anymore. It was a 'right of passage' you were going from childhood to adulthood and all you had to do was quit school which most kids, when they were sixteen, hated anyway so it wasn't really much of a decision.
"Education"---to my mom meant that you went until you either got tired of it or they threw you out. She more or less agreed with my dad on the other stuff.
"Education"---to me meant that I knew I needed it to get ahead but didn't know how to go about staying in school. It was tough. I knew I wasn't stupid because when I went from the sixth to the seventh grade I was placed in an advanced class and began taking courses that was to prepare me for college. I know you are probably laughing or chuckling to yourself but for me it was a major triumph, you see no one had ever finished junior high in my family let alone to even consider college. When I was sixteen and living with my sister I dreamed of becoming an astronomer. Then I moved back home and all those dreams came tumbling down. To make a very long story short, I was pulled out of school when I was in the eighth grade and put to work in a nearby department store. Yeah, that's right I was sixteen and in the eighth grade. I was very sick the first year I suppose to go to school and didn't go, then because my family moved to or three times a year I was kept back a few years. Anyway, I worked at the department store for about six months when they let me go. Dad was furious! Everyday he came home and asked me if I got a job and called me lazy and stupid for not getting one. This went on for months and it got so I was going to my older sister Mar's home and she and her husband Johnnie convinced me to join the Navy where I can be my own man. I took their advice but dad wouldn't hear of it. He was convinced once he thought he could get an allotment check he okayed it.
Whew...that was pretty long just to let you know how the Navy and my shipmates changed my life but thought it was important to see my mindset after I arrived on my ship.
After all the work of putting our ship back together we were finally nearing the time when we were going to to sea. One morning a list of sailors were read over the PA system to report to the hanger deck of the ship, and I was on the list, there were about twenty of us. We stood at attention as a Navy Ensign told us that we were the only sailors aboard that did not have a high school education. He told us that he had put all our names in to take the high school GED test and that we had six months to study and pass it or we were going to back to school because none of us were going to leave the Borie without a high school education and he was going to see to that...I took him seriously.
I bought a book titled "High School Subjects Self Taught" and started to study in earnest. I remember being at sea and trying to study on watch in the middle of the night. A young Ensign saw me and gave me the keys to his office (about five foot wide and maybe eight foot long) and told me that I could study there where I could little quiet...I was in heaven. I was having problem with two subjects however and the test date was getting closer and closer. The first of my worries was algebra and the answer to my Prayers came from a place where I least expected it...my shipmates! Just remember back when you were in your late teens (males) it was a macho world where you spent your waking hours proving your manhood. One night while I was on watch in the Caribbean Sea I was cussing like a sailor trying to figure out how X could possibly equal Y when one of the guys on watch asked me what I was so pissed off about. When I told him, he got all the guys on watch in our engine room and the forward engine to compete with one another in solving different algebra problems. As they were solving them they showed me how to do it and these guys, God bless them all, did this every night for a week until I finally understood. The next big problem was English. I had a friend who was a college grad, Ken Cybulsky, who helped me by giving me a very thick book on grammar which had a long list of words and the student was to take one word a day and use it in a sentence as much as possible during the day (definitions were also there) which I did with his help. The test came...and I with three others out of the twenty passed and I nor my shipmates couldn't be any prouder. I was on a roll now and thought that I could do anything and I could...I advanced in rate as fast as anyone could go and made second class in three and a half years and was told I would be a first class at four years if I stayed in the service.
I got out of the service and after a couple of no-where jobs I decided to join the Baltimore City Police Department and what was the first questions they asked?...do you have a high school education or GED? You must have either to be a cop. I thought back to all those nights with all those "macho" wonderful guys showing me how X can equal Y...