My Dad and his Family

While the usual purpose of this blog is to write about adventures that Susie and I have in our life, occasionally I may deviate from that norm, because of a subject that interests me, and that I think deserves my attention. This is one of those subjects, and will contain some family info that is probably good for my kids to know.

My Dad and our oldest son Billy

My Dad, Frank D’Elia (no, my Mom and Dad were not too clever in the naming department), was born in New York City on October 5th, 1910. He died a couple of months after his 73rd birthday, back when our first born Billy was just a year old. That would make the year 1983, meaning that my Dad has been gone for almost 37 years. That’s the end of the story. Let me go back to the beginning of not only his story, but of the D’Elia Family in America.

According to records we’ve found in Ancestry.Com , my Dad’s Father, my Grandfather, Francesco Vincenzo D’Elia was born on January 16, 1872 in Tegiano, Italy, a little mountain town about 90 miles outside of Naples. As an aside, in 1971, when I graduated college, my Mom and Dad and I traveled for 5 weeks in Europe. We flew from New York to Cologne, Germany, where we picked up a little red Ford Capri, which we drove all over for the next 5 weeks before having it shipped home. We went down one side of the Italian boot, and up the other, and when we were in Naples, we journeyed one day to Tegiano. In the summer of 1971, Tegiano was still a sleepy little mountain town, and not one that was used to seeing tourists. When we drove into town in a bright red sports car, and my blonde Mom got out of the car, we could tell that there were lots of eyes on us from behind curtains. Thankfully, my Dad spoke fluent Italian, so we went to the church and he spoke to the priest and inquired about his family. While we may have felt isolated being D’Elias in America, turns out that almost everyone in Tegiano shared our last name, even the parish priest. My Dad gave the priest whatever information he had on his father, and it was enough for him to tell which of the D’Elias he was related to, and to tell my Dad that the last of his relatives had moved to South America..or so he said. It was interesting to step back in time, because with the exception of a couple of cars, I doubt Tegiano had changed much since my Grandfather was born, almost 100 years before.

 

So, back to our story. In 1890, at the age of 18, Francesco arrived all alone by ship from Naples, Italy at Ellis Island. As was the norm in those days, he surrounded himself with other folks from his homeland, and in 1891, at the age of 19, he married Rafaela, who also had been born in Italy, but who was only 15 years old at the time of their marriage. Their family started to grow when their son Joseph was born in 1893. On August 2, 1900, at the age of 24, after giving birth to 5 children. Rafaela died. They had been married for just 9 years.

I knew the story of my Grandfather having two families, and my Dad being part of the second one, but didn’t know as many details prior to Ancestry. I also hadn’t heard of all these children, so I assume that some of the babies died shortly after their birth, as all the children from the “first family” were born in the 1800s, and were thus considerably older that those in the second family. The first born, “Joe” (born in 1893), was dead before I was born, but always was revered as the family’s “Older Brother”. He owned a taxicab, and was one of the more mobile members of the D’Elia Family in those early days. The daughter Mary, who was born in 1895, was my Aunt Mamie, a wonderful lady who lived with her husband Frank in Lynbrook when I was a kid. They were fun people, but I don’t think either of them was even 5 feet tall! They got club soda delivered in squirt bottles and always let a little kid (me) play with it! The next daughter, Rose, was born in 1897, who was my Aunt Rose who lived up in the Bronx when I was a kid. So, there were three children who were under 7 years of age when Rafaela died in 1990. The two names that I didn’t know, and assumed died in childbirth or shortly after, were Anna in 1896 and Angelina in 1900. No details, but since Angelina was born in 1900 and Rafaela died in 1900, I’m going to assume the two events were connected.

Now, let’s go back to a bit of “Family Lore” before we delve into some more facts from Ancestry. I’d always heard from my Dad and his brothers and sisters, the story about how my Grandfather married the babysitter, and started family number 2. Turns out, it’s true. My Grandmother, Anna Marino, was born in New York City on December 24, 1886. Not quite a year after the death of his first wife, my Grandfather married Anna on July 11, 1901. The story I’d always heard is that one day my Grandfather went to my Grandmother’s Catholic School and told the Mother Superior that he was there to take Anna Marino out of school. When she asked him why, he said that he’d just married her, and she had to stay home and take care of his children. If you haven’t done the math yet, let me help you. On July 11, 1901 when they got married, Anna had not yet had her 15th birthday! He was 29 and she was 14 on their wedding day!! Obviously, a different time!

Together they had eight children in the following order. Margaret (my Aunt Margie) was born in 1907, followed by Cono (my uncle Coonie) in 1908, then my Dad in 1910, followed by my Aunt Jean in 1912, Raphaela (my Aunt Ray) in 1914, Antoinette (my Aunt Nettie) in 1917, my Uncle John in 1918, and the baby of the family, my Uncle Tom in 1923. My Dad always said that he was from a family of 13, but I could never understand that, because when I added the 3 from the first family, and the 8 from the second, I got 11. Adding in the two children that there are no records available beyond their birth, we get to the number 13.

My Father was born in Manhattan, in Little Italy on October 5, 1910. At the time of his birth, his Dad was 38 and his Mom was 23. I don’t have a lot of details of those early years beyond stories I heard from my Dad. I know that he was baptized at the Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration on Mott Street, which today is in the heart of New York’s Chinatown, and that serves a mainly Chinese community. It has been a Catholic Church since the middle of the 19th century, calling itself the “Church of Immigrants”, and over the years has served Irish, Italian, and now Chinese populations in the area.

Over the years, I heard lots of stories from my Dad, about his growing up years. I know that my Grandfather was a Junk Man, and my Dad said he rode around with a horse and wagon picking things up. Not sure how secure an occupation that was back then, but can’t imagine the family was doing very well financially at all. I remember stories my Dad told me about his Mom having to go down to the green grocer, and buy day old produce, and soak it in cold water to bring some life back into it. I remember him telling me that he painted a huge room in the house one day with just one can of paint, that he kept extending, so the color of the room changed as he painted. The D’Elia Family’s story sounds like one typical of the Depression Era, but it apparently never stopped them from having children, as 5 more kids came into the world after my Dad!

By the 1920 Census, the D’Elias were living in Brooklyn and there were now 7 children in the family. Money continued to be tight, and after completing 8th grade, my Dad left school, and worked to help support the family. I heard stories about him selling pretzels in the park, and I know that he worked for a number of years as a clerk/messenger down in the Wall Street area. In later years, he was a wonderful tour guide for that area that he’d walk daily doing that job. This was, however, not to be his life’s work.

My Dad – Age 18

I have no idea how, and now I’m very sorry I never asked him why, but my father from a young age decided that he wanted to be an Opera Singer, not a normal expectation from someone from his neighborhood or standing in life! He started singing lessons very early with a woman who believed he had the talent to indeed be an opera singer, and she took him under her wing. Her name was Madame Novelli, and although I never met her, I heard stories about her from an early age. She really thought my Dad had something to be nurtured, and she practically adopted him, played a huge part in his life and in him becoming who he grew up to be. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that she saved his life! I’d heard not only my Dad, but the rest of his family talk about “Madame” in reveered terms.

In 1936, my Dad’s father died at the age of 64, and was buried in the huge Catholic Calvary Cemetery (365 acres) in the Woodside section of Queens. There are two stories I remember hearing from my Dad concerning this period of the D’Elia Family’s life. Both made a lasting impression on me. The first had to do with what my Dad did after he lost his father. He was 26 years old at the time, and I’m going to assume very Italian! I say this because the story is that every day for weeks, he’d travel by bus from the family’s home in Brooklyn to visit his father’s grave. Rain or shine, nice weather or bitter winter snows, if he could get there, he went. The results? He caught pneumonia, and was very sick. I don’t know if he told me that story to point out how the older Frank thought his younger self to be foolish to have done what he did, but that’s the message I was left with, and why we’ve only been a brief handful of times to my father’s grave. In my mind, my Dad lives in my heart and my thoughts, and not in a box in a piece of ground. I can visit him any time I want…and I do!

The second story had to do with how distraught my Grandmother was at the death of her husband, and how the family needed to move out of their Brooklyn apartment and the neighborhood where everything reminded her of her late husband. In what was probably a huge move, they crossed the Brooklyn/Queens line, and rented a house just off Metropolitan Ave in Forest Hills. This was a much needed development in the family’s life, and a way to try and get out from under the grief of their father’s passing, but couldn’t have been easy, as the D’Elia Family was still in the throws of the Depression. I’m not sure what, if anything, anybody else in the family was doing, but know my Dad had some WPA work, singing on radio shows and the like, in addition to doing a little work with Madame Novelli as her “secretary”. Just as everything was settling down, another huge problem was thrown in their path. They had spent everything they could scrape together to make this move and to afford the rent on the Forest Hills house, and after a month, the landlord said they had to move out because he wanted to sell the house!

Faced with this new dilemma, my Dad took the bull by the horns, and arranged to buy the house for his family! Madame Novelli came to his aid, over representing the “work” he did for her, and making it into a full time job. It was enough to get a bank to approve a loan, and now the D’Elia Family was safe in their new home…if my Dad was able to come up with the monthly mortgage payments! In reality, my Dad, almost single handedly, dragged his Mom, several sisters, and several brothers through the tail end of the depression. It was why I have always thought of my Dad as the White Sheep of the family. But life goes on!

Late in the 1930s, my Dad auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, and was hired as a member for the 1940/41 season at the huge sum of $75 a week. The season was short in those days, running only from late fall to early spring, but $75 a week must have felt like a fortune to him. What with the recent family home purchase in Forest Hills, NY, I’m sure that this job and it’s paycheck took a lot of pressure off him. However, the outside world entered his life in the form of a draft notice. He went down to his local draft board to try and get an extension through the end of the Met’s season, and was told by the gentleman he spoke to, “It’s you kind of jerks that wouldn’t sign up if Hitler was marching down Fifth Avenue!” I have no way of knowing if this really happened, but the way my Dad told the story, his reply was, “If Hitler is marching down Fifth Avenue, I doubt if a short fat Italian Opera singer is going to make much difference!” True or not, he got his extension, and was able to finish his first season at the Met!

My Dad backstage (the short one) preparing for a performance of This Is The Army

Knowing the way the government worked, my Dad expected he’d have a gun in his hands and be shooting at Germans in short order. I can just imagine his surprise when he was ordered to Camp Upton on Long Island and detailed to Irving Berlin’s All Soldier Show, “This is the Army.” He spent the war performing on Broadway for six months, spending six months in Hollywood making the movie of the show, and then the rest of the war traveling the world, performing for soldiers up and down the Italian peninsula, all over Africa and the Middle East, and island hoping through the Pacific. Sometimes they were in big theaters, sometimes they were close to enemy lines, performing on makeshift stages. Their mission was morale, and at the end of the war, the entire company received awards for having done much for the morale of the soldiers, sailors, and marines they’d performed for.

He was mustered out of the US Army, just in time to start rehearsals for the Met’s new season, and after 4+ years in the service, had no clothes that fit, and came to work that first day in his uniform. And that was the day he met my Mom, but then that’s a story for yet another day!

9/29/2020

On July 3rd, 1977, I met Susan Lynn Johnson at a Fourth of July Party, and that day, I learned what the phrase “Love at First Sight” really meant! I don’t know why, but I do know that I loved that young lady from the first moments we were together, and if anything, the years between then and now have only strengthened my love for her! 43 years ago, my fate was sealed, and 41 years ago today, at the CW Post Interfaith Chapel, we became one!

Thank you for 41 wonderful years, for three great kids, for the wonderful memories (even if you don’t always remember all the things I do! I know…my memory is a pain in the ass!), for the lives we’ve lived, and the lives we’ve touched over the years! Thank you for saying yes, and for being with me through all the various elements of the dream lives we have lived, because we have really lived our dreams, and that is really all about you! I would gladly do it all over again, as long as I have you at my side!

Happy Anniversary Baby, and may there be many more for us to celebrate together!!!

PS – Susie is the copy editor on this blog, but since she did not see this post before it was published, all errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and the like, belong exclusively to the author…ME!

‘Atsa My Boat

Early in 1976, WHN Radio negotiated and signed a new contract with Local 1212 of IBEW. Because the WHN Transmitter in East Rutherford, NJ had recently been unmanned, the contract called for a reduction of 2 members of the Engineering Department. The contract detailed a generous separation pay of one year’s salary, along with one year of medical benefits, as well as the ability for those leaving to collect NYS Unemployment Insurance. One of the older guys in the department took the “buy out”, but when no one else was interested in leaving the department, after 4 years at the station, and being on the lowest rung of the seniority ladder, I was tapped to take the “buy out”. The one year of salary for me came to a figure somewhere in the mid $20,000, and what did I do with it? Well, I bought a boat!

For somewhere around $10,000, I traded in my 17 foot bow rider outboard for a brand new 1975 Wellcraft 21 foot Weekender. With a Ford 302 V/8 and an outdrive, a small cabin with two bunks, a place for a “head”, and a cockpit table, the boat was what kept me busy from my separation date in the early spring of 1976, till I started at WABC in August. It was a lot of fun setting up the boat at Coastwise Marine in Westport, Connecticut, and then when the weather turned to “boating weather”, getting a handle on running my new boat up and down the Saugatuck River, and in Long Island Sound! I was 26 years old, had money in the bank, a year of health insurance, and time on my hands. I immersed myself in the nautical way of life! In addition to buying and working on the boat, I took a Coast Guard Reserve Small Boat course, and joined a Nautical Book of the Month Club!

My book choices included things like Chapman Piloting: Seamanship & Small Boat Handling, Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator, as well as other useful books in my endeavor to master the act of running my small boat. There were also books about adventures people were having in small boats, and one of them that I still remember to this day was Lin and Larry Pardey’s Cruising in Seraffyn. The book told the story of Seraffyn, their wooden 24-foot engineless cutter and and how Lin and Larry built her with the hope of setting off for a few months of true freedom in spite of their limited finances. Their few months turned out to be a lifetime of sailing around the world, but that first book also turned out to be a carefully thought-out guide to living aboard a small boat, with fun and good seamanship as guiding principles. It was a true love story of Lin and Larry and a boat named Seraffyn, and the life it gave them!

I was captivated with the story and their adventures of first building, then launching, and ultimately cruising in Seraffyn. I was so captivated that when I was finished with the book, I wrote Lin and Larry a “fan letter” and sent it to them care of their publisher! About 6 months later, one day in the mail, I received a very obviously foreign Air Mail letter that was postmarked from Spain. It turned out that their publisher had forwarded my letter to them, and had it had finally caught up with them in Spain. The letter I got was from Lin, and she told me how happy they were to get my letter and that it had showed up at just the right time. Turns out they were in the midst of re-writing the follow up book called Seraffyn’s European Adventure. They’d had a particularly tough day, trying to work through some re-writes that their editor had asked for, and were at the breaking point. They really wondered if it was worth all the work, and if anyone cared. Then my letter showed up in the mail! Lin thanked me to expressing just what they needed to hear….to know that there was an audience out there in the literary world that cared about their life aboard Seraffyn, and that the work they were struggling with was indeed worth it. I treasured that letter and my connection with these two people, and in the end, I was very happy that I’d taken the time to write them and to encourage their continued effort to share their story with the rest of us.

The reason this memory came back to me, and I’m writing this now is because at the end of August, I was very sad to read in the NY Times that Larry Parday had died at the age of 80. During his lifetime, he had circumnavigated the world twice on wooden boats he had built, and along with his wife Lin, had told the tail of the life they lived. They were an incredible couple, led an extraordinary life, and were an inspiration to many, including a 26 year old between jobs with a new boat, and a love of a good sea tale!

Thank you Lin and Larry for your spirit of adventure. I hope the warm memory of their shared 55 year adventure will sustain Lin as she moves forward in life. Thank you for living the life many only dream about, and for connecting with me all those many years ago via that thin air mail stationary that contained your kind words of thanks. I have never forgotten you, or your letter!

Fair Winds and Following Seas sir, and thank you for sharing a life well lived with us!

Lin and Larry aboard Seraffyn

Larry Parday’s NY Times Obituary from August 28th….
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/obituaries/larry-pardey-dead.html

The Free Table

Have you ever hosted a garage sale? In the almost 41 years that Susie and I have been married, she has hosted a couple of Garage Sales at our house. She did them in combination with her Mom and her Sister, and largely without my help. Why you may ask without my help? Because I am not a big fan of Garage Sales. In fact, I think my feeling about them mostly falls on the hate side. The idea of people picking through your stuff, trying to tell you that your $2 price really should be 50 cents, and doing their best to beat you down, and get the things for pennies on the dollar, really doesn’t seem like fun to me. And let’s not even begin to talk about the folks that try and show up before you’re ready to open and then become belligerent when you say no! Nope, not for me! I’m sorry but the amount of money you gain in holding one of these sales, just doesn’t seem to me to be worth the work and the aggravation!

When we sold our house of 30+ years in Mineola in 2017, and consolidated two houses we’d had since 2005, many people would have had a garage sale to rid themselves of excess items they no longer needed, but we didn’t. First dibs went to our kids. All three of them took items that were in our house and that they’d grown up with. Next we donated lots of items to the Vietnam Veterans Association, and other worthwhile charities in the area. Furniture that nobody wanted (too many of the Baby Boomer Generation are downsizing) went to needy families that could really use it. For the couple of high ticket items we wanted to get rid of, we turned to eBay, getting them sold the clean and simple way! But what, you may ask, does the preceding two paragraphs have to do with the title of this blog…The Free Table? Read on, and you will see!

Now that we call Ocean City our full time and only home, we love the fact that we have downsized our number of “things”. Frankly, the lifestyle we now want to live, in the house we now live in, just doesn’t lend itself to the way of the hoarder. Things like my complete set of High School Yearbooks or Susie’s extensive Cookbook Collection, just don’t have a place at the shore house. But, as the days, weeks, months, and years go by, we still manage to accumulate “things” that eventually just don’t have a place in our lives. Now the question is, what to do with these “things”?

Rather than throw out things that you no longer have a need for, but that somebody else may be able to use, Susie has taken an idea from our neighbors up Pennlyn Place, Jane and John Griffith. A couple of times a year, usually on a busy beach Saturday or Sunday, Susie places a table by the curb with a big sign on it that says

HELP YOURSELF

FREE

EXCEPT TABLE


Yesterday was her second Free Table of the Summer of 2020, and it was very successful! In fact, it was more like a community Free Table, as our next door neighbor Doc contributed two wicker stools to the effort, and our new across the street neighbor Heather contributed a toaster to Susie’s Free Table! For her part, Susie’s items included excess ball caps, an old game system Kenny and Chris had left here, little knick knicks we’d picked up, a hand food processor, beach towel clips, old night lights, a hair dryer, some DVDs, a pair of new windshield wipers from a car we no longer own, a couple of bags, a grill pan, and a few other items. By the time Susie folded up the table, and put it back in the garage yesterday afternoon, all that was left was Doc’s two stools!

Susie was happy, folks who picked things up were happy (like our other neighbor Patti who took Heather’s excess toaster), and Susie got rid of a tub of “things” Win – Win all around…except for Doc with his stools! Oh, and we really owe a debt of gratitude to this lady who helped herself to a lot of “things” and who was caught on film by Heather!

I wish we knew her address…we’d just deliver the items to her in the future!

D’Elia Family Sunday Traditions

Does your family have traditions that you can plot like clockwork? Traditions that happen as steadily as turning the pages on a calendar? Well, Susie and I do, and as it happens, the three I’m going to talk about come together most Sundays, and that is what separates our Sundays, from the other 6 days of the week! I’m not going to say that these traditions are set in stone, but honestly, there’s got to be a pretty big reason for us to deviate from them! Let me start with the oldest of the three, and give you a view of the timeline of the events that eventually became our Ocean City Sundays.

Stir, Stir Sunday

Are you of an age, where you remember watching old black and white movies like the Thin Man series, staring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles? Movies of that era featured lots of drinking and one drink that was promptly featured was the martini. Why there was even a movie in the Thin Man series called, Mix Martinis Marriage and Murder! Somebody was always mixing a pitcher of martinis in these movies either as a means of celebration, or as an antidote to get through a tough situation. Now, I’m not talking about the James Bond, “Shaken not Stirred” Vodka martini (note…we do those too, but NOT on Sunday), I’m talking about the tall elegant glass pitcher, filled with ice and in those early days, more likely gin than vodka, and stirred with a long glass wand! If you do remember those scenes in old movies, then you understand what I’m talking about!

A number of years ago, through the magic of Ebay, where you can find just about anything, we bought a vintage Martini Set, containing the pitcher, glass stirrer, and 6 period correct martini glasses. I say period correct, because unlike today’s huge martini glasses, some of which can take half a bottle of spirits, the vintage glasses were of a more manageable size, which is why folks back then could spend the afternoon drinking from them! So this then is our set.

Now, don’t really think when we first got them they were exclusively used on Sundays, but I do know that eventually they did end up being the anchor of our Sunday evenings, and were exclusively used on Sundays at about 5 PM. First the pitcher is filled with ice, then the vodka fresh from the freezer joins the mix (FYI…no vermouth is used in the making of Stir, Stir Sunday), and then the stirring commences, usually by my lovely wife Susie! Meanwhile, I take the frozen glasses out of the freezer, trim some subtle elegant lemon peals, and then we join the frozen vodka, with the frozen glasses! If we are home at 5PM on a Sunday, we participate in our tradition! In fact, back before we sold the Mineola house, and became exclusively residents of Ocean City, we had a set in Mineola and a set in Ocean City, so that at either house, we were prepared! Cheers to you!!

Bagel Sunday

The second oldest tradition on our Sundays involve bagels! When we started regularly having bagels, there was not any particular day involved, and then for a while it was pretty regularly a Saturday thing, but a number of years ago, it became a fixed part of our Sunday mornings! We did this both on Long Island and here in Ocean City, and since we became full time OC residents, every Sunday starts the same! We get up (Susie usually before me), we goof around with our iPads for an hour or so checking mail, Facebook, and the news, and then we get dressed and are ready to start the day! I always go alone, driving over the bridge to Somers Point and my friends at Hot Bagels and More on Route 9, but as an offshoot of the pandemic, now I call first and put in our order. Some weeks I get through on my first try, some weekends it takes longer, but eventually I do get our order placed! My favorite way to do the drive is with the top down on the Mustang, but if the weather does not cooperate, then I go with the top up or in our Honda CRV. It’s about a 10 minute drive, and I love seeing my Hot Bagel friends Sue, Kris, Maria, and CC, and taking the sometimes still hot bagel sandwiches home to enjoy!

Once I’m home, and the bagels are plated and the accompanying cups of tea are made, Susie and I sit down and enjoy our bagel sandwiches (usually a flavored cream cheese – Scallion for Susie and Veggie for me – and either well done bacon, or sometimes something like ham or pork roll) while watching TV. During the TV season, it was usually Friday night’s Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods off the DVR, but since they ended for the year (and Hawaii Five-O for good), we’ve been hooked on the TV show Las Vegas from the early 2000s!

Some people may wonder how the South Jersey Bagels compare with the Long Island Bagels from our past. Let me say that we were never 100% committed to any one bagel store around Mineola, having tried 3 or 4 different ones over the years. As to how they compared with our South Jersey bagels? I’ll say that anytime Bagel Sunday found us on Long Island, we missed the quality and the size of our Hot Bagel and More sandwiches! In fact, in 2019 we found a bagel store down in Indian Rocks Beach, and tried to keep our tradition alive. We were so disappointed by the offerings there, that when we spent February, 2020 in Indian Rocks Beach, it was with a dozen frozen everything bagels from our bagel friends at Hot Bagels and More, on Route 9 in Somers Point! I’d put their bagels up against anyone’s!

The Sunday Drive

This, the newest of our Sunday Traditions, is something we really didn’t do when we still lived on Long Island. We’d take drives around our part of Long Island, but it wasn’t really pegged to Sundays. In fact, for most of the 15 years we’ve owned our Ocean City house, our Sunday drive usually was comprised of a 150 mile trip back to our Mineola house via the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, Lincoln Tunnel, Midtown Tunnel and the LIE! So, this Sunday Tradition really had it’s start back when we made Ocean City our full time residence in November of 2017.

If you are like me, growing up in Queens, a Sunday drive was often a part of our weekend! When we lived in Jackson Heights, we’d drive out to the “country”, which it turns out was just down the road from the Bayside house our family moved to in 1968! We really weren’t going anywhere (except those Sundays we’d stop for a hot dog and some ice cream at Howard Johnsons), but were just getting out of our 4 room apartment and exploring! Well, that’s what Susie and I do! In nice weather, we hop into the Mustang, put the top down, and go out and explore the area, but honestly, it’s something we do 12 months a year, top up or down! If anyone is interested, the Mustang is a 2000, that we picked up at the dealership on March 31, 2000. We ordered her just 3 days after my 50th birthday, and I would say that my red convertible was my “mid-life crisis car”! Now after 21 summers in our life, she’s turned into my “retirement car”!

So where do we go? Well, over the years we’ve explored most of Cape May and much of Atlantic Counties. We’ve headed out with a purpose to see something, or just made random turns at intersections. We’ve traveled up and down most of the streets in Ocean City, and explored our neighbors to the north and south! We’ve learned where we live and know what’s around, and we’ve seen some incredible sights. Take a look at some of our discoveries over the years!

And there you have Susie and my Sunday Traditions! We start with our bagels, continue with our exploration of Southern Jersey, and wrap up the day with Stir Stir! Susie always tries to have a crockpot meal or something she can just throw into the oven to cook, so meal preparation doesn’t affect our enjoyment! It is truly an anchor of our week, and during our time in “lockdown” during the pandemic, sometimes it was the only way we could tell Sundays from the rest of the week. We love our Sundays, our traditions, and we jealously guard them, and hope to continue Bagel Sunday, Stir Stir Sunday and our rides forever! Why you may ask don’t we include going to the beach on our Sundays? Well, for one, we live here and don’t have the need to be at the beach every day, but more importantly, Sundays are the weekly renters first full day at the shore, and we figure to let them enjoy the beach, while we enjoy our other Sunday Traditions!

Thanks for joining us for our D’Elia Family Sunday Traditions…We hope you have yours!

Quarintini

Susie and I arrived back on Pennlyn Place the afternoon of Saturday, March 14th, after making the trip from my cousin’s house in Barefoot Bay, Florida in just two days. Kenny and Chris returned from Iowa, their last weekend of work, on Monday, March 16th. Since then, for the past two plus weeks, our lives have been materially different than any other similar period, and probably much different than any other stint in any of our lives ever will be. All because of a virus, that has the unfortunate happenstance to share a name with a very popular Mexican beer! So what’s been happening??

Well, first of all, we are very fortunate to be in the position we are. Unlike so many of the folks in the world who either have to go out into the working world daily because they are deemed “indispensable”, or else are at home and no longer getting a salary because they worked in industries that were not considered “essential”, we are in the enviable situation to still have our Social Security and Pensions direct depositing into our accounts. Secondly, we live in a small beach town in one of the southern most counties in the state of New Jersey, so unlike our fellow Jersey residents, who live in the congested New York Metro area, our Corona virus numbers are low. Thirdly, we are fortunate to have “Our Boys” with us (Kenny and his husband Chris) during this stay at home time, and as Susie and I are more in the demographic that all the reports say this virus is even more dangerous for, Chris and Kenny have not let us go to the grocery store, CVS for prescriptions, or the very necessary liquor store for supplies.

So what are we doing? Well, we’ve been enjoying adult beverages and we’ve been eating!

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We’ve taken on some interesting jobs, that should have been done a long time ago, but we are putting the time to good use. We’re doing things like organizing the freezers in the house!

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We’ve been exchanging texts and photos with our daughter Krissi, who along with her husband Mike live in Astoria, NY, and who have been working from home, even if sometimes she feels she needs to dress like she’s at work to get the job done!

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We’ve been Face Timing with our son’s family in North Carolina, and wishing our Grand Daughter Layla a Happy Sixth Birthday!

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We’ve been playing games. We’ve done Sequence, 5000, and May I, and there is a threat of Monopoly, but we are not sure as a family if we are ready for that.

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We’ve been watching our two Dancer/Singer/Actor fellow residents trip the light fantastic in our kitchen!

Susie worked on a very difficult puzzle! It was one given to us last Christmas by our neighbors and friends Patti and Meade, and was a nautical chart of the Ocean City area! The puzzle was started on Sunday…

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Continued to work through it on Monday (look at all that blue!!)

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And it was successfully completed on Tuesday! I’d say it was a “family project”, but honestly Chris, Kenny, and myself had just a little involvement, with the majority of work done by our Puzzle Master, Susan!

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Did I mention we’ve been drinking?

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But sometimes we also cooked! These were some stuffed mushrooms I made last weekend!

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And sometimes we combined drinking AND eating! What an idea!

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The boys have created beautiful cocktail hour scenes (appitizers by Chris, pretty pink drinks by Kenny!).

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And the old school play book has come out too, and Susie has made some delish old school recipes like a family favorite Spinach/Rice and Meat, and yummy Chicken and Dumplings!

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We’ve also ordered in food! In an effort to help support the local restaurants that we love, we have bought gift cards to use when this is all over, and ordered take out several times during the last two weeks! We’ve enjoyed Sunday bagels from Hot Bagels and More in Somers Point, which sadly seems to have closed for the duration of the lockdown, We had a great dinner a couple of nights ago from Sal’s on Route 9 in Somers Point…lots of great food for an incredible price! But in keeping with our usual habit of you being able to find us on any given Thursday night at Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern in Atlantic City, for the past three Thursdays, we have ordered from them! For an incredibly reasonable price, we have gotten so much good food, including their incredible salads, a huge tray of an entry and another of pasta, and even wine and dessert!

Okay, so what other things have we done beside eating and drinking? Well, Son-In-Law Chris has worked with Susie and picked up knitting again! He’s knitted a couple of things and continues to work on his technique!

Speaking about the boys, they have gotten involved with Chris’ sister Michelle and her on line fitness classes! She lives out in Reno, and conducts a class at 9:15 Reno time on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday! No way the boys could handle that, but at the 12:15 Eastern time her class starts in Ocean City, they are in it all the way! After the half hour or so of the class, they come out of the den everyday dying, but every morning of her class, they are back in it, using their cans of tomatoes or jars of pickles as weights, and enjoying the work out! They’ve even gotten our neighbors Patti and Meade involved!

Michelle’s class is every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 9:15 AM Pacific Time, and the link is https://zoom.us/j/428504901

Patti and Meade have also loaned the boys a couple of bikes, and they have been riding around the neighborhood, but the weather has been kind of on and off this last week, with some damp, cold, and windy days…definitely not March going out like a lamb!!

Susie and I have taken to walking around the neighborhood. We keep crossing the street when people approach to practice proper social distancing, and somedays when the wind is blowing cold off the ocean, it’s not fun, but we have to do more than sit on our butts! Today, we passed a house we’ve probably walked, biked, and driven by hundreds of times, and saw for the first time this cute lawn statue!

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We are also so thankful that if we have to be doing this staying-at-home thing, we live in a time when we are blessed with the most incredible digital entertainment venues of all time! Susie and I have tried to be sparing and not binge watch shows, but we’ve finished the current seasons of Grace and Frankie, The Kominsky Method. and Lost in Space, but we still have episodes to go in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and haven’t even started the Ranch or Jack Ryan! Kenny also told us that one of our favorites, Bosch, returns in a couple of weeks, so we’re looking forward to that! Then there are old movies on TCM that we’ve been recording. Today we watched the original version of The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 with Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw and an incredible cast of character actors from 1974! We’re even starting some shows that were big hits, but that we’ve never watched! We are 11 episodes into the first season of Cheers…which went 11 seasons and 20+ episodes a season! Then there’s Facebook, and online news sources that we read daily. I refuse to watch TV news because I don’t need any more bad dreams than I already have!!

What else?? Well, Susie dug her craft boxes out of storage, and she’s revisiting some of the projects she’d had in the planning stages. These boxes have been in storage for several years, and honestly, she has lots there to keep her busy! If she only had a few more corks!

But, it’s not just staying home and keeping our distance from friends and neighbors, but also other things that we’re having to put on the back burner…like my second knee! When we left in January, I’d made an appointment for this next week to get the process started for my second knee. My left knee was replaced July 11th of last year, and I hoped to start the procedure next week, so that I could get my right knee done sometime in May or June. Well, that’s not happening, so I postponed the appointment to the middle of May, and honestly, that’s probably not happening either. Like so many other things in our lives that are on hold, it will wait, and I’ll start the process again when it’s more appropriate! One silver lining of that cloud…I no longer have to be under a certain weight goal by next week, so pasta, bread, and rice are back on the menu…for a little bit!

So there you have it. I don’t expect anybody to read this, and honestly wrote it more for myself. If you do get a kick out of some of the things the D’Elia/Fox shut-ins are doing to pass the time, that’s great, but if not, that’s fine too! Remember we are all in this together, and we can beat this thing! Just please be smart, follow the guidelines, keep yourself and your family safe, and be ready to live again when this crap is in our past! Love to you all from our family of shut-ins and our little beach town in South Jersey!

A Strange Time

It was exactly one week ago that Susie and I cut short our two months in Florida, and arrived home in Ocean City. To say it’s been a strange week would, I think, not be an exaggeration!

Our Country is still coming to terms with the Corona Virus, and what it means to us. Being a place where normally we’re asked to send money to some other part of the world to help them survive, finding this strange disease within our midsts is, to say the least, a new and quite uncomfortable position for many of us.Travel bans, having Major League Sports canceled, finding Disneyland and Disney World closed, and having fellow Americans hoarding everything from hand sanitizers to toilet paper, goes beyond even the Milk and Bread runs we are used to before a major snow storm. This is new and uncharted waters for us, and everyone of us has to come to terms with it in his or her own way.

Living here in Ocean City, New Jersey, a barrier island that is connected to Southern Jersey by four bridges, this past week, concerns were expressed that reminded me of an old episode of the Twilight Zone. Entitled “The Shelter” , it originally aired on September 29th, 1961 and the plot centered around a dinner party that was interrupted by the news of an impending nuclear attack. The problem looked at in the episode was that only one of the families in the neighborhood had installed a bomb shelter. It’s a great episode in which friends and neighbors keep trying to get the family to let them join them in their bomb shelter, but are all refused. In the episode, writer Rod Serling studies the effect that the closing of the shelter door has on both those living inside THEIR bomb shelter, and those outside who didn’t think there was a need for a shelter, but now feel they are entitled to access. As an 11 year old in 1961, I clearly remember having “Duck and Cover” drills weekly in school, (like there was ever going to be a way for us to survive a nuclear attack by cowering under our desks!) so this was not a random topic Mr. Serling pulled out of the air, but a real issue in contemporary America.

 

26FDB6E5-6A37-4E0C-9D74-479DB92D1971Here in Ocean City, this past week the current situation with Corona Virus and how we have reacted to it, has fostered discussion on Facebook and other places not unlike the situation depicted in “The Shelter”. As a bit of background, Ocean City is the northern most town in southern Jersey’s Cape May County. According to the 2010 census, there are just under 12,000 residents in our town, but for the busy summer months of June, July and August, that population soars to between 115,000 and 130,000 people. So for 9 months a small beach town, and for 3 months of the year, a full on summer resort, populated by second home owners, and daily, or weekly visitors. Many of the businesses in town operate as seasonal businesses, only being open during the busy summer months, but others, that are open all year, base their operations at this time of the year, on the smaller full-time resident levels of business. That’s where the problem has developed this past week.

It seems that many of our second homeowners have decided to come down to Ocean City from their full time homes in Pennsylvania, Delaware and even New York. This has caused some Ocean City full timers to go to Facebook and other places, saying things like, GO BACK TO YOUR HOME, SHELTERING IN PLACE MEANS TO STAY AT THE ADDRESS ON YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE, THANKS FOR COMING DOWN AND EMPTYING OUT OUR STORES and worse things. These people are blaming the empty store shelves and the crazy atmosphere at local stores, directly at the feet of second homeowners and out-of-state visitors. What these people are calling on the City to do is to close the four bridges linking Ocean City to the mainland to anybody who’s driver’s license doesn’t show an Ocean City address.

Two of the four bridges connecting OC to the rest of NJ

This is obviously not a small issue, as Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian late this week issued a regular situation update in which he asked residents to “stay at home, limit travel to essential destinations” as the CDC suggests. He went on to say, “In order for this request to have any meaningful effect, it must apply to all unnecessary travel – not just to out-of-state visitors. It saddens me to see the divisiveness spawned by recent statements singling out this population.” Wow, sounds very much like those folks in the Twilight Zone episode. At his briefing today, NJ Governor Murphy even brought up the topic. He requested that second homeowners refrain from heading to the Jersey Shore, and he said, “The local infrastructure, especially in offseason, is not prepared for the influx of part-time residents.”.

I’m not sure exactly which side of this discussion I fall on. I don’t think I’m ready to join the folks blaming out-of-towners, for the shortages in stores, as honestly, it’s just as likely that the very people bitching about what the visitors have done, are the same people who have emptied the shelves! On the other side, carloads of folks from out of state, unloading bikes and boogie boards and kids, acting more like the Spring Break kids in Florida than responsible citizens doesn’t help our situation either! And then what about the folks, who split their time evenly between their shore house and another home? More questions than answers.

The bottom line is that many people are living in fear right now, looking for someone to blame for that fear. Some will take it out on the President, some the Governor, some Government in general, and, as has been demonstrated here in Ocean City, some will blame those folks who don’t call this place their year round home! I guess we all need to realize we are all now living in, “The Twilight Zone”…and who knows when we’ll get out! Welcome to our life in 2020, as the pandemic comes to a neighborhood near you! Let’s all be safe, do what we are suggested to do by the experts, work together, and get through this. Let’s not be jerks or hostile towards folks who may think differently than us. Who knows what our towns and country will look like when this is over, let’s just hope we’re all still here to deal with whatever we find!

Good luck everybody! Be smart and be safe!

A Very Strange 6+ Weeks!

Susie and I have just had a very unusual 6+ weeks trip to Florida…here’s a look at it.

It started off like a perfectly normal trip, as we left Ocean City on Thursday, January 30th! The car was packed for a 6 to 8 week visit to Florida, and our first stop was with our son Billy’s family at their brand new house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. It was a great visit with Billy and his wife Lori, and our Grandchildren, Layla, Henry and our brand new Granddaughter, baby Annabelle! A great time was had by all, and we left with 10 boxes of Layla’s Girl Scout Cookies….the perfect stop!

The next morning we were off, and the next stop was Darien, Georgia, so that we could go to our favorite fried shrimp place in the world, B&J’s Steak House and Seafood! It was incredible!!

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Our Post, Florida, Here We Come from February 1st contains more details!

The next morning, we continued our journey south on I-95 again, arriving at our rented condo in Indian Rocks Beach Beach about 3:30 PM! If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve read about week one in IRB…if not, check some of them out on the right side of the home page!

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We were thrilled during our month long stay there that my cousin Jeanne and Walt joined us for 4 days, and then “Our Boys”, son Kenny and his husband Chris were able to join us for a week! We had a wonderful time with the boys, exploring many wonderful places and finding both new places to eat and wonderful places to have a drink! Of course, lots and lots of beach time, perfecting our tans, and making us look like we really had been in Florida!

It was at the end of the week the boys were with us, that we got the call that Susie’s Mom had passed away. We scrambled getting plane reservations, and making arrangements. The boys headed back to OC (Spirit Airlines from Tampa to AC for under $200 roundtrip for both of them) and a day early, on Friday, Susie and I drove across the state to Ft. Lauderdale airport, left the Honda in Long Term Parking, and winged back to NYC for the weekend! (Life Happens from March 3rd has more details)

 

Then it was 6 wonderful nights at the Doubletree Resort in Hollywood Beach Florida. If you haven’t read details of that yet, check out our blog Doubletree Resort, Hollywood Beach, Florida from March 12th.

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BC51AB4E-BE98-4640-9F5B-B81A1FDE2418Then we were off to my cousin Jeanne’s in Barefoot Bay, Florida. We were there for 3 nights with them, and then they were winging their way to Hawaii for 4 weeks, and we were planning on staying in their house for a couple of more weeks! We were looking forward to pool time, a Spring Training Mets game at Port St. Lucie, and my first visit to Cape Canaveral, and the Kennedy Space Center…then the shit hit the fan!

We started reading online of the ramp-up of measures to prevent the spread of Corona Virus in the US. The one that really got our attention was the suspension of travel between the US and Europe! If that was reality, might there be a suspension of Interstate travel in the US? In my visions I saw State Trooper’s vehicles lined up across I-95 as it crossed from one state to another. Then MLB, NBA, NHL, and all the other initial organizations started canceling games, and then one that seemed un-imaginable…Broadway, Disneyland and Disney World CLOSED! This was real, and we started talking. Would we rather be possibly stuck at Jeanne and Walt’s, where we knew but one person (their friend and neighbor Bruce – Jeanne and Walt had left that afternoon for Hawaii), and were 1000+ miles away from our Ocean City Family and all our Doctors, or would we rather be back in our little New Jersey beach town, surrounded by our family (Our Boys are with us), our Ocean City friends, and a phone call away from our Doctors? We decided that Ocean City won out over Florida!

So on Thursday last week, two weeks or so earlier than we were originally planning, we started packing and before the sun went down, the Honda was loaded, and by the time we went to bed that night, we were ready to head back north! At 8:30 Friday morning, we locked up their house and drove out of Jeanne and Walt’s driveway, and headed out of Barefoot Bay! Within about 20 minutes, we were on our home for the next two days, I-95 North, heading to our beach town! Our plan was to do the trip in two days, stopping just one night, rather than the two nights we usually do. Let’s face it…at this point, we wanted to be home in Ocean City!!

Day one went well, and at 12:35 PM, this came up on the GPS, showing that we were 777 miles from the Atlantic City Expressway!

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After driving for about 8 hours, and having a cold cut lunch in the car, our stop that night was at a Doubletree in Fayetteville, North Carolina. We splurged and had our only Cracker Barrel meal of our trip! Of course, there was a women in the next dining room coughing up a lung…just what we needed to think that our decision to eat out had been ill advised!! We slept well that night, and were off again Saturday morning at 8:15…without stopping for the free breakfast we were entitled to!

We made great time on Saturday and were projected by the GPS to arrive home, a few minutes after 4, but we decided to stop at our favorite Italian Market, Bagliani’s in Hamilton. Just 2 miles off the Atlantic City Expressway, they have great cheeses, meats and Italian products, and we figured this might be a good place to stock up on some items to eat during the coming weeks. Here’s the meat we ended up with after Susie had split them up and used her Seal-a-Meal to vacuum pack them!

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Even with the stop, we arrived back in Ocean City a few minutes past 4:30. On our entire 6+ weeks trip, we drove 3302.6 miles in the Honda (and got 31.3 MPG for those miles), and we were home in Ocean City, and happy!

All was well, we were home, and the house was stocked with all the necessities!

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Kenny and Chris were out in Iowa doing one of their weekend gigs, and arrived home to Philly airport early on Monday. They drove home, we sanitized them with antibacterial spray, wiped the car down with antibacterial wipes, sent them off to shower and wash everything in their suitcases, and the four of us began our days of hunkering down in Ocean City! Their weekend gigs have been postponed for the next two weeks at least, the house is stocked with lots of supplies, and there’s nothing left to do but take walks through the neighborhood (while avoiding anybody we may meet), catch up on TV and movies (we’ve got a long list of Netflix shows that we’d been saving for summer, but which we will dip into now), read a book, write, and take care of household tasks. We have no idea what the days ahead will bring, what else will be closed by government mandate, or just by the owners not interested in putting workers in harm’s way, and how long we’ll be forced to remain close to home. We’ve bought some online gift cards to our favorite restaurants in hope that some cash infusion will help them still be there when this is over. What the future will bring, we have no idea, but as I read on Facebook the other day, “Your parents were called to a world war…you can sit on your couch for a couple of weeks”.

Hope everybody we know is safe and staying that way. We have no idea what the world will look like on the other side of this, but we will get through it as we follow the rules and realize we’re all in this together. Please be smart and take care! Love to all!

Doubletree Resort, Hollywood Beach, Florida

Last week at this time, Susie and I were at what has become one of our favorite hotels, the Doubletree Resort in Hollywood Beach Florida. Located on A1A at 4200 South Ocean Drive in Hollywood Beach, right along the Intracoastal Waterway, and just next to the Hallandale Beach Bridge…it’s a perfect location.

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This is our 3rd year staying here, and our longest stay, and honestly, we were wondering if we were going to be bored staying from Monday to Sunday. Well, we soon discovered we had nothing to fear, and from the time the valet took the Honda CRV from us on Monday afternoon, we never left the hotel again! We treated it like an all inclusive resort, and since we’ve been to the area a lot, including several times in recent years, there was no need to do anything but relax on the property!

The property is beautiful, the rooms wonderful, and the view from our 7th floor balcony is just incredible! What a wonderful view to go to sleep to each night and to wake up with every morning.

Then there is the pool…and what a pool it is! With it’s location right along the Intracoastal Waterway, we liked nothing better than to stand in the pool, and watch boat after boat after boat go by. The entire pool area is wonderful and the Lava Tiki Bar right next to the Intracoastal is a place we’ve spent so much time…both day and night! Great drinks, excellent food, and great staff!

Speaking about the staff, to our mind they take an already good property and elevate it to Diamond Status! The first person we met was Joe, the Concierge/Bell Captain…. by the time I checked in, he and my Susie were best friends! He was from Brooklyn, had run a cemetery in Pennsylvania for many years, and knew exactly where Ocean City was. What a great guy and never failed to say hello every time we saw him all week!

In the morning we had great breakfasts in the Port South Grill, served by great servers including Jackie, and Stephen.

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Our afternoons were spent at the pool and bartenders Frank, and Calford made excellent drinks and were quick with a smile and a joke!”

Every night but our last (too windy), we were outside at the Tiki Bar (why not..it’s March and 70+ degrees!) and enjoyed the drinks and companionship of John, Ian, and Frank behind the bar, and the friendship of Serge the server.

In fact, after spending a night talking with Frank as he served us, the next morning, we were at the pool less than 10 minutes when he showed up next to us with two Bloody Marys saying, “Here are the Bloodies I promised you last night!”

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Then there was the pool staff! Casandra at the towel hut and the hardest working man in the hotel, Carlos the Majordomo of the Doubletree Pool! He never stops! Great work ethic and a very nice man to boot!

Somebody else we interacted with was Karl at the front desk, who was so helpful to us when we had a little problem with our room’s Do Not Disturb sign. On one of our last mornings, we’d left about 11:30 and discovered that someone had taken our Do Not Disturb sign while we were in the room. When we came back at 5:30, the room was not made. So we went to the desk and spoke with Karl to get new towels and a new Do Not Disturb sign. The next day, when we went to the pool, we put our new Do Not Disturb sign in the room, but when we came back, we found another Do Not Disturb sign on our door knob, which caused our room not to be made up! Can you say Gas Lighting? Bottom line, we got our room made up that day, and left with a story to boot!

Now, just as an example of how well this hotel is maintained, our last morning coming out of the Port South restaurant we passed this gentleman, who spent his days touching up the paint around the hotel! Incredible!

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So, I guess you understand we love this hotel, the location and especially the staff! We will be back to visit our “friends” again, because that’s what the staff is to us! Great job! Thanks for a wonderful, relaxing 6 nights! Sorry it’s over….oh, and by the way, we used Hilton Honors points and stayed for free! Winning!!

 

Life Happens

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One week ago today, early in the afternoon of February 25th, Susie got the phone call that she frankly expected, but that she dreaded getting. It was from Highfield Gardens Nursing Home in Great Neck, where her Mom has “lived” for the past 4 years, and it was to sadly inform her that her Mom had passed away peacefully at 1:40 that afternoon. As I said, expected, but still sad.

Susie’s Mom, Edith Sanderson Booth Johnson was born on December 26th, 1924 in Astoria, New York. She was one of two children born to Doris Ionian Thompson and John Sanderson Booth, and from all accounts, had a wonderful childhood. As a young woman during the Second World War, she worked as a secretary for some unknown US Government agency in the Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan. It was only after the US dropped the two Atom Bombs on Japan, ending the war, that she learned that she had been working on the Manhattan Project, that developed those bombs. She was very proud of the pin and letter of commendation she received from that work, and held it as a prized possession for the rest of her life.

Shortly after the end of the war, in 1945, she married Susie’s Dad, Robert Walter Johnson. Just recently back from serving in the US Army in Italy, her Dad was married in his uniform and her Mom in a simple suit. As they told the story, they got engaged one weekend, and married the next. (Edie’s Dad wasn’t even there as he was away on a hunting trip!) That’s just the way folks did things in the aftermaths of World War II! After a honeymoon in Niagara Falls (so typical in those days), it was time to get on with their lives!

Bob and Edie started their lives together in Astoria, and then were one of the first families to move into Long Island’s Levittown in 1950. They were living the post World War American Dream! That dream also included children, and they welcomed their first daughter Barbara Alice in 1947, then five years later, my wife Susan Lynn, in 1952, and then 10 years after that, their younger brother Donald James in 1962. Susie’s brother was named for her Mom’s beloved younger brother, who tragically died shortly after the war, from what we’ve only recently been able to deduce would probably be called today PTSD, but which was totally unknown in the 40’s.

The family moved around Long Island after Levittown, first moving to Hempstead, then out to Bayshore with Susie’s Grandparents, and finally back to Brown Avenue in Hempstead, where they spent many years.

In 1977, the Johnson Family came into my life when I met their daughter Susie, and in 1978 when I asked her to marry me, they became my family! Susie and I were very fortunate because unlike so many married couples we hear about, we both liked our new in-laws. Susie’s Mom and Dad became my Mom and Dad, just as mine became her’s. When holidays came around, we were one big family, with her folks coming over to my folks’ house in Bayside or my Mom and Dad traveling to Hempstead for Christmas or Thanksgiving. Life was good, and it got even better when our little guys entered the picture!

Seems like between my Mom (my Dad had died when oldest son Billy was just over a year old), and Susie’s folks, a couple of our kid’s grandparents were always in our house. They were there to volunteer for babysitting for work, and especially when Susie and I wanted to have some alone time, and keep reminding ourselves that even with 3 kids, we were a couple first and always. Unfortunately, Susie and I were in Las Vegas when Susie’s Dad died in 2001. Our kids were home on Long Island, and we were 3/4 of the country away, but Susie’s brother stepped up to the plate and got our kids ready to accept that “Pop-Pop” had died!

Susie’s Mom really never wanted to continue without him, but continue she did for what turned out to be many, many years. First at the Knolls in East Meadow, where they’d moved from Hempstead, but then about 12+ years, things started to change and unravel in her life. It was a Labor Day weekend, and Susie’s sister Barbara and family were out at Montauk, and Susie and I were down in Ocean City. Only her brother Donnie was there, when she apparently suffered a heart attack. This was the beginning of Vascular Dementia, and over the next couple of years it progressed to the point she couldn’t continue to live alone. From there it went fast. She had several accidents, and honestly we thought the end was near, but she always rallied…physically, but never mentally.

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Easter of 2015…4 Generations..Susie’s Mom, Susie, her Mom’s oldest Grandchild (our son Billy) and her first Great Grand Child, Billy’s daughter Layla

Four years ago she entered the nursing home in Great Neck where her dementia only proceeded to get worse. Most visits, she didn’t even know her children. She knew she’d seen them before, but had no idea of who they were. Occasionally a name would click, but mostly she had no idea about family history. She’d forgotten her husband Bob, her Mom and Dad and brother, and frankly, some of the stories she’d tell when you visited were off the wall. It was hard for all of us who loved her to see her that way, but Susie was happy that she was well taken care of by people who actually seemed to care for her. It’s a horrible way for someone’s life to end and if it hasn’t touched your family or your circle of friends, consider yourself fortunate!

Having moved to Ocean City 2+ years ago, we didn’t get back to see her as often as when we lived in Mineola, but the last time Susie and I saw her in January was one of the best visits we’ve had in years! She was happy to see us, was upbeat, and happy to have us there. She was the one who told us to leave, and as Susie returned her to the common room on the floor, she said she was happy that we’d been there. Whether she had any idea who we were, or was just “faking” it, we’ll never know, but looking back on that visit, and how good it was, has helped Susie get through the last week!

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Mother’s Day 2015 in our Mineola Backyard..Susie’s Mom with all her kids

Christmas, 2015 with Susie’s sister Barbara and Mom’s first Great Grand Child Layla, and her 91st Birthday

When Susie got that call a week ago, we were in a rented condo in Indian Rocks Beach, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Our son Kenny and his husband Chris were with us, planning to fly home the next day. As soon as she got the call, Susie got on the phone with her sister and brother and worked out what they thought would be an appropriate plan for her funeral. Four years ago, Susie and her sister had planned the funeral when they thought she was going to leave us then, and before her money ran out, they paid for it, so Susie also had to coordinate with the Funeral Home. Lots of phone calls in the next few hours or so after getting the original call. Then it was my turn to get online and plan our transportation back to NY for the weekend. It was decided that we’d leave our rental a day early, pack our car, and drive across the state and fly out of Ft. Lauderdale Airport, as the rest of our Florida stay was taking place on the East coast of the state. On Wednesday, we took the boys to the Tampa airport, and then proceeded to start packing up from our month’s long stay!

Susie’s Sister Barbara and her husband Rob coordinated flowers back on Long Island and made sure they got clothes for their Mom to Weigand Brothers Funeral Home in Williston Park! Thank God they were there and able to take care of those details. Our friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf offered us to stay in their home in Mineola, and for that and their friendship, we’re thankful! We packed the car Thursday night, and early on Friday morning, we drove 200 plus miles across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and through Alligator Alley to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport and our Delta flight back to JFK. After picking up a car at the Hertz office, we made the drive to Mineola, arriving about 7:30 at Pat and Steve’s house. A long day of travel!

Saturday morning I dropped Susie off at the Cuttin Club, and her old hairdresser Laura, who’d responded to an urgent call from Florida to help Susie with her hair. Kenny and Chris drove up from Ocean City, and had clothes for me so I didn’t have to go to a funeral in my Florida vacation clothes. They also picked up brother Bill from the Long Island Rail Road station in Mineola, as he’d just taken the Air Train from JFK after flying from North Carolina! (Another change in plans…he and his wife Lori were supposed to drive up, but our oldest Granddaughter Layla came home from school with something called Slap Cheek, (Fifth’s Disease) which promptly changed those plans). At about 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, the family started to gather at Weigand Brothers. Susie’s sister Barbara, husband Rob, and their son Ryan, her brother Donnie, Susie and I, and our kids Bill, Krissi and her husband Mike, and Kenny and his husband Chris.

It’s never easy going in for that first viewing, but everybody was very happy with how Susie’s Mom looked. Everybody said that she looked just like herself and would have been happy with her appearance. During this early period, Donnie’s ex-wife Diane showed up and was welcomed in as family. They may be divorced, but she’s always had a very good relationship with Susie’s Mom, who she called Nana. In fact, Diane was the last person to in the family to see her alive, having visited her on Saturday afternoon.

There were lots of visitors during the first session from Donnie’s Union and from his Fishing Club, and several of our former neighbors and folks from the Boy Scout Troop. There were lots of stories, and looking at pictures, and the usual talk about the shame that get-togethers like this only happen at funerals. Between sessions, the family went down the Street to TR’s for dinner, some drinks, and continuing reminisces about their Mom and the 95+ years of her life! The evening session was more of the same, and as the 9 o’clock hour approached, and it was time to say good-bye, there were tears and memories, and a mix of emotions, as well as kisses and hugs.

Another night at Pat and Steve’s, a drive to JFK, and another quick Delta Flight, and we’re back in Florida. Six nights at the the Doubletree Resort in Hollywood Beach will be time to recharge and reflect on this weekend, and be thankful for a great family and for friends who are there when the need arises. Thank you all…we love you!

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PS – At the funeral on Saturday, Susie’s sister Barbara gave me the the following, which she had found in her Mom’s “stuff”, that I had written to Susie’s Mom and Dad on the occasion of the their 40th Anniversary.  Interesting that Susie and I just celebrated our 40th Anniversary.  I wish I had pics of Susie’s Dad Bob to include, but I’m doing this on the road, and only have what I have!  Miss you Dad!!

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