Remembering our friend Paula

Susie and I were very sad to learn late last Tuesday evening, that our friend Paula had died of a massive heart attack. We learned the sad news, when I read a post from another friend on Facebook just before heading to bed.

Paula was a gambler, with Video Poker being her game of choice, and that was how we met her. About 10 or 12 years ago, I asked a question at an online message board about Video Poker. Paula answered that question for me, and then we started to go back and forth as Susie and I asked other questions, and she graciously answered. She was very good at Video Poker, and anytime she made a weekend trip to Atlantic City, or a trip to Vegas, she always left with multiple “Hand Pays”. (When a single win on a slot machine or a video poker machine is $1,200 or over, it has to be reported to the IRS, so a “hand pay” involves a casino employee actually giving you your money, after they’ve filled out forms for the IRS and given you a W-2G slip.) She was very knowledgeable, and happy to share her understanding of the game.

So, for several months, we were “Internet Friends,” until we discovered that on one particular weekend, she would be at Harrahs in AC the same weekend Susie and I were planning on being there. At that point, she was a Seven Stars player (the highest level on Harrahs gambling rewards), and invited us to meet her and her friend Judy in the Seven Stars Lounge! The Seven Stars Lounge at Harrahs, was in the back of the High Roller slot area, and as you walked up to the door, it opened automatically. This was the pinnacle of rewards clubs, and Susie and I were like kids in a candy store, as we were ushered in and escorted to Paula’s table. Even though we’d never met, and had only exchanged messages on the internet, it was almost like we were old friends who’d not seen each other in some time. We got along wonderfully with Paula and her friend Judy. We talked, and drank (and ate shrimp the size of your fist), and gambled that night. We were no longer internet friends, but were now real friends!

We learned that Paula and her husband Jim were lawyers in Northern Jersey, and although Paula loved gambling, Jim was not a big fan. He came with her occasionally, but mostly she came with girlfriends like Judy. She loved traveling to New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City, and enjoyed several “Girl Trips” a year. We also discovered that she and Jim had a beach house down in Cape May at the bottom of our county, so we were kind of neighbors too!

Over the years, we’d meet up with her if we were all in AC for a weekend, and on one occasion even met Jim, but our favorite Paula Story happened 7 or 8 years ago. We told her we were going to be at Harrahs in AC with our kids, and she was going to be staying at Harrahs and meeting Judy and some other friends who were staying at the Borgota. We agreed that we’d meet up if our schedules coincided. On Saturday night, our family was at the Sapphire Bar in the Eden Lounge, having a pre-dinner drink, and I texted Paula. She said she’d stop by on her way to the Borgota. When she did, we introduced her to the kids, and to our favorite AC Bartender, Ralph. Perhaps, because I was having one, Paula had Ralph make her a Grey Goose Martini. It was cold, and it was good, and it was large (Harrahs martini glasses were very big back then), and went down way too easily, so she ordered a second. About halfway through the drink, she realized that she had to get to the Borgota, where she and her girlfriends had a dinner reservation at the Old Homestead.

Later on, we heard that after her time with us at the bar, she had a hell of a night. She bounced off the wall going down the hall to get the Jitney to Borgota, didn’t remember much of dinner, and had no idea how she got back to Harrahs. Sunday morning, she woke up in her bed, still dressed as she was when we saw her before dinner, and sleeping with her Old Homestead leftovers!

Sadly, we always talked about getting together either at their house in Cape May, or ours in Ocean City. Sometimes things just never get done because you have all the time in the world…sadly, we did not.

We’re thinking about her husband Jim, and all the family and friends she leaves behind, and know that she’s up in heaven with her beloved son Ryan, making up for lost time with him. Paula, you were one of a kind, and Susie and I will always fondly remember our times with you! Hope there’s nothing but hand pays up in God’s Casino!

Five Years Ago

Continuing the blog trend from yesterday, 5 years ago today, on Friday, January 29th, 2016, I worked my last day at WABC Radio. My first paying job was at the age of about 11, when I was a “Super” in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth, at the Cincinnati Summer Opera in the early 60s. According to a blog post I wrote in January, 2016, that was the first of seven jobs I’ve had during my life The last Non-Radio job I had, was way back in 1972, which I left to start working at WHN in NYC. (https://fdthird.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/seven-jobs/).

After 44 years working in radio, a question I was asked a lot back in 2016 was, “So what are you going to do when you retire??”. My flippant answer was, “Whatever I want to do!,” which worked for most folks, but there was the occasional hard ass who pushed it. “No, what are you really going to do? Won’t you get bored?” My answer to that was that no, I won’t get bored. I’ll be able to spend every day with my best friend, we’ll travel, I’ll read a lot, I’ll do some writing, enjoy life, and definitely try to not get up most days until after the 7:24 from Mineola to Penn Station has left the station!!!

In the last five years, Susie and I have enjoyed life in many ways, the most important being that we’ve spent the majority of every single day together! See, we’re a little weird. A long time ago we discovered, we really like being together. Be it a trip to Shoprite or Costco, a ride in the car, cooking, eating out, or whatever, if my best friend and wife is by my side, we’re happy! So, that’s the first thing the past five years have given us…the ability to be together!

On January 30th, 2016 (my first day as a retired person), I joined Susie, who had retired after the 2013 school year, from her job at Hampton Street School in Mineola. Now, truly, time was ours, to do with as we pleased, and we did! But what else you ask? Okay, let’s make a list!

First on the list, had to be something that just doesn’t get done while you are still regularly employed…Our Big Trip! For 9 weeks, from August to October, and traveling 9,773 miles, we covered our country in our Hyundai Sonata. Visiting places like Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and so many other places that we’d always wanted to see.

Seeking the Sun…For every one of the five years since I joined Susie in retirement, we have traveled to Florida to seek a bit of a preview of the coming summer. On three of those years, we included a stay at Walt Disney World where we took advantage of my Disney Retiree free admission and discounts. The last two years, the trip included a multi- week stay in a condo we rented in what we consider our Florida home, Indian Rocks Beach. Sadly, due to the current Covid crisis we find ourselves in, there will be no Florida trip this year. No sunsets on the beach of Indian Rocks Beach, no trips to see Mickey Mouse, no visits with my cousins Jeanne and Walt in Barefoot Bay, and no preview of the Summer of 2021 for Susie and me.

We also cruised, a total of 6 weeks during the last 5 years! So many wonderful pictures, memories, and experiences.

Twin Weddings….In the past 5 years, our twins, Krissi and Kenny, joined their older brother Billy in the institution of marriage. Kenny and his husband Chris joined their lives in October of 2018 in Lake Tahoe, which included for Susie and I, a trip across the country on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief sleeper train. In June of 2019, our daughter Krissi and her husband Mike became one on the roof of their apartment building in Astoria. With the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, I gave away our daughter, and Mike joined our family!

Of course, 2019 was also the year we added a third Grandchild, as Annabelle Lorraine D’Elia joined her sister Layla and brother Henry on April 17th! Here she is with Grandpa at Aunt Krissi’s wedding!

We also, along the way, cleaned out our house in Mineola, that had been the D’Elia Family Home since August of 1986. 31 years of life is a lot to pack up, but that we did, as we sold the house, and turned our Ocean City home into our full time residence. We were luckier than many in making the transition, as we knew exactly what we were getting into in Ocean City, having had a life here for 12 years at that point! To make it official, it was a change of driver’s licenses and car registrations to the state of New Jersey, and registering to vote!

Our Mineola house with a very young Bill D’Elia on the day we found it in early 1986

Along the way, I also had my left knee replaced! Right knee was supposed to be done by now too, but Covid has delayed that schedule!

Of course, living at the beach, there were hours spent on the sand of Pennlyn Place Beach. There were enjoyable times on our front porch, or the backyards or decks of our neighbors.

If I had to pick the most important thing that I’ve enjoyed the last 5 years, it’s having the ability to make our own schedule. We no longer are limited by the school calendar, by how much vacation I got at WABC (a lot), by the schedule of others, and by our need to be at certain places at certain times. Prior to Covid, if we wanted to get in the car on a Thursday, and drive down to visit our family in North Carolina and watch our oldest Granddaughter’s dance recital, we did. If we wanted to drive down to Maryland for the weekend and visit with our son-in-law Mike’s family, we did. If we’d had enough time without our dear friends Pat and Steve back on Long Island, a car trip up to see them was what we did. That’s one of the real reasons we are so interested in getting our Covid vaccines, because we’d love to be able to put the spontaneity back in our travel schedules once again!

So there you have it, it’s all about living the life we have chosen, that we love, and doing it whenever we want! Like I said…doing whatever we want, whenever we want! That’s our take on retirement!