The Christmas Tree is perhaps the one universal symbol of the Christmas Season, and has been the centerpiece of our Christmas celebration for all our lives. If you read my recent blog about Christmas Memories (https://rnewadventures.com/2022/12/12/christmas-in-the-city/) you may remember me saying that in our family, the tradition was that your folks put up the tree and that Santa decorated it, and that was indeed the tradition till it wasn’t, but it spawned a new tradition, making the decorating of the Christmas Tree an event. I remember back in our Jackson Heights apartment sharing the task with my best friend David, and some friends we both went to high school with. When we moved to Bayside, the tradition was expanded to include even more folks. Some were people I went to college with and others were folks I worked with. It just became another occasion and a way to celebrate the joy of the holiday season, with family and friends who were like family.
In a comment about my last post, my college friend Andy Bellenkes said “I rejoice in the memories I cherish, celebrating a Christmas or two with the D’Elias, watching your Dad put up the lights along the roof line of your house, sitting with you, your Mom and Dad (and others whose identities at the moment I cannot recall) in the living room and feeling the familial warmth and friendship that in my memories so characterized your home.” Even after Susie and I got married, we continued this tradition at my folks house.
Here’s a picture from my folk’s house in Bayside, at what was Billy’s first Christmas Tree decorating at his Grandparent’s home. An evening populated with good friends I worked with at ABC.
That baby in my arms is just born William Ryan D’Elia, who now is the father of our
three Grandkids. The little girl in front of my Mom is Melinda McGuire Geraghty,
now the Mom of two adorable little people.
As our kids got older, we also continued the tradition at our Mineola house. Some years there were friends of the kids involved, sometimes it was just family, but it was always an event. The holiday toasting flutes would be brought out, the André would be poured, and somehow the tree would always get decorated! I must admit that I am married to a lady with a sort of Christmas Tree Ornament OCD, who would often times rearrange the ornaments after they’d been placed on the tree (especially when the kids were small, and couldn’t reach that high), but we never objected! It’s a tradition of ours that started in New Hyde Park, traveled with us to Mineola, and now resides on Pennlyn Place in Ocean City!
And then there were the ornaments themselves that had become a D’Elia Family Tradition! There were a few things that came from our folks, that Susie and I remember seeing on the trees we had growing up, giving us a kind of time continuum from our childhood. Then there are ornaments that have memories attached to them from our 44 married Christmases, either from places we bought them or from events in our life. Although our tree is beautiful to us, it’s not a designer tree, with carefully curated ornaments! It’s a road map of our family, and our 44 Christmases!
So there you have it…the story of one family’s Christmas Tree, and the central part it has played in our holiday celebration!
As Susie and I sit here in Ocean City on this Christmas Eve, and look at the 44th edition of Our Family’s Christmas Tree, we think back on all our wonderful Christmas memories from Christmases past, and we reflect on the blessings of Christmas that we’ve experienced. We hope that this Christmas finds you feeling blessed, and knowing that you are loved by those in your life! Merry Christmas……
September 29th in the year 1979 was a Saturday. I know that because that afternoon, at the C.W. Post Interfaith Chapel, Susan Johnson became Susan Johnson D’Elia, and my life changed forever! The story of how we ended up there started years before, but really got guidance a little over 2 years earlier, on the afternoon of July 3rd, 1977, when both Susie and I were guests at an early July 4th party in the back yard of Mary Ann and Bill Epperhart’s house in Oyster Bay. Sue knew Mary Ann as they both worked at Glen Cove Hospital as Registered Nurses, and Bill and I had been friends since we met years earlier at WCWP, The College Radio Station of C.W. Post College. There’s that CW Post connection again!
So, to continue our story, let’s go all the way back to the fall of 1967, when as a 17 high school graduate, I started as a commuter freshman at C.W. Post College. I wasn’t a great student, and really had no idea where I was going in life, which is why in short order I was a Theater Arts major, an English Major, a Philosophy Major, and a Political Science major, before finally settling on being a Music Major. Along the way, thanks to a class I had to take, I got involved at the college radio station, and as stories like to say, “the rest is history.”
Meanwhile, the young lady I was going to make my wife 43 years ago today, knew she wanted to be a nurse practically from the moment she was born it seems. Her early life lead up to it with Candy Striper and other volunteer jobs, and working at Nursing Homes, until finally after graduating from high school, she enrolled in the Pilgrim State Hospital School of Nursing on her way to getting her RN. There was lots of hands on learning at the hospital, but for their academic classes they were bused to C.W. Post College, and there’s that connection again!
As Susie is 2 years younger than I am, after meeting we discovered that we’d both been at Post at the same time! After 4 years of college, I graduated in the Spring of 1971, while Susie graduated from the 3 year program at Pilgrim in 1972. While we’d never met, nor to the best of our knowledge had we ever seen each other, the real possibility exists that during those couple of years that we both walked on the Brookville Campus, we might have passed each other, and that was our C.W. Post connection!
So, after that July 3rd, 1977 party, Susie and I were definitely an item. I think the description “Love at First Sight” could indeed be applied to us, and it only took me getting my permanent job at ABC Radio for me to take the leap, and on Christmas Day, 1978 ask her to marry me! In case you’re wondering, she said yes, and the planning began! The first hurdle was where to get married. Susie was raised a Protestant and I a Catholic. The question was how could we honor both of our families’ history, and answer was very easy for us….The Interfaith Chapel at C.W. Post! It was a lovely building, in a beautiful setting, on the college campus we’d both traveled while in school! Connection complete!
On the afternoon of Saturday September 29, 1979, at the Interfaith Chapel, with a Catholic Priest and a Protestant Minister officiating, in front of our family and friends, we joined two lives into one, and this great adventure we’ve had the past 43 years started! My life has been blessed every single day since then, because this wonderful lady is my lover, my best friend, my teacher, really, my EVERYTHING! Thanks for saying “I Do” 43 years ago today, I thank God every night for bringing you into my life! I love you more each day, and will love you forever and here’s to another 43 years of love together!!!
HAPPY 43rd ANNIVERSARY TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE!
FYI..unlike the usual occurrence in this blog, Susan Johnson D’Elia did zero proof reading on today’s story. Any and all mistakes are exclusively the fault of yours truly.
This recent Memorial Day, Susie and I did something we haven’t done for years. In a very real sense, we Turned Back the Hands of Time! Let me give you a little background….
In August of 1986, Susie, Billy, and I moved to our new (to us) house at 40 Fairfield Avenue in Mineola, NY. About 3 months later, our family of 3 morphed into a family of 5 when Billy’s sister and brother Krissi and Kenny were born. For the next 31 years, we called 40 Fairfield our home and the Village of Mineola the place where we lived. When Billy was in first grade, he along with several of his school friends wanted to join Cub Scouts, so off we went to Cub Pack 246 that met at Mineola’s First Presbyterian Church. Billy’s friend John’s Dad, Andy McInnes, volunteered to be Cubmaster, and as I remembered my great experiences being a Boy Scout, I volunteered to help in anyway I could, and I became the Pack Treasurer. Starting that first year, in May of 1987, Billy and I joined Pack 246 and marched in the Mineola Memorial Day Parade. For the next 28 years, with and/or without our sons Billy and Kenny, I continued to march in that parade…first with Cub Pack 246, and eventually with Mineola’s Boy Scout Troop 45.
Whatever happened on that year’s Memorial Day Weekend, marching in Mineola’s Parade was a given. In the early years, we’d go to see fireworks at Bar Beach in the Town of North Hempstead on Friday night, and then many times head down to the Jersey Shore for Saturday and Sunday, and then head back to Long Island for the parade. Starting in 2005, when we bought the house in Ocean City, NJ our routine changed. Now instead of Fireworks on Friday, we’d head down to Ocean City, and spend the weekend at our house with our Ocean City friends! Some weekends we had kids and their friends with us, and some weekends we were alone, but every year, we’d set an alarm for 5 AM on Monday, throw clothes on, and head up the Garden State Parkway, to Long Island and our parade.
In 1998, our good friend Steve Grosskopf became the Scoutmaster of Troop 45 (I talked him into taking the job), and starting that first May, we gathered at their house and he fed the boys breakfast with the help of his wife Pat and my wife Sue. Eventually the breakfast morphed into an after-parade gathering for the Scouts and the families of the Troop at their house, and we were always there! We’d arrive home about 9 AM, I’d change into my Scout uniform, Susie would get herself ready, and we’d head over to Pat and Steve’s house for the parade. After we all headed off to the start of the parade, Susie and Pat would settle on the house’s front porch, and watch the parade pass by, yelling their support for the Boy Scout contingent!
It was a tradition of long standing, that continued through 2015! Then something changed… I retired from WABC in January of 2016, and now since I was no longer working, there was no reason not to extend our celebration of Memorial Day at the shore. It was very strange for us, that something that had been a part of our family’s life since 1987 was no longer there. It only got stranger when we sold the Mineola house in 2017, and now we really had no connection with the village! We might not have been there for the parade, but it was still a part of me, and every Memorial Day, my Facebook posts were filled with pictures of the Scouts of Troop 45 carrying flags and marching in Mineola’s parade!
So since that first May in 2016, our Memorial Day Weekends have been centered in Ocean City, but we have fondly remembered our time in Mineola, our friends in Troop 45, and years and years of parade participation. For six years that was our MO, but not this year. This year, we grabbed that clock and turned back the hands of time, proving once again that you can go home!
What is different? Well, our friend Steve Grosskopf announced that he was in his last year of being the Scoutmaster of Troop 45. 24 years of work and dedication, and of making Troop 45 one of, if not the best Boy Scout Troop on Long Island, had not been easy, but Steve had done it, and now it was time for him to pass the torch to the next generation. A couple of weeks ago, I got a crazy idea, and one day I shared it with Susie. “You know, we were there for Steve’s first parade, what do you think about being there for his last?” Susie liked the idea, and for the next week or so we batted around the idea. We really wanted to be there for our dear friends Pat and Steve, but wondered if we’d feel out of place and would we know anybody? After all, the last time we’d been there for the parade was 7 years ago in 2015! On Sunday afternoon, I sent him this text message, “Just checking in with you…How are you doing? Are you all set for the parade?” His answer to that text took away any doubt we might have had. “All good thanks! I know this will be my last one, so it is bittersweet. Wish you guys were here having cocktails on the porch.” Game On!
On Sunday we picked out the clothes we were going to wear, made sure our overnight “to go” bag was fully packed, and filled the car with gas. A shower before and an early bed time, and we were ready to go! The alarm woke us at 5:15 Memorial Day morning, and by 6:25 we were backing out of the garage and on our way to the Garden State Parkway! The trip back to Mineola is just under a hundred and 20 miles, and since we were on the road early, traffic was not an issue. The parade was scheduled to start at 11 AM, and we were in great shape time wise. At about 9:15, we rolled down Westbury Avenue, and parked the car around the corner from their house!
Activity was already in full parade mode as we walked up to the house, with Scouts and Adult Leaders gathering flags, and preparing for the after-parade party. As we came around the corner, and walked up to the front of their house, Steve came off the front porch, looked at us, and said, “Oh My God…what are you two doing here?!” We exchanged hugs and told him, “We were here for your first one, no way we were missing your last one!” Mission Accomplished! Pat was equally surprised when she came downstairs, but thrilled that we were going to be there for the day! She insisted that we spend the night, and we gladly agreed.
As the 11 AM hour got near, Steve and the Troop moved over to the parade starting point around the corner, and Susie, Pat, and I settled in on their front porch. Something new for me this year…for the first time since we first marched in 1987, I was going to see the parade, and what better place to see it, than Patrice and Steve Grosskopf’s front porch, a location on which the 4 of us had spent many, many enjoyable hours over the past 20 years they’ve owned the house! Promptly at 11 AM, the parade set off from Mineola’s Wilson Park, rounded the corner of Union Street and Westbury Avenue, and sailed by our front row seats! Lots of memories and lots of folks we recognized from our 31 years in Mineola, and we enjoyed all the groups from the Boy Scouts to the Mineola High School Mustang Marching Band (which all 3 of our kids were members of), and from the Mineola Fire Dept to the Portuguese Dancers and their castanets, and everybody else!
The parade route is 1.8 miles through the village, ending at Mineola’s Memorial Park for a brief service of remembrance and placing of wreaths. Steve was the MC for the event (I wrote his speech), and from all accounts it was a brief but meaningful reminder what the day was all about. Just after 12 noon, the Troop started to arrive back at the Grosskopf’s house for what has become a Troop 45 Tradition over the years, the Troop’s Memorial Day Parade after-party! The men of the Troop immediately went to work grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwurst, while the boys changed out of uniforms and into proper attire for the pool and games. Troop Families showed up, and a great time was had by all!
Susie and I looked at each other several times during the afternoon, and commented about how the 7 intervening years since we’d last been in Mineola for a Memorial Day seemed to melt away, and how easy it was to fall back into old routines. A lot of the people we knew over the years are not still involved, but the folks of Troop 45 are always like family..old or new. We were welcomed back and made to feel at home, and were so glad we were there for Pat and Steve, and Steve’s last Memorial Day as Scoutmaster. All in all, it was a great plan, and worked out perfectly! As TR used to say, “BULLY!!!!”
I have been blessed to spend 44 birthdays with Susan Lynn Johnson D’Elia since the day I met her at a barbecue on July 3rd, 1977, and 42 of those birthdays since she traded a simple last name like Johnson, for an often mispronounced or misspelled one, D’Elia. We have been at each other’s side raising 3 kids, buying houses and cars, sending the 3 kids off to college, watching them get married, through work and play, adding 3 great grandkids to the family, and through us both retiring. Now I am the lucky one who gets to spend 24 hours of every day with my best friend, the love of my life, and the lady who puts me ahead of her, in everything she does. I’m sorry, but I can’t say that I was “lucky” to have her come in my life, I have always used the term “blessed” believing that some higher power ordained us to spend our life together! To me, we are a “Match Made in Heaven” and the perfect example to prove that “Love at First Sight” does indeed happen!
Last week, four of our six kids surprised her for her special birthday. On Wednesday night, after 10 o’clock, our son Kenny and his husband Chris walked into the house, having just flown up from St Pete, Florida and being picked up at the airport by our friend Sue Waniak. That was surprise number one. On Thursday night, the four of us went to Angelo’s in Atlantic City, as is our normal course of action. That was the place for surprise two, as Susie walked into the bar and saw Kenny’s twin sister Krissi sitting at the bar along with her husband Mike, who Susie thought was going to be on a business trip to Oregon! Unfortunately, our oldest son Bill and his wife Lori couldn’t join the group, as Bill, in the last months of his MBA program at the University of North Carolina was in Iceland as a part of a special class.
Let me let Susie tell you about Friday….The following is from Susie’s Facebook post….
“So…day #3 of Birthday surprises from my family! I was told to dress ”cute casual” and be ready at 11 AM today! We all made our own sandwiches and the cooler was packed! At 11AM we ventured outside to a tie-dyed van! “DaySippers!” We were off for a 6 hour adventure! First a Winery for tastings and purchases! Next to a Brewery for Beer Flights and our sandwiches. Throw in a few games of Shuffleboard and a lot of laughs! Our last stop was a Distillery for some delicious cocktails! Tonight’s dinner will be Pizza and Ice Cream for dessert….my 2 favorite foods!
It has been a fabulous surprise Birthday celebration, well planned by my loving family! I’m a Lucky Girl!😊❤️”
There were special cookies, bottles of Vodka with her picture on it, and lots of love and fun, as is only right for someone who loves her kids and their spouses as much as my Susie does!
So Susie Q, on this May 28, 2022 I’m here to tell you once again, that my life started the day I met you, so as far as I’m concerned this is your 44th Birthday! Have a great day as you remember our life together and all the fun, joy and love we’ve shared and that our 3 kids and 3 grandkids have brought us. My life is the best, mainly because you’re in it!!
ILYJTWYA now and forever baby!
PS – Frank D’Elia is totally responsible for the contents of this blog, as it was prepared, and published without the knowledge (or the proofing) of his partner in crime, and the love of his life!!
As you must know, unless you have been living under a rock most of your life, February 14th is Valentine’s Day! While you’ve probably heard a story or two of St. Valentine, several sources I checked say that the history of the day and that of it’s patron Saint is shrouded in mystery. The Catholic Church recognizes three Saints named Valentine, all that seem to have some connection to the holiday. Other sources suggest that Valentine’s Day had it’s root in pagan history, and that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture,
Whatever the source of the holiday, it means big business to many! According to Wikipedia:
“In the United States, about 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, not including the hundreds of millions of cards school children exchange. Valentine’s Day is a major source of economic activity, with total expenditures topping $18.2 billion in 2017, or over $136 per person.”
Susie and I have spent 44 Valentine’s Days together since our first one in 1978, and over all those years, we have learned some things. Here’s my advice to folks looking to celebrate the day….
CARDS – As a couple that has no trouble telling the other one that we love them, starting and ending every day with those sentiments, it can be hard to buy cards. Every year, when I head to the card store, I have to weed through card after card that has sentiments like, “Although I may not say it, you know I love you,” or “Our love is so strong that I don’t have to say the words to you, but you know how I feel,” or some other words that attempt to normalize not telling your wife you love her. My problem with Valentine’s Day is that it is loaded with folks that don’t use the words “I Love You” on any of the other 364 days of the year. Makes it hard to find the right card!
FLOWERS – Flowers are always nice, but at what cost? Back in the olden days, I might send Susie a bouquet at the school she worked at, or I might stop at the florist on the way home, and bring her flowers. For a number of years, I used to send her flowers via ProFlowers and they were always lovely and reasonably priced, but all that changed. In 2014, FTD bought ProFlowers, probably in answer to the job the e-commerce flower delivery service was doing to their business. Well, the prices went from reasonable to outlandish very quickly. For this Valentine’s Day, a dozen red roses (and not long stem) will set you back close to $80 with delivery fees. Prior to 2014, I used to be able to send Susie 2-3 dozen long stem roses for that price! The best value today…stop at the grocery store on the way home!
DINNER OUT – For many couples, a nice evening out at their favorite spot or perhaps a fancy new spot will be in their plans. Been there, done that, and sorry, but it always seems to be a sh*t show! Even places you love are screwed up that night because of all the non regulars that show up. Let me share a story from our past life. One Valentine’s Day a long time ago, we had a reservation for dinner at our favorite Mineola Restaurant, Piccolo’s, where we were almost like family. As most places do on that day, Piccolo’s had sittings running about an hour and a half each, and every slot was filled. We arrived for the second sitting to find a frantic owner’s wife, Debbie. She was very apologetic because a couple had arrived before the first sitting and now, into the second, was still there, showing no sign of leaving and throwing their night all off kilter! She bought us drinks at the bar, and because we were such regulars there ,understood her dilemma, but it happens a lot. We’ve been out a number of times over our past 44 years of Valentine’s Days, and I really don’t think we have ever enjoyed the evening or the meal due to BS going on in the restaurant! A nice comfortable meal at home is much preferred in the D’Elia Household!
So there you have it…my take on this holiday. It may truly be a response to one of the martyred St. Valentines in the ancient church, or it may have been an easy solution to the church Christianizing a Pagan Holiday, but whatever the source, it is one of Hallmark’s favorite days on the calendar. We don’t like going out because like the other Saint Day (St. Patrick’s Day), it’s really a time for amateurs! Our day will revolve around a nice dinner at home and whatever else we come up with (sorry Susie..no hints here). My best memories of Valentine’s Day came from the quiet times it was just the two of us (or the 5 of us) spending the day with those we loved the most in the world! Whatever you do, Susie and I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Way back, soon after Susie and I met on July 3rd, 1977, I discovered that while she was attending Pilgrim State Hospital School of Nursing getting her RN, she and her classmates were bused to C.W. Post College for college courses. As I went to Post from 1967 till I graduated in 1971 (yes, 50 years ago), we realized that we both were going to Post at the same time, and although we never met, we had probably passed each other many times! That’s why 42 years ago today, at 4:30 in the afternoon of Saturday September 29th, 1979, Susie and I became one at the Interfaith Chapel of C.W. Post College, in a true interfaith service with a Protestant Minister and a Catholic Priest! It was a wonderful service (Susie did eventually stop shaking) , and after taking pictures around the CW Post Campus, we joined our guests for a wonderful reception at the VFW Post in Sea Cliff.
It was also the start of our Biggest Adventure! One that has taken us all over the world, given us three great kids, the pleasure of seeing them all married, 3 adorable Grandkids, and a wonderful life filled with family, friends, and continuing adventures!!
Thank you Susie for always being there for me, and although there has been much more good times in our lives than bad, you have been there for the ups and the downs, and I know I couldn’t have made it through ANY of them without YOU!!! Thank you God for bringing this remarkable woman to me, for letting her say “I Will” 42 years ago today, and for giving us a wonderful life, and for many many many more years of happiness in our future!!
Pictured above is Doris Barnes, Sargeant, United States Marine Corp.
NOTE….I originally wrote this blog in July of last year in honor of Dole’s 100th birthday, and I also shared it on Facebook last month, as this great lady turned 101.
During World War II, joining the Marine Corps was not something you’d expect a young woman to do. In fact, according to an article at Marine Corp. University, “American women in military uniform were rare at the beginning of World War II. On 30 July, 1942, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established as part of the Marine Corps Reserve. The mission of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to provide qualified women for duty at shore establishments of the Marine Corps, releasing men for combat duty.” Doris (or Doie as most call her) was one of those women.
According to that same article, “Women Marines were assigned to over 200 different jobs, including radio operator, photographer, parachute rigger, driver, aerial gunnery instructor, cook, baker, quartermaster, control tower operator, motion picture operator, auto mechanic, telegraph operator, cryptographer, laundry operator, post exchange (store) manager, stenographer and agriculturist.” Doie, a long time ago told Susie that her job during the war was dispatching planes. To our minds, she is truly a hero and a fascinating part of the history of the United States Marine Corp, and our country.
I’m writing this blog today, because our Ocean City neighbor Doie was born on July 30th, 1921. Today is Doie Barnes’ 100th Birthday! Yes, during World War II, Doie was a young lady in her early 20s, and knowing the person she is today, I can only imagine the adventures she had back then…..and the tales she could tell! 16 years ago, when we bought the house next door, she was a young 84 year old, and today she’s a young 100 year old! She’s a regular at the daily Flag Raising Ceremony on the Ocean City Boardwalk, and a cherished member of American Legion Post 524. If the weather is right, you can see her taking her daily stroll around our neighborhood. Although, her hearing isn’t what it once was, and her knees could be better, she is still fast with a quip, and hearing she and her son-in-law Doc Anderson go back and forth is a joy.
At this morning’s Flag Raising Ceremony she was honored for her service during WWII and for her 100th birthday. It was an honor for Susie and I to be part of the group cheering her on as she was recognized by the Marine Corps League, the City of Ocean City, and Cape May County, and her Pennlyn Place friends and family! It’s truly an honor to live next door to this American Hero, and Susie and I are very happy to be able to wish Doie a very Happy Birthday, and hope that she lives many more years in good health
Happy Birthday Doie!!!
Unfortunately, her 101 could not be celebrated in the same way her 100th was, because exactly one week before her July 30th birthday, Doie fell on the back porch of her house, and broke her hip. She was rushed to the hospital, where hip replacement surgery was performed. In the 5 weeks since the surgery, Doie’s recovery has been an up and down road, which saw her in the hospital for a week, then in rehab for a while, and ultimately back into the hospital when she developed complications. I’m sorry to have to write that Doie will never make the 105th birthday she told Susie a couple of years ago was her goal, as she died peacefully in her sleep early on Sunday Morning, in the Ocean City beach house that she loved, with her beloved Golden Retrievers at her side.
She was one of a kind, and Susie and I were so honored to know her these past 17 years we’ve had the Ocean City house. She was funny, and opinionated, but always with a twinkle in her eye! We enjoyed having her join the gang going out for dinner on a Saturday night, and loved seeing her take her daily walk around the block. We’ll miss seeing her zip up Pennlyn on her scooter on the way to the daily flag raising on the boardwalk, but her memory will always be with us!
Let me end this, by quoting our neighbor and good friend Doc Anderson, and what he said yesterday about his Mother In Law, Doie…
“Doie passed away yesterday morning at 101 years of age. She embodied all things US Marine Corps, led a good life, enjoyed camaraderie of the American Legion in Ocean City, and being the “belle of the ball”.
My last words with her were “Well done Marine” and she fist bumped me.
Services will not be traditional. In lieu of flowers, you may send a donation (of any amount at all) to: Moray Miley Cruice Post 524 American Legion 4560 West Ave. Ocean City, NJ 08226”
If you knew her as Sargeant Doris Barnes, or as our neighbor Doie, you must agree, she was truly one of the reasons her generation was called The Greatest Generation!
Susan Lynn Johnson was born on May 28th, in a place called Amityville, New York. She came into my life on July 3rd, 1977, so today will mark the 43rd birthday I have been fortunate to spend with her!
She is the most giving, loving person I have ever met, and she is simply the best thing that has EVER happened to me!! She is frankly so much better a person than I am, and I know for a fact, that were it not for her, I wouldn’t have the life I have today!
Susie, like most folks in our life, I love you and am in awe of your ability to touch folks and to be loved by them. Thank you for loving me, and for giving me a better life than I could have dreamed of!
I am so blessed that she said “yes” when I asked her to marry me on December 25th, 1978, and love that she is the Mom of our 3 kids and the Grandma of our three little darlings, and has kept me in line every day of the last 43+ years!
You are my life Baby, and I will love you FOREVER!! Happy Birthday!
Good morning from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In case you are interested, our trip down south from Ocean City worked perfectly! We pulled out of our garage a little after 8 AM to a cool, but sunny morning, and traffic was wonderful. Ms. GPS (I’m not being sexist…she does speak to us in a female voice) took us once again all the way to Philly where we joined up to our “Mother Road”, Interstate-95 south. Susie and I timed our drivers’ exchanges to work perfectly, so that neither of us drove extensive stretches, and the Express lanes in Virginia worked perfectly. You pay extra to ride these, and it’s charged to your EzPass. They only run one direction, so you have to catch the correct schedule to be able to use them. When we got there yesterday morning, they were running south, and boy were we glad to pay extra, as the regular lanes were backed up for miles. Probably saved us close to an hour in travel time!
Billy and Lori’s house is a little crazy due to the duel girl birthday party, and in an effort to make it a little easier on us, he got us a room using points at Wake Forest’s Marriott Fairfield Inn, a couple of minutes away. We arrived at about 4:25, and we were supposed to use the digital key on the app to get in our room, but it wasn’t working on my app. He called the desk and got us a hard key, but when we went to the room, it didn’t work. I left Susie outside the door and returned to the front desk. The young man there was very apologetic and made me another which worked. Susie hit the bathroom, and I was about to do the same, when I heard another key open the door, and a couple start to enter the room! I stopped them, we compared notes and discovered that WE were in the wrong room!!! We’d turned to 134 rather than 133 across the hall, and somehow our key had worked. We quickly grabbed our stuff, apologized and went to the door across the hall. We didn’t expect the key to work, but it did, prompting me to wonder if the young man at the desk made us a MASTER KEY??? I wanted to try it on other doors, but thankfully, as she does most days in life with most of my questionable ideas, my wonderful wife of 41+ years deterred me from this questionable endeavor!
Birthday party number one for the girls was strictly a family affair at a great local Italian Restaurant that we’ve eaten at before with the kids, and because we are in the South, the temperature was perfect to eat outside on their covered patio. Lori’s Mom Kathy was there, as well as her sister Keri and husband Bill, and more kids that seemed right for the two couples! Turns out there was their 5 and a couple of friends without parents! Too much food was ordered, great fun was had with the family, and I made Annabelle laugh when the sun got low and I was using my hand to block it. Of course, since it was her second birthday, Grandpa had to keep doing that, even though the sun was no longer an issue. Nothing better than a 2 year old’s laugh; even better when she’s laughing at you!!
To be a part of this special day, and join his sisters, our wonderful 5 year old Grandson Henry lost his first tooth yesterday! When I saw Lori’s post about it on Facebook at a rest stop, I mused to Susie that the tooth that grows into this young guy’s mouth to replace the tooth he lost, will be with him till he’s an old man. I find that incredible when I look at this adorable 5 year old today! The miracles of life are all around us!
In order to give the parents a bit of time to prepare for a party that sounds like it will have about 50 kids, a Dunk Tank (for Daddy), and a Bounce House for entertainment, Grandma and Grandpa entertained Layla and Henry at the hotel, and Lori’s Mom Kathy was going to try and coral little Annabelle. Billy dropped our two charges off about 10, and a wonderful time was had by all! Grandma had the presence of mind to prepare before we left Ocean City, and had brought bags of chips and the cookie’s they most associate with us…Black and Whites. Grandma showed them how she likes to break the cookies at the point where the two icings go together, and before long, that was the only way Layla and Henry would eat theirs! I said to Susie, that they’d be showing their kids someday, and maybe their Grandkids, how their Grandma liked to eat these special cookies! Susie added yogurts and fruit from the hotel’s pantry, and experimented with making chocolate milk from regular milk and hot chocolate mix. It worked!! We played Mario Monopoly, colored on their tablets, watched Cartoons and Power Rangers on the TV, and at one point I was watching something on the TV with Henry and on her tablet with Layla! Good thing Susie says I can listen to two conversations at once, because I was able to comment to the two of them on what was happening on their respective shows! The two of them also made Grandpa download Fart Games and Whoopie cushion apps to his phone…Grandma was not pleased! All in all, a great time was had!
The party was as advertised! Young kids, young parents, a full size bounce house and an Annabelle sized one, the dunk tank, and a sand box for the real little ones. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries and chips…what else could a party need? How bout an Ice Cream Truck? Yep, about halfway through the party, a bright yellow Ice Cream Truck parked at the end of their driveway, and it was cones, or cups, or ices for all! There was nothing that Lori and Billy didn’t think of! They did a wonderful job!!
The party was a wonderful success and our weekend with our beloved North Carolina Family was incredible. It was great seeing Lori’s Mom and much more of her family, meeting a lot of Billy and Lori’s friends, and watching all the kids have the time of their lives! Susie and I are truly blessed to have Lori and Billy in our life, and as far as Grandma and Grandpa are concerned, there is nothing better than spending time with our 3 favorite little people in the world…Layla, Henry, and Annabelle!
A number of years ago, the kids gave Susie and I Ancestry DNA test kits for Christmas. We dutifully followed instructions, spit into the tube, packed it all up, and sent it off. I didn’t really have any doubt what my test would find, as I knew very well that my Dad was 100% Italian and that my Mom was not only 100% Scottish, but had even been born in Scotland and had not come to America till she was 6 years old! I don’t know if they are faster today, but back in those days, there was a couple of months wait till you got the results back. When they did come back, boy was I surprised!
Yes, the Italian and the Scottish were there, but look at what else they found!! 1% European Jewish (obviously the reason for my love of Matzo), 7% Caucasus, 7% Middle East, and (drum roll please) 25% Irish!! Who knew that after all the years of having nothing more in common with Irish folk than an apostrophe in my last name, I was now 25% Irish!!
Then, just one year later, and shortly before St. Patrick’s Day, I got the following “up date” to my DNA story!
Suddenly they had re-calculated the results, and although some of my other results were similar, now they’d lumped Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in together and highlighted Scotland! Oh well, so much for me being Irish! Goodbye St. Patrick’s Day, time to get out the “Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but Italians” sweatshirt again!
Then this year’s DNA story showed up, and guess what…now I’m 27% Irish!
That’s it, I give up! Tired of the revolving door of ethnicity, think I’ll just go back to what I’ve always known…half Italian, half Scottish!
Either way, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone…please don’t turn out like those drunken kids, who cut school to go to the parade in the city, that I used to spend my trip home from work with on the Long Island Rail Road! More celebrating, less throwing up on your shoes at the curb!