2020…Year in Review – Part Three

Here’s the final part of our look back at the year that was the most different of our lifetimes!

Hurricane Isaias

Early in August, the hurricane with the almost unpronounceable name came to Ocean City to visit! There was rain and wind…a lot of wind…and a tornado was sighted just west of Ocean City and cut a path of destruction up through Marmora, our neighbor town to the west of 34th Street. It did damage in OC too, taking the steeple off a small church on 32nd Street and Central Avenue, blowing small structures over, knocking over porch furniture and destroying awnings all over town.

At our house, it tossed about the furniture on the porch pretty good, even upending the couch. Then there was a knock on the front door…it was our neighbor Meade telling us that our Gazebo was now next to his house! Although it was staked down in the back yard, and had seemed fine every time Susie or I had checked on it that morning, at some point a gust of wind was more than it could take! Not only did the wind take it down, but it carried it over the cottage next door, and slammed it into the side of Patty and Meade’s house! With the help from some renters, we carried it away from their house and into our garage, where Susie and I proceeded to take it apart, as the canvas was ripped, and many of the uprights were bent. In short, the Gazebo was no more!

In the entire month of August I wrote one blog! This one was about our Sunday Traditions and how we were trying to maintain them, even in this crazy year! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/08/27/delia-family-sunday-traditions/

Oasis II

After the very casual way Isaias had torn apart our backyard Oasis, we were determined that we needed to make a statement that it might be different, but was still there! We bought a couple of tables from Amazon, strung some new lights, and we were back in business! It wasn’t the same, but we were confident that our new Oasis would withstand whatever Mother Nature threw at her! Early in the fall, we even added a fire pit to the mix!

Family Visit

At the end of August, needing a release from being cooped up in their house with their two teenage children, our son-in-law Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe rented our neighbor Neen’s rental property around the corner on Third Street. Once the rest of the family found out about it, our daughter Krissi thought it might be a great way to have a “Socially Distanced” visit to the old folks. Krissi and Mike got a room with points at a nearby Hampton Inn (Mike would make it a “work trip” by visiting some local liquor stores….Mike works for a wine distributor), and Mike’s folks, Jerry and Paula, got a place at a local Ocean City Bed and Breakfast!

We socially distanced in our garage, in the backyard and our new Oasis, and on the Pennlyn Place Beach! It was different, but it was great to see some family again!!

September and October

We continued our lives in our little seaside community as well as we could considering the year we were in. There was time at the beach, relaxing on our porch, our dinners out at Angelo’s and Charlie’s, and a take-out meal here and there. Rather than real life visits, there were pictures and Facetimes from Billy’s family where we got to see and interact with our Grandkids. There were phone calls and Facetimes keeping in touch with our twins in Astoria and Florida. Having been without wheels since they arrived in Florida, in the beginning of October, Kenny and Chris bought a used car…a 2014 Mazda 2. As the weather got colder, we enjoyed the heaters at Angelo’s and time at our fire pit in our backyard! We continued our weekly traditions and began to play cards every afternoon at 4 for at least an hour!

In September, it appeared I had been bitten by the writing bug again. I wrote 3 blogs! The first was about Susie’s Free Table, which she uses a couple of times a year to get rid of things we no longer want (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/07/the-free-table/ ), then one called ‘Atsa My Boat where I talk about our much earlier Nautical Activities (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/09/atsa-my-boat/ ), and finally one about our 41st anniversary called 9/29/2020 (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/29/9-29-2020/ ). Obviously, I may have been bitten by the writing bug again, but it was a small bite, as in October, I wrote but one blog. This one called My Dad and his Family (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/10/06/my-dad-and-his-family/)

November

In November, as the weather continued to cool off, we enjoyed our last outdoor meal at Angelo’s in AC. Going forward it was take-out or home cooking for us. As many restaurants (including Charlie’s and Angelo’s) had opened for 25% indoor dining, we were not comfortable eating inside, so we didn’t.

The boys decided to come up and spend Thanksgiving with us, and after getting negative Covid tests, they got in their little car and drove up! I wrote a rather extensive blog about their visit, our Twins’ Birthday, our Thanksgiving celebration, and putting up our Christmas Tree with Kenny and Chris. If you want to re-visit that, you’ll find it here…

https://rnewadventures.com/2020/11/29/family-holiday-traditions/

December

After the boys headed back to Florida, we continued our preparation for Christmas. Although, it was only going to be the two of us, for the first time in our married life of 41 Christmases, we did our usual. I wrote about it in a blog called Christmas 2020 Cancelled??
https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/20/christmas-2020-canceled/

Susie and I enjoyed our different Christmas, and although we missed our kids and Grandkids, I wouldn’t say we suffered in any other way. We used Facetime and saw Kenny and Chris in Florida, Krissi and Mike in New York, and Billy and Lori and the kids open gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. We stayed in our PJs all day, and watched Christmas movies. We also got to partake in one of those D’Elia Family Traditions, as we took drives to look at Santa Lights in Ocean City! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/22/santa-lights/

Between Christmas and New Year, and my January 2nd birthday, we continued our quest to watch as many Christmas movies as possible, to continue to eat the wrong food, and to enjoy the holiday season. All in all, different, but not bad.

And that takes us to the end of the year known as 2020! It was by no means a normal year, but our family was lucky in that we got through it better than many. As I write this, we are looking forward to a new year with a lot more promise. Hopefully the vaccine will roll out better than it has in the early stages, people will realize that wearing a mask is not an impingement of their freedom, but rather a medically smart thing to do, and before 2021 is over, we can get back to some semblance of the life we left behind!

Susie and I send our best wishes for health and happiness to you and yours, and look forward to you joining us as we march through the next 12 months!!

2020…Year in Review – Part Two

Here’s Part Two of our look back at 2020!

Susie’s Birthday

As the calendar turned to May, the weather turned better, and a major beach replenishment started in the North End of Ocean City! Seems like 2020 was the year of renewals, and we now have more beach sand, but it did take most of the summer. May is, also, of course, the month of Susie’s birthday, and we looked forward to a celebration at Angelo’s because, like mine in January, Susie’s May 28th birthday also fell on our regular Thursday night Angelo’s night! Alas, Covid changed the plans, so we substituted an Angelo’s take out meal and a cake made specially by her boys!

BLM

Late May and early June also brought protests all across our country regarding what many thought was the out of control behavior of many Police Departments towards our black citizens. The phrase Black Lives Mater was heard across the country, and even in our little beach town on the Jersey Shore! After a march in nearby Atlantic City had turned to destruction, there were fears that a similar thing could happen here when a march to Ocean City was planned, but our community and Police Department kept the action level headed and on target. It was a day to be proud of our community!

Summer Weather

June also brought beach weather, and since our porch was completed and in great shape again, a lot of beach and porch time. It’s what living at the shore is all about, and we made sure to take advantage. Susie and I always like going to the beach early in the day, and we continued doing that this year, which made it very easy to not get too close to our fellow beach goers!

The Oasis

Let’s just admit something here…”Our Boys” (Kenny and Chris) were bored! Sitting on the beach or sitting on the front porch reading was not their cup of tea! They did exercises, walked the beach and neighborhood, but really needed a project! One day, Chris came in and told us that Doc got a new backyard grill and that he’d said that Chris could take his old one. Suddenly we had a grill and the boys had a project! The Oasis was born!

As we share a backyard with our co-owners, the first task was creating a private area on our side and easing access to the back yard. We headed over to Lowes and purchased pavers to make a walkway to the back, and some palm trees for a little privacy. The boys now had a project! Neighbors across the street were throwing out some old small wicker tables, and Chris had another project…repaint them! Then Susie saw a gazebo structure online at Lowes, and we went back and purchased that. Another project…build the gazebo! The Oasis was well on the way! Then a set back…suddenly one day, as steaks were grilling, flames came out of the firebox and started the control panel on fire! Oh Boy!! The fire was put out, Doc’s old grill went to the curb, and we went back to Lowes and purchased a brand new grill. Stools were ordered, lights were strung, and the Oasis was in great shape! The boys had enjoyed the project, and we had a new backyard feature!

Outdoor Dining

The last time Susie and I had eaten in a restaurant was back in March, at a Cracker Barrel on our way home from Florida! We’d done take-out, and a lot of cooking, but we missed our Tuesdays at Charlie’s Back Bar with our friend Sue, and our Thursdays at Angelo’s in AC with all our Thursday Angelo’s friends! Early in June, many places started outdoor dining, and we were lucky enough that two of them were our weekly favorites!

Angelo’s converted their parking lot to outdoor dining. They had an extensive waiting area, a beautiful outdoor bar, a free-standing bathroom, and a very nice “dining room”, not under a tent, but covered by colorful sails! All our regular Thursday friends were back, and it was great to be back in the fold! We missed sitting at the bar with our friend Michael, but many times, Michael was our waiter. At other times it was our friends Theresa, or Rhonda, or Patty who’d serve us a couple of Grey Goose Martinis and a selection of the food we loved!!

Charlies took half of their parking lot and erected a tent, and although they were not open on our usual Tuesday due to staffing issues, and were serving a limited menu, we went Wednesdays when our friend Sue (or her daughter Carlye) was the hostess, and other friends like Jessie and Brett were delivering food! It was good to have two of our favorite weekly anchors back in place!

The Boys Head to Florida

Late in July, Kenny and Chris made good on their plan to move to Florida! Entertainment was gone, the cruise industry was closed down, and they needed to move on to their next adventure. Chris had been studying for months to take his Florida real estate broker license, and they’d found a nice Air B&B in St. Pete’s beach and paid for 6 months rent up front. It was time to leave Mom and Dad, after being locked up in the house with us for 4+ months at this point! After a couple of “Good-Bye” Dinners, it was time.

The boys rented a mini van, loaded as much as they could into it, and headed out! Once down in Florida, Chris continued his studies, took the test, and was now a licensed Florida Real Estate Broker – – color us proud! Kenny is now taking the same online course that Chris did!

Please stay tuned as we finish up our look back at 2020 in 2020…Year in Review – Part Three

2020…Year in Review – Part One

The 2020 version of Susie’s Christmas Letter started this way:

“I ended last year’s letter with, “ I wonder what the next year will bring.” Well, to say it’s been a doozy is an understatement! I’m sure we can all agree it’s been a very trying year.”

As the clock approached midnight on December 31st, 2019, 2020 appeared to be shaping up to be another good year for the D’Elia Family! Our kids were all married and healthy. A third Grandchild had joined our family in 2019. The boys had been with us for Christmas, Billy, Lori and our 3 Grandkids had visited us right after Christmas and we were looking forward to 2020, including our plans to spend several months of the winter in Florida!

in January, we celebrated my 70th Birthday! First with the boys at Angelo’s because January 2nd fell on our usual Angelo’s night of Thursday!

Then a week later, the twins and their spouses (Krissi, Mike, Kenny and Chris) surprised me with a birthday weekend at Harrahs in Atlantic City!

It was a great way to celebrate my 70th trip around the sun and the kids totally surprised me!

The next weekend, Kenny and Chris started their new job of flying to various cities around the country and officiating at Dance Competitions. All expenses were paid, they got frequent flyer miles, and working 4 days a week, they made what they’d have made in a regular job. It was a lot of work, with long hours, but they seemed to be enjoying it. Meanwhile, Susie and I were putting Christmas, 2019 back in tubs and transporting it to our storage place. We were also packing and getting ready for our trip to Florida at the end of the month! On January 30th, we left Ocean City, with our first stop at Billy and Lori’s brand new house in Wake Forest, North Carolina! Little did we know that would be the last time we saw them in 2020!

You can follow along on our trip to North Carolina and our trip to Indian Rocks Beach in our blog, Florida, Here we come! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/02/01/florida-here-we-come/

Our rental condo in Indian Rocks Beach was right on the Gulf of Mexico, and ours for the entire month of February! See our Blog Week One In Florida for more….https://rnewadventures.com/2020/02/11/week-one-in-florida/ for the rest of the story!

Then, towards the end of the month, Kenny and Chris had a weekend off from their job, and came down and spent mid-week to mid-week with us! It was great showing them a place we liked a lot, and they liked it too! They loved going to the beach, exploring the town on foot, and checking out several great restaurants

The last week of February, on the 25th, Susie got a call that her Mom had died. She was 95, had been in full on dementia for a while, and had been in a Nursing Home on Long Island for several years. We were very happy that we’d had a great visit with her in January before heading down to Florida, but now the problem of the boys and us being in Florida and planning and getting to a funeral that was taking place that weekend on Long Island.

I wrote an extensive blog about it back in early March. Life Happens will give you more details. https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/03/life-happens/

The morning after the funeral, Kenny and Chris drove back to Ocean City, Billy caught his flight out of JFK, and that afternoon at 4:15, Susie and I were on another Delta flight, heading back to Florida (where our car was waiting for us at the long term parking at the airport), and what we thought was going to be our second month in the Sunshine State! After a brief overnight at a Hampton Inn near the airport, we were off to six wonderful nights at the Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach! To say we love being at Hilton’s Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach Florida would be an understatement..see what I mean in this blog! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/12/doubletree-resort-hollywood-beach-florida/

I think the morning we drove away from the Doubletree’s Valet Parking, was the last time that Susie and I thought that 2020 was going to be a normal year in our lives! Our next stop was at my cousin Jeanne and Walt’s in Barefoot Bay, Florida. Just above Sebastian on the East Coast of Florida, we’d stayed with Jeanne and Walt several times in the past, but this year was going to be different. A couple of days after we arrived, Jeanne and Walt were heading to Hawaii, and Susie and I were going to be residents of Barefoot Bay for the rest of March! “Were Going to Be” are the operative word of that sentence!

If you want to know what transpired, I wrote a blog post called A Very Strange 6 Weeks that detailed our Florida visit 2020, and how it ended! .https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/19/a-very-strange-6-weeks/)

Two days later, on Monday the 16th, the boys returned from what would be the last weekend of their new Dance Competition job. Susie and I wondered if we should go to Charlie’s the next day for St. Patricks at the back bar with our friend Sue. We didn’t have to make the decision, as Charlie’s and most of the rest of our Jersey Shore Community closed down! One week later I wrote another blog about a Strange Time…little did I know!
https://rnewadventures.com/2020/03/21/a-strange-time/

Honestly, most of 2020 has been a blur that went by way too fast. I wrote one blog post early in April (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/04/) and then nothing again till August! In the midst of all this, I just didn’t feel like writing. I started a couple of blogs, but they just never went anywhere! Therefore, my plan for the rest of this Review of 2020 is to look back at the calendar and some of our pictures, and try to recreate the “high” spots of the next 9 months!

The Front Porch Gets Rebuilt

April brought the start of major work on our house’s front porch. We had an issue in the front right corner, figured that we had some rot, and made arrangements for OC Fiberglass to start work when we came back from Florida.. Of course, nothing could be determined till it was opened up, and when they did open it up, there was much more damage than we imagined. Turned out we had to have the 4 front columns replaced, the entire outer structure of the porch, and it involved our upstairs neighbors too! Because of the supply issues with Covid, and Mother Nature, what should have taken a couple of weeks took well into mid May! A lot of time, and you don’t want to know what it cost us!

We’ll pick up with May in 2020…Year in Review – Part Two…stay tuned!

Santa Lights

There was nothing better to do this time of the year, when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little, then to pile into the Ford Taurus station wagon, and drive around Mineola and the surrounding villages and look at what we called “Santa Lights.” That term came into being, because on one of our nights looking at the houses, one of the kids wanted to know why some houses were decorated, and others weren’t. Susie and I creatively informed our 3 little ones that the ones that were decorated had little kids living there, and the lights were so that Santa could more easily find the houses on Christmas Eve. Thus was born the term, “Santa Lights!”

Susie was pregnant with Krissi and Kenny when we moved into the Mineola house, and Billy hadn’t had his 4th birthday yet, so we indeed did have little ones at home in those early years in Mineola, and did our best with Santa Lights! We must have pictures someplace, but in the late 80s and early 90s, years of everyone not having a digital camera in their pocket, the numbers of pictures we have of things like our house decorations are not large. The Mineola house had a front porch, and ours was the site of an annual Christmas portrait! Right in the center, there was a fireplace (a fake fireplace that was in the first house we bought in New Hyde Park, and although never used inside, traveled to Mineola with us) that included a burning fire (well, a nailed together group of logs and a carefully placed flicker bulb which made it look like a roaring fire), which was outlined with lights, and complete with stockings hung from the chimney with care! To one side was a Christmas tree (a fake tree that was a hand me down from my work friend Johnny Donovan) , and one of our porch chairs, that Santa was sitting in (Santa was a plastic type character suit, that was stuffed with newspapers every year). Of course there were presents under the tree, and Christmas music playing from a hidden speaker! To the left of the porch, on the lawn, was an illuminated manger scene complete with a creche I’d made with firring strips! Very fitting we thought for a house that had 3 little Santa recipients in residence!

As the kids got older, and tastes changed, we went from colored lights to all white lights out front, and the fireplace, tree, Santa and the Manger scene morphed into garland and wreaths and lighting up the fence around the house. Things were added and we refined the look as the years went on, and honestly, as we got older and the kids no longer lived with us, we went for ease of decorating too! The last year we decorated the Mineola house was Christmas 2016, before we sold the house after 31 years. Here’s a look at that!

Although we no longer have little kids, and that faithful Taurus station wagon is long gone, we now live down at the beach in Ocean City, and looking at Santa Lights is still a nice way Susie and I like to spend some time at Christmastime! In fact, as I write this, we’ve already made three passes at Ocean City in our Honda CRV to check out the neighbors and their Santa Lights!

Here’s a look at some of our Pennlyn Neighbors…

And here’s what we can see from our front porch.

Here are some of our favorites that we saw around town!

Christmas 2020 Canceled???

Christmas is now, and always has been a big event in the D’Elia household. Early in our relationship, I discovered Susie’s love for Christmas, so much so, that on Christmas Day, 1978, I asked her to become my Mrs. Claus, and she said “yes!” This Christmas Day will be the 42nd Anniversary of “the day she said yes!” On our first Christmas in 1979 in our Port Washington apartment, I wanted everything to be perfect! We bought a much too expensive real tree ($75 way back then), but then forgot to get a saw to cut the bottom off before we put it into the stand, so we used our Ginsu knife to do the task! Christmas morning we opened presents while drinking Andre Champagne (it was $3.99 then) and watching Susie’s favorite movie, White Christmas! Unfortunately, WABC TV was showing the movie, and had cut it to 60 minutes including commercials, so unless you knew the movie, it made no sense! After our morning alone, it was time to pack up and move on to Susie’s Mom and Dad’s and the Johnson/Vincent/D’Elia Family Christmas Day Celebration! That first Christmas pretty much established the pattern that would be our Christmas for years to come!

Once the kids came along (Billy in 1982 and Krissi and Kenny in 1986), it just got more so. The entire period from Thanksgiving to Christmas was full of events like cookie-making, shopping (Dad took one of the 3 kids out alone on 3 days after work so they could shop for Mommy while Mommy did the same thing for Daddy!), wrapping, decorating, and just enjoying Christmas and all it meant to our family! Even before there was such a thing, we did our best to make it a “Hallmark Christmas Movie” holiday!

I think back fondly to our Christmases when our three were small. It always included Christmas Eve Lobster Dinners at Grandma D’Elia’s in Bayside, then running to the Community Church of East Williston for the Christmas Pageant and Christmas Eve services (Krissi was miss-cast as an Angel one year), returning to our house, often with my Mom in tow, and the D’Elia Family traditions of Italian Cold Cut Sandwiches, more Andre “cheap Champagne,” and watching Christmas Vacation! Once the kids were all in bed, it was time to attack their stockings, making sure to remove any Toys R Us tags from the packages and Dad’s task of assembling any toys requiring it! Christmas morning ALWAYS came too early, but the rules were the kids couldn’t go downstairs without us, so “Santa” would always leave a little something at the foot of their beds to occupy them, while the adults pried open their eye lids! Downstairs, everybody took their established places around the living room, presents were passed out, and the chaos of opening presents and keeping the presents separated from the wrapping paper got underway. They were fun days, that I’d love to be able to turn the hands of time back to….even the one year Kenny hated all his presents because he hadn’t gotten a kilt! Soon after presents and something to eat, it was time to either (A) clean up, because the entire clan was coming over to our house, or (B) walk away from the mess, dress, and travel to Susie’s Mom and Dad’s or her sister Barbara’s house to celebrate with the entire clan!

This year, however, how many folks will be singing along with the Christmastime classic, “Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? A recent Good Housekeeping article, had the rather ominous title, IS CHRISTMAS 2020 CANCELED DUE TO COVID 19?”. In Italy and Germany, all Christmas Markets around the country have been canceled. In NYC, visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center will be a new and different experience this year, requiring tickets! Why, even here in our decidedly “Hallmark Christmas Movie Town” of Ocean City, NJ, many holiday events like Miracle on Asbury on Black Friday, the Christmas Parade, First Night and First Day celebrations, have gone the way of our 4th of July Fireworks, the Night in Venice Boat Parade, and the Boardwalk Air Show…all events where folks might gather, have been canceled!

Obviously, things will be very different for many families in 2020, and a lot of folks are really having trouble finding their Christmas Cheer! Thanks to the Corona Virus, over 300,000 of our fellow Americans have lost their lives, and millions are affected by those deaths! A lot of folks are unemployed with little prospect of getting jobs, and entire industries have shuttered and many have no idea when, or even if, they will be able to get back to work. For many, many families this year, Christmas is indeed canceled!

It’s sad, but I’ve heard so many people say that they just can’t get into the holidays this year. They wonder why they should put up a tree or decorate the house. “It’s just not going to be the same,” many of them say, “so we might as well forget it and skip it this year!” Why even my very own Mrs. Claus had some trouble finding her holiday spirit early on! I’m sure a huge part of the reason for us is that this will be a very different Christmas for the D’Elia/Fox/Mikowicz Family. Blessedly, Covid has not directly touched our family’s lives, as it has so many around the world, and in our local communities, but for the first time in our married life, we will be spending the holiday alone! On one hand it’s very sad, that we will not see our kids, their spouses, and our Grandkids, but there is a part of us that’s kind of looking forward to the luxury of doing whatever we want, whenever we want, on Christmas Day! We may absolutely hate it, but for now, we are looking forward to finding out what we’ve never had in our 43 years of being together is like! In the end, Christmas Spirit did indeed find the D’Elia Household, and kind of like in Show Business, The Show Must Go On!!

So the tree is up and decorated..

The Manger is in place…

and Susie’s got her SnowMan/SnowWoman Village together…

The Windows are decorated…both inside..

And out!!

The outside of the house is in the Christmas mood…

And even the Honda CRV is ready!!

Susie’s got her wrapping station set up in the den, and gifts for our kids and Grandkids have been wrapped, packed into boxes, and after multiple trips to the Ocean City Post Office and UPS, just like Santa and his sleigh, the gifts are on their way to North Carolina, Florida, and New York!

Traditions are an important part of our holidays, and while some are going to be different this year, the ones that have been and will continue to be maintained are like a warm hug! Lord knows, we all could use a hug this holiday season! So no matter what you celebrate, I hope the magic and the spirit of the season is able to find you, and bring just a little bit of joy to your heart. We can’t forget the people who are no longer with us, or those suffering spiritually, medically, and financially this Christmas. All we can attempt to do is to share the warmth of the season with those we love, and look forward to a better Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa in 2021! Susie and I send our love to our whole family…those that joined via birth, those that became members through marriage, and those who who are part of our family because of friendship!

Happy Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!

PS – Two pictures from our first married Christmas, 41 years ago! Susie that morning in our living room in our Port Washington apartment, and the Manger under the tree..the same Manger I might add, that is pictured above! Bought for our first Christmas in 1979 at A&S in Hempstead and still with us!

Family Holiday Traditions

We are now in probably the most “Family Tradition” intensive time of the entire year. The period from a couple of days before Thanksgiving, through the New Year’s celebration are the time when tradition after tradition unfolds almost daily. I know that this year, many of those traditions are going by the wayside thanks to the Corona Virus, but even in our amended holiday season, many of those traditions will take place, albeit a much more limited version. Here’s a look at our family and what traditions are taking place this Thanksgiving, and which ones we’ll hope to resume next year!

On Thursday November 20, 1986, just 7 days before President Ronald Regan declared the 27th as “a national day of Thanksgiving”, our twins, Krissi and Kenny joined the D’Elia Family! That means that as the date of the 4th Thursday in November moves back and forth, our Thanksgiving celebration often starts a little early with a Twin Birthday celebration! For the last 14 years, youngest child Kenny, has been away working, and has not been a part of our Thanksgivings or have we been able to celebrate his birthday with him! That changed this year, as Kenny and his husband Chris, joined us for both his birthday and Thanksgiving! Once again this year, he wasn’t able to co-celebrate with his sister…..

A new tradition that we started 2 years ago, was traveling to Maryland to celebrate the holiday with our son-in-law Mike’s extended family! Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe, play host to their extended family, which we are lucky enough to be included in. From little kids to teenagers, Moms and Dads, cousins, and in-laws, it’s a huge family celebration, with Gabe spending most of the day outside smoking a turkey or two! It’s been so much fun to spend the day with our Maryland Family, but sadly, like so many others across America, a celebration like that was off the table this year! Fingers crossed for next year!

So Thanksgiving 2020 called for the smallest celebration in Susie’s and my married life…just the 4 of us, but small or large, some Thanksgiving traditions are written in stone!! We had all the traditional D’Elia Family Thanksgiving dishes…just a little less! There was turkey (just a breast as nobody wanted dark meat), and Susie’s traditional stuffing – some in the turkey, some in muffin cups, and some in a bake-in bag. The boys made a great creamed corn and their own version of the long standing traditional green bean casserole, but with all fresh ingredients! Then there was the one staple of D’Elia Thanksgiving that always is a part of the meal, almost as important as the turkey: Turnips, Mashed Potatoes and Cheddar Cheese.

This is a dish that Susie brought over to our family from her Johnson Family Thanksgivings, and really uses rutabagas rather than turnips, but the names are used interchangeably many times. This involves pealing and chunking the rutabaga, cooking it till tender, and mashing. We usually do that the night before Thanksgiving. The next day, the potatoes are pealed (usually during the Macy’s Parade), cooked and mashed, with lots of butter and heavy cream. Neither of these things could be done without Susie’s Pressure Cookers (due to the smaller size of this years celebration, she only used one, not her normal two!), which she’s used for years, and swears by! Then both mashed “vegetables” are mixed and lots of shredded cheddar cheese is added. By the time it’s done, it has a golden yellow color, and a taste loved by the whole family! It was even a part of the Smith Thanksgiving in Maryland, as it was made and brought the last two years!

Of course, almost as big a part of the holiday as the dinner on Thanksgiving, is the day after “leftover” sandwich! Ours are on white bread, with mayo, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce! Yum!

Thanksgiving weekend is also traditionally the time that our Christmas trees goes up in Ocean City. This is a holdover tradition from the years we didn’t live here, but were always here Thanksgiving weekend. In preparation for the holiday, Susie and I made 3 trips from the storage unit to our house with our Christmas boxes. As the boys were here, we put the tree up Friday….

And yesterday, while listening to Christmas music, we all decorated the tree!

Susie also set up the Manger, which has been a part of our Christmases ever since our first married Christmas in 1979!!

During the rest of this week, we will continue decorating the house, including assembling Susie’s Snowman (and Woman) Village! Traditions are a part of the holidays, and although our holidays are all going to be smaller this year, many of the traditions will still be a part of them.

Susie and I hope everyone enjoys their holiday traditions, and the celebration of the special times that are a part of the coming weeks. They may be smaller this year, but they are still an important part of all our lives. Be it Christmas, Chanukka, or Kwanzaa, we hope you enjoy them, that you stay safe, and that you do what we need to do so that next year at this time we can all enjoy our traditional holidays, shared with family and friends that are like family, and share HUGS!!!

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!

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!

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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