First, let’s get the confusing part out of the way. This is a tribute to my stepson/godson.

Say what?

Another birthday!

Let’s jump on the time machine and, at warp speed, go back to the early 60’s. It’s so clear but I can’t remember what Marilyn told me five minutes ago. That’s another story I’ll ignore as long as possible.

JFK was in the White House and I was selling children’s shoes in the daytime, attending Hofstra College at night. Such an ambitious lad, eh? Hold on, too early to print the legend on this one.

Student Garry Armstrong discovered the campus radio station. Priorities changed quickly as I fell in love with radio and the academic life faded to black. The radio station, a home for shy, weird and very talented people became my home away from home. Matter of fact, I spent more time in “the bunker” than I did at home.

Jeffrey Kraus was general manager of the little radio station. He was a very interesting guy who riffed a Leslie Howard image. You don’t know Leslie Howard? Check that old “Gone With The Wind” DVD on the dusty shelf.

WVHC 1962 or maybe 1963

Jeff quickly became my mentor and best friend. We spent many late nights into mornings, our pipes making his living room look like a foggy day in London town. We watched Errol Flynn movies, swapping familiar dialogue.

Jeff, the self proclaimed tragic hero looking for true love, finally found “someone” to share his dreams. At least, that’s what he inferred as Marilyn Friedman entered the radio station and our collective lives. Our bunch of radio geeks and ‘outsiders’ didn’t sense romance or maybe I didn’t because I was oblivious to such matters. I WAS very aware of Marilyn’s bodacious charms but didn’t have the chutzpah to move in on the boss’s girl. Yes, I was oblivious to lots of stuff. Again, that’s another story I think not worth sharing.

I don’t recall how much time passed between Marilyn’s station arrival and the announcement of Jeff and Marilyn’s marriage. I believe lots of people were happy for the newly weds. Their nearby home became a haven for those of us who didn’t have social lives. The door was always open, 24-7.

Soon, I was out of the loop, having landed a job at ABC Network News. I was so out of the loop that I wasn’t immediately aware that Marilyn had become pregnant. I think — the mind falters here — I was equally out of the loop when the stork visited Marilyn and Jeff on May 7th, 1969. Since I became Owen’s godfather, I apparently knew at least that much, but it’s hazy — and more than 50 years ago.

A short time machine walk ahead. I was at the Kraus house. It has a nice rhyme, eh?

I found myself, staring in a bit of disbelief, at a very cute, blond haired cherub. He smiled and giggled as I did the usual stupid adult moves on a new born babe. It seemed much to my surprise, this kid really LIKED me. It wasn’t long before I was volunteering for babysitter duty. Now understand I’d done the babysitter, diaper changing routine with my baby brother, Anton. Across the decades, Anton and I have forged, all credit to Anton, a loving relationship that I cherish. Back then I wasn’t too keen on the babysitting stuff. After all, I was a young reporter, working in the big time with my eyes on fame and fortune.

Somehow, the career-driven reporter found something they don’t offer in newsrooms. Quality time with a baby who enjoyed time spent with me. Genuine affection without any agenda. I was moved because I didn’t usually inspire this emotion in people.

One day, between the feeble baby talk, I looked at Owen and, in a slightly menacing voice, I said, “You dirty rat!.” My go to move was quoting famous movie lines. I still hadn’t reached the point where I could relax with people and just be normal, whatever normal is.

Over the following years, I lost that close touch with Owen. I was too busy, too focused on my career, too focused on me instead of others around me. It’s in the DNA of many folks pursuing “big time” jobs.

Nudge the time machine a bit forward. Marilyn and Jeff divorced. Marilyn, in a journey to find her roots, moved to Israel. Owen tagged along. By now, he was almost 11, about to enter adolescence Marilyn took a shot with another fella, marriage number two. Marilyn and I shared many lengthy letters. It was a time before social media. No Facebook or Twitter. So, you took time and laid out your thoughts and feelings in still decent penmanship. In retrospect, I didn’t realize I was “opening up” to Marilyn.

It was mutual. I was in the middle of yet another intimate relationship, sharing my apartment but not my heart.

Meanwhile, Owen was growing up fast in Israel. I wondered how Owen was handling his new environment. Turns out, the kid was doing quite well, thank you. He was growing up and adapting to the tumultuous life that was Israel in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I’m pretty sure it’s still tumultuous. It’s just that kind of place.

A forward shift in the time machine: marriage number two wasn’t working. Marilyn wrote she’d had enough and was coming home. I had no idea of what that meant.

After spending a little time back on Long Island, Marilyn visited me in Boston. How many times? I don’t remember. I was juggling things with a live-in girlfriend and time with Marilyn. That might sound cool but it’s hard to do, juggling relationships and invariably, spinning the truth to one or more people. Eventually, you are outed by too many versions of your ‘truth’.

The time machine now reads 1989. In a conversation, that has mixed remembrances, I apparently proposed to Marilyn. No regrets. I recall much of that conversation. I just didn’t realize where it was going. Merely telling her I wanted to buy and house and spend the rest of my life with here wasn’t, in my mind, a proposal. Marilyn had trouble figuring out what else it could be.

The time machine now reads September 15th, 1990. After much family consultation, debate and broken promises by the groom, a harbinger of things to come, Marilyn and I were married at my family church in Hempstead, New York. I think it was a Cecil B. DeMille day with a mega cast, many members from both families crowding the old church.

My baby brother Anton, now an internationally recognized choir director, took the lead in music for our wedding. It was A-list stuff. What I firmly recall is Owen — now a tall, slim and very serious young man – 21 years old – walking his Mom down the aisle to be married to his godfather. I was very impressed. Owen had grown from adolescent to young man in a fashion I envied.

Time machine now in warp drive and we move ahead more 30 years.

I was now retired from my long time job as a TV news reporter in Boston. The dot com biz was in free fall with Marilyn and Owen among many folks bounced from their jobs.

We had moved from Boston to rural Uxbridge, near the Rhode Island line. From slick urbanites to fish out of water rural residents. Owen was now married and soon the father of an over the moon cute daughter, Kaitlin. And, I was now a grandfather. Wow!

As we moved through the new century, things went south. Marilyn was blitzed with many health issues. I mean BLITZED, one after another. We almost lost her after a botched surgery. Making things even worse, I came up short as husband and mate. No sugar coating things. I was so wrapped up as the famous local reporter, the long time bachelor and me first male, I allowed things to go from bad to worse.

Our marriage was in a rocky state with me as the prime culprit. Frankly, I didn’t know what to do as Marilyn struggled valiantly to keep us with a home, food, health care and critical home repairs.

Cue Owen to the rescue. I didn’t realize it at first. Owen said he was moving in because he needed lodging and we could use a hand. Owen was moving in to help his parents over their many rough patches.

This son moving in with his parents was so unlike those stereotype, cliché sit coms. You know, the parents are always besieged by the erratic, juvenile behavior of their adult children.

Owen was an unbelievable pleasant surprise. In so many ways. He brought an infectious sense of humor to a home where the tension was palpable. He cut through his Mom’s despair about out scary financial situation. He TALKED to us like we were likeable but frustrated adults. Owen also – much to my relief – took over a big chunk of the kitchen/cooking chores. I was pretty invisible in the kitchen.

Owen, manager of a local minimart/service station, almost immediately started contributing money to help us cope with the nagging bills. He also stepped up to the plate, taking care of myriad house repairs where I was simply no use.

Owen didn’t stop there. He chatted me up, sensing my neglect of the money pit house and his Mom’s frustration with my very limited contribution. He has treated me with dignity, respect and love. I don’t know that I deserve such positive treatment but I am grateful.

As Owen celebrates his birthday, he is valiantly dealing with the aches and pains that come with being a 54 year old guy. One of the brag few things I allow myself is physical fitness. I’m an 81 year old, retired (short term) Marine. I still do my modified USMC exercises three or four times a day, regardless of how I feel. Owen acknowledges my fitness…for an old guy.

So, now you know how I lucked out. Landing not only a cute godson but a wonderful, caring stepson. Owen — happy birthday — you dirty rat!

Categories: #gallery, #GarryArmstrong, #Photography, Anecdote, celebration, Family, Relationships

Tags: , , ,

5 replies

  1. A very honest and loving tribute to your son/ step son, Garry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a nice tribute. Happy birthday Owen.

    Liked by 1 person

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: