SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY – BY RICH PASCHALL

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall


All through senior year of high school, Eddie was telling everyone that he would be going on to college.  He had applied to a four-year university and to a “junior college” just in case he was not accepted or could not afford the university.  He received acceptance from both, a bit to his surprise, actually. While his parents, Edgar and Marge, were naturally quite pleased at Eddie’s acceptance, they advised him almost immediately that there was little they could do to help with the costs of college.  The best they could do was to allow him to continue to live at home for free and could not do much more.

Eddie got a part-time job in the last semester of high school and a full-time job after graduation.  His parents would not co-sign on a loan for the university and showed great reluctance to do so for the junior college.  Even though Eddie thought he could talk his father into signing for his student loan, he had heard all the nightmare stories about student debt and decided to pass on his dreams. When the decision to skip school was made final, his parents advised that an 18-year-old with a full-time job was expected to pay rent.  They did not ask a lot of Eddie, but since he was making little over minimum wage, it was impossible for him to save money for school.

Over the following two years, he kept in touch with some friends from high school, made new friends at work and enjoyed the life of a young man without commitments.

One day Eddie expressed his frustration to his good friend Carlos.  They were best buddies since senior of high school started.  Even though they were very close, he had never introduced Carlos to his parents.  He was not sure how they would treat him and he did not want any problems at home or with his buddy.  His friendship with Carlos was too important to risk any disrespect.

“This sucks,” Eddie said choking back tears, “this absolutely sucks.”

“I know,” Carlos replied, “but it won’t suck forever, you’ll see.  We’ll both have better jobs someday and it will all be good.”  Eddie did not appear to be buying it.  “Come on, man, smile a little.” Carlos made a funny face at Eddie who immediately broke into a big smile.  Eddie was not convinced, but at least Carlos knew how to make him smile.

As the first year after high school turned into the second, Eddie’s fortunes were no better off.  Older adults kept telling him he should join the army.  It was the place for young men trying to make their way.  He would be “whipped into shape.”  His father even chimed in that it would “make a man out of you.”  None of them seemed to realize that Eddie did not need to “find his way.” He needed money for school.

As the second post high school year wore on, Eddie figured out how to get money for school.  One day he told Carlos, “I am going to join the army.”  Carlos was stunned.  He could not believe Eddie would go away.  They discussed it for hours until Eddie convinced Carlos it was the only solution.

“Then I will save money the entire time you are gone,” Carlos announced, “and we will go to school together.  I swear I won’t spend a penny I don’t need to spend until you get back.”

Eddie joined the army.  His parents were proud.  Carlos worked hard.  All thought things were finally moving forward for all, although they did not all know one another.

After boot camp, Eddie returned home before being deployed to the middle east.  He lied about his return so he could spend the first day with Carlos.  When he left he promised to write and post pictures on-line and keep everyone up to date.  He worried how he was going to do that and keep his different circles separate.

After his parents moved to Arizona, Eddie’s mom became active on Facebook and encouraged Eddie to post pictures of his service.  Although there was much he could not show, he did post some barbecue pictures on Facebook that his mother immediately reported all around and commented on each picture.  Eddie was embarrassed and decided never to do that again.  When anyone took pictures with Eddie in the group, he asked that no one tag him in the picture so no one at home could see them.

When he was on leave he would always fly to Chicago first to visit friends, especially Carlos.  Then he would go on to Phoenix and visit his parents who had finally moved there for a change of weather.  Eddie spoke little about the service and less about Chicago.  He had come to realize through his mother’s Facebook postings and occasional comments to him, that his best course of action to keep peace in the family was to say nothing.

After the service Eddie returned to Chicago, got a job, enrolled in school and became roommates with Carlos.  After saving his money carefully and working as hard as possible, Carlos also enrolled at the junior college, but not in all the same classes as Eddie.  They were chasing different dreams.

On spring break Eddie and Carlos, along with a few other friends, went to New Orleans by train.  One of the boys rented a car upon arrival and they all hung out for a few days.  It was there that Carlos made his move.

“Let’s get married when we go back home,” he said to Eddie.

“What?” his surprised mate responded.

“You are living in sin, you know, if you will not marry me.  I demanded a proper marriage.”  Carlos looked at Eddie with the most serious look he could give him.  Then they both laughed.

“Do you love me?”  Carlos inquired.

“Of course.”

“Then why not?”

City Hall, credit: Chicago architecture.info

City Hall, credit: Chicagoarchitecture.info

When they returned home, they got the license and made their plans.  On a Thursday afternoon, with Carlos’ two sisters joining them, the boys went to city hall.  They were married and the girls took pictures.

Neither Eddie or Carlos had ever been happier.  The sisters had some great pictures and one could not wait to share with friends and family.  She even posted some on Facebook and tagged the boys.

Eddie, however, could not think of anyone else he should tell about his happy day.

CHOOSING YOUR FAMILY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s a saying, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”. I have been lucky enough to be able to actually choose some of my family. I was married to Larry for 25 years. I like to joke that when we got divorced, I got custody of my in-laws.

But let’s go back to the beginning. When I was 24, I first met the family of my fiancée, Larry. Larry’s parents had just separated. So when I was being introduced to the family, so was my father-in-law, Bert’s, new girlfriend, Joy. They married and were together until his death over 40-years later.

At the time, I was in law school in Washington D.C. with Larry but my parents had a summer-house in Easton, CT. Larry and I spent time there when we could. Coincidentally, Joy lived 15 minutes from my house in Easton in an adjoining town. Larry and I moved back to New York City after law school and ended up spending more and more time in Easton, CT.

So, over the years, we spent a lot of time with Bert and Joy, particularly after we had our two children. When I was 40 and my kids were five and ten, we moved full-time to Connecticut. Bert and Joy became an even bigger part of our lives.

To be honest, Larry never got along that well with anyone in his family, particularly his Dad. So when we separated, it was only natural that I maintained my relationship with Bert and Joy. It became a bit more odd when I met Tom and we became a couple. But Bert and Joy just adopted him into the family too.

Around the time of the separation, Bert and Joy moved to Florida. They wanted to spend part of every summer in Connecticut so they could see their old friends and family. Guess who Bert and Joy stayed with for six weeks a year for the next decade or so? Me, and then me and Tom after we got married. Bert and Joy would spend maybe two nights with his daughter and one or two with Larry. The rest of the time it was me and Tom all the way (along with whichever child was home for the summer).

Bert and Joy loved Tom and Tom loved them. People thought it was strange that Tom was okay living with his wife’s ex-husband’s father and step mother. We got along famously and enjoyed our time together. It was sometimes difficult for Tom to explain how he was ‘related’ to Bert, but other than that, things went smoothly.

This was considered peculiar for the rest of the family. Other family members had ‘issues’ with Bert and Joy. They were known in the family as difficult, arrogant, critical, and opinionated. Tom and I just did our own thing and ignored these negative traits that drove their biological family crazy.

When Bert and Joy had to move into assisted living, and after that, a nursing home, I flew to Florida with my sister-in-law to help them move and adjust. (Larry died suddenly in 2005 at the age of 58). I was there for Bert until the end. When Bert did estate planning and gave gifts to his children and grandchildren, I was included in his generosity. He always supported me in every way.

I lost my Dad in 1981 when I was 31 and he was 90. From my thirties into my sixties, Bert was my only ‘Dad’. It was a wonderful, mutually beneficial relationship. In fact, Bert was my ‘Dad’ longer than my real Dad was. So I got to ‘choose’ a surrogate father. My life, as well as Tom’s, was much richer because of that choice.

LETTING GO OF MOM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

As I get older, I’m expecting less from myself, at least in some ways.

I’m less judgmental. My standards have relaxed … some. I think this is good, but I’m not completely comfortable about it. Although I no longer expect myself to look my best every day — yes, I used to need to look “just right” even if all I was doing was running errands. Now, I go days without wearing make-up or curling my hair. I don’t automatically wear earrings and other jewelry. My husband barely notices. He’s fine with a more ‘au naturel’ version of me.

Mom at age 41

I still wear ‘nice’ clothes every day. I don’t even own sweatpants or a sweatshirt. So I haven’t utterly abandoned my 1950’s, early 1960’s dress codes completely.

I do worry, though. What if being more relaxed and forgiving about my appearance will morph into giving up? Not caring anymore? Am I going to turn into one of those people who goes out wearing pajama bottoms? I don’t ever want to be that person, but I’m afraid it might eventually happen to me, somewhere down the line.

On the other hand, I know that I am way too self-conscious about my appearance. My mother ‘dressed up’, with full make-up, every single day. She was appalled when I went to the supermarket looking anything short of stylish and polished.

“You always want to make a good impression on people,” she said. I thought she was over the top. But some of those judgmental attitudes and standards rubbed off on me and I’ve never been able to entirely escape them.

Mom at 65 years old

So I usually believe I’m just letting go of some of my mother’s baggage, but sometimes it feels like I’m just letting go. I prefer to believe I’m becoming a more well-adjusted person, with a better self-esteem. That other part of me feels like I’m crawling slowly down the path to dilapidation.

I hope I’m becoming a more enlightened, confident person. Less fixated on outward appearance. Accepting a modern-day, more casual sensibility about dress and appearance. And still, I hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “You’re going out looking like THAT?”

Mom at 85, six weeks before she died of cancer

Changing long-held values is hard. So is silencing your mother’s voice in your head. The change is welcome and overdue. It’s very late in coming. Which, surprisingly, doesn’t make it easier.

TWO SHORT STORIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love stories about clever solutions to thorny problems. Here are two of my favorite family stories about creative problem solving.

THE DIVORCE DILEMMA

My mother was a psychologist. In the ‘60’s, she got a call from a famous divorce lawyer in New York City. His name was Louis Nizer and he wanted her to testify in a society divorce case. He represented the wife who was suing for divorce. The problem, to put it bluntly, was that her husband only liked having sex with her shoes. Not with her.

Nizer wanted Mom to testify to the severe emotional distress the wife was suffering because she was being deprived of her “conjugal rights”. But the lawyer was worried because the judge was an old school, devout Catholic. Nizer was afraid that his argument would fall flat on this particular judge because of his religious beliefs, which didn’t include women “needing” sex.

Mom thought for a minute and suggested that Nizer change his tactics. She asked “What is the only time conservative Catholics believe that sex is appropriate?”

The answer is, to have children. Children, who will be raised as practicing Catholics. So, my mother argued, why not claim that the reason the wife needs a divorce is her husband’s practice of ejaculating into her shoes is depriving her of children. Good, Catholic children.

Nizer thanked my mother profusely. He used her argument and won the divorce case on motions. No trial and no need for my mother’s testimony. No credit for her brilliant idea either. But we know the truth!

THE MEDICAL DILEMMA

My mother’s first husband was a physician. His name was Abraham Otto but he was always called A.O. A.O., who was Jewish, had a Jewish friend who was overseas as a soldier in World War II.

A.O. received a letter from him asking for medical advice. The friend had been told he needed non-emergency surgery – a gall bladder or appendix. Something minor today but which required major surgery in the 1940’s. His friend wanted to know if he should let the field doctors do the surgery or if he should request a flight home to the states for the procedure.

A.O. felt strongly that his friend should have the surgery done in the states, but he also knew all letters were read and censored by the military. He worried if he told his friend not to trust the overseas military doctors, the letter could be confiscated and would never reach his friend at all. So, A.O. wrote a glowing letter about how wonderful the overseas army doctors were and the total faith he had in their abilities.

He signed the letter “Dr. Kim A. Hame.” “Kim a hame” in Yiddish, means “Come home!”

A.O. knew his friend spoke Yiddish. The army censors didn’t. Problem solved!

LINES AND CREASES – RICH PASCHALL

Faded Photographs –

by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


People still collect them.  Perhaps not as ardently as they once did, but they still get them.  They order them online.  They print them at home. They might even go to the store to order them.  There is something about having it in your hand that beats looking at it on your phone or even your desk top computer.  At one time, taking your film to be developed and having pictures printed was a big thing.  A really big thing.

I guess there are still stores that specialize in printing pictures, but they are all online shops.  I can download pictures to the drug store and go get prints.  I can take a flash drive to Walgreens where a teenager will print my pictures and might even thank me for coming (okay, probably not the latter).

I have used online services to print vacation pictures in the past, but not so much anymore.  I usually keep them all on SD cards, flash drives and folders on my desktop.  This means I am not likely to find them if I need them in a hurry, unless they are still in my camera or phone.

Despite this drifting away from the printed photographs, I still have plenty of pictures.  I don’t mean hundreds, I mean countless thousands of them.  I know I could probably hold them all on a large flash drive or two, but that is now.  Then we had no other way to enjoy our pictures but to take the film to the photo shop (Fotomat?) and have them developed.

faded photograph

After dropping off a roll or two of film, we would anxiously wait up to a week to find out if we actually captured what we saw in the view finder.  If we really wanted a picture of something we might take more than one shot, but since there was no deleting a bad one and taking another, we would just hope for the best.  Film cost money, and prints cost money too.  There was no buying an SD card and using it over and over.  We had no built-in flash on our cheap cameras so we had to buy one use flash bulbs, flash bars, flash cubes or whatever was in fashion for the camera model we had.

My mother had every type of cheap camera there was over the years.  She used every film format that came along for small “pocket” cameras.  There was 110 and 126 film.  There were film discs, a short-lived idea.  There were cameras that had to be wound and others with auto advance.  When the camera broke, we would get another.  For a while there was even a Polaroid camera for the joy of instant prints.  The joy faded quickly, like the prints themselves.

When my mother passed away, we found a camera that had 126 film in it and most of the shots had been taken.  There is no telling how many years the film was in the camera.  It is a good bet she had not used the camera in 15 years, perhaps much longer since she had an odd collection of cheap, working cameras.  I could never find anyone to develop that film, and I do not live in a remote location!  I am sure there is someone who would do it, but I doubt it was worth the money it would probably take to get it done.  Perhaps it is washed out by now anyway.

Still, we have countless pictures from my mother.  The number tailed off at the beginning of the century.  A stroke in 2003 put an end to the picture-taking hobby.  By then, she had boxes and bags full of pictures.  Many were in the photo envelopes you got back from the developer.  Fortunately, most of those were dated.  If the date was summer but they were Christmas pictures, then they were from the previous Christmas.  Mom was not too quick about getting to the Photo shop or Osco Drug to get them developed.  Was the joy in just going around family events with a camera in hand?

Mom in early 1920s

In the year that followed my mother’s death at the age of 88, I spent a lot of time shipping off hundreds of pictures to my brother, sometimes in frames, and organizing the rest into bags.  There are the 1920’s and 1930’s, clearly taken by someone else.  The 1940’s were not a particularly big collection, but the decades that followed contained many pictures.  Despite the ones my brother now has, I am left with more than I could count.  What to do with all these pictures?

Mom (left) and sister, circa 1950

The months organizing them into decades and shipping some off was all the nostalgia I needed from this group.  I doubt seriously I will ever haul them out of the closet to look at them again.  In whatever years I have left on the planet, I can not imagine spending time gazing at these memories, especially since some are best forgotten.  But I could not imagine dumping them either.  What would you do with thousands of prints?

After contemplating the matter for a while I realized that the parents of my living cousins are in many of these pictures.  Many faded photographs may be welcome at the home of these first and second cousins for the memories they contain, even if they are “covered now in lines and creases.”

SPENDING TIME WITH TELEVISION FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve found that I like watching weekly series on TV because of the people, not the plots. The storylines are an important part of the overall picture. But the reason I’m drawn back, week after week, is because I love hanging out with the series regulars.

Some series have an amazing ensemble of characters and actors. There’s magical chemistry between the fictional characters as well as between the actors who play them. I enjoy watching how my TV friends deal with each week’s crises and plot twists. I wait for the tidbits we’re thrown regularly that enrich our understanding of the characters’ psyches and the relationships between the characters.

One of my long time favorite crime shows is “NCIS”. The original one. It involves a team of Naval crime fighters in Washington, D.C. The team banters and sleuths its way through each episode’s case. The relationships are complex between the people on the team. The layers have layers after all these years. And over each season, you learn more and more about the personal lives of all of the main players.

Long running shows like “NCIS” have stayed successful all this time — despite cast turnovers –because they keep the group dynamics constant. You hate to see your favorite actors leave, but the replacements manage to integrate into the show seamlessly. Crimes are still solved the same way. The teasing, joking and office gossiping go on, uninterrupted.

Two of my other favorite shows revolve around extended families. “Life In Pieces” is a half hour comedy and “This Is Us” is a one hour drama. These shows have amazing character development and deep, rich, interrelationships.

“Life In Pieces” is incredibly well-written! It deals with three generations of a close-knit family – older parents, three grown siblings, their significant others and their children. Much of the humor is based on character. The family members are quirky and over-the-top enough to be funny, but they’re also believable. So are the jokes and situations.

I love these weird and wonderful people! I can’t wait to see what they’re going to be up to each week. I used to feel this way about “Modern Family” but for me, it has crossed the line into caricature these days.

“This Is Us” is a drama about a set of triplets and their parents. The story is divided into two timelines, an interesting device. There is the present when the triplets are in their thirties, and the past which follows their parents through courtship, marriage and parenthood, into the kids’ teen years.

Again, superior writing and character development. The timelines are woven together subtly and cleverly. The time I spend with these people flies by and I’m always shocked when the hour is up so soon. There are some mysteries about the past which are revealed slowly, of course. Still, the main reason the show was a big hit in its first season, was because of the interesting, real, multi-level people who populate the show.

More and more I turn on the television to spend time with my old TV friends. Like the gang on “The Big Bang Theory”, the bickering partners on “Hawaii 5-0” who go to couples counseling, and the present day Sherlock Holmes and female Dr. Watson on “Elementary”.

I miss these people when their shows go on hiatus. I’m excited to see them again when the shows return. The murders, mysteries, plots, and punch lines are great fun. But I’m in it for the characters. They are all part of my life now.

A FACE-TIME FUNERAL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

On February 2, 2017, I wrote a blog about my husband, Tom’s, Aunt Helen. We went out to Rochester, Minnesota to celebrate her 100th birthday with her incredible and devoted extended family. Aunt Helen luxuriated in three generations of love and support from her two daughters and son-in-law, her four grandchildren and in-laws and her seven great-grandchildren.

Everyone loved Aunt Helen. Feisty and full of life at every age. A Red Hat party girl to the end. But after the big 100th Birthday Bash, she seemed to lose steam. One of her grandchildren many years ago told her that she had to live to 100. She made that her goal in life and achieved it. But having achieved that landmark goal, she stopped eating, lost contact and started to deteriorate. On April 12, she died.

Our Favorite Aunt

Of course Tom and I planned to go to the funeral. We knew in January that the next time we saw the Minnesota gang would be on this sad occasion. We bought airline tickets that got us in the night before the Saturday 11 AM funeral service.

Thursday night I woke up with a sore throat. By Friday, the day we were scheduled to leave, I was coughing non-stop, despite generous doses of cough medicines. I knew I couldn’t make the trip. So I drove Tom to the nearest airport and went home and got into bed.

A short time later, the phone rang. It was Tom. They were on the plane but there had been a delay. Some baggage apparently dented the outside of the plane and they had to wait for approval to take off. He was worried that the delay would cause him to miss his connecting flight in Chicago.

A half hour later the phone rang again. The flight had been canceled! Tom was now on a long line of irate passengers, all waiting to be rebooked on another flight to their destinations. Okay. Bad situation but probably not fatal.

The next phone call, at around 6:00 PM, had the really bad news. There was no other flight, direct or connecting, that could get tom to the funeral in time for the service the next morning at 11 AM. Not on any airline, from any airport in the tri-state area. Now neither of us was going to be with the family to officially say good-bye to Aunt Helen! Tom was dejected.

I picked him up at the airport and we drove home. A few hours later, the phone rang. It was one of Aunt Helen’s daughters, Tom’s cousin Barb. She had a brilliant idea. Barb’s daughter, Lisa, a pastor, had recently been able to watch her son’s basketball game in Minnesota, while she was on a mission in Africa, by using Face-time! We could watch the funeral by Face-time! The glories of modern technology! What a great idea!

So Tom in Connecticut and the pastor in Rochester coördinated their computers. Tom hooked his iPad up to the television in the bedroom so I could watch from my sick-bed. It was awesome! We saw the family and heard the beautiful eulogy that two of the granddaughters, Lisa and her sister Jennifer, presented together.

To top it off, they quoted my February blog about Aunt Helen in the eulogy! I was so touched! I had referred to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. After watching Aunt Helen’s family in action, I had realized that it also took a village to get someone to the age of 100. They agreed.

Another grandchild sang a hymn in the magnificent voice we had heard about but never heard. It was wonderful to be able to be part of the service, long distance. Later in the day, Lisa texted photos of the family out celebrating Helen with a beer. Her favorite drink.

I’m not very tech savvy. But I’m in awe of what can be done today to connect people through their personal devices. Maybe it’s the strength of this particular family that makes connecting so much easier. It is fantastic to be a part of this warm, welcoming and wonderful family, through sickness and in health, in person and by Face-Time.