The Duke is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had. Not as smart as Tinker the Thinker. She was human in a dog suit. But maybe he is smarter in a different way.
Duke does what he pleases. He goes where he decides to go. He can jump all of our fences, break down doors and his desire to be our only dog has not diminished.
So the other day, Garry was outside, trying to get the hardened ice off the driveway and build a place to put the trash and recycling bins. He looked up into the window and there was the face of the Duke smiling down at him. From the window in my office.
My office isn’t my office anymore. It has become the room where we put things that we use sometimes, but not all the time. The Christmas tree is in there all wrapped in plastic as are the two big wooden nutcrackers.
The printer, router, and cable box, which the guy from Charter didn’t take with him. I think we need it anyway because it’s where we hook up the router. Which is how we send signals to the devices which use wi-fi. Computers, Kindles, iPads, and all that. Of course the two televisions. And an extra fold-up bed for a guest who might wander in from the cold.
The Duke was in that room. At the window. Smiling down at Garry.
Later that evening, in bed, Garry told me he’d seen the Duke peering out of the office window. I asked him if he’d closed the door to the office since Duke must have pushed the door open in to get to the window.
Garry said he hadn’t closed it because when he came in, the office door was closed. I said I hadn’t closed it either. In fact, had not been in that room at all that day.
So … who closed the door? The door has a standard round doorknob and opens inward, as do all the doors in the house. He could push it closed from in the room, but to close it? He would have to have pulled it closed from the hallway using the doorknob.
Doorknob? He doesn’t have hands. He has no thumbs.
So how did he close the door? Any explanation will do. I’ve known a few dogs who could close a gate, but never one who could close a door using a round doorknob.
Today is “Flag Day” throughout much of the world. Here, it is much more. It’s my Mom’s birthday.
Esther Letticia Holder Armstrong left us 11 years ago. But for me and my family, she’s very much alive in spirit and 101 years young. They were singing “You’re A Grand Old Flag” and “Over There” when Mom was born on that June 14th in 1917. Mom’s father, my grandfather, was over there. He was a sailor in the Danish Navy during World War 1.
Gramps, a Barbados native, saw plenty of action as he would tell us many times in the years to come.
Esther Holder, as Aunts and Uncles would gleefully tell me, was a feisty child and teenager. “Smart as a whip,” friends said about Mom. She graduated near the top of her Julia Richmond High School class of 1935. My Mother once described herself to me as a “Jazz baby,” showing off pictures of herself as a young woman who liked to dance. I’m not sure how that resonated with some of the older folks in the family but none of them lived in a glass house – if you get my drift.
I guess Mom left a trail of broken hearts when she and my dad, William Benfield Armstrong, married in 1941. It was one of the biggest social events of the year. However, modesty aside, the glittering affair was just the warm up to my début on the world stage in April of 1942. A star was born — at least that’s how I’d see it in my private fantasies which Mom frequently punctured.
Mom was a single parent during my early years because Dad was away — in the Army – seeing some of the heaviest action of World War 2 in France and Germany as a Sargeant in the still-segregated armed forces.
We looked like a Hollywood family when Dad finally came home from the war. At least that’s what I thought. Mom was beautiful and Dad was such a handsome guy.
Over the years, my Mother was “the voice” of our family. She clearly set the parameters for right and wrong, good and bad for my two younger brothers and me. I tested her many times, especially as I got older and became a “man” in my immature mind. I always lost those confrontations.
Mom was tough! She was also tender, in her own way. She encouraged me to read and write. She actually read my first attempts at fiction and assured me I had talent. She told me I should pursue my dreams.
We weren’t big on outward displays of affection, something that I would have to deal with in later years. However, Mom always found quality time for me. She knew I had a huge passion for movies. We’d go to the movies, 3 times a week. I was “Mom’s date.” She would explain who the people on the big screen were.
They were Gable, Tracy, Hepburn, Cooper, Grant and all the others who reigned over my fantasies through my many years of loving Hollywood. Mom said she named me after her favorite star, Gary Cooper. There was a mixup in recording the birth certificate and Gary became Garry.
There would be frequent mixups later when I became a news guy on television. Actually, there are still frequent mixups. Some things never change.
I’m not sure my Mother was excited about my career choice. She always said I should become a doctor, lawyer, or minister. She agreed I talked well. What she really said was, “Garry, you have a big mouth!” I’d smirk when she said that. The smirk usually quickly disappeared she gave me “the look.” Mom also thought I was too good for the women I dated. I think she left that impression with many of those women in my life. I got lots of feedback about it.
I remember Mom and Dad celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I saw a look in their eyes I hadn’t seen too often. The look of love.
Dementia took hold of Mom in her last few years. Dad had passed away. Mom was alone with my middle brother Billy in the old family home on Long Island. Anton, my youngest Brother, was busy with his blooming career as director of the St. Olaf Choir in Minnesota. I was the married, busy TV news guy up in Boston. Family get-togethers were difficult.
In what would be her last coherent afternoon with me, My Mom floored me when she admonished me to be a good husband, to find quality time with Marilyn, to show affection and not stonewall Marilyn with internalized emotions. Mom held my face close with her hands like I was that stupid teenager. She smiled with patience and compassion, counseling me to “… be good to your Wife … you are lucky to have her. Show her you appreciate her, that you love her.”
I’m still trying Mom. I’m not there yet.
In the meantime, Happy, Happy Birthday. Mom. You’re the best!
I write a lot of pieces about celebrities I’ve met in my professional life. They are fun to remember and share. Sometimes it feels like name dropping or playing a broken record if the story is written too frequently. Friends and acquaintances assure me there’s an audience for these stories and I should continue to share the memories.
Today’s piece is about the most important person in my life. We’ve been friends for more than half a century. We’ve been married for 28 years. We share some of the most bizarre stories you’re likely to hear.
You know her well. My Wife, Marilyn. She is, among other things, the SERENDIPITY lady. Today is Marilyn’s birthday. I hope many of Marilyn’s SERENDIPITY friends, mates and fellow bloggers are celebrating her day. She has opened windows on the world for countless people around the world with her pieces.
Marilyn writes voraciously, about all things great and small. Marilyn is passionate about our world and those who live on our planet. I sometimes fear that Marilyn’s passion for making things right will make her head explode. She’s always been that way since we first met as college kids and were bent on changing the world. That world, the 60’s and all its turbulence, needed change. Decades later, I’m not sure if we’ve left any imprints on our journey through life. The one constant in our lives is Marilyn’s determination to “out” the idiots, pretenders and felons of all persuasion who strive to pollute our quality of life.
It’s a tall order. Perhaps a mission impossible. But Marilyn is driven to make our collective lives better. Her sword is the pen, her computer keyboard. I watch her work relentlessly, every day, morning through night, her face focused on subject matter of yet another blog. Marilyn never seems to tire even when her body is sending obvious signals to slow down. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. Marilyn doesn’t suffer fools. Yes, she’s been my rock for all these years. Go figure.
Marilyn always makes sure that the birthdays of family and friends are remembered, celebrated in some way. Not the easy “Hallmark” way that takes little effort or imagination. Marilyn is always thoughtful. It’s a quality that I’ve found very unique in my professional and personal life.
Our celebration of Marilyn’s birthday pales in comparison with how mine is recognized. Hopefully, we’ll go out for dinner and Marilyn won’t have to cook yet another dinner. Her birthday card hasn’t arrived. Thanks very much, U.S. Postal Service. No, I haven’t forgotten! I know Marilyn is disappointed. We DID have a visit from her son Owen and his friend, Dave, who have been the bright lights on Marilyn’s day. They brought a basket of Shrimp, realizing we don’t eat cake or sweets in our golden years. I think their visit lifted Marilyn’s spirits. I’m grateful.
I’m beyond grateful to have Marilyn in my life. I leave a lot to be desired as the spouse who is admired by the public which only knows his media image. Marilyn has worked hard to make our marriage succeed when I’ve been engulfed in my own selfish pursuits.
I think we were lucky to find each other again after having gone down different roads for many years.
I can easily say the 28 years of marriage have been the best years of my life.
Today would have been my brother Matthew’s 74th birthday. We understood each other because we shared that strange world in which we grew up. I will always remember and miss you, Matt.
RETRO NEST COMIC – BY EVIL SQUIRREL
Since today is my birthday (please, hold your applause!), I figured I’d share what I believe is the only comic I’ve done that is centered around that oh so egotistical of holidays that I think we sometimes take just a bit too seriously. While this comic is only two years old, it is definitely one of mine and my readers’ favorites… and maybe one of my favorite Buster appearances where the poor guy doesn’t get mutilated in some way. This was Comic #159
I am still tinkering off and on with the comic that was originally supposed to be posted two weeks ago, and that should be up later today or tomorrow. I have four regularly scheduled days off next week, and I am gonna be extremely disappointed in myself if I don’t get the comic backlog caught up by next Friday. In that regard, I really need to get me one of those thingies that lets you draw straight onto your computer…. it might change the look of my comics, but I think I’d cut the time it takes to make them in half!
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