Category Archives: grief

What am I going to do with my Dad?

For the record, I’m really talking about my dad’s ashes.  My dad died in 2016.  He is sitting in an urn in our living room, and I seem to get some sort of odd comfort in knowing where he is.  I didn’t really give this question much thought until our Boxing Day party, when a friend asked me who was sitting on the fireplace.  It took me a minute to realize he was talking about my dad.  This led to a discussion of scattering ashes and how to memorialize someone who has been cremated.

I love cemeteries.  I’ve been actively involved with Riverside Cemetery since we moved to Macon.  I love to go out and walk and look at the graves.  I love knowing where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried.  But what am I going to do with Daddy?

At some point, my dad told someone he wanted his ashes scattered at Hanna Park in Jacksonville.  He might have told me; to be perfectly honest, my memory is fuzzy on some things.  There were a few things I really wanted to forget.  But I can’t scatter him.  I just can’t.

Part of it is the issue of memorializing, and this was my friend’s objection to scattering.  I find comfort in bringing flowers and going to the cemetery.  If I scatter him, how will anyone know where he is?  How will anyone remember he was even here?  Will anyone care?  Who will remember him when I’m gone? How do we memorialize him?

My step-father’s ashes are at the National Cemetery in Salisbury, North Carolina.  I told my mother we could put the two of them together and then I would only have to make one visit.  I thought it was pretty funny but my mother didn’t.

I am the person who makes decisions.  My daughter and I planned my father’s funeral.  My brother has not been involved and has said he really doesn’t care.  I care enough for both my brother and me.

I just don’t know what to do with Daddy.  Do I scatter him, as he wished?  I’m not ready.  But he deserves to be memorialized somewhere.  I just don’t know where.

Suzanne

The Saga of the Missing Cat

In anticipation of my husband’s birthday party and 100 guests walking in and out of our home, we decided to board our cats with Plantation Animal Hospital, the veterinarian we had used for over three years in Macon, GA.  You can imagine our surprise when, on Friday afternoon, someone from the vet’s office called and asked us to come as soon as we could.  She was apologetic when she explained one of our cats, Chanel, had escaped.  The person who was moving the cats from their individual crates to the kennel had left both crates open, and at the same time had left a door to the outside propped open with a rock.

Chanel always tried to escape outside and this was exactly the reason we had decided to board them.  They would be safe, right?  Wrong. We made our way to the vet’s office and walked all around outside, calling Chanel and looking for signs of her.  Heartbroken, we went home after an hour of futile searching.

By Saturday afternoon, we were frantic and had exhausted our search efforts.  We posted photos and notices on social media and animal rescue sites, but we heard nothing. At 2:00 p.m., my very sad daughter posted a negative review on the veterinarian’s website, and got an immediate response:  they had found our cat and she was secure inside.  Soon after, I got an apologetic email from one of the vets, Dr. Susan Howard. It would be too little, too late.

Early Monday afternoon, my husband went to pick up the cats and bring them home.  You can imagine his surprise when our grey and white female cat had been transformed into a black male cat!  Surprise quickly turned to anger.  I was on a plane already for a business trip, so I was of no use.  All I could do was worry.  How could this be?  I had sent them photos of the cat.  They had records of the cat, so how could they confuse a black male with a petite grey female cat?  Had anyone even seen our cat?   Don’t cats have medical records?  Especially when this has been her vet for over three years and she had been boarded in the past?

We had two cats at the time, Chanel and Valentino. I had Chanel from the time she was a kitten and I inherited Valentino as an older cat, from my cousin, and he was not my favorite cat.  I had him only because my cousin’s dog kept trying to eat him, and I took him to keep him from going to a shelter.  But we never connected.  One of our grandsons said we needed to respect him anyway, because he was a cat. I could have dealt with losing Valentino, but not Chanel.

 On Monday night, four days later, and we still had no Chanel and no answers.  Chanel is the best pet I’ve ever owned, with the possible exception of my horse, and I was so angry.  Two weeks passed and still no answers.  Animal rescue groups shared my blog post and Plantation Animal Hospital blocked me on Facebook and Twitter.   My friends persisted in sharing “wanted” posters and in calling the vet.  I was heartbroken.  The vet used my photo and made a reward poster, which was shared throughout the area.  $500 for my cat.  They needed to do that.

Three weeks after Chanel disappeared, someone found her and claimed the reward.  She weighed less than 5 pounds.   The vet gave her IV fluids and checked her thoroughly.  We were finally able to bring her home.

This sounds like old news, and maybe it is, however just this past week I have had two friends who have had bad experiences with this same animal hospital.  I’ve had other friends whose cats have been lost by vets.

We’ve since found another vet that we like and Chanel seems okay with him.  The office is nice and they get us in fast.  I like them.  Two years later and we still don’t board Chanel when we travel.

I wish I could tell you how to find a good vet.  Get recommendations from trusted friends and read the reviews online.  Meet the doctor and the staff and ask questions.  Veterinarians are so specialized now and make sure the doctor you choose is comfortable with your breed.  You and your pet should both be comfortable.

What an experience!

 

Revising my father’s eulogy

I began the eulogy by saying the Webster Marlowe his friends in Palatka knew was not the same man I knew as my father.  I think I truly believed that until last Sunday, before I received a call from Patty.

Sunday started out like any other.  We woke up, showered, and went to choir rehearsal at Christ Church.  It should have felt good but it didn’t.  I didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t happy to be there.  It wasn’t anything particular; I knew the music and I love our choirmaster, but I just felt off.  I got the car keys from my husband and told him I would see him after church.  He was concerned, but I told him I was okay.  I just needed some time.   I needed to be.

I went out to the car and as soon as I opened the door my cell phone rang.  It was a number from Jacksonville, Florida, so I assumed it was Mayo Clinic or something.  Normally I would decline the call, but I hit the button and said hello.  The caller said she found my name when she was searching online for my father, Webster Marlowe.  Patty had been on a trip to Haiti with him and she found my blog post.  She said her plan was to build a hospital in Haiti with Daddy’s name on it.  She said she was honored to have helped him.   She talked of his hard work and his compassion.  The more she talked the harder I cried.  Then she gave me the phone number of another of Daddy’s friends, Donnie.

Donnie opened my eyes.  I knew my dad as an entrepreneur, a business owner, and as a person who was highly creative, but I never connected this with the man who seemed to be obsessed with Haiti. When I heard the story, though, I knew. It clicked.  Daddy was never one to turn down someone in need.  If a problem needed solving, Daddy would figure out how.  My mother reminded me how he once fixed an oil leak on our Cadillac by running a hose from the leak back into the engine.  My dad could fix anything.

On his first trip to Haiti, his job was to do handyman type work for the Baptist church.  He was to fix broken hinges and rehang doors; he was to do anything that required a hammer and a saw.  As he was working, a man approached with a wooden leg and carrying a piece of wood.  “Can you help me with a new leg?“ the man asked.  Daddy told him he didn’t know anything about that, but the man insisted that with his hammer and saw, Daddy had all the tools he needed.  The next morning Daddy was met by a larger group of amputees, each carrying wood and asking for help.  Webster Marlowe did not know how to say no to anyone who needed help. I’ve known this my entire life.

 

Donnie taught my dad how to use composites to make the legs and introduced him to a prosthetist in Gainesville who could help train him.  Someone else donated titanium.  Titanium! I introduced him to a prosthetist in Georgia, though I was never crazy about Daddy going to Haiti.  The demand grew and over the next 20 years, Daddy fixed and replaced all kinds of legs. He would get emotional as he talked about people who had worn out their legs, children coming back when they had outgrown their legs, and especially when he talked about how the demand outweighed his ability to supply.

While the Webster Marlowe of Palatka didn’t wear suits to work and didn’t drive the latest cars, he really was the same compassionate and caring man whom I called Daddy.  I’m closer to understanding why he was so drawn to Haiti, but I’m not quite there. What I do know is that my dad was a remarkable individual throughout his life, and maybe that is enough.

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

#MeToo No More

From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances.  I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  Maybe people have changed.  Maybe I’m just a wimp.  I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.

A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met.  As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.

Let’s call him Steve.  The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit.  His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath.  “You must know who I am,” he said.  No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was.  “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.”  No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t.  It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting.  It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face.  I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang.  I ran into my office.

He always found reasons to come into the school.  We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field.  We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies.  Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office.  Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape.  Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk.  In came George.

I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened.  This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage.  This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected.  He was connected with literally everyone.  It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and  even my access to the mechanics.  But I wouldn’t compromise.

Soon he disappeared.  I began to relax.  Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought.  He was gone and I was safe.

Or so I thought.  Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro.  By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey.  In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers.  In George’s case, it didn’t even take one.  Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends.  I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.”  I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO.  I did not report him.  All I wanted to do was fly.  I could handle this.

We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent.  “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line.  Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline.  I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.

Maybe he turned his life around.  Maybe his children are responsible adults.  Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather.  He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations.  Whatever.  I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and  gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.

#MeToo No More.

Tribute to an old friend

IMG_0109His name doesn’t matter.  I found an old resume of mine, and I’m talking really old, and he was listed as a reference.  We lost touch at least 33 years ago, but this dear friend was important enough to have been listed on my resume on my initial job searches in Atlanta.  He didn’t want me to move.

As soon as my mother reads this, she is going to call me.  “Who are you talking abou?”  I’m not going to tell her.  I’m not even going to talk about it any further.  I’m going to savor the memory of this friendship, 30+ years ago, and remember fondly a larger than life person who passed away in 2016.  Some memories should just be savored and maybe woven anonymously into a book or something.

Our first meeting was not was by chance.  Someone recommended I contact him.  He was a valuable resource.  He restored my self confidence and opened doors I couldn’t have opened alone.  I was in awe of him.  He couldn’t believe I was a commercial pilot and flight instructor, plus a nurse, and he respected my intelligence.  He was kind and generous and a gentleman.  I was vulnerable but he did not take advantage of that.  He was older but he treated me as an equal.  He respected my opinion.   He introduced me to jazz.

So many fond memories!  His faith in me empowered me and helped make me become the person I am today.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.  I will always remember that.

I found his obituary last night.  He was preceded in death by his wife of 27 years.  She came along 5 years after I left so I didn’t know her, but I wish I had. He was a good person  was well remembered by all.

Rest in peace, my friend.

In memory of my friend

There’s a hole in the universe tonight.

Rich Rusk was a dear friend.  We fought for social justice with Come To The Table and with the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee.  We went to Rock Hill to meet a reformed Klansman.  We went fly fishing.  We held our own private remembrance services for Sam Hose, in Newnan.  This was an active friendship.  We didn’t just sit around and tell stories about Alaska.

True friends don’t come around very often, but Rich and I were fast friends from the day we met.

Rich came to Newnan with representatives from Southern Truth and Reconciliation and the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee to talk about the Sam Hose lynching in Newnan, which occurred in 1899.  Someone was so concerned that Come To The Table was discussing Sam Hose that they called the sheriff.  Undaunted by the presence of law enforcement, Rich shared the story of the Moore’s Ford massacre and how the memorial committee sought reconciliation in the Athens area.  He thought we should do something similar to commemorate the lynching of Sam Hose.  We met at the lynching site each April 23 to say a prayer and leave flowers.   We would remember, whether anyone else did or not.

Rich was a writer.  He called his first book, “As I Saw It”, a tape-recorder book but anyone who knew Rich could hear his voice.  He wrote this book with his father, Dean Rusk, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.  He said he wanted to write another book.  He also wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail and made it through several sections.

Rich was passionate about the environment and he loved fly fishing.  He enrolled Bob and me in a course at UGA so we could learn, too.  He knew we would love fly fishing. He and Janice took us to a Trout Unlimited banquet.  We took one trip to Blue Ridge to fish, in December, in the snow.  I’m a girly girl, but I put on waders and went out in the river.  I prayed I wouldn’t have to touch a fish, though I loved standing in the river, in the snow.  Bob caught a fish, but he didn’t want to touch it, either.

Rich loved anything outdoors.  There was one Saturday where he and Bob left Janice and me at their home to review the Moore’s Ford scholarship applications.  Janice and I had a fun day inside while Bob and Rich kayaked down the river.  Bob rolled his kayak and lost his glasses, and that trip was ever after known as the time Rich tried to drown Bob.  We were always kidding around.

Then there was the trip to Rock Hill to meet Elwin Wilson.  We loaded up in Rich’s van and drove to South Carolina, fascinated by the idea that someone who had done so many terrible things could reform and make peace.  We wanted to enlist Elwin’s help in getting the FBI to reopen the Moore’s Ford case.  We were successful in getting the case reopened, but no arrests were ever made.  Rich never gave up.

Rich was passionate about the environment and climate change.  He called a couple of years ago and said he was riding a bicycle from Athens to somewhere in south Georgia, with Waymund Mundy and two other people.  I thought he was kidding but we invited them to spend the night at our home.  I don’t think any of them made it the whole way on the bikes, but it was a fun evening.

When my friend was moving to Athens for graduate school, I called Rich in hopes he would have a rental that would work for her.  He didn’t, but he made some good suggestions.  That would be the last time I would speak with him.

My mother is at the age where she goes to a funeral every Saturday.  I’m just not ready for that.  I’m not ready to be old.

Rest in peace, my friend.  We will miss you.