Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Three Sons

My Mom and Pop, newlyweds, 1940

Ike and Betty (my parents) had three children, all boys. My Mom always wanted a girl. She was the youngest in her family and had lost her Mother when she wasn’t quite two years old. She grew up without a Mother and thus always wanted a girl of her own to make up for her lonely childhood.

Mom on the left with her two older brothers, Randy and George in 1928 - her older brothers tore the head off of her big doll later - Mom never forgot

My Mom got married when she was sixteen years old to an 18 year old transplanted hillbilly whose family immigrated to southern Chester County in 1930 to work picking fruit and vegetables on his Uncle Donald Byrd’s farm near Unionville, PA.

My dad's ID card from his job at Lukens Steel Co. 1941

The tall, young, blonde haired gangly man with the big smile she married was the fifth child of a family of eleven boys. There was a twelfth boy (a twin) who died at birth. My dad had ten brothers and no sisters.

The eleven Tipton Brothers at the Tipton Family Reunion, Downingtown, PA 1960

On November 9, 1941, I was the first born of my parents' three children. My Mother already had a girl’s name picked out for me (Louise, her middle name) if I was a girl. Since I wasn’t a girl so she named me after a popular movie star of the day, Ronald Coleman. My father wanted to name me after him, Isaac, but she thought “Isaac” was an ugly name. She told him “You’re not naming any of my children that ugly name.”

Ronald Colman the movie actor and baby Ron 1941

On April 8, 1943 my brother Isaac, Jr. was born. As you can surmise, my Mother relented in her opposition to the name “Isaac” and my father was able to name a son after him. In retrospect, it proved to be a good choice because Isaac, Jr. was more like my father (blonde hair, personality, and skills) than either me or my youngest brother.

My middle brother Isaac, Jr. 1944

On June 10, 1944 my brother John was born. He was named after his uncle John who was missing in combat during World War II. Ironically, after the war ending one year later Uncle John came home. My Uncle John was in a German prisoner of war camp, from which he escaped twice and was recaptured twice. After coming home from the war, Uncle John married his sweetheart, my Aunt Peggy. His first child was a boy which he named John. Thus, that is how our family came to have three “John’s” in the immediate family; Uncle John, my brother John (who we always called “John”) and Cousin John (who we call “Johnny.”)

Uncle John Tipton (on the right) in his paratropper uniform 1943
My youngest brother John, the "pet", 1945

After giving birth to three sons my Mother told my father that she wasn’t going to have eleven boys like her mother-in-law. From what I understand, just we three boys were quite a handful for Mom back in those days. I find that hard to believe but that is what she tells me. I’m going to take her word for it. Note how I keep my distance from my brothers in the picture below.

The three Tipton Boys; John, Isaac and Ronald 1948 at our Pop's favorite Packard

Growing up we had the textbook sibling relationships. I was my Mother’s favorite. Isaac, the middle child, wasn’t given as much attention. John, the youngest, was my father’s pet, which I highly resented. Since I was the oldest and the Crown Prince, I felt that I should have been given all the paternal attention. But it was not to be. Looking at old photographs now, I can tell by the body language where I stood (usually a step or two apart from my younger brothers) and where they stood.

My Mom, me and my two younger brothers at Aunt Ruth and Mary's home in Compass, PA 1950

There are many stories to tell about growing up in this typical below average middle class household. I would like to think we were step above the lower class but just on the threshold of middle class but in actuality we were almost dirt poor. Those stories I will tell in future postings.

The Terrible Tipton Boys sitting on the stoop at their apartment building at 120 Washington Avenue, Downingtown, PA with their friends Johnny Johnson and Patty Robinson (girl in back unknown)

The story I will tell you now is that I just got off the phone with my Mom a few hours ago. She is now living with my youngest brother John in South Carolina. She is 86 years old and doing well for a woman of her age. She has her aches and pains and her memory isn’t what it used to be. But she is comfortable, safe and secure. Mom took care of her “three boys” for many years.  Now it is our turn to take care of our Mom.

Brother John helping our Mom out with a puzzle at his home in South Carolina 2009

Growing up my brothers and I had our differences, to say the least. It was usually me against them. Actually, I had no problem with Isaac. My problems were with John because I thought he was a spoiled brat, being the pet and all. Maybe he was. Sometimes we got into arguments that turned violent. I remember one time the three of us got into fisticuffs at the bus stop (I can still remember gravel embedded in my elbows when we were rolling around on the road trying to land a punch on each other.) As we were grappling around on the ground, the school bus pulled up. The school bus driver opened the door and let in the Stongs (the other kids who caught the bus where we caught it) and pulled off, leaving the Tipton boys to sort things out on the ground at Boot Road and Skelp Level Road. Uh oh, we knew we were in trouble then because we MISSED THE BUS! That meant we had to go home and try and explain to Mom what happened. Mom was not pleased. We got pinched real good for that misbehavior. My Mom gave up hitting us with her hands because we were too big and she always ended up hurting her hand so she gave us those twisty pinches instead.

Here I have my brother John in a headlock which is where I tried to keep him most of our childhood. 

We were thankful that our only punishment was pinches. She could always call out the Big Guns and say “I’m going to tell your Father.” THAT is something we DID NOT WANT TO HEAR. She drove us to school and said “If it every happens again I’m going to tell your father!” It never happened again. As you can see Pop was a big man and we did not want to anger him.  You see that belt he's wearing?  Holding up his pants wasn't the only thing he used that belt for.  We felt the sting of that belt more than once.  Nothing like a little corporal punishment to get a rowdy, misbehaving boy's attention.

"Pop Tipton" with his namesake, Ike, Jr. 1950

This is just one of the many anecdotes of growing up with two brothers. There are many, many more. I try to keep my blog postings short and interesting but when I start recalling and telling stories about my earlier life.
There are so many of them and I hope to tell most of them before I check out.

Mom with her hands full of three young sons.  She used to farm me out for a few weeks in the summer to Aunt Mary and Aunt Ruthie in Compass which was where this piture was taken in 1948

I’ll sum up this posting by saying that both of my brothers are alive and doing well. As well as one can expect of a 68, 66 and 65 year old. We all like one another. Oh, occasionally my middle brother and I have a disagreement about politics (they’re conservative, I’m liberal) but we try to stay away from that subject because I know I’m never going to change his mind nor will he change my mind.

Me and Isaac, Jr. in calmer times 1948

All I know at this time of my life is that I am so thankful to have Isaac and John and my brothers. We all like and respect each other. We have a common goal in seeing that our mother, who has done so much for us, is comfortable in her old age.

Mom doing a little afternoon reading at her new home in snow free South Carolina

My father died August 22, 2000 at 80 years of age. He and my mother were married for 60 years. My father was not a rich man. For most of his life he worked as a foreman in a trailer assembly plant. He stopped working when he was 52 years old and my Mother went to work on the frozen cake layer line at Pepperridge Farms in Downingtown, PA. My father had occasional carpentry jobs finishing houses with his friend Harry but he never earned any significant money. My Mother was the bread winner for many years.

Isaac W. Tipton, Sr., aka "Pop" sitting in front of his garage at home in East Brandywine Township, Downigntown, PA 1998

My father may not have let a lot behind in money but he left behind what I consider to be a much more valuable treasure. He left a legacy in his three sons. If I can be permitted a bit of chest thumping, I think he and my Mom did a good job of raising their three sons. In fact, I know he did.  Just look at these three below.  Wouldn't you be proud to call them your sons? 

The Tipton Boys with their Mom 2005 Exton, PA - the only professional portrait ever taken of this family

I am proud to call Isaac and John my brothers.

John, Ike, Sr., Ike, Jr. and Me 1989 at Pop's home in East Brandywine Township, Downingtown, PA

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sticker Shock

Sticker shock alert!

Yesterday I received the Good Faith Estimate from my local bank which is handling the refinance of my mortgage.

It never ceases to amaze me at the amount of closing costs on real estate transactions. Yesterday was no exception.

For the third time in less than four years I’m entering a real estate transaction on my home here in the wonderful, glorious state of Delaware.

My first transaction was April 17th, 2006. That was when I purchased my newly custom built home here on the eastern shore of Sussex County, Delaware, two miles from the Broadkill River and another two miles from the Delaware Bay.

At that time my mind was preoccupied by the fact that I had not sold my home in Pennsylvania which I had planned to do to pay for my new home in Delaware. You know the old adage “The best laid plans of mice and men…….?” Well, plans did not go the way I thought. I didn’t pay much attention to the figures on the settlement sheet. I just wanted to get the transaction over with. Money was flying back and forth and I couldn’t do much about it. I was more concerned with selling my house in Pennsylvania.

My second transaction was November 17th, 2006. I had finally sold my home in Pennsylvania but for a LOT LESS than I had planned to. Again, the old adage “The best laid plans of mince and men……” Since I had sold my home in Pennsylvania I had to refinance my mortgage with what proceeds I did get from the sale of my house. Instead of paying off my house, I now had a mortgage for the first time since 1979. Not what I had planned but I had no choice. Again, I’m paying for a title search and all the other charges in the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars that appear on a settlement sheet. I now have a mortgage that will be paid off when I’m 95 years old. Good luck.

Now here we are today. I have accumulated enough greenbacks to pay down some of my mortgage in order to have a lower monthly mortgage payment. This is necessary because I am living on a fixed monthly income of Social Security and a few pensions from my previous life as a banker. I was paying my mortgage payment with my part-time job as a hotel front desk clerk but my hours have been cut back because folks aren’t traveling that much these days to take advantage of our wonderful accommodations in downtown Lewes and all that historic town has to offer. Besides, I don’t plan to be working at the hotel until I’m 95 years old. But you never know. I’ll work until I drop or they tell me to hit the road.

So here we are now at my third real estate transaction in less than four hears. I’m going to refinance my mortgage. Yesterday I received the Good Faith Estimate. STICKER SHOCK! Again I’m paying for that title search. This time around it’s $950 smackeroos! How much can be going on with my title? How many times does it have to be searched?

I checked on the Internet with that very question and the answer is: every time a purchase or refinance is done the title has to be searched. It makes sense.

I have an appraisal charge. I also have a survey charge of $354. Survey? WTF? That’s a new one. I didn’t even have a survey charge on my last refinance settlement.

Well, e-mails were sent to the bank handling my refinance with these questions.

Of course it didn’t help to read in the newspaper last week that Bank of America (my mortgager) is considering reducing outstanding principal balances on many of their outstanding mortgage loans in order to help those individuals who are near foreclosure.

While I understand the thinking behind such an action (to prevent foreclosures and those people losing their homes) somehow it doesn’t seem fair to those of us who did the right thing and paid our mortgages on time. But then who said life was fair?

I’m thankful that I have this beautiful home in wonderful Sussex County, Delaware near the ocean. I’m thankful that I have the income to continue to live in this home without the threat of foreclosure. But something doesn’t seem quite right here.

Now if you can excuse me, I have to get ready to go to work at the hotel today. I have to pay for that survey.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mom's New Bathroom

On Saturday, October 17, 2009 my brother John (the Baby Brother) and his wife rented a large van and drove from their home in Greenville, South Carolina to our Mom’s home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania where she lived with my other younger brother Isaac, the Middle Brother.

My brothers and I had decided to move our Mom to the milder climate of Greenville for the winter. Mom was reluctant to move of course. She would be moving from the house she had lived in since 1958 and from Pennsylvania where she had lived for all of her eighty six years. However, she was showing the early signs of dementia that both of her older sisters suffered. She also has maneuverability problems and was increasingly in need of another woman to help her with her personal needs. Thus my brothers and I decided that my brother John’s home was the best place for our Mom at this time in her life. My brother’s occupation is a care pastor for his local fundamentalist Baptist church so he is well acquainted with the special needs of his elderly parishioners and very good at taking care of those needs.

John’s home already had a separate “mother-in-law” suite that he built for his mother-in-law who lived with his family until she passed away a few years ago. The suite consisted of a bedroom with a skylight to let in natural light. It also had a bathroom, small living room and a small kitchenette. It also had a modest deck that looked out on the enclosed backyard. It is just the kind of apartment that I would like to have when I’m in my eighties, should I ever be so fortunate to reach that age.

As expected, at first when Mom moved in she was ready to go back to her longtime home in Pennsylvania the following week. We explained to her that it wasn’t in her best interest to go back until at least the winter was over. After this past brutal winter, our decision to move her south was now looked upon as absolutely brilliant. After a few months Mom became more comfortable with her new living quarters at my brother’s home. However, there was one problem. Mom didn’t use the kitchenette. Our Mom, the Cook, no longer liked to cook. That was a shame because she made the best southern biscuits. Oh how we miss those biscuits. Her pie crusts weren’t too good (cardboardy) but her biscuits……ah, they were heaven.

The other problem was the bathroom. Mom has a problem with her legs. She is very unsteady on them thus getting in and out of a bathtub is very difficult for her. Plus, the bathroom area was a bit confined for her to move around in with her walker.

As the oldest brother it is not easy for me to admit this fact but my brother John is a very clever man as well as being an excellent carpenter. I've always assumed that since I was the Firstborn, I got all the smarts, good looks, and personality of my parent's three sons.  But, as I've grown older I have to reluctantly admit that both of my younger brothers have skills that I can never hope to possess. In fact both of my brothers are good builders as was my father. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit that carpenter gene from my Pop. I can’t build a thing but I can cook and garden. Neither of my brothers like to garden but Isaac likes to cook. But I digress.

My clever brother John surveyed our Mom’s bathroom accommodations situation and came up with the solution. He decided to take out the kitchenette that wasn’t being used and, instead put in a nice long vanity counter.

Next he put in a type of bathtub that my Mother could walk into and lower herself by mechanical means. Don’t ask me how it works but John says the contraption now makes it much easier for Mom to take a bath. Of course now that Mom is living in a house with two other women (her daughter-in-law and her single adult grandchild), she has assistance for her personal needs instead of her big, awkward, and squeamish sons.

Baby Brother John also put in handrails for Mom to help her maneuver herself around her apartment.

Now, after six months Mom is quite comfortable in her new living quarters. She rarely talks about “going back home” to Pennsylvania. I think she now realizes that she is living in her new home. Sometimes she inquires about her cat Molly, a calico feral cat that she rescued about fourteen years ago. Molly always slept with my Mother. Mom used to call Molly her “hot water bottle.” But Molly has taken up with my other brother, Isaac. No need to worry about Molly. Besides, my Mother has a new friend in Maggie. Maggie is my sister-in-law's lovable mixed breed dog who has graciously consented to share her home with my Mom.  Maggie loves having a new friend to keep her company all day.  I think Mom feels the same way.

Admiring the pictures of Mom’s newly remodeled bathroom at my brother’s home I couldn’t help but think and hope that I would be as fortunate to have such nice living arrangements when I’m in my twilight years. I wish.  But for right now, I am very happy for my Mom that she has peace and comfort at this time of her life.  She worked hard all her life to provide for her family and this is the least we can do for our Mother.  Thank you Mom for all that you have done for us.  We all love you for than we can express in words.  You deserve nothing less than the best. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Good, Bad and Ugly

President Obama signed into law the new health care bill yesterday. As Joe Biden so famously said yesterday “This is a big f—cking deal!” Here is the good, bad and ugly of the whole health care debate.

The Good:

The reform bill has two phases. First, here are some things that Americans will see change in the first 6 months the bill is in effect:

• Senior citizens will be eligible for up to $250 in prescription drug rebates to close the "doughnut hole," the costly gap for prescription pills. In 2011, a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs will be enacted.

• Lifetime caps on insurance coverage will be removed.

• Insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage if you get sick or cancel coverage already issued except in the case of fraud.

• Prohibits coverage denial or rate adjustment for children who have pre-existing conditions.

• High risk pools will be created for adults with pre-existing conditions to buy into until 2014 when they will also not be denied or have rates adjusted for pre-existing conditions.

• Tax credits for small businesses when purchasing coverage.

• Consumers will have protections against insurance company abuses through the Patients' Bill Of Rights.

• Children will be able to stay under parents' plan until they are 26 years old.

• Consumers will have guaranteed choice of doctors and plans.

• Free preventative care for all.

• All insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.

The second phase of the bill is set to be complete in four years time, by 2014. Here's what the bill will do then:

• All adults will not be denied coverage or have their rates adjusted if they have a pre-existing condition.

• Tax credits will be offered to families to help offset the cost of health care premiums.

• Individuals who get insurance through their employer will be able to purchase a state-run option of health insurance instead when their current premiums are more than 9.5 percent of their income or when their current plan doesn't cover 60 percent of the cost of their benefits. Certain middle-income families who pay more than 8 percent but less than 9.5 percent will be eligible for vouchers from their employers to purchase insurance from where the employer normally would have.

• All Americans must carry health insurance or face a fine, but there are special exceptions for economic hardship, religious beliefs and other special cases. These exceptions include if a couple makes less than $19,000, they are not required to carry health insurance.

• Medium-sized and large-sized companies will be fined if they do not provide coverage for their employees or if they do not meet a minimum standard of coverage.

• States set up insurance pools to help small companies come together to pay for insurance coverage of their employees and offer tax credits if they participate. They must insure their employees and meet a minimum standard of coverage or pay a fine.

• Flexible spending accounts used for health care costs will have a cap at $2,500 starting in 2013. There currently is no cap by law, but employers generally impose a cap around $4,000.

• Those who itemize their tax returns will have their deductible medical expenses shrink. The new bill only allows you to deduct medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, the current law has it at 7.5 percent.

• 32 million Americans who were not covered before the bill was passed, will now be covered through subsidies averaging $6,000 per person to help pay premiums and other medical charges. This will also happen through the extension of Medicaid.

So now that you know how your coverages might change, how much will your payments change?

• If you get your insurance through your company, your premiums will not change.

• If you get insurance privately and you make under $88K, your premiums are likely to go down with the assistance of subsidies.

• If you get insurance privately and you make over $88K, your premiums are likely to go up to help cover the cost of the expanded coverage and subsidies.

The Bad:

Simply put the total, 100% Republican opposition to the health care bill that will vastly improve the lives of millions of our fellow American citizens. John Boehner, the Minority Leader is especially upset.  Probably because he now has to pay an additional tax on his tanning salon visits.

The Republicans were out to destroy the presidency of Barrack Obama. Senator Jim Demint of South Carolina said the the health care bill would be Obama's "Waterloo."  The Republicans failed.

The Republicans think they’re going to sweep back into power in the 2010 mid term elections by repealing the new enacted health care bill. They are so blinded by their hatred of president Obama and his supporters they can’t even see straight. Former presidential speech writer David Frum is correct in his current assessment that the Republicans are going down the wrong road. They are the ones going down to the road of defeat. The current version of the Republican Party (as opposed to the one I used to belong to when it was the Goldwater conservative Republican Party) is rapidly becoming irrelevant.

The Republicans are proving that they care nothing about the average American who is struggling with health care costs. They care only for their corporate masters, the drug and health care industry.

The Ugly:

The Teabaggers (their name originally until they were made aware of the “other” meaning of “teabagging.”)

This past Sunday the Teabaggers showed their true face when some of them shouted racial and homophobic taunts at some of our legislatures who were entering the Capital building for the final vote on the new health care legislation.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot," as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president's speech, shrugged off the incident.

This past summer Teabaggers packed local town hall meetings of congressmen and tried to shout down and intimidate anyone, including the congressman or congresswoman who was holding the town hall meeting, who didn’t agree with their narrow minded views.

There is an ugliness pervading the public square that we haven’t seen since the bad old civil rights days of the Fifties when Bull Conner and his men beat civil rights activities demanding equal rights.

I fear for this country not from terrorists overseas but from the terrorists within our midst. This is our real danger, not someone who can get health care who couldn’t get it before this health care bill was signed into law.

I’m not a religious person but I am a spiritual person. I thank God (or whoever) that we have the right person leading this country at this time of our turmoil. Barrack Obama is the right man and the right time for our country. I pray for his safety.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Perhaps the most pervasive fear that human beings have is loneliness. The most severe punishment in prison is to put a prisoner in solitary confinement. Yet there are those in life who are not in prison who live in circumstances that are just about as lonely as solitary confinement.

Lately I’ve been giving this more thought because a couple of my friends have died. My circle of friends is shrinking. My Mother and a good friend are still alive but they are sinking into the fog of dementia. Their bodies may still be here but their minds are gone. I can no longer talk to them. They are no longer the friends I had. Each day they drift farther and farther away from me.

I do not fear death but I do fear loneliness. I had expressed in an earlier blog posting that perhaps I missed having children. However, upon reflection I realize that I probably wasn’t temperamentally suited to having children. Maybe that was God’s plan for me because He knows what I’m like. I am really way too self involved with myself.

Every Saturday night I watch a Netflix rented movie in the comfort of my bedroom (my personal movie theater.) Last night I watched “Asylum.” It is about a psychiatrist's wife (Natasha Richardson) encounters an inmate (Marton Csokas) at a maximum-security asylum and finds herself curiously drawn to him. This movie was about loneliness. The psychiatrist’s wife is lonely. Even though she is married and has a young son, she was lonely. Almost everyone in the movie, including the character Ian McClellen played, was desperately lonely. This movie was well acted but very sad. This is a movie that lingers in your head long after you’ve seen it.

Earlier this week I checked in an elderly couple at the hotel. The lady told me that she had married her high school sweetheart…..many years after they were married to someone else. She told me the story of how they dated in high school but became separated during World War II. Both of them married other people and had families. Both of them eventually lost their spouses. Through a class reunion they met up again fourteen years ago and began dating again. They were in the hotel celebrating their thirteenth wedding anniversary. This is a wonderful story. This couple won’t have to spend their autumn years alone. They conquered their lonely problem although I did not they requested the room with two queen beds. Obviously their relationship was more about other issues than sex.

I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I met my Prince Charming when I was twenty two years old. I wasn’t looking for a Prince Charming or anyone to settle down with. I came out late (at 21 years old, still a virgin) and was ready to sow plenty of wild oats. Prince Charming (aka “Bill”) said he understood that I was a young guy and “had to get it out of my system.” Up to I was thirty seven years old I had a pretty active social life. However, on one Saturday night standing in a bar in Philadelphia at closing time when they flicked the lights on and off, indicating Last Call, I decided that I had had enough of the social life. The time had come for me to settle down. The charm of Nightlife in the Big City had faded (thank goodness.)

The years since have been one of mostly tranquil domesticity. Of course there have been some “speed bumps” in those forty six years together but we’re still together.

In our forty six years we have raised five Pomeranian dogs, lived at five different homes in three different states, and now are settling in for the Final Act of our life. The odds are that I will be the one left alone (Bill is 81 years old.)

As I see my friends die and drop out around me it becomes more apparent to me everyday I may be faced with living my remaining years alone. I’m way past my bar hopping days when I was out to meet that certain someone to spend the rest of my life with. That just isn’t going to happen. For one thing I’m just too old. I would probably fall asleep on my feet as the big hand on the clock neared midnight. I’ve had my experiences with guys I met in the bar (with sometimes near disastrous results) and I have no intention of going down that road again. And I’m certainly not going to be a Sugar Daddy to anyone. I’m not that rich and if I was, that isn’t my style. Been there done that. It doesn’t work, believe me. All one is asking for there are lies, betrayal and heartache. As I said, Been There, Done That.

I wonder what some of my single friends handle their loneliness or even if they consider themselves lonely. They’ve been single their whole lives and seem to be doing well. Perhaps I will go back into that mode. For a short time before I met Bill, I lived by myself. From the time I got out of the Army in January of 1963 to July of 1964 I lived alone. For the most of the time I was alright but there were times that loneliness caught up with me. At times I felt like I was going crazy. I would be in my one room efficiency apartment in Coatesville, PA and think “Is this all there is?” I knew there had to be more to life. Then I met Bill and my life took on a real purpose. Our life together has been one of sharing, supporting, loving and living life as two compatible like minded souls. I’ve always considered myself one of the Lucky Few to have met someone like Bill. Some people go through their whole life and never meet that special person. I’m not one of those people because I did meet my special person.

I’ve often joked with Bill that I’ll “check out” before he does. Then I wouldn’t have to face the problem of loneliness. But then one never knows what surprises life has in store for me. I just hope I don’t end up like those characters in that movie last night.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Time: October 1953

Place: East Ward Elementary School, Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Event: Appointment hall monitor

Bonnie, fifth back, third row with white sash

My sixth grade classmate Bonnie and I are appointed hall monitors. We are each given a white canvas belt to wear that indicates we are hall monitors. The white canvas belts are a status symbol because it indicates that, along with the other hall monitors, we are above average in our grades and attendance and thus given this honor. Both of us are thrilled to be honored in such a way. Coincidentally Bonnie is seated directly in front of me in our sixth grade class. Ironically, on the day this sixth grade class picture was taken I was absent (my classmate the little Bill B. sat in my seat instead.) Back in the “good old days”, the Fifties we were seated in class alphabetically and according to height. I understand this practice has been discontinued because it stigmatizes some of the kids.

Time: October 1957

Place: Downingtown High School, Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Event: Soph Hop Dance

I ask Bonnie to go to the Soph Hop with me. A popular song at the time was “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation” by Marty Robbins. It is my first formal date. I rented a white sport coat and bought a pink carnation ($5.00 at the local florist) and I am excited because I wanted to be one of the cool guys (adolescent peer pressure.) I expected to borrow my father’s car to pick up Bonnie and arrive at the Soph Hop the Cool Dude and impress my classmates. Alas, it was not to be. Even though I had just gotten my driver’s license he refused to loan be his car. Instead he drove us to the Soph Hop. I was mortified. That’s all I remember about the Soph Hop. I don’t even remember dancing. I’m glad Bonnie was my date though. I felt comfortable with Bonnie. No pressure from either one of us.

Time: November 1994

Place: Italian Social Club, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Event: 35th Class Reunion of DHS Class of 1959

I’m sitting at the reception desk passing out name tags with my classmate Patsisue when a buxom woman approaches me. I look at her trying to identify her. She says “Hi Ronnie!” Note: I am known as “Ronnie” by most people in my previous life. When I graduated from high school and joined the Army I identified myself as “Ron.” Now whenever anyone calls my name if it is “Ronnie”, it is from my Previous Life and “Ron” is from ATA (after the Army.)

I look at the woman, trying to identify her. She smiles and says “You don’t know who I am do you Ronnie?” I have to admit, no I don’t. I am embarrassed. Actually, I am mortified again. She says “I’m Bonnie!” I look, and look and yet I still don’t see the “Bonnie” that I knew that I took to the Soph Hop. By the way, that was the last date I took Bonnie on, not that I didn’t like Bonnie but we went our different ways during high school for reasons that will be explained later. Rather than prolong this embarrassment I concede and say “Ah yes, Bonnie!” and I give to her a name sticker. I still didn't recognize her but I'm taking her word for it.

Later on, as the reunion was winding down (I was busy taking videos), I took Bonnie aside and we talked. I told Bonnie I was gay and reminded her of our “date” for the Soph Hop. I thanked her for not “jumping me” on our date (joking of course.) She said that would not have happened because she is gay too! To be truthful wasn’t surprised with this news. During school Bonnie was the typical girl’s hockey player and she was always the tomboy. Bonnie did express surprise that I was gay. She said she would never have guessed. I told her I was gay back then during our Soph Hop days but I thought I was the only one in the world.

We ended the night after having a long and enjoyable and funny reminiscing about our lives since then. There were some surprising revelations (which teachers we had a crush on) from both of us that I will not talk about here because some of our former classmates will read this blog. Needless to say that if we knew then what we knew now, our high school lives would have been dramatically different. Maybe it is just as well we were all dumb and stupid back in the Fifties.

Time: October 2009

Place: Whitford County Club, Whitford, Pennsylvania

Event: 50th Class Reunion of DHS Class of 1959

I meet up with Bonnie again. She seemed tired. I was busy again recording the class reunion, this time by taking several hundred digital pictures. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to spend alone with Bonnie. We talked for a little while and Bonnie posed for a picture with me but time was flying by and I wanted to get as many pictures as possible before everyone left. Before I knew it the night had come to an end and Bonnie was gone. I made a mental note to call her when she got home to Michigan. A few weeks later I called but got the message her phone was disconnected. I tried to send an e-mail but received no response. I never followed up on trying to contact her.

Time: March 17, 2010

Place: Detroit, Michigan

Event: Bonnie passes away

I received an e-mail on this date from another classmate that Bonnie had died. I am shocked. Bonnie is one of those people who you think will always be around.

I always felt a special connection with Bonnie not only because of our shared sexual identity but because we were very compatible as friends.

Now she was gone. Just like that. I called her younger brother this morning to get the details. He told me that Bonnie died in her sleep at 3 am in the morning of March 17th from an apparent cardiac arrest.

I am very saddened by her death. I liked Bonnie a lot. Although we were not in touch that much over the years (we did have one two hour phone conversation after the 35th class reunion), I feel like another part of me has died.

In the past few years I have lost more friends, former co-workers and relatives that I have in all my previous years of my life. I feel like life is musical chairs. When the music stops, who is next?

I will always have fond memories of our special friendship and I will never forget those innocent times of the Fifties when life was so much simpler and a small event like being award hall monitor status was a huge thrill. I will also never forget that date to the Soph Hop with me in my rented white sport coat and pink carnation and you in your many layered white crinoline dress. I was so proud of you. We did make a stunning couple when we entered the high school gymnasium even though we were chauffeured by Pop. Looking back on it now I don’t think anyone even noticed.

You may be gone Bonnie but your memory will live on. Rest in peace my dear Bonnie.

Random Observations on a December Morning

Late yesterday afternoon sun on our cozy home (in the background).    What? Yet another selfie of yours truly in a hoodie on his property in...