Imprisoned at Hoag – Epilogue

by Bob Sparrow

As much as I enjoyed the care I got at Hoag hospital following my knee-replacement surgery, I was not looking to return to that venue any time soon.  That plan was working up until about two weeks following surgery.  The knee was healing nicely, but I wasn’t feeling so good – fever, chills, vomiting, rapid heart rate.  So, Linda took me to a Hoag Emergency Center, where they took my temperature (103), my heart rate (140), blood pressure (off the charts either high or low, I don’t remember) and they looked me in the eye and said, “You’re sick!”

So back to Hoag Hospital I went – diagnosis: Sepsis. I really didn’t know much about Sepsis, but as I Googled it, I became more alarmed – it’s serious!  Infected kidneys and a urinary track infection were causing significant blood problems.  I was started on an antibiotic, but was told that a blood test and analysis, which would take about 48 hours to complete, was needed to find the specific antibiotic to fight this serious infection.  So, for two days, I was on one antibiotic and when test results came back, I was switched to another antibiotic for the next two days.  Neither seemed to knock the Sepsis out, so a third antibiotic was tried.  Whether it was a combination of all the antibiotics or the elevated white blood cell count that was fighting the infection, eventually the fever went away.

After five days in the hospital, I was finally released.  I felt like I was getting out of a prison camp where I was being tortured via sleep-deprivation techniques.  Other parts of the torture were, day-time TV which included a constant barrage of bad news.  Before leaving the hospital I was given a ‘mid-line’, which is a port in my arm so that antibiotics can be administered at home – which continued for another six days.

Now that I’m home, I have ventured all the way out to the end of the driveway, so I’m hoping future blogs will be a bit more interesting.

Thank you to those sending prayers and well-wishes my way – much appreciated.

PASSED TIME

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

I was thinking the other day about how quickly time seems to be passing.   My brother (the real Jack Sparrow) turned 80 last week and next week we will celebrate our youngest grandson’s high school graduation.  Where did that time go?  Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were at Tahoe celebrating Jack’s 50th birthday?  Wasn’t our grandson just asking me for tickles and a grape popsicle?  Time really does seem to be flying by and almost everyone I speak with observes the same phenomenon.  So I decided to find out why time seems to go so quickly as we age.  The answer is way above my pay grade and my hair hurt trying to understand all the scientific research about it, but here goes.

First, the feeling of time going faster as we age is a universal one.  The studies on this syndrome conclude that almost all older people perceive time to pass more quickly than younger people.  But why?  There are a couple of theories.  One has to do with memory as a percentage of our age.  For example, one year in a ten-year-old’s life represents 10-15% of their conscious memory, which is a pretty significant amount.  But one year for a 50 year-old is only 2% of their recallable life.  And for the very old, say 80-90 year-olds, it obviously represents far less.  This explains why children think of summer as endless, while adults perceive a summer as going quickly.  Unless you’re in Arizona and then the summer drags on and on.  But that’s a subject for another day.

The second reason for the difference how we sense time as we age seems intuitively backwards to me, but then again, I majored in English, not Physics.   Adrian Bejan, a researcher at Duke University, believes the discrepancy in how old and young perceive time can be blamed on the ever-slowing speed at which images are obtained and processed by the human brain as the body ages.  He explains that the experience of time is always a backward-looking process, reliant on memory and, more importantly, reliant on visual memory.

Like frames in a movie, the more frames one sees in a second, the slower the image appears to pass. The fewer frames one sees per second the faster the image seems to move. In other words, slow motion reveals many more frames-per-second than normal motion or fast motion. Bejan asserts that as we age our brain’s neurovisual memory formation equipment slows and lays down fewer “frames-per-second.” That is, more actual time passes between the perception of each new mental image. Children perceive and lay down more memory frames or mental images per unit of time than adults, so when they remember events—that is, the passage of time—they recall more visual data.

This is what causes the perception of time passing more rapidly as we age. When we are young, each second of actual time is packed with many more mental images relative to our older selves.  Children’s brains are like a slow-motion camera that captures many more frames per second than a regular speed one, and time appears to pass more slowly when the film is played.

After all the reading I did I still don’t quite understand it.  It seems to me that the slow-motion camera would capture fewer frames.  But again, I can barely remember what happened yesterday so maybe my brain is in super-slow mode.  And you probably hoping by now that you can forget you ever started reading this post.  Don’t worry – if you’re old enough, you’ll have forgotten all about this by tomorrow.

High on the Hoag

by Bob Sparrow

I was not off to a fast start!

The leg was bad from the start.  Literally, from the start, when I was born, my right leg was broken.  Not sure how it happened as I was busy trying to get through the birth canal at the time.  My best guess is that when the doctor slapped my butt to start me breathing, I slapped him back and he dropped me.

It was fine through high school athletics, but in my first year of college football, I was playing cornerback (back in days when they let white guys play cornerback), and I was coming up to make a tackle, when I was not only faked out of my jock strap, but with cleats stuck firmly in the turf, my right knee went in a completely different direction than the rest of my body.  I missed the tackle, and subsequently missed the rest of that football season.  Miraculously, I went on to play 5 seasons of college football (counting my red shirt season) and two season of service football with the Navy in Japan and never missed another game because of injury.  It got banged up pretty good sometimes, but never too bad that I couldn’t play.  Playing quarterback instead of cornerback helped significantly.  Later in life, it did keep me from running a marathon, when I was on an 18-mile training run, just three weeks before the LA Marathon, and it decided that it had had enough.

In 2010, I had finally decided to have knee replacement surgery and the doctor agreed it was time, but then wife, Linda won a sales contest which was a trip to Wales to see the Ryder Cup.  I didn’t want to miss that or be hobbling around on one leg through the Welsh bog, so I cancelled the surgery.  Upon returning from Wales, the knee felt fine, so I kicked knee-surgery down the road.

Dr. Jay Patel

After 60 years from the initial injury (not counting the break at birth), surgery was finally confirmed for June 21st with Dr. Jay Patel of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, CA.  A word about Dr. Patel; he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then went on to earn both a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and his Medical Doctorate from Stanford University. He speaks three languages, English, Spanish and Chinese.  Intellectually, I thought we were a good match, as I had earned a BS degree (How appropriate!) from Westminster College and spoke one of the three languages that Dr. Patel knows.

Dr. Patel did my hip replacement surgery four years ago and not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a word from that hip since.  Dr. Patel continuously reminded me that “Knees are harder”.  I wouldn’t know, I slept through both surgeries, but I can attest to the real professionalism, competence, friendliness and overall caring attitude of the Hoag staff.  They are truly the best.  My surgery was on Monday afternoon and by Monday night they had me walking the halls of the hospital and on my way home on Tuesday before noon.  Those who have had this surgery know that the rehab is the tough part, and I’m told if you don’t do the rehab, you shouldn’t have done the surgery.  But I’m confident in my willingness to work hard to do what’s necessary and I have confidence in Dr. Patel’s ability – for some reason he just doesn’t seem to be a slacker to me.

Knee – before & after

It’s now been two weeks since the surgery and I’m telling my physical therapist that I don’t feel like I’m progressing like I should.  He looks at me, shakes his head, and says that I am ahead of schedule and that I should go to YouTube and watch a knee-replacement surgery and I’d see why it takes more than two weeks to heal.  I watched the video.  YIKES!!!  Glad I didn’t watch it before as I might not have gone through with it.  Saws, hammers, drills – it looked like a major construction project – I guess it was.  Watch it at your own risk!

The leg, broken at birth and woefully abused ever since, has now been fully repaired, or rather replaced, thanks to Dr. Jay Patel – and they said he’d never amount to anything.

 

 

70 SHADES OF GREY

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Bob, me and brother Jack

My brothers and I have been fortunate in many ways, not the least is we have never harbored any jealousy of one another.  We have always supported one another’s accomplishments and offered support during rough patches.  But I have to admit, I have always been a bit envious of their beautiful hair.  Both of my brothers have shiny, thick, silver hair that requires little effort and provides them with a distinguished look.  On the other hand, I’ve been covering up my grey hair every 5-6 weeks since my late-30’s.  I discovered that I’m not unusual: 75% of women in the U.S. color their hair.

Part of the reason so many women choose to cover the gray is due to our cultural bias that gray hair is aging.  While studies show that men are perceived as more distinguished with gray hair (it is called the “George Clooney effect), women with gray hair are perceived to be old, dowdy and uncaring about their looks.  There is even a phrase for women who let their hair go gray:  Gray hair, don’t care.  I’m calling baloney on that.  Maybe we’re just tired of all the upkeep and expense.  I hate to think about the money I’ve spent on hair color over the years.  I’ve ranged from golden blonde to light brown to auburn but regardless of color, I’ve been a slave to the gray.

But something changed earlier this year; I began to re-think coloring my hair.  After all, I’m 70 – who am I trying to kid by not having a gray hair on my head?  One would only need to look at my crepey arms or wrinkled neck to know that I’m way past the point of being carded at the liquor store.  During the 2020 lockdown it was all the rage to transition to gray hair because the salons were closed.  Of course I didn’t do it then, when I wasn’t going anywhere or seeing anyone.  That would have made too much sense.  Instead, I donned my hazmat suit and kept every salon appointment all year long.  But earlier this year I decided enough was enough and vowed to join my brothers in the Sparrow silver hair.   I had silver-blonde streaks put in to help with the transition.  I have a visions of looking like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I will probably end up looking like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turns out that I have very slow-growing hair.  It sure didn’t seem that way when I was traipsing to the salon every six weeks.  It will probably take the better part of a year for the silver to grow all the way out.  Oh well, I’m almost past the point of caring.  The gray hair I worry about these days is on Dash the Wonder Dog.  When I look at his sweet face I see all the gray hair around his eyes.  It’s a horrible reminder that he is getting older and won’t always be with me.  Now THAT is gray hair to worry about.  So I’m going to spend my time thinking less about what color my hair is and more time sitting next to my best pal, who loves me no matter what color is on top of my head.  We’ve made a pact that we’re going gray together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phyllis Turns 95

by Bob Sparrow

Phyllis Barnes

My mother-in-law, Phyllis (McMillen) Barnes turned 95 this month.  I’ll do the math for you, she was born in 1926 when the minimum wage was 33 cents an hour, a quart of milk was nine cents and a new Chevrolet cost $525 Marilyn Monroe was born this same year (somehow, I can’t picture her at 95) and Queen Elizabeth II was also born that same year, 10 days later than Phyllis.  We all gathered in Rochester, Minnesota to celebrate this matriarch’s birthday, the group included her three children, 9 grandchildren, two great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.

Phyllis, our own royalty, was born in Lenora, Minnesota and was a rather large baby at birth at 11 pounds, today she’s only 85 pounds – I’d venture to say that most of us have put on more than 74 pounds during our lifetime.

Phyllis’ mother, Petra, was one of three sisters in town that married three brothers!  Obviously, the dating pool was a bit limited!

For her first eight years of education, she attended a 12-seat school house, then after graduating from Canton High School, in southern Minnesota, she attended ‘Teacher’s Training’ and taught one year of ‘Normal School’ (I’m not sure how that differed from Abnormal School).  I asked her what grade she taught and she said, all of them!  All the students were in the same classroom doing different levels of activities.

Model A Ford

In 1945, at the age of 19, she married Warren Barnes and they drove a Model A Ford to Novato, CA (My hometown!) and Warren joined the Army Air Force and was stationed at Hamilton Field.  Not sure how long it took them to cross the country, or how many stops they made along the way, but they only had $75 in their pocket when they started the trip and $5 left when they got to Novato.

They returned to Minnesota and bought her parents’ farm for $20,000 – paying $1,000 a year for 20 years (No interest!).  The house had electricity, but no indoor plumbing, so they had an ‘outhouse’, which in the Minnesota winters was 25 yards too far from the house, but in the summer, it’s 25 yards too near. Phew!!  Fresh water came from a pump next to the house, which among other things was used for the weekly bath on Saturday night, to make sure the kids were ready for church on Sunday morning.  The three kids, Starlet, Dale and Linda were practicing environmentalism back then, as they all bathed separately, but in the same water.

25 yds too far or 25 yds too close

With dairy cows needing milking twice a day – every day, they didn’t have many opportunities to get too far from the farm, but they had a great life socializing with friends and family, bowling, dancing and playing cards.

Today Phyllis enjoys seeing her extended family, aside from three children, she has a total of 11 grandkids, 28 great grandkids, 5 great, great grandkids, most of them living in Minnesota.  She has two sons-in-law, Donnie Brummer and myself and when asked which one she likes best, she jokingly says, “I don’t like one any better than the other.”  So, we’ve got that going for us!

Aside from having a good sense of humor, Phyllis is truly one of the sweetest people I know; in fact at our son Jeff’s wedding in 2019 I said that Jeff reminded me of the two sweetest people I know, my dad and Phyllis.  I did mention for that while Linda and I aren’t particularly sweet, apparently we do carry that ‘sweetness’ gene. It’s one of those things that skips a generation.

One of the biggest changes that Phyllis has seen in her lifetime is in technology; they got their first TV in the mid-50s; broadcasting didn’t start until noon and went off at midnight or before.  They had only two channels and Warren had to go outside to turn the antenna to go from one channel to the other (not exactly a remote control!).  Today Phyllis is a real techie as she is very active on Facebook and reads from her iPad daily, and will often Face Time us. I hope I can be as sharp as her . . . next month!

Dale, Phyllis, Starlet, Linda

Her secret to a long life? She says, hard work, good attitude and great family.  Long live the queen!

 

 

MY AUNT, THE COUNTESS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

As our regular subscribers know, I am our family’s historian.  I joined Ancestry.com ten years ago and was instantly hooked.  I’ve always loved studying history; I find the personal stories of the famous and not-so-famous are intriguing.  Over the years I’ve found some good relatives –  Mayflower passengers, President John Adams and, my favorite, Marilyn Monroe – and some less desirable discoveries – insanity, murder, and horse-thievery.  Regardless, I find myself sucked into the black hole of Ancestry at least once a month, usually on the day I receive my monthly bill.  Each month I question whether to renew my subscription, but then I discover an interesting fact that keeps me going.  It makes me wonder if Ancestry is making this stuff up just to keep me renewing.  This month, I stumbled across a doozy so I’m sharing on the off chance you have nothing better to read this fine Monday morning.

Grandpa Sparrow

The story starts with my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born.  He was a straight-laced, sober-sided man who was born to English immigrants.  The best illustration of his “Englishness” is a story my grandmother loved to tell of the first time her brothers asked my grandfather to go fishing.  He rose early in the morning and ducked into the bathroom to get dressed.  When he emerged, he had on a suit, tie and vest!  My grandmother burst out laughing but my grandfather failed to see the humor.  Anyway, as stuffy as he was, he was a bit of a family outcast from the beginning because he had been divorced prior to meeting my grandmother.  That fact was never a secret, in  fact, I remember my grandmother telling me about it when I was a little girl.  But what she failed to mention – and what I eventually found out in my family history research – is that he had a daughter, Beverly, with his first wife, Corinne.  I discovered Beverly’s existence in 2011.  By then, my dad had died but I asked my mother if she knew anything about dad having a half-sister.  She casually said, “Yes, he knew about her but never met her.” WOW!  They were born just five years apart and lived within 20 miles of each other for most of their childhood, but my grandfather never introduced them to each other.

Passengers in lifeboats on USS Washington

I set out to learn more about Beverly but was never able to gather much information.  This week Ancestry sent me a hint about her and before I knew it, I was deep into researching my elusive aunt.  I could tell from census records that she grew up in San Francisco.  But after the 1920 census there is no further documentation on her until 1940.  But that document is a wowzah.  At some point after 1920, Beverly and Corinne moved to France, where Corinne’s grandmother lived.  They lived in peace until World War II broke out.  On June 1, 1940, with Hitler bearing down on France, the U.S. State Department issued a warning that all American citizens who wished to flee France would need to board the  U.S.S. Washington in Le Havre or remain in place for the duration of the war.  It was the last civilian ship to leave Europe.  On June 8, 1940, Corinne and Beverly boarded the Washington, bound for New York.  Their timing was exquisite; just six days later the Germans invaded Paris.  But as it turned out, they were not yet out of danger.  Three days out of Le Havre the Washington was stopped by a German submarine.  The Germans signaled that the Washington had 10 minutes to abandon ship before it would be blown up.  The crew sounded the alarm and the 1787 refugees scrambled into lifeboats.  After some skillful negotiation, the Germans eventually signaled the Washington to continue on.  The captain surmised that the vision of all those civilians in lifeboats gave the German captain pause.  In any event, on June 21, 1940 Corinne and Beverly landed back in the United States.

The trail of Beverly’s life went dark until 1946, when a Pan Am manifest shows her passage from Bermuda to New York and lists her profession as “actress”.  I searched records for actresses by her name but came up empty. How or why she was in Bermuda to begin with is a mystery.  Then in 1949 she left New York for Ecuador, only to return the next year, this time with a fiancé in tow.   She married Louis de Reiset, a French citizen living in Ecuador, in 1950 in New York.  The mind boggles at what a Frenchman was doing in Ecuador or how Beverly met him.  Was it a long lost love from her time in Paris?  Was he a German collaborator during the war that used one of the ratlines to get to South America?  This is the stuff of novels…or my overactive imagination.

Beverly’s last immigration form

There are no records on Beverly and Louis until 1956, where the log of the S.S. Liberte indicates they traveled from France to New York City.  Again, there is a long period of silence but I think there was trouble in paradise because her next record is an immigration form from 1961 when she entered Florida from Ecuador.  By then, Corinne had moved to Winter Park and it appears from phone book listings that Beverly moved in with her.  In 1963, Beverly filed for divorce from Louis in Florida and she remained there for the rest of her life.   Louis died in Ecuador in 1996.

Beverly died in 2001, ironically, the same year my dad died.  There are no photos of her that I can find, including in her obituary.  But her parting shot did provide a new dimension to her personality.  Her obituary in the Orlando Sentinel, read in part:

BEVERLY S. de REISET, 92, Lakemont Avenue, Winter Park, died Friday, July 27. Countess de Reiset was a member of French nobility. She was an actress and real-estate agent. Born in San Francisco, she moved to Central Florida in 1959. She was a member of Town Club. 

WHAT?  A countess?  A member of French nobility?  Her dad was born in New Jersey and her mother in Missouri.  Sure, she had a great-grandmother in France, but a quick search of the noble names of France does not include her family name.  Who knows? Maybe it goes back generations.  What is astounding is that Beverly styled herself as nobility when it was clearly a distinction tied to her short-lived marriage to Louis.  Regardless, I have an image of her swanning through the Town Club, asking everyone to address her as “Countess”.

I wish that I had met Beverly.  I’m thinking a visit with her over a few martinis would yield some really good stories.  All I know is, Ancestry is definitely worth the price.  Where else can you find this level of intrigue for twenty bucks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Road Again – Grand Canyon Part 2

by Bob Sparrow

Aside from the beauty of the red rocks of Sedona, this town has also become known for its spirituality, which manifests itself in several basic ways: crystals, which, to some, are believed to have spiritually healing properties that can help you balance your body, mind and spirit. Another is the vortex, which are locations from which intense energy spirals from certain positions on the earth, where again, some people believe these vortexes have the power to heal as they are thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration; places where the earth seems especially alive with energy.  There were times when I thought I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone.  These vortices reportedly (not sure who’s reporting) bring feelings of peace, harmony, balance and tranquility, personal reflection, deep insight and clear mind . . . and in our case a hankering for a martini.

But if red rocks, crystals or vortexes don’t float your boat, there are also UFO tours (yep, there’s aliens here as well!), psychic readings, aura photography or chakra balancing – don’t ask!

El Tovar restaurant with a . . . view?

With a dizzying spiritual headache, it was time to move on to the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  To understand the complete history of the Grand Canyon, you’d need to go back about 10,000 years – no, we’re not doing that!  Most of you have been there, so you know it’s spectacular, big . . . grand, even!  After checking in at the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, which, by the way isn’t so grand, we readied for our dinner at the El Tovar Hotel restaurant, which boasts that it’s right on the rim of the Grand Canyon with spectacular views.  They don’t mention that there are only two tables in the entire, dimly lit, restaurant that are by the window with a view and, maybe I should tell them that they really don’t light up the Grand Canyon at night, so if you are fortunate enough to get one of those window-tables, your view is of the lighted sidewalk next to the trash bins.

The next morning it was to the free on-off bus, which was a much better value than the dinner, as we alternated walking and riding between bus stops along the rim – truly spectacular.  My travel tip here is, if you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, go; if you have been, it really hasn’t changed that much in the last several thousand years, it’s still spectacular!  You may have noticed in the group photo of us here, that the Johnsons are missing.  No, they did not fall into the Grand Canyon, they had already seen this Seventh Wonder of the Natural World and opted to head south to Tucson for this part of the trip.

Johnsons Jump?

The next morning we headed home, stopping for breakfast at place I would recommend, Anna’s Place in the city of Williams, about an hour south of the Grand Canyon – great old building (another former house of ill-repute) and a great breakfast.  Not wanting to make the trip home too long and boring, we stopped for the night and had a spectacularly funny dinner (the dinner wasn’t funny, some of us were) at Don Vitos Restaurant at South Point, Las Vegas, where we spent the night, paid our dues and drove home in the morning.

A beautiful trip, with beautiful neighbors, beautiful scenery and lots of tourists, but quite honestly it was good to see people out enjoying themselves again – may normal be with us all.

On the Road Again – Grand Canyon Part 1

by Bob Sparrow

L>R: Pacelli, Sparrow, Johnson, Nelson

No more tomes about the size and shape of the earth or the volatility of cryptocurrency, OK, at least not for a couple of weeks.  I’m happy to report that we recently left the house in the company of three other neighborhood couples, the Johnsons, the Pacellis and the Nelsons on a road trip to visit that big, huge, OK, it’s a grand canyon in Arizona; hitting a few memorable and not-so-memorable spots along the way.

With an early morning departure and a gourmet breakfast at the ‘Golden Arches’ we headed east and found on the map an off-the-beaten-path place in the Arizona desert to have lunch, the Kirkland Steakhouse & Bar.  It was indeed off-the-beaten-track, but sometimes those are the most interesting places.  Not this time!  We walked into this former ‘house of ill repute’ and found a couple of guys at the bar having a beer and no one behind the bar.  We found a table and sat down; still no one came, except a Camero car club of about 15 people, who poured through the front door.  They immediately went up to the bar and out from the back of the bar came Ma & Pa Kettle, an elderly couple, who were the owners of the place.  We could see that it might be some time before our order was taken much less our food served, so we asked a member of the car club if the wait was worth it.  A young lady turned to us and said, “I have four words for you, DO NOT EAT HERE!”

So, with stomachs growling, it was off to Prescott (it’s PRESS-kit, don’t call me Pres-COTT) for lunch.  Prescott was once the capital of the Arizona Territory, until people kept mispronouncing its name, so they moved it to a place people couldn’t spell – Feenicks.  The Prescott town square was busier that Disneyland on the 4th of July – people were clearly tired of their house arrest and were breaking out!  This was a trend that we would encounter throughout our trip.

Worth a stop on your way from Prescott to Sedona is the ‘ghost town’ of Jerome, where in the 1890 they were mining for copper and found gold.  At its height there was a population of between 10,000 and 15,000, today around 400-500, but there’s making up for it with the number of tourists roaming the streets.  We strolled the main street (there’s only one) and found plenty of tee shirts and coffee mugs for sale – another trend we found repeated throughout the trip.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

After a good night’s rest in Sedona, the day was spent exploring the many facets of this mystic town.  They’ve made seeing the beauty of Sedona easy – you can hike, bike, car, Jeep, train or helicopter to visit the ‘red rocks’, that’s aside from walking the main street and finding lots of coffee mugs and tee shirts.  We opted for a hike with great views of the ‘Bell Rock’, the ‘Courthouse’ and ‘Snoopy’ – red rock formations resembling those items.  We then took a kidney-jarring Pink Jeep ride to some other red rocks –I wouldn’t recommend our particular tour, although I did find out later that we’d scheduled the ‘senior citizen’ tour, so it was a little less adventurous than most.

One of the highlights of the day was a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is carved out of a mountain and features a 90 foot iron cross and a spectacular view of the entire valley.  I lit two candles in the chapel, one was in memory of our recently passed good friend and neighbor, Patrick Michael and the second as a thank you for continued good health of all cancer survivors.

 

Next: Part 2 – on Thursday.  The Mystic Side of Sedona and on to the Canyon

THEY WERE SOLDIERS ONCE, AND YOUNG (2021)

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This is my annual Memorial Day piece, written in remembrance of the boys from my high school who died in the Vietnam war. After I first published this in 2014, I heard from many people who related similar stories about the loss suffered in their home towns or, worse, their families. So this weekend, as you commemorate the holiday, please take a moment to remember all of the brave young men and women we’ve lost in conflict.

Five boys from my high school were killed in the Vietnam War. For a small town like Novato, that was an enormous number. We were such a close-knit community that even if we didn’t know one of them personally, we knew a sibling or friend. So on my trip to Washington D.C. last month I scheduled time to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to see their names on “The Wall”. To refresh my memory I pulled out my high school year books and found them all – smiling for a formal portrait or posing for a team picture. Each image reflected a boy, fresh-faced and full of hope, his life stretching out before him. I looked at those young faces and found it hard to believe that their lives ended so soon after the bucolic days captured in the photos. None of them reached the age of 22, their dreams extinguished on the battlefield. While we, their classmates, lived long enough to enjoy the internet, smart phones and streaming movies, most of them didn’t live long enough to see color television. I reflected on the stories I’ve read of WWII vets who speak so reverently of the “boys who didn’t come home”. As I perused the yearbooks I finally understood their sentiment. It is only when looking back through a 50 year lens that one can appreciate just how young these soldiers were and how many of life’s milestones they missed. So on this Memorial Day, I’d like to pay tribute to “The Boys from Novato”.

Robert Johnson
Bob Johnson joined the Army in the fall of 1965, in what would have been his Senior year in high school. I remember him as a quiet guy, but very nice. Before he enlisted he asked his high school sweetheart to marry him – it would give them both something to hang on to while he was gone. His entry into the service occurred just as the war was escalating. He was sent to Vietnam in March of 1966 and three weeks later he was killed by enemy gunfire during “Operation Abilene” in Phuoc Tuy Province. As his former classmates excitedly anticipated prom and graduation, Robert had already made the ultimate sacrifice. In the 1966 yearbook, where his senior portrait would have been, his mother placed this photo of him in uniform along with a tribute. He was the first Vietnam casualty from Novato.

 

Mike Tandy

Mike Tandy graduated from NHS in 1965. His sisters, Sue and Sarah, also attended NHS. Mike was very smart and participated in the first swim team our high school fielded. He was an Eagle Scout and according to his friend Neil Cuzner, “he was highly intelligent, a great guy and an excellent scout. He was in the Senior Patrol and a young leader of our troop. He lead by example”. After graduation Mike joined the Marine reserves and was called up in January, 1966. He was sent to Vietnam shortly after that. On September 8th he was on patrol in Quang Nam with another soldier when his footfall detonated a landmine. He was killed instantly. He had celebrated his 19th birthday just five days prior. His classmates had moved on – either to college or working – but the Tandy family was left to grieve the loss of their son and brother. In 2005 Sarah posted to the virtual Vietnam Wall: “Thanks to all of you who come here and remember Mike. All of our lives were changed and I thank you for not forgetting.”

 

Allan Nelson

Allan Nelson played football at College of Marin with my brother, Bob. Allan’s sister, Joanne, was in Bob’s class and his brother, Steve, was in mine. So we were well aware when Allan was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam in July, 1966 at the age of 20. Five months later, on December 1, we were devastated to learn he had been killed by gunfire during a battle in Binh Dinh Province. I still remember the day Steve came to school after Allan’s death; red-faced with tears streaming down his cheeks. He had always been such a happy guy but was now changed in ways that were hard for 16 year-old kids to understand. As I look back now, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to go home from school each day and face parents who were shattered by grief. Joanne posted the following on a memorial page and perhaps sums it up the best: “Allan was my brother, not just a brother, he was my best friend. All I know is December 1, 1966 was the saddest time for me and my family. My family loved each other so much, but when Al was killed the joy died in my family. Allan had his whole life planned. He had just turned 21 on Oct. 20th. When we were young, he couldn’t wait to be 21. I am so sorry for all the families that lost a son and a brother. It will be 33 years in Dec. The everyday sad feelings of loss are gone but on special days it still hurts.”

Jim Gribbin
Jim Gribbin graduated from NHS in 1966. He was on the football team and very active in school clubs and was well-liked by everyone who knew him. He joined the Army Reserves and when called up, became part of the Special Forces where he rose to the rank of Captain. He served two tours of duty in an elite MIKE unit. In March 1970 his unit was on a night defensive mission in Kontum Province when they were ambushed by enemy troops. Jim sacrificed his own safety by running into open territory – twice – to aid and retrieve wounded soldiers under his command. He was shot both times and taken to a rear medical facility where he died from his wounds. Ironically, for this affable Irishman, he succumbed on St. Patrick’s Day. He was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for Valor. Jim’s dad was a veteran of WWII who died in 2011. He requested to be placed in the same grave with Jim, with his name and vitals carved on the back of Jim’s headstone. One can only imagine the grief that he carried all those years. Hopefully he is at peace now that they are forever reunited. A complete stranger paid tribute to Jim in 2018 on the date of his death. You can read my post about it here: https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=7111

Wayne Bethards

Wayne “Ed” Bethards was in my graduating class, but I didn’t know him well. His family moved to Novato just before the start of our senior year. His mother, Betty Bethards, was the author of the international best-seller, “The Dream Book”. Again, Neil Cuzner has provided a bit more insight: “Wayne was a good person. He had a great love of baseball and had actually started a small league while over in Nam. He was sharing his love of baseball with the Vietnamese children.” Cuzner went on to say that Wayne was a religious person and did not want to kill anyone; he struggled greatly with his deployment. He was drafted into the Army and was sent to Vietnam in October of 1970. In January, 1971, he was killed while on patrol by the accidental detonation of a mechanical device in Quang Tin Province. He was the last boy from Novato High School to die in the war.

 

Jerry Sims

In April, 2017, I heard from a former schoolmate, Dennis Welsh, about Jerry Sims, a boy who died in the conflict whose hometown was listed as Novato. I found in my research that sometimes the Novato “hometown” designation were for those affiliated with Hamilton Air Force Base, not graduates of Novato High School. Since there were no records of Jerry at NHS I assumed Jerry was from Hamilton, but that was not the case. Dennis told me that Jerry moved to Novato from Texas in the Spring of 1966 to live with his sister. He tried out for the football team during spring training and made the squad. But despite that automatic inclusion into a social group, he was unhappy living in California and being the “new kid” going into his Senior year. Dennis said that he never saw him again after football tryouts and didn’t learn of his fate until he spotted Jerry’s name on “The Wall”. The fact is that Jerry left Novato and joined the Army in June, 1966 and was sent to Vietnam in November. On February 6, 1968 he and several others in his unit were killed by small arms fire in Gia Dinh province. Jerry was 19 years old. His former platoon leader said this on his memorial page: “I was Jerry’s platoon leader on the day he died. He didn’t have to be there, since he had a job elsewhere in Vietnam, but he requested a transfer. He had already spent a year with the Wolfhounds, but for reasons all his own, he wanted to come back to this unit. He died doing his job as a squad leader in my platoon.” It would seem Jerry finally found his home – and some peace – with his Army brethren.

When I visited “The Wall” I found the boys from Novato, each name etched on that long expanse of granite. I thought about their families and the sorrow they endured. It was overwhelming to realize that same sorrow replicated 58,286 times. Each of the names on that black, shiny surface represent a family forever destroyed. As I walked along the pathway I looked at all of the mementos that were left as tributes to the fallen – notes, flowers and flags mostly. But then I spotted something different – a tribute from Jim Dart to his brother, Larry. It was a Kingston Trio album (pictured left), along with a note about the good times they shared learning the guitar and singing songs together. I was overcome with emotion reading Jim’s note. My brother, Bob, owned that same album. He and his best friend, Don, often entertained our family playing their guitars and singing songs from that record. Bob was a Naval officer in Japan during the Vietnam war and was safely returned to us. I wept as I stood looking at the album, realizing that but for the grace of God – and military orders – how easily it could have been Bob’s name on that wall and me leaving a Kingston Trio album in his memory. I can’t imagine what our family would have been like without him. I ached for Sue and Sarah and Joanne and Steve and all the other siblings who never got to see gray hair on their brother’s head; their family gatherings forever marred by a gaping hole where their brother should have been. When I stooped down to take the photo I noticed that several other visitors had stopped to look at it too. As I glanced at those who were of a certain age I could see my own feelings reflected in their eyes. We know how much of life these boys missed. We mourn their loss – and ours.

LESSON #1: DON’T BE A JERK

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, neighbors, coworkers. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, important ways. People who teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the dailiness of life. We never tell them. I don’t know why, but we don’t.  Robert Fulghum

You may remember Robert Fulghum as the author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten“.   In 1988 he published that best-selling book in which he outlined many of the lessons we learned as young children – share everything, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours – and he beseeched us to apply those principles to our adult lives.  Among the most salient points he made was: “When you go out into the world watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

I was drawn back to Reverend Fulghum’s book this past week for two reasons.  First, I am reading The Rise and Fall of 9/11, written in 2019 by Mitchell Zuckoff, a former Boston Globe reporter.  The book is an in-depth account of the people and events of that horrible day.  At times it has been painful to read, learning about everyday people in the air and on the ground, knowing what their ultimate fate would be.  But it has also been inspiring, a good reminder that people are generous and giving; there are plenty of people who look out for their fellow man, even to the detriment of their own well-being.  Reading about so many selfless acts reminded me of Fulghums’ advice – there were many examples that day of “holding hands and sticking together“.

Much has changed in the ensuing twenty years.  Technology has changed our lives for the better, and occasionally, for the worse.  The tech boom has altered almost everything we do, and in the process has created a super-wealthy class, rich beyond what any previous generation could dream of, much less achieve.  Unfortunately, for some, their wealth brings with it a sense of entitlement.  Which brings me to the second reason I pulled out Robert Fulghum’s book this week.

Each year since the mid-1980’s my husband and I have visited Sun Valley, Idaho.  We love it for it’s beauty, but also because of it’s “laid back”, mountain town vibe.  Although the city was founded by a wealthy man (Averell Harriman) and has historically attracted movie stars and business titans, it has still maintained a low-key, respectful culture.  So I was distressed this past week to read an article in the local Sun Valley paper about changes to the friendly ethos.

Like many rural areas, Sun Valley saw a significant rise in population as a result of the COVID pandemic.  In fact, real estate sales hit an all-time high last year, with prices increasing as much as 52% in some neighborhoods.  Most of the new residents and visitors are coming from Seattle and Southern California and, unfortunately, they have not taken the time to learn about the town and how its citizens are expected to behave.  City leaders said the growth has fostered some negative changes: trash and dog waste left on trails, aggressive driving, speeding cyclists who don’t yield to others and rude treatment of restaurant workers.  The owner of one local eatery decided to close on Saturdays because of weekend customers’ poor treatment of staff.

The city council is now pondering a new marketing campaign to “school” new residents and visitors alike on the expected norms of this peaceful little valley.   The current proposal is, “Don’t change Sun Valley. Let Sun Valley change you.”  I think that’s a fine start, but maybe the city leaders should consider distributing copies of Rev. Fulghum’s book as people enter town.  It would appear that a lot of people have forgotten what they learned in kindergarten.