THIS IS A SPORT???

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

 

Caleb, with his wife and dog, Jane

My name is Suzanne and I am an Olympic-olic.  Yes, I admit it.  I had many Walter Mitty moments while watching Olympic games these past two weeks, fantasizing that if only I had practiced more I could have been an elite athlete.   That’s preposterous, of course.  I was on a swim team in high school and the coach only put me in when we were either so far ahead or trailing so hopelessly that my entry into the water was not going to affect the outcome.  Still…I remain fascinated by all Olympic sports and swimming in particular.  During the games that just ended I rejoiced in every race that Caleb Dressel swam.  In addition to being a very admirable athlete, I have heard from someone connected to the team that he is also a really nice guy.  Plus, I saw an interview with him in which he said that he tries to be better in anything he does so that he can be better at everything he does, including being a good dog dad.  Wow.  How can you not like a guy whose aspirational goal is to be a better dog dad?

Although I focus on the swimming events, I also like gymnastics.  Again, in high school and college I took classes in the balance beam and uneven bars.  Just like in swimming, my gym career was not destined for anything but bruises.  At least in the water I had buoyancy going for me.  The pads on the gym floor were not so forgiving.  Still, the experience left me with a keen appreciation for what the gymnasts are able to do.  Tim Daggett, the former Olympic gymnast who was an announcer for the events, kept reminding us that the balance beam is only as wide as the average cell phone. I bump into walls around my house on a regular basis so I’m pretty certain that the balance beam is outside of my wheelhouse these days.

I found myself watching at least some of every sport over the past two weeks – Argentina vs Turkey in fencing,  Slovakia in the race walking, and the U.S. in everything.  Some of the sports have been around since the first Olympics and some made their debut this year.  I consider myself pretty open-minded when it comes to sports but I had a hard time wrapping my head around one of the new entries: street skateboarding.  The official description of the sport describes it as a competition held on a straight street-like course, featuring stairs, handrails, curbs, benches walls and slopes.  I watched the women’s final of this event and could hardly keep focused on it.  The competitors would jump onto a handrail and – most often – crash to the ground.  It got me to wondering how people ever get good at this sport.  First, most places now ban skateboards from shopping centers and malls.  So I imagine that unless the competitors have one of the new skateboard parks nearby, they improve their skills by terrorizing people wherever stairs and benches exist.  Second, from the litany of broken bones they talked about, I would think they don’t have much time to practice between hospital visits.

I guess I just have to learn to go with the flow.  If the young kids like these sports then I’ll just sit back and watch them participate.  My Olympic dreams are now reduced to getting out of the recliner without falling over.  Who knows?  If they ever have a Geriatric Olympics that includes Recliner Acrobatics, I could be a contender.

Driveways and Donuts

by Bob Sparrow

First, let me thank all those who have sent prayers and good wishes for me in my fight against Sepsis or whatever other infections have decided to take up residence in my body.  Thank you so very much!

Me summiting driveway!

As you might suspect, the scope of my travels have been a bit limited lately, but in my quest to circle the globe for adventure, I felt compelled to start over with baby steps.  I had previously mentioned that my first travel goal was to put together a trip to the end of my driveway.  Well, I’m here to tell you – mission accomplished!  As the attached photo shows, I have indeed summitted my driveway.  How long it took me to overcome some of the obstacles along the way is immaterial.

With the ‘driveway’ box checked, I was looking for further adventures, while realizing my limitations, I was looking for something not too challenging.  I then came across an article in the local newspaper that seemed to have my name all over it.  The headline read, ‘DONUT MUSEUM OFFERS VISITORS A SWEET TIME’.  Yes, that was roughly the kind of adventure I was looking for – a local doughnut museum – nothing too hard, but with a bit of whimsy.  Having never been to a doughnut (I choose to use the proper spelling of the word) museum, I thought, “what an adventure!”  It so happened that we had two of our grandchildren with us, Addison and Macklin, so with the grandkids in tow, Linda and I headed off to the Westminster Mall to visit the ‘Donut Life Museum’.  Not sure where the ‘Life’ comes in, but I suppose it’s better than the Donut Death Museum.  Addison remarked that she had never been to a museum before, and being a fan of doughnuts, she was really looking forward to sharing this adventure with me.

Addison, Linda & Mac giving it the ‘thumbs down’

I related some facts to our group that I had gleaned from the newspaper article that morning, to wit; Kathy Ly, along with cofounders, Alix Luu and Brian Ross “wanted to create an experience that allows visitors of all ages to connect, spend quality time and make memories”.  The goal of the museum is to be uplifting, with exhibits such as the “Donut Forget Life is Limitless” and “Love Makes the World Hole”.  The article also mentioned that at the end of the visitors’ experience, everyone gets a Krispy Kreme donut.

We arrived at the ‘Donut Life Museum’ and I told the girl at the entrance that we’d like to see the museum, as I looked in and saw that it was both empty and cheesy.  She said, “OK, it’s $25 per adult and $17 for each child.”  Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, “So you want $87 for us to wander around in a room with some pictures of donuts hanging off the walls?”  She said, “It’s interactive”.  I didn’t bother to ask her what that meant, as we turned and walked away looking for the closest ice cream parlor.

Back at home, I wanted to get a clearer picture of exactly what the ‘Donut Life Museum’ had to offer and what we missed out on, so I searched YouTube and found that we made the right decision by opting for ice cream over doughnuts.

Here’s some examples of the adventures one can have at the Donut Life Museum.

You could lay in a bin of plastic donuts and plastic donut holes and cover yourself with them.

You could have a photo taken of you looking through a heart-shaped doughnut hole

Or if you’re really wild and crazy you can have a photo of you sitting in a ‘donut pool’ or with a ‘donut tube’

If, after reading this, you’re getting that ‘doughnut vibe’, save yourself $87 and just go to Krispy Kreme and buy one . . . or more.

ON…AND OFF…THE ROAD AGAIN

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Two weeks ago my husband and I packed up for our first road trip in two years.  Not just any road trip…a trip to see our family in Denver.  COVID has taken a big hit to family gatherings for everyone and we were no exception.  So while we were very excited to make this trip, we discovered that we were woefully out of practice in preparing for it.  I recalled that old adage, “take half as many clothes and twice as much money as you think you’ll need”, and then totally ignored it.  I could have been away for months given the clothes I brought along.  Oh well, at least I remembered the important things like Dash the Wonder Dog’s food and  plenty of oatmeal cookies.  Oatmeal cookies are a must,  They not only serve as a treat, but in a pinch they can fill in for breakfast.  As with most of our long trips, we rented a car so as not to put wear and tear on ours.  This time we got a Nissan Armada with enough cargo space to move an army.  We filled every inch of it.

Our first day we drove to Santa Fe.  Not the artsy, fabulous, interesting part of Santa Fe, but a Hyatt Place hotel near the freeway next to a gas station.  Importantly, there was no restaurant within walking distance and we discovered the hotel no longer stocks any food.  We settled on an Uber Eats delivery from Applebee’s that was pretty much inedible.  After a very long day (and plenty of oatmeal cookies to tide us over), we crashed.  The next morning we took off, stopped for gas and a Starbucks, and hit the road.  We were a half mile down Highway 25 when the tire pressure indicator popped on.  The tire pressure indicator on any car can be wildly inaccurate, but we were just starting a 400 mile trip, much of which is through pretty desolate country, so we didn’t want to take a chance. We stopped at two gas stations for help but the best they could offer was a Slurpee.  We finally drove to the rental car office, where they told us they were out of cars so they couldn’t give us a new one.  They directed us to the local tire store.  A very kind worker checked the tires, filled them all, and sent us on our way.  Luckily, we made it to Denver without incident.

We had a wonderful time with family.  What did we do?  Pretty much nothing – and that was perfect.  We have seen all the highlights of the area on other trips.  This time, we simply wanted to enjoy the time with family after such a long time apart.  COVID has been, and continues to be, a challenge but one of the silver linings is that it has honed our appreciation for the more simple things in life.  Being able to talk with our grandsons and catch up on their lives and plans for the future was pure joy.  As you can see from the photo, my husband was in Heaven with his two boys.

The trip was all too short and soon we were packing up for home.  Just as we finished loading everything in the car, our son-in-law decided to check out the tires just to make sure they were safe.  They weren’t.  There was a nail stuck in the right rear tire.  Long story short, he drove the car to the Denver airport, transferred all of our stuff to a new car, and came home with a large Infiniti SUV.  It’s only July, but he has already won the 2021 Son-In-Law of the Year award.  The next morning we drove to Cedar City, Utah.  Yes…that is a roundabout way to get to Scottsdale but the drive through the Rockies is so beautiful we decided to take the long way home.

Finally, on our last leg of the trip, we embarked on the 430 mile trip home.  We were feeling pretty lucky.  We had not run into any bad weather or freeway construction – a miracle when you’re traveling in the summer months.  Fifteen miles from home my husband decided to stop and get a bit of gas.  As we pulled out of the gas station the car started to sputter.  We made it out onto the Carefree Highway and it began lurching and making a sputtering sound that I’m not sure a car is supposed to make.  My husband was able to steer it over to the side of the road, whereupon it promptly died.

So, there we were, in 101 degree heat, no A/C and Dash the Wonder Dog in the back seat.  Luckily, we were still within walking distance of the gas station and it was attached to a small convenience store.  The kind manager took us in and even allowed Dash to enter her “no dogs allowed” establishment.  You gotta love people who take care of dogs.  I called the rental car company and they said they we were too far out for them to come get us.  I begged him not to abandon us to the vagaries of a towing company.  He finally relented and 40 minutes later showed up with another car.  He helped us transfer everything to the new car while he waited for the tow truck to take our ‘dead’ car away.

A half-hour and three cars later we arrived home – it has never looked so good.  It was great to be away but it is also great to be home.  The lure of the road has somehow lost its appeal.  We’ve cancelled our road trip for August and will wait until September to take our annual trek to Sun Valley, Idaho.  We’ll be driving our own car.

 

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.