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Late afternoon Friday the skies began turning gray, and rain threatened the Miami Valley. Just as Jose was leaving to report to the band room, the splotches of wetness began appearing on the sidewalk. Within minutes the deluge had begun. At 6:30pm, the rain had stopped and I stepped into the heavy, steamy air to walk to the high school to take photos of STEP-OFF.

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STEP-OFF is one of my favorite traditions to observe with a Fairmont football game. The marching band and guard assembles in front of the school (actually, the performing arts’ wing) and begins the march over to the stadium, winding down Delaine through approximately five blocks of the neighborhood. When the band reaches the opposite side of the school, students and adults who are tailgating before the game, fall in behind the band. Home owners along Delaine are often hosting cookouts, or just standing on their porches, in their yards, to cheer on the Marching Firebirds. As the band moves beneath the rich, overhang of leaves, the too bright stadium’s lights begin filtering through the specks of openings in the green arch. The excitement always mounts as each section of the band, accompanied by the funky rhythms of the percussion, begins a choreographed movement with their instruments – the best being the sousaphones! Once the band arrives at the stadium there is an even greater sense of excitement when the 204 members march through the tunnel beneath the gigantic stadium, drums pounding harder, and louder, creating a fantastic vibration on the seats above. It is a wonderful tradition that I enjoy each home game.

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I took photos as the band started STEP-OFF, and then hurried over to the corner of Lincoln Park Blvd. & Delaine to catch them as they made their first turn into the neighborhood. After the band passed, I walked over to Lincoln Park and the Fraze Pavilion to take photographs. As I walked the park it occurred to me that the recorded music heard floating over the neighborhood from the stadium was not yielding to the band’s pre-game music. I later learned the game’s start had been held due to lightning.

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Jose arrived home, chattering away about the events of the night, and then the deluge began, again… and the rains came… forty days and forty nights…

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Last night, I sat propped up in bed like I was the King of England, typing away at my laptop resting on the hospital table (a great purchase so that I can work from bed in the mornings and late evenings), watching the special “celebration” for Senator Ted Kennedy. What a wonderful tribute to the Liberal Lion, as he has been dubbed. Brian Stokes Mitchell sang a beautifully arranged version of “The Impossible Dream” from MAN OF LAMANCHA.

The most touching moment, for me, was the tribute paid to “Uncle Ted” by his niece, Caroline Kennedy. Her voice cracked a few times, heightening the emotion following the tremendous tributes from Senator Kennedy’s political friends and foes. Caroline recounted the “history trips” on which Uncle Ted took the massive numbers of nieces and nephews to various historical sites around the country. This grabbed me immediately, wishing I had been a nephew on those excursions, and reminding myself that I am an uncle who enjoys sharing history with his nephews. Caroline stated the trip from Hyannis Port to the Kennedy Library in Boston, passing familiar historical sites, was “my┬álast history trip with Uncle Ted.”

And then, to close the celebration, a rousing Irish number, one of my favorites, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” It was joyful, yet wistful. It seemed to me, the most touching tribute to Senator Kennedy, and the entire Kennedy family.

This morning, I am writing, and watching the preparations for Senator Kennedy’s funeral in Boston. The family is just leaving the Kennedy Library, and the mourners are assembling at the church. It is strange to think that for this service, Senator Kennedy’s voice will not be heard. Since 1968, his voice has become familiar leading family and friends through services for various family members… Bobby, Rose, Jackie, John, and various family members.

The television coverage is showing the casket leaving the library, a fitting exit in a gentle rain. There are also the former presidents and vice-presidents, and their wives gathering in the cathedral, minus George & Barbara Bush. I am sure this will be a fitting, grand farewell to the last of the three Kennedy brothers who served our country.

Irish Eyes

There’s a tear in your eye, And I’m wondering why,
For it never should be there at all.
With such pow’r in your smile, Sure a stone you’d beguile,
So there’s never a teardrop should fall.
When your sweet lilting laughter’s Like some fairy song,
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be;
You should laugh all the while And all other times smile,
And now, smile a smile for me.

When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.

For your smile is a part Of the love in your heart,
And it makes even sunshine more bright.
Like the linnet’s sweet song, Crooning all the day long,
Comes your laughter and light.
For the springtime of life Is the sweetest of all
There is ne’er a real care or regret;
And while springtime is ours Throughout all of youth’s hours,
Let us smile each chance we get.

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