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The sun has set, on this, our last day in Fowler.  The two day respite was much needed, and greatly appreciated.

It began as a surprise for Mother whose birthday we celebrated Friday, April 6th.  Destin presented Mother with a reason to come up to Fowler on Friday, and found himself making up reasons for her to remain through the weekend.  He succeeded.

The pets, Quintin, and I were loaded into the car at 12:05pm, Friday, and we pulled into Benton Central Jr-Sr High School’s parking lot at 3:00pm.  We saw several friends in the main office, and spent a few minutes with the band director, Mike Richardson.

Mother was, indeed, surprised to see Quintin and I walk into Destin & Stacia’s house.

The nephews and niece are as adorable as ever, and I took plenty of photos.  I also captured a number of photos of Fowler, a community with which I have fallen in love.

Mother showed us her new house which will be ready by Memorial Day. In a few months, our family will no longer be residents of Elwood, Indiana after nearly 150 years, and Madison County for 201 years. Still, my heart will remain with my beloved community.

We spent time gathered around the table for meals, and laughter… an Easter egg hunt for the community… me chasing Navi and Chief away from Wallpe cousins’ ducks… me watching Navi and Chief romping in the meadow and creek near the pond… driving around the area to take pictures… and capturing many family moments on the camera…

The weekend has passed by too swiftly.  However, I am relaxed, refreshed, and revived. Destin & Stacia’s home in the country is my spiritual retreat, and I looked forward to the too few times I get to visit.  I sleep like a baby in the one bedroom I always claim, and Stacia’s cooking is always food for my body, and soul.

Tomorrow morning we shall pack up, load the dogs into the car, and return to Ohio.

What a wonderful weekend…

 

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The pure, the bright, the beautiful
that stirred our hearts in youth
The impulses to wordless prayer
The streams of love and truth
The longing after something lost
The spirit’s longing cry
The striving after better hopes
These things can never die

“I just have to do something,” said Rev. Bob Smitley, interrupting his own closure to his brilliant homily for Rev. Greg King’s service of celebration. “When we go to a great show what do we always do at the end to show we loved the show?”

The applause began immediately, and the enormous crowd, nearly filling the large cavernous Ascension Catholic Church of Kettering to capacity, rose to its feet.

While the celebration induced the activation of the tear ducts, the heartache was continually battled by the superior force of laughter.  I don’t believe I’ve ever laughed so much, and so hard, throughout a “celebration of life” service than the one offered in the memory of Rev. Greg King.

To know the King family is to know God’s truer message… love one another, and for crying out loud, laugh as much as you can.  I’ve been fortunate to know Greg’s beautiful wife, Patti, and two of his equally beautiful four children, Greg and Kristen.  I mostly saw Rev. Greg at band concerts, band contests, musicals, and at the church for a production of GODSPELL, directed by his wife.  I did not know him as well as Patti, but upon each meeting I was greeted with a deep warmth, and joy, that always re-ignited my own inner joy. He definitely had “a way” with people… with life.

Within twenty minutes of the service honoring Rev. King, I was thinking, “I wish I could have known him.”

The timid hand stretched forth to aid
A brother in his need;
A kindly word in grief’s dark hour
That proves a friend indeed;
The plea for mercy softly breathed,
When justice threatens high
The sorrow of a contrite heart
These things shall never die

The tributes from two of his children, son Greg’s through song, as well as his brother, sister, nephew, and nieces, were moving, inspiring, filled with hilarious anecdotes, and so much love, and magnificent affection.  It was one of those rare moments when I realized that this is the type of man I aspire to be.  Greg King is my role model.

I was overjoyed when I learned that he, too, wrote notes to his children all the time. I believe this, as a dad/parent, is vital.  Mother has written me notes, and sent cards, since I was a tiny fellow, and I believe I have nearly every one in my collection.  As a dad, I write little notes, and letters, to my sons.  I always believed I would find them tossed in the waste basket, but they are always tucked away in a special place.

Had I not attended the service, I would never have known just how much life was lived by this man, and just how much fun he had with life.  I felt so reassured that a father can joke, tease, wrestle, play practical jokes, sing silly songs, act crazy, elect to spend time with his children, be creative with parenting and discipline, talk to his children, throw food, and clown around with his children.  I always felt out of place in the parent-world because I am quite unorthodox as a single dad. I cannot wait for those moments to do things with sons – especially, laugh, and have fun. These are the same memories I want my sons to cherish – so many like the ones I know the four King children will always cherish. The stories from Rev. Greg’s family supplemented my belief that I am on the right track, and that I should proceed, full speed, ahead.

Once we become adults, we tend to let go of heroes, role models, and fellow teachers.  I love moments when my path crosses that of another who offers hope, confidence, and an opportunity for me to “look up” to someone.  Greg King has become that person for this chapter of my life.  Since childhood my number one hero has been Abraham Lincoln, and it only seems ironically appropriate that I write of Rev. King on President Lincoln’s birthday.

Let nothing pass, for every hand
Must find some work to do
Lose not a chance to waken love
Be firm and just and true
So shall a light that cannot fade
Beam on thee from on high
And angel voices say to thee
“These things shall never die.”

I heard the word, legacy, mentioned several times.  And what a legacy Rev. Greg King has with those who who loved him, and knew him best.  It is the kind of legacy we often dream of leaving… Greg King’s legacy is one we should all leave.

The King, as in Greg King, has left this earthly building; however, the spirit of the man – the husband, the father, the son, the brother, the uncle, the minister, the neighbor, the friend, the counselor, the mediator, the organizer, the worker, the leader, the follower, the instigator of pranks, the laugher, the clown, and the ultimate servant with a great servant’s heart – remains.  He shared with the world his own personal recipe for life.  Sadly, so many of us seldom realize that the same ingredients are also within our own reach until we are reminded by great men like Greg King. I am so grateful that I have been reminded that this same recipe is imprinted in my own spirit, in my own mind, and on my own heart.

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Photos I obtained/stole from Patti’s Facebook site.

** THINGS THAT NEVER DIE, by Charles Dickens, and inserted throughout the blog.

This morning, my brother, Destin, and I received an email from Mother: As of February 3rd, I am retired from the Elwood Police Department.

Despite the fact Mother had expressed some consideration along this topic, we were not aware that she was actually setting the process into motion, and so abruptly.  The new administrative changes throughout the city’s leadership were becoming quite stressful, and the air of low-morale, and consistent uncertainty were affecting Mother’s health.  When she initially broached the subject over Christmas, I thought it a bit premature since the elected-changes had not yet occurred.  However, as she began experiencing the health issues, I was somewhat relieved, yet still surprised, by her announcement.

I was sixteen, and a sophomore in high school, when we became a part of the police family.  I suddenly had about 15 police-uncles, several police-aunts, and a ton of police-cousins.  I knew that I always had folks looking after my family.  This was especially comforting when I left for college.

The police department was like any other family – the good times, the not-so-good times, celebrations of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, births, graduations, and successes.  The family came together at those less celebratory moments, especially when death shrouded a family unit.  The worst was the loss of officers’ children who were teenagers with me.

For the past thirty-one years, I’ve seen Mother joyfully embrace her work with the Band of Blue, and even during the more stressful moments, I never knew her to waiver in her dedication.  Mother was often a big sister, a confidant, a friend, and whether appreciated, or not, always honest with requested advice.  One of her most incredible talents is her ability to organize, and produce.  I am so grateful I received this genetic component from Mother!

I am proud to be the son of this woman who gave so much of her self to her career.  I am relieved that her retirement from the police department is not a retirement from being Mother/Mama to my self, and Destin. The retirement from the EPD will allow her more time for her Grandma-responsibilities!

My grandfather, Leroy ‘Red’ Barmes, joined the department in 1952.  Sixty years later, our immediate family’s connection to the Elwood Police Department has finally come to a close.  I must admit, it is a tad bittersweet.

Mother: Congratulations on 31 years of such fine service to the department, and the community; and, congratulations on your well-deserved retirement.  I am so grateful for, and proud of your career, and so happy (and a little tearful) to know this chapter has now moved on to the next.

Know you are loved…

Everything has its season
Everything has its time
Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?

December 31st is always a day for reflection, and this day seems particularly meaningful… several additions to our family… several farewells… wonderful students and their families… several students moving on to college while many former students moved to New York City or into teaching positions… and always, more personal growth.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

The first four months of 2010 were difficult.

Just a few days into the new year a dear cousin, who had been somewhat of a hero throughout my childhood, passed away with pancreatic cancer. Steve Daughterty was an incredible individual, and is sadly missed.

Life brings on a natural drama, but often, people prefer to create drama.  Those are the individuals with whom I can do without, and through the course of this year, I have distanced my self, and my family, from those who prefer to infest their poor life choices and hideous personal drama into my family’s life.   The events of the first four months strengthened us as a family, and secured the understanding that our family does come first.  And life has been grand!  However, we were greatly aided last April by several loving, caring, and dedicated family friends.

Every man has his daydreams
Every man has his goal
People like the way dreams have
Of sticking to the soul
Thunderclouds have their lightning
Nightingales have their song
And don’t you see I want my life to be
Something more than long….

Sadly, I cannot remember much about this past Spring and Summer.  I know we had a ton of fun going to musicals, concerts, visiting family in Indiana, spending time with family friends here in Dayton, and kicking off Jose’s fourth, and final year of marching band.  We enjoyed visits to  Carillon Park, as well as many hours of hiking, and canoeing at Old River Park.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

June and July were somewhat busy with graduated students prepping for college.  I was also updating my home study through ACTION Adoption, half-heartedly, as I was not as hopeful of finding the right son to adopt.  Those roads seemed hopelessly closed.

The first of August I delivered Jose to his final marching band camp.  It was a tad bit wistful, but I also knew that the fall would bring on several more endings… so this was just the first.  Mother drove over to Dayton to celebrate the end of band camp with the parents’ show.

Then tragedy struck… August 24th, our beloved dog, Flyer, became gravely ill, and was suffering from pancreatitis.  We were told she would only have a few days with us, but through combined determination from our family, dear family friends and students, and tons of nursing, Flyer pulled through it.  By Labor Day she was acting as though nothing had ever happened.

The annual Labor Day Haasienda Celebration had adjustments due to my sister-in-law having three weeks remaining in her pregnancy.  Still, Mother made the trip, and Monday we enjoyed the parade and what has become our traditional potluck at the Lockharts’ home afterward.

With the start of school, the marching band season kicked into full gear. There were football games on Fridays and competitions on Saturdays through November.

The highlight of September came on the 21st and the 24th.

September 21st, my sister-in-law, Stacia, gave birth to a beautiful niece, Carolyne. Fortunately, that Saturday, my 46th birthday, was marching band contest-free, so Jose, Mother and I spent the day in Fowler with Destin, Stacia, Parker, Freddie and Carolyne.

September 24th, I spoke with a case worker from New Mexico who wanted to consider the prospects of matching me with a 15 year old Navajo boy on whom I had sent an interest form.

So many men seem destined
To settle for something small
But I won’t rest until I know I’ll have it all
So don’t ask where I’m going
Just listen when I’m gone
And far away you’ll hear me singing
Softly to the dawn:

Marching band and adoption took over my life throughout October and November.  As marching band began to wind down, the adoption process began to wind up.

October 22nd, Jose and I, along with several other matching band parents of senior members, walked across the football field for senior night.  Two Fridays later, I was fully matched with Quintin, and two hours later, with my full support, Jose was enlisted with the Ohio National Guard.

Life was changing, and what blessings these changes were becoming.  A new son was joining our family, and Jose was establishing the start of a childhood dream – to be in the military.

The following week, Jose performed in his last marching band competition at Lucas Oil Stadium, and completed his last band concert.  Thanksgiving was spent with Mother, and then on to Fowler for Freddie’s birthday celebration.

Within five days, Jose and I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico to meet Quintin, his foster family, and the wonderful folks at Red Mountain Family Services.  We had one of the most remarkable, and memorable trips.

December 10th, Quintin and his foster dad, Jun, joined us in Dayton for the weekend.

And then December 20th finally arrived… Mother, Jose and I drove to Dayton International Airport to bring Quintin home.  We had a beautiful candle lighting ceremony led by New Mexico worker, Janis Melendez, witnessed by family and members of our god-parent team.

The past eleven days have been so fulfilling with the arrival of Quintin, many kindnesses shown our family by my students and their families, Christmas in Indiana, fun times with family friends here in the Miami Valley, and now, our final day of 2010.

Our family is finding its own corner of the sky as we journey into 2011.  I am thrilled for the prospects of this coming year, and am eager to get it started.  I have my own personal goals, and corners of the sky I will establish, and will continue to assist my sons in establishing their own corners.  Jose will graduate and leave for basic and advanced training with the military.  Quintin will start a new life entirely with many promises of new adventures.

Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky

So here is to a new year… a continued journey with many opportunities and thrilling adventures… the continuation of my family… the continuation of my brother’s family… and many more wonderful experiences – those anticipated, and those unexpected.

Many blessings to all our wonderful family and friends…

Love,

Darin, Jose & Quintin

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  I don’t know when I have had a more wonderful Christmas!

Very early Friday morning, the boys, Flyer and I headed westward, arriving in Elwood at 11:00am. Jose and Mother followed Quintin and I, and by 12:30pm we were pulling in to Destin & Stacia’s.

An hour or so later I drove to the church to practice the organ in preparation for the Christmas Eve service. By this time, the snow was falling heavily, and bounding down with a purpose of making travel difficult.

A highlight of the weekend was the most delicious dinner at Norma’s, Stacia’s mother. Norma moved from the farm where Destin & Stacia live, and bought a historical landmark in Fowler, about one block from her church. The home was once owned by the town’s dairy man and was part of a huge dairy farm. Norma has decorated it beautifully, and the landscaping is quite fetching (we need to bring this word back!).

Norma sets an exquisite table, and yet, it is most comfortable. The littlest touch does not seem to escape her!

The dinner was incredible. Stacia made white chili – my first time to sample it. Wonderful!

We finished dinner and it was time to head to church. The service was very nice, and nothing is more beautiful than to leave Christmas Eve services with snow falling!

Back at Norma’s home we enjoyed hot chocolate (kindly made with Splenda for the diabetics), and a nice sampling of desserts. My sons were such great cousins and playmates for my nephews, Parker (5) and Freddie (3), and they all enjoyed themselves.

It was so nice to sit up talking to Destin for a good deal of time. So often, when we are together, any time to sit and talk is sapped by the events. However, after the entire Haashold began settling down, we had some chat time which made my day.

Christmas morning began on a quiet note as Mother and I sat at the kitchen table talking. Stacia was the first to rouse, and then the smaller peeps began adding momentum to the day with their unrivaled energy. The stockings came down with much excitement. The family breakfast was eaten and then it was back to the Christmas tree for the unwrapping of gifts. I held my beautiful three-month old niece, Carolyne throughout the flutter and crackle of wrapping paper and gift bags.

At some point, I fell asleep with Carolyne lodged securely in my arms. When I woke, she was also asleep.

At 12:30pm, Mother and Quintin followed Jose and I back to Elwood. The roads were clear, and very safe.

Since we did not have our traditional Chinese dinner on Christmas Eve, we maintained the tradition Christmas night.

Sunday morning, we took down Mother’s tree, packed up, showered, and went to Richard’s for lunch. After an enjoyable lunch, we hit the road for another two hours, returning to Kettering by 3:00pm.

When Jose returned from work, we sat down to creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches – the right combo for a cold Christmas night. We opened a bottle of sparking apple juice, and with my seldom used wine glasses, we toasted our new family… to sons, to brothers, and to family.

A beautiful, memorable coda to two months of zipping along an incredible rollercoaster.

 

 

Today, the snow is gently falling here in Kettering for the first time. It seems as though the weather has officially changed into winter.

This particular change seems in keeping with life in the Haasienda. Tomorrow morning at 0715 hours, Jose and I will begin our journey west, landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico by 1115 hours.  A few hours later, we will meet my new son, and Jose’s new brother, Quintin.

The chain of change began in October as the marching season began to close. With the end of marching band I knew it was officially the true end of Jose’s high school career as marching band was truly his major love.

November 5th, at 1030am, I officially learned that Quintin’s adoption was official.

November 6th, Mother, Valerie Lockhart and I sat in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium to watch The Marching Firebirds in the last performance. It was a little wistful watching Jose with the band for the final time, but I knew that his future was beginning to take on a new beginning.

Change is often good, but we seldom realize it at the moment.

Ninety minutes later Jose returned from the national guard recruiting station (with my blessing) to announce he would be heading to basic and advanced training on June 14th, 2011. Then, he said sometime after September he would be deployed to Afghanistan.

I was ready for the change of Jose entering the Ohio National Guard, but was not mentally prepared for a deployment in the near future.

November 12th, Jose was sworn into the military.

Within the next few days he had a very nice workout suit, and his army uniform.

One night we were walking the indoor track of Trent Arena. As we were walking and talking together, Jose took his jacket off, and laid it over mine. For some reason, the sight of his jacket over mine tugged at my heart.

A week ago, Jose and I got to talk to Quintin for the first time. He seems to be a delightful chap.

Last week we hurried to Indiana for Thanksgiving, and on up to Fowler to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. My two nephews are growing up, and their new little sister, my beautiful niece, Carolyne, is already two months old.

More changes…

Sunday was taken up with ACTION Adoption’s National Adoption Month Celebration – something to which we look forward every year. I am generally behind a camera, but manage to mingle with old friends of the adoption world – many whom I have trained. It is so wonderful to see all these families, and to see how their own children have grown over the year.

Tomorrow is the major change. At 3:45pm in New Mexico, I will greet my newest son.

I am not nervous, nor am I overly eager. It just seems to be a natural part of life. Quintin’s arrival on December 20th seems as though he is merely returning from a camp. Already, he feels as though he is already my son.

Change is exhausting at times, but when we can appreciate the wonderful results of any change, it is a damned fantastic feeling!

 

 

What an unusual, yet exciting year!

I have received so many blessings this year, and I hope, as an individual, and fellow traveler on Planet Earth, that I have been able to be a blessing to others, as well.

My  blessings do not come in the way of material things, but through individuals who have touched my life, and the life of my family.

First, and foremost, there will always be my mother, Diana, who is counted as one of my best blessings in this life.

Right alongside Mother, is my son, Jose, almost 19 years, and a senior in high school. Last week, Jose became Private Jolliffe-Haas with the Ohio National Guard. The past six years since Jose came to live with me, I have watched him grow, mature, and become an incredible young man.

Next week, I shall meet, for the first time, my newest son, Quintin, 15, currently living in New Mexico. By December 20th, he will be a full-time resident in the Haasienda.

Another blessing is my brother, Destin, my sister-in-law, Stacia, and their three beautiful children, Parker, 5, Freddie, 3, and Carolyne, 2 months. I am also grateful for the many blessings Destin has received this year with the birth of Carolyne, and his new position as superintendent of schools. Of course, he is blessed daily with Stacia, as well as Parker and Freddie.

Our home in Kettering is doubly blessed with two fuzzy-faced family members – Flyer, 9, and Logan 16.

I am also blessed for my many uncles and aunts, cousins, and extended family.

Throughout my life, I have been so fortunate to have many wonderful neighbors and friends. From my roots in Elwood, Indiana to my current home in Kettering, Ohio, THANK YOU to all my neighbors, and friends for your constant love and support.

For twenty-six years I have been blessed with many, many fantastic students, parents, and colleagues… bless you!

Improved health, and so many other things, often taken for granted, have encouraged me to realize even more, just how blessed I am this day.

Thank you, to so many of you, family/friends, near and far, or even on Facebook, for being such a blessing in my life.

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Friday morning at 9:30am, Jose, Flyer and I left Kettering, and aimed westward for Indiana. We took the scenic route, and enjoyed it so much more. Jose and I had the best conversations on the way, and I was so glad that a teenager opted to share a lengthy conversation rather than plug his ears with his favorite tunes.

My cousin, Dana, and her family lives near Lynn, Indiana, and for some reason, I thought it was south of Richmond, Indiana. To my surprise, it is approximately ten miles north of Richmond. Nice little community – as well all those lovely towns along Highways 27, 1, 32 and 28. Winchester, Lynn, Fountain City and Farmland are exceptionally quaint little communities, still thriving with many hometown, downtown businesses. Jose was highly interested in the fact that these communities still maintained so much of their former charm – a charm I knew so well in nearly every city as a child.

One site that caught our attention, and interest on SR-32, just west of Winchester, was the stone entry to the former orphanage, long abandoned. The entrance had the words “Orphans Home” engraved, and the long drive led back to a circle of trees where the building once stood. It was a lovely area, but also one that seemed rich in history, and many sad stories.

We stopped at a Dollar General to buy a water dish for Flyer, and as I stepped out of the car in Albany, Indiana, I looked up and there was Rivar’s! Rivar’s is a dance/show apparel shop, built by former Ball State University Singers alumni. The Rivar sisters have a huge, competitive business that is known throughout the nation.

We pulled into Elwood around 1:00pm, and took Mother to lunch at Richards, one of our favorite haunts.

Back at Mother’s, I saw a tall, elderly gentleman looking at my car. Finally, he came to the door and spoke to Mother who eventually called me out. The neighbor was backing his truck out and rammed into the back end of the car which was parked off the street, and on the grass since there is no curb. He had already called the police out to make a report, and I filled out all the pertinent  information. The gentleman repeatedly mentioned something about a law about vehicles needing to be 18 inches off the street – however, Mother, who has been with the police department for nearly thirty years, and Diane at State Farm Insurance had never heard of this ordinance. I will go have an estimate made, and then send it to State Farm.

After a running a few errands, cutting up vegetables, and chatting endlessly, it was time for supper. We went to the local Chinese Restaurant, greeted by the VERY loud hostess.

The remainder of the evening was relaxing.

The following morning we left the house at 8:00am for Fowler, Indiana where my brother and his family lives. Fowler is one of my favorite spots in the world – it is just so relaxing, and I always seem to return refreshed, and energized. One of my favorite things is seeing the tall, futuristic-looking wind turbines

We arrived shortly before 10:30am and watched my nephew, Parker, play soccer. It was so hilarious watching those little peeps on the field!

Out at the Fowler Haasienda, lunch was prepped while I snapped photos of my nephews at play. Freddie, who is two and a half years, and my Godson, is a riot to watch in action. He is an exhausting little fellow to watch, but quite hilarious, and adventurous.

As always, lunch was delicious. My sister-in-law, Stacia, and her mother, Norma, always fix some of the tastiest dishes.

Just as lunch was finishing up, the guests for Parker’s birthday party began arriving.

Stacia and Destin led them through games, and other fun activities that captivated the lively little crew. While this was going on, Freddie was soaking himself, and Jose, with water from the kiddie water trough in the side yard.

Presents and cake were on the screened in porch – one of the neatest features of the farm… so relaxing, even in the 90-degree heat, and 1,000% humidity that bathed us. Eventually, a thunderstorm arrived, temporarily cooling off the temperature, but before long the steam began rising throughout the countryside sauna.

We left Fowler around 3:45pm, and arrived in Elwood at 5:30pm. We loaded the car, and were pulling out of Mother’s drive at 6:00pm. We retraced our Friday path, and enjoyed the little towns along the way, with more accompaniment of great conversation. We pulled into our own drive at 8:30pm, unloaded the car, went to Family Video so Jose could get a game, and then grabbed a Hot-N-Ready $5 pizza from Little Caesars. Finally, at 11:00pm, I was crawling into bed as a thunderstorm began raging.

A brief, but enjoyable trip.

And Monday, the official summer teaching schedule begins!

June 3, 2004, on a Thursday morning at 10:55am, my grandfather, Leroy Barmes, passed away.

Grandpa loved nothing more than to make people laugh.  In fact, it was his gift to us.  Of course, it goes without saying that he had an element of performance that often made him the center of attention and I’ve always said that Grandpa liked to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral and the baby at every christening.

Sometimes, he was simply larger than life.

By the time I was able to walk and talk as a toddler I was Papaw Leroy’s little companion. It seemed as though I went everywhere with Grandpa, and one of my greatest joys was riding in the police car with him. I loved spending time with him, and remember him whistling, playing his harmonica, or humming “The Whiffenpoof Song.”

One day, after my Grandma Donna had taken me to watch the Panter Band practice at the old T-Way parking lot for the Indiana State Fair contest, I was marching around their front porch with a pretend trumpet. Grandpa asked, “Are you honkin’?” At the age of three I suppose I thought I meant “is your name ‘Honkin'”? So, when asked my name, I replied, “Darin Honkin’ Jolliff.”

Thus, Grandpa dubbed me with the nickname, “Honkin’” or simply, “Honk.”  He was the only one who ever called me, this and most of my cards, or letters, for nearly forty years were addressed to “Honkin’.

One of my earliest memories of my grandfather is not one most grandchildren would have.  We were having a church picnic out at Elwood’s Calloway Park and I, at age three, climbed to the top of a twenty foot slide.  For whatever reason, I looked over the side and lost my balance.  To this day, I can still clearly remember falling head first and seeing the ground begin to blur into a mass of solid green.  The image of my forty-six year old grandfather running towards me with outstretched arms is forever etched in my mind.  Grandpa caught me that afternoon.

As a young boy, Grandpa convinced me he had grown up with Abraham Lincoln. At Lincoln’s Indiana boyhood home, he pointed out a section of split rails that formed a fence, “Now, me and Abe chopped all those rails.”

I learned how Grandpa taught Lincoln how to play football, what good cooks Nancy Hanks and Mary Todd Lincoln were, how Grandpa assisted Lincoln with radio transmissions during the Civil War to follow Confederate lines, and how he and Grandma helped babysit the Lincoln sons. The history books have never described how the Lincoln funeral train was rerouted from Indianapolis through Elwood because Grandpa Leroy could not get off work from the police department.

In 1975, I entered the 5th grade at Washington Elementary School, and my teacher was the oft acerbic, yet terribly witty, Garnetta Brugger who had taught Mother and my uncles and cousins. On the first day of class, Mrs. Brugger was taking attendance and sharing tidbits about each student she knew. When she got to me, she explained to the class that she had taught my mother, and that she had known my grandparents since they were young. I was excited, and burst out with, “Oh, so you knew Abraham Lincoln, too!”

Mrs. Brugger, who could be quite intimidating, threw back her head as though struck with a blunt object, and grabbed her hair. “Honey child, I might look old, but I am not THAT old. Your grandday’s been telling you some whoppers.”

That evening, I looked in our encyclopedia. President Lincoln had died in 1865. Grandpa Leroy was born in 1921!

For over sixty years Grandpa kept jars filled with newspaper clippings on which he always wrote the date.  As a child I learned a good deal about our family’s history and of major events in the lives of our family friends through yellowed newspaper clippings.

One huge cookie jar contained clippings regarding the tragic loss of his uncle, Glenard Daugherty who was killed on Iwo Jima in 1945, obituaries of his Grandpa and Grandma Daugherty, his own new job at the Elwood Police Department in 1952, birth announcements of my mother, Diana, and uncles, Ron and Tommy, engagement and wedding announcements of his nieces, Judy and Jan Smith, a TV Guide page with a photograph of his cousin, Steve Daugherty announcing his new talk show on channel 13, an article of his cousin Stan Daugherty’s appointment as Elwood’s head basketball coach in 1980, and countless clippings about athletic or personal successes of family, neighbors and church friends.  Even in his 80’s and as his health began to decline, he still maintained this last jar of clippings.

These jars were not filled with yellowed, crumbling keepsakes.  These clippings were his gifts to us, reminding each of us the importance of family, and friends.  These clippings symbolize our family’s rich heritage throughout the years.  They encouraged us to never quit until we have crossed the finish line, to urge his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins – all of us who follow his generation – to stay connected to one another and to always keep our family together.

But above all, those clippings were gifts to never let us forget just how dearly Leroy Barmes loved and cherished his family and friends.

Six years ago I bid farewell to not only my grandfather, but to the man who stepped in to fill the role of “substitute dad” when our natural father abandoned us early in life.  Grandpa was the one who taught each of us how to throw, field and bat baseballs, and how to do so many of the other things that only a dad can truly teach his young children.  He, along with our mother, and our Grandma Donna, insisted that we do our best, always, and to rise above each and every adversity that attempted to barricade our lives.

Not only was Grandpa a roll model as a father figure, he was a roll model as an uncle.  I was blessed with wonderful uncles in Ron and Tom (and my Uncle Gary Jolliff), as well as our great uncles and even great-great-uncles, but I was very fortunate to observe Grandpa as “Uncle Roggie” or “Uncle Leroy.”  I hope that one day, my own niece and nephews will think of me with the adoration summed up by my cousin, Tanya, when she wrote her fondest memory of her Uncle Roggie, “He’s my uncle.  What more is there?”

All through my school years Grandpa never missed school programs, music concerts, marching band contests, college choir concerts, University Singers Spectaculars – no matter how far away from home.  Even as an adult, the year before he passed away, he was sitting in the front row at the Elwood Variety Show when I was invited back to perform. Later that fall he was up in the bleachers to watch my brother, Destin, coach his football team in a game against the Tipton Blue Devils.

Six years ago, with heartfelt gratitude and deep affection, and a treasury of many wonderful memories, I concluded a chapter in a tremendous book that is far from being finished.

For the past six years, I’ve not been addressed as “Honkin’.” And it is only fitting that the former nickname has been laid aside. Despite the fact that Grandpa had died, I knew, even then, that he would always be with me… and with me he has been. My humor, passion for living, love of being a father and uncle, and love for God are all remnants of my beloved grandfather.

“Auf wiedersehn” – “until we meet again.”

Here are some photo from my family in Fowler, Indiana. Pictured are my sister-in-law, Stacia, and my nephews, Parker (4), and Freddie (2).

This morning I woke at 6:15am and pressed the On/Off button on the television’s remote control. There was a video showing the White House silhouetted against the rising sun… but the flag was lowered to half-mast.

Within seconds my racing mind was informed….

Senator Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009.

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When I traveled to Washington, DC with my brother’s 8th graders in 2000, we sat in the senate gallery and amidst the sea of dark suits, the white, silvery hair of Senator Kennedy stood out. My brother, Destin, also a presidential history enthusiast, leaned forward over the gallery rail, staring down at the iconic figure. It was a moment where we got to see a great performer on the stage of American history.

kennedyline

It is strange to think of our country without a Kennedy, from the Camelot generation, not at the helm of our government. While the media personalities are expressing their opinion that the next generation of Kennedys are not as powerful as their parents, I believe it is too soon to call the play on this generation. After all, they were overshadowed by their father, and uncle.

This morning, I am not as taken with Senator Kennedy’s politics, nor his successes, or mistakes as I am with Ted Kennedy the family man – especially, Uncle Ted. This morning I think of the nieces, and nephews who have lost a cherished uncle.

I was born the day the Warren Commission released its report on President Kennedy’s assassination. In June 1968, two months following Senator Robert Kennedy’s visit to my hometown of Elwood, Indiana, I sat with my parents watching his funeral at Arlington Cemetery.

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Uncle Ted was the Kennedy of that generation with whom I was the most familiar. My Uncle Ron was my version of an “Uncle Ted,” and had he lived, I have no doubt he would be the revered uncle. However, my brother and I are now the uncles, and we each believe in our obligation to uphold this grand title. I love being a father, but there is something enchanting about being an uncle. There is a mutual adoration, and affection, that is strikingly different with nieces and nephews.

My grandfather loathed the Kennedy’s – a loathing he adopted from his father that sprang back to an episode during The Great Depression. However, I think my grandfather would join me in agreeing that Ted Kennedy appeared to be a much loved uncle. My grandfather seemed to be the favored uncle for his nieces and nephews, and throughout their lives I witnessed his pride, and joy in their accomplishments, and the agony springing from their tragedies. I always marveled at his adoration of his grandchildren, but there was always that “uncle element” in his being that I cherish still to this day. My grandfather, and Uncle Ron were great role models for this uncle, and I can only hope, and trust, that I shall follow in their footsteps as a great uncle.

Jacqueline-Bouvier-Kennedy-Onassis

 

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

bewitched

Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

westwing-cast-2001-2002

Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

percussion

At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

This afternoon, I sent a note to my brother, sarcastically reminding him that it has been a while since I have seen photos of my youngest nephew and godson, Fred. There were tons of photos with Parker, his eldest, and typical of the second child, there are fewer photos. But, my brother obliged me, and sent several photographs of my beautiful nephews.

fred-feb-09-002fred-feb-09-0031fred-feb-09-004fred-feb-09-005fred-feb-09-006

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