Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day

It was Mother's Day for Melissa yesterday too…and as much as I wish they were BOTH here, they were celebrating together.  

I often think back to when my brother Steve died.  I really don't know how my mom (or dad) did it.  It was like my brother never existed.  It was obviously too hard for my mom to talk about, so she NEVER talked about Steve.  She couldn't look at pictures either.  What I know now is she suffered in silence.  That was always my mom's way of dealing with things.  She was very private about everything in her life - politics, finances, family.  

I idolized my mom.  I wanted to be just like her.  In a lot of ways, I was.  She was Class Treasurer in high school, I was class treasurer in high school.  She was a writer, a list maker.  Very organized. And a clean freak (although you look at my house now, you'd never know it.)  

The one way we were different was in how we dealt with situations.  I NEED to talk.   I do hold things in a lot, like how I am really feeling about losing Melissa.  But I talk about her.  A lot.  As everyone who has ever met me knows.  It's my way of keeping her alive.

And on days like Mother's Day, when everyone is posting pictures of having lunch with their daughters (I notice those the most), and the nice things daughter's post about their mom's…all I have is everything I ever saved from Melissa.  Which was everything she ever wrote.  Pretty much.

So what I have is nothing new.  I'll never have another picture of Melissa.  So I dig through my photos and try to find something "new"…and on Mother's Day, and Valentines Day, and my birthday, I read all those cards I saved.  And I pretend that I just got it for THAT day.  

One thing she wrote for a creative writing class in high school particularly touched my heart.  I had it framed with one of my favorite pictures of me and Melissa.  Funny story behind the story…I think it was her junior year.  She had a project where she had to write multiple poems.  Melissa was a procrastinator (she got that honestly too)…and to be honest, she always felt like she did her best work at the last minute.  This particular project was a portfolio of poems.  She got an A on the project.  The day she got it back she had a basketball game.  Right before the game started, she came over to me and handed me the portfolio.  I sat in the stands and read the entire thing.  I was amazed.  And crying.

This was my favorite: (written exactly as she wrote it)

My mom likes to make me feel good

Yeah it's an over-used topic,
       It's sappy, it's sickening, it's dumb,
But man, oh, man if you knew my mom,
God, you'd love her
First of all, she's beautiful.
             she's skinny but she thinks she's fat
My dad's totally in love with her too.  sometimes it grosses me out
             they know it and try to gross me out
"Let's french kiss" my dad would say, right in front of me
             I usually scream cause it's not a pleasant thought
but sorta it is
           My dad and I were talking once about all of our family friends who were getting
          and he looked at me and he said
"man, you really gotta love someone to death to marry them"
                        sometimes my dad annoys me and I totally ignore him
but, God, that really stuck.  My mom is just naturally lovable
everybody loves her
            sometimes I piss her off and she goes crazy
                       but we usually resolve our fights by a simple trip to the mall
she's my best friend
          I don't have to bullshit with her any more because I finally came to the realization
that there wasn't a thing she didn't know about me (well, maybe a couple of things)
            I don't know what I'm gonna do in college
                       probably run back home after the first week because I miss her 
                                   so much
When I was little she used to come in my room and tuck me in
              (my dad tried once, but he just took my comforter and stuffed it under my mattress
so I couldn't move)
anyway, she'd say "Good night pretty girl."
every night for as long as I can remember
                      I told her about that the other day and whadda ya know
she started doing it again!
           I think it was because I told her how good it made me feel
My mom likes to make me feel good.

wow…makes me cry every time I read it.  But there you go.  It's all I have (except for several other cards from other holidays)…and I am so thankful I saved them.  

So when I read all the posts from daughters of my friends, and how wonderful their mothers are (which I know is true too!), I know my daughter felt the same way about me.  I got a gift from Melissa too.

That's how I get through Mother's Day.  And Donny and Nick are always good to me too.  Nick visited and brought me breakfast in the morning-we had a nice visit…then we visited Melissa & JP, then my mom, and Donny took me to the casino (mindless entertainment when I need it!) and he won big!   Then he made a great dinner and took me for ice cream.  

My seventh Mother's Day without her.  And it still seems like yesterday.

We started Mother's Day early - on Saturday we took Roz (Donny's mom) to breakfast and took her to the casino too (we had a great time - I'm guessing she's going to want to go back!), then to the boys baseball game.  Over 50 years of watching her kids, grandkids and great grandkids play sports.  She's not slowing down either.  

Andrew catching!


Haven't posted anything about the 5K - although I did post most of the pictures on FB.  It gets better every year…by about 50 people!  Might have been even better this year if the weather had been better, but we were very happy with the turnout.  Almost 200 people this year.   Lacy Romine and the girls basketball team (and the parents group!) did a great job organizing the event and getting door prizes and raffle prizes.  

We had some VIP's there too…Cheryl McHenry, the anchor for Channel 7  (who happens to be a friend of mine) and Jeff Rezabek, State Representative for Ohio were there.  Cheryl was our emcee and Jeff participated.  

Businesses that sponsored the event - and it was in memory of Melissa (FORT)
Sam Pearson (son of Randi & Carolyn)
Courtney Clifford (daughter of Mange & Mary)
and Kristen Ream (daughter of Dennis & Susan Ream)
all friends of ours.

Gordon Gough, a good friend of Melissa's from high school, made a substantial contribution, along with Harry from Irongate Realty & Jim from Farmer's Insurance, who also made substantial contributions.  

The proceeds will benefit the girls basketball program - don't have the final tally yet, but it's better than last year.  We are so pleased that Melissa's legacy is helping her alma mater that she loved so much.
She would be happy, I know.


 me, my good friends from St. Helen - Marianne (Cagnetti) Brescia & Cheryl McHenry

 The start AND finish of the race

Cheryl, our emcee and Donny

Max coming in the home stretch!

Melissa's high school friend Laura & Jeff Rezabek (State Representative!)

Uncle Mike with Andrew, and Scott Franz - and as always, the Franz family was well represented!
Volunteering AND participating!

 My best friend from high school, Marla Duke, Patsy (her brother Greg was MY brother Steve's best friend in high school!) and Jean Carson, another friend from Wilbur Wright

Tammy Rado, Larry & Deb Ryan (both in our wedding) Donny, Marianne, 
Andrew and Danny (cousin Leanne's youngest!)

Nick & Kristen Schulte, daughter of my good friend from WW, Jim Schulte.
Kristen placed first for women.  Talented, just like the rest of the Schulte family!


This is Max's spring school picture…love this one!
(two school pictures in a year?  crazy.  But I love it anyway!)

And this is a perfect ending for this post.  I was taking my 
4 mile walk a couple of weeks ago and was having
a discussing with Melissa.  Again.  I needed a sign,
and I got one!  See the heart?  I just happened to have
my phone with me.  

Love you Melissa 
<3 p="">

Monday, April 20, 2015

Horrible Mom?

After reading the article about "Horrible Moms" and Crystals comment on the article, I had to read it.  When I read the stories of the moms and the horrible things they did…I thought of ME.

We are not perfect.  Sometimes we make bad choices for our kids…and I realize that sometimes "it takes a village" to raise our kids.  But sometimes I think "the village" needs to let parents take care of their kids, without intervention.

When Nick was about five or six years old (don't exactly remember how old he was) - we took him to the Centerville/Carroll basketball game at Carroll.  Carroll high school's gym is not very big - so they put bleachers on the stage for overflow.  We were at the game because Donny's cousin played for Centerville.

By the time we got there, there were only seats left on the stage, so that's where we headed.  Donny wanted to stop to talk to his Aunt and Uncle in the bleachers on the other side, so Nick & I went to get our seats on the stage.  We sat with Donny's dad and mom.

Nick had NO interest in the game.  There were several kids playing under the bleachers (OK, right here, I shouldn't have approved, but I did).  I wanted to watch the game, and he was with a bunch of other kids.  Somehow, and only God knows how, Nick got his head stuck under the bottom row.  Maybe he was trying to get something that rolled under the bleachers…I don't know.  I just remember Donny's dad going under the bleachers and pulling on Nick's legs, trying to get him out…Nick was screaming his ear was stuck - he was going to rip his ear off if he continued.

Donny's dad proceeded to go around the bleachers and started screaming "EVERYBODY OFF THE BLEACHERS!!!"  So everyone is scrambling to get off the bleachers (so he could lift up the bottom row of seats so he could pull Nick's head out)…all the while the basketball game is going on.

Everyone (including Donny) in the bleachers on the other side are going "What in the heck is going on over there???"

Nick was safely pulled from under the bleachers, only for some woman sitting a few rows behind me commenting…"HE SHOULDN'T  HAVE BEEN UNDER THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE."

No duh.  Like I didn't feel bad enough.  I didn't say it at the time, but I thought "Wow.  you must not have kids."

How many times have we made decisions and felt guilty for decisions that we made.  I felt stupid for letting him play, and maybe it was the wrong decision.  But I didn't need someone to remind me.  I tend to learn from those decisions.

I'm pretty sure my parents didn't give a darn what other parents thought about their parenting.  Which by the way, was much like the rest of the parents in the 50's-60's - "get out and play"… and kids played.  Without parent interference.  Parents didn't pick teams for our kickball games.  I never saw a parent outside.  We played and we were home in time for lunch, then back outside until dinner.  The only time I remember watching TV was on Saturday mornings - cartoons.  It was a pretty good life.

I loved the way the article ended - with the woman who intervened ONLY TO LEND A HELPING HAND.  That's the person I want to be.  Because I've been there.

I guess in a way, it was the same way with Melissa.   Did she get cancer because of what she ate growing up?  (the puzzle just went off…I think she's telling me NO MOM. IT WASN'T WHAT I ATE)…but as parents we tend to feel guilty when bad things happen to our kids.  Sometimes we have no control, and other times we make split second decisions that might look bad to someone else, but in the moment, seem harmless.  I don't think I ever left my kids in the car to run into a store, but my kids were never in a car seat.  In fact, I remember putting Nick in a punkin' seat on the front seat of the car.  I think he even rolled off the seat once when I had to stop quickly.  THANK GOD no one saw that.  Was I a horrible mother for any of these things?  I really don't think so.

It's hard to be a parent these days with so many cameras rolling and people watching your every move.
Maybe parenting classes would be a good idea in high schools…just another responsibility for teachers…

And that's a story for another day.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A dream come true!

I don't even know where to start…

So I'll start at the beginning.  A couple of months ago Alecia Derrickson posted on FB that Teresa Caputo was coming to Nutter Center in Dayton.   (Alecia's son Bradley was a friend of Nick's in middle school.  Bradley was struck by lightening the day after his birthday and died four days later. The 20 year anniversary was yesterday-I was really hoping she would get a reading too!)

Donny and I have been watching her show - The Long Island Medium for a couple of years, and I really wanted to go.  So I joined her fan club so I could get tickets before they went on sale to the general public - ended up getting pretty good seats.  They weren't on the floor, but the first row off the floor - right on the aisle.  GREAT seats actually.

After about a 20 minute intro, she came into the audience and started doing readings.  She asked "who lost a child in a car accident and has a piece of the car?"  A family to our left and up several rows came down and were standing to our left on the steps.    She came our way and stood right in front of me and Jennifer!

After she talked to that family, she said "who has a thumbprint necklace?"  I was close enough that I didn't need to get her attention - I just said "I do".  

I don't actually remember the sequence of the questions she asked (thank God my sister in law and brother in law were there - when we met up with them afterward, Jan filled me in on what I missed!)

She said something about the military, and my friend Jennifer kind of whispered to me "that could be Larry" (her brother who passed away)…but she didn't want to speak up.

Teresa said something about "a mother who passed?
I can' t remember how or why I told her my grandson and brother passed also -
She said "what does the #5 mean to you?  Or the month of May (5th month)

…I've been to a medium several times.  Every time I go it's for 1/2 hour.  He'll say a lot of things or ask questions that I just can't figure out what he's talking about - until I get home and listen to the CD.  Then Donny is listening and says "this is what he's talking about!"    Sometimes you just can't think as fast as they ask questions.

Like the #5.  Melissa's birthday is the 5th of January.  But all I could think of was my mom's birthday is in May.  Ok.  It's your mom…but she could tell that it wasn't my mom that I wanted to come through…she even said that.  She goes "sometimes the ones you want to come through don't come through."

Then she said "I'm feeling like there was something with the chest - like fluid" ( When Melissa was in the hospital she had fluid around her lungs because of the cancer in her lungs)…then I told her "that's my daughter"… and she said "you lost your Mother, your daughter, your brother and your grandson?"
Yes.  She said "your mom is taking care of all of them."

She also said "you have something of hers…a purse, a backpack, something like that, it still has everything in it…"  I have the fanny pack that she used when we did the 3 day walk in Atlanta…it still has all her pins on it and all the stuff she put in it for the walk.   I have one just like it and I still have mine too.  I think I carried hers in the first walk I did without her in 2009.  I don't have her purse though….

My sister in law said (she also said something about a fireman - Melissa's grandpa was a fireman and she said something about Freebird.  Jan thinks Melissa was saying FIREBIRD NOT FREEBIRD!)
She probably was!!!!  Teresa just didn't know what a Firebird was!

The other thing - as she was walking away from me, she turned around and said "Do butterflies mean anything to you?"


I'm pretty happy.

On the way home, Jan texted me and said "Guess what song is on the radio????"
She didn't even tell me.  I knew…

VIVA LA VIDA.  Melissa was there.

But she stepped back and let my mom come through.  Interesting thing too…my mom passed away May 20, 2007.  I had two dreams about my mom in the last week…first time since she passed away. I think she was letting me know she was going to be there.  And the other thing - every time I go to Thomas Windlow (the medium I go to) he says "Your mom wants to know why you don't talk to her.  You need to talk to your mom more."  or "your mom wants to know why you don't ask about her?"

I'm working on that.  My mom and I had unfinished business.  I never got to ask her HOW IN THE WORLD do you live without one of your children?  (because she lost a child too - my brother)…my mom died about a year and a half before Melissa, and I never thought to ask her.  Because I didn't want to think about losing my daughter…

Another interesting thing happened when we first got there.  Right when we walked in the door, I saw someone that looked VERY familiar…and if you know me, I am at the point in my life where I don't just sit back and wonder where I know them from, I ask.  So I went up to this girl (who was standing with two other people) and I said "Did you go to Moraine Meadows?" (the school where I worked), and she said "No. I went to Centerville."  My response to her was "then you have a twin"…she looked at me kind of funny and said "I do.  She's right here" and pointed to the girl standing next to her…who looked NOTHING like her.  (she had dark hair, her twin had blonde hair).  As Jennifer and I walked away, I was trying to think of who she looked like…and it hit me.  She looked JUST LIKE Sunday Coffee, one of my former students from Moraine Meadows…who passed away a couple of years ago.  Weird.  Really weird.

During the show, as Teresa walked around the arena, several cameras followed her around - if you got a reading, you were on the big screen on the stage - you could see Teresa and the people that were getting readings.   Another one of my former students (Donnie Phelps) was there too - and found me afterward to tell me that "when she said something about the butterflies I KNEW it was your daughter!

So anyway, I'd say I got my money's worth tonight.  Whether or not you believe, or you are skeptical, my feeling is, if it gets me through another day…that's all that matters.

I KNOW she comes through - and I'm beginning to realize I need to talk to my mom more too.

One more thing…she talked a little about her fan club.  Once the fan club started making money, she turns it around and gives it back to people in her fan club in the form of trips, and gift cards and readings among other things.

Also, a reading from her is $150 (I think - maybe $175) and if you have a group reading, it's $50 per person.  All that money goes to charity.  One of the charities it Wounded Warriors.

Might take a year or so, but if anyone would be interested, I'd schedule a group reading.  Let me know!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Little things mean a LOT!

I don't think people understand how much little things mean…at least to me and Donny.  And I think I can speak for most bereaved parents.

Jim Jabir, head basketball coach for the women at University of Dayton.

Back in the fall I saw a picture on Facebook of the UD Women's team at the Making Strides Breast Cancer Walk in downtown Dayton.  They were wearing black, long sleeve t-shirts with DAYTON in hot pink across the front (found out later there is a breast cancer ribbon on the back).  I wanted one, so I posted under the picture asking where I could get one.  A couple weeks later I got a message from the basketball office.  They would order the shirts for me.  Of course I had to tell them that this is a cause close to my heart…and a little about Melissa.  After a few messages back and forth, I was invited to stop at a practice-to give the team FORT bracelets.  At that practice, they asked if I wanted to talk to the  team about Melissa and breast cancer.  I did - just about how Melissa was young and athletic like them - and to be proactive if they noticed any changes in their bodies.  About 5 minutes.  Then passed out the bracelets to the team and the coaches.   I remember Jim Jabir put his on and gave me a hug.

Fast forward through the winter.  Most of you know that winter is really a hard time for us.  Holidays are hard, then Melissa's anniversary and her birthday.  We get through the winter watching basketball.  Specifically Fairmont's girls team, and in the last five years, UD (since Cassie Sant started playing there-she was the first recipient of Melissa's award for the Basketball team)-now Notre Dame (Kathryn Westbeld) and Ohio State.  I think without basketball I would sleep through the winter.  

ANYWAY…I remember watching one of the UD women's games on tv and I SWEAR I thought I saw Jim Jabir wearing his FORT bracelet.  Then last week, there was a picture in the paper of Jabir -it was with the article about the Flyers in the Sweet Sixteen.  Sure enough, he DID have his FORT bracelet on (photo above).  

UD had a celebration the day after the Sweet Sixteen for the Women's and Men's teams.  We took the kids.  Afterward, we got a chance to talk to Jim Jabir.  I asked him if he remembered me - that I talked to the team in the fall.  He said he did and he asked me how I was doing.  Then Donny asked him about the bracelet…he said "I never take it off.  Did you know it glows in the dark?"  We talked for a few more minutes and then got a few pictures of the girls.

Ally Mallott

Me & Jim Jabir wearing FORT bracelets!

Andrea HOOVER!

Ok - so the point of this long winded intro.  It doesn't take much to make Donny and me happy.
Just seeing someone wearing their FORT bracelet makes our day.  Something SO little…

Donny's nephew Ryan had a tryout for the NFL…he wore it too.

And Melissa's friends occasionally send us notes or messages about little stories they remember about her.  Or pictures they find that they know we would love.

So if you ever wonder if you should make that phone call, or send that picture or story if it really matters…it DOES.  

We talk all the time about downsizing.  Getting rid of all the clutter…all the things that we've held onto for years … for WHAT?  I look in some of the boxes of things we've packed away and shake my head - why in the hell did I pack that?  Why didn't I just get rid of it????

Funny how your priorities change when you lose a child.  Things that used to be important - material things specifically - just seem, I don't know, trivial?  

Important things are the memories.  The stories.  And pictures.  

Thank you Jim Jabir, Ryan, Stacy, Annie, Ang, Lola, Kat, Tammy & Philly, Crazy Legs, KJ, Stewy, Pauly, Netti, Krause, Aunt Helen, Jami, Jeanette,Amber ….OMG, I need to go through all my things and get EVERYONE's name who has remembered Melissa with a story, pictures, memory.  I wish I could thank you all personally.  Maybe I shouldn't list names because I can't think of them all right now, but I want you to know that we appreciate what you do.  That you remember Melissa (FORT) to us.

Please don't stop.  

And of course the big things make us happy too.  The FORT 5K - sponsored by the Fairmont Girls Basketball team this year - THANK YOU Lacy Romine and all the coaches and parents (Shannon Hughes) for working on making this a huge event.  There's another quilt being raffled off this year - this  one will have a FORT 5K t-shirt in the center.  Haven't seen it yet, but I've heard it's beautiful!

This year's 5K will be held Saturday April 25 at Trent Arena (just like last year) - besides the 5K, there will be baskets and the quilt raffle.  

You can register online ( - or you can register the day of the event!

Hope we see you there!



Hard to believe, but Andrew is 7….I look back on his baby pictures of him with Melissa…and makes me sad that he doesn't remember her.  But he KNOWS her.  Even have videos of him with her.

It was a fun day - a party at Wings and Rings with his friends and their parents.  Melissa was there too… heard Viva La Vida playing during the party!  Another little thing that makes us happy!

I love the "silly" pictures.  Always the best!

Our birthday boy!

Andrew and G.G.

His favorite. Legos.  Put together in a little over an hour.

Since they were on spring break on different weeks, I got to spend 
time with them individually…took each of them to the
Air Force Museum.  Great way to wear them out, 
and they love it!

Nap time!

And of course got to spend Easter Sunday with them…
another little thing that makes us happy.

On the way to visit Melissa on Easter Sunday, we pulled up behind this car.
A FORTE with an OHIO University license.  Perfect.  Another sign.
Another "little thing" that makes us SO happy.
We love you and miss you so much Melissa-so happy you haven't forgotten us!

Another little thing that makes me really happy?  My dad is happy.  My first priority was that he was safe…and I found a place where he is safe.  And, it's only been a couple of weeks, but I think he's finding his nitch in his new place.  Yesterday they had "Karaoke with Irv" and Ice Cream.  I told him the other day it sounded like he was making a lot of new friends,  He said "Yeah.  Everybody's getting to know me."    I shouldn't be surprised.  He's very social.  I just didn't think it would happen so soon.

So for us, we are getting rid of the clutter in our life - in lots of ways.  Hanging on to all the memories, appreciate the important things…family, friends and our kids friends too.  

Anybody need anything?  We probably have it.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Home at last!

It's been a LONG month.  Actually longer than a month.  But I'm home.

Like Fort, I like to post things in order-but I want to start with my visit to dad's tax man.  Turned out to be a pretty amazing morning.

Besides getting dad moved into assisted living, I needed to get his taxes done before I came home.  He had almost everything I needed stacked up on his dining room table when we got there.  I just needed to take it to his tax guy and get it done.

I knew that he was someone dad knew from the VFW, but nothing else about him.   What a surprise I had on store for me…

Donna stayed back at dad's to pack things that we were going to move to his new apartment that afternoon.  When I got to John Gaynor's house, he invited me to his office.  I handed him the manila envelope with all of dad's tax papers and he started going through them.  Then I started looking around the room…WOW.  It was like a mini WWII Museum.  Mostly D-Day stuff.

Then I looked to my left - I was sitting next to a bookshelf.  Right next to me on the shelf was what looked like a Purple Heart.  So I asked him if it was a Purple Heart.  He said "Yes.  I got two of them".
I asked if I could take a picture of it - he said "sure".

Then he pointed out a picture of a church on the wall.  "That's Ste. Mere Eglise.  We parachuted over that church just after midnite on D-Day."

This is John in front of the church at the 70th Anniversary.  Note on the church steeple the parachute (there is also a mannequin hanging from the parachute).  As I was taking pictures, I was texting Donny and Nick and telling them the story.  Donny works at the base and has a friend who is very interested in WWII.  He asked if the church was the same church that was portrayed in the movie "The Longest Day" where Red Buttons portrayed the paratrooper who got hung up on the church steeple.  I asked John, and he said "Yes.  That was Jack Steele.  He's a buddy of mine".  Nick got online to check out the cast of the movie, and Red Buttons played John Steele.

This is his invitation to the 70th Anniversary Ceremony

Some other random shots in his office…

John visits schools in the Melbourne area, and two seniors at a local high school interviewed John and wrote this story that he shared with me:

June 7, 2014

It was a cold, clear night on June 6, 1944, the day an 18 year old soldier jumped out of a C-47 into the dark, limitless sky, stumbling into the soon to be war zone.  As this anxious soldier landed in Ste. Mere Eglise, his job as a path finder was to find and illuminate the desired drop site for the following paratroopers.  Today, after 70 years, John Gaynor was able to relive this memory for the first time back in this village.

With street vendors and souvenir shops, this town was nothing like John remembered, except for the beautiful church in the middle of the square with the well-known mannequin of his friend John Steele hanging from the steeple.  Although his first experience in this town was fraught with fear, today, we hope, he experienced the feeling of honor and gratitude from the people who thanked and appreciated his service in liberating Ste. Mere Eglise.  We think everybody could see the spark in his eyes as we walked through those old, quaint streets.

John Gaynor belonged to the 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Regiment who made four combat jumps as a paratrooper in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, and Holland.  He served in the U.S. Army for 30 years with more experiences than our time with him would allow us to tell.  A few of these include the liberation of the concentration camp of Ludwigslust, Germany and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.  John is not a man who shows a lot of emotion but people can see in his face and conversation that he is proud of his service and life as a whole.  He tells people the key to his perseverance in getting through war and life is humor and honesty.

One last story that was very special to John that occurred this day was an introduction to a person he thought he would never meet.  It all began with a young woman, Juliette, who planned to be married on June 6, 1944.  Unfortunately, D-Day interrupted the young couple's plans and the wedding was postponed.  This young bride, however, was so thankful that her hometown was liberated by the Americans that she received an address of one American soldier and wrote several letters and postcards to him.  She expressed her gratitude for what he did even though her big day was nothing like she imagined.  

Seventy years later, John wondered if she was still in this area and living.  By chance, we came across a radio station who was looking for a good story and they jumped at the chance to locate this lady.  They were successful and took John to Juliette's house, which was surprisingly only 15 minutes away.   John said it was amazing to meet this grateful lady after all these years and that she actually remembered who he was!

This day couldn't have been more honoring for John Gaynor  We are so privileged to know this man and share in this experience with him.  Hopefully throughout the rest of the trip we are able to express how grateful we are for him and his service.

Tim Banowetz - Senior
Becca Mallette - Senior


Evidently these students travelled with John to the ceremony.  What an honor that was!

Here is a photo from Juliette -

John said she was just 15 years old when she was to be married in 1944!

After the war, the church, Ste. Mere Eglise, put in this stained glass window with the Blessed Virgin surrounded by paratroopers.  Beautiful!

This is John, "the liberator" signing autographs for residents of Ste. Mere Eglise.

John, working on dad's taxes (all while sharing stories from WWII!)  Notice the bottles in the background - and the sign on the wall… "LET'S PARTY"… 90 years old and still loves a good party!

Me and John.  I really did meet him!

This meeting was the first day of moving my dad into assisted living.  I wish I could have spent the whole day with John - I could listen to his stories all day.  When Donny & I go back in a couple of months, we're going to get together so Donny can meet him too. What an amazing man with an amazing story.  So thankful I got the opportunity to meet him!

Thank you for your service to this country John Gaynor!  


I thought that was a pretty good story to start with!  Now my adventure with dad.  

When we got to Florida, he was in rehab.  A wonderful rehab center - he was there last fall too.  My intention when we got there was one of two things - either he was moving to assisted living, or he was coming back to Dayton with us.

He was adamant that he did not want to come back to Ohio.  Having companion care for even 12 hours a day was unaffordable.  But telling him he had to move out of his place was not going to be easy.  
We requested the assistance of his family doctor, who agreed to talk to dad when he came to the Rehab Center.    Figured dad would listen to his doctor before he listened to us.

Unfortunately, dad had been having these episodes where he was blacking out.  He was also having TIAs (mini strokes).  The doctor was supposed to come in on Monday.  On Sunday morning, he had one of the episodes - probably one of the worst ones.  It was an opportunity for us to tell him that he couldn't go home.  He needed to be in a place where he would have round the clock care, if he needed it.  

A few weeks before when dad was in the hospital, I had talked to them about the possibility of moving him to assisted living.  They agreed that he needed 24/7 care.  They referred me to Care Patrol, a company that works to help people find Assisted Living.  I spoke with Rob Graham multiple times before getting to Florida.  He wanted to meet dad before setting up visits to facilities.  The problem was, we hadn't told dad yet.  So the day Rob came to visit, I told dad "hey look, I ran into an old friend here!  He wanted to meet you!"  I think I told him he was an old friend from school.  Dad was happy to meet him - happy that someone else was there besides me and Donna!  They had a nice conversation.  
What Rob was doing was getting to know dad to determine which facilities we were going to visit.
After we told dad he would have to go into assisted living, I said "remember my friend that you met the other day?  Your not going to believe what he does for a living!  He helps people find assisted living!" Little white lies, but no harm done.  He was ok with it!

So Rob set up visits to three different places.  All very nice.  Then dad said he wanted a place close to where he lived.  There was a place about a mile from dad's and Rob wasn't crazy about it, but he took us to visit.  Dad's only question was "does it have a big parking lot?"  He wanted to be sure he could take his car.  (He didn't know it yet, but that was the next thing to go).  
Anyway, we took dad to visit two places, my first choice and the one by his place (which wasn't very clean, had just had a flu outbreak).  On the way back to rehab, I said "we need to talk about this.  Let's compare the two places.  The first one is close to your place, and it has a big parking lot.  Those are the positives.  But if we compare the two, one is a Holiday Inn, and the other is a palace.  I want my dad to live like a king."  

After a lot of talking, and convincing, he finally agreed to MY first choice.  (The reason it was my first choice was it was very clean, right on the Indian River, they check on him every two hours - including in the middle of the night - nice dining room with a chef, nice bar looking out on the Indian River, Nurses night and day, would take care of his meds, clean his apartment, do his laundry, transportation to the grocery, WalMart, Walgreen) It was definitely the best choice.

Had to get all the arrangements made for movers, buy him a new bed, get his things packed at his house and moved.  In two days.  We moved one load on Thursday, movers came Friday (the 13th) morning and his bed was delivered at 8:30 that morning.  And he was calling at 9 a.m. "WHEN ARE YOU COMING TO GET ME???"  He had no clue the work that was going on behind the scenes.    We picked him up at 11 and took him to his new place.  Wow.  He walked in and it was just like walking into his "old" place.  We moved lots of pictures, some of his furniture, almost all of his clothes, some of his kitchen stuff.  He was pretty impressed.

Before moving out of Life Care Center, had to get some photos of his caregivers…they were AWESOME!

Above, dad and his nurse, Bonnie, and CNA Kathy (he called her smily- she was wonderful!)

Below, Carissa, his speech therapist.  She was amazing too.

(Just a note, while he was in Life Care Center, I became friends with three of his caregivers who had also lost a child - Ruby, who worked in the office, lost her son. He was in his 20s.  Carissa lost a baby, and one of housekeepers I became friends with lost a son also.  We are everywhere.  And somehow, we meet and we share our stories.  Helps to know I'm not alone.  Pretty sure our kids put us together. Thanks Melissa.)

So here are his new digs….

Looking out of his balcony at the Indian River - the Eau Gallie causeway is to the left.

Trying out his new bed...

Relaxing in his very own recliner (he just bought a couple of months ago!)

Having his first lunch in the dining room.

Sitting on the patio.

His new place.

A better view out his balcony!

That's his kitchen behind him - fridge and microwave - that's all he needs!

That was Friday.  It was good (for the most part).  Saturday was the day for the NEXT bomb to drop…
We were sitting by the pool relaxing and I started with "Wow.  Things having really gone well.  A lot of good things have happened in the last couple of weeks dad….I talked to your doctor yesterday.  He is not releasing you to drive."  His reaction was EXACTLY what I expected.  "BULLSHIT.  I will do whatever I want, dammit!  Sit down and shut up!!!!"  So I did.  I knew he needed some time to digest all this change…Five minutes later, he grabbed my hand and said "Except for this, you've done a great job.  I love you."  Wow.  Didn't expect THAT.  He seemed to be okay with it.  After just five minutes. I think he knew it was time.  He just wasn't going to down without a fight.  The next night, we went to the VFW for Karaoke.  There were probably 50 people there.  All very happy to see dad. (He always says everyone loves him.  It's true. I saw it with my own eyes!)  A lot of them pulled me aside to ask how he was doing.  I told them that he moved into assisted living and he wasn't driving anymore.  If he wanted to go to the VFW he would need to get a ride.  Everyone said they would help him out.  
Now, he just needs to make the phone calls for that!

Had a couple of visitors after he moved in - his friend Steve stopped by, then my cousins - his nieces and nephew and their spouses.  They visited the day before St. Patty's Day, so we decided to have lunch at Meg O'Malleys - local Irish Pub.  Had a great day!

Sharon & Jim and Donna

Me and Dad

Hugh, Patty and Sharon

Sharon & Jim

Tom & Mary

Hugh, Patty, Jim, Sharon, Tom, Mary, Donna, Dad, me

They LOVED dad's place - and that made it even better for him.  He really enjoyed the visit.
So did we.

That night, we told him we were leaving on Wednesday.  With his car.  He argued that for a few minutes, but gave up.  He knew.  Then he said "You can't leave Wednesday.  I have karaoke at City Limits on Wednesday."  So we compromised.  Since we were taking his car, we would take him to karaoke and leave on Thursday.

It's what he LOVES to do.  Sing.  So he did!

It was really hard to leave him.  I was having separation anxiety.  But it was ok.  I knew I was leaving him in good hands.  He was safe…and he would be happy.

I called him on Friday and he was ok.  He went to breakfast in the dining room - and lunch in the dining room.  People were sitting with him.  Monday, they took their shuttle to WalMart.  He went.  Yesterday he got his hair cut (they have a barber shop too) AND a shower.  (that's a big deal for my dad!)

Oh.  One thing I forgot.  About six weeks ago, dad called from Verizon. He's due for an upgrade on his (flip) phone.  He called me and said "tell them what I want".  I said "I don't know what you want dad." He said "THIS ONE."  Um.  I can't see it dad. Im not there.  Then after multiple discussions with the clerk, it was decided that we would wait until I got there "in the spring" to pick one out.  Not knowing that I would be there a week later. So anyway, that was one of the last things we did.  Took him to Verizon to pick out a new phone.  He went right up to the one he wanted.  An IPhone. UGH.
I think its an iPhone 7.  Whatever the newest one is.  And you know what.  I bought it.  I took away his house, I took away his car, and I felt a little guilty.  So I bought him a new toy.  I told him he had two weeks - he had to be able to answer the phone and make phone calls.  I left him handwritten instructions on how to do both.  So far, he's done a pretty good job.  And my cousin called today and said "I Face Timed your dad and he answered!"  She said he looked good and looked happy - and then he started pushing buttons - he must have muted it because she couldn't hear him.  But he's doing ok with it.  

Who woulda thunk…my 84 (almost 85) year old dad with an iPhone.  Not me.  Melissa would love it!


Got home on Friday.  Exhausted.  Now I have to get MY house in order.  Pay bills.  Just get reacclimated to Ohio.  And it's weather.  Yuk.  But it's good to be home.

Got home in time to attend the Fairmont Girls Basketball Banquet.  So proud of Lindsay - after tearing her ACL the first game of the season, she hung on with the team the entire season.  She was an inspiration - it was evident by the comments by her coaches and teammates.  She earned The Coaches Award.  Probably the most prestiges award given.  

We are so proud of you Lindsay!  Melissa would be too - I remember going to see you play when you were in grade school - Melissa and I both went - she was really impressed with your basketball skills THEN.  She would be so proud of you NOW.  

Fourth year in a row we had our picture with Lindsay as District Champs!


Alyssa (will be playing in college) Lindsay, and Shea (will be playing for High Point, NC)

Senior DeChelle Roe was awarded the Melissa Fortener McLaughlin B POSITIVE Spirit Award.
DeChelle faced a lot of adversity, not just in basketball, but all her life, and faced it with a positive attitude.  She's going to Wright State next year.  Great choice for Melissa's award!

Congratulations DeChelle!


Busy week back.  Now I'm celebrating the birthdays I missed - 

Happy Birthday Jennifer!

Happy Birthday Roxy!

Happy Birthday Carol!


So much to post - I should do this once a week instead of once every two months…

Forgot to mention that Melissa's friend Stacy has enrolled us in the


We got our first letter with photos/captions/stories in January.  Second one in February.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  And again…

Melissa, you chose some AWESOME friends.  
They remember you to us.  Nothing makes us happier.  

Love you miss you EVERY SINGLE DAY Melissa.


It's so good to be home….