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….