Happy Birthday, Dad!

Dad died on my birthday in 2014.  Was there any significance in that? Was it a warning of some sort? A weird coincidence? Those thoughts have been among the many as I wish Dad a happy birthday, in Heaven. I know Dad is in heaven because he was saved through the grace of God, because his wife was”Born Again.”

1 Corinthians 7:14 English Standard Version (ESV) 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

Dad was not unbelieving but he was not pure either.  See, I know without a doubt of his happiness with Mom as they rise each morning in each other’s arms.  They had a strong love for one another while here on earth. They imparted knowledge and goodness in the hearts of their children. They now care for each other the day long while they go about their tasks.

Always happy Dad with little Steph whom he teased, “You’re pretty, almost pretty as me.”

Dad was also taught the crudeness of this world at a young age (thirteen) and worked nearly everyday until his death at age eighty-four.  He loved work and that’s what he did his whole life…Saturday, Sunday, it made no difference to him and as a matter-of-fact seven days a week were best. He had to quit school and get a job after his parochial days had come to an end.  An eighth grade education. No high school.

Dad couldn’t understand people retiring, “What the hell do they do all day?”

He passed life-lessons on to those who would listen and did so in in a lighthearted way.  Dad had a grand understanding of the way of the world. That understanding left his heart stained and blocked God from working real blessings in his life.  He was a good man. Dad’s integrity was unshakable, fair and just.

He made many happy customers from all walks of life – and through each business he owned.  He was never a pretentious man. He made many friends and associates through his, home decorating services, and carpet store. Long after most of his colleagues and friends had either retired or died – our dad bought and turned a doomed restaurant into a success, his age, eighty-one.

Dad’s Pizza pie at his Romolo’s restaurant, love you, Dad.

Dad possessed the Midas touch and was successful with his decorating business – his carpet store – and his restaurant.  The latter was his ruin; in part for wanting to care for everybody.  Bothered greatly that he was unable to assuage everybody’s problems, he went to be with Dorothy in Heaven.

Though raised a Catholic (was even an altar boy at Saint Pat’s) he turned on the Catholic faith because of what he and his eventual wife (Dorothy) were told by the priest before marrying.  When the priest told Dad that he had to sign a paper pledging to raise their children in that faith…Dad would not do it.  He wouldn’t allow anybody to tell him how to raise his kids, not yet here.

Christmas, 1968, Peggy, me, Dad, Linda and David
Dad standing behind me and my siblings…Christmas long ago

Me and my siblings knew of the parent’s sincerity to each other.  They were just two young kids starting out.  Doing the best they knew how and even with their foibles they were exceptional parents, always setting a good example.  When Mom or Dad had a hard time with anything at all, it was each other they looked to, and received their comfort from.

Happy Birthday, Dad!


Autumn 1947 - 18 years
1948 – My handsome father


1948 - 17 years

My beautiful mother –



Still Dancing…2016

My father died on March 11, 2014.  March 11 also happens to be my birthday and as I consider birthdays past Dad’s smiling face is always there – always.

He could magically envision a dilapidated house in disrepair and have David (my brother) and myself renew it to a beautiful home once again, under his specifications of course.  My brother nor I nor anybody else I knew could do the things that Dad could do.

Dad never made millions in real estate though because instead of just fixing them up enough to sell for his profit…Dad would fall in love with each one.   He would turn the properties into doll houses that were pleasing to the eye.  He saw a beautiful, and wonderful world – through – kind, rose colored glasses.

His self-assuredness was a quality held in high esteem by me.  Dad was many things to many people but shy was not one of those things. Never have I seen a person with such integrity. I do not mean to say that he was a saint…not by any stretch of the imagination.  However, he was always true to himself and held tightly to his beliefs. Dad could not be swayed.  He listened to and respected everybody’s opinion before telling them they were wrong hahaha.

Dad was smart.   I don’t know where it came from, but he was as intelligent as anybody with a degree.  And he was super fast with all he attempted.  I remember a post accident afternoon when I returned from Inver Hills Community College; Dad had the guys dressing up the front of one his buildings and his friend, Tommy, was there.  

Tommy asked me, “Where are you coming from?”  

I told him and then he said, “Aren’t you smart enough yet?  You’re over thirty years old.”  It was a miracle that I was alive.  “Your dad was so smart he quit school in the eighth grade (Dad had to quit to help support their large family, seventeen in all)and you’re in your thirties and still trying to learn, give it up.”

I didn’t say anything because he was a good friend to Dad.  Dad wished that he could’ve gone to college and I wish that he would’ve also.  Then maybe he wouldn’t have been so tough on us kids for wanting a better education.  Dad was always so proud of our cousins who went on to a college or played sports but when it came to his kids…

Dad would get angry when we spoke of going to college and would say, “What d’ya wanna  go to college for (the time was in the late sixties and early seventies)  All ya’ learn how to do is smoke dope and protest!  The professors teach that shit to the kids”  End of subject.

I recall driving with Dad down the alley towards White Bear Avenue.  As we sat waiting for the cars to pass on the avenue I asked him a question.  It probably wasn’t a good time as we were on the lookout for my older brother who’d run away.  

I asked, “Dad could I join the Golden Gloves?” I thought that would make him proud.

Instead his reply was, “Aw Steve, what d’ya wanna do that for?  You’re a good-looking kid.  Ya’ start boxing and you’ll get a broken nose and cauliflower ears, you don’t wanna do that.”  But at the time it was exactly what I wanted to do.

Linda was smart and hid to go to school and she’s done well for herself.

Peggy did great at first being a secretary-receptionist and later a nurse…and eventually a fantastic day-care provider.   

Dad focused most of his energy on David and his family after my car wreck.  He created in David a wealthy man.  Nearly all he touched, well Dad had the “Midas Touch.”  

Dad did what he thought was right regarding, Fred.  And he always said usually in an angry tone, “That’s it – I’m not giving him anymore money,” but he always did.  Dad would tell me…”He can’t work.  What’s he gonna’ do? I’ll just try to take care of him the best I can until I die.”  

I remember working with him back in the eighties and during that time I had a home built in the country on some acreage and the place was furnished and decorated nicely.  We had a couple newer cars and a new truck.  Things that’s all, but at the time…must haves.  

Dad helped us all in one way or another and accomplished much.  I am and I always was proud of him.

My dad was a real superman to me!  He is sorely missed by all who knew him.  But you know what?  Now Mom and Dad are together in heaven awaiting the glorious reunion yet to come and I can’t wait to hear Dad singing  that Little Jimmie Dickens song  again…”Out Behind the Barn,” or maybe his spirit and Mom’s will be dancing to a polka or floating to the “Tennessee Waltz.”  

Until next year folks…..

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Church Family

My Sister Warned Me

“Steph – Steph,” I sobbed… I tenderly brushed her hair with my hand. What happened… I need to calm down and think.  

We were just giving each other a hug when she began backing up, smiling and talking nonsensical.  Was she joking with me as we so often do?  No. She’s not responding. There’s no movement!

I got to my feet and was going to fetch the cellphone back in my room at the other end of the apartment when I heard a soft, “What am I doing on the floor?”

I wondered what I should do? Continue on to get the phone and call 911 or hug and reassure my precious Stephanie that everything was okay?  I dropped to my knees and wrapped my arms around the angel pulling her into me and hugging maybe too tightly.

Stephanie seemed as confused as I was, “What happened,” I asked?

“I don’t know Dad?  I was giving you a hug but things turned all black on me.  Next thing I know here I am on the floor and you are standing above me.  Can you tell me what happened?”

“I don’t know either Steph?  I do know that I felt helpless as I watched you fall back and I couldn’t get to you to hold you up.  I watched as your head just missed the corner of the dresser. How are you feeling?”

“That was really crazy,” dazed Stephanie said.

“All I know is that you jumped off your bed and ran over to hug me.  Following the hug you began, in slow motion going back from me and looking distantly into space and saying some words that I couldn’t understand.  That was it – you passed out.  I began freaking out, praying out loud…Please, please, please bring her back to me.  Immediately I started asking myself what I should do?  When you woke up I was on my way to the bedroom to get my cellphone; I didn’t know where yours was or even how to get into it.   You sure you feel all right?”  

“Yeah Dad, I feel fine.”

“Well come on then and I will make you an omelette and toast and I’ll give you a sliced up orange (that’s why you passed out you know…not enough fruits and vegetables, a good time to slip that in.)  You aren’t getting the proper nutrients.”

Then I remembered reading somewhere that fainting is a sign of dehydration, so I had her drink a bottle of Dasani while waiting for her breakfast. I remarked about how great she was looking and acting.

“Can I still have my karate lesson today?”

“I guess if you are absolutely sure you’re feeling okay,” and I continued making her cheese omelette…..

A few hours later…”Okay now, you be sure to tell Phil about your passing out this morning and ask if he thinks karate would be all right for you today.  Take it easy if that’s possible in karate.  You can exercise your beautiful mind.”

Just as she walked in the door our good friends Mel & Joyce pulled up in their shiny, black new truck.  They had rescued us from this spot a while back when my car wouldn’t start and so they knew that Steph and I were here every Saturday.  Of course I told them what had happened to Steph earlier and that I planned to take her to a doctor after her lesson.

Joyce said, “Yeah, she is probably all right, but you should do that just to put your mind at ease.  It’s scary, I remember when it happened to my daughter.  Stephanie probably just got up too fast but get the doctor’s opinion.”  

Before we made the move to the “Show Me” State my sister tried to dissuade me from moving somewhere without family by saying, “What will you do if, heaven forbid, something should happen to either one of you? Who would you call?”

I do have family here; my church family.  And some will be here tonight to celebrate, Jesus’ Birth, together.

Just to let everybody know, the doctor concluded that Stephanie got up too fast.  The kid just has to slow it down a little.

We love you all and wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Stephanie was telling me this morning that, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.”

“How come,” I replied but I had already been feeling blue for a many days now.

“Haven’t you noticed Dad?  There’s no snow and it’s gonna’ be about 65 degrees tomorrow.  It just doesn’t feel right because there’s no snow.”

I replied, “I know.  Isn’t it great?”

We both chuckled.  We finished our breakfast and then went to buy some groceries.

Later in the evening I finished my Christmas shopping for Stephanie. Mostly assorted fashion jewelry to put in the jewelry armoire I have hidden in my closet.  Here’s the thing though.  The .com website I purchased the items from advertised, “Free – 2 Day Delivery.”

About ten minutes later I get the receipt and it said delivery between Dec 30 to January 6.  Oh no…I phoned them immediately, but to my chagrin those dates could not be changed because the order had already gone to its first stop.

Stephanie neglected to tell me about the shirts she had been wanting until Monday and there is a four to six week delay on those.  I guess the only gift she will have by the tree is that  jewelry armoire and some cashmere-lined gloves that “I got a deal on” purchased online but which cannot be returned, I hope they fit her.

It is so difficult for me to assimilate and though I’ve been here for six months already…Well I am really excited about Christmas 2016.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday Evening Shadows…

Sunday we had a Rigatoni dinner with delicious sauce I had simmering for a couple of hours.  The entire apartment was in an Italian state-of-mind as the aroma of onions, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms filled the air.  The fragrance was heavenly to me or to anybody of Italian descent, I bet.  After eating one helping, and holding back on more because…

Steph had a Christmas Party to attend at the pastor’s home in a couple of hours and they were having Chili, I was also invited. Stephanie was so worried because she thought we were late…and we were.  

I could’ve sworn it didn’t begin until a half an hour later, at six, but I told her we’d be okay, “I’ll just drive backwards.  We’ll be there on time and besides you told me at first that you didn’t want to go,”

“I know, but I finished my homework.”

I took Steph into his home and was again asked to stay, but I went back into the darkness to learn my way around that area of Ozark (the city not the Ozark Mountains).  Many hills and blind intersections, but thankfully, not many turns   It is winter here too and the wind was whipping and howling, as the rain pelted the windshield of the car.  

I was unable to see much of anything.  The pastor’s house, though, was too crowded for me so there was no turning back. I made my way to the familiar highway and pulled into a wayside rest (not posted) but it was a driveway off the highway and only about a quarter mile down from my turnoff to get Steph.

The rain kept up while parked there and I realized that I’d seen too many spook shows because my phone’s battery went dead and I didn’t have a car charger. My mind started to wander…

A couple o’ hill folk (used to call them hillbillies) coming up to the car and rapping on the side widow – one on each side sure didn’t help with the anxious moments.  I mean, they probably don’t get much company out this-a-way.  Seeing a strange car parked at the end of their drive they had to investigate.

I cracked my window just enough to hear one another, “Are ya’ll lost,” he asked?

His friend or brother kept rapping on the other window waving for me to get out of the car and go with them to their house.  He eagerly pointed to the raingear he was holding and offering me to put on; maybe it was just some plastic cut from a roll.

That was enough for me.  I started the car and turned on the wipers – high speed – and said, “The car is running fine now so I’ll be on my way.  I have to pick up my daughter in Highlandville, just up the road a piece.”

I pulled out of their gravel drive with the house set way back yonder as the two guys – one carrying the load and the other standing there with a long machete type blade strapped to his leg that shone so plainly in the rearview mirror.  

I slam my foot down on the accelerator – driving off as fast as I could. I kept looking behind me, the sounds of the two guys chasing me, their eyes pits of black. I didn’t know my way back, and it was dark, with dead branches that towered over me. The black road blended with the night sky.  I drove blindly, still going straight but up and down with those two guys always behind me.

Then I saw a light up ahead. It must be the pastor’s house! With tires screeching and my ears ringing – bdonk – my right front sunk down and I don’t recall being that happy before. I remember that pothole at the end of the drive from when I dropped Steph off.  I’m at the right place and safe at last, safe at last; thank God Almighty – I’m safe at last.  

I pulled into the driveway.  When I looked back, the two guys were gone.  Was it merely a  hallucination?  Really, did I imagine the whole thing?  

I drove back to that spot the next day and saw this hill person sitting on a rock so I snapped his picture and I don’t think he cared…..


Days Past and Days New

Me in the red shirt, age 13, Dad bending down to fit in picture aunt Peggy on Dad's right aunt Linda to his left with brother Dave in front. - 1968 - Ava on his left with uncle Tom kneeling in front.
Me in the red shirt, age 13, Dad bending down to fit in picture aunt Peggy on Dad’s right aunt Linda to his left with brother Dave in front. – 1968 –
Ava on his left with uncle Tom kneeling in front.

Watching the movie, “The Outsider’s” last night (it’s an old movie), I know, but I’d never seen it. The movie was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and also included up-and-coming stars, including C. Thomas Howell (who garnered a Young Artist Award), Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane. The film helped spark the Brat Pack genre of the 1980s.

Anyway Steph took a momentary break from her headphones and her room to come for a visit into the living room. We began talking and I mentioned that I was a greaser back then which ignited an interest from her.

“We’re reading that book in English now. Just wait ’til I tell Ms Ferguson you were a greaser!”

I am really ancient, I guess. I have actually been around since those halcyon days! However, I don’t remember the socs, only the Greasers and the Baldies (the more nerdy group, who have since become the more fashionable group).

My cousin named me a greaser while in the 6th or 7th grade because I already had long sideburns – like Elvis. And though I wasn’t allowed to wear Beatle Boots – I did have some black, pointy-toed shoes, that really stood out from my – ivory colored skin tight – stretch pants. That was the style in those days (early to mid ’60s.)

She asked about fights between the two factions.

I told her, “The fights were individual.”

I didn’t tell her of the brawl that was supposed to happen along the tracks, under the White Bear Avenue Bridge between the kids from the projects and their school Ames, and my school Hayden Heights. The two schools met at the larger Hazel Park Junior High earlier in the day for an orientation…that’s when the battle lines were drawn.

We, the tough kids from Hayden Heights showed up but Ames did not. That gave us a one up on them throughout junior high. And I bolstered my bad reputation by having 17 suspensions during those 3 tumultuous years for smoking and fighting. I hung out nightly with more greasers from the pool hall – A&D Billiards.

I ran away from home twice. The 2nd time I had run away with a girl past where I’m living now, Springfield. to Branson , Missouri. And Branson was not always a big entertainment site. Why when I was 16 and Carol and I were thrown in jail in Branson for speeding and driving a stolen car (they thought, but the car wasn’t stolen).

Junior high days were mostly spent trying to impress everybody – A friend told my oldest daughter that I was the “Fonz” of the school. I worked many a night and weekend for Dad. Nights were always spent at A&D and sometimes up at the trestle hopping trains — to nowhere and walking back to the trestle. Who would’ve known then that my 1st wife would have been met in the 8th grade? Or that I would meet with a tragic accident?

Always remember this kids, your life can change in the blink of an eye. There certainly are no guarantees. Up until my car accident I felt invincible but soon found out how wrong I was about many things.

Such Are the Days of Our Lives

Such Are the Days of Our Lives

The next day we went over to see Nikki’s grandparents.

Though Nikki was really worried about seeing them again because (as she confided in me) “Mom told us over and over how they didn’t love us and didn’t want to see us. But then she told us the same about you Dad, and I see that was a big lie!”

“Of course they were lies, Nicole. Don’t you remember when you were a little kid, I think you were about four, and we walked over to grandma’s home from our house in all of that snow? We had the dog, Max, with us and when it got too deep for you, I put you on my shoulders. And don’t you remember when we had your birthday parties at Grandma’s? We all love you kids and any of us will do whatever we can to help, but we never see you, though I tried many times.”

We drove the long way over there, around Lake Phalen twice, until Nikki was more comfortable meeting her estranged grandparents’ once again. The smiles from everybody were felt deep within my soul because I knew how badly the parents and I wanted to help my kids.

Mom and Nicole sat at the kitchen table and began talking as if their close relationship had not even skipped a beat. They were both happy…Dad and I got comfortable in the living room and watched Phil Mickelson sink another birdie, on the television.