Monday, April 29, 2019

Dual Posting: Notes for After Our Passing

What follows is a joint post by Ms. Rivers a.k.a. Chris a.k.a. Mom and Steve.  After watching numerous YouTube videos of the Long Island Medium (Theresa Caputo) and developing a slightly unhealthy fascination with her spiritual readings, Ms. Rivers wants to ensure our wishes are known about a future time after one or both of us have died.  (On a side note, Ms. Rivers believes that our souls continue to an after-life, while Steve sees no reason to believe this in the absence of any evidence or proof.*)

Ok, here we go; please note, no firm decisions have been made about our final arrangements.  Should either of us pre-decease each other and once we have both passed, we do not want anyone including our children to do the following:
  • Place cremated remains in a cigar box until a decision can be reached about their permanent location, then lose the cigar box when moving.  [Steve here:  If you do this, I will haunt you, even if there isn't an afterlife.  I absolutely hate cigars!]
  • Place ashes in an urn/vase and keep it on the mantel (in lieu of burial).  Or strap it into the passenger side of a vehicle to keep the driver "company" on outings.  
  • Divide up ashes and place them in vessels as keepsakes for multiple family members.  In particular, do not fill up glass Christmas ornaments with ashes so that we can literally participate in each holiday season as decorations on your Christmas tree.
  • Scatter ashes outdoors (especially on a windy day!) in a body of water, where it's likely they would immediately become lunch for birds, fish, and other land-dwelling things.
  • Bury us in a cemetery without trees.  Or rabbits.  We want rabbits and other assorted non-human critters to frolic on top of our graves.
  • Have some kind of enormous, gaudy, "I want attention" headstone.  Neither one of us like show-offs, be it in this life or the next.
  • Putting anything plastic (flowers, crosses, etc.) on our graves.  We want to be buried in a cemetery, not a Dollar General.  
  • Unless you plan on taking care of them, no live flowers either.  But if you do put live flowers on our grave and you were to take care of them, then I [Steve] would like Marigolds, as long as they are the multi-colored ones.  But not the really big poofy yellow or orange ones. 

Lastly, and most importantly, don't be sad when you think about us.  Life is measured in countless ways, none the least of which is in the amount of love one gives.  In our case, we've both been blessed to have found each other and to have children that will help us live on in spirit, always.

* * * * * *

(*) Slight rebuttal from Steve:  It's not that don't believe (in an afterlife), as that would be far too easy, and by and large I've never been one to do things the easy way anyhow.  Rather, it's more like "I want to believe" and "if the universe would just churn up some evidence, well, all the better".

Friday, March 22, 2019

Carroll & Warner Family Origins

Well guys, I've decided to write a bit about Dad and his family.  I realize Aunt Pam can share a lot more with you, but I'll go ahead and plug in some family information that I know....

Dad was born in 1960, when Grandma & Grandpa lived in West Wyoming on 8th Street. The house is across the street from Diamond Manufacturing, between Marianacci's Restaurant and Cookie Corner.  I think the address is 260 W. 8th Street.  It was a 2-unit home, and they originally lived upstairs as they were married about 10 years before Dad came along.  You've heard that they eloped, right?  I believe they got married in Maryland (possibly when visiting Aunt Gloria & Uncle Melvin, I think Grandpa was 19 and Grandma was 21) and didn't tell anyone for quite some time after they got back.  They had waited a long time to have kids, and I've heard had almost given up (Grandpa came very close to buying two matching sports cars before they got their good news).  Once Dad came along, I think they were living downstairs.  Grandma so wanted children and was thrilled to have Dad, then Aunt Pam about three years later.  They moved to 83 E. 7th Street in Wyoming about the time that she was born.

When I first knew Dad, the West Wyoming house was a rental property.  Dad was pretty much in charge of renovations and repairs between tenants, and I got my first experience with interior house painting over there.  That house had aluminum siding, so there was limited external painting.  However, the Wyoming house had clapboard siding and Dad was also in charge of scraping & painting the outside of that house every few years....  which is really quite large, and it was a LOT of work (and easily took an entire spring/summer season working on weekends).   Dad stayed pretty busy between the apartments and outdoor work at the Wyoming house, including gardening and landscaping.

Going back to family stuff, here are some basics on the Carroll & Warner families.
  • Dad is Robert Rexford Carroll, Aunt Pam is Pamela Ruth Carroll.  
  • Grandpa is Robert Davis Carroll and Grandma is Gladys Mae (May?) Warner
  • Grandpa was the youngest of 3 children born to Daniel and Vera Carroll.  He grew up on 5th Street in Wyoming.  He had two older sisters, Aunt Nancy who lived in town and Aunt Shirley who lived in New York City.  It was a great event when Aunt Shirley visited - you should ask Aunt Pam about this.  
  • Grandma was the fourth of 5 children born to Donald and Ada Warner, living on Breese Street in Wyoming.  Her siblings in order were Uncle Don (who lived in Moosic/Duryea to the ripe old age of 100, and just passed last year) who was married to Aunt Betty (who we saw this weekend); Uncle Morris who was married to Aunt Marion (they lived in Syracuse, NY, and I'm sure you remember visiting Aunt Marion before heading over to the NY State Fair); Aunt Gloria who was married to Uncle Melvin (who lived in Perryville, MD and I know you remember visiting for day trips into Washington DC with Dad as well as summer vacation / Rogers family reunion time in Ocean City, MD); and Aunt Rebecca who was married to Uncle George (who of course lived practically next door to Grandma; we hope to visit Uncle George in the Richmond area this summer).
  • Next generation of Warners, most of whom we have stayed connected with:  Donny Warner, son of U Don and U Betty; Ellen Warner and George Warner, children of U Morris and A Marion; Susan Mintle, Melvin (Brud) Rogers, Jimmy Rogers, Becky Preston and George Rogers, children of A Gloria and U Melvin; Laura Balint, David Gerboc and Jason Gerboc, children of U George and A Rebecca.  (Did you notice that George and Rebecca are popular names?)
From what I can tell, Dad had a happy childhood and kept pretty busy with things like boy scouts, outdoor time with friends including wandering on the river flats, paper routes (which continued into his 20's on Sunday mornings), reading volumes of the family encyclopedia and helping out at home.  Grandpa worked as a reporter and news anchor at WNEP and was also in the Army National Guard 109th Field Artillery (which he commanded!), and was away regularly.  Grandma worked for AT&T before the kids came along, then at Pomeroy's which later became BonTon once Aunt Pam was in high school.  

Of course, Dad graduated from Wyoming Area.  Rob, we were able to borrow and look through WA's 1978 Yearbook which was fun!  He went on to King's College; I met him while he was working at Camp Lackawanna (in Vosburg, past Tunkhannock) over the summers.  My first memories of visiting in Wyoming are of Grandma's Sunday dinners, Grandpa's somewhat intimidating presence, the large garden and laundry hanging to dry on the outdoor "umbrella-style" clothesline.  Sometimes it's the simple things that get your attention....   And life was simpler then, before cell phones, the internet and before we realized global warming was a real thing!  One of my fondest memories of early years with Dad was canoeing on the Susquehanna (during and after Camp years).  I know you both like kayaking and hope you will also have pleasant memories of paddling on lakes, rivers, etc.  Hopefully you and your paddling partners get along much better than these critters appear to :-)  

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Child of the '60's

The Allentown Years

How much do you remember from your toddler years.....?   Maybe the train platform set up between the living room and kitchen, with multiple tracks & Lionel engines?  Maybe our early kitties like Nicki or Kyle?  Playing at the train table or eating in the TV room at Grandma's?  The toddler room upstairs at Cookie Corner (where AJ once bit Alex's shoe during nap time)?  Outdoor time in the back yard..... like going down the slide into the kiddie pool on a hot summer afternoon?

I was born at Allentown General Hospital, the second baby to arrive early on New Year's Day in 1965.  Grandad's first church was in Allentown, PA, and I'm pretty sure I came along soon after he and Grammie settled there.  The first story I've heard is that Grandad was leading a church service when Grammie needed to go to this hospital (in these times, expectant fathers were not welcomed into delivery rooms).  And the second story I heard was that Grandad was disappointed they wouldn't get an extra tax deduction in 1964, since I was born a couple hours too late (even if not true, he would definitely say that!).  Of course, he got pretty lucky in that regard as it turned out he got 2 extra tax deductions in 1965 - with both Aunt Julie and I born that year.  Of course, the really amazing true story is that we were both holiday babies since Aunt Julie was born on Christmas Day. 

On March 20th 1965, Grandad was ordained and I was baptized at the same service.  Upstairs in my bedroom is what I call the "coronation picture" of Bishop Warnecke *, your Great Grandad, your Grandad and Myles Edwards who I believe was also being ordained, along with your basic, cute practically hairless baby.  I hear that I was bald most of my first year, which was disappointing to Grammie because she had to keep pointing out that I was a Girl not a Boy.

* I just did a search on Bishop Warnecke and to my astonishment, I found his obituary which you can see here - he was quite an impressive person.

We stayed in Allentown until I was 3 years old.  I have just a few memories.....  of riding my tricycle in the driveway/alley behind our row house, falling down at church and hurting my hand, and riding in the car to the doctor's office.  The later sticks in my mind because Aunt Julie and I had to be inoculated against certain tropical diseases before we traveled outside the U.S. once Grandad decided to become a missionary.  Little girls do not like this because shots hurt, and I remember that we got clued in to the upcoming doctor's visit by bumping over a set of train tracks - an omen that bad things would be happening soon.  When she was upset Aunt Julie tended to be more loud & dramatic than I was....  which didn't help matters.  One time she hid under a desk at the doctor's office, which as you can imagine resulted in only a temporary stay.

Here are Grammie and Grandad in 1964, the summer before I was born.  And then Grammie with Aunt Julie and me in 1968.

The 1960's were a different time, with lots of cultural change taking place in America.  The civil rights movement was in full swing and men just a few years younger than Grandad were fighting in Vietnam (to his distress).  Grammie and Grandad like folk music, and we heard a lot of Peter, Paul and Mary when I was growing up.  One of the songs we heard and sang as kids was Blowin' in the Wind.  I had not realized it was written by Bob Dylan, who is now one of Rob's favorite artists.  Rob, I think you'll like this (and the picture complete with cigarette - or whatever that is - reminds me of your Bob Dylan t shirt!).

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Institute

Church started late today because a Canadian Pacific train was unexpectedly stopped on the tracks in Jenkins Township, delaying Pastor Laura on her way to church.  And also delaying arrival of the bulletins for this morning's service.  On the way through the vestibule, I picked up a historical pamphlet about Wyoming Presbyterian Church and the Institute.  The Presbytery of Luzerne established the Luzerne Presbyterial Institute in 1949 as a parochial school - which included in its curriculum Latin, Greek, German, music and painting.  We learned that it had a natural science collection as well as a library.  The school closed about 1875, and ultimately the property was transferred to the Church. The photograph above must have been taken after 1927, when the east and west wings were added on.  You can clearly see the bell, which was taken down last year after determining that the bell tower was in very bad condition and the bell was in danger of crashing down.  It's now mounted to the right of the front entrance - quite handsome.

When Grandad became the minister at Old Swedes Church and we moved into the rectory on the same property, the parish hall next door became a fixture of our lives.  I tried coffee as a very young girl during coffee (and usually cake) hour after church - a styrofoam cup filled half way with coffee, then lots of milk & sugar.  Aunt Julie and I helped at church dinners there and ultimately a kitchen utility cart was named after us - the "Chris & Julie".  Now that was annoying.  Eventually we lost interest in helping, but I never lost interest in old parish buildings including their old fashioned kitchens.  (I never heard if the next contingent of Rivers children had any equipment named after them e.g., a "Diana and John" tea pot.)

Much later, I occasionally went to Wyoming Presbyterian with Dad.  My first memory of the Institute is the rumage sale.  This was a major annual event, staffed by many long-time church people like the Murdoch's, Mrs. Helfrich, Mary and Paul Williams, Aunt Rebecca & Uncle George and Grandma.  Grandma was always in charge of the jewelry table.  Set up was by far the worst stage, since it requires going through the many bags and other items that people dropped off.  It was usually quite successful as well as exhausting.

Another fundraising event was making Welsh cookies.  Well, now things sound a little more familiar, right?  Rob, you are now a fixture of cookie-making Saturdays which are typically in May and October.  It's a highly organized production, under the stern direction of Mrs. Murdoch.  There are mixers, rollers, grillers (mostly ladies), and baggers (men*) - but only one (VERY important) position as a runner.   Rob, you are Mrs. Murdoch's right-hand assistant in charge of getting flour & other ingredients, delivering cookies to the grillers & baggers, etc.  If I can't it make to rolling or grilling duty that's not a big deal, but your attendance is essential.  As we work away, I am often thinking about our predecessors and wishing we could all be together again.

*Specifically, Mr. Fleming and Mr. Kanaske...  who are not to be trusted, as I discovered while taking a break from rolling to sample a cookie.  After munching on a cookie they offered me from the pile of cookies that were cooling, they had a good laugh after letting me know that it had been picked up after falling on the floor.

Rob I hope you too will have fond memories of the Institute, which also include Sunday School & confirmation classes with Pastor Jim, church dinners and now tutoring with fellow Key Club members a couple times each month.  Your contributions to church life really do matter and are appreciated.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Nana Banana the Go Go Girl

Of all my grandparents, I was closest by far to my grandmother Rivers (Phyllis McCausland Rivers, married to Burke Rivers), who lived until 1999 when Alex was 2 years old.  You called her Gran-Nana.  She was just Nana to the Rivers grandchildren. We recently got some "new" pictures of her through Aunt Ginny and Edie, which you can see above.  The first one is Dad and me with Nana at the reception after Julie and Mike Boonie were married in 1988.  The second is Nana and a teenage Uncle John at Christmas, 1990.  Today I want to share some memories of her from Alex's early childhood.  And more of my own.

Alex, you were a light of Gran-Nana's eye.  She came to the hospital to see you as a newborn, and was always glad to spend time with us (which was true up until the night before she passed away, when we went to see her at the hospital).  Most often we visited at her house in Dallas, on Lehman Ave just a short distance from Aunt Pam's house.  I remember feeding you cereal and later simple finger foods at her kitchen table.  Over the summers, we would take Nana to visit Uncle Dick and Aunt Ginny at their Ganoga Lake house (very close to Lake Jean, at Ricketts Glen Park).

Nana's full title as "Nana Banana the Go Go Girl", bestowed on her by my slightly older cousin Matthew.  She was a happy person, always interested in her grandchildren and willing to help care for us "hands on" - which not every grandparent wants to do.  She was an exceptional person in her own right.  She contributed significantly to church life and volunteered with organizations like Family Service and United Way.   Here are some things you may find interesting.

  • Nana's brother John McCausland is Edie's father (Edie is Nana's niece).  He was Great Uncle John to me.  Your uncle John was born within a couple months after his death, and is named John McCausland Rivers.
  • Her father was Charles McCausland; as you know, the McCausland family was part of the Scottish Clan Buchanan (whose land was east of Loch Lomond).  Your Grandad's middle name is Buchanan, as is Rob's.  Charles and Viola McCausland lived in Webster, MA, where he was a supervisor at a woolen mill.  In addition to her younger brother John, Nana had an older sister Grace.  
  • Their mother's parents were Andrew and Maryellen Tester Walker who lived at 14 Hill Street, a house which they built (it was very helpful to have a 2-unit home, which allowed for rental income).  They did not always get along; for some time, Grandfather Walker apparently lived in the unheated attic.  (Their marriage certificate is framed and hanging along our stairway.)  Nana mentioned to met that while she was growing up breakfast was normally oatmeal, but she noticed that her grandfather was lucky enough (at least sometimes) to have pie for breakfast.
  • Nana did very well in school; she graduated from high school at age 16 then worked for a year at a local bank.  She got a scholarship to attend Radcliffe College, the women's college that was affiliated with Harvard.  Nana told me about a Harvard organization that had a nasty hazing ritual.  As an initiation rite before joining the club or whatever it was, freshmen were subjected to swallowing raw oysters with a string tied to them.  After swallowing them, the upperclassmen pulled the string to bring the oysters back up and forced the boys to repeat the process.  
  • While at Radcliffe, she met her future husband Burke.  She told me that as a symbol of his commitment, he gave her his Harvard class pin while they were spending an afternoon at a Massachusetts beach.  She promptly dropped it in the sand, for all their efforts they were unable to find it, and he ultimately got a second class pin to give her (and they were not cheap!)  I still have that pin.  A few years later, they married after he graduated from divinity school, which he attended in New York City.
  • He went on to have parishes in New Haven, CT and later Johnson City, NY before being called to Wilkes-Barre.  Great Grandad was the minister at St Stephen's Church in Wilkes-Barre, and they lived at the rectory next door (now the Luzerne County Historical Society Library) from the late '40's to 1972.  Your Grandad remembers watching construction of The Boston Store parking lot from his bedroom window.  I remember a lovely back yard, riding a toddler-size train engine on a walkway next to the church, and playing "ring-around-the-rosy" at the dike by the river.  I also remember going over to The Boston Store (across the street, now Boscovs), which had a kiddie carousel in the basement and escalators that certain little girls liked to run up - both the up and down directions.  (It's important to note that most, but not all, of the time, it was Aunt Julie whose excessive levels of energy resulted in getting us in trouble.)
  • Very fortunately, Great Grandad retired and they moved only a few weeks before the Agnes Flood in June, 1972 to live at a retirement home they had built in Beaumont (about 10 miles away from Dallas).  Great Grandad had not been well for some years and sadly died in 1979.  
  • A few years later, Nana sold the house (as it was too isolated for her to live there alone) and moved to Dallas.  Dad and I helped her get ready to move, over a summer during my high school years.  While I was going to King's College, I lived with her - a happy time for both of us.  I did not have a car, so got back-n-forth to Wilkes-Barre taking the Route 6 bus which came to the main intersection in Dallas (now a traffic circle).
  • After I graduated from college in 1986 and started working full-time, I continued to live with her until Dad and I got married in 1987.  It was our tradition to have dinner at her house on Friday nights, and sometimes on Sunday nights.  Nana was kind and generous to all of us.
  • After Nana died, Edie invited us to visit at 14 Hill Street, which has stayed in the Walker-McCausland families for generations.  Alex, you were probably 3 when we began weekend trips to Webster to see Edie and Jon.  Approximately 20 years later, Webster has become a special place to us as well.  Isn't it amazing and wonderful?
Grandparents can be real life superheroes - it's wonderful that I knew all of mine.  You are blessed as well, since you've known three of yours.  We are all busy and it can be hard to find time for older family members.  But remember that they won't be around for ever, and take the opportunities you can to enjoy your family.

Monday, January 21, 2019

On Falling in Love with Queen

Is it possible to fall in love with a band and all its members?  Were we born generations too late?  And in the wrong country?  Another thought - I had just this morning - what would we be willing to pay if we could be transported back in time to Wembley Stadium to join the masses - swaying, singing, clapping, and awestruck by Queen at a historic concert?  It seems that I'm constantly thinking about Queen songs & we play their concert videos almost every day.  Not to mention all the biographical videos I keep watching....

For me, the singular event of the past couple months was going to see the movie Bohemian Rhapsody after Thanksgiving.  I think it changed my life.  We went with Steve, Pam and Taylor - a wonderful six-some.  It was phenomenal, and Rami Malek the lead actor who played Freddie Mercury should get as Oscar for his performance.

To stop for a moment and grieve.....  the world lost Freddie Mercury to the horrendous disease AIDS in 1991.  While it can be managed as a chronic ailment for many people who have it now, it was a death sentence in the 1980's.  And for years it was stigmatized as a disease that "bad" people get i.e., mostly gay men.  So sad, and the potential, unrealized accomplishments of all those who died early is a loss to the world.

So, right now, let's just enjoy a wonderful performance of the song that's currently stuck in head.  Alex, you pulled this one up on YouTube for me a couple weeks ago.

Well, I could almost forget all the other important things you boys have been up to....  But coming back to the current day for a minute, here's the latest:

  • Alex, you officially got your Associate's Degree from LCCC in August and then finished your first semester at Misericordia.  It was a success!!  You transitioned to "serious" college-level workload (especially reading) and ended up with a 3.7 GPA.  Fantastic !  After a nice break with Taylor home and some shifts at Gerrity's produce department, now it's on to semester #2.  One great compliment to Misericordia University is that you seem to have excellent, interesting teachers.  Inspiring teachers are one of the gifts that every young person needs (American society does not value thoughtful, motivating teachers for the critical difference they make in our lives).  We celebrated your 22nd birthday at Pizza Perfect & with banana cream pie.  Your favorite Xmas/Bday gift will be the new fly fishing rod that you buy for yourself.  You decided not to go skiing with Taylor this month ....  hmm, I wonder why.  When I asked, you told me you are currently listening to Linkin Park (e.g,. "Numb") and Machine Gun Kelly (e.g., "Bleed it Out").  I checked them out on You Tube and thought they were pretty awful.  In other news, Taylor will graduate from Slippery Rock in May (wow!  already!) and has an internship with a safety consulting firm in the Pittsburgh area coming up this summer.  Great news!
  • Rob, you are half way through 10th grade (as we discussed last week, "sophomore" wise fool year).  It is going very well, including Anatomy class which had Alex and me concerned on top of all your Honors classes & French.  And this year you've been an active member of Key Club - in fact, within a few weeks after school started you were elected to its Board.  It was fun coming by to see you working the Key Club stand during football games (and asking at every game what snack you recommend.....  Lol !).  I admire your genuine interest in helping others, which now extends to tutoring elementary school kids at the Institute on Wednesday nights.  Your favorite Christmas gift was a white Fire Emblem 3DS.  And you seemed to mostly enjoy our time at the cabins, particularly since you got to bring the PS4 and play games with Lu, Kyra and her boyfriend Mike.  Unfortunately, you had a bad cold over the holiday break then came down with pneumonia the first week of January (in time to miss 3+ days of school).  Your favorite musicians are currently Bob Dylan (too many to mention) and Credence Clearwater Revival (e.g., "Bad Moon Rising").  They are fine, but I hope I don't ever again have to hear Bob Dylan songs for 4 hrs straight as we did on the way back from Hancock NH last August.

One additional note about Christmas - it was our first one without Tiger, and we do miss him a lot.  Rob, I felt so badly when you told me how much you missed having him with you over the past couple weeks when you were sick.  😢  I made you each Tiger photo albums which you got as Xmas gifts.  I was sad as I worked on them, though grateful for the special childhood pet we'll always hold close to our hearts.  As to our "dos gatos".....  Jean Luc continues to be his agreeable, friendly, portly self - willing to be Rob's  bedtime buddy and pal most nights.  Rambo is still somewhat anxious (he over-grooms, especially his tail), but overall is more social than ever before.

Our 2018 holiday card this year was a photo card with then-and-now pictures of you (enhanced by our resident photographer Steve - thank you!).  To wrap up, here are your 2006 and 2018 photos, sitting on the porch at 14 Hill St.  You are both very handsome and very loved.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Post Script

"The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES."

-T.S. Eliot/The Naming of Cats

When Steve heard about yesterday's post, he asked whether I remembered to list all of Tiger's names.  (Noooo.)  So, here is a list of special names we've had for our handsome, poofball kitty:
  • Tiggy Wiggy
  • Tigrero Rochete
  • The Wiger
  • Fluffy
  • Fluffius Maximus
  • The Ayatollah of Flufferola
  • Fluffmeister General
  • Fluffernutter
As you know, I love listening to old-time country music.  This past week I came across a Carter Family song what was covered by Roseann Cash.  The song "Under the Weeping Willow " is about about a completely different situation, but the theme of loss is the same.  It's a very simple arrangement, and absolutely beautiful.