Skip to content

“When Irish eyes are smiling. Sure it’s like a morning spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter, You can hear the angels sing. When Irish hearts are happy, All the world seems bright and gay. And when Irish eyes are smiling, Sure, they steal your heart away.” ~ Chauncy Olcot and George Graff, Jr

 

“There’s a tear in your eye, and I’m wondering why,
For it never should be there at all. With such power in your smile,
sure a stone you’d beguile, So there’s never a teardrop should fall.
When your sweet lilting laughter’s like some fairy song,
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be, You should laugh all the while
and all other times smile, And now smile a smile for me.”

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling – lyrics by Chauncy Olcott and George Graff, Jr

 

My father had the bluest of blue eyes. When I started to look at pictures of my dad after he passed away a few weeks ago to try to find a picture that showed his blue eyes, I was brought to tears and smiles to see that in almost every picture his eyes were smiling or he was making a face to make you smile. I would say his eyes twinkled, often with mischief.

When I think about my dad without tears clouding my vision, I remember how he did the best that he could. He came from very humble beginnings in a cold water flat in Bridgeport. He bragged that he was the first of his family to be born in a hospital, and was the first baby born in Bridgeport in 1927.

He was a proud man and one of the things he was proud about was his service in the US Army where he held the rank of Sargent and served overseas. He loved wearing his collection of caps, but he especially loved wearing his World War II cap.He was an active member of the VFW, and the American Legion. He acted as if he hated hearing people say “thank you for your service”, but he actually loved hearing that. One of his favorite things was sitting outside of the local grocery store distributing poppies in front of Stop and Shop with his friends. He loved collecting the most money and giving poppies away to the children. He would take multiple shifts for weeks and never missed one. No one could resist his smile it seemed. He had a large bit of blarney in him.

The best day of my dads life (second only to the day I was born) was the day he met my mom where he worked as an oil delivery man at Hoffman Fuel in Bridgeport. My mom and dad were a team. Mom managed all of the inside and raised the children while dad worked long hours and managed the outside and cars. This is one of the first pictures I remember taking of my mom and dad with a Brownie camera – it is still one of my favorites from 1971.



My parents were married for fifty- three years and had many challenges like most people in life. When my mom died a part of my dad did as well. For a long time I thought, without her he is not going to live long. Dad had diabetes, a heart condition, he had smoked and drank in former years. He lived though a ruptured appendix, fell off a ladder, once had a car bumper fall on his head, and I do not want to think about the number of times he probably electrocuted himself working on wiring he had no business doing. There were many times I believed that “this was it” yet it wasn’t. Dad was stubborn in many ways and always did things in his own timeline.

For my parents, their pride and joy of life was always family. My dad was a very proud man. In spite of the fact that they did not have money they always provided for their family. Dad worked long hours, especially in the winter, in a job that was physically taxing, to make sure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, an education, a strong belief in God, and plenty of times to make good memories.

Despite the fact that dad drove a truck for a living, my parents would sit down with a map almost every year, and make a circle and find a place to drive to for a vacation. Even hours in a car before air conditioning, crowded in car was an adventure and a memory made. Not always a good memory, but a memory none the less.

Much of my dads life was centered around family. Most of that was my mom’s doing but my dad was happiest with the ones he loved most, his children.

If you asked me what my dad loved besides family and making people laugh I would say taking care of his yard. Fifty years ago my parent bought a fixer upper in Trumbull.  Trust me when I say it was desperately in need of repairs.  It had been a rental house that was abused and in need of some serious love. Over the years mom and dad lived there, I can honestly say they made that broken down house into a home. Here is a good snap of then and now. 

 

 

 

Dad loved his garden, his acre of yard, his lawn tractor and hundreds of garden tools.  Owning a home, using his own sweat and blood to build and repair that home was a huge part what made him happiest.  He tried to be a jack of all trades, and many times he succeeded and many times he did not, but that never seemed to stop him from trying.  

 

“What can go up the chimney down, but can’t go down the chimney up?”

~ Larry Condon Sr

If anyone had asked me which parent was the more social one I would have immediately answered that it was my mom.  My siblings and I held a surprise anniversary party for my parents.  After the initial surprise my mother worked the crowd like a politician raising funds and my dad stood frozen so our friend Tom remarked that someone needed to get that man a drink.  After my mother died however I realized just how engaging my father could be.  His love of riddles often brought me to embarrassment.  However, when I thought about it, it was his way of engaging people in conversation, it made people laugh (or groan) and it gave him a connection, which mattered. 

Although it was not often easy to see, dads connection to his family mattered most. 

In case you are wondering the answer to the riddle is umbrella.

“Children are the rainbow of life. Grandchildren are the pot of gold.” ~ Irish Blessing

Grandchildren, and great grandchildren, were a blessing to my dad.  Here was an entire new audience that he could torture, um I mean love, and he did both love endlessly and tease mercilessly his grandchildren, as he had done for many years to his own children.

My dad was blessed not be have dementia (dimension as he called it).  He often could not remember names so at one point numbered all the grandchildren from one to seven and had a giant picture of each of them showing their number on his living room coffee table.  He thought that was perfectly normal.  There are many days since he passed that I go to pick up the phone to call him, he was hungry for news of anything and anyone.  He often attempted to continue the conversation with “what else is new?”  When I was away and not sure if I could call as often, the neighbors would check in on him and my three children set up a schedule and would call him at least four times a day to check in.  When they were young and my husband Skip was traveling I would often go over my parents house for a few hours for an extra set of hands.  After my dad tortured them with a game of Giant Steps (“No, you may not take steps Becca, Dan you may take as many steps as you wish”) we’d have dinner and unlike in my youth, my children need not finish what was on their plates, it never mattered if they spilled their milk and they ALWAYS could have dessert of “pickled pigs feet” which was his name for ice cream.  

 

My dad had a love/hate relationship with being the center of attention.  He claimed to hate it, but in reality, it seemed more like he loved it.  Again, I think he loved the connection with people.  When he moved from his home to Independent and then Assisted Living, I was concerned that he would feel isolated.  He had habits of going to run Bingo at a local nursing home for over twenty-five years, he went to church and sat in the same pew every Sunday at 7:30 am mass, he put flags on the graves of the soldiers at a local cemetery, he knew the people at Dunkin Donuts in his local grocery store by name.  But just as one might not expect my dad to be the one to outlive all of his siblings, my dad flourished at Brightview Senior Living.  In the ten months he was there, although he may not have known your name, everyone knew his and loved him.  He was as he always had been, the life of the party.  

 

My dad saw a lot of hardship and a lot of joy in his 93 years on earth.  When I look back at the big picture, especially after the beautiful outpouring of emails and notes and calls after dad passed, I can say he was well loved and liked.  As Phyllis Diller said “A smile is the curve that sets everything straight.”

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.” ~ W. H. Auden

 

“Smile though your heart is aching. Smile even though it’s breaking. When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by. If you smile through your fear and sorrow. Smile and maybe tomorrow. You’ll see the sun come shining through for you.”

“Light up your face with gladness. Hide every trace of sadness. Although a tear may be ever so near. That’s the time you must keep on trying. Smile, what’s the use of crying? You’ll find that life is still worthwhile. If you just smile.”

~ Nat King Cole in Smile

 

When we meet again dad, I’ll let you know what else is new!  

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” ~Christopher Reeve

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about heroes. There’s an abundance of inspirational news (if you look for the positives) about the nurses, doctors, first responders, police etc being our heroes in this insane world of the Covid -19 pandemic. They are heroes, their actions in the face of such adversity is nothing less than heroic. There is also a lot of recognition of the truck drivers, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, delivery persons etc who are also heroes for showing up and going to work. In my opinion, there are many heroes and although it is correct and amazing to recognize a particular group, it should not minimize what each and everyone of us who are living life every day, to the best of our ability does.

There is a catch phrase that goes – “Not all heroes wear capes.” It is true. There are every day heroes and heroes that make some of us pause, and get that weird catchy feeling in their throat. “I am not crying you are” kind of feeling. We should all be kind, we should all say please and thank you. Maybe the good that comes out of all of this is not to alienate us from one another to say one person’s occupation is more valuable than another’s, is just to acknowledge, or my favorite term VALIDATE, that we all have value that needs to be recognized and maybe we can make it a part of every day life, not just crisis life.

This essay is not meant to diminish in any way shape or form the recognition that each and every person who is trying to manage life right now, those who are on the front lines, and those who are supporting those on the front lines, deserves.

“Heroes represent the best of ourselves, respecting that we are human beings. A hero can be anyone from Gandhi to your classroom teacher, anyone who can show courage when faced with a problem. A hero is someone who is willing to help others in his or her best capacity.”

~ Ricky Martin

I’d like to tell you a about a few of my personal heroes. My husband Skip is one for certain. He keeps me grounded more often than I realize no matter what he is going through he is always there for me. He is not perfect, which goes without saying despite the fact that I just said it. He posts an inordinate number of pictures of himself drinking scotch on the internet, and he tells long drawn out stories of his scotch experiences (don’t ask), none the less, he is always there for me, for our children, for our friends and family. He is my hero. (Just don’t tell him I said that.)

Skip drinking scotch while social distancing.

It should come as no surprise that my children, daughter in law and grandchildren are heroes to me. They work hard, they are always there to support each other. They make me laugh and fill me with love. They make life worth living. They are smart, and funny and kind. They check in on me every day and brighten my day. I think they love to face time my dogs primarily, but I am OK with that!

Support from Becca ❤

My dogs, Harry and Frankie, are NOT my heroes, but they are doing their part to social distance.

“Love is not just a noun, it is a verb—it is an act. It is what you do. It is an energy that, once created, can never be destroyed, but is instead is set forth into the universe in perpetual motion, where it will exist for all of us, always.” ~ Elana Miller

I’m incredibly blessed to have the best of friends and family and acquaintances. I’ve connected with many people who just say hello and how are you doing, just checking in, and many offering to help.

I ‘m not here to preach even though this may seem preachy. Just be kind as you can, be grateful, be generous with what you can. Check in on each other, make time for yourself and stay safe. I’m hoping and if there is room for prayer, praying that we all come out safe and sound and maybe even a little better, though it is not going to be easy. In fact it is going to be hard.

If I can help you in some way, let me know. I’ll do my very best to try to make it happen. Mr Rogers is a wise person, to some a hero.

“When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” ~Fred Rogers

Be happy, be well, be kind, be safe, may you be a hero to others and may your life be filled with those who are heroes to you, whether or not they wear capes.

“No story sits by itself. Our lives connect like threads on a loom, interwoven in ways we never realize.” ~ Mitch Albom

Today is our final vacation day technically, as tomorrow we leave to go back to reality. Reality is not such a bad thing, but vacation reality in wonderful places with friends that you have known and friends you have just made is better. Thank you to Lissa for sending me the title quote. Doctor Seuss may or may not have been talking about this trip, but the sentiment holds true.

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” 
~ Dr. Seuss

After breakfast we took a scenic bus trip to the Rhine Falls of Zurich. It is is the largest waterfall in Switzerland and Europe. It was breath taking. It was also pouring rain! But as Barbara Haas says, “we are addicted to fun,” and even the rain could not keep us from having fun!

Across a width of 492 feet and a height of 75.5 feet, over 22,000 cubic feet of water plunge over the falls. As the rivers were flowing due to recent rains and snow melt the sounds of the water rushing is deafening. We did not take one of the little boat rides below the falls thankfully!

We may have been soaked but that did not stop our photo ops or fun!

After lunch the sun came out and it was another picture perfect halcyon afternoon. It may have involved a little shopping, a little sightseeing and of course wine.

Tonight we got to celebrate again as a group at a lovely dinner hosted by Dave and Thiery Natale. Again, it was an evening of good food, good wine, good friends and unfortunately good byes.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~Mae West

“Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.” ~ Doctor Seuss

“If you never go, you’ll never know.” ~ Unknown Author

This morning we repacked our suitcases and headed out for our final stop which is Zurich. After a couple more last minute shots of the Alps from my window, and one from last night we boarded the bus for a long but beautiful trip to Zurich mostly on the back roads of Switzerland. You can see the lights on the top of the mountain if you look closely.

There were quite a few off the bus, get back on the bus along the way but each stop was unique and interesting.

We took a brief but interesting ride on the Dolderbahn which is a three quarters of a mile rack railway. The line was opened in 1895 as a funicular railway and was converted to a rack railway in 1973. It was fast and interesting and brought us to the top of a mountain to see one of of the most beautiful hotels in the world, the Dolder Grand Hotel. Feel free to make me a reservation here (prepaid) any time!

There were more sights to see before we got to our hotel and I must admit I was a bit hungry and thirsty so I do not remember all of what we saw. Tomorrow is another day and I am grateful for the spectacular weather Dave has ordered up for us along our travels.

“You will never be completely home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”                              

~ Miriam Adeney

“It’s tough to find a place not to like in Switzerland.” ~ Michele Bachmann

The view from out hotel room at the Hotel Anker of the Alps is amazing. Every time I put my camera down last night and said “okay, enough pictures” I took it out for one more shot. Then I woke up this morning and took a few more.

We had a quick breakfast and then began a two hour (three mile) walking tour of the city of Lucerne. It is a lovely city which seems to be a combination of old and new. It is known for its preserved medieval architecture, sits amid snow capped mountains on Lake Lucerne. Our guide today was pleasant and informative as he showed us the churches and historial sites of Altstadt, which is also called old town. The covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), built in 1333, links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River’s right bank. There was something to marvel at everywhere you looked.

The Jesuit Church with its magnificent organ was extremely beautiful.

We quickly passed by the farmers market, by the Chapel Bridge and a few more fountains where you were able to drink water straight from the alps.

We then took a one hour most delightful boat tour of Lake Lucerne. It is the fourth largest lake in Switzerland and the views from the boat were just stunning. I had a chance to sit next to a lovely eighty year old man and his wife from England. They travel for the love of travel and to see the world when they are still able. Lake Lucerne is just like Long Pond in Cape Cod according to Tom Haas, just with mountains in the background. I respectfully disagree.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.” ~ Gandalf

This morning after a delicious breakfast we said goodbye to some of our traveling companions and boarded a bus for Basel, Switzerland. It’s borders are close to both Germany and France. We took a bus tour which always makes me drowsy and then a long walking tour though the city.

There were many interesting things to see in the city. We took a walk in market square and a quick view of the Basler Münster Cathedral and passed by an unusual fountain called the Tinguely Fountain.

We had a brief lunch and re-boarded the bus for our destination for the night, Lucerne, which I found to be a much more charming city than Basel. We took an afternoon stroll by the river, and stopped for a glass of wine!

The view of the Alps was stunning, and I am sure we will see more of them tomorrow.

“I urge you: go find buildings and mountains and oceans to swallow you whole. They will save you, in a way nothing else can.”                 ~Christopher Poindexter                   

“You and me, we are more than friends. We are like a small travel gang!”

Today was our last full day on the river cruise and we were both in Germany and France. We arrived in Breisach, Germany and toured the town of Riquewihr, France. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France, and appears to have retained its charm, not changing over centuries. The cobblestone streets date back to the sixteenth century and are lined with half-timbered winemakers’ shops and tasting rooms.

We spent a few hours with an educational tour of the city. Much of the town was spared from bombings of the wars and remains unchanged. The main industry is tourism and we did our best to be good tourists and support the local economy. They are known for Black Forest Cake and Black Forest Ham. Woodcarving and Black Forest Cuckoo Clocks are popular souvenirs.

In 1983 France started a program to repopulate the storks in Alsace, and it has been very successful. Today you see storks nesting on chimneys and rooftops and in trees, even in cities. Some small wine villages, also play host to growing numbers of storks. It was a bit of a challenge to get a long distance photo of a non cooperative stork nesting on top of a home!

“Everyone needs this friend that calls and says, “Get dressed, we’re going on an adventure.”

Luckily, we have been blessed with great travel companions, both people we have known for a few years and people we have just met. As we travel on to the next leg of our trip in Switzerland tomorrow, I am grateful for having Barbara, Tom, Pat, Rich, Diana, Lissa, Kim, Gary, Peggy , Ken and Clarissa. Last but not least to our fearless leader Dave for bringing us together, and most importantly to my husband and best friend, Skip, the leader of “Friends of Skip,” who has made our life an amazing journey.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

~ Tim Cahill