Posts Tagged With: Brother

USS Goldsborough, DDG 20

USS Goldsborough DDG-20.jpg

USS Goldsborough, DDG 20

It was my brother’s ship. A big old destroyer. I was living in Honolulu, and spent a lot of time on that ship when it was in dry-dock. Bill and I hung out together all the time for over a year; much of that time was spent on the Naval Base, as my husband was out to sea on an old pig boat sub off the coast of where I was not supposed to say.

It was the Viet Nam era, and I normally met Bill at Pearl after I got off work. The Goldsborough was in dry-dock, and this one particular day I had to use the lavatory. Bill supposed the Commander was not going to be showing up, so he just told to use the commander’s unit and to be quick about it. I very confidently told him about all the boats I had learned to go potty on. My poor bro believed me.

When my mission was accomplished I took a look at all the gear and pushed some buttons, turned this knob, pulled on the ring it was much like flushing the Coast Guard Cutter and the Submarines I’d been on. Well, I found out they aren’t all the same.

My brother was freaking when I told him I pushed this, turned that, and pulled that little doo dad there!! But he got me covered ASAP.

(I think I feel him laughing over my shoulder right now: “Aww, Sis, don’t go public with the toilet.. Please?”)

Bill didn’t live long enough to learn what a blog is. And now my poor dear bro, I miss him so, is my subject . He is such a special guy that I just want to share him with everyone. And if you think I made a mistake in tense, I didn’t. He often comes to me in my dreams, cheering me on.

After the bathroom event I inadvertently blew serious cover on PEARL HARBOR’S TOP SECRET MILITARY CODE NAME in the Officer’s bar!

I wasn’t even drinking, Bill and me and a couple of guys were playing cards. Somehow or other I said the phrase so closely guarded (not!) and the entire bar froze into silence.

They watched as I was swarmed by a bunch of uniformed men who escorted me to a room filled with uniformed officers. Bill insisted on staying with me. I needed to convince everyone that I had no idea where I’d heard the phrase I thought so amusing.   I didn’t know, and was terrified I was going in the clink.

My brother had to talk real fast, and I can’t imagine his feelings about his job security. I mean it was a stupid sounding password, and I thought sounded hilarious for the tropics. I thought everyone would get a laugh.

I believe Bill was kind of glad when my husband arrived and we went stateside again. Back to Northern California, San Francisco, with the famous cool and foggy weather.

Years later, we were a family, a daughter and a son and a great job with Chevron. We had an opportunity to travel the world and we did our best to hit as many continents as we could. South America and Antarctica are the two the kids and I missed.

But all the joys of travel bring potential problems. While returning from a holiday our family was held under armed guard because we didn’t have an international visa. Chevron’s Mr. Ten Percent had neglected to provide one, and In Saudi Arabia the potential for serious trouble was everywhere. We could, depending on which way the wind blew, end up as hostages or worse. Here we were in the Jidda airport for 24 hours, arrested and under armed guards. Both kids were very small, 3 and maybe six going on 7. The little guy was tired, hungry and ticked off and expressed his frustration by giving the armed soldiers the raspberries….which is not as belligerent as throwing shoes at them, but is hugely offensive and unacceptable behavior! Fortunately, Arabs are often softies, especially when dealing with children. They seemed to appreciate that I did my best to apologize to them in my not-very-classic Arabic.

A very important lesson came several years later, when we were back in the States, and I was driving home from an afternoon wedding in which I had not imbibed. I don’t like champagne, so my nieces and nephews – and me, well, we had this champagne fight. Nobody was hurt, but boy we were soaked!

When it was time to go home I remembered it was late Sunday evening, and I hadn’t washed my son’s baseball uniform!  He had a game Monday afternoon, and for the first and only time in my driving life I looked around, coast seemed clear, and I put the pedal to the metal:  Go!

I blew right past a county Sheriff’s car and heard the siren, saw the lights.

They pulled me over, and though I passed all the usual tests you see on TV– backwards alphabet, finger to nose… counting and what not, even my breathalyzer was under the limit at that time.

But, I sure didn’t pass the scent test as my pretty pink jumpsuit reeked of the fermented grape.

Then they had me walk the straight line (in high heels – men don’t have to, huh?) And the coppers had no choice: I wobbled in the soft dirt with my damn left leg. I felt hecka pain inside my left hip for the very first time. I probably looked like I was staggering, as it sure felt like it.

So, right or wrong I was arrested, read my rights, and one Sheriff took my car to drive my kids to my nearby friend’s house; and the other drove me and the patrol car to the jail.

For 2 whole hours they “held” me in a cell with several crazy women. Scary, scary, crazy women.

Yes. It was a “wrongful arrest” – Yes, I really should have got a big fat speeding ticket…. instead of a… valuable lesson, hmmm? I am okay with the whole ordeal, and in many ways it was.

I would not know the real story of my gimpy hip and 24 degree scoliosis for nearly 20 more years. But first I danced a Hula with seven other beauties at the Sudanese Club; I also took up Belly Dancing. I ran in the Hash House Harriers, that famous worldwide running club that pops up anywhere one finds Brits their Beer.

And at the age of 50 I learned to play tennis and was recruited to a Senior Women’s team in another town. Within four years and a lot of worn out tennis shoes, my team went to USTA National Tennis Championships in Tucson, AZ. ranking #5 of 25 teams in the USA. Champion or not, I was not able to play tennis after that. Not yet. But.. next summer, I’m thinking?

Sometimes things in life have to go down the way they have to go down. I safely learned a very important lesson: MY fabulous judgement can be faulty, even when I’m stone sober.

However, there is one issue that still floors me. It is the hat/uniform/badge “power thing” that some peace officers, male and female, can really get caught up in. I’m afraid it may be a part of some problems we suffer now in our country right now with renegade cops and outraged populations. Hats/Uniforms/Badges. Think about it.

But on that evening, at the Sheriff’s office, I was being booked and fingerprinted by a pimple faced jerk behind the counter.   He wanted to know what color my underpants were.

Obviously he was playing Pimpled-Power-Man to my Trapped-Woman-Woman.

So I just told him the straight truth. I told him I was going commando!   No UnderRoos for this lady, Sonny! I took his little power away and Pimples gasped and nearly fell off the high chair he had been sitting on. It is hard to express just how very satisfying that was.

I don’t know what our parents would have said had they got to know a grown up me. But believe me, I do know that my brother truly would have been ROF and cheering me on. I think he still does.

(The USS Goldsborough was purchased for parts by The Royal Australian Navy, but I’m not telling Bill!)

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You call me on Christmas  Day,

When our  turkey is done and resting.

Guests have arrived.  some are seated,

But first I answer the phone

To your cigarette-tough voice

Hurling crap at my ear.   

My brother is gone? Dead?

Two goddam weeks ago?

That was the anniversary of our Mother’s death!

Why did you wait to tell me?  

I don’t care about your daughter ,

Or her girlfriend, or the fight they had that night.

And I don’t care if you believe it was

 Bill’s Last Straw.

 I care about living two weeks never knowing he was gone!

You buried him at sea, just the way he wanted? 

Really?  Without telling me ?

So where do I go to celebrate my brother?

And which part of the Pacific holds him now?

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Elisabeth II

I slowed down as I approached the landing at our apartment.  Mom was a tall woman and I was small for my age, and now I wished I could shrink into a piece of nothing and disappear.

“What in hell do you think you are doing, Miss Priss?”  Mom’s voice was low and dangerous. I had no idea of what she was thinking.  I only knew I did something wrong, very wrong. 

She grabbed me by my shoulder and snatched the butterfly dress out of my arms.  Her cup and saucer fell to the floor and shattered.   The white patent shoes landed on the parquet floor with two thuds and my heart slammed still with a third, as she shoved me into the living room, which was really just a corner of our large kitchen/dining/living area. 

Mom pushed me back into the sofa and I sat and watched, frozen with fear, as she took the beautiful dress and tore it apart.  She shredded the puff sleeves, and ripped the skirt off.  Then she wadded it into a ball, marched across the room and shoved everything into the kitchen trashcan and grabbed the dustpan and broom and came back for the shattered cup and saucer.  She swept the broken pottery up, then let me have it.

“I heard you had gone with that woman to the rummage sale!  I suppose you know who’s princess shoes these are, don’t you?”  I looked at her trying to guess whose shoes these might have been.

“These belonged to that little smartass Brenda!  If you wear such fancy shoes our family will be the laughing stock of the whole goddam town!

She stopped sweeping and glared down at me.  My mother was so tall and so scary when she was mad.  I prayed I wouldn’t wet myself.

“I forbid you to wear those shoes!  We will give them to charity.  And you are never to go shopping at a goddam rummage sale again!  Ever!”

Mom grabbed my braids and told me to go to bed with no dinner.

 I went into the room I shared with my brother and laid down on my bed and began to cry. After a while, I heard Bill come home, hungry, asking what was for dinner.


“Well, it’s pretty near the end of the month, so we are stuck with Graveyard Stew. Let’s hope the milk holds up.”

“I hate Graveyard Stew!  Why can’t we have hotdogs or tuna casserole like other people?” 

I heard her suck her breath in, heard the slap across his face and he ran into our room and shoved his bed against the door and threw himself face down on his bed. 

Bill and I went to bed early again.  We listened to our mother pacing and muttering to herself about that Jewess, about pride, about not needing somebody’s damned castoffs.

“What’s a Jewess, Billy?”  Bill turned over; his cheek was still red, but no tears.

“I don’t know, Sis, I never heard of one before.”  He turned away and sighed, “Maybe it’s someone who sells jewelry.”

I crawled into bed with him and he patted me on the head and turned away.  We both waited for sleep to hurry up and come before the growling in our stomachs began.  If we could get to sleep quickly we would not feel the pangs.

The next morning we woke up early and spoke in whispers about whether our mother was over being mad.  We decided to wait until she woke up, and listen to how her feet sounded on the floor.  If she was still mad she stomped, and eventually we would hear her slam the door as she left to walk off her madness.  If she was quiet she was probably crying.  It was safer if she was crying.

We listened and didn’t hear anything.  We dressed quickly, hoping she had already left.  We grabbed our shoes and opened our door. 

Mom was lying on her back on the sofa, one foot resting on the floor, one arm flung over her eyes.  The ashtray was balanced on her belly and it moved a little each time she snored in and let out.  My brother and I tip-toed quietly out the front door.

We reached the bottom step we sat down to put our shoes on.  When I stood up I could see by my shadow on the sidewalk that we weren’t anywhere near noon.  I hoped Elisabeth would bring a lot of food for lunch.  

Billy said he was going over to Al’s house.  They were helping his dad work on an old truck.  Al’s family was Italian and they always had big lunches with pasta and sandwiches.  They fed everybody who was working worked in the garage, paid or not; and anyone who just stopped by to say hello.  I headed down to the swimming pool and see if any kids were there.  They were pretty good about letting us swim for free if we behaved ourselves and helped some with picking up trash that the tourists threw around.  We could usually count on a hot dog in return for keeping the area clean.

Nobody was at the pool yet so I went around back and climbed over the cyclone fence, and dropped softly down on the patch of grass the sunbathers used.  I sat way back in the corner where the fence met the beige stucco wall of the dressing rooms, where nobody could see me, and felt the sun comfort me with warmth. I prayed the rest of the day would please be better.  I imagined my special time with Elisabeth, down at the creek and eating lunch with her.  Meanwhile I leaned against the stucco, feeling cozy in the warmth of the sun and dozed off.

I jumped awake and stood straight up.  Elisabeth!  It was time because my shadow was getting short, so I walked down to the cottages and knocked on the door of Cottage No. 14.  Nobody answered.  So I knocked a little louder. 

The door opened and a chubby grey-haired old lady wearing a blue dress with white daisies said hello to me.  When I asked for Elisabeth, she said she was sorry, but Elisabeth was ill.  She would be leaving for San Francisco once she woke up.

“Aaah, you must be Mellie?”  She smiled down at me when I nodded my head.  “I’m Miss Anna, Elisabeth’s friend.  I know all about you from Elisabeth, and also from Miss Lilly.  Miss Lilly says you are a very brave and a very smart young lady, did you know that?”  I nodded my head yes. 

“Miss Lilly always tells me that.  She says it is the most important thing I need to remember, that I’m very brave and very smart.”

Miss Anna patted my cheek, “So!  You must wake up each morning with this as your very first thought!  Then when you go to sleep each night you must let it be your last thought.  Do this and you will have a very fine life, Mellie, I promise!”

She leaned down and gave me a little hug and a pat on the head. 

“Now run along now and play with your friends.  I think that Elisabeth will be coming back later in the summer.”

I turned and started to walk away.  Then I stopped and looked back at Miss Anna.  She had a hanky in her hand, was wiping her eyes as she turned around and went back in the cottage.  She closed the door.

I ran down Washington Street and took the path down to the creek, and waded in waist deep water out to the logs under the bridge, where the turtle family lived.  I climbed out of the water and hid in the pilings listening to frogs croaking and the sizzle of tires on the bridge above me.  I wiped tears from my cheek as I hoped that everything would be okay when the sun went down and I went home.

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