Posts Tagged With: honor

It’s About Death

Both my mother and brother died on Dec. 13th, three decades apart. He had not reconciled with our mother and I have had a hunch that it was his way of honoring her at last.  I dunno, I’m just built that way:  life (and death) have meanings.   This year it is Corrie, my Dutch friend who married an old boyfriend of mine.  I’d passed him on to Annie who was so mean to him – but then we were Just Seventeen then and stupid.  It freed him up to eventually take a holiday to Amsterdam, where certain vegetation could be purchased with no hassles.  I’m not saying he found Corrie there, doing that.. but they both were known for dam heavy smoking and whiskey neat.

It was a godsend that Patrick was in Holland when my world collapsed in Sudan.  The kids and spent the better part of three months in Den Haag, waiting to see what the political outcome would be in Khartoum.  Pat is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and he had a beautiful life with an incredibly intelligent, funny and loving woman.  They were married over 30 years.

Corrie passed on New Years Day after nearly a decade of fighting brain and lung cancers.  During those years she was in and out of hospital, and when she was strong she and Patrick took off to various parts of the world to continue their lifelong devotion to improving the world.  They worked on fresh water and farming in Africa, built schools in the Greek Islands andSouth America. Where there is need the Dutch always roll up their sleeves and literally “dig in”.  They came to me a year ago last summer, and we held a wonderful party for them in our back yard when it still looked beautiful.  Food and drink and old folks:  we reminisced about our teenage years when we were young, silly and excited about everything – even an event in San Francisco I’d blocked out:  a “Horse Potato” fight in Golden Gate Park.  Disgusting but fun.

Most of us have relatives and friends who seem to choose the Annual Party Time: starting with Halloween, through Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year.  I am of the opinion that they choose their departure deliberately, they have some say in the event and it is not to bring sorrow to the celebrations, it’s their way of participating annually ~ perhaps even looking in on us???  Anyway, that’s my own take. I promise to make a post to my blog if I find out if I’m right after I make my own transition.  That should be Thanksgiving.   I will no doubt be hovering near your stove because I love to be warm!

In our wonderful online world, I found a distant relative living in the North of England and began a correspondence with her regarding a mysterious island in the freezing depths of the North Sea just off Scotland.  We did some research then she finally cracked her own “mystery” of the ancient isle of Ates.  During the course of searching I decided I really MUST visit the coastal islands of the UK, soon.  It’s the Isle of Man that has my attention as I once met a fellow who said he was Manx, so I asked if he was from the Isle of Man and he said yes, the residents call themselves Manx, and in answer to my unspoken query he added “Like the Cat. The breed is native there.”

I can only wonder how and why a tail-less breed of cat mutated only on this one small island.  It’s my understanding that cats were first civilized in Egypt.  Now how does this work?  In this paragraph one can see how my mind works and I probably should feel shame but I don’t.

I hope all have enjoyed your tour through my brain above.  Off we go to my letter from Hilda, and how the family celebrated the death of her husband Frank during the Holidays.  (While you read, I think I’ll post and move on to find out what the Barnardos Homes are. Perhaps foster care or orphanage…)


Happy New Year Melanie,

 I had a LOVELY Xmas, despite everything.  My grandson James sat in Franks usual place at the dinner table, and said all the things ‘Grumpy’ usually said on such occasions. It was fun.  His funeral service was beautiful.  He asked for “the cheapest funeral we could get “, and absolutely no religion”. He lost what faith he had when the cancer got him. We granted him his wish.  We had a ‘Humanist’ service. Some of his favorite songs, and a female officiate called Val.  She stood and told his life story. (he was brought up in foster care, starting with Barnardos  Homes.  About 12 of his old work mates turned up. I was delighted. I had only ever met one of them, and it was him who got the rest there.  He remained a loyal friend to Frank, and visited regular when he was ill. We are so very grateful to him.  

We played Ketty Lester’s ‘Love Letters’ to go into the chapel, ( we started out as pen-pals while he was in the army) Kenny Rogers / Dolly Partons  ‘Islands in the Stream’ , for the quiet thoughtful, quiet period half way through, and the very irreligious ‘Another one bites the the Dust’ by Queen, when we were leaving the chapel. (He was cremated) That was his specific request. He would have been laughing.  

 I have had a bit of a struggle with the arthritis  lately. the weather hear is weird at the moment. We have VERY strong winds at moment. I hate them. Makes me tense and head-achy.  Anyway, will finish now. Watching ‘Ben Hur’ for the umpteenth time, as tele  has been pathetic over the holidays. Very few adult programmes, all repeats, and nearly all childrens programmes, even in the evenings. They get there licence fee for nothing these days.  Bye for now melanie. get well soon.

Your friend Hilda.

Categories: Family History, Friends I've never Met, Life Overseas, Supporting Our People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Fellow American


It is a bitter cold day.

His unshaved face is hunched over a grocery cart

Filled with plastic and tin and clothing;

And his eyes are fixed

On disappearing sidewalk.

I pull my car over , and call out “Pops!”

He stops and stares and I see he is of my generation.

I pull a twenty from my wallet,

“How ‘about a cuppa Joe, Joe?”

His eyes light up as he barely

reaches through the window,

Promising he won’t hurt me.

I sigh and shove a bill at him.

He takes it gratefully, and then

He spots the mistake:

With tearful eyes he tries to correct

The error I never made.

“Uh, this is a Jackson, Miss,”

And tries to hand it back.

“No mistake Bud. So get yourself

A piece of pie too, huh.?”

Tears stream,

He makes a sound

Like laughter.

I honk I wave I drive away.

In my rear-view window

He stands tall

He shakes his head and smiles.

For a moment he is a man with a mission.

Melanie Alcorn 8/NOV/2014

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Manners and Self Respect


‬Last summer an interaction between of a group of middle-school boys and their school bus monitor,‭ ‬a‭ ‬68‭ ‬year old widow made the news.  She‭ ‬may have been a working elder,‭ ‬perhaps trying to make her way through the now elusive golden years in arguably the worst-ever decade of America‭ ‬History.  Sadder,‭ ‬she may have volunteered for the job to just keep‭ ‬other people’s children‭ ‬safe.  Instead she was subjected to a vicious verbal assault by a group of pre-teen boys.  
It is heartwarming that the public came to her aid and admirable that the thoughtless youngsters actually made their‭ ‬sincere‭ ‬apologies.  I give kudos to the boys for manning up and rectifying such a heartbreaking moment in their young lives.
I will call the boys‭’ ‬behavior‭ “‬Mob Mind‭”‬.  It is something I experienced twice in my young years of the early‭ ‬1960s.  I’m first to admit that the good old days theory is a nice idea, however,‭ ‬they aren’t all that they were cracked up to be.‭
Mob Mind is a crazed condition,‭ ‬and happens most often at sporting events.‭ ‬ It might be related to delayed development of the frontal lobe in young people.  Current research indicates people may be lucky to make it to their‭ ‬26th year when actual judiciousness finally sets in.  
I believe‭ ‬has a lot to do with not having‭ ‬ “manners‭”‬,‭ ‬a word used for respecting and caring for fellow beings,‭ ‬and it needs done long before a child enters school.

1‭)‬  All children need tools in order to successfully navigate their lives.  A household agenda of civility and manners‭; ‬respect and caring needs to be instilled by the time they are walking.   This would be those‭ “‬yes please,‭ ‬thank you,‭ ‬pardon me,‭ ‬may I‭” ‬phrases with which children are received with approval from the rest of the world.  Pre-school children are known for being amiable and cooperative,‭ ‬and professional mimics‭! ‬ They are fixated on mirroring what they see and hear.  Parents,‭ ‬please do walk the walk‭; ‬ and‭ ‬talk the talk.    What your child sees,‭ ‬our world‭ ‬gets.
2‭)‬  Encourage the older child to‭ ‬develop and‭ ‬respect an inner sense of responsibility.  Teach them as they move into elementary school that they need to rely on their sense of respect,‭ ‬of honor,‭ “‬as Our Family always does.‭”‬  Let them take pride in moving positively through their world.  Teach them it is their responsibility to sound the alarm,‭ ‬their duty to alert the school,‭ ‬church,‭ ‬or call‭ ‬911‭ ‬when they see certain acts,‭ ‬like bullying,‭ ‬and physical or sexual violence. 

I find it amusing that although I was reared in a welfare family,‭ ‬my brother and I learned all the above as toddlers.  And by the time we were ready for kindergarten we knew to stand up when a lady enters the room‭; ‬if you are a gentlemen you remove hat on entering a room‭; ‬you give‭ ‬up your chair as a seat for a lady or an elder‭; ‬the gentleman opens the car door for the lady,‭ ‬and seats her in the restaurant,‭ ‬etcetera,‭ ‬etcetera,‭ ‬etcetera‭…‬..‭ ‬   

Mother took things a little further,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬and taught us how to curtsy and bow.  I assume she fancied us being presented to royalty one day.
She may not have been able to provide a lot of real necessities as we grew up,‭ ‬but she was able to give us the most priceless tools for navigating society and the workforce:  how to comfortably give respect,‭ ‬and employ some very Victorian manners‭!‬  Well,‭ ‬it worked for us both,‭ ‬and I have passed along most of what she taught to my own children‭ (‬sans‭ ‬bow and‭ ‬curtsy‭) ‬and‭ ‬to my grandchildren.
All my life I wondered about‭ ‬the ways man civilized himself.  I‭ ‬once hoped to get a degree in archaeology after‭ ‬taking Physical and Cultural Anthropology.  I‭ ‬envisioned myself landing a job in the Olduvai Gorge with Doctors Louis and Mary Leaky,‭ ‬sifting sand in my khaki shorts and pith helmet‭; ‬finding shards of bones,‭ ‬brushing dirt from ancient footprints. ‭
Cultural Anthropology particularly fascinated me.‭ ‬How did they civilize themselves‭?‬  There‭ ‬must have been lots of death.
I envision the cave man coming out of his cave early in the morning to go hunting with his club or‭ ‬his‭ ‬rocks.  He has a mate,‭ ‬and‭ ‬maybe a couple of children still sleeping in their cave,‭ ‬trusting Papa will not be an idiot and get himself killed by annoying‭ ‬other hunters.  

I am certain that on meeting another human,‭ ‬Papa adopted a submissive,‭ ‬or at minimum a respectful posture,‭ ‬hoping to establish some mutually beneficial relationship based on marrying off his female offspring,‭ ‬trading,‭ ‬or just staying alive. 
Inspired by that thought,‭ ‬I searched online for the‭ “‬origins of etiquette‭” ‬and found Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette.  I learned that Miss Emily’s Great-Grandson,‭ ‬Peter Post has written‭ ‬5‭ ‬books on etiquette,‭ ‬so obviously much of the world still acknowledges this social requirement. 
I searched further and found some support for my caveman theory:
1‭) ‬2,600‭ ‬years ago the first‭ “‬book of etiquette‭” ‬was written by Ptahhotep,‭ ‬who was a city administrator under Pharaoh Djedkare Isesi.
2‭) ‬3,300‭ ‬years ago mankind’s first written form of communication,‭ ‬Cuneiform,‭ ‬was developed,‭ ‬probably in Persia and it represents the origin of all written languages.
3‭) ‬5,000‭ ‬years ago,‭ ‬in Mesopotamia,‭ ‬records of stores of grain and other agricultural products were kept by using forms of clay tokens or coins.
It took my‭ ‬imaginary‭ ‬caveman a very long time to get from‭ ‬just trying to feed his family without getting killed,‭ ‬to honing the social posturing‭ ‬that would keep him alive,‭ ‬and eons later keep him out of prisons.

I think it is time to go back to respectful interactions between people,‭ ‬not the short hand,‭ ‬short changing quick hits of‭ “‬social‭” ‬interactions.‭

And,‭ ‬it is especially important to our youngest ones,‭ ‬who hold our future in their hands.‭ ‬We adults are either somewhere on track,‭ ‬or nearing the end of the track of our own lives.‭

Our youngest ones desperately need the tools to do as we have done and are doing and to undo the worst of what we have done.

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