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Join a July 4th Parade

Cape St. Claire Celebration

10am from the Fire Department to the Main Beach for fun from 11am-2pm: tug-of war, sand-castle building contest, water-balloon toss, spoon and egg races, watermelon-eating contest and the Cape’s BBQ ribs and patriotic dessert contest: 410-757-1223; www.cscia.org/cape-st-claire/cape-st-claires-annual-july-4th-celebration

 

Severna Park Parade

10am from St. Martin’s in-the-Field Church, to Severna Park High School, to Evergreen Road to B&A Blvd to Cypress Creek Park: 410-647-3900.

 

Shady Side Parade

10am from Cedarhurst to the Shady Side Community Center on Snug Harbor Road. Roads close to traffic at 9:45am. Eddy Boarman: 443-370-8720.

 

Galesville Parade 

1pm down Main Street, which closes to traffic around 12:45pm. Parking $5/car on the athletic field at Anchors Way and Main St.: [email protected]; 703-328-6669.

 

Annapolis Parade

6:30pm down West Street from Amos Garrett Blvd., around Church Circle, down Main Street, then on Randall Street to Market House: www.annapolis.gov.

Your guide to fireworks, parades and celebrations

Friday June 29

Historic St. Mary’s Fireworks: Pyrotechnics follow Chesapeake Orchestra’s birthday concert in honor of Leonard Bernstein, with music of Sousa, Tchaikovsky and more. Bring lawn seating and a picnic or buy from food trucks. Arrive early at this thronged summer favorite. 7pm, Townhouse Green, St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s City: www.chesapeakeorchestra.org.

 

Saturday, June 30

Chesapeake Beach Fireworks go up from two barges anchored beyond the town jetties, visible from the water and from land along the Bayfront from as far south as Willow Beach to north of North Beach. Watch the 25-minute spectacular from North Beach Boardwalk; at Rod ‘N’ Reel, where Split 2nd performs 5-9pm; on water onboard the Miss Lizzy (8pm, Chesapeake Beach Resort, $35, rsvp: www.cbresortspa.ticketleap.com); or take in the view from Chesapeake Beach Water Park (www.chesapeakebeachwaterpark.com). Fireworks 9pm, Chesapeake Beach: www.chesapeake-beach.md.us.

St. Michael’s Fireworks: The Shades of Blue Orchestra plays at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (7-10pm) for Big Band Night and St. Michaels’ fireworks. The orchestra performs at the historic Tolchester Beach Bandstand with dancing under the tent, and fireworks beginning at dusk over the Miles River (rain date July 1). Bring chairs, picnic blankets, food and drinks, but leave non-service dogs at home. Food, ice cream and non-alcoholic beverages sold; sponsored by Eastern Shore Tents & Events: www.cbmm.org/bigband.

 

Tuesday July 3

Sherwood Forest Fireworks: See this private community show from the Severn River from your boat. Or book on the Harbor Queen, with light snacks and cash bar. 7:30-10:30pm from Annapolis City Docks, $50 w/discounts, rsvp: www.watermarkjourney.com.

Herrington Harbour Fireworks: Fireworks set off from a barge illuminate Herring Bay. Marina grounds are reserved for members. But the view is great from boats, private docks, lawns or beaches. About 9:15pm, Herrington Harbour South, Rose Haven: www.herringtonharbour.com.

 

Wednesday, July 4

Baysox Fireworks: With an extended finale follow the Bowie Baysox baseball game against the Harrisburg Senators; rsvp for barbecue picnic buffet ($40 w/discounts). Picnic 5:30pm, game 6:35pm, Prince George’s Stadium, game tickets $7-$17, rsvp: www.baysox.com.

Annapolis Fireworks rise from a barge anchored in Spa Creek, illuminating Annapolis Harbor. Spa Creek Bridge closes to traffic at 6pm and local garages may fill up early; $1 shuttles run from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium to Lawyers Mall 5pm-midnight. Town and water views including from the Harbor Queen (7:30-10:30pm, Annapolis City Dock, $55 w/discounts, rsvp: www.watermarkjourney.com) or Schooner Woodwind (6:30-10pm, Annapolis Waterfront Hotel dock, $89 w/discounts, rsvp: www.schoonerwoodwind.com ): 9pm over the Severn River: 410-293-2291. 

Solomons Fireworks shoot from a barge anchored in the Patuxent River, giving the entire island — plus boaters — front row seats. Arrive early for the boat parade (noon); stay to stroll the Riverwalk and see the town. Rsvp by June 30 to watch aboard the Wm. B. Tennison on a Calvert Marine Museum cruise (8pm,  $35: 410-326-2042, x41). 9pm, Solomons: 443-324-8235.

Greater Baltimore’s Fourth of July fireworks illuminate the Inner Harbor, where the fun starts with the Commodores U.S. Navy Jazz Ensemble playing at the amphitheater (7pm). Come early for a heightened view on land or water, watch from the Top of the World observation floor, World Trade Center ($50 w/discounts, rsvp: 410-837-8439) or from a Watermark yacht (8-11pm, $59 w/discounts, rsvp: www.watermarkjourney.com) or on the Spirit of Baltimore (7-10:30pm, Inner Harbor, $115-$200, rsvp: www.spiritcruises.com). Fireworks begin 9:30pm over Inner Harbor, Baltimore: www.promotionandarts.org.

Washington, D.C. Fireworks: Celebrate America with high drama, music and special effects as the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery blasts cannons as fireworks burst over the capital. Tens of thousands of celebrants gather early on the National Mall for the National Symphony Orchestra’s annual concert (8pm). The nation’s capital begins the day at 11:45am with the Independence Day parade down Constitution Ave. and 7th St., traveling toward the Lincoln Memorial. Prime views include the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial and the Ellipse: 9:09pm on the National Mall: www.nps.gov/foju. 

 

Saturday, July 7

Laurel Fireworks: Arrive early for parade (11am), then visit food and craft vendors, a classic car show, hot-dog eating contest and field events; Oracle plays music. Then settle in for fireworks set to music shot from the far side of Laurel Lakes. 9:15pm at Granville Gude Park (Laurel Lakes), 8300 Mulberry St., Laurel: www.laurel4th.org.

Don’t crowd this little bird off the beach

“The birds are taking over the beach.”     

            I heard that complaint as parts of a beach were being roped off because of nesting birds.

            The bird under protection is likely the tiny piping plover. 

            In the 1850s, piping plovers were very common along the East Coast and the shores of the Great Lakes. The population collapsed as they were hunted so their feathers could decorate women’s hats. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 stopped the hunting, and the population stabilized.

            With human development along the coast, the population was again threatened. By 1986, just 790 breeding pairs survived on the Atlantic Coast. That is when they gained protection under the Endangered Species Act. Even with protection, the most recent surveys still place the Atlantic population at fewer than 2,000 pairs. 

            Piping plovers nest in small depressions in beach sand. They lay their speckled, sand-colored eggs in depressions about the size of a footprint. The eggs are very hard to see.

            The eggs take 25 days to hatch, emerging at about the size and shape of a miniature marshmallow. The tiny chicks hide by freezing in place, as they cannot fly for another 30 days. Eggs and young are very vulnerable to predatory animals and to being stepped on or run over by motor vehicles and bikes.

            Adults also have difficulty feeding the chicks when people are too close. After the chicks have learned to fly, they are no longer as vulnerable. By September, the plovers start their migration south along the Florida coastline to the Bahamas.

            These little birds need space to survive as a species. Four thousand birds along the hundreds of miles of Atlantic coastline is not very many. Help them out by avoiding nesting areas, and keeping your pets out, too.  

African Americans take center stage

Many diverse cultures melded to make the people of Chesapeake Country. Celebrate African American heritage, history and culture at two summer events this week as we also recognize Juneteenth, commemorating the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas.

            Before you make any plans for the weekend, rsvp for limited seats at the Rise Above Exhibit. This mobile theater has been touring the country and makes a stop in Annapolis June 13 to 16. Inside the immersive panoramic movie theater, you’ll learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, see memorabilia and soar with the Red Tail Squadron in an IMAX video about these war heroes who broke down color barriers. 9am-4:15pm, Rockwell Collins parking lot, Annapolis, free, rsvp: https://bit.ly/2M09Ejt.

            Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard joins with the Calvert chapter of the NAACP to celebrate our patchwork of cultures at the 23rd annual African-American Family Community Day. Watch living history presentations, see a talent show with performers of all ages, check your well-being at a mini health fair, tour Sukeeks Cabin and see exhibits on display in the museum and at the lab. Live music plays all day around the picnic area. Sat., June 16, 11am-5pm, Jefferson Patterson Park, St. Leonard, free: www.jefpat.org.

2018 Sneaker Index: 36 inches and rising

As they have for 31 years, a chain of people walked into the Patuxent River on June’s second Sunday, hand in hand, and fully clothed. A tall man clad in overalls, cowboy hat and white sneakers waded at the center of that procession.

            Bernie Fowler could, at one time, walk shoulder high in the Patuxent and still see his feet on the sandy bottom. In 1988, then-state Sen. Fowler held the first-ever Patuxent River Wade In, encouraging local, like-minded environmentalists to focus on the river’s well-being.

            That inaugural year, the convoy only made it to 10 inches deep before Fowler lost sight of his bright, white shoes.

            This year’s contingent made it to 36 inches — 41⁄2 inches less than last year, but with the recent torrential rainfall, murky water was predictable.

            The Sneaker Index measurement, now made at Jefferson Patterson Park, isn’t an entirely foolproof experiment. Too many factors can disrupt the Patuxent at any given time. What Fowler’s Sneaker Index does do is educate, raise awareness and create community.

            Old friend Steny Hoyer, the second most powerful representative in the U.S. House, was on hand as usual measuring the damp on Fowler’s overalls.

            “For 31 years, Bernie has focused our attention on the health and cleanliness of our waterways,” Hoyer said, “and we are truly grateful for his efforts.”

            Fowler never relents in those efforts. At 94, he is unyielding in his resolve to protect the river he loves. “This year we saw some healthy signs that lifted our morale,” Fowler said. Some seaweed that hadn’t been there in previous years was uprooted. “It was heartwarming and enlightening to see that grass again, the red ducks love it,” he said.

            “We will truly never, ever, ever give up.”

 

Way Downstream …

From Australia’s Goat Island, the luck of a crocodile-tormenting terrier named Pippa ran out last week.

            For years, the yapping dog, a 10-year-old West Highland-Australian terrier mix, had tourists yelping with delight as it chased a seemingly frightened crocodile named Casey back into the drink.

            It was quite the sight, an attraction so hysterical that Goat Island Lodge posted videos (goatisland.com.au) beneath the headline Dumb Blonde Strikes Back.

            Remember the refrain about the danger of tugging on Superman’s cape? Crocodiles are fearsome creatures with huge, serrated teeth and the strongest jaws on earth, eight times more powerful than killer whales.

            So learned the Ethiopian minister pulled under by one of these flesh-eaters while performing a muddy waters baptism.

            The lodge didn’t post Pippa’s last video, and we won’t either. In a split second, with one mighty chomp, Casey got even, and croc and dog disappeared into the Adelaide River.

Through my father’s influence I have been training my whole life for my own surprising fatherhood

Ah, Father’s Day, our annual sojourn into celebrating dear ol’ Dad.

            When I ask my father what he wants for this celebratory occasion, I usually get a you can’t afford it — until my pestering leads to an exacerbated “Fine, an Amazon gift card.” Bingo.

            My father is a simple man. He likes his guitar, power tools and eggs for breakfast. Most of all he is humble. He is not one for elaborate displays of congratulatory behavior. To him, Father’s Day is just another day, not one to be self-indulgent.

            He never spoke of being a good man or what makes a great dad; he just did it. To this day, I have a fine example of fatherhood in my own father, but I never thought I would be one myself. I’m a photojournalist; I do not have time for kids.

            Late last September, as we departed on a camping trip in the north woods of Maine, my wife told me that she thought she was pregnant.

            Gulp. Really? I mean … I know we just began speaking of starting a family, but already? No way could I be a father. Or so I thought.

            On our return, a little lima-bean-looking thing on the sonogram confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. At the sight of it, I felt like I was going to cry. Yet I was not sad, and I didn’t even feel scared — though that would come soon enough. What I felt was love. This is not hyperbole; I felt an immense feeling of love.

            We were told the expected due date was May 24.

            My wife and I decided to be surprised by the baby’s gender; we waited until Christmas to tell our families we were expecting. The first week of April we planned to take a baby-moon to New Orleans to go see WrestleMania 34. (Did I mention my wife is awesome?) My father took me to all the professional wrestling events when I was a child, and the pastime has never left. A few days before our departure, my wife’s ob-gyn checked her over and assured us it was safe to fly.

            New Orleans is great. It is colorful, musical and full of good food. The locals are very nice, too. As it would soon turn out, we would meet quite a few of them.

            Fast forward to 1:30am Monday, April 9. Wrestlemania had ended two hours before I heard my wife’s voice come from the bathroom of our Airbnb. “I think my water broke.”

            Wait … what? My heart speeded up, and my throat became parched. What do you mean, “water broke?” Was it a glass bottle or plastic? Should I get a mop?

            The paramedics were very cool guys (one was from Silver Spring) who drove us a little farther out to what they said was the best baby hospital in New Orleans.

            I will spare you all the details in the hospital over the next 12 hours, the scariest and most stressful of my life. I have no recollection of time at that point. Some of the statements I heard were:

            The baby is only 33 weeks, and the lungs will not be developed …

            We need to prolong the labor until the baby reaches 34 weeks …

            Your wife is dilating fast so we need to try to prolong the labor for 24 hours to get her another dose of antibiotics and steroids to develop the lungs …

            She’s dilated much more …

            The baby is a breech …

            We need to do an emergency C-section.

            My wife, who is much stronger than I am, was ready. I faked it. Not long ago I was cheering on The Undertaker and Triple H at the Superdome. Now I was sitting next to my wife as she is being operated on.

            At 2:06pm, I heard the sweetest cry I ever heard.           “Congratulations,” said a nurse, “you’re the parents of a beautiful baby girl.”

            And there she was, our sweet baby, who cried and cried and cried.

            Wait? I thought the lungs ­shouldn’t be developed. But here she was, crying on her own with fully developed lungs. She never needed supplemental oxygen.

            The next couple weeks in the NICU had their share of ups and downs. Being 1,200 miles from home didn’t help.

            Soon after the baby was born, my parents arrived in New Orleans. For the next five days, I slept at my wife’s side. When she was discharged at week’s end, I had given no thought to where we would stay.

            Dad, as he always has, sensed my stress. Before he flew back to Baltimore, he extended his hotel stay.

            “It’s now yours,” he said. “I need my daughter-in-law comfortable and you well rested for your family.”

            After many weeks, I am finally home with my lovely wife and daughter. I am now a proud member of the Dad club. I’m a novice and, in full disclosure, not sure what I am doing. But hey, I’m changing diapers and giving her baths. I got this!

            Though I did not know it at the time, through my father’s influence I have been getting trained my whole life on the mentality that makes a great dad. Selflessness, dedication and humility are but some of the qualities. I know I have a long but exciting road ahead of me, but he has given me an encyclopedia of memories.

            Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m getting you more than an Amazon gift card this year.

 

Authors Note: Thank you to the wonderful staff of Touro Hospital and the Best Western St. Charles Inn in New Orleans, Louisiana. We promise to bring Liliana back to her hometown.

Maryland Youth Referee of the Year award makes dad proud

“When you’re a kid, you always think I want to be like my dad,” says 17-year-old Griffin Tucker. As a kid, Griffin ran around his house, blowing his dad’s whistle and throwing yellow and red penalty cards left and right. Dad Garrett Tucker loved soccer, so son Griffin did, too.

            Griffin began playing soccer at five years old. At 12, when he became eligible to referee youth soccer, he went out and got his reffing certificate right away. It was only natural that Griffin try out what his dad had loved to do for so many years.

            As a referee, Griffin gets a new perspective on the sport.

            “There are four perspectives at a soccer game,” the rising Southern High School senior explains. “There is the perspective of the soccer players, that of the parents and bystanders, the perspective of the coaches and then there’s me. As a ref, I see a completely different game.”

            In an average game, he runs between five and seven miles. If the physical challenge was the greatest one, almost any athlete could complete the job. But what Griffin finds most demanding as a referee is the mental investment. A ref has many heads turning to look at what he is going to call.

            With 22 players on the field, double that number in parents and observers and two sets of coaches all depending on one person to make the correct call, a lot of pressure resides on the referee.

            In less than a half-second, Griffin must make a call that can determine the outcome of the rest of the game. “I am not perfect,” he says, “but I try to make the correct calls to the best of my ability.”

            Getting paid $25 to $50 a game is an added bonus, he says, because soccer is a sport “you either like or you love.”

            Stepping onto the field for a game a few Saturdays back, Griffin knew his job would not be an easy one. One organization had split into two teams after a disagreement, and the rend was not mended. What Griffin didn’t know was that more was at stake than two semifinal teams competing for the state championship.

            Tensions were high, and emotions were even higher as former teammates competed against one another for this important win. After 90 minutes, two winners emerged. Griffin had performed so well in that game that Maryland’s Youth Referee Administrator, Jeff Gontarek, awarded him the title of Maryland Young Male Referee of the Year.

            Next month Griffin referees the Youth Regionals — with maybe even the nationals in his near future.

            Dad Garrett Tucker understand the responsibility this carries. “The referee has the game in his hands.”

American Legion Post 206 historian seeks and shares the stories of those who served

      You would sit down cautiously with Fred Bumgarner at a poker table (usage of which can neither be denied nor confirmed) at the Stallings-Williams American Legion Post 206 in Chesapeake Beach. His gaze does not betray his thoughts. But the tight-handed former naval cryptologist is flush with heart when it comes to remembering our past and present veterans — even the ones whose only legacy is their discharge papers.
       “I was going through old files,” Bumgarner says, “and asking fellas, Who was this guy? What was his story? Sometimes I could find out something, and sometimes I couldn’t. But it always hit me hard that we didn’t find out before they were gone from us.”
      Bumgarner, 70, has been an American Legion member for 44 years. Since coming to Calvert County in 1980, he’s held several positions at Post 206, with membership in the 800s. Since becoming its historian two years ago, Bumgarner contributes Untold Stories to the Post’s quarterly newsletter: paragraph-sized biographical snippets gleaned from DD-214 discharge papers and membership cards. They are informative, anonymous, way too short, somewhat saddening, yet an inspirational source for reflection of the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military forces.
      I was a WWII Army veteran serving in the Pacific …
      I was a Korean War veteran flying missions in the Air Force …
      I was a Marine veteran of Vietnam from 1963 …
      “It means a lot more than it says,” Bumgarner reminds us. “It’s not a lot of info, but it’s something that we can document for these men and women who served their country.”
      Every once in a while, Bumgarner gets the whole story. He feels especially grateful to interview a veteran whose stories wouldn’t otherwise have a home.
       “I meet a lot of great people with some absolutely astonishing real-life stories, and I’m compelled to get them written down,” the biographer says.
      Bumgarner sees veterans as a whole no matter where they are from, no matter who they may be. His story collection is broad, inclusive and intriguing. Here are Memorial Day snippets of stories Bumgarner has written from interviews with three local veterans.
 
J Rosalie Hanley-Safreed J
Women’s Army Corps
     Rosalie was born on Armistice Day, November 11, 1920, just two years after the end of World War I, a conflict in which her father, Daniel J. Hanley, served. She and her three brothers were raised in Benwood, West Virginia, along the Ohio River in coal and steel country near Wheeling. 
      Rosalie failed her initial physical to join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, but she was eventually accepted and became one of the first of 150,000 women who would serve in the WAACs renamed the Women’s Army Corps in July, 1943.
      She was the WAC editor of newsletters at both the Fort Des Moines and Mitchel Field, on Long Island.
      As the wounded arrived on stretchers, she and other WACs used their time off to help the Army nurses tend their patients. The wounded often attracted high-level VIPs, including movie stars and politicians. Rosalie was thrilled to meet Gary Cooper and Bob Hope. She also got to meet First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. 
      In July 1944, while stationed at Mitchel Field, Rosalie received word that her brother Duke was killed in action at St. Lo, France, in the Normandy invasion. In 2011, Rosalie traveled to Normandy, visited the areas where Duke had served and was given a medal and award by the French government in honor of her brother for his ultimate sacrifice and the liberation of France from the Germans.
      At 96, Rosalie is still going strong.
      When you think of the changes our society has been through in her lifetime, it really makes you stop and take notice. Women are now an accepted and valued component of all volunteer forces, and with some exceptions, they serve on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
–Fred Bumgarner
 
J Walter Dubicki J
Polish Refugee, British Army, United States Navy
       Walter was born in Rudinia, Poland, on February 8, 1935. In 1943, during World War II, the German Army relocated his family to various slave labor camps in Nazi Germany, splitting them up. He remembers they were forced to burn down their own farm before leaving. 
      They were loaded onto cattle cars and sent to camps at Dortmund and later Siegen, both northwest of Frankfurt. It was a coal-mining region; Germany used more than 15 million people as slave laborers during the war, amounting to 20 percent of the German workforce.
       After the war, first the English and then Americans took control of their Displaced Persons camp. His father was a cook for the soldiers. As a young boy he remembers he and his brother Johnny standing in the food lines with the GIs. They lived off the care packages provided by the American Army. 
       After the war, Walter joined the British Army and went to boot camp as part of an all-Polish unit. They lived in former German POW barracks and were given jobs as guards or performed other work around the camp. He served for five years.
       From a young age he had a gift for languages, learning Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, English and German. He eventually transferred from the British Army to the U.S. Navy and took citizenship and English language classes.
       He was relocated to Le Havre, France, where he learned that family members — already resettled in the United States — were sponsoring him for U.S. citizenship as a war refugee. He boarded the SS United States at Le Harve and made the July 1952 crossing in record time. 
       In 1956, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he served for eight years as a machinist mate on various vessels including the USS Randolph (CVA-15), USS Blandy (DD-943) and USS Decatur (DD-945). While on the USS Blandy, Walter became involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis in late October and early November 1962.
     On October 30, the Blandy, working with patrol aircraft, established radar contact with a surfaced Russian Foxtrot class submarine (B-130). The B-130 submerged and for the next 14 hours the Blandy tracked the sub and eventually forced it to the surface. At the time, it was not known that four submarines carried nuclear tipped torpedoes and that the Soviet navy had given authorization for their use in the event of attacks by U.S. vessels.
     During this engagement, Blandy commanding officer Edward G. ‘Shotgun’ Kelley relied on Walter as a Russian interpreter. At one point Walter spoke directly to Bobby Kennedy, the U.S. Attorney General and brother to JFK, relaying the Soviet sub commander’s intentions to the executive committee at the White House. Experiencing troubles with her diesel engines, the Russian sub turned and headed away from Cuba, closely monitored by the U.S. task force.
       After Walter’s discharge on November 17, 1964, he got a job in New York helping build the World Trade Center towers. When the second tower was 85 percent complete, his company relocated him to Washington, D.C., where it was building the new Soviet embassy. In his spare time he pursued a private pilot’s license with former WWII Navy fighter ace Robert A. Clark Jr. and later formed his own construction company with Clark, Dubicki and Clark.
       He joined Post 206 when he moved to Fairhaven, where he lived until his death in February, 2018.
–Fred Bumgarner
 
 
J Ronald C. Heister J
U.S. Naval Submariner
      In December of 2014, I attended a viewing at a local funeral home for the father of a friend and former coworker of my wife. I had never met the gentleman, Ronald Heister, but I was aware that he was a resident at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in St. Mary’s County. After leaving the funeral home that evening, I could not get this veteran’s story out of my head, so I would like to share it with you. I think you will agree that it is quite a tale of service and fate.
      The first thing I noticed was a dress-blue Navy jumper in a frame standing next to the coffin, with the insignia of a Storekeeper 2nd Class on the sleeve. A small picture of a very young couple was at the bottom of the frame with a note indicating that it was taken in early 1942 at the time the couple became engaged and just before he had shipped out to the Pacific to serve aboard the USS Pompano. There were two hats in the coffin: one an American Legion hat with the words Rock Hall for his home Post 228 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; the other a baseball cap with USS Pompano, SS-181 emblazoned in gold letters.
        When the Pompano headed out on patrol July 28, 1943, Heister had remained at the naval base with severe dental problems. The Pompano never returned from that mission. 
        On a website dedicated to the memory of the crew is a notation that Heister “was ashore for some dental work and was not with his shipmates when their boat was lost. He lives for the memory of the men he served with.”
       As I looked over the room at three generations of his family, I thought what a wonderful outcome, but I also thought of the burden that Heister carried in silence for the remainder of his life.
–Fred Bumgarner

How handwriting analysis helped me forgive my mother — and myself

A Mother’s Day story by Jane Elkin
 
        On March 3, 2004, I boarded a plane for New Hampshire to sit vigil at my mother’s deathbed. Waiting at the gate, I wrote this page in my diary. It’s the lyrics to Nella Fantasia (In My Fantasy), a Sarah Brightman song that haunted me for two months and was the last music my mother ever heard, my final gift before singing at her funeral. 
       I didn’t want to do it, but Mom insisted, and she usually got what she wanted. So I fixed my eyes on a stained glass window and focused on my job — because you can’t sing and cry at the same time.
      In my writing, you can see what depression looks like: black, blotchy, and  sinking. I remember consciously choosing the marker because it matched my mood that day. Normally, I wrote optimistically rising lines in a fine blue ballpoint. “Keep on the sunny side” was more than a cliché in my life. It was how my mother raised me.
      As a toddler, my favorite song was about seven little girls sitting in the back seat, kissing and a-hugging with bread, or so I thought. “Mama, sing Snoopy Eyes,” I would prompt, as in “Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead!” Always she complied. It was our special car song. Sometimes I even got a slice of buttered bread sprinkled with sugar. 
        We had a song for everything. When I couldn’t remember her birthday, she said to remember Alan Sherman’s liverwurst: been there since October 1, and today is the 23rd of May! We climbed Mt. Washington to the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai. When I started dating, her soundtrack became In My Little Red Book. 
      I adored her for 13 years and, because of her influence, wanted to be a singer and music teacher. It was all I thought I was good at. But she feared I’d wind up broken, like Billie Holliday or Judy Garland, and she was threatened by anything that didn’t fit her parochial vision for my future. A Catholic education seemed safer than public, so she transferred me without notice from the best performing arts school in the state to the worst. I resented her for months.
       That was the first of several dramas in a struggle for autonomy that led me to leave home at 18. Yet I never cut her out of my life, and she never stopped trying to pull my strings. Then she’d go and do something unpredictably wonderful like giving me voice lessons for my 25th birthday. It was complicated.
       When I began singing professionally at the nation’s largest Catholic church a decade later, I don’t know which of us was more proud. But by then, her spirituality had turned to fanaticism. When she asserted the point of my vocal studies was “to better praise God,” I wanted to say “No, I do it for my sake, not His,” but I couldn’t.
      Her snoopy nose was into everything from my music to my wardrobe, parenting style, even the way I changed a trash bag. Had I known her escalating control and petulant rants were symptomatic of an illness, I might have been more understanding. But by the time she was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors, she had just two months to live, and I was torn between grief and relief.
 
Her Hand and Mine
       After she died, I became a certified handwriting analyst. Applying the method to her journals, I saw that she was motivated by a lifelong fear of abandonment and a midlife loneliness I had never realized. I began writing a book and wound up pursuing a degree in creative writing to do the story justice. But I couldn’t move past my own guilt at never having properly mourned.
        “Good writing comes from forgiveness,” my teacher said. “Have you tried looking at your own script?” I had not. I felt sure I knew what I’d been feeling all the time. But there is a difference between being in the moment and reflecting on the moment. What I discovered set me free. 
      Here is my journal entry from the day I learned of my mother’s illness: 
Worse than I’d realized. The Drs. still don’t know the cause at this point. It could be a virus, a disease, or even cancer or a tumor on the brain. He [Dad] was supposed to call me back tonight, but it’s 10:30 …
         The first thing that struck me was the vertical “rivers” of white space between my words, reflecting a sudden loneliness. It was the same isolation I had seen in my mother’s writing when she was my age. The second surprise was the crashing letters in the right-hand margin, a phenomenon common to suicide notes because the right represents the future. The tendency is subtly evident here in the way the words appear to step off a cliff. Considering what lay ahead, I was literally staring death in the face and shrinking from it.
 
Final Gifts
         Four times I drove home, once with a broken tailbone, and was always surprised at her rapid regression. One weekend she was the adult bibliophile I knew; the next, a giggly teen swooning over movie heartthrobs. I felt privileged to meet my mother ‘pre-me’, even when she resembled a toddler, dangling her feet from an invalid’s pottychair and singing Daisy as my own girls had done.
       She liked old hymns, and one day when she no longer could join in, I sang her an original composition. It was my first and had taken years to write. I was nervous about sharing, but still craved her approval and wanted to give one last gift that was uniquely mine. But what if she didn’t like it? It was a bluegrass waltz, and she’d always hated country music. 
      She listened silently to all three verses, and as the final guitar chord died away, I dared ask her opinion. For once, all she said was “beautiful,” and that was her final gift to me. 
      Three weeks later, as she lay semi-comatose, I crowned her with my earphones and played Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat and Nella Fantasia, the most heavenly moving-on music I knew. She ahhhed as one sinking into a hot bath, her feet quivering like those of an infant smiling with her whole body. 
       Within hours her sporadic breathing turned to a death rattle that drove me from the room. I was ashamed of my weakness and kept the baby monitor low that night as I slept in another room, only to be awakened by the grey buzz of its mechanical silence and the fleeting sensation of her presence, which I felt as a slumbering child feels a goodnight kiss. 
      The purge of beige fluid trickling from her mouth when I found her told me all I needed to know. I closed her wide and vacant eyes, kissed her warm forehead and moved trancelike to the phone where the hospice number was posted in fat black figures. With shaking hands I misdialed three times. Then a voice answered, and I lost mine.
 
 
Jane Elkin is a former music teacher, chorister at The Basilica of the National Shrine and co-founder of The Renaissance Singers of Annapolis and Trinitas. She expects to complete her MFA at Bennington Writing Seminars in January.