Archive for category family
So years ago, my father had a business associate, who he would frequently travel with on road trips. This was in an era when retread tires were becoming more popular, but still not commonplace.
My father’s business associate was really pleased that his company car was using retreads (for their recycle factor) and bragged about it to my father. So one night when they were on a long road trip, they were taking turns driving the car. It was my father’s turn and his associate was asleep in the back seat.
Suddenly there was a loud commotion and the car started driving badly. Startled awake the associate woke up and asked my father what had happened. My father, steering the car safely to the side of the road, looked back and merely said: “Retread” (it had blown).
This is a story about my father that I never heard directly from him, if I recall correctly one of my brothers told me the tale. It’s a perfect example of my father’s deadpan sense of humor. I have always loved this story and in fact have told it to my son (who, being born 14 years after my father’s death, knows of him only through pictures or stories like this one).
Jump forward to tonight, I am driving down the highway with my son. The truck in front of us is towing a race car. Suddenly one of the tires on the trailer blows and the driver (fortunately) pulls safely off to the side of the highway.
My son looks at me, with a smirk on his face, and merely says: “Retread.”
And he was right.
I like to think my father was equally amused.
This is a personal post, in which my connection is personal and yet not. Let me explain. I married my lovely wife, Ellen, a few years ago. But long before I entered the picture, she had a wonderful sister, Kathleeen Vance, who died of cancer back in 1996. Today would have been her 64th birthday.
My wife loves the Beatles, just like her late sister. In fact, Kath’s outgoing message on her answering machine was sung to the tune of The Beatles’ Let It Be. In tribute to what would have been her 64th birthday, I offer When I’m Sixty-Four.
I like to think all Beatles fans get to hang out with John Lennon in heaven. Not all the time, mind you. Just when the mood strikes you-or when George Harrison swings by to jam with John. And from what I hear about Kath, she probably provides some damn fine backing vocals. Or maybe she takes lead and Lennon does the backing vocals. It is heaven after all.
Seriously though, I wish I had gotten to known Kath. And I am sorry for my wife, who misses her sister today. Love you, Ellen. And sorry for making you cry with this, but crying is good sometimes.
So tonight I was enjoying the tribute to legendary Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox as they retired his number (covered here by AJC beat reporter David O’Brien). I was holding out hope that the Braves would hit a season high six home runs (though five was fine with me) in honor of old #6, when my mood changed. TV announcers Chip Carey and Joe Simpson announced the passing of Atlanta Braves broadcast icon, Ernie Johnson Sr. And with that, my mood changed from happiness to near tears.
By the time I rolled into the O’Shea family (with my birth) back in the late 1960s, the family had seen some hard times–including (a mere 10 days before my arrival) the death of one of the teenage sons (after a long illness). My parents’ job was to raise a family through tough times–and it’s a job they did well. But the demands of family life and a professional career as a electrical engineer/salesman left my father with minimal desire for seemingly needless chit-chat at the end of a long day. Where my father was a man of few words, he was blessed (ahem) with a son who loved to talk.
One way a chatty kid and a stoic father could connect at the end of the day was Braves baseball. My father educated me in the ways of multitasking sports at an early age. In the days before Internet, satellite radio and cable TV, my father built a media situation room with one TV and one radio. If there was a basketball game on the TV, you can bet there might be a baseball game on the radio–or vice versa.
As I noted when Skip Carey died back in August 2008, the Braves announcing crew of the 1970s and 1980s unwittingly provided a lasting connection to my father. Whenever I heard Ernie, Skip or Pete Van Wieren, I was instantly with my dad again in the car or in the living room taking in one of those underperforming 1970s Braves teams. When I learned Ernie died tonight, part of me was emotionally 17 again standing in the rain outside a hospital where my father had just died.
I really hope the Braves broadcast team do more of a tribute to Johnson in the coming days. Chip did not mince words tonight in explaining how he learned far more from Ernie than he ever did from his own father, Skip.
The Braves management quickly announced tonight that for the remainder of the season they would wear a patch in honor of Ernie. I hope that patch gets to go to the World Series.
Friends of the blog, Richard Coker and Tracy Van Voris, lost a member of their family today, Random Flannelcat, their family cat. Having hung with the cat myself over the years, I can vouch for how cool a cat she was.
When Tracy notified friends of the cat’s passing earlier today, she said: “She was a hell of a cat. 16, nearly 17 years old. Even after her first stroke about 6 months ago, which left her completely blind, she still jumped all over things, annoyed us at dinnertime, and was there to purr us to sleep at night.”
My condolences to Rich and Trace. To be honest, I’m being slightly selfish, but when one has a chance to write about a cat named Random Flannelcat, dammit, you don’t let the opportunity go to waste.
My mother, Lois McIntosh O’Shea, died suddenly on September 16, 2010. Her obituary, written by my brother, Brian P. O’Shea, can be found here. This past Saturday, September 25, her funeral was held. The following text is the eulogy I gave, written in conjunction with my six siblings.
She was many different things to people through the course of her life. But at the end of the day to us, her children, she was a storyteller. So to celebrate her life, my siblings and I have compiled stories that I’m gonna tell ya. I’d say I’ll make it brief, but A) that’d be a lie; and B) a person only gets one chance to celebrate his mother’s life–unless he’s Frank McCourt.
Mother’s intelligence and creative mind served her well in her 84 years. She loved books long before getting a job in any library. She passed that love on to all of her children, a trait any bookstore near our respective homes can verify.
She had a love for, and a vast knowledge of, history.
In terms of education, back in the early 1940s, she won a scholarship to The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. Soon after arriving there, she appeared in the college newspaper in a picture documenting the school’s new foreign students–one student was from South America, one from Cuba and then Mother–from the foreign land of “the South”.