I already knew that Bill was dying before I met him.
His family said he hadn’t been told and didn’t know it, but judging from things he said when nobody else was listening, I suspect he was well aware of his impending collision with mortality.
People sometimes reflect on a past event and say it happened “in what seems like another lifetime.” I’m not sure how many lifetimes I’ve had so far, but the year I knew Bill was part of a lifetime I’d not have missed.
Younger men often strike up friendships with older men that go beyond friendship. Women sometimes do the same (in which case, it can be difficult to tell which one is acting as mother to the other).
One is more than a mentor and the other is more than a student, and there is a mutual affection that neither wants to admit. That’s how Bill and I were.
The late Frank Calemine was one of the older guys in my younger life. He was more-than-friend, not-quite-my father.
My own dad — who was Frank’s lifelong best friend — introduced me to fishing, and Frank took it to the next level by including all of nature.
“God must love us,” he often said, “to give us such a beautiful day.” He would tell me that even on cold, rainy days when we didn’t go hunting or fishing but stayed in the cabin or sat on the porch.
There were other older guys. The Sage and I both called his late father “Pop,” and I’d visit him even if his son wasn’t around.
We ate pies and drank coffee while he told me what his life had been like.
He was a veteran of World War II and had some great stories that usually had me laughing and shaking my head.
The only thing he ever said about being in the first-wave landing on D-Day was that as soon as he hit the beach, he grabbed a fistful of wet sand and covered up his lieutenant’s bars ... made him less of a target.
Fifty years after that, on June 6, 1994, I walked past The Sage’s office and saw Pop’s picture in the window: a handsome young man in his Army uniform.
On it was handwritten, “Thanks, Dad.”
Paul Crawford from Centerville, Pa., survived the same landing, and I loved him as much as I loved Pop. His D-Day story involved the hole that was put in his helmet by a German bullet.
I may have started filling the older-buddy role with a couple of younger guys.
One of them laughs at stupid jokes and other things I tell him (Regardless of what it is, you have to hear it for the first time, right?) and listens if I’m being serious.
When I tell him about women, I like to do so in the presence of women — hoping to get one or more of them to say, “Don’t listen to him! He’s just an old bachelor!”
To that, I reply, “Yes, and I intend to stay that way!” which always gets a chuckle out of my buddy, who faces an impending collision with matrimony.
Bill left us long before I was ready for it. The time spent with him, waiting for the inevitable, was both devastating and irreplaceable.
He was a World War II veteran but never told me about it. On the other hand, I never thought to ask him. Guys who are now my friends were still in Vietnam. What he would have said, I don’t know.
We talked about things like hunting, fishing and cars, and he had a love of vintage airplanes. I built model airplanes and bought magazines like “Air Classics” to use as reference material.
When I occasionally gave Bill some of them to read, it was like Christmas morning and I was Santa Claus.
I sat outside his hospital room, unable to go in. This was something new; I had yet to learn that you deal with such things by confronting them and doing what you have to do.
His wife said he didn’t recognize her or anyone else, but began to weep quietly when she told him I was near.
She gave me Bill’s shotgun, saying, “He’d want you to have this.” Then she showed me Bill’s deer rifle and said it was going to his grandson. I knew immediately what it was, and it was nothing at all like my rifle.
She said Bill was a Marine and made the Pacific landings during World War II. After the war, he stayed in the reserves, was called up during the Korean War and went in at Inchon.
I filed that away and later mentioned it to Bill’s daughter. She insisted that her dad wasn’t a Marine but had been in the Army Corps of Engineers and helped build the Al-Can Highway in Alaska.
None of this added up. For one thing (among others): If Bill spent the war as a roadbuilder in Alaska, what would inspire him to go deer hunting with an Arisaka rifle and not a Remington or a Winchester?
An Arisaka is what Japanese infantrymen carried, and it could be an unsafe, unreliable weapon for which ammunition is hard to find. Where did he get it, and how? What did it mean to him?
Then I considered my own family’s situation.
Uncle Abe Goldsworthy — whom I loved almost as much as I did my dad — was an Army medic during World War II. It was only late in his life, when he began talking to me about it, that I began to realize I had received a highly sanitized version of his military career when I was a youngster.
He said he and the other medics carried sidearms because some of the Germans liked to shoot them before they shot anyone else.
I never asked Abe if he had to use his pistol, and he never volunteered the information. Read into that whatever you like; I know what I think.
One day I mentioned my confusion about Bill to a buddy, a Vietnam veteran who every once in a great while tells me a little more.
A few days later, he said he had talked to a relative who was one of Bill’s friends.
“Bill was a Marine,” he said.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and a particularly good day to thank veterans for what they did. But don’t ask them what it was. If they want you to know, they will tell you.
All you really need to know is that they are responsible for your freedom.
I already knew that Bill was dying before I met him.
Yates fires 804
Derek Yates led all scoring for the week ending March 28 with an 804 series featuring a 290 game at Rainbow Lanes.
Bobby Benton actually came in second and third for the week with a 748 on the House pattern at White Oaks and 742 on the USBC Open pattern in the Sport league. Steve Ravenscroft had a nice 740 at Rainbow and Darren Durbin and Teddy Inman rounded out the scoring with 737s apiece at White Oaks.
The huge woods fire in nearby Pennsylvania shows just how much devastation can take place when a blaze breaks out during early spring. In this case, 900 acres of forest — much of it public game land — became engulfed in flames.
There are an estimated 47,000 deceased veterans whose remains are unidentified and unclaimed throughout the U.S. A group of senators and congressmen hope to do something to
bring these men and women some dignity after death.
For the world’s more than 2 billion Christians, Easter is the day that defines their faith.
The exact date of Christ’s resurrection is unknown, and even the precise locations of his crucifixion and burial are uncertain. This hasn’t stopped some people from saying they know the answer to these questions and others from trying to find out for themselves, or simply arguing about it.
Odds are good that you didn’t know this
Odds or Probabilities fascinate many people. There is a special website called www.BookOfOdds.com and an accompanying location on Facebook at /BookofOdds .This website lists 400,000 odds. Three of the people who are involved in this media display have coauthored a book, “The Book of Odds” that presents some of key odds, drawing from polls and statistics published in journals. The authors are A. Shapiro, L.F. Campbell and R. Wright. This paperback was published this year by Harper Collins with ISBN 978-0-06-206085-3.
Trivial questions you don’t have to answer
Every so often in this life, my mind, all on its own, generates questions that have no real answers. So I have decided to pass them on to you. I’m tired of them. If you come up with any answers, let me know. Remember when TV jealously guarded the time zone before 9 p.m. for wholesome shows that children could watch. My gosh, how many years ago was that? It seems like another world nowadays, when you can see murders, torture and rape, or those implied, every hour on the hour, somewhere on your public screen. It might be comforting then, to remember that most children nowadays are glued to their little machines with whole different worlds on them, that they can access all day long. Except that in these different worlds they also can view murders, torture and rape on demand.
Think it’s not a small world? You’re wrong
Yes, you read that right in the paper a couple of weeks ago. I covered a wedding as a newspaper reporter. I’ve retired from doing regular stories because my primary duties lie elsewhere, and I don’t have the time or mental energy for it. But I agreed to do it for a couple of reasons, one of which goes back more than 40 years. The former proprietor of The Famous North End Tavern told me about a wedding that was to take place at the Lions Center for Rehabilitation and Extended Care, where his wife works.
No Bambi for you, Mrs. Doe
Some people want so badly for deer birth control to work that they actually think it will, even on wild populations.
I wish I had a couple bridges to sell.
A week ago on the Outdoors page we ran the deer there do what deer everywhere do. They eat the easiest food available such as gardens and ornamental plantings. They walk in front of moving cars. They give ticks and parasites a place to live.
We’re certain that Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, echoes what many Americans feel about the complexity of filing income tax returns.
When he filed his return, Rumsfeld sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:
Public libraries remain one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars. They are open to all. Young or old, poor or wealthy, residents can use computers and read current magazines and newspapers. Compact discs featuring a wide variety of music and
movies on DVD may be checked out in addition to novels and other books.
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