“Out of the corner”*

November 29th, 2011 by John Morris

Jim Fixx authored “The Complete Book of Running.” Imagine the pickle he found himself in after finishing his next book about running. I’ve spirited away *his introduction’s title since I find myself at the same crossroad.

My blog has been titled “Countdown to 11/29/11. This is the day I plan to retire”. Its original intention was to make the waiting more fun until I retired. What to do now that this date has arrived?

I’ve decided to rename the blog, “My Second Half.”.

I will continue to write and present the results to a critical world.  I will continue to have no noticeable theme linking them. I’ll continue to write just for the fun of writing.

Writing is an activity with no downside unless you fear crippling criticism or total rejection. The writer can always choose to not publish his work or in a moment of cleansing joy, just delete the worthless mess. No harm; no foul, and the writer is a step closer to being his/her best.

Sometimes the creation pleases the author. Writers hope their best offerings will please others in some large or small way.

With this laudable goal, I set myself to the coming tasks.



Every child of a parent steeped in Alzheimer’s can write this blog.

November 23rd, 2011 by John Morris

If you know a lot about Alzheimer’s, it’s probably not a good thing.

We caregivers have all heard the experts’ advice meant not just to inform but to also comfort. The information is on-point, but the comfort barely registers.

To realize our Moms & Dads are “disappearing in plain sight”, only makes the pain seem unending and unavoidable. Experts educate us on the stages of decline and their benchmarks. Again, there is no comfort watching our parents present the expected symptoms. It’s as if we’re watching a documentary while struggling to stay detached.

It’s been about three weeks since Mom has eaten more than ice cream or pudding for lunch when I fed her. Her attendants are not reassuring about the other 20 meals she eats, or doesn’t eat, each week. Mom is listless, avoids focusing and is easily startled. Her only attempts at speaking are little bursts of half-words.

Sometimes during these situations it’s easy to ask about God’s purpose in keeping her here. We can repeat the PC answers provided by the experts. I suggest the real work for us is to ponder deeply about how we really think about the God question.

To me, my answer is simple. God is keeping my Mom alive to make us, her family, better people.

It is up to us to make the best of this gift from God.


“You’re Italian or wish you were.”

November 22nd, 2011 by John Morris

This is usually said by Italians.

There are more Mascherinos in Downingtown, PA than in Italy. It has a lot to do with a change of spelling made by Ellis Island officials. Despite their smaller numbers, our Mascherini/D’Adamo/Pompellii cousins in Italy always make our visits there memorable. My turn came in May 2010.

Brother, Bernie, his lady, Shirley and cousin, Anthony rallied in Rome for two days, During our Roman holiday, we hooked up with Italian cousin, Monica D’Adamo for dinner. Afterwards, we drove all around the eternal city to places most tourists don’t get to see. Despite her busy schedule, she also made arrangements for our next night. From the early planning of our trip, Monica was our interpreter and contact point for the rest of her family. Our time with her was a study in Old World charm.

This week, Monica and companion, Giovanni Formica came to America for a seminar in New York City. Anthony Mascherino made arrangements to get them to Saint Anthony’s Lodge in Downingtown for a family welcoming. It was closer to a “love bombing”.

About fifty folks showed up and partied down for three hours. We used the Italian kissing-both-checks technique for greeting and everyone used their second language skills to chat.

One moment captured the spirit of the evening. Cousin, Michael presented Monica with a Mass card from her First Communion. He has kept this trophy from his Italy visit many years ago. This touching gesture caused Monica and the rest of us to cry happy warm tears.

Monica & Giovanni’s visit to Downingtown has the makings of stories for years to come and most will be true.

Hurry back to visit again, bella cugina, Monica and pisano, Giovanni.


Here’s a related blog: http://dad.morris329.com/?p=1410




Shoes, really?!?!

November 16th, 2011 by John Morris

My niece, Stephanie Morris posted her most recent and gorgeous shoes on Facebook. The gushing response from other women caused me to wonder: Are shoes really that important to women?

To be sure my house is in order, I decided to first do a personal footwear inventory. I want to prove I am going through life with a small number of foot wear. From this new, lofty position, I could rain down snide comments about women and their obsession with shoes.

Here’s the tally:

Dress shoes:

  1. black Lehigh steel toed received from former employer Binkley & Ober and worn when I’m not wearing work clothes.
  2. black Red Wing steel toed – same source as above but I don’t wear them.
  3. black Florsheims wing tips- a Christmas gift from Lyn but rarely worn.

Work shoes and boots:

  1. brown Lehigh shoes with steel metatarsal guards. Source: former employer, Binkley & Ober.
  2. brown Michelin boots with steel toes given again by Binkley & Ober.
  3. black Army boots bought at the Salvation Army just to be able to have them. Only Adam has worn them when shoveling snow.
  4. tan John Deere steel toed boots given once more by Binkley & Ober. I’ll start wearing them when items #1 or #2 give out.

Sport and play shoes:

  1. gray Sketcher Shape-ups used for every day walking.
  2. ratty old pair of beige New Balance running shoes used for lawn work: A guy’s must-have item.

Souvenir footwear:

  1. authentic Ho Chi Minh sandals presented by Beth & Julie after visiting Cu Chi, Vietnam.
  2. black Army low quarters from my Army basic training days in 1965. They were with me for my four years in the service.
  3. “Mickey Mouses” foul weather rubber boots courtesy of the Army in 1969. They were made the year of my birth, 1945.
  4. slippers given by my son, Adam during my 2002 visit to China. Smashing when worn with nightwear.

Oops, this gives me eleven pairs of footwear. Since I can only wear one pair at a time, why do I have so many? If nothing else, my cheap side made good use of the free shoes my former employee gave me each year. The souvenir items are more sentimental than useful although I do wear the 66 year old “Mickey Mouses” when the weather get nasty.

My final conclusion is I am in no position to bad mouth women about their shoe collections. If you don’t judge me and my shoe stock pile, I certainly won’t judge yours.

Final and non-related shot: how do you ladies walk in some of those structures?

There’s no wrong time to do the right thing.

November 14th, 2011 by John Morris

Thanks, God for allowing me to live long enough to witness the written history of the Vietnam War changing to reflect what was.

The History Channel has unveiled “Vietnam in HD”, a six hour documentary about America’s most divisive war. The ground it breaks wrenches away the history of this war from the news media of those times and is perpetuated by the anti-war elements to this day. Its purpose is to finally present the war as it was for those who fought it. It is in their own words. It’s not sanitized or romanticized.

Since most of the young men and women who served in Vietnam are now are in their sixties, the need to get the story right the last time has arrived . Quoting The History Channel’s review of their documentary, “The Soldier’s story is in danger of being lost to history. … the men who came home from the Vietnam War represent a second silent generation.” This describes my life back then.

What we returnees had to say about our war was drowned out by the din of others who highjacked our war. Example: the Tet Offensive was a tactical, military blunder for Ho Chi Minh’s forces. However America’s news media spun it into a propaganda victory for him. So much for wanting the facts to be known.

And lest we forget, returnees ached to fit back in with their generation. It had changed during the brief year they were gone and in this newly changed America, going along and not making waves became a comfortable choice. Again this was my life then.

Getting Vietnam’s final history right flys in the face of those who fought their war on America’s campuses and secured all the newspaper’s front pages or  TV news programs. They have entrenched themselves in roles such as tenured Professors at our colleges and who still sermonize about the immorality of the war and their role in the defeat their country suffered.

The History Channel’s “Vietnam in HD” is the latest correction in the public viewing of the Vietnam War. It may become the most definitive pro-warrior account we’ll get, and I recommend watching it. It will enhance your understanding of the Vietnam War.

It may not change your mind, and that’s okay. At the least, you’ll have been more correctly educated.

Filling sandbags again.

November 10th, 2011 by John Morris

In advance of the latest hurricane, my company decided to make sandbags available to the hardware buying public. My prime job was to run supplies from the local concrete company. The boss decided we all needed to fill bags to stay ahead of the demand. I had to take my turn despite my age.

I hit the task running. Handling the shovel, sand and bag brought back memories. Not pleasant memories but heartedly earned.

Near the end of my shift, my co-worker – all of 18 years old- came over to relieve a tired me. He immediately started asking me why I was not doing it another way. I explained we didn’t have the prerequisite 24″ PVC bucket, and I could keep up with just a shovel. He continued to argue with me so I gave him directions to find one if he could – he couldn’t.

As I was finishing my last bags, a woman came over to me and asked, “What is the secret to my success?” I took it to mean how was I able to crank out sandbags like a machine and not necessarily a comment on my current station in life.

I told her, “I filled thousands of these bags in Vietnam”. This remark seemed to strike her the right way, and we talked about a friend she lost to our war. She also remarked about how she admired Veterans for their services. It was one of those warm, fuzzy moments shared by strangers with some common bond.

I recalled this moment in the late November 10, 2011 evening. I’m prepared for the one day each year when Veterans’ chests seem a bit more pronounced.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.