Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Past.

It's almost here.  Halloween 2014, but most kids have already been celebrating for a while.  Parties at church, Trunk or Treat, private parties, school celebrations.  By the time Halloween rolls around, the kids have had their costumes and make-up on many times over.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when I was a bit younger, things were quite different.  Anticipation built during the final days before Halloween.  We weren’t running to the stores looking for costumes.  We’d trot upstairs to the attic and start rummaging through the “old-clothes” bags, pulling out over-sized shirts, pants, scarfs, dresses and old jewelry.  We used our imaginations with the little resources we had. My parents never really got into the excitement.  Matter of fact, it was more of a nuisance to them.  We were on our own to find costumes…and we LIKED it that way!

The boys usually dressed as (and this may not be politically correct) “bums” or hobos. They’d burn a cork and smear the ashes on their faces to make the perfect whiskers, and they’d fashion a "bag" made from a red handkerchief to throw over their shoulders.

And the girls?  They’d don an over-sized white shirt of their dad’s, slip on some black tights, whiten their lips, darken their eyes and they’d become, like, instant beatniks, man.   

Of course, there were still the witches and ghosts, and gypsies, and occasional princesses, super heroes and Draculas, but compared to today’s elaborate costumes, the get-ups in the 50s and 60s were quite simple.

For more than a year or two, I helped dress my young sisters as nuns for Halloween.  The length of a cloth diaper (and we had many) served as the perfect front for their costume, and another formed the back.  A black scarf around their head completed the “sister” look.   And the diaper pins?  They were perfect for holding together our make-shift getups.

I recall one year when I was about 11, I went out as Alice in Wonderland.  I didn’t WANT to, but I HAD to.  We had the costume so I had no choice.  I wore a long blue dress with puffy sleeves.  Thank God it had an apron…a very wrinkled apron…with a glittery scene of the Mad Hatter Tea Party on it.  If it weren’t for that apron, no one would have known who or what I was.  And, take it from me, no kid wants to be asked “and what are you dressed as.”  I remember being embarrassed at that question.  Alice in Wonderland was supposed to be beautiful…and I didn’t feel that way.  Not in my garb.

In the Detroit suburb of Dearborn Heights where I grew up, we didn’t trick or treat...we went BEGGING.

Large packs of kids roamed door to door repeating “HELP THE POOOOOR” (help the poor, my pants are tore, give me some money, I'll buy some more) in our sing-songy voices.  You could hear the chants echoing throughout the close-knit neighborhood. 
Not too many parents walked with their kids in those days.  The older kids took care of their younger siblings, even though the little ones tried desperately to keep up with the older kids as they ran from house to house. 
And we always knew which houses passed out the “GOOD” stuff.  Most of what we got was suckers, wads of bubble gum, MaryJanes (yuck), and small candy bars.  We’d get a penny or two, too.  But once in a while, some of the “GOOD” houses gave out bags of chips, popcorn, and even NICKLES!

The week before Halloween…and especially the night before…Devil’s Night…was always punctuated by acts of mischief.  Mostly ringing doorbells and running, and waxing windows.  I wasn’t allowed to do those things, but I had a friend whose mother would give her soap to “soap windows.”  The mother said that waxing windows was not nice because the wax was hard to remove, but she would give her daughter free-reign when it came to soaping windows.  I never quite understood that one.

I remember making our own decorations.  We kids would draw and color pumpkins on paper, cut them out and hang them in the front window.  Other than a lighted pumpkin that we carved earlier in the day, that was the extent of our Halloween decorating. 

I expect about 150 little buggers “beggers” at my house.  I hope I am one of the “GOOD” houses. I'll passed out chips, Doritos, Fritos and cheese curls.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Ain't Afraid of No Boats...

It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy…or so the song goes.  It’s the time of year when people are deciding how to spend their coveted couple of weeks with their families.  The lake?  A trip cross-country?  Or perhaps a trip a bit closer to home.  Or maybe a “staycation” and take in a few nearby attractions with the family.  Whatever you decide, leave your problems and take in the sights and sounds with your loved ones.   

It was many years ago, that my immediate AND extended family decided to try our first vacation together. Everything fell into place perfectly.   Looking back, it was one of the most enjoyable times we had as a family.  And that trip is still talked about today.

A houseboat trip on the Trent-Severn Waterway near Toronto, Canada, proved to be the most exciting misadventure on which our family has ever embarked.  The Trent-Severn Waterway is one of Canada’s most beautiful and varied inland water routes. 240 miles of protected cruising through 20 lakes, rivers, and canals offering incredible variety.

My family consisted of not only my then-spouse and two young children, but my parents, and 7 of my siblings and their families.  With a total of 36 anxious (mostly non-swimmers) sea-going amateurs ranging from infancy to age 74, it was with some slight trepidation that we ventured out to test our sea-legs.

After piling onto the Egan Marine Houseboats dock, cramming a week's worth of bedding, clothing, and food into our 6 rented floating homes, and a 15 minute lesson on house-boating and water safety from the young tanned instructor, we slowly drifted away from dry land and into open water. 

The first night most of us were rocked to sleep by waves generated from a passing storm, while the other hardy, coffee-drinking sailor-types kept watch 'till dawn.

In the span of 7 days and nights, my entire family had become "professional" boat people.  As in Follow-The-Leader, linked only by our CB radios (there were no cell phones then), our 6 houseboats cruised the waterway on route to our destination - Peterborough, Canada. 

We drifted past historic homes, and maneuvered through scenic parks where eagles were spotted perched high atop the trees.  But the ultimate experience was our approach and entry into the gates of the locks which raised or lowered our boat to the next level so that our trip could continue on the waterway.  It was in the bowels of one particularly deep lock where an enormous water-balloon war erupted.  But we abruptly surrendered when the lockmaster outwitted us and joined in the fracas as he dumped down buckets of water on our heads from his post high above our crafts.

Leisure days were spent tying the vessels together in the middle of the lake and anchoring for swimming, wind surfing, and sunning.  Other days we docked on dry land for a game of volleyball, a camp fire, or to take a break from the on-board barbecues to enjoy the quaint restaurants and shops dotting the landscape.

It was an adventure I highly recommend for family togetherness, and one that will not be forgotten by members of my family - old and young alike.

Plan your family time together.  You won't regret it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Weekend 2012

I don’t think I am getting lazy…at least any more lazy than usual!   But when I checked into my blog today, I realized I hadn’t talked to you since April!  At the very least I wanted to write once a month.  So for this end-of-the-month of May…

It’s been a great Memorial Day weekend for me, so far, and there is still another day to go!  On Friday, I was invited on a boat cruise on the Detroit River.  The weather was perfect and the company even better.  Most of my family was able to hop aboard for the two-hour cruise.  Despite all the great food and drink from the Portofino Restaurant on board, we even had the J.W. Wescott Tug Boat - an actual floating post office - deliver pizza!   There were at least 40 pizzas delivered to us just as we passed under the Ambassador Bridge.  Thankfully no pizzas were damaged or lost in the deep water below as the tug docked to our deck.

The very next evening I was at a family wedding at the beautiful Colony Club in downtown Detroit.  The Colony Club is located between the Fox Theatre and the Town Pump in Detroit’s Theatre District.   The club has some interesting history.  Matter of fact, just today I heard George Clooney had spent some time at the Colony Club prior to shooting a scene there for his movie The Ides of March. 

We all know that Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.  My pool is open and ready.  Matter of fact, today I took the plunge…if that’s what you want to call it.    Joyce doesn’t “plunge” into anything.  But I DID descend the stairs into the clear waters.  Quite refreshing.  Now I am waiting for the grandchildren to join me!

Just before my tradition of viewing the Memorial Day Concert on the Lawn at the Capitol in D.C. , I decided to  gas up my car and then make a quick run to the grocery store for a couple of items. 

I quickly ran through the store just scurrying the outer aisles.  After reaching the register and paying for my few items, the clerk asked me if I preferred my milk in a bag.  I told her I preferred it in a glass!  I made her day!

Have a safe Memorial Day and take a minute to remember our fallen heroes who have given us the freedom we cherish.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Is My Garage a Reflection of My Life?

My fingers, in desperate need of a manicure, were already reaching for the button that was velcroed to my visor even before I had rounded the drive to my home.  And before the door had entirely inched its way to the top, my silver/gray Chrysler 300 rolled to a stop deep inside my garage.

“I’ve just got to get rid of this darn junk,” I thought for the umpteenth time, “everything looks messy and cluttered.”  I took my customary glance into the rear view mirror to check my face, exited the car and struggled my way through the garage in a maze of old boxes piled high to the rafters, used office furniture, and old paperwork strewn across the concrete floor. 

It was already 8 months P.D. “post divorce” and HIS things were still piled up in MY garage.  Seems as if every time I thought the house was swept clean of him, something mysteriously appeared in a closet or drawer that I had obviously over-looked.  I quickly dismissed any thoughts of him now……I had better things to think about.

Home at last.  I had been out running errands; post office, drug store, bank, gassing up the car.   I tossed my keys, the mail, and a couple of small purchases made that day on the kitchen counter mixing it in with all the other little things I planned on getting to.  I shot a quick glance over to the phone.  No blinking red light indicating any long lost friend, or even foe, would have called.   Slightly disappointed but not discouraged, I quickly darted to the computer to see if I had any e-mails. 

With a quick shake of the mouse, the screen came to life and, surprise!  I had 1, 2, 3….8 e-mails!  “Oh, good,” I thought, “I’ll check them out later.”  Usually the anticipation of “later” was better than the e-mails themselves.  “For now,” I thought, “I’ll revel in the feeling of anticipation.”

Those days I eagerly waited for my phone to ring, or listen for the ding of my computer indicating another e-mail had arrived.

This was all new to me.  This new life they call the single life.  To me, I was divorced, not single.  And at 58, I found that I had a lot of catching up to do.  I was a 1968 teenager stuck in a 2008 world.  And what a changed world it was!    

John and Yoko

You know that revolution in the 70s?  That sexual revolution?  I definitely missed that one!  Right over my head…..gone….nada.

After a 36-year marriage to one man, I was still in the process of retraining myself that “we” is now an “I”… and “us” is just “me”.  Such a strange notion after forty years with one man. 

I was 17 when we met. He was only 16.  December of 1967.  December 16th, to be exact, our first date.  Seniors in high school.  I thought he was cute.  He thought I was cute.  We dated, and never saw anyone else after that.  Four years later we were walking down the aisle.

Straight from my parent’s home where I was raised, to the home of my husband and me.  Add another 4 years, two moves to two new homes, a baby girl, and 20 months later…..a baby boy.

Fast forward 30+ years and there I was again.  Feeling like I was starting over.  Only this time, alone.   

But now there were more people involved.  Two children…adults…who were married and had families of their own.  Yes, that’s me.  A single grandma.  There I said it.  Grandma.   So proud this grandma is…so proud.

Fast forward again another 4 years. And now the grandchildren number 5!  And they are all age 6 and under!  It’s wonderful.
Today.  I am 62 and am still in my same house.  Despite a bit of arthritis that assaults mostly my hands, I am proud of the things I have accomplished around my home.  It’s amazing what one can do when put to the test.  Sure I need a little extra muscle once in a while, but I can hold my own with a wrench, screw-driver or hammer.   And that little bottle of “Krazy” Glue?  It’s amazing!  Best. Invention. Ever!   And my pool?  Never has the water been so crystal clear.
I even borrowed one of those telescopic tree trimmers last week from a neighbor.  You know the kind. It can stretch out to 20 feet or more?  And has a rope on a pulley system that you yank to cut the tree branches?  I did it!  Lucky I didn’t smash the whole thing through my front window, though.  The pole felt so heavy to me that if I didn’t hold it straight up, the pole would start to lean one way and pull me with it!  The neighbor I borrowed it from yelled out his window asking if I needed any help.  “NO,” I called back, half embarrassed.  I probably looked a bit overwhelmed at that very minute, but it sure felt good that I accomplished my task…alone.  Although I paid for it dearly the next day when my shoulders and the front of my neck ached like never before.

I definitely don’t feel lost as I had during my first year post-divorce, but there are still worries.  Mostly financial concerns about how I will manage.  And if I live anywhere close in age to how long my parents lived?  My mother was just 87 and my dad 100 ½! 

I had quit my job in 2003 from a good, close-to-home, position with the encouragement and support of my “then” husband.  We had an eye on the Golden Years.  We were preparing to be grandparents when all heck broke loose.

My life was turned up-side-down.  There was nothing I could do to make things work.  I tried.  When someone has their mind made-up and is getting encouragement from outsiders, there is nothing you can say to change things.  Looking back, I wish I hadn’t begged and pleaded.  But, as in every situation, we do what we can at the time.

My 5 Favorite People
So here I am, today.  I’ve made some acquaintances through my Blog.  Some of my readers experienced the same difficulties as I.  I’ve connected with friends from my childhood, but most of all I enjoy my children and their families. 

I am fortunate to be able to take care of my grandchildren at least a few days every week.  I give their parents the opportunity to work without worry.  But more importantly, I am building a relationship with my grandchildren that will last a lifetime.  The kids get to attend “grandma school” where they learn the oldies (their favorite is Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis), and countless “Grandmaisms” (Move over Bacon…here comes Sizzleen” and “I ate too much, I ate too fast, now I have to _ _ _”) and rhymes, silly…and not-so-silly songs, and more rhymes.  They even pick up the pace when Grandma commands “Chop-Chop!”

I am confident enough to dine, attend movies, live shows, and weddings alone.  And I am also re-living things with my grandchildren…zoos…museums….Cedar Point.
Now in 2012, as I round that corner and my garage door is inching its way open, my Enclave (safe and big enough to hold ALL my grandchildren) rolls in to a clean, uncluttered garage.  Just as I am living a clean, uncluttered life.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Privacy Please!

I visited my local Social Security office the other day.  Matter of fact, it was the second visit in less than a month.  I am at that age now where I am considering if it’s time to collect the money I had paid in to SS for the past 40+ years. 

As you probably are aware, the longer a person can put off collecting, the larger the payment can be.  I’d like to wait a few more years until I am at the full retirement age, but I am still considering my options.  

It’s just a matter of weighing, balancing, and figuring out your personal situation.  It’s actually sort of a gamble.  Are you going to live long enough and wait to collect?  Or should you collect now at the lower rate?

Anyway, when I entered the office, most of the chairs were occupied with people waiting for their name/number to be called.  The rows of chairs were neatly aligned, 8 across and about 7 rows deep.  I quickly glanced around to look for a place to sit where I would not be knocking elbows (and possibly other body parts) with the person next to me. 

I am sure you’ve been in your local Walmart or maybe your local DMV office?  Well, the clientele at the Social Security office falls somewhere in between those two.

I nabbed a seat on the end of the aisle and as I slid into the chair, I tried to move it out and away just ever so slightly.   It wouldn’t budge.  

The seats were all connected in the back with one of those long plastic zip-ties.  The kind that make a good handcuff (I’ve seen it on TV)!    No wonder all the chairs were lined up neatly despite being overloaded with, well, let’s just say, rumps that were bigger than the seat itself.

I settled into my chair and thought that this would be a great time to just rest my eyes a bit.  After closing my eyes, I focused… well…not focused, it was more like I was being FORCED to hear a couple of strange conversations between friendly strangers.    

Even the armed Security Guard (why do they need an armed guard?) firmly requested to a few different people to “take their phone conversations outside.”  I was surprised because the talking INSIDE was more annoying than the phones…although I agree with the No Phone rules.

I noticed that the long beige wall we were all staring at had a mounting for a TV up high near the ceiling, but a TV was nowhere in sight.  And the bathrooms, separate ladies and men’s rooms, were carved right into that very front wall smack-in-the-middle where everyone was facing!    

And despite the johns being only 10 feet from the front row, and having only a wooden door between the toilet and the “audience”, it didn’t seem to deter people from using them.  There was a constant trek.

Is this what I was being forced to watch? The traffic in and out of the toilets?  In the unlikely event that I would have needed to use the restroom, I probably would have gone outside and across the street to the local McDonalds and used their “mcrestrooms” before I walked to the front of the “stage” to use the bathroom in front of at least 50 people.

Every time someone walked out of one of the bathrooms, I wanted to clap.  It seemed as if they were coming out into an arena.   And every time that person would walk out, I also wondered if they had washed their hands.   

I couldn’t help it!  Was it only me that found this situation hilarious and bothersome at the same time?  This was a brand new building for the social security office.  Who WAS the architect?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Safe-House? Stay Home.

Ok. I’ll admit it.  I surrendered to the hype.   I don’t like to think I follow the crowd, but the propaganda publicity finally got to me. 

I couldn’t watch late night, or daytime (in-between the PBS station that captivates my grandchildren) television in the past few weeks without seeing the handsome Denzel Washington on set plugging his latest new movie.  And that other guy….Ryan Reynolds, too.   Both actors star in a CIA conspiracy-thriller billed as one of the greatest action-packed suspense movies of its time. 

So… on opening day I ran to my nearest theater to catch the matinee I saw Jay Leno dub as an “edge-of-your-seat” action spy story, Safe House.

Despite my affinity for Jay Leno, “Don’t believe everything you hear,” is what I have to say.  Don’t get me wrong.  I L-O-V-E action flicks.  Suspense.  Political-thrillers.   Even some “necessary” violence.  But this picture?  If you MUST see it, I’d say, “save it for DVD…or Blue Ray,” or whatever it’s called now.

The HUGE body count is just too many to be believable.  And you don't have too long to wait before another shoot-out, car chase, stabbing, explosion, bludgeoning or face-kick comes along.  And, of course, the stars only end up with a minor scratch or two on their cute little mugs.  But they do leave behind a trail of dead bodies, cars wrecked beyond recognition, with CIA and FBI big-wigs and local law enforcement scratching their heads in disbelief.  Duh.

Denzel (yes, we’re now on a first-name basis), as usual, plays his cool self and does it well.  However, Reynolds?  He seems so unaffected and barely changes his facial expressions.

And another thing.   I know the picture screens are getting clearer and sharper, but I wish someone would tell Ryan Reynolds to wax his nose.  No. I don’t mean his nose-hairs, but the hairs ON his nose.  I couldn’t help but notice the peach-fuzz on his face shining in all those close-ups.  Am I being too “picky” (no pun intended)?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shop ‘Till You Drop

Purchasing Christmas and birthday gifts hasn’t always been easy or fun for me.  Even when invited to showers and weddings where gift ideas demands are spelled out for you on the registry, I still seek out the nearest sales person to help me out. 

Now if it’s a gift FOR me…FROM me?   I prefer to do my personal shopping alone.  I don’t want some 20-something, 90-pound sales clerk barging in the dressing room door telling me I look fab amazing in an outfit that is clearly not me.   I prefer my privacy when trying on clothes.

I used to drag my former husband and he’d sit while I tried on endless ensembles.  He too, thought they all looked great, but I soon discovered that if I wanted a real, sometimes-disappointing-but-true opinion, I would ask my daughter.

I try to get the right gifts, and I always include the gift-receipt with the present just in case the gift doesn’t fit or it’s not to their liking.

“Just give ‘em money,” is what I usually hear from the people around me.  But that’s no fun!  Unless it’s from a wealthy stranger with money to spare and no strings attached, I’d much rather receive a small personal gift that took at least a “little” thought.

It’s now one month after Christmas and I am so pleased (without sales help) with a gift I purchased on-line for a couple of my oldest grandchildren.  They are just barely 6 and I am amazed at what the right gift can inspire!  What they are learning is amazing!

A couple of week ago I received a phone call from my kindergarten grandson.  The conversation went like this:
           Grandson:  Hellooooo, grannnnndma?
           Me:    Hi, Drewey!  What are you doing?
           Grandson:  (sounding worried) Grannndma?  Why did Harry S.
                                Truman drop the bomb?
           Me:  ahhhh…well…ahhh… war is a terrible thing, and
                     dropping the bomb helped end the war.
           Grandson:  Do you think that Harry S. Truman made the
                                correct choice to drop the bomb?
            Me:  ahhh...well.  Lot's of people were hurt and two cities
                     were completely ruined which is a very bad thing, but it
                     DID put an end to the war.

The President's Game from Lillian Vernon on line.
I was stunned by this kindergartener’s insight.  Not only is he learning by memorizing the past 45 Presidents (is it 45?  I’ll have to ask him), but he UNDERSTANDS so much about them, their wives, their Vice Presidents, and interesting facts that I am learning right along with him.    

He even understands the time-line for the past 200 years and relates the years to, for instance, me and the man who was president when I was born (Harry S. Truman).  I thought it was Eisenhower…but what do I know!

Even when he doesn’t have his “ Presidents’ game” with him (which is rare) and he’s busy playing “normal” 6-year-old-boy things (sports, tackling his brother), every couple hours or so he’s asking questions about the presidents……or trying to trick me……which isn’t too difficult. 

So now we play a quasi-Jeopardy where HE’s Alex Trebek and I am the contestant.   He just loves to give me that BEEEEEEEEEEEP sound for the wrong answer.

Next time you purchase a gift, give it a little thought.  You could change someone’s life!   BEEEEEP!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Dad - 1911 - 2011

My dad passed away the other night.  He was 100 and 1/2 years old.  He witnessed changes during his lifetime that were most unbelievable.  He plowed fields with a hand-plow and horse.  The family had a cow!  Yet in 2010, he joined Facebook and his favorite new word was "Google."  I think he just liked saying it.  He came a long way, baby.  With this being said, below is the eulogy written and spoken at his funeral by my sister Jane Pitrone Rossi.  Thanks, Jane.  It was a wonderful tribute.  You caught his essence in every way....Joyce

Anthony Pitrone was born in 1911, the same year as Ronald Reagan. Other than both men having a full head of hair, their lives bore little resemblance. What Dad DID share in common with President Reagan was the world he was born into and the changes he witnessed.

Anthony Pitrone 1911 - 2011
For example, in 1911, the Titanic had not yet sailed on its doomed maiden voyage. Life expectancy for men born in 1911 was 50 years. . . Dad doubled that! Women could not vote. World War One would not even end until Anthony was age 7.

Dad recently recounted the story of himself and his brother, Dominic, walking on their way to claim the new family cow, Aramalinda, when church bells rang out and all the mines began blowing their whistles—signifying the end of WW 1.

Two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the latter to which his namesake and my brother, Tony, would be sent in 1967, a sexual revolution and 9/11—all left an indelible impression on dad. Great technological feats eclipsing the horse & buggy—electric vehicles, digital radios and flat screen TV’s, mainframe computers and laptops; push button phones and wireless cells—Dad witnessed it all. In fact, in 2010, (at the age of 99) Anthony Pitrone became a member of facebook, and many of you here are his facebook friends.

Although Dad was an eye-witness to major historical events and technological feats, there were many things that my father did not do in HIS century of life. He never flew in an airplane, he never went to bars (or as he called “biergartens”); he didn’t golf; he didn’t gamble or play cards; he rarely swore, except when referring to a horse’s backside; and he never bowled (although he often joked about his once-a-week Bowling Night).

Although Anthony DID NOT do many things fathers often do, my father’s life serves as an enduring legacy to his 9 children, 17 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. In many respects and especially to his 9 children, my father’s passing is the end of an unprecedented era as a member of what Tom Brokaw called America’s “Greatest Generation.”

To borrow a phrase from another President from the Greatest Generation, when I think of Dad’s life, I think of “a kinder, gentler” time. Dad and the way he lived his life epitomized this kinder, gentler era.

My father’s passing represents a great loss to us, a fondness for a different era, when time seemed slower, less complicated.

In today’s society of financial irresponsibility, lewd behavior and vulgar language, fatherless households, cheating spouses, corrupt politicians and self-consumed youth, where nearly everyone craves his/her 15 minutes of fame, Dad provided us endless teachable moments.

More than a campaign slogan, Dad embraced family values: strong faith, self-sacrifice, anti-materialism, honesty, hard work, thriftiness and, above all, dedication to family.

Here's dad on his 99th B-Day with a visit from "Faux Flo"
Growing up in our family home in Dearborn Heights, we were blessed to have a childhood filled with friends, fun and lots of summer picnics where Dad often Bar-B-Q’d on the charcoal grill, and we all ate together at the over-sized picnic table lovingly handmade by Dad in our expansive backyard.
Dad and son John in the backyard
Not only did our yard have room for a complete baseball team (which we were), but it was filled with fruit trees—apple, pear, plum and a cherry tree as well as lovely grape vines. This yard also included a large garden with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, corn and even a large raspberry patch.

Of course as kids, we weren’t exactly enamored with the chores. Imagine holding a basket with one hand, and holding our noses with the other, arms outstretched as far as we could, we’d have to collect the rotten fruit that had fallen.

I also have vivid memories of five of us kids at a time out in the raspberry patch, no, not a patch—it was more like a field to the Pitrone kids who had to pick those raspberries. And Dad would direct us: “Get DOWN AND UNDER where the ripest berries are hiding.”

Didn't know dad was a backyard dog groomer..he tried!
Summer days found the Pitrone kids, basket in hand, moving slovenly, trying to fill the baskets while our friends waited to play on the other side of the fence. We would negotiate, combining our baskets to fill them faster so we could be free. The only times we showed real enthusiasm was when 4 or 5 of us simultaneously ran wildly in different directions after some unlucky Pitrone kid let out a blood-curdling scream when the bees found the kid before the kid could find the berries.

Dad’s knack for saving money and conserving resources was legendary. Our version of air-conditioning was shutting shades, and keeping lights turned off, while maneuvering fans spaced strategically throughout the house. Dad elevated squeezing that extra drop of ketchup or dab of toothpaste to an art form. Dad had “gone green” decades before it became a corporate buzzword.

Oftentimes, Dad did the grocery shopping as Mom might be busy with, well. . . other things. Dad was more than willing to take four or five kids at a time to the daily trip to the A&P for groceries. I have vivid memories of Dad whirling the basket through the aisles while baby Cheryl sat in the seat, and Janet, Julie and I perched on the foot bars around the basket keeping an eye out for the “Sucker Man” in the white coat. We thought the “Candyman” always wore a white coat. Little did we know he was the local pharmacist!

Though Dad was sometimes known not to buy the “favorite” cookies, as they were consumed in hours or even minutes, he would instead buy a mediocre cookie brand because it seemed to last longer in the Pitrone household.

But Dad DID practice what he preached as he had more than a willing palate when it came to finishing the last of the left-overs or the over-ripe bananas left on the kitchen counter two days too long for the rest of us.

Dad with his 6 daughters and 3 sons - Summer of 2011 at his 100th
Dad was also our private chauffeur, tirelessly shuttling us along multiple stops to: sporting events, school parties, sledding, ice-skating, field trips, bowling, movies and EVEN those dreaded estrogen-filled Pitrone household shopping sprees. And when Dad wasn’t chauffeuring us, he had a favorite question the moment we walked in the door: “Did you get to the aisles of beauty?” (Dad’s code for Hudson’s make-up counter and a humorous reminder of more important values than material ones.)

Upon spotting the bulging shoe box bags, Dad would race to the closet and with an armful of neglected shoes, look us in the eye and ask: “Why can’t you wear these…nothin’ wrong with THESE shoes?” Our disdainful comeback was well-rehearsed, complete with rolling eyes: “Tsk. Oh, Dad!”

As Child Number 8, aka “Miss Hand-Me-Down,” there were advantages to having big feet. I would squeeze my foot in one of Janet’s or Julie’s shoes, and indignantly display in exaggerated O.J. Simpson form, how pinched and contorted my overflowing foot looked in the dainty rejected shoes…”DAD, THEY DON’T FIT!” Cinderella I was not!

In a family of 11, thrift was a necessity. But Dad’s early adulthood in Depression-era Michigan, and his disappointment in Americans who wasted their money contributed to his frugal mindset. Yet this mindset never dissuaded my parents’ generosity to their church and countless charities.

I also have cherished memories of four little girls dressing up in my sister Janet’s discarded dance costumes every Saturday evening and performing for our most attentive and eager audience of Dad and Mom to the best of Lawrence Welk’s music.   Our cue to perform — a one-a, and a two-a, and a tree-a.

Other memories include sitting on the front porch on Dad’s lap on quiet summer nights with him always humming a tune or singing “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody…”;

Dad always finding the time for our evening ritual of playing catch, as I was the avid baseball fan and player in my youth; the weekly drives back to school as a freshman in college, where Dad wouldn’t say a lot, but always slipped me a couple of $20 dollar bills, with a “don’t tell anybody”; and, of course, thinking I was his favorite daughter. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s, however, that I learned my sisters also had the same vivid memory of themselves and Dad, singing the same song, on the same front porch. (Dad, where did you find the time?)

Anthony and Jean married 67 years
My father’s devotion to his children, moreover, was no less than his devotion to his wife, our Mom. My mother’s suffering from the debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis began in 1980 and lasted until her death in 2008.

In those 28 years, Dad assumed many household duties besides the daily grocery shopping. He supported Mom in her intellectual pursuits AND physical limitations. In fact, in Mom’s later years, she had no better nurse than Dad, as he tended to her every need, oftentimes dressing her when she could not dress herself, and near the end of her life, doing every daily chore so she could remain in her home. Dad WAS THE ULTIMATE ROLE MODEL TO HIS CHILDREN IN HIS DEDICATION AND LOVE FOR HIS WIFE.

After Mom’s passing, Dad was fortunate to have his family within reach. Children, in-laws, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All enjoyed their own unique relationship with Dad. And while Dad knew and was grateful that we were always here for him, one man deserves special recognition—Jon Williamson.

Dad and son-in-law Jon
More than a devoted son-in-law, Jon willingly played multiple roles for Dad: driver, maintenance man and tour guide. Barber, buddy and best friend. Their bond was beautiful. Thank you, Jon, for being there for Dad, and reciprocating his friendship.

Finally, many people might think of Dad as “old-fashioned.” But Dad’s life and the way he chose to live it represent a kinder, gentler time. A simpler time. A bygone time.

And so I think of Dad as kind of a modern man. A man who, through example, taught us basic lessons of life in a not-so-kind and not-so-gentle world. A man who taught us the value of money and the preciousness of resources. A man who always had a kind word for everyone. A man who worked hard and sacrificed all his life, a man who never wanted the spotlight on himself, a man who stayed behind the scenes, who chose not to golf, not to bowl, not to fly in airplanes, not to gamble or play cards. There were many things Dad did NOT do so that WE could.

And so the adjectives “dedicated and devoted” before husband and father have never been more appropriate. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. THIS is to have succeeded!” Dad, you not only succeeded, but you surpassed in every way.

They don’t erect statues for men like Anthony Pitrone, but in our hearts and minds, Dad, you stand tall.

I’d like to close with a poem by the influential leader of Chicano poets, Luis Omar Salinas, entitled:

“My Father Is a Simple Man”

I walk to town with my father to buy a newspaper.
He walks slower than I do so I must slow up.

The street is filled with children.

We argue about the price of pomegranates,
I convince him it is the fruit of scholars.

He has taken me on this journey and it’s been lifelong.
He’s sure I’ll be healthy so long as I eat more oranges,
And tells me the orange has seeds and so is perpetual;
And we too will come back like the orange trees.

I ask him what he thinks about death and he says
he will gladly face it when it comes but won’t jump
out in front of a car.

I’d gladly give my life for this man with a sixth grade education,
whose kindness and patience are true . . .
The truth of it is, he’s the scholar,

and when the bitter-hard reality
comes at me like a punishing evil stranger,
I can always remember that here was a man
who was a worker and provider,
who learned the simple facts
in life and lived by them . . .
who held no pretense.

And when he leaves without
benefit of fanfare or applause
I shall have learned what little
there is about greatness.