To me, Father’s Day weekend was always synonymous with school letting out and warm weather pushing us full steam ahead into my favorite season.
The Frewsburg Gala Days also kicked off many of my childhood summers, often falling close to this weekend’s holiday. Coincidentally, the Gala Days are this weekend.
I think of our home on Carroll Street and my dad telling my sister and me to get ready to play I Got It. The game involves throwing rubber balls into a slatted rack and trying to land them in a line, like bingo without the score card. In my memory, I can hear the announcer saying, “Ball one,” as we inched closer to the I Got It tent and heard the sound of multiple rubber balls bouncing around in the wooden racks.
If you find yourself with nothing to do today, go play I Got It. You may just win a funky prize, like a set of pots and pans or something like the massive red dictionary we had in our house for years that my parents won playing the game.
For the Gala Days, my dad’s brother would spend the weekend at our house, parking his motorhome in our backyard for the weekend. Through a child’s eyes, the mammoth vehicle took up a pretty big stretch of space, and it looked dark and lonely while he was at the Gala Days with pretty much everyone else in town.
Those were some of my favorite times because even though we were done playing I Got It or riding rides for the day, the fun was not over.
On one of those summer nights, like so many others, we had a bonfire. As the motorhome sat idle in the backyard near a stretch of tall pine trees, my sister and I sat near the fire with Jared, our neighbor and friend. It was on this night that my father told one of the scariest ghost stories I’ve ever heard, titling it “The Motorhome Ghost.” While I don’t entirely remember the plot, I remember he had to carry both of us past the motorhome and into the house because we were so scared. With him, nothing bad would ever happen.
I still feel that way as an adult. He, aside from my mother, has been the one I turn to in my worst times. Although his words are few, they are honest and wise.
So now, when the real-life motorhome ghosts of adulthood reveal themselves, he carries me with his words, always there to reassure me they are nothing but a part of my imagination.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it is my job to enter and format obituaries in the system. I spend a lot of time on the phone with funeral directors and family members of the deceased. Emotions run high at times. There are many details involved, and submitting an obituary and making sure everything is perfect can be difficult while grieving in the aftermath of loss and trying to arrange a funeral all at once. That’s what I’m here for.
Sometimes those emotions flow over into my own life. There is no way to avoid it, especially when reading about infants and others who die too young. I also sometimes read of a spouse passing away and the other following shortly after. Researchers have named it the “widowhood effect” and they say it’s more common than one would think.
Other obituaries go into great detail about the life of the person and all of their accomplishments. I’m always inspired by the travel stories or how they helped better the world in one way or another.
It prompts me to want to live well or try to make the world a better place myself.
They say you should do one thing every day that scares you. While that might not be possible all the time (there’s not much that scares me anymore), I’ve been trying to learn new things.
I went kayaking for the first time on Monday, which was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to see a part of Chautauqua County I’d never seen before. I’ve run a few miles of pavement in this town, but I had no idea how many miles of wetlands border the Chadakoin River leading to the lake. It gave me a different view and it was also great exercise.
I’ve also been spending more time with my friends. I realized the other day that I’ve been surrounded by incredible company from the women in my life in recent weeks. Whether it’s coffee with my mom, lunch with my friend Amber, or catching up with my cousin Tenille, among others, they have all lent a hand in pushing me forward with a positive attitude. We all need that sometimes.
Lastly, I’ve been reading about the history of The Post-Journal because I’ll be leading a tour in the Lakeview Cemetery on June 28 about the history of the paper and its editors, reporters and publishers, which was chronicled in the book “An ImPRESSive Record; Jamestown Journal 1826-1941” by Helen Ebersole. I hope to see you there.
I made a trip out of town with my family for Memorial Day weekend, traveling seven hours west for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
There, we met up with my sister and her husband who drove up from North Carolina, and two of my parents’ friends whose faces I haven’t seen since 2007. It was a merry reunion.
I love to get in the car and drive, but what I love most about traveling is everything seen along the way – especially the people.
Just outside of Columbus, Ohio, I saw a hitch-hiker sitting on the curb near the entrance to the gas station with his dog. He looked dirty and exhausted, while the dog looked well-fed and happy as could be. Just as I was about to buy them both some water, I looked outside and saw they were gone. I hope they found a good ride and some rest.
The Indy 500 is not only the greatest spectacle in racing, but a great spectacle of people. There is never a dull moment. Outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is an American Legion where my family and I post up for a few hours and relax on the day before the race.
There, we met three French men who spoke very little English but explained they had made their first journey to the United States for the race. We bought them a round of drinks and wished them well. They were very gracious.
There was a war veteran at the race who had attended 90 Indy 500s. Everyone was impressed and either thanked him for serving the country or asked questions about his 90 races. Those who attend take pride in their consecutive years of attendance. I wound up sitting next to a pilot for United Airlines from Chicago who told me about his travels all over the world and places I must put on my bucket list. It was his 35th race. It was also my father’s 46th and my mother’s 33rd.
There was a station set up where track employees gave out stickers similar to name tags on which you could write how many races you’d been to. It was interesting to see the different numbers people wore.
I was happy for rookie Alexander Rossi and his win. He was so shocked and excited that he’d have to see a therapist, he said.
With so much excitement and things to see in and around the track, it’s no wonder the Indianapolis 500 keeps people coming back year after year. Just 356 more days to go.