My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Category: Andy’s Stuff (page 1 of 104)

Mom’s Eulogy


Life long love.  Til death do us part.  I’ll love you forever.  For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

When you’re young and in love these are relatively easy phrases to utter.  There isn’t much downside.  You’re young….and in love.  Everything works.

I say this being 52 years old and having said these things myself….recently.  Captain of the universe and all that.

However, I need to tell you that I didn’t…I don’t….know what those things meant even after having been married for 25 years.


On December 6th I was in Mom’s hospital room for a conference with her doctors.  The cardiologist laid out his case

there was no happy ending. 

My parents….my siblings….and Mom’s siblings were in the room.  The air was thick with responsibility, fear and…..finality. 

The doctor, who was as genuine and humane as a man could be finally put the question to us: do you want this to end here or at home…..a question that many have faced.

There’s a hush in the room.  Everyone looks at everyone else….

Thankfully my Aunt Gretchen asks a question that had not occurred to any of the children: “Curtis, Jean…do you want all of us to wait in the hallway?”

It was then that this defining moment in all our lives happened.

Despite her age, medications and failing body — mom looked at Dad.  Not the Nancy Reagan stare of adoration – no – she was looking at her life long partner.  Whatever was wrong with both of them – and 8 decades will provide plenty of challenges –  there was a moment of clarity….a moment where they both slightly smiled at each other and Mom gently said, “no, I think we’ve made our decision.  I’m going home.”

That moment of clarity…..and love will be something that I will always aspire to.


Fun fact – I’m a son of the south so I’ve never known how old my mother was.  She was always clear that is was impolite to ask a lady her age and so I literally never knew.  I still don’t.  It just wasn’t something that was discussed.

She was a child of depression-era parents so there was never a thing that was wasted or a dollar unaccounted for.  She made our clothes in grade school – I had a “mad libs” shirt and tough skins that had patch after patch after patch ironed onto them.  They could literally stand up by themselves.  She was very careful with money and there just weren’t expensive things bought.

Never a scrap of food went to waste.  It always went back into the fridge in anticipation of “RCO” – that’s right, “refrigerator close out” – casserole.  The 1970’s answer for leftovers!  Which sounds horrific but was normally delicious. 

Mom could cook.

She was a mom of the 70’s but no hippie.  She had 3 young children to raise and, well, she was German so….

“we will have order here”.

To that end Mom was never afraid to instill a bit (or more) of discipline at the end of a penny loafer and, by the way, that might be her own child or yours.  During summer break, the children were put out in the morning along with the dogs.  “come back when the street lights come on”.

Mom could also be what the kids these days call “savage”.  Between the three children there was always a recollection that we had all been tested for our IQ at some point.  One day I went to her and said “mom, I took my SAT’s and I did pretty well –  I remember that I had an IQ test back in the day.  How did I do?”

She looked at me for a minute and said in a very earnest voice “son, you’re just smart enough to get by”.  I was humbled as only your mother can humble you.

Mom was a fixture in the Garden club, the Women’s club and the Museum.  Heck, despite having a lot of family in the area about half the people at the visitation yesterday were from one of those clubs.  It was truly humbling to see how much respect all of those people had for mom.  Most of them I hadn’t either met or seen in years.

At the end of the day what I took from her is an unfailing sense of loyalty, pragmatism and duty to serve.  Mom served on many City boards and commissions and believed in what she was doing…..some large part of my desire to serve on the Council was driven by Mom’s belief that the City would be better if people of principal served. 

In fact, when I was on the Council if I was ever having a tough time with a decision, all I had to do was ask Mom.  In fact, I usually got her opinion whether I asked for it or not.  It always started the same way: “Now Andrew, that City Council….and as often as not that preamble was followed by “does anyone know what’s going on up there?”

In all seriousness – through thick and thin over the decades Mom was my families anchor.  3 businesses – 1 of which she managed on a day to day basis, kids, grandkids, college, dads travelling for work, running a bed and breakfast and all of her city stuff – she always held things together at home.  She was also up for almost anything: camping trips, a month on a remote island in Maine and endless trips to Nags Head with the Harrover mafia.  She was never really flustered regardless of what she was dealing with.  I know that she worked very hard to keep all the plates spinning.  She was a tough cookie who was unflinchingly dedicated to her family.

Thanks mom.  You were the best.  I’ll always love you.  We’ve got it from here. 

Freeport on my mind

As I've written previously, half of the "adventure" in this vacation was actually getting there.  Turning what should have been a leisurely flight requiring but a single Gin & Tonic into a 40 hour oddyesy can only be executed with such precision by American Airlines.  We've finally recovered from that so I'll not dwell on it.

We have, 6 years ago or more, been to Nassau (southern Bahamas) for vacation.  Well, more accurately, we drove through Nassau to Paradise Island.  Most folks know about the gigantic Atlantis resort on Paradise Island but we stayed at a more modest time share that was right next to the Atlantis.  Watching the yachts go in and out of the marina, including the massive 240' long "Utopia" (pics) was just amazing.  In our little timeshare on that marina, we really were in the little house on the big side of town.  The "Beach Club" next door was where part of the James Bond film Casino Royale was filmed – although not while we were there. palmtree

As Yin to Nassau's bustling, gritty and British self, Freeport's Yang is more of a wide open, well organized development.  The middle of the island is actually governed by a "Port Authority" and is where most of the commercial activity takes place.  The roads are much closer to what an American (or Brit) would expect (roads around Nassau are frequently not wide enough for two cars!) and there are American franchises present in Freeport….but don't take that to mean that Freeport does much else other than look like it might be vaguely American….or British in nature.    There are very few stop lights but many traffic circles.  Drvining on the other side of the road is just wierd.  

If you want to enjoy a trip to the Bahamas, always keep this phrase in mind (as relayed to us by a tour bus driver): "In the Bahamas, we have two speeds, slow and stop."  The Bahamian people have a fundamentally different way of looking at life and if you do not keep this in mind you are going to be a frustrated tourist.  The national motto seems to be "no problem."  

At least part of this mindset results in a dearth of entrepreneurial drive in the Bahamian people.  Yes, you do find pockets of it here and there but something our tour guide said has really stuck with me: "the government raised the minimum wage last year so we all got a raise."  Now, this isn't to say that they're a lazy folk but they do operate at a fundamentally different speed than Americans do.  Theirs is just a different way of doing things.  That isn't bad, it's just different.  Embrace this and you'll enjoy yourself.  If you can't, stay on the resort.  Enough background….strawmarket

Recall that when we arrived in the Bahamas we had the clothes we were wearing and no other.  There is at least one "Target" style store in Freeport but we went with the "Straw Market" that we could walk to from the resort.  Anticipating that our luggage would show up sooner or later we stuck with inexpensive shirts and whatnot.  We've seen straw markets in many places in the Caribbean and they're all variations on a theme.  It's pretty much wild west action.  Knock-off pocketbooks, watches, shirts, drug paraphernalia, fruits, vegetables and Cuban straw-stallcigars.  It's all there.  Number one mistake that Americans make in the Straw Market is taking any price at face value.  I admit that it does feel odd to argue with a vendor over price – countering a price in Walmart would probably get you thrown out – but if you don't you will pay ridiculous prices.  The reply to the initial price should be "No", followed by another number.

The first few days that we were at the resort, the weather wasn't great.  It was chilly and very windy.  The wind, in fact, stuck with us the entire time.  I don't recall that it was that windy when we stayed in Nassau.  However, the old saying "a bad day at the beach beats a good day at work" pretty much sums up where we were.  The family was having some time together although the shadow of lost baggage did hang over things a bit.  Late afternoon on the second day the weather began to cooperate some and we got to spend a fair amount of time outside although the wind never really relented.

About the only thing we did outside the resort (which is a little odd, we usually do more) was to go on a tour of the island that included a botanical park (The Garden of the Groves) that was built some years ago as a tribute to one of the "Founders" of Freeport, another straw market – the "International Bazaar" and a perfume factory.  The route wandered through some of their residential areas – both affluent and less so – as well as through downtown Freeport.  waterfallThe Garden of the Groves seems like a well established fixture on the island, the other features seem somewhat more transient.  The Bazaar was evidently trashed by a hurricane some years ago and never recovered.  My main takeaway from the entire adventure is that the Bahamian people are, by and large, very proud of where they live. Our guide pointed out essentially every enterprise and amenity that we passed.  Including KFC. To them it is a big deal.

I could ramble on forever but here's the long and short of it: While Freeport and Nassau share that same slow – stop mentality I think I'd rather go back to Nassau.  Of course, with the exception of Shenandoah and Nags Head, we don't revisit vacation destinations so we won't see either for quite some time.


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