Occasionally I get really lucky.
For a guy who freely admits he's "The Luckiest Guy In The World", that's saying a lot.
Yesterday was one of those "lucky" occasions.
As most of you know by now, my Cousin Beth and her father are researching the family tree. My brother Kevin hadn't seen her since her grandfather's (Kev's and my Uncle Bobby) funeral. I knew Kev and his wife would be home Sunday afternoon. I also knew that Cousin Beth wanted to go see my parent's and brother Gary's graves on one of these weekends.
Yesterday I made both happen.
Cousin Beth showed up right on time yesterday, just in time to watch Kev and I put a new dryer in Kev's laundry.
You can't pay enough for entertainment like that.
Actually, it went off without a hitch. That was the first indication that it was going to be a perfect day.
With the initial visit over with, Cousin Beth and I loaded up into the AirTrafficMobile and hit the road.
The weather was a cool, dry, sunny 75F day. I decided to take the long way to St. Mary's Cemetery. After all, there are a plethora of things to see in the immediate area. If you tried to do them all in one shot, it could easily take nearly 47 minutes.
Our first stop was Fort Mott. When I was a kid I climbed all over this place, especially places that were tagged "NO ADMITTANCE". Let's be honest, playing "Army" or "Cowboys and Indians" is a lot more fun if you have real battlefield stuff to do it on. In the Winter we'd sled down the snow covered revetments. They were the only real hills for miles around. Cousin Beth and I walked the perimeter of the various batteries coming out along the river. It was high tide and the wind was blowing up white caps. That was a very relaxing way to start the road trip.
Next we passed by the Finns Point Lighthouse. Technically it's not a "lighthouse". It's actually a "range light". "Range lights" are used for navigating. In this case it was used to navigate the channel in the Delaware River. By lining up this and another light upriver, the person piloting the boat could tell if he/she was in the channel, or left/right of the channel.
Ten minutes later we arrived at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery. We stopped at my mother's grave first. I said a quick prayer and then proceeded to tell Beth stories about Mom. I told her about the first time Mom met her mother. Mom always liked her. Both were/are gentle souls. That's a really good trait to have when you marry a Walker. I also told Beth about her mom and dad bringing her over for my family to see when she was a baby. Context is so important in genealogy. It's one thing to tell a family story. It brings it home when it's being told at the foot of one of the principals' grave.
After a few minutes we walked down to my brother Gary's grave. One of the many reasons Cousin Beth and I hit it off right away is that we have many parallels in our lives. The loss of a sibling is one of them. I said my usual, "Prayer for Gary" (it ends with a drum roll and "Amen"). I've told Beth a number of Gary stories. He was the most naturally funny person I'll ever know. We both shared some stories about our lost siblings. I don't mean to sound glib, but only a person who has lost a brother or sister (especially when the deceased passed away so young) can truly understand the complex feelings of those left behind. My advice to her was, "Cry any time you need to. If you try to hold it back, it can do tremendous harm.".
Keep the phrase, "tremendous harm" in mind as you read what happens next.
As we left St. Mary's, I had one of "those" moments.
I am a notorious "cold leftover food for breakfast" eater. Yesterday morning I had leftover Chinese Beef and Broccoli in Garlic Sauce (extra spicy) for breakfast.
We left the cemetery and headed to town. Beth was a bit hungry. I decided Pat's Pizzeria would be a good place. Beth could get a slice and we both could grab a cold drink.
I was about to tell her where we were going when I felt the "Chinese Food For Breakfast" bubble burst in my stomach.
The Dow Bhopal disaster had nothing on this belch.
By the way Cousin Beth, you don't look bad in green.
Green was just one of the many colors that poor woman turned. Personally, I turned red. I knew it had to be bad because Beth stopped talking.
Thank God for working electric windows.
I made a joke saying, "Maybe we need to get a car mint."
Fortunately, Pat's Pizzeria was just around the block.
Beth safely escaped "The Belch" and made it into Pat's.
The slice and fresh air cheered her up.
Mea culpa, Cuz.
Anyway, pretty soon we were off to the Salem County Veterans Cemetery to see my father. It was at Dad's request (not knowing how soon we'd have to honor it) that he be cremated and buried here. Absolutely "No Viewing". He hated viewings. He had seen enough dead bodies during World War Two. He was on the killing end is some cases. The only reason Mom isn't here with him is that she had to be close to Gary. There was no way we were going to not honor their requests. I know Dad understands.
I took Cousin Beth out to his grave. As I quietly said a prayer, eyes closed, I heard Beth say, "Hi Uncle Dick". I opened my eyes to see her sitting down on his grave and gently moving her hand over Dad's marker.
You're damned right I started crying.
Then I started doing the "Walker snicker". It's not quite a laugh, it's not some girlish giggle, but it is definitely unique to our family.
Why *snicker* you ask?
Because I could just see my dad blushing in that way that only Dad could.
Back to the "Walker snicker" for a moment. This is for the Walker's reading this. Next time you're around a bunch of other Walkers, start the *snicker* and watch how fast they all join in.
We left the cemetery and headed back through Salem. I took her past the "Salem Oak". The "Salem Oak" is the tree under which John Fenwick signed a treaty with the local Native Americans for the land which now comprises Salem County and Cumberland County. The tree itself is estimated to be over 500 years old and stands gracefully in the Friends(Quaker) Cemetery.
Next stop, what was once the center of my universe.........my parent's former home. I went by there slowly. I always do. So many memories. The beauty of life is that houses sell, memories don't. Mom and Dad made that place a home. When they were gone, it reverted to being a house. "Home" went with us in our memories and hearts.
Cousin Beth and I had been driving around for over two hours. It was time for a break. I knew just the place. We stopped down at the Riverview Inn. We plopped down where we had an unobstructed view if the Delaware River. I ordered "Moscow Mules" for us. I am an unabashed fan of the "Moscow Mule". It is the perfect Spring/Summer cocktail and well suited for waterside relaxation. I also pointed out the remnants of both the Pennsville side of the old New Castle/Pennsville Ferry and the old Wilson Line piers. We also got a chance to just sit and shoot the breeze.
Cousin Beth is a great conversationalist.
All Walkers are, but she's definitely one of the best.
One cocktail (two for me) and one gorgeous slice of Key Lime Pie (her) later, it was time to get ready for dinner at Kev's.
Like my buddy Jay Johnson from Richmond used to say:
"Jus' a lil' sumpin sumpin."
Or as we call it:
"The Walker Brothers Surf and Turf"
- Steamed, pre-cleaned #1 Blue Claw Crabs w/garlic
- Steamed Top Neck Clams w/drawn butter
- BBQ'ed Riblets
- Air Traffic Mike's Marinated Vegetable Salad w/Feta Cheese
- Fresh Corn on the Cob
- Watermelon Margaritas ala Kev
See........jus' a lil' sumpin sumpin.
We dined poolside in Kev's backyard.
I was so happy for Beth to get reacquainted with Kevin and meet Karen. They are such good folks. I always say it and I'll say it again. Kevin is the big brother you'd want if you didn't have your own (or in some cases, even if you did).
Note to Cousin Beth: Next time we're planning the "Walker Brothers World Championship (So far as we know) Rib Competition". We're going to need more Walkers so we're going to need Cousin Rick and your Dad (spouses included, naturally) to bolster the "Judging Panel". In consideration for their time, the judges will each receive a large whole oat bran muffin and an ice cold "Pile Driver*" at the end of this meat fest.
*Pile Driver - An original Air Traffic Mike recipe featuring two ounces of Stolichnaya Vodka mixed with six ounces of orange flavored Metamucil, served over the rocks in a Zombie glass. Its motto: "This too shall pass."
Today, rest, cleaning the remaining crabs of their meat, cooking a corned beef for dinner, and herding Dachshunds.
Tough schedule, but someone's got to do it.
Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.
Air Traffic Mike, ret.