“Is There Something You Would Like to Have?”

These were the words that were spoken, as I eavesdropped in on a conversation between  husband and wife.  How many times in the history of man have these words been uttered, I wondered? Such a simple request; yet so telling.  It’s really a very gracious statement when you examine it closely.  Is there some need I can fulfill for you?  What would make you happy now?  How can I serve you?  All of these questions can be inferred from “Is there something you would like to have?

The conversation I was eavesdropping on was between Vice Admiral James Stockdale and his wife, Sybil.   Stockdale?  James Stockdale?  Where have you heard that name before?  You probably heard it in 1992, when Presidential Candidate Ross Perot named James Stockdale as his Vice Presidential running mate.  Needless to say, everyone was shocked and unaware of who this aging sailor was.

Stockdale was not informed that he would be participating in the October 13th   vice-presidential debate held in Atlanta, Georgia, until a week before the event. He had no formal preparation for the debate, unlike his opponents Al Gore and Dan Quayle, and did not discuss any political issues with Perot beforehand.  The 69 year old Stockdale opened the debate by saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?”, when responding to a request for an opening statement from debate moderator.  He was lampooned immediately by everyone from the New York Times to Saturday Night Live.

Yet that is not the James Stockdale I will remember.

From Wikipedia –

James Bond Stockdale (December 23, 1923 – July 5, 2005) was an American and United States Navy vice admiral. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War where he was a prisoner of war for over seven years.  He had led aerial attacks from the carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On his next deployment, while Commander of Carrier Air Wing 16 aboard the carrier USS Oriskany (CV-34), he was shot down in North Vietnam on September 9, 1965.

He was held as a prisoner of war for seven and a half years in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”  He was routinely tortured and denied medical attention.  This left him with a damaged leg and a permanent limp.   When his torturers tried to use him as a propaganda tool by parading him out in public, he slit his scalp with a razor and beat himself in the face so that he was so disfigured that they couldn’t use him.

Stockdale and ten other prisoners were known as the Alcatraz Gang because of their tireless efforts in organizing resistance.  They were separated from the rest of the prisoners and each kept in a 3 x 9 foot cell; shackled in leg irons each night.

While James was held captive, Sybil organized The League of American Families of POWs and MIAs calling for more light to be shed on the treatment of POWs.  She was also used by the government to send coded messages to her husband in a twist right out of the movies.

 

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He was released on February 12, 1973 during Operation Homecoming. His shoulders had been wrenched from their sockets, his leg shattered and his back broken during his torture.   The first thing he did, when he was safe at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, was to call Sybil.   The conversation was recorded by their son, Stanford.  As you listen to recording, you can hear the frailty in his voice.  You can hear the years of torture and pain.  After professing their love for each other, James asks the question that I am not ashamed caused me to cry and started this story.  “Is there something you would like in the way of a gift?”

James Stockdale had endured seven and a half years of torture.  He was a skeleton of the man he was.  Yet he asked his beloved wife what HE could get her.  I’m pretty good with the English language but words fail me in trying to describe how this made me feel.

I heard this story told by his son, Jim, on the StoryCorps podcast as Lynn and I wove our way through the Louisa countryside in search of pie. On the podcast, Jim played the recording of the conversation between James and Sybil.  I felt the hot tears stream down my face as I heard him ask her if there was “something she would like.”  I tried to hide them from Lynn but I knew chances were she was crying, too.

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What is it in us as humans that allows such magnanimity?   How can someone who was beaten and tortured routinely for seven years be so thoughtful as to ask his wife that question?  It’s at these moments that the face of God is revealed and I know that all is right and good if we only listen to his voice.  Listening to that intimate conversation from over forty years ago was sacred.

Vice Admiral James Stockdale may be remembered by most as the befuddled, fuzzy old, bent Vice Presidential candidate who was ridiculed by the questions he uttered in 1992.  I, however, will remember him by the question he asked in 1973 – “Is there something I can get for you?”

 

To listen to the StoryCorps Podcast AND the conversation between James and Sybil click here.

 

ps – It’s a bit ironic that his middle name is “Bond.”  He’s more of a hero than 007 could ever be in my book.

 

 

 

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Knockout!!

I have been knocked out thrice in my life and none of them were fun.  The first was when I was sparring with a black-belt friend of mine, a second in a bike accident and the third while teaching kindergarten.

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I’m guessing most of you have done the math on the black-belt-friend knockout and bike accident, so I’ll describe what happened that day I was “teaching” kindergarten.

It was 1998, a beautiful Spring day, and my second year teaching kindergarten.  I was teaching in Henrico County which at the time had half-day kindergartens.  You would get a group in the morning, they would go home around mid-day, and then the second group would arrive.  It was neat because the classes tended to be small and you really got to know the kids.

I was the lone guy with three amazing, smart, young women who took pity on me and taught me how to be a passable kindergarten teacher. We took turns going out for recess; two classes at a time. “Alexa” was my teacher-team partner.  Since it was the first gorgeous Spring day,  we grabbed some “grown-up”  chairs in preparation for an extended recess.  My only grown-up chair was my office rolling chair so I rolled it out and took a seat to watch the munchkins run wild.  The sun felt great and Alexa took post on the opposite side of playground.

There was a small blacktopped decline going down to the basketball court from where I sat.  Well….I had a chair that could roll and there was the decline calling my name, so I took off.  It was GREAT fun rolling down that decline.  It WAS great fun the first three times.  The fourth time proved, shall we say…problematic.  The kids saw what a great time I was having, so they decided to run behind and give me an extra boost down the decline.  It was a good idea in theory.

What actually happened was on that fourth run, my rolling chair hit a seam in the blacktop walkway.  This caused the chair to pivot around backwards, and  fall  over; slamming me and my giant head onto the blacktop.

I opened my eyes to the bluest sky I had ever seen, and the sound of 5-6 year-olds fleeing the scene.  Alexa was screaming, “The fool has finally killed himself.  The FOOL has finally killed himself!!”  She helped me sit up, and I told her I was fine but I wasn’t completely fine.  I tried to pick the chair up from my sitting position but my fingers wouldn’t work.  I had to pinch the chair in between the back of my hands like they were flippers to get it upright. Luckily it was the end of the day and I was able to get the kids packed up and on the bus.

Afterwards we had a wedding shower in the library and I remember somebody bringing me cake but my fingers still were not working.  I had to pick the fork up with my flipper hands and try to eat the cake while my “teammates” were snorting and laughing at me.

What I didn’t know was that because the playground was situated near where the building was in a kind of u-shape, half of the other teachers had seen my crash.  The news made it to my long-suffering principal, Herb Monroe, who insisted I go to the doctor and get a brain scan and bring him proof that I had one (he said this while he was doubled over laughing).

 

 

 

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The Pie That Binds

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The place had a familiar feel.  Deja vu comes close but off by a little.  Even the spot where I sat had a sense of sameness and then it hit me and once again the old black and white movies started to play in the the theater of my mind.

Yesterday, Cookie and I were having our breakfast of eggs, cereal and crosswords and coming up with a plan for the day.  We didn’t want to do any painting or house re-habing.We had been doing a lot of on her parents house we’re getting ready for sale.

I suggested that we do some light geocaching along Route 6 (Patterson Avenue) west and cut over to the Town of Louisa and hit Floozies Pie Shop.  My friend, Bill Lohmann, had done an article about Floozies, and when you write as well as Bill you can make pie seem pretty irresistible.

So we piled into our Subaru and headed west on Patterson in search of geocaches and pie.  The geocaches were far and few but the scenery was gorgeous and we listened to a few The Moth podcasts along the way.

As we pulled into the Town of Louisa I was amazed at how much it had changed over the years.  I grew up in Louisa on the eastern end of the county as far away as you can get from the town and still be in Louisa.

We parked on Main Street about a block from the restaurant and walked along the busy street in search of Floozies (I just realized how bad that sentence sounded).  It was crazy busy on this Saturday before the 4th of July.  Large American flags lined both sides of the street.  We walked past several restaurants along the way, and I told Cookie that the only place to eat when I was growing up here was a Pizza Hut (still there by the way).

We walked into Floozies and decided to have lunch and get the pie to go.  We were seated at a table near the right hand wall, and as I sat down a strange feeling came over me.  It was a feeling of belonging and calmness. Then the movie started to play.

If you were a boy in the late 50’s and early 60’s you had one choice of haircuts – the crew cut.  My dad had one his whole adult life, and so by default I had one.  This required regular trips to the barbershop which for us were every other Saturday.  My dad would get me out of bed super early, and we would get there a full half hour before Callahan’s Barbershop would open.  We would park in small lot down the street from the storefront, and if my dad’s friend, George Badgett, was there, we would pile in his car to talk and stay warm during the cold winter days.

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In front of the house I spent the first 18 years of my life

The barbershop was like thousands across America back then.  Two large, heavy cast iron barber chairs, combs soaking in a jar of blue solution, and a machine that dispensed hot lather for shaves and neck touch ups.  Mr. Callahan was like a god to me.  He was in the same boat in my mind as my doctor and preacher.  While there was talk of sports and politics, most of the talk was about hunting and fishing.

Mr. Callahan was fast when it came to dispensing his crewcuts.  My favorite part was when he put the hot lather on the back of my neck, then took the single edge razor and swiped it on the strop and shaved the back of my neck.

My dad would give me my allowance to take to the five and dime next door for important purchases, while he was getting the same haircut.  I don’t remember many of the purchases; except for a pocket knife one time and Silly Putty another.  Back then if you were a boy, a pocket knife was a requirement, that went with you even to school.  Different times.

As I had sat in my chair at Floozies, I realized that this restaurant was probably in the exact same location as the barbershop was many, many years ago.  Perhaps occupying that specific space had triggered those long ago memories of hot lather and dime store visits.

The lunch was delicious as was to be expected.  We paid our bill and took our mixed berry pies.  On the way out, we stopped to look at Bill’s article proudly displayed on a beam in the middle of eatery.  We walked slowly to car soaking in the quaintness of it all.   The American flags, the soul food restaurant, the courthouse across the street and the barbecue joint down the street were reminders of a simpler time that was still accessible if you looked for it.

I took the long way home to visit my brother in Bumpass, and along the way pointed out memories to Cookie.  My Uncle Ronald’s house, Willie Sprouse’s cabinet shop and the fireworks stand that has been there forever, served as portals back in time.

To be quite honest I don’t know what lesson there is to had from the pie/barbershop experience other than I’m pretty easy to please.  A nice with lunch with a pretty wife, hot lather on the back of my neck, dime store buys and a great piece of pie on a Fourth of July weekend seem to move the needle for me; whether I’m eight or fifty eight.  I kinda like that about myself.

Click on the orange “Floozies” word link to read Bill Lohmann’s Time Dispatch article.

 

 

 

 

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A Father’s Day Gift

We all sat in the den watching some dumb reality show and laughing until our sides hurt.  That’s what always happens when my oldest son, Andrew who lives in Baltimore with his wife, comes down.  He’ll leave his job as an Air Force Chinese Linguist on Thursday afternoon and spend the weekend with us.  During that time Jack and Catherine will also come over and we’ll eat horrible food and try to make each other do a spit-take while doing so.  We’ve done this several times since he returned from being stationed in Hawaii.

If you asked me what my favorite thing to do is; that is it.  All three kids and Cookie there; telling stories, making comments about current events and just generally catching up on life.

Cookie and I have three children.  There’s the aforementioned Andy who lives with his wife in Baltimore.  Catherine works with autistic children, and she graduated from VCU like her mother and father.  Jack the youngest went rogue and graduated from ODU. He is a computer guy subcontracted by Chesterfield Schools.

While the degrees and fancy Air Force jobs are great, they are not what I am most proud of in regards to my kids.  What I am most proud of is that they are genuinely kind and compassionate humans.

When you watch my kids interact with other people you can see it in their eyes.  The patience to listen, the compassion and understanding that comes from someone who truly listens to you.  I think that’s pretty rare.  I would love to take credit for it all, but I think they get it from Cookie, her sister Karen,  brother Brian, along with my dad and brother Hank;  ALL world class humans.

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Cookie’s parents had to be transitioned to assisted living recently, and it has become a gargantuan task taking care of the all the details which  include re-habbing their home for sale.  We didn’t even have to ask our two offspring who live in town to help.  They have been there the whole time – cutting grass, moving furniture, making trips to charities with stuff and moving their grandparents into the new place.

Sunday we went over to the house and started throwing the dozens of black garbage bags and miscellaneous furniture into the dumpster we had rented.  It took awhile, and then we started working on the yard which needed a ton of care.  My bad back was killing me, so we took a break and went home for lunch.  Cookie remarked that she thought it would take about 10 bags of mulch to do the area we had just cleared, and I winced at the thought of it.  So I shot a text to Jack to see if his young back was available.  He must have been busy, so I didn’t hear from him right away.  I told Cookie I would go get the mulch,  meet her there, and at least drop it off in place for her.

On the way to Home Depot, Jack called and asked, “What’s up?”  I asked him if he was busy, and he said he was just getting ready to head out to go grocery shopping but it could wait.  I let him know that I was pulling into Home Depot and said, “Thanks anyway. I can handle it.”  He pleaded with me to let him help, but I told him I was good.

After dropping the mulch off I went home to take some ibuprofen and stretch and rest my back.  When Cookie got back home about an hour later she looked exhausted.  I asked her how it went, and she said that she had replanted the monkey grass. She was so tired after that she didn’t know if she could spread the mulch until…..Jack dropped by.

I could go on and on with stories about how all three were kind and compassionate but that is the most recent one.  I believe serving your country and working with autistic children kinda of speaks for itself.

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When I was a teacher on the first day of school I would tell the students, “I am going to give you a gift.  It will be the most important gift that you will ever get.  The gift I am going to give you will make you happy for the rest of their life, and all that  you have to do is do exactly what I tell you”

I would ask them if they would be willing to do what I told them if it meant they would be happy?  They would all nod their “yes” and looked super excited.  Then I would point to the powerpoint slide that had popped up next and it would say – “Be a good person.”   I would then tell them that they would still experience pain, loss, and death, but on the whole if they lived their life as a good person they would be as happy as the richest person on earth.  The first lesson of the year was the most important and paid dividends throughout the school year.

So my gift this Father’s Day is the gift that I know will keep giving long after I’ve been released from this mortal coil. It’s the gift that somehow Cookie and I were able to have these kind and compassionate children.  We’ll get together and maybe have some Popeye’s chicken and try to make each other laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

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Melancholy.  That’s the word I was searching for as I watched my car back out of the driveway.  I stood at the window; coffee in hand…still clad in my pajamas.  It was the type of melancholy one might experience watching their firstborn go off to kindergarten. The 2003 Toyota Corolla backed out the driveway and out of my life and into a new life.

I had sold it to my daughter Catherine when her car became cost prohibitive to fix.  Her Chevrolet Prizm was actually made at the same factory as my Toyota Corolla.  At some point on the assembly line they parted ways and met on Camrose Road.  Her Prizm has been a money pit while my Corolla asks very little.  It’s funny; different brothers from the same mother.

That 2003 Toyota Corolla and I had history.  We had driven miles upon miles; mostly alone, a lot with Cookie and some with our friends.

We had gone to teach at three different schools in two different counties.

We had crisscrossed the State of Virginia from Grayson Highland Park to Chincoteague Island in search geocaches, nature and God.

That little silver Corolla had taken us to Lynn’s chemotherapy appointments, my cancer appointments, to weddings and to high school and college graduations.

We sang in it, ate in it and sought refuge from the elements when it got too cold or hot or whatever. I had laughed, cried and slept in that car and it never asked that much of me.  A drink of gas now and then and the occasional oil change and it was ready to go.

It may have been the best $12,000 dollars a guy could spend on a car.  It required little maintenance and was always there for me.  It had the old-school crank windows and door manual door locks.  My friends always looked at me like I asked for a kidney when I requested that they lock the door.  I didn’t care.  I loved not having a car payment.

I often wonder how many hours I have sat in that car in traffic and in drive thru’s thinking about life or just being.  A type of mini-meditation retreat rolling on 15’s.

We’re both a little worse for the wear; the Corolla and me.  We’ve got some dings and dents and maybe aren’t as bright and shiny as we once were.  But we’re soulmates. We’re honest as a game of checkers and love the simplicity of it all.

My flaws as a human being are many but being materialistic isn’t one of them. I’ve got an iPhone that’s at least 4 years old and have lived in the same humble home for 30 years.  Getting a new car was not on my radar.  It was, however, time.  Catherine needed a good, dependable car at a low price point and my car fit the bill.  So last night, after getting some advice from my friend Don and my nephew Phillip (who works at CarMax) we headed over to CarMax to shop for a car.  I have to admit my heart was not in it but for the sake of my marriage we had to get a new car.

This morning I watched 13 years of my life back out of the driveway and go down the street.  I took a sip from my coffee cup in a silent toast of thanks for the 160,000 miles of service it gave me.  Here’s to new beginnings and a shared life.

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38 and Counting

All the luck that was due to me in life was used on March 30th, 1976.  It was on that day, my birthday, that I met my wife, Lynn.  It was in a roller skating rink where we were introduced by a mutual friend.  In a world of online dating and cell phone apps, it seems quaint to think we met that way.

This coming Wednesday will be our 38th wedding anniversary.  While 38 anniversaries seems like a lot, I would like to think it is just the beginning.  We’ve spent our anniversary in so many different ways.  Some have been quiet dinners and others have been more complex but in the end they were all special.

Our washer is broken and the other day, I remarked that I was out of clean pajamas during my break from work.  After work there was Lynn carrying in some bags – “I bought you some pajamas for our anniversary!!” she said.  “And I bought some for me as a present from you!!”  I almost cried.

I almost cried because what do you give someone you love so much.  Someone who has been with you through thick and thin and then thick and thin and….well you get the point.

If I had gone to every skating rink in existence for a thousand years, I would have never met someone like Lynn. She is beautiful, smart and pure of heart.  All my luck was used on that 18th birthday in 1976.  I am due not one more ounce of luck.  However if God could be so kind, I would love to have a few more years of marriage.

Last night my brother brought us a load of firewood for Christmas.  It’s a tradition and Lynn’s favorite gift.  Within an hour of unloading and stacking the wood, Lynn had a warm, cozy fire going and was fast asleep in her recliner in front of it.  Her trusty dog, Lenny, was stuffed into the chair next her – lightly snoring (Lenny that is). It was perfect.  She is perfect.  Life is perfect.

 

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For Lynn on Her “Mother’s” Day

My wife, Lynn, is very modest in what she wants in life.  No fancy cars, clothes or jewelry for this girl.  Oh….I’m sure she would like all that stuff but the fact that she married a guy who was not exactly rich prevented her from having to “worry” about all those trappings.

What Lynn does love is a strong sense of family and today, the day before Mother’s Day, I think she got it.

About a month ago, Andrew, our oldest who is married and lives in Baltimore, was here for the Monument Avenue 10k Race.  Andy has kept the Bagby voracious-appetite-curse at bay by running daily and had never done the Monument Avenue.  While here, he spoke with Lynn about coming back down and walking the Susan Komen Race for the Cure with her the day before Mother’s Day.  Catherine, my middle child, who has been working out like crazy lately, also threw in on the adventure and an ensuing lunch was planned.

What Lynn didn’t know was that I also had secretly registered and was going to do it as well.  I’ve been more active lately after a small bout of a recurring illness and am anxious to get back on the bike.  On Thursday, Andrew came down and all three of them went to get their registration packets.  I told Lynn to get mine and she was pleasantly surprise!!

What was ALSO a surprise was Jack, our youngest, had ALSO registered.  The whole family was going to walk the race together.  It’s the together part that meant so much to Lynn.

The Race for the Cure is a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) event that is held every year starting at Brown’s Island to benefit breast cancer.  Lynn is an 11 year breast cancer survivor and has done this event several times.  I’ve written about us both having cancer but what I have is nothing compared to what Lynn had to endure.  Surgery, chemotherapy and medication while I’ve had to just keep an “eye” on things.  Here’s a link to what I wrote about that time in our life

When you arrive at Brown’s Island it’s like a big party.  Music, tents with food vendors and photographers about.  You know who the breast cancer survivors are because they wear a special shirt; this year it was a solid hot pink.  You’ll see people like Lynn who have survived for many years and you’ll see women there with scarves on their heads; the badge of one who undergoes chemotherapy.  Some people wear tickets on their back they say who they are honoring or who they are remembering.  In honor of Tiffany.  In Karen’s memory.  My mom is a 5 year survivor.

I saw one family at the start who had (and I’m guessing here) a 70 year old mother who wore the survivor t shirt and was in one of those huge adult sized running strollers.  What had to be her daughter also had a solid pink shirt as well.  There were probably four or so granddaughters and grandsons running around the older lady taking turns pushing her the 3.1 miles.  I so wanted to take a picture of this family but to do so would have been an intrusion on the sacred.

We had a great time walking around Brown’s Island.  We stopped and took some pictures and even looked for a couple of geocaches.

Once the “race” started it was like a moving party.  So much chatter and laughter.  Sometimes I walked in silence just to listen to the banter between Catherine, Jack and Andy.  Catherine whose heart is so light and cheerful.  Andrew with his deadpan humor and encyclopedic knowledge and Jack who will say something so surgically hilarious that it almost makes me pee my pants.  No one gets to me like Jack.  Honestly I don’t know where he gets it.

The race meanders across the Manchester Bridge, takes a right then meanders to the Lee Bridge which you takes you back across the James River to get back to the starting point near Brown’s Island. You’re never alone during the whole walk.  It’s elbow to elbow most of the time and you’ll bump into each other and say your “sorries” and laugh.  A river of pink crisscrossing the James in defiance of this monster called breast cancer.

We all made it back to the start after seeing several people we knew along the way.  We went to a restaurant called “Bellytimber Tavern near VCU where Catherine, Lynn and I received our degrees; from the college not the Tavern.  We had food and beverages that more than offset the caloric expenditure of the race and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

I haven’t talked to Lynn about it yet.  We all came home and took a nap; another time honored Bagby tradition.  I AM willing to bet this might have been her best Mother’s Day yet.  Yes I know it’s really tomorrow.  She was grinning from ear to ear the whole time.  Let me change that.  She was literally beaming.  The radiant mother of three amazing kids; one an Air Force Linguist, one a Autistic Behavioral Therapist and the other a Technology guru.

When you’re a parent you have big doubts about how your children will turn out. You fumble around and try to provide the right guidance and say the right things but the truth is you don’t really know what you’re doing.  Nobody does.  It’s more art than science.  All that being said, with all the degrees and job honors they have garnered, I was most proud of my children today.  Showing up to support an angel in pink.

The End – not really

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Farewell and Happy New Year

This will be the last blog I write.  It’s been a fun ride these past four years or so and I really enjoyed sharing my feelings with all of you.

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I wrote my posts as a kind of therapy to help sort out the madness that went on in my head.  As time went by, I started to write more about social issues and including how they effected my job as a teacher and as a human.

lynn at the Ashland Coffee and Tea Co.

I’ve written about my dad, my wife, my kids, biking, teaching, cancer, anniversaries and growing up.

Jack Kornfield, the Buddhist teacher, once told the story of a 56 year old friend that had cancer of the brain.  The surgeons gave him a choice.  He could not have surgery and have six months to live or he could have the surgery but the chances were VERY high that cutting the tumor out would take away his ability to speak.  The man stated, “I’ve said all I’ve needed to say so I’ll have the surgery.”  I’m also 56 and I’ve said all I’ve needed to say.

I didn’t really think anyone would read it.  Mostly friends and family have read the blog and made such kind comments and for that I am truly grateful.

Despite a degree in English, I often asked Lynn to edit the posts and I would like to publicly thank her for that.

After I retired in June, I found it harder to come up with topics to blog about and I guess that’s to be expected.  I’ve sat on the idea of stopping the blog for the last few weeks thinking I would change my mind, but in the end I always knew it was time.

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I didn’t write to change the world or showcase my pitiful writing skills.  I wrote just to express what I thought was in everyone’s head.  The old saying, “If you could name; you can claim it” applied to this blog.   I was trying to claim it.

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Now that the New Year is upon us, I wish you all a Happy New Year and much happiness.  I will continue to enjoy my semi-retirement.  I am slowing getting back on the bike and losing the pounds, reading more books, doing more genealogy research, sleeping later, geocaching more and enjoying my part time job and new friends.  I have a wife who loves me, kids who are amazing adults, a brother who is inspirational, a dog that drives me crazy and many friends.  When I sat down to think about retiring and looked at my budget, I did not list these aforementioned things as assets.  Turns out I am very wealthy.

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What It Is is What It Was

For our anniversary, I gave us both a kind of unique present – a DNA kit.  Lynn’s dad has been an amateur genealogist for years; digging around into the history of his family (Jones’ and McCoy’s from North Carolina) and Lynn’s mom’s family (the DesAutels–French Canadians).  He can only get so far then he hits road blocks.

On my mom’s side – the Sharpe’s – I did some research and can only get back as far as the Civil War.  I really hadn’t done that much research on them until recently and it’s a work in progress.

The Bagby side of my family is much easier to research because most of it has been done by a couple of people already.  There’s even a website dedicated to it; Bagby.org.  The basic research is pretty solid for the most part and it traces us all the way back to a James Bagby who came to Jamestown around 1628 or so.  James’ country of origin is hotly debated among Bagby researchers.  Many cling to the belief that great-to-th -power of 10-grandpa-James, was from Scotland.  This opinion has no documentation to support it and the author of the Bagby.org website does a great job of pointing that out.

Also pointed out is the fact that there is a town of Bagby in Yorkshire, England.  Here is an excerpt from the website in regards to the village and how it may have gotten its name:

By John C. Downing (deceased, this was his last column)

Bagbey/Bagby

The surnames Bagbey and Bagby are English place names acquired from once having lived at a place in the North Riding of Yorkshire, spelled Baghebi in the 1066 Domesday Book, Baggaby around 1160, Baggebi in 1280 and now Bagby. The meaning is “Baggi’s By” Baggi was an Old Norse personal name of uncertain meaning and it is found compounded with other words among the Danish settlements in England. – from Bagby.org

I also did some reading from a couple of books about the history of Louisa County;  which is where I grew up.  The Bagby’s settled there in the early 1700’s.  We were ministers, doctors, farmers and anything else you can imagine.

Lynn and I like watching shows where they trace people’s genealogy back as far as they can like Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots.  As you can expect both of the shows are heavily sponsored by Ancestry.com and they heavily promote their DNA service to help you find the origin of your family.  So since I am a consumer and an American, I purchased a couple of kits for Lynn and me for our anniversary,  They came a few weeks ago and we immediately sent samples of our best saliva and waited,  The literature said that it would 6-8 weeks so I tabled my excitement and tried to forget about.

Christmas morning while I waited for everyone to awaken and Lynn was preparing breakfast, I opened up my email and lo and behold there was an email from the Ancestry.com with the heading “Your Results Are In.”  Merry Christmas to ME AND Lynn!!!

I opened them up and they were a bit surprising.  Here they are mu results (Lynn’s results were interesting as well):

Capture

We’re 46% from western Europe which is France, Germany and southern Denmark.  That keeps the Denmark theory alive.  Next is 19% from Ireland which also makes sense to me because Louisa County (my county of origin) was heavily populated by the Scots and Irish. After Ireland is Great Britain with 17%, which also makes sense.

I don’t quite know what to make of it all but at its core it does all make sense.  It doesn’t really point to where ground zero was for the Sharpe’s or the Bagby’s but that’s okay.  I fully expected it to land me squarely in Great Britain for the most part so the France-Germany-Denmark connection was a bit surprising.

Well that probably wraps up my amateur genealogy research for awhile. I’m going to take a breather and maybe start back on the Sharpe side to see if I can get any further,   It was fun and interesting and was made so much easier with technology and the help of others

Does this change how I feel about myself as a person?  Not really.  I’m still how I grew up and the sum of my experiences.  Will, son of Walter who grew up in Bumpass.  Husband of Lynn-Father of Andrew, Catherine and Jack,  Machinist-Millwright-Project Estimator-Trainer-Teacher. Friend.

Happy New Year!!

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My Not So Secret Affair

Once a week, for the last year and a half or so, I sneak away from Mrs. Bagby early in the morning to meet a younger woman.  We meet at our favorite Starbuck’s on Forest Hill.  We ARE an unlikely pair.  She grew up near and attended St. Catherine’s School then went on to the University of Virginia. She lived what could be called a comfortable lifestyle with her lawyer dad and mom.  I grew up in a less comfortable upbringing in Louisa County and went to VCU for a semester and dropping, finishing my degrees later in life. My dad was a sixth grade- educated logger for a local sawmill (see the “I Miss My Dad” blog post for how much I loved my dad).

She’s at least 20 years my junior, attractive, tall and lithe.  I have what you might call an interesting face and am built like a refrigerator.

We are quite the most unlikely of close friends, and I’m sure our “trysts” get more than a few quizzical stares when we sip our lattes at the coffee shop.  Yet there is common ground and a reason for our weekly coffees.  Two in fact.

One is we taught (until I retired) at the same school for most of the eight years I was there.  She taught kindergarten, and I taught fifth.  I didn’t really talk to her that much at first.  The difference in lifestyles and ages seemed too vast.  She was the Fan, and I was the West End and never the twain would meet until….

Until she came down with a brain tumor about five years ago.  A brain tumor that surgery and radiation could not completely erase.  Still I prayed for her health and spoke to her from time to time about it.  She looked like she had tons of support and would be O.K. with a cautious lifestyle and observation.

The second link in our common chain would become that word –  “observation.”   It was two years ago almost to this day that I was told I also had cancer- prostate cancer.  It was two years ago that I was given the option of just observing the cancer and making sure it also did not change (which it has not – at all).  Believe me when I say I am VERY lucky.

chapple-tea-latte

So it was this beautiful young spirit that sought me out for solace and sympathy.  Not sympathy from me to her, but from her to me.  You see she didn’t see the difference in our ages or upbringing as a barrier to our friendship.  She just saw someone who was in need of support, and thus began our weekly coffees where we actually talk little of our conditions and more about everything else.  You know……like friends do.

I’ve learned so much from her.  She lives her life to the fullest and enjoys her students, her friends and her family.  She’s active in the Massey Alliance (a cancer charity here in Richmond) and loves to run, ski and go out with friends.

What was a curse became the tinder (no… not THAT Tinder) for a growing friendship that, if God is willing, will last for many years.

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