Thank you, Emily Hellman. My Daughter for a Day

I’ve become aware of something called National Daughter’s Day which is September 25th, apparently.  I don’t have any daughters, so it’s a day of recognition that has never appeared on my personal calendar. I reflected on that a little bit this morning, and remembered I did have a daughter once — for a few hours.

It happened as I began a business trip sometime in the mid ’90s. I had just boarded a flight out of Washington to a layover point in the midwest which I think was Chicago. As I came aboard the jet, I made my way down to my assigned seat, and found a little girl sitting there. She was perhaps six or seven years old. It looked like the girl had boarded on a previous leg, and was continuing to the next destination. Both seats on that side were full of her scattered things, among which was a coloring book, some pencils, a CD player, a jacket, and a bag.  I said, “hello there, I think you’re in my seat”. Whereupon she stood up and slid down to the floor, then began pushing her stuff over to the empty window seat.  We sat down, and she politely asked me in a small voice, “Can we switch seats?  I don’t like the window.”  I agreed to move, and we changed places with her pushing that small mountain of stuff back towards the aisle seat again.  As she did this, she remarked to me, “thanks, sometimes I have to negotiate with people”. I thought to myself, “she’s a very bright and articulate girl, this flight could be interesting”.

The plane took off, and I noticed she firmly gripped the armrest with white knuckles. Once airborne, I saw that she was very good at keeping herself occupied. There was a woman on the opposite side who kept glancing at her, and I asked the girl if she was her mother. She told me no, her mother was not aboard, nor was her father.  She indicated that she was traveling alone. She added that her parents were divorced, and she was a frequent traveler because her parents lived a great distance apart.  I think she told me her mother lived in the Midwest, perhaps the Chicago area, and inferred that her father was somewhere back east. After so many years, I now forget those details. I nodded, and thought to myself how sad it all was. I was sitting next to an unaccompanied minor, who was being chaperoned by the airline, as she shuttled back and forth between her divorced parents to be delivered like a FedEx parcel.

We had a very nice conversation on that flight. I learned that she was afraid of flying, and didn’t like to look out the window. She read me a book, and we read two others together. She showed me her entire Barbie CD collection. The stewardess came by to check on her once, knelt down, and asked if she needed anything.  Towards the end of the flight, she asked if she could draw me a picture and I said, “sure”.  She drew a scene with her parents, and herself, a house, and a tree — in colored pencil.  She gave me the drawing, and I declared it a work of art.  I said, “all art deserves the artist’s signature, sign your name to it.” — so she did.

Once the plane was on the ground, people stood up waiting to exit.  The girl indicated she needed to use the lavatory and then disappeared aft by pushing her way through the crowd in a way that only little people can manage. The woman asked me, “she’s so sweet, is she your daughter?”.  I told her the truth.   Everyone was as surprised as I was.  I disembarked with all the other passengers, and never saw her again. I still think about her from time to time knowing that she must now be in her mid to late twenties.

The picture she drew for me hung in my office for years until it eventually disintegrated. Thank you Emily Hellman. For a few hours you entered my life, and became the daughter I never had.

Easter Rising

I just checked the calendar. I was too busy to remember St. Patrick’s Day, but remembered that today is Easter in the Christian west.  I was also reminded that tomorrow marks 100-years since the “Easter Rising” in Dublin, Ireland which actually began on Easter Monday, 24 April, 1916.
Early that morning, Irish republicans seized key installations in Dublin, and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The British government, busy fighting World War 1, was not amused. The British Army suppressed the rebellion in about a week using heavy-handed measures including firing field artillery into populated areas, incendiaries, and lynching 17-year olds from lamp posts in Dublin city.
Almost all the republican leaders were captured, faced court-martials, whereupon most were hanged.  They remain buried together in a common grave behind the Dublin’s main prison. Six years later, much of Ireland was granted independence by the British crown after more than 700 years of direct English rule. 

Letters Santa Missed — Read This!

Every December for the past 15 years, an acting coach has honored two children whose notes to Santa Claus he found stuffed in his fireplace in his New York City apartment.  The 100-year old notes, written in children’s scrawl, were found during a renovation project. They hint at the poverty and hardships of a former Irish neighborhood in Manhattan 100-years ago.  The existence of the letters themselves is not remarkable, it is what they tell us that is.

Source: A Chimney’s Poignant Surprise: Letters Santa Missed, Long Ago – The New York Times

Halloween and my experience with “The Personals”

We attended a birthday party today where several adults mentioned that they were heading off to Halloween parties tonight, and described the costumes they were planning to wear.  Adults dressing up for Halloween was something unheard of when I was a child.  Halloween was an affair strictly for children.  Participation is Halloween seemed to end for most of us during our high school years, and older teenagers never went door to door for candy treats with most of us opting for parties in someone’s home, or some school organized social function. Halloween seems to have changed to involve adults sometime in the last 25 years. This may have come about from the commericialization of just about every holiday.

Lately I feel somewhat torn on Halloween. Autumn is my favorite season and I enjoyed Halloween as a child.  However, the church we belong to highly discourages any participation in Halloween for a variety of reasons, but mainly because, as Christians, we believe in celebrating eternal life and not a festival of death. It also reduces death, spirits, and afterlife to something that can be parodied.  Christians don’t believe in ghosts, but we do believe in demons which do deceive and harm living people. They have existed for thousands of years, and they know all the human weaknesses.  Modern, secular society battles with them almost completely unarmed.

As I sit here typing late on a this dark Halloween night, I bring up a little vignette from my colorful past which is perfectly suited for Halloween.  After I was deserted by my first wife, I threw myself into my work.  It took me several years to emerge from my funk after I realized that work is no substitute for companionship.  In my late ’30s, I had to start over from scratch because, by then, not only had I long been out of circulation, but the only girl I ever dated I ended up marrying. It just worked out that way, but we parted 10-years later and I was a late 30-something with no dating experience. I also lacked a social circle. For when two people divorce, you also end up divorcing a significant portion of your mutual friends and acquaintances.  Your friends become collateral damage in a fractured relationship as they take sides or fade away. To limit my prospects further, I work in a field where I am surrounded by other men. So not being a barfly, and lacking the time and opportunity to develop relationships, I turned to what was once known in the pre-Internet era as “the personals”.

Over the course of a few years, I met many interesting women from the personals, but one in particular stands out. Her name was Patricia.  At our first meeting I asked her why such a nice girl needed to use the personals.  It seems that not only was she wrapped up in her own job with its own unique demands, but she indicated that it was often difficult to get a date in her line of work — she was a mortician.

Patricia indicated that to succeed in her chosen profession, one needs only three qualities.  A strong stomach, lots of empathy, and you REALLLY need to enjoy working with people.  Inevitably we would come to discuss the technical aspects of her job, and there were a few stories.  It seems that it is common for females in her field to be “hit on” by newly bereaved husbands.  She always rebuffed these advances because it violated a code of professional ethics.  Then there were, the “clients”.  Most of them were elderly as one might expect. People in her field tend to depersonalize the body they are working on, but she found it difficult to do this when she had to work with children. In one case, she was assigned to work on a girl of about 8-years old who died of a hemorraghic disease. She soon found herself talking to the girl, telling her how pretty she was, how beautiful her hair is — while as she stood there talking, the girl’s body was dissolving in front of her.  Then there was the time she was “stuck”.  It happened when she was working on a drug user who had died of AIDS, and her kevlar suit was punctured by a hypodermic needle which went into her arm.  That caused her much anxiety until the tests eventually came back negative.

Patricia often worked alone, and most of her cases were uneventful. Patricia told me she did not believe in ghosts, but she indicated there were two instances where she felt that she was not alone.  In those two cases, she sensed a presence close-by as if someone was observing her at work.  There was no one there, of course. Nothing in her peripheral vision.  It was just a feeling, her intuition, but enough to raise the hair on her arms. Maybe she was working too long, or too late on those days.  But perhaps it’s possible some of us stick around and take an interest in what happens to our remains after our sprit separates from them. I’m reminded of the old admonition to not speak ill of the dead.  Perhaps the walls do have ears.

A few words more about Kristina and Kira, and an Apology


This blog typically sees only a few readers per day, but in the last several days I’ve noticed an unusual upsurge in traffic coming from Europe.  It seems that somebody found my blog entry from last year highlighting the untimely deaths of Kristina Sergeyevna and her daughter Kira, who were both killed in a shell burst in Gorlovka (Horlivka) Ukraine on 27 July, 2014.  May God grant their souls eternal peace.  While searching for the source, I located a link to a story told by Kristina’s mother, Natalia, which is well worth reading.

You may click on the link below to read it.

Since I have discovered that Natalia is greatly distressed by the photos of her daughter and granddaughter circulating on the Internet, I am removing the photo montage from the earlier blog entry that shows them at the scene of the blast. On the Internet it is all too easy to depersonalize a tragedy, particularly one that is so far away. I’ve now been reminded that these are real people who have suffered tragedy and loss. I’m deeply sorry for adding to your pain, Natalia.

Natalia’s Story:

A Mother’s Letter: “Who Gave the Order to Kill my Children?” |

Vladimir Putin Just Made A Very Important Speech

Last Friday, 13 February, 2015, Vladimir Putin delivered perhaps his most important speech on foreign policy since he became president of the Russian Federation in 2000. As far as the Western press is concerned, the speech was practically confidential. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who is no fan of Putin, thinks it was the best and most important speech that Putin has ever made. In it, President Putin firmly stresses Russia’s desire for stability, rule of international law, and a global balance of power. These are traditional, conservative ideas. Putin thinks the rest of the world needs to rein-in out-of-control US global activism, and that, of course, is the only part that made it into the Western press.

Putin came across a very different person from the aggressive expansionist and nationalist demagogue and gambler of western commentary.  It is also different from the Putin some other people want him to be.  Anyone looking to Putin to lead some great crusade against the US is on the evidence of this speech going to be disappointed.  As some have noticed, what he actually wants from the US is not conflict, but cooperation.

You can read the full text of Vladimir Putin’s speech (in English!) which is posted on the official Kremlin website.

Here is the link:

President of Russia.

The Passing of American Exceptionalism: How We Became Like All the Other Nations


Some excerpts from a short article by Paul Rosenberg:

“Yes, once upon a time there really was an American exceptionalism. America was a light unto the world. This exceptionalism was a long way from perfect, of course (looking for perfection in a mass of humans is silly), but it was legitimate and substantial. Alas, that was long ago. People who say that American exceptionalism still exists don’t understand what it was. They may not have bad intentions, but they have strayed badly from real meanings.”

“Once, America was truly different. People lived as they wished and barely saw the government. They had rights that government couldn’t touch, not just in propaganda, but in real life. Now, America is the same as all the other nations, and government reigns supreme. Personal sovereignty has been outlawed.”

Please read Paul Rosenberg’s complete, unedited article over at Casey Research:

The Passing of American Exceptionalism: How We Became Like All the Other Nations | Casey Research.