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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Yesterday was my birthday.  I went to work, that’s it.  Honestly, I was just glad to have  a routine day.  And thanks to all who sent birthday wishes.  Every one was truly appreciated.

I’m sure all of us enjoy it when we find someone else with the same birthday we have.  As I understand it, June 25th is the 100th most common birthdate of the year.  I’ve met a few June 25thers over the years- at Church, at work, and a few other places.  But a couple of years ago I found a story about two other June 25th birthdays.  It is a sad story, but I won’t soon forget because, well, it’s June 25th.

A Heart Truly Broken

I’m not sure anymore that the information age is such a good thing. Sometimes, maybe it’s best not to know.
I started a new job in late 1977. I was 19. It was an aircraft engine maintenance job in a building with 600 other men and a tiny handful of women who worked in the office. In the mornings, when I was being dropped off at the door, I would occasionally make eye contact with a stunning young blonde. I would later learn she was only 17 years old. I was too shy to even mumble a “Hello”.
Some years later, I was engaging in my “standard” practical joke of writing my birthday on calenders whenever I visited the company offices. It was just a goofy thing I did. I would flip some strangers calender to June 25 and write “Brent’s Birthday” on that date.
One day, while working in my dirty back room covered with solvent and knee deep in engine parts, that beautiful girl walked in holding a calender and asked, “Is this you?”. She was pointing at my birthday. I couldn’t deny that I was the guy who was writing on calenders. She said, “That’s my birthday too!”.
We became the best of friends. She was an incredibly sweet and trusting girl…not something that seemed to fit her breathtaking looks. We talked to each other about the most personal things in our lives. I was surprised that a girl would trust me with such intimate facts about her hopes and fears. And, to this day, I’ve never shared details about myself the way I shared them with her.
10 years after starting with that company, I left. My other friends told me that, when I left, she wouldn’t stop crying. But, even after I left, I’d phone her at work and take her out to lunch once in awhile. One day, I phoned the company and was told she wasn’t there anymore. Odd as it may seem, I didn’t have her home phone number. After all of those years, it hadn’t dawned on me that she wouldn’t be there.
It was 20 years ago when I last saw her and a day hasn’t gone by that I didn’t think about her. I still have a couple of birthday cards she gave me. When the internet came along, I thought I’d try to search for her. It never worked. I figured she surely would have gotten married and searching on a maiden name from years ago wouldn’t do much good. But I always kept trying. I always thought it would be so much fun to see her again and I imagined that reunion would be a blast. Every few days I’d google her name. Tonight, I finally got a hit:
“After a courageous battle with cancer, on March 19, 2001, at Riverview Health Centre, Sherri Rose passed away at the age of 38 years.”
I immediately tried coming up with reasons why it couldn’t be her. But it was her. There was a photo, that birth date, the unusual middle name.
I have a stack of old day planners. I actually found my personal notes from March 19, 2001. I had written a reminder to myself to go shopping for the DVD of West Side Story.
I did more research. At the time of her death, she was involved in a long and heavily contested divorce (the records are online). Her house was ordered to be sold by the court just days before she died. She had two young children at the time. From our personal conversations years earlier, I know she had a terrible fear of cancer. She died before the divorce was granted.
I want to see the silver lining but I see none. She died from the thing she feared most. She died losing her house and leaving a young family.
I’m just sick…sick and heartbroken.

Last night we watched We Shall Remain: The Trail of Tears on the removal of the Native Americans from their lands in Georgia and other parts in the southeastern US to present-day Oklahoma.  I know there are a few questions still unanswered from this program but I hope it was enjoyed nonetheless.

Oh, and we celebrated birthdays as well.  That’s where the cupcakes come in. 

The presidential election of 1832 was the dirtiest campaign in U.S. history.

Actually, I don’t know that it was (and it probably wasn’t) but that is said about every other  presidential election.

The illustration here is a pro-Henry Clay/anti-Andrew Jackson political cartoon from that election, where the three contenders (plus John Calhoun, who did not run for president that year) are playing three card brag, an ancestor of modern-day poker.  At the table, starting from Clay, going counterclockwise we have:

  • Henry Clay, Kentucky; National Republican Party;
  • John Calhoun, South Carolina; Nullifier Party (a short-lived third party venture aimed at Andrew Jackson’s federalism);
  • Andrew Jackson, Tennessee; Democratic Party;
  • William Wirt, Maryland; Anti-Masonic Party.

Wait- who was William Wirt?

William Wirt (November 8, 1772 – February 18, 1834) born in Bladensburg, Maryland, was the 9th US Attorney General under Presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.  The Anti-Masonic Party (name self-explanatory), ironically nominated him as its choice for the 1832 election you see, he had been a freemason (albeit a former one) at the time… great guy, I’m sure; but probably not the best representative for something you’re trying to abolish.  Especially when it is believed that he gave a speech at that party’s nominating convention defending the organization.

As for the 1832 election, Jackson won it, for his second term in office.  Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, became most famous as the architect of the Compromise of 1850.  Sectionalist Calhoun, tried to one-up Jackson by claiming his state would not obey federal law in 1832; even threatening secession- that didn’t work.  And Wirt died in 1834.  His party died four years later.

Today, William Wirt is the least remembered of the four men pictured in this cartoon.  However, he made recent news in certainly the most bizarre way possible– as a victim of grave robbery (WARNING- disturbing image viewing in the above link).

Maybe the grave robbers were trying to find out if he had really been a US citizen…

Last night I watched The Mighty Casey,  a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone last night.  Given baseball’s current performance-enhancing drugs cheating scandals, the idea of a team using a robot to win games seems rather innocent.  But it shows that even back in the “good old days,” teams were not above doing whatever it took to get an edge.

I believe that if steroids, human growth hormone or whatever had been available to players of the ’50s, or the ’40s, or the ’30s, or the ’20s, they would have used them- even knowing the side effects.  To guarantee they would have a job and be a star… I don’t think they would have been above it.

Still, you wonder what Rod Serling would have thought of performing enhancing drugs or how he would have felt about players like Roger Clemens, who was acquitted yesterday on all charges of lying to Congress.

United We Win

Like many of you, I was very surprised to hear about the sudden death of Rodney King yesterday.  While it is obvious King will be most remembered for his 1991 candid camera videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers, I wonder if we can think back about something else he left us with- The Question.

“Can we all get along?”  He asked, after several days of rioting when the police officers were acquitted of use of excessive force.  In light of the division stirred up by the current Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, as well as the upcoming division that will be created in the 2012 presidential election, I have to wonder if King was a wiser man than we might give him credit for.  At least he had the courage to ask.

Rodney King was a man with many problems.  He continued to have run-ins with police after the infamous beating he recieved after being pulled over for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  Rodney King, as Charles Barkley might have said, was not a role model.  Reportedly, he was in the process of turning his life around.  But sadly, he could not outrun tragic fate.

But asking us if we can all get along was, perhaps, Rodney’s greatest moment.  It’s another time we saw the message far exceed the messenger.  We like to think that ordinary people do extrordinary things- like the citizen soldiers who won World Wars I and II; or the young kids who stood up to injustice in the Civil Rights Movement.  But we don’t like to think of those people as complex, troubled contradictory and (gasp) criminal.  Rodney King was not much different.

Can we all get along?  Rodney King, done with this life, doesn’t have to ponder that question anymore.

But the rest of us do.