What a year it has been! (And I don’t mean that as a compliment.) Indeed, if I were to call 2020 a “crazy year,” that would be, by most accounts, an understatement. From COVID-19, cases of which continue to climb as news of rival vaccines suggest that hope is in the not-so-distant horizons, to seemingly-endless California wildfires, to dual hurricanes ravaging the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, to meth gators, murder hornets, and giant Saharan dust clouds – and to one exhausting presidential election in which the candidate that officially lost still refuses to concede – it seems that planet Earth has been on its collective toes since the year began.Continue reading “Bidding Adieu to 2020”
Each November or December, since this blog was created in 2012, I have waxed nostalgic about fond holiday season travel memories from years past. Some entries were about end-of-year trips to places far (Singapore and Malaysia, 2006), others about places not so far (Puebla, Mexico, 2003). Some entries were about time spent in cold places (Québec City and Montréal, 2008), others about places more tropical in nature (León, Nicaragua, 2016-17).
This year’s entry finds me thinking back to six years ago, during what would turn out to be my final trip back to the states for the holidays while a resident of Mexico City. While en route to Knoxville for a Smoky Mountain Christmas, I found myself “in transit” for four great days in Chicago, the city of my childhood. I grew up outside the Windy City, and have fond memories of school field trips and family car rides to the city’s museums, lakefront, ball parks, and shopping districts. Although I don’t regret my decision, circa 2000, to leave Chicago and move to Los Angeles (pre-Mexico and pre-pre-Tennessee), I find myself missing Chicago at times, and with fewer friends and relatives living in the city now than in 2000, I simply don’t get to return as often as I’d like.
Time passes and people move in and out of an individual’s life. It happens – and often without fanfare. I haven’t been to Chicago in what seems like ages, so this post is, in some ways, just the nostalgia trip that I need. In other ways, however, it is an exercise in catharsis. While the trip itself was great, one of the players who had a bit part in the story is no longer with us, and a second is in failing health. I hope you enjoy the tale…but as you read through to the end, know that it was written with a heavy heart.
It has been four years since I made a year-in-review post such as the one you’ve just started reading. But 2016 has been an interesting year. I was promoted twice, took a few day trips, and bought a car. On the other hand, my mom passed away, as did countless artists and celebrities, all of them before their time. Additionally, my general stress level seemed to increase tenfold. There have been times, during these last two months in particular, when it seemed as if 2016 would never end.
2016 highlights and lowlights
What a year it’s been!
Ann M. Skinner, 70, passed away Monday, September 19, 2016. Ann was born and raised in Chicago, IL, graduating from Maryville Academy and attended the Moser Secretary College. She raised her family in Plainfield, IL where she was very active with her children’s schools and the community. She and her family moved to Memphis in 2004. Ann spent most of her career in the secretarial field, however, the last 15 years she spent as a telephone operator with Target Stores which she retired from in 2011. After retiring she then relocated to Morristown with her husband.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Stanley and Alice Poterala.
Ann leaves her husband of 47 years, Greg Skinner; son, Scott Skinner; daughter, Shari Riley; granddaughter, Taryn Riley; sisters, Barbara Hanas and Jackie Nogle; and extended family members of various cousins, nieces, and nephews.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24 at Mayes Mortuary with the Rev. Gordon Smith officiating.
In lieu of flowers the family asks for memorials to be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 1311 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY 10605 or www.LLS.org.
My mother’s funeral was yesterday. The facts are summarized in the obituary clipping above that featured in Wednesday’s Citizen-Tribune; the paragraphs below are from my eulogy to her:
Last June, I published a blog entry that was near and dear to my heart. In it, I wrote about my paternal family tree. I first told of my grandfather, a WWII sailor, Middle East adventurer, Paraguayan coffee plantation owner, and Prohibition-era beat cop who fathered eight children with three different women. I then blogged about my grandmother, an incredible cook who outlived three husbands and had a closet filled with identical-looking blue house dresses. Finally, I introduced Loyal Readers to my father, a decent man and Army vet with an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball and a functional case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the latter of which is simultaneously annoying and endearing.
But that is just half of the story.
My genealogy is fairly straightforward: mostly Polish on my mom’s side and Norwegian on my dad’s. There is a smattering of other ethnicities as well, most of them Anglo-Saxon: Lithuanian, Scots-Irish, Welsh, Dutch, English, Danish, etc. And Cherokee Indian. No, seriously. According to a family tree that my father sketched out as far back as he could, my great-great-great grandmother was a Trail of Tears-era Cherokee by the name of Running Fawn. I wish there was a photograph of her in existence somewhere.
Where am I going with this? Well, Father’s Day was 10 days ago, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with my own father these past few weeks. My mom has been visiting her daughter and granddaughter on the other side of the state, and it has given my dad and I time to get to know each other better. Our recent time together has confirmed something that I long suspected: although we are sometimes so different that I wonder – jokingly – if I was adopted, I know that most of the time, I am my father’s son.