Is Every Halloween a Family Search for Life and Death?

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Carolyn Berga was born New Year’s Day, 1917. Mildred told me this over the phone a few days ago at work. Carolyn died just a few years later from burns and injuries she sustained after she wandered to close to the fireplace and her dress caught fire in the family farmhouse in the Belforest community. Carolyn is buried in the Belforest Catholic Cemetery.

Mildred was chasing the toddler’s date of death, which she had learned was between November, 1919 and January 1920. I offered to go through back issues of the Fairhope Courier, which we have on CD.

I did not find any mention of this family tragedy in the Courier. I was stumped! So I recruited my coworker and resident genealogy expert Pam McRae to help in my search. She went to several different websites, only to be snakebit on any death date at Family Search, Ancestry, and Find a Grave. Pam praised Mildred’s research, harkening back to her teaching days and said, “she’s really done her homework.”

When I spoke to Mildred last night, I told her we were not able to find a date of death for young Carolyn. Undaunted by the bad news, Mildred vowed to continue the search and said she would contact the Baldwin Times newspaper. If Mildred was related to Carolyn in some way she never mentioned it. Before hanging up, she said the cemetery committee wanted to, “add the dates to Carolyn’s headstone.”

Losing a family member on a holiday or your birthday is tempered by reflection. Yet we are bound together by time shared and distanced only by dates on a perpetual calendar. As the collector of the record, this blog is not about cataloging legs this time. It’s an attempt to connect two families through one holiday; Halloween.

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Frank Joseph Samry was born on September 30th, the year of the Great Mississippi River Flood, 1927. Pam’s father Gerald Martin was born the same year on May 12, which is my father-in-law John Cherkofsky’s birthday (1939). (Pam and I hope to attend the free outdoor screening of The Great Flood at the downtown branch of Regions bank in Fairhope on Nov. 7, at 6 PM. Live music by Modern Eldorados will accompany the film)

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My dad, the one whistling with one hand on the wheel, was in the Navy during WWII. Pam’s Dad Gerald also served in the Navy during WWII and the Korean War. The man in the photograph with my dad is “Rebel.” With a name like that, I’m hoping he was from the south.

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Wedding Day. August 30, 1953. Joseph Samry, Mary (Walouke) Samry, Frank J. Samry, Joan (Hannan) Samry, Lillian (Tuell) Hannan, Walter Hannan. Can’t wait to see my mom this Thanksgiving. She’s coming to visit us again.

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Pam McRae’s daughter Megan with her fiance James. Megan’s celebrating a birthday today. They are getting married in July in Baldwin County. Happy Birthday Megan!

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My father (Notice the name difference?) died on Halloween 20 years ago today. Pam’s father died June 1, 2007.

How do we commemorate a holiday, celebrate a birthday, and mourn a death all on the same day? By sharing words, moments, pictures, and documents with family and friends we are asking others to contemplate those being honored. If we are fortunate, we have committed moments to our minds, people to our hearts, and conveyed the value of life’s memories. If we are successful, the next generation will continue to cherish, collect, and preserve their family histories.

Happy Halloween.

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Is Parody the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

Our group of bloggers attended the Social Media Conference earlier this week on the Baldwin County campus of the University of South Alabama.

After the conference, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee party sat outside for lunch at Panini Pete’s. Karyn got an email from Cal Tech’s swim coach about her son attending college on the west coast.

“Do you know who else went there?” I asked from across two tables.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, “Who?”

“Weird Al Yankovic.”

A couple days later, I emailed Karyn. It turns out Cal State, not Cal Poly had emailed about her son. Can you guess what song’s stuck in my head?

Dare to be Stupid. It’s so easy now.

Chuck Klosterman said. “Nothing is ever in and of itself.” We are constantly looking for connections. That’s why I’ve decided that everything that happened during and after the conference can be summed up with two words. Weird Al.

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Angela Rand

I’ve been to lots of sessions led by Angela, the University of South Alabama’s Baldwin County Librarian. She does a great job of presenting and hosting. In fact, she’s Like a Surgeon. Using her scalpel, forceps, and retractors she brought a surgical team of librarians and a marketing company founder to the OR.

Dr. John Burgess

In “Classical Rhetoric for the Digital Age,” Burgess defined rhetoric and talked about Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Obviously that triangle is the last one I think about when I post a photo of my grinning, glasses faced self in a cardboard cutout of Drew Daywalt’s book The Days the Crayon Quit. I was inspired by Weird Al, who has his own picture books, When I Grow Up, and My New Teacher and Me. (Also relevant for woman in the audience writing children’s books.) As a rhetorician, John said I should think about whether Facebook, blog, and Instagram posts project a persuasive message. Being a skeptical librarian, I probably don’t need to worry too much, since I only have 5 followers on Instagram and only 12 people like my Facebook post.

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Gump came to mind too, and not because it rhymes with stump, and leaves me a leg up on no legs, Lt. Dan. Burgess is an instructor at Alabama, and Winston Groom, the author of Forrest Gump, lives down the road in Point Clear. I remembered another Gump-ism and as it turns out, a circular argument: stupid is as stupid does. My wife Susan is always telling her second graders that you can’t use the word you are defining in the definition. I liked Burgess. He reminded me of a younger Dr. Demento, except Burgess had a red beard any Portlandian hipster would be proud to groom. He was no pirate though, more White and Nerdy, like me. Maybe next year we can bowl with the gangstas.

Beth Shepard

Angela built up such an introduction to Shepard that I was nervous that she wouldn’t deliver. She didn’t disappoint. Shepard had lots of useful information on Instagram and the most interactive audience session of the conference. For her efforts, she gets I Perform This Way because some of us went Gaga for her content and delivery on all things Instagram. Even better, I never imagined or saw photos of Shepard draped in a shawl of raw red meat. She said yoga so many times, I began to sing Y.O.D.A Yoda.Ya ya ya ya ya Yoda. I’m following Yoda on Instagram now. #yoda.

Paula Webb

Anyone who follows Shepard has to be comfortable in her own skin. Paula was, even as she was pointing out all the apps for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the game called Solve the Outbreak. Webb’s focus was on government apps, including Smithsonian, which has an app called MEanderthal.

“I’ll have to download that app in the man cave,” I said, which got a good laugh, and reminded me of Bedrock Anthem. Yabba dabba dabba doo now. That’s Flintstone for post something will ya! Preferably, with your phone in one hand and your baby elephant vacuum cleaner in the other.

There’s even an app for Fat. When I walk out to get the mail (U.S. Postal Service), it measures on the Richter scale (FEMA). Down at the beach (Healthy Swimming), I’m a lucky man; I’m the only one who gets a tan (UV Index).

Melissa Hoffman

I loved how Hoffman described social media marketing as the “Million-legged Beast.” Where does that leave me? As the one-legged guy in an ass kicking contest, that’s where. Hoffman’s the marketing director of SixDegrees (not from Kevin Bacon), but has a few peeves about email. The fact that she doesn’t read spam, leads me to believe that for Hoffman, It’s all about the Pentiums, and it’s important to stay current. Your laptop is a month old, Well, that’s great, if you could use it as a, paperweight.

Our time is valuable, so Hoffman had some sage advice for us: Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me. If you do send or forward mail, companies with IT hackers, code crackers are blocking all your Mail Chimp and PicMonkey business.

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Glasses, Guy, Glasses Guy, or Marcus was the social media guru turned heckler, and chamber of commerce blasphemer. However, Mr. Bluefish had lots of relevant comments and suggestions, just like CNR, (Charles Nelson Riley). Most important for the guys in attendance was his information about the men’s version of Instagram’s @whatsinmybag. @everydaycarry is what are you carrying for dudes. Glasses Guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a Lego Stars Wars character keychain. I think it was a stormtrooper, so let me just say, The Saga Continues.

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During the Southern Bloggers Jubilee feed session, AKA Eat It, we rehashed the conference. None of our bloggers were living in an Amish Paradise, acting technologically impaired.

We all got the message at the conference that if you “do” social media, you should never be Inactive.

My bloggers would never do anything Tacky, like live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased.

And we always own up to and immediately correct our Word Crimes. Most Bloggers could care less, which means we do care.

In fact, we love social media so much we’ve got the chutzpah, nay the Gump-tion to have our own social media and blogging conference. It’s still early on, and I’m optimistic that we have a better shot of holding a conference than Weird Al headlining halftime at Super Bowl XLIX. I definitely don’t want to be his Foil.

 

Have Amputees Gone Mad or Mainstream?

It seems like amputees, and their legs were coming at me fairly regularly, at home and at the library this week. I wondered how much and how often amputees are in the media. So, I put them to a test. How many new amputee references can I catalog in a week?

Friday

I was at lunch at the picnic table on what I call the back forty, the property behind the library that doubles as a parking lot most days. I was flipping through my Flipboard, an app that brings me headlines, stories, and book recommendations. A headline from Huffington Post:

“Leo Bonten has his leg amputated, turns it into a lamp and tries to sell it on Ebay.”

The Dutchman’s story was cataloged under “Weird News.”

After having the leg amputated, the man had help from a pathologist and a lamp maker. He said Bonten could not “say goodbye,” to his leg, so he preserved it.

Mr. Bonten put the leg lamp up for sale on Ebay for $127,500. Ebay took it down the same day saying it does not sell body parts.

Bonten claims he had to sell it because he’s broke.

“Soon I won’t even have a home where I can put the lamp,” Bonten said.

I guess an amputee can’t even cash in when he’s able to upcycle his own leg from medical waste to a practical home furnishing project. I just want to know what bulb fits in the socket. LED, compact fluorescent, or incandescent?

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Saturday

I was thumbing through a new book, On Paper: The Everything of its Two-Thousand-Year History, by Nicholas Basbanes when I came across a quote from a former POTUS. John Quincy Adams wrote in a journal every day from age twelve until two days before his death. He even wrote on leap year days. In one entry, Adams writes about the futile and occasionally frustrating writing habit. It had become, “Like the race of a man with a wooden leg after a horse,” and resulted in, “a multiplication of books to no end and without end.”

On Saturday night, I was using Amazon Prime Music, an app that lets subscribers stream from millions of songs in about 15 different genres and from other Prime member playlists.

I flicked across the Dropkick Murphys, an American Celtic punk band. You’ve got to hear their song, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” The main character is a sailor without a leg, and he’s “shipping” up to Boston to get his peg.

Sunday

As I sorted the Press-Register on Sunday morning, a pair of brown eyes glanced up at me from the cover of Parade magazine. I was greeted by a German Shephard mix dog missing a left front leg. Mama Lucca was an IED detecting dog who saved the lives of 14 men, and was awarded an honorary Purple Heart for her actions. Her record of keeping our service members safe and without casualties still stands, but it came at a price. She’s now retired and living in sunny southern California.

Monday

I was talking to a co-worker during lunch. Gwen asked if I’d seen the woman on crutches this morning.

“I thought she might be coming in to talk to you,” Gwen said. I have met many amputees in the library and often go and introduce myself and let them know I’m an amputee too. The woman was was an above knee amputee. She was not wearing a prosthesis.

“No,” I told Gwen, “I was helping another patron, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to her.” I saw her only briefly when she was checking something out at the circulation desk.

After lunch, Cheryl told me she saw the movie Dolphin Tale 2 with her granddaughter. The movie features Winter, the prosthesis wearing dolphin, and the sequel features Bethany Hamilton. Hamilton, who plays herself, lost her arm in a shark attack while surfing her home waters of Hawaii. Cheryl said the movie was good, but Hamilton didn’t have a lot of dialogue. The first movie is based on the children’s book, Winter’s Tail. I enjoyed the movie Dolphin Tale so much, my wife Susan and I went to Clearwater, Florida to see Winter. The picture of me with Winter’s prosthesis number 17 sits on Susan’s desk at Daphne East Elementary School. Her kids don’t even notice my prosthesis because they are so excited about seeing Winter’s prosthesis.

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Tuesday

I always straighten  the new books when I walk past them on the way to my desk. I spotted Stronger, a book by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. Bauman survived the Boston Marathon bombing, losing both his legs, but was an FBI witness in the search for the bombers.

Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Julius Caesar, after conquering a town along the Dordogne River, cut off the hands of every man who fought against him.

I watched the tail end of Utopia on Fox, and a little bit of New Girl. I saw a commercial for Red Band Society, a hospital ward of teens facing long term stays for various illnesses, which now includes leg amputees Jordi and Leo.

Wednesday

Susan and I were watching Survivor when we saw a commericial for Criminal Minds. The preview showed a human leg in a box. Presumably, the rest of the show was about finding the rest of body.

Thursday

Looking for movies to borrow, I spotted The Fault in our Stars DVD while scaning the online catalog crawl. I’ve already seen it. Good thing, since it already had 35 hold requests for patrons wanting to borrow it.

Leg-End

Yesterday, I saw the future of legs in libraries, which indicates to me that media coverage of amputees and their prostheses will continue to expand.

I read in the Wall Street Journal that the Westport, Connecticut Public Library will have a couple of humanoid robots roaming around. Vincent  and Nancy are quite sophisticated. They are able to be programmed and also learn with Artificial Intelligence (AI) through human interaction. They have already been programmed to speak 19 languages, to kick a ball, dance, and do Tai Chi. Robots and their artificial intelligence can think on their feet just like humans. Nancy, Vincent, and I do this on our artificial legs.

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