Thursday, July 22, 2010
Debbie's busy in the kitchen making breakfast for her grandkids who are visiting from NC and AL this week. I'll be heading out right after breakfast ... next stop Ft AP Hill and the Jamboree. I've enjoyed visiting friends along the way and am excited to get to the Jamboree. At least I won't have to do any driving for the 10 days I'm there
Monday, June 28, 2010
I'm a Knotmaster now. WooHoo! In order to become a Knotmaster in the troop I had to learn to tie 21 knots: Square (Reef) Knot, two half hitches, taut-line hitch, clove hitch, bowline and timber hitch (earned my knot rope) larks head, sheep shank and whipping the end of a rope (earned the green whipping), figure 8 knot, round turn & two half hitches, and sheet bend (earned the yellow whipping), double sheet bend, rolling hitch and bowline on a bite (earned the earned the 1st black whipping), the constrictor knot, figure 8 loop and man harness knot (earned the 2nd black whipping), the triple bowline, two turn bowline and surgeons knot (earned the 1st orange whipping), and three splices: splicing two ropes together with the short splice, the eye splice and the back splice (earned the 2nd orange whipping).
I really struggled with this goal. I started out by trying to teach myself how to tie the knots through reading about knots, learning knot terminology and watching knot tying demonstrations on the internet. The problem with these online demonstrations is that if you get stuck you don't get any feedback about what you're doing wrong and how to correct your mistake. When I finally asked for help from others things really turned around.
I found out from one of the scouts taking the Pioneering Merit Badge that they were learning the three splices I needed to do in their merit badge class. So I headed over to Scout Crafts, introduced myself the "Thew" (Matthew) and asked for his help. He graciously agreed to take me on as an additional student and had me splicing like a pro in no time.
Before we even got on the bus to leave for summer camp I let two of our troop Knotmasters know I needed their help in learning the last six knots for Knotmaster. If we were in our camp site I had a knot rope in my hands. Sometimes their eyes would roll back in their heads when I walked in their direction, knot rope in hand, but they always made time for me. I went to these two particular scouts time and time again because they were older scouts who were attending summer camp for the 6th time and had fewer merit badge classes than the other Knotmasters. When you test for Knotmaster you have to tie all 21 knots in one sitting and be able to give their primary use. I don't know who was happier when I passed the test ... them or me!
Notice the rope hanging from the belt loop of the scout in the Troop 425 t-shirt. It has all six whippings attached to the rope, denoting a Knotmaster. I can wear that rope now.
Becoming a Knotmaster was my final ticket item for Wood Badge. As soon as we got home on Saturday I did the write up for my final ticket. It is in the outgoing mail now. I should know by the end of the week if the ticket counselor accepted my write up as is or if I'm going to have to edit it. The worst of it is over now ... I should be receiving my beads soon.
I'm definitely going to have to do something about those gray roots before I step in front of a camera again!
Friday, June 18, 2010
I waited for hours after my brother called me with the news of my father's death for a second call from my brother with information about the burial arrangements. He didn't call.
This morning I got up and started unpacking my camping gear (our troop is leaving for summer camp at 0800 tomorrow morning) and started packing to fly to California for my father's funeral. I waited until 11:00 my time before calling my brother ... I needed the name, address and phone number of the funeral home that would be handling my father's arrangements so I could get the bereavement rate with the airlines.
My brother as it turns out couldn't call me last night because he was at the hospital with my mother. She had collapsed at the nursing home when she went to see my father's remains. She is still there, under observation, because her blood sugar and blood pressure are off the charts. Blood sugar? No one ever told me she is diabetic, but apparently she is.
My mother has decided to have my father's remains cremated. She had asked him which he preferred and he had no preference. She knows about my ear block and doesn't want me to fly right now, and also wants to wait until my nephew can get leave from the USMC to attend the memorial service.
Sean just graduated from boot camp in April and is attending a three month tech school at Ft. Lee, VA. The military does not consider grandparents immediate family and while a commander does have the discretion to grant a leave under emergency conditions it is highly unlikely they would do so in this case. If Sean were at his permanent unit and the unit wasn't busy it might be a different story, but since he is mid-way through a technical school the disruption to his training doesn't work in his favor for such consideration.
Sean will get anywhere between 10 - 30 days leave after his tech school, depending in part on where he is assigned after the school. At this point my mother and brother are thinking about having the memorial service in August, after Sean graduates and I am released from the National Scout Jamboree. They want us both there, and I appreciate their flexibility is considering my ear issue and my nephew's military status.
My only concern in not going to California until August was not being able to see my father one last time. My brother tells me that it is for the best that I don't. He saw my father yesterday and said the difference in just the two days since he had last seen him was devastating. He wants me to remember my father the way he was when I saw him on his 90th birthday ... 26DEC08.
I'm going to go unpack my funeral bag now, and repack my camping bag. There is no sense sitting here all week, stewing in my own juices, when I can be at summer camp with the boy scouts, helping them grow and develop into fine young men. The kind of man my father was.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
This is the last picture ever taken of the four of us ... my brother Joe, my mom, my dad and me.
I got the dreaded, but not unexpected phone call from my brother tonight. My father, Joseph James McKeon, passed away this evening. He was 91 years old and had been moved from the VA Hospital to a nursing home in Southern California. He was waiting for a bed in the Old Soldier's Home ... he wanted to be with "his own kind" in the end, but it didn't happen. He was caught in a catch-22 ... one of the conditions of being in the nursing home was that he had to continue his cancer treatments. Because he was receiving treatments he wasn't considered terminal and couldn't be moved to the VA Hospice (Old Soldier's Home).
He was a soldier's soldier. He served in the United States Army for 30 years and retired as a Command Sgt. Major. His tours of duty included the Pacific Theater during WWII, Korea (twice) and Viet Nam. He left for Viet Nam on my 12th birthday. I was probably the best informed 12 year old on the goings on in Viet Nam that year. I watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite every evening, especially on Fridays when they announced the weekly death count. I realize now the figures were totally distorted, but at the time I was happy to see the US had the lowest casualty numbers because in my mind that meant my father was safer that the Viet Cong or even the South Vietnamese soldiers.
Those were the unaccompanied tours and tours before I was born. As a family we were stationed at the University of Rhode Island (I was born at Quonset Point Naval Air Station), Yokahama Japan (my brother was born there), Fort Holabird, MD, Ft. Bragg, NC, Ft. Benning, GA, the Presidio of Monterey, and the ROTC unit at UCLA. After graduating from high school I entered the Air Force. When my father returned from Korea later that year he was stationed at Ft. Sheridan, IL. My mother remained in Los Angeles since that's where they planned to retire.
Growing up I spent many Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving holidays in the mess hall. Daddy always felt his place was with his men, especially on the holidays when they had no family to spend the day with. So he shared his family with them.
My father missed most of my birthdays because he was overseas or in the field. He missed my Confirmation for the same reason. He was serving his second tour of duty in Korea the day I graduated from high school. Even though he wasn't physically present at many of the important moments in my life he made me feel special every moment of my life. I was Daddy's Little Girl ... and I guess I still am.
I love you Daddy. Rest in Peace. I'll miss you.
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