IT'S JUST ANOTHER DAY

A blog about a life awakened and rejuvenated around Western New York.


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MAKING MY WAY BACK “HOME”

It’s been a while since I posted here. Situations and circumstances put life clearly on my doorstep. But we persevere. It’s what life is about.

So here I sit, less than two weeks to Christmas 2013. The tree’s up (the SECOND thing that gets my spirit right – the Christmas music that begins on Halloween not withstanding). That sight and those sounds brings the feeling closer to home. Those who know, understand. Losing both parents at Christmas time (mom on Christmas Eve ’86) it takes some doing every year to find my Christmas. It comes around eventually, but it is still a struggle. The girls are grown and all the magic of their wide-eyed Christmases lingers in the shadows. They “will” my spirit to come our and play!

So I am slowly coming home to Christmas. The decorations that have laced our traditions are being put into place. I will be ready.

A little known secret. Every year for twenty-six years, after all have retired to bed, I put on the suit to dress under the tree. All gifts wrapped and brightly adorned are placed beneath by me in the guise of the Jolly Old Guy! They believe because I believe. Even if only for ten minutes once a year on Christmas Eve, I AM the spirit of the Season. I am Santa Claus. We are all Santa Claus.

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For a journey through my Walter-ego, visit my poetry blog, I AM SANTA CLAUS ( iamsantaclaus.wordpress.com )


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RETROGRADE

Screw George Jetson!

His space aged flying sportsters are still a pipe dream (although it seems we’ve pretty much nailed Jet Screamer on the wall sized television sets!) The move forward keeps taking steps backward.

When I was a kid with visions of having my license, I saw a Mustang, or Camaro, or a Challenger or Charger in my future. Rather myopic, agreed! But I was a kid. Give me a freakin’ break. And before I could realize owning any one of these, they disappeared from sight (or had gotten ugly enough to not even be considered.) I mean really, who the hell envisioned a Dodge Charger as a luxury car Cordoba wannabe. Fine Corinthian leather, my ass!

So on my drive in to work this morning, in my reliable and roomy family car (a gas guzzling S.U.V., you tree hugging bastards!) I noticed I was in a string of cars that included of all things a retro-Mustang, a revamped Camaro, and awesome looking Charger and a reincarnation of the old Dodge Dart. Four-for-six, an awesome statistic.

In my day, I came close. My first car, a ’72 Plymouth Duster, was a pretty awesome car (and would have made a great “project car” now – but family obligations blah, blah, blah…) and a two time try in Pontiac Firebirds (Camario’s poorer cousins – a ’77 and an ’80). But as always, no cigar!

So I live vicariously through your cars as I go through ice, mud and snow. I guess for the time being, the only way to go!


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BEAUTIFUL SUNDAY

A smart looking day today. Not overtly warm, but this Sunday holds the charm I remembered as a kid growing up in Lackawanna, New York. Screw the Blue Laws and other random restrictions, it was a guarantee that Sunday was a day of rest. Now I’m not gonna get all biblical on you. That is truly not my style. But after a week of work (with Saturday dedicated to the house and yard) you relished Sunday.

I remember my Grandfather, Josef Kura, a distinguished old (naturalized) immigrant from Igolomia, Poland. He worked in the yard in his later years, various gardens and flower beds; always with a rake or hoe or shovel in hand – the tools of his toil. He dressed in work pants, flannel shirt and ball cap drawn over his eyes. His handkerchief (bandana) hanging from a rear pocket to collect the sweat that beaded on his forehead.  But come Sunday, all that ceased. Dressed in his Sunday best, his going to church clothes – highly polished shoes, pressed pants, white shirt and tie, and a straw fedora perched on his head. This was his uniform for the day.

And it seemed that for a man that worked so extremely hard, it was almost out of character to see him so sedate and relaxed. He was a peaceful man that displayed that persona daily, but dressed for the part each and every Sunday. He rested on Sunday. Today is tailor-made for reminiscing about my mentor. And for kicking up heels and feeling his spirit. I can hear it in the rush of wind. It’s a beautiful Sunday!


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WEDDING KRUSE

It was a blur. From start to finish, the day went by in the bat of an eye. A strategic move, bringing home base to a central hotel to make the travel from hotel to Glen Falls Park to Church (St. Gregory the Great R.C. Church, Williamsville, NY) and to a reception at the Hearthstone Manor (Depew, NY), a smooth undertaking. Despite traffic and construction, I think it went off without a hitch. A blurry hitch-less piece of work.

It had been a year and a half in the making. I was “invited” for a cup of coffee by my oldest daughter’s boyfriend of three years, Ryan. He needed to ask me something. Now, I’ve never been on a turnip truck, so falling off of one wasn’t an option. I knew the question. And I knew my answer.

And as I said, we had 18 months to prepare. But it came so quickly (and was over so soon) that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy it completely. But I guess I have plenty of time for that (God willing). My family had expanded by one, the son I hadn’t had until now. A sportsman and a sports fan. A Dave Matthews, Zac Brown fan (and as we found out, John Mayer… not so much) But we have one major thing in common that goes a long way in making this connection work.

We both love my daughter, Melissa very much. And now it’s his turn to take care of her in the way she’s become accustomed. In a very simple way, but fully and completely. Not a bad proposition, since he’s had a running start at it.

Now I can sit back and catch my breath for a while. I have another daughter that will take my breath away in due time. Keep the oxygen handy. NEXT… !


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REHEARSING TO BE MRS. KRUSE

It was an amazing 24 hours. The whole week really. Melissa had come home to be married out of our house like she always dreamed. We ate meals as a family. We watched movies together (wedding movies, needless to say). 

Cold, wet skies pocked the approaching days, and in a way we prayed for better weather. It poured as we entered the church to rehearse. Step here, do that. Don’t do this, the wedding party goes here… And it seemed to go smoothly (a precursor to the following nuptials). Dinner and a gathering again as a soon to be newly formed family. Drinks and laughs and food and long glancing looks.

Her mother looks contemplative. She knows our daughter will join the ranks as a wife and somewhere down the road, a mother. They’ve had their battles, both headstrong and driven. Melissa was too much like her mother, as much as neither would admit it. As much as they both hoped they would be.

And I was as melancholy as I had become as the big day neared. Mixed emotions, I guess you would say. Melissa was our first born. She was my helper, my right hand. She cared for her sister while mom worked nights and I tried hard to keep the ship afloat. Her chosen field (teaching) came to her naturally, again in her dealings with Andrea, her junior by seven years. The girls liked to play school. And in acting as teacher, Melissa did indeed teach her sister, how to read and write long before she had been enrolled at school.

She was my biggest fan. She enjoyed my music and was my best critic when it came to my verbal scribblings. I knew my poetry was good when I was able to elicit tears from Melissa through the touching beauty of some well chosen words. For a while it felt like I was losing that.

But all I was losing was the daily connection we had come to rely upon. None of the rest really changed.

The morning of the wedding moved like a high speed movie. Disjointed scenes, random clips of a pre-scripted show. Hair appointments, and dressing, photographs and in the milieu of time, a wedding happened. Me, on wobbly legs escorting this beautiful woman (the second time in my life) down an aisle to a new life. No practice was really necessary, she knew what to do all along. It was as if she were leading me to where she needed to be. I had been replaced. And she couldn’t have chosen a better man.

But in reality, it was he that made the correct choice. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple of kids.


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TIME FLEES

It’s been a week since I last posted. You see, I’ve been distracted, but I’ll go back and fill in with thoughts or profiles or attractions. I had done so well, and then it hit me squarely between the eyes.

My oldest daughter is getting married tomorrow. The past week was filled with preparations, last minute changes, fittings and gatherings and a whole mess of panic as it ebbed and flowed. But sitting here now I still find no relief.

The girls are off doing girly things (nails and the last blasts of tanning) before the rehearsal. And I find myself as Steve Martin did at the beginning of “Father of the Bride”; lost in a chronology leading to this day. Twenty seven years passes quickly when you aren’t paying attention.

We’ve spent a lot of time together the past few days. Family meals at a full table were reminiscent of days past. Conversations and melancholy rambles and getting on each others nerves occasionally. (Old habits die hard). Evenings were special, as we watched every “wedding” related movie in our DVD library. Looking back at it, I think we’re ready to begin this new phase. It will be different for sure.

As you get older, the phrase “Time Flees” takes special meaning. But for one day, I am willing it to stand still.

I can hear God laughing now.


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ANDREA LEA

With the spotlight shining brightly on the soon-to-be, bride-to-be, I think it only fitting to present the other bookend, my daughter Andrea. (She prefers AN-DREE-YA, call her ON-DRAY-A and there’ll be much hell to pay). As you can sense, she is a lethal combination of beauty and brawn – an attitude a mile long and wide, and there’s no hiding the fact that my Andrea is Sassy! (Her self- proclaimed moniker) And she backs that up every time.

Maybe it’s just a defense mechanism, but she says what’s on her mind and means what she says. The “sass” comes naturally. But this “Little Darlin'” has a tender side (which unfortunately she doesn’t let out of its cage very often), which is being displayed as we near the marriage of her sister, Melissa. Andrea was so thrilled when asked to be Maid of Honor, and she lavished her older sister with gifts and all the attention deserving a teacher and mentor.

She has a playful repartee with her soon-to-be Brother-in-Law, Ryan, with neither passing the opportunity to nudge and cajole on many topics, but most decidedly – Ice Hockey and Music.

IMG_0058She loves ice hockey, and has a devotion to the local heroes (?), the Buffalo Sabres in general and her favorite #57. She spouts statistics and minutia that would have rivaled my mindless baseball trivia in my halcyon days. At last count Andrea has amassed 9(?) Sabres hockey jerseys and a Colorado Avalanche sweater. (Gabriel Landeskog is a god – IHHO!)

And there is no mistaking, the two sisters are as different as night and Pop Rocks. Melissa, always the levelheaded one, knew where she wanted to be and got there. Andrea has an idea what she wants and will know when she gets there. I have no doubt she will. My wife admonishes our youngest, “If you were my first born, you’d be an only child!” Knowing the headstrong nature of my Taurus, we all realize that’s a lot of bull. She would have emerged no matter what.

As she says, “Dad, timing is everything!”

As Andrea steps to the forefront, I tend to agree with her.


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WATCHING SISTERS GROWING CLOSER

IMG_0145(1)There is a seven year span between my two daughters. In their younger years, that difference was VERY apparent. The comparison between a six year old and a teenager is the shift from night to day. Neither was treated any differently; one not loved more than the other. So growing into that environment didn’t take a whole lot of work on my wife’s and my part. The girls had some figuring out to do.

Melissa, as you’ve found, is the older of the two. A brilliant student who actually struggled greatly early on. But she had found her stride and hit the ground running. Her levelheadedness and willingness to take constructive criticism in the nature it was given, allowed her to become the Salutatorian for her graduating class.

Andrea was our reader. She consumed material faster than I could travel to the library to keep her in fresh “meat”. She vowed to do her sister one better; to finish the top of her class. But fate and children can be very cruel and destructive. And Andrea found that out as she moved up into middle-school. She had been the target for a band of bullies – girls who two years prior were her dearest friends, found her success to be a currency she shouldn’t be allowed to accumulate.

She changed and in her defense found a new strength which became her new attitude. And believe me when I say ATTITUDE! However, she felt the need to wield that sword indiscriminately. Her mother, sister and I caught a stray edge every so often. And again to her credit, Andrea found how to use her “powers” for good. Today, Andrea refers to that time as “becoming Sassy!” She remains sassy to this day.

The girls found their bond naturally. They shared clothes, invading each others closets as if they were battling for the West Bank. They offered opinions on their musical style, often listening to the same groups or introducing the other to something new. Their communication expanded as their acumen with the new technologies left their mother and I scratching our heads.

And in the process a funny thing happened. Melissa and Andrea “became” the sisters we always hoped they’d be. They still “tussle” on occasion, but they work out their differences. As Melissa prepared for her upcoming wedding, her Maid-of-Honor (a title Andrea took great pride in accepting) became an extension of  her older (in chronological years) sister and they began to almost think the same thoughts. Andrea also accepted her new “brother” Ryan (with her own Ryan waiting in the wings). It was nearly perfect. My wife and I became very afraid! 😉

The process, though arduous at times became very clear. We did a decent job with the two of them. Two daughters who make us proud in their own right daily. And two sisters  in whom we’ve taken great joy watching grow closer.

MLWALW1A2


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GROWING UP TO BE A K-BIG KID…

I was born a bit too late. I missed its inception and hung on every word and lyric of its heyday. Those who know me, know music is a big part of my life. For those who don’t know me, music is a big part of my life. You might say that back then music was a K-Big part of my life. I , like many youngsters of their day grew up listening to WKBW-AM 1520. “KB” was the 50,000 watt blowtorch that lit up the airwaves of Buffalo. On a clear night, the signal could be heard up and down the eastern seaboard and into Canada.

The music could have been heard anywhere along the dial, but the personalities that performed their magic at KB were as much the reason to listen .  The likes of Joey Reynolds, Dan Neaverth, Sandy Beach, Brother Shane,  Jackson Armstrong  were extraordinary talents, and the booming voice of then PD the late, great Jefferson Kaye , were well worth the trouble.

And highlights such as the KB Radio’s re-creation of H. G. Wells “War of the Worlds” (Based completely on Buffalo locations) and “Paul McCartney is Alive and Well… Maybe!” became must listen to features year after year at Halloween time.

My biggest (K-Biggest) complaint about radio these days is the lack of personality on radio. Everything is so sterile and that is the saddest commentary on our time. With even FM radio being more pre-programmed, the sound becomes a bastardization of what was once good.

I could listen to the music anywhere (on my computer, on my iTouch/iPhone). But I miss the humanity of a familiar voice you could grow to love.

Growing up a K-Big kid with 1520 was a rewarding  thing. I miss KB. (And all other radio that was once good!)

For more info and photos about WKBW-AM 1520, click HERE.


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I CAN ALMOST HEAR THE BELLS FROM HERE…

I wrote a piece of flash fiction this morning about a young man’s relationship with a grandparent. For the curious, flash fiction is basically a short story. And the premise for this bit of muse has festered for the past few weeks.

Since I started posting to this “journal”, each day becomes a new page in my life story. And after 57+ years, a lot of pages have gone unwritten. I hope to somehow make up for lost time.

(But, back to the grandparents…)

My eldest daughter Melissa is getting married very soon. And for as much joy and pride she (and her sister, Andrea) has given us, I feel a twinge of sadness, that I’m sure comes with the territory. But no story comes without those little twists.

Eleven months after we were married (no shot gun necessary here), Melissa was born. Having her so early in our married life gave us little time together before it needed to be shared with another person. DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a COMPLAINT by and stretch of the imagination. It only illustrates that the three of us, Mel, my wife and I had to grow up together. At times, Melissa did a better job of it that than we did.

In her first nine months of life, Melissa had all she needed, being spoiled by both sets of grandparents. She was well dressed and entertained, spending an equal time with both families. Living a stones throw from home during her first four years, the opportunity presented itself to visit home as often as possible, with baby girl in tow. Melissa would “get to know” my mother very well.

Mom doted on her. Melissa was mom’s third grandchild, but you wouldn’t have known it. She treated her like her first. On Sundays after church, the three of us would stop for coffee and a visit, and mom would light up like her dreaded “Christmas tree” when she saw Melissa.

“My Missa!” she’d coo. “My good Catholic girl, My Missa!” as Melissa was dressed in her finest frilliest frocks (Say that fast a few times).

Mom promised to teach Melissa how to cook, and sew and crochet (mom’s afghans are legendary, adorning the back of the couch and the back seat of my car to this day, twenty-eight years after the fact). Mom for the first time in a long stretch looked forward to that Christmas, with two new baby grand-daughters (my niece Katie having been born a month before Melissa) to celebrate.

We never anticipated mom passing away from a brain aneurysm on Christmas Eve that first year.

Melissa has grown to a fine and beautiful young woman (both of my girls have, actually). She has become a wonderful cook. She doesn’t sew at all and her crocheting phase was short lived (having been taught by my mother’s sister, Anne who had become a surrogate grandmother at one point). We’re fairly certain, Mom has guided my daughter in “absentia”.

But she is loving and caring and will make a fine wife and somewhere down the line,  an excellent mother. She continues to be a source of joy and pride. There’s no hiding the fact that Dad will walk a misty aisle when the day is finally here. My wife’s parents are still with us, and will share in that day. My mom and Dad will be looking down proudly from their Celestial perch. Hidden in the peal of wedding bells will be the sound of my mother’s murmur, “Missa, my Missa!” loud and clear.

I can almost hear the bells from here…