My Dad and Larry Hagman


As a kid I remember hearing the story many times that my Dad and Larry Hagman had been in the Air Force together.  What I remember of the story was they were both stationed at the same Air Force base outside of London, England during the Korean War, and Larry Hagman was Mary Martin’s son.  I always found that kind of interesting that Peter Pan’s son was Major Nelson.  Yesterday as my mum told me the story again, she included details that I hadn’t heard before. As the story goes one day Mary Martin walked into the office where my dad was stationed and asked to speak to her son. My Dad asked “who is your son?” and she said “Larry Hagman”. My mum stated “that is how everyone found out who he was because at the time, Larry Hagman wasn’t Larry Hagman”. And then my mum said “I wonder if he was still married to that Swedish woman. You know your father and I went to their wedding reception at the American Embassy.” I checked Wikipedia and he was still married to the Swedish woman. 🙂

What makes this story weird is my dad and Larry Hagman died the same week. My dad died early Wednesday morning. It was so strange when I turned the radio on Saturday morning and heard that Larry Hagman had died. The funny thing is I don’t usually believe in coincidence or happenstance. I believe in God’s fingerprints, timing and design but this seems to be coincidence and that is fine. This past week other things happened that were definitely not coincidence and were definitely God’s timing and design.

Last Monday I was scheduled to lead tours but before I headed into the city I stopped by to drop off my mum’s laundry. As I was getting ready to leave my mum’s room for Manhattan, my cell phone rang. It was the hospice nurse to say that my dad was failing quickly. (My mum is in assisted living at the same facility that my dad was in the nursing home. My dad had been on hospice for a year.)  A stroke 6 years ago took his mind but his body had kept going. Needless to say I canceled my tours and headed to my dad’s room.

My sister, my mum and I would spend Monday and Tuesday at his bedside. At one point on Monday, the hospice chaplain would ask “what do you think your dad would say to you?” I commented that “there wasn’t really anything profound that needed to be said. Because we had always said those things to each other.” I would also comment “I am blessed. I know who my earthly father is and I know who my Heavenly Father is”.  Very early Wednesday morning I would receive the phone call that my dad had died. My mum had picked the funeral parlor but hadn’t finalized plans. So late Wednesday morning I would head to the funeral parlor to make the arrangements. When I arrived I was greeted by the funeral director, who I recognized as a man who had been part of a private tour I had led on November 11. Wow!! How can this be?

Last Spring, a walking tour with me had been one of the items that was auctioned off to raise money for the high school my daughters had attended. In late summer, I had been contacted by the woman who had “won” the tour and we had finally decided upon November 11. Fast forward and Hurricane Sandy happens – the memorial is closed, participants scheduled to be part of the tour are without power. There is talk of rescheduling for next Spring but we decide to go forward with the tour. November 11 was a beautiful day.  When I arrive at the Tribute Center, I meet most of this group for the first time. All of them have some connection to my daughters’ former high school.   Two people I know and this is a repeat tour for them. I  also come to find out that one gentleman is actually a tour guide at Gettysburg, and another gentleman is a volunteer firefighter.  It makes me a little nervous having a tour guide on my tour. And the firefighter will share with me his visit to the site on September 12, 2001. The line at the memorial is long but the tour proves to be a success. And 10 days later I will walk up to the funeral parlor my mum had chosen to be greeted by the funeral director who was the volunteer firefighter on my tour. Unbelievable.

James Ray Clark, Jr.  September 31, 1931 to November 21, 2012 – husband of one woman for 59 years, loving father of 4 children, grandfather to 5 grandchild and great-grandfather of 1 great-grandson and owner of lots, and lots of books. Thanks Daddy for always believing in me, for always encouraging me and for teaching me to question and learn. 🙂

Oops- wrong number!!

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New Jersey is my preferred state to purchase gasoline for my car. The price is  cheaper than New York and I don’t have to get out of my car to pump it. I drive a lot so cheaper prices and someone else pumping the gas for me are two things that bring a smile to my face. New Jersey currently has odd/even gas rationing. I am familiar with odd/even gas rationing because in the 1970’s I was the family member responsible for sitting in line for gas. As the oldest child, I was the first one to start driving so those little errands of “running uptown to get another gallon of milk” or “taking the car to get gas” became my job. I have memories of taking my mom’s car one day and my dad’s car the next day.

Last Friday, Nov 9, I “needed gas” so I decided to visit my mom and do some errands in NJ before heading to jury duty in Newburgh. As a side note, all the cases were settled and all the prospective jurors were released from duty. Anyway, I was confident my license plate was odd 8299 so I pulled up to get gas. No real lines. I had cash so it is even cheaper. All is well. The attendant fills my tank and I am off and running. I am so glad I have enough fuel to accomplish the task at hand and drive into NYC on Sunday afternoon.  Fast forward two days. Yesterday as I am leaving church, I glanced at my license plate. Oops!! My license plate number is 8290. Oh, my!! I got gas illegally on Friday.

So I start thinking about this whole dilemma. First I am amazed that I was actually able to fill up on Friday. I assume the attendant thought the 9 was the last number and the zero was an O. Hopefully he knew zero is an even number. I am a rule follower by nature so there is moment when I am concerned that I have broken the law. I realize that obviously the gas police aren’t going to track me now. But there is another moment which I am not proud to mention that I thought “wow, this could really work for me.”  I may actually be able to get gas again on an odd day instead of an even especially if the attendant isn’t paying attention.  And then I thought but now I know. It was an accident that I was sold fuel on Friday but if I get in line again on an odd day I will have full knowledge of what I am doing. And knowing “what I am doing” is a whole different thing. 🙂

Jury Duty

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“I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” The following story is true. At the beginning of January 2012 I received a “jury summons” for February 14.  I decided to postpone my service since Tween Winter Camp was scheduled for the end of that week and as the director of that camp I knew it could become problematic if I was actually placed on a jury. It was simple  enough to go online and reschedule for April 16. Fast forward to April 16 at 1:30am. A phone call informs me my mother has fallen and is being transported to Valley Hospital Emergency Room. I get dressed, grab my phone and my jury summons and head to Valley Hospital.  I am not sure what the day will hold but know that I need to be there for my mom but also I don’t want to “just not show up” for jury duty. I will comment later to my sister (a lawyer/judge) that I was afraid of a bench warrant being issued because I was a no-show. She chuckles and says she wished everyone took it that seriously.

Thankfully things go smoothly and my mom is admitted to a room very early in the morning.  I make sure she is settled and around 6:30 am drive home to quickly change my clothes so I can look respectable to report for jury duty.  As the jury selection process begins I hand in my summons  and  I inform the clerk that my mother has just been admitted to the hospital and she excuses me and wishes me luck.

Fast forward again to mid August. Surprise, jury summons arrives in the mail. Now there is only one day that would be problematic for the whole month of September. That date is September 10 because I am scheduled for gall bladder surgery. Not my choice of dates but  that was the first date the surgeon had. Anyway you guessed it. September 10 is the date I am scheduled to report for jury duty. I try to postpone on-line but I can’t because I have postponed two times before so the next day I call. I start the conversation my telling the woman that everything I am telling her is true – camp, mother, surgery. Her reaction is “oh, my! let me reschedule you for March.” I paused and said could you just reschedule me for November. She is surprised I want to come in November. Yes, November is fine. What I am not telling her is I already know there is a conference I want to attend in March. She nicely says” I will schedule you for the week of November 5. November 6 is Election Day so you will only have to serve 4 days.” Thank you.

And two weeks ago the jury summons came to remind me I was scheduled for the week of November 5. In the State of New York, you have to call the night before to see if you need to report the next day. If you don’t have to appear you, call every day until your number comes up. Well, that makes it a little difficult to plan your week so I actually hadn’t scheduled tours or anything because who knew. When I called Friday night, I was hoping I would be required to show up on Monday because at that point I had no electric and at least the courthouse would be warm. I didn’t have to report on Monday. When I called Monday night they said no court on Tuesday or Wednesday. I called on Wednesday night and they said no court on Thursday. I called this evening and I have to report tomorrow at 2pm in Newburgh. To be honest, I am not a happy camper. I am trying to have a good attitude but really I was willing to go anytime this week and I have to go for the last 2 hours of the week. On the other hand, let’s  hope nothing weird happens between now and 2pm tomorrow because I need to finally do my civic duty. Will let you know how it goes.


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When I first heard about “Sandy” I thought of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease.  What a fun movie with good cheesy music!! Of course, John Travolta probably cringes when he remembers it. I actually saw the musical Grease off-Broadway many years ago. What I remember most about it was the great music and Ed Sullivan was in the audience. My friend and I asked for his autograph. He graciously signed our playbills.  I wonder if I still have that somewhere – it may be worth something 🙂

But after this past week when I think of “Sandy” I will think of the devastation of the Jersey shore, Staten Island, NYC and Long Island. I am almost relieved that I haven’t had electricity for the last week so I haven’t had constant access to the images of the destruction. The tiny images I have seen on my smart phone have been enough to give me pause and improve my prayer life. Friday as I drove home from my mother-in-law’s in South Jersey I was brought to tears by the sight of the Coast Guard vehicles from Miami delivering generators to the Belmar area. The sight of firetrucks and utility trucks from other states heading north was so encouraging that I wept again.

I guess what I want to say is many are suffering through the aftermath of Sandy and we should reach out to them. But there are other people who weren’t effected by  Hurricane Sandy but have their own unprecedented events happening. May we not forget that each and every day there are people who have just received a diagnose of a terrible disease, or suffered the death of a family member or the loss a child or lost their home in a fire. As we reach out to those effected by Sandy let’s also decide to be more aware of the needs that are always around us. Let’s not wait for “unprecedented” to be a neighbor and a friend.

No Electricity

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As I write this, I am doing my laundry at my friend’s house. I am also charging my computer, nook and smart phone. I am toasty warm and so grateful for good friends. My home hasn’t had electricity since Monday night. The electric went out right after I had put a meatloaf in the electric oven. Fortunately I have town water so I have had water and even hot water over the past week. I  have a fireplace so I have been able to make a fire and keep the “big chill” away. The bedrooms are very cold at this point so I have moved a mattress into the livingroom and the heavy-duty sleeping bag is doing the job of keeping me warm. Below is a list of random things I have realized through the inconvenience of no electricity.

  1. Taking the curtains off the kitchen door lets more natural light in.
  2. The freezer will act as a refrigerator for the first few days. After that ice in a cooler is less of a hassle.
  3. Keeping your pjs, pillow, sleeping bag and clothes for the next day in the warmest rooms is a good thing.
  4. It is possible to put on your warm robe while still in the sleeping bag.
  5. Slippers and socks really do keep your feet warm.
  6. Scented candles should be placed with other similarly scented candles or else you have such strange scents in your home.
  7. The car charger is an amazing invention.
  8. Pay attention when the garage door installer shows you how to open the garage door when you have no electricity. I did 🙂
  9. Oatmeal for breakfast warms your insides. Hot tea can warm your insides and your hands.
  10. FB is a good thing. Texting is a good thing. Good friends are a great thing.

I have also noticed that I a prefer to say I have no electricity than to say I have no power. Because even with no electricity I still have the power to do what is right, the power to love my neighbor and the power to make a difference.