Salute to a Friend

My heart hurts today.  Good friend, best man at my wedding, “Uncle Joe” Cikan, passed away last evening after a long illness.  I will be gone for a few days to attend the funeral.

We met in late 1970, at Sheppard AFB, Med Services tech school.  From there, to Rhein-Main AB, Germany, where we were barracks roommates.

Both of us were Illinois born and raised–a long way from home.  I understood Joe’s absurd, wacky sense of humor.  There was nothing I enjoyed more than playing off his amusing anecdotes.

Joe had a lot of nervous energy–couldn’t sit still.  I can still hear him walking in stocking feet–heels pounding the floor.

That pent-up energy made Joe a wonderful house guest.  As hosts, we were delighted, to find the place tidied, and the laundry done up.

I saw a little of both parents in Joe: a coarse, gruff sense of humor, from dad, Stan; kindness, patience, from mom, Mary.

How could Joe have had an Sicilian mother, a great cook, and not like pasta.  I more than made up for Joe’s share on visits.

Joe Cikan flew under the radar; gave freely of himself to others.  He earned a Master’s degree while stationed in Germany.  Unlike myself, he saved money while away from home.  Above all else, Joe was a good listener.

There remain, just the three of us:  George Burbage, Ken Terry, and myself to carry on the story of our fallen brother-in-arms.

So many good memories, the likes of which, will never be repeated.  We never forgot the “gravy all over my face incident at the German gasthaus.”  Joe’s reaction to seeing me in that predicament, was priceless.

Ms. B. Rogers, the misguided, somewhat scary, AF dependent wife, frequent ER visitor; moonlighted as a stripper; made the “Desperate Housewives” look tame by comparison.  Even kindly, Dr. Kreutzmann, WWII vet who’d served on the Russian front, was leery of her.

The latest, perhaps the best, was Joe’s account of George’s pet cat, Clyde, embezzling 100 dollar bills from his wallet.

A salute to you, Joe!  Proud to call you my friend.  You were my hero.  In your honor, I aspire to be kinder, and promise to be a better listener.

Let’s Just Talk

Now, that it’s June and the love bugs are gone.  What’s left to do?  Mow the lawn?  Pull weeds?  Keep as cool as possible in summer heat?

News headlines were depressing: floods, drought, murders, rewards, fatal crashes, rumors, sports, self-serving behavior, politics as usual.

The longer I spend time away, the harder it is to come back.  That’s why I tend to wax nostalgic.  There was a time when the world was a much sweeter place.  Or, was that an illusion of childhood innocence?

Perhaps my being in a funk this past week has become apparent?  One of my best friends–brother from a different mother, is critically ill.  Under hospice care, not expected to survive complications from lymphoma.

I’m saddened, knowing our visit of last October, will be the final farewell.  Then, there will be only three, of us surviving Air Force buddies.  So, I need good thoughts and prayers for the inevitable journey to Chicago.

FORGOTTEN GARDEN

His paunchy
Bald presence
A perfect fit
Among cronies
At the cigar bar
Her hourglass figure
Shifted with time

They cruised
Past, depictions
Of debutante balls
Country club heroes
Lined memory walls
Reminded heirs apparent
Of modern-day tragedy

Their frozen faces
Lied about love
And how much
They missed
Each other

Words drifted
Like autumn leaves
In frosty wind
While truth, was
Left for dead

Promises withered
Commitment rotted
After the garden
Was, long forgotten

AMERICAN BEAUTY

all-american beauty

A clap of thunder
The family dog
Hid under the stairs
Among canning jars
Bags and boxes
Excuse the mess
We just moved
Marta greeted
At the door
Whatever was there
Was all she had
Mere little white lies
Ignored, because they
Didn’t matter that much
So what if they’d moved
Three years before?

Fate had not been kind
She straightened clutter
Just enough, to keep
From losing her mind

Nobody cared, that
Her piercing blue eyes
No longer had anything
To offer, other than
Reflected sadness, despair
Echoed in lines, wrinkles
Graying unkempt hair
Marta gazed at the stars
Through broken windows
And an overgrown lawn
Full of broken down cars
Waited for her
Hard-drinking husband
To stumble home
Sometime before dawn

Fate had not been kind
She straightened clutter
Just enough to keep
From losing her mind

ALONE IN WINTER SKY

winter sky

Scattered feathers
Guilt, from ill-fated
Annoying mockingbird
Willed to be dead
Forlorn, stray kitten
Yowled from
God knows where
In the back alley

Friends, Ernesto
Maria and Juan
Had their families
Put on a good front
Pretended to be happy
Hung on, till the day
When gloom
Disappeared
Green returned
To winter sky

THINK ABOUT US TODAY

Perhaps, predicable and boring?
Not much to say
Don’t care about fashion trends
For us–pop culture’s a dead end
Some of us like it that way

Amused by simple things
Like kittens on piano keys
Tiny, chubby baby knees
If we’re sometimes somber
It’s because we remember
The long road home–burdened
With the weight of those
That fell along the way

We cared about our country
We cared about you
Please accept this humble tome
While on the road, or at home
Think about this special day