Friday, October 24, 2014

"Gentleman Pilot"

Aloha o'e to our friend and colleague Captain Phil Bohner (777) who will be operating his final UNITED flight tomorrow from Narita to Houston.  

I can't truthfully say that Phil and I are great friends; more, we are respectful colleagues.  Phil is the affable, collegial sort who never fails to smile when you pass, to ask how things are going, to be concerned when concern is merited and to be a calm, reassuring force in the face of any storm, either figurative or literal.  He is a "gentleman pilot" to use a term I've reserved for very few.  And I, for one, will be sad to see him leave us.  Phil Bohner is a Mensch whose contributions to who and what we are are noted and appreciated.

When I asked if he minded if I took a quick photo to memorialize his retirement, I couldn't imagine him agreeing to any more apt pose than this!  ("2 creams, extra sugar")

Saturday, October 11, 2014

American Gothic

Every year on October 12th (or close to it) we gather to celebrate the beginning of our family.  Papa and Granna were wed on Granna's 18th birthday, October 12th, 1924.  Some of the details are a little cloudy in my mind, others are crystal clear.  Help me, if you can, to complete the picture...

When Papa (Harold Reece) first asked Papa Cloud if he could marry Granna, she was just 15 years old.  Papa Cloud (noted for his fiery disposition) was not enthused with the idea, "she's my best worker."  But he promised that if they waited until Granna (Alma Cloud) was 18 that he wouldn't stand in their way.  

When I was alone with Papa and Granna, I had a habit of asking them some pretty personal questions, especially in hindsight.  Most often, Papa would answer for them both, Granna content to sit in her chair quietly, arms folded.  She surprised me one day when I asked, "what did you wear for your wedding?"

Granna replied that Papa Cloud took her to a shop on the square in Marietta.  He told her to pick out the dress she wanted.  The one she chose was "robin's egg blue" and cost $24, a princely sum for the day.  At the time I asked, she avowed that she still had that dress.  I wonder what's become of it?

At the time they wed, lives were driven by the season, by the needs of the land and livestock.  After their wedding, Papa and Granna were free to enjoy the afternoon and evening.  The very next morning, they were expected in the field.  The harvest would not wait.

Discipline governed their young life together.  Discipline remained throughout their almost 73 years together.  Discipline became the ethos for our family.

Our American Gothic began 90 years ago.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Great American

I'd like for you to meet Mr. Eugene Milliken, ordinary man, extraordinary human being.  We met Mr. Milliken a dozen or so years ago when we were looking to build a small shed on our property in Maine and our neighbors heartily recommended him for the job.

He made it clear at the outset that he liked things done the old-fashioned way.  He hated plywood (OSB wasn't even on the radar) and if we wanted to use any in our project, we'd best find someone else for the job.  That was no problem for us as we intended to leave the interior unfinished and I loved the thought of the wide plank floors and the tongue-and-groove decking for the roof.

He arrived on Day 1 with his younger helper, "Junior", in tow.  By the way, Mr. Milliken was 82 years old when work started, Junior was 78.  The pace wasn't the quickest; glaciers move faster.  But along with some pretty impressive woodwork, we were serenaded and told stories and generally enrapt by a born charmer of the highest order.  With a twinkle in his crystal blue eyes and an ever-ready smile, Eugene Milliken evinces the phrase "extraordinarily ordinary".  

Like so many of his generation, Mr. Milliken hails from modest beginnings, he served his country on foreign soil, he wed and raised a family, he worked honestly with his hands, he embraces joy, he eschews sadness (though he has known his share) and he leaves a path brighter than how he found it.  He is dignity and grace incarnate, yet would be the first to object to that notion.  He is an everyman who distinguishes himself in the world one person, one day, one job, one smile-at-a-time.

When I ran into him yesterday at breakfast, it changed the course of my day.  Well into his 90s now, his vision is failing.  His brand new white Chrysler is evidence enough of that, poor thing.  But the radiant beauty of a simple soul still shines bright in a ready smile and twinkling, impish, crystalline blue eyes.  

Eugene Milliken, great American...