Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Anniversary

I'm three days late with this week’s blog, but it is by design. I wanted to blog on this Memorial Day holiday because for me it is not only a time to reflect on the servicemen and women who have fought and died for our freedom, it is also a day for Joe and I to reflect on our personal journey.

After weeks of trying to figure out where and when we could get married when he returned from his ten-month cruise on the Kittyhawk, we had come to the conclusion that if everyone couldn't be at the wedding, then no one would. His family was in Pennsylvania; my friends and family were in Georgia and Florida; our mutual friends were in San Diego. We planned on being married in Hong Kong, but the inport period was cancelled just hours before I was going to board a flight. A week later he called while I was on a layover in Santa Monica and said, "I'm in Sasebo, soon can you get here?"

Forty-one years ago today, I stood at the door to a Quonset hut/chapel in Sasebo, Japan. I was thousands of miles from home. I had no bridesmaids. There was no father of the bride (Lcdr. Bob Browning stood in). There was a corsage bought by friends Richie and “Doo-doo”. As the doors opened, I looked in on 40 men who could have been “extras” in any Blues Brothers movie (they had celebrated a day early). All I could think at that moment was, “What have I done?” If there was a movie about my wedding, it would be called "Forty Men and Me"...except one of our bachelors brought a "date"; the wife of a sailor who had deployed from Sasebo the day before.

I wouldn’t have been there had it not been for Delta Airlines (kind of like a guardian angel with wings of steel). Many of the best moments in our life together have been possible because of Delta. Before meeting Joe on a layover (described in an earlier post), I also met my father because of Delta. I had been taken to America from Scotland when I was five and my mother returned all mail and packages that came from my father. When she remarried, I was lost to him. Later, when I was sixteen, my grandfather helped me find him. He had been in the RAF and stationed in Egypt; he met and married my step-mother Audrey and they had two daughters. I met them all the year after I was hired by Delta.

I loved every minute of the 4-1/2 years I spent with Delta. It was during the Vietnam War and there were many opportunities to honor the young men who were serving our country at a time when it wasn’t very popular to be doing so. I remember a mother who came up to me at the foot of the stairs in Dallas and handed me a cardboard box with a plastic window on top. Inside was a birthday cake that said “Happy Birthday Jimmy”. She asked if I would please take it to the APO post office in San Francisco as she was afraid to have it go in the cargo hold. Well, of course I said "yes" and then the other three flight attendants and I put on dark red lipstick and put “kisses” on the box and wrote our own messages to Jimmy.

About two months later, I was called into the office of one of the VP’s of Delta and was admonished for “tampering with the US mail”. I acted appropriately contrite, but I think we both knew that I wasn’t at all sorry for what I’d done. (Jimmy had written to Delta to say the cake arrived crumbled, but he was “king for a day” because of our additions to his package.) Every Memorial Day I think of Jimmy and of all the young men in those jungles in Southeast Asia; I remember the pilots and RIO’s who didn’t return, including Mike Doyle (“Doo-Doo”) who was a POW but didn’t come home with all the others (his remains were returned 14 years later).

When our daughters were in high school, I said to them, “Don’t do what your mother did. Get your college degree. Then, if you want to become a flight attendant or anything else, you’ll have your degree to fall back on.” It was another of those “famous last words” moments but I didn’t realize it at the time.

During her senior year at Loyola Marymount, our youngest daughter called one day and said, “Remember what you said, Mom? Well, I was hired by Delta today.” So began another chapter in our lives that has been nothing short of miraculous. Because we are parents, we have flight privileges which enabled Joe and I to visit my English family several times. It also means we continue to see Michelle often even though she is based in New York.

When Joe retired, Michelle told him about an industry travel agency and said we would qualify for industry discounts on some cruises. I never believed that Joe would consider the word “cruise” in the same sentence with “vacation”. From his experience cruise meant months at sea in cramped quarters in the bowels of an aircraft carrier and days and nights being catapulted into the sky and landing on a moving runway the size of a postage stamp when viewed from above. I couldn’t believe my ears when he asked, “How would you like to cruise through the Panama Canal?” (Our year of cruising will be the subject of my next blog.)

Rule #6 – Honor your past (and those who touched your lives); cherish the present; and embrace the future. And thank God for being with you through it all.


  1. Happy Anniversary! Seeing you wedding "gown" reminds me of how my mom freaked out when she saw that mine was a mini too. She said she wouldn't come to the wedding if I wore it, but, she did. You were there with us 42 yrs ago. Love you both, Marcia

  2. Cathie, it is a wonderful story and I am so happy that Jean and I have been part of your life thanks to Delta and because of your determination to find Daddy and us. Thank you.
    All my love, Avril.

    p.s. Love to Marcia too.


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