I was recently notified through a member of his family that Colonel Louis F. Makowski passed on September 8. I was deeply saddened to hear this, even though I had never met the man.
Who was Colonel Makowski? He was an air force navigator who served our country during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down, and he was taken as a Prisoner of War on October 6, 1966, spending 2,342 days in captivity then released on March 4, 1973. As an adolescent, I bought a metal POW bracelet inscribed with his name. I wore it every day in support of him and prayed for his safe return. I was deeply opposed to the Vietnam War, watching the horrors unfold on the news along with the accounts of so many young men killed in action. I was afraid my brother would be called up in the draft. It seemed like a death sentence to these young boys, really, who were shipped off to fight such an atrocious war. It was a time of unrest, turmoil, and deep divide in our country. Considering present day, we really haven’t come very far as a country where peace and unity are concerned.
After I wrote about this on my blog and in a local newspaper, I did some investigation and was able to contact Colonel Makowski. He was now retired and enjoying life with his wife and family. We wrote and emailed back and forth a few times, and I was able to express my thanks as an American citizen for his bravery and his service. I was so thrilled to have made that connection with the unknown soldier whose inscription I wore on a bracelet on my wrist for so many years. I received emails from others across the country who also wore his bracelet and who were happy to hear of his whereabouts. I can’t help to think that in his captivity and isolation in the Vietnam prison camp, he really had no idea of the many people who were supporting and praying for his safe return. He was never alone.
I lost touch with Colonel Makowski after that, although every now and again he crossed my mind. Last week I was emotionally touched that two of his family members contacted me to first say he was battling Covid and then he had succumbed to the virus. It was maddening to think that after all he went through in his life and all that he had survived, that in the end, he would suffer with this horrible virus that would take him. He was 90 years old.
I pray for his family in their sorrow and for all the families who have lost loved ones in military service and Covid. There just doesn’t seem enough prayers in the world you could say to honor these heroes.
In closing I would like to leave you with words that Colonel Makowski expressed to me in our last contact. He said, among other things, that he still had high hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God-given American values. The lesson he has taught me through this experience with him is no matter what your circumstances and how hard and challenging life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful. You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.
I have been stalling on this post for quite awhile, mainly because I didn’t want it to be discouraging or make anyone apprehensive when it was their turn to get the vaccine. Not that my “millions” of readers are going to care. 😉
I was one of those people who was affected by the second dose. All went well and ran like a fine-oiled machine at the Atlantic City Convention Center facility when it came to getting the second dose. But shortly thereafter I became sick with the usual headache, chills and body aches, fever – and then somewhere in between I had contracted a cold, which added to the mayhem. On top of that, I came down with a serious stomach issue that knocked me out. The symptoms I got from the second vaccine only lasted for about five days, but the cold and stomach issue remained off and on for weeks. These were not caused by the vaccine. And then I lost my sense of taste and smell which lasted for weeks. I even went to get a Covid-19 test, and it was negative. So it was probably caused by the cold and allergies? Who knows. It was a dark few weeks for me because I just didn’t feel well and was not making any progress at all in getting better.
Then, suddenly, I felt better.
I know people who have only gotten mild reactions or no reaction at all to the vaccine. My 92-year-old aunt had no reaction at all, and that made me happy. Seemed the women more than the men I knew had symptoms. My daughter Megan pointed out that men and women are getting the same dosage, so it would make sense that a smaller, thinner woman would have a reaction more than a larger, bigger man.
In any case, I am so thankful I have had the vaccine. I feel it is a gift not to have to worry so much. I, of course, still take precautions wherever I go. But I feel I am surrounded by a forcefield of protection from this deadly virus and am so forever grateful for the scientists and medical professionals who have brought this to fruition.
Go get your shot! So what if you have some kind of minor reaction you have to work through for a little while. You may be one of the lucky ones who have no reaction at all. Isn’t it better than suffering in a hospital from this deadly, miserable Covid-19?
It has been hard to acquire an appointment to get the Covid-19 vaccine for so many of us. Going on the computer and logging in day after day to different sites had been fruitless and frustrating. But don’t give up. Keep logging on or calling. It will happen. Thanks to a savvy relative who was able to get in, miraculously, I had a date and time, and it was the following week! I was so excited!
On that day, I ventured down to the Atlantic City Convention Center with a friend who had gone through the same the day before. I felt better knowing she could tell me where to go, where to park, etc. I was so happy that I was practically skipping to the entrance, feeling I was a part of making my mark in history and being safe from this horrible virus. Watching the sick in the hospital day on TV day in and day out along with the overworked healthcare workers was daunting. Seeing Dr. Fauci on TV almost daily and heartened by the many people getting their doses, I was thankful that I was now going to be a part of crushing Covid-19 and helping the cause of herd immunity. I was thankful I would hopefully be safe. I know many of you are waiting and wondering what this experience will be like, so I just wanted to tell you about mine and give you a head’s up.
First, let me say it was a great experience! I went to a mega-site at the Atlantic City Convention Center which was so well-managed and organized by the military and police. It was easy to get to and to find the entrance, and there was plenty of free parking on the first ramp under the facility. I walked a short distance to the entrance, and a young man in military gear greeted me at the closed-door entrance. Do you have an appointment? Yes! What time? 4:45. He opened the door for me. It was almost like going into the entrance of a line at Disney World! The next gentlemen took my temperature and asked some questions about my health which is rudimentary wherever you go these days. Then I went to the third station where a gentleman checked my registration information on his computer. He gave me a card with a number on it and told me to take the escalator to the second floor, and that is where the line began – with people 6 ft. apart – outside of the ballroom. Once inside, the line serpentined through roped areas like you were waiting to get on a ride. The area where the vaccines were given was screened off for privacy, along with another area you went to wait the mandatory 15-30 minutes after the vaccine.
I waited in line for not more than 20 minutes. It moved along nicely. Once at the entrance to the screened-off area another officer took my card and checked on the computer. There were many tables set up to question people more in depth and then moving on to vaccinate. There were tons of military directing where you should go, so it was exceptionally smooth. I was directed to a table of another person who asked a few more intrinsic questions some of which were: if you ever had a severe allergic reaction to certain drugs like polysorbate or injections, to any other vaccine or whether you had cancer, were HIV positive or had any allergic reaction that required use of an EpiPen among other questions. I removed my sweater to my short sleeve tee shirt thinking this was it, but they moved me along to another table with a nurse and the vaccine. I walked to the table one arm out with my sweater dragging on the floor and made a few jokes to the people directing me saying I was a little too anxious.
The nurse’s name was Fran, that of an old friend of mine. I knew it would be OK. She was friendly, asked again a few more questions about reactions to different drugs and then it was time. I turned my head away saying I was not going to look, and no sooner that the words were out of my mouth, it was over, and I never felt a thing. I was amazed after watching all those news reports and commercials showing needles jabbed into arms. I thanked her for being so painless and she was pleased. Thanks, Fran. I was given a card with the kind of vaccine I was given – Pfizer- and the date. I was directed to the post-waiting area where more military and EMTs stood by with watchful eyes. At the end of 15 minutes, they came around person by person with their I-pads to reserve your second appointment date and time. You were given three days to choose from and then different times. They were very accommodating. They told you to take a picture with your phone camera. You will also receive a confirming e-mail. I realized it was all basically paperless. Then they told me that I could go.
That was that!
I’m pretty sure I jumped up and clicked my heels as I left!
My arm felt sore that night, and I had a bout with chills for a short period of time. They tell you to take only Tylenol, which I did. I got warm under the covers when I went to bed. The next day I had soreness in that arm, which only lasted one day.
It was a good experience, I felt safe, nothing bad happened, and it was so smooth from start to finish. So, please, do not be afraid to get the vaccine. Go for it. It could save your life. It could free you to do so much more and worry so much less. Of course, still wear a mask, wash your hands, and take the precautions you know you must do. But also know that once that second dose is administered you are going to feel so much more open to live your life. I hope this was helpful and encouraging. I’ll try to be back with my experience on Dose 2.
I went to the park today because it is a beautiful day for a walk, but more importantly because I am missing my dog Bella who passed one year ago today at the age of twelve-years-old. I knew I would be sad today, but I am so thankful to have had her in my life for all those years – probably the most difficult years I personally had been through. She was always by my side, keeping me company, giving me a reason to live, keeping me active with walking and giving me someone to care for when no one else was around. She was friendly and funny, loved everyone and went everywhere with me. She knew when I was happy; she knew when I was sad, comforting me always and making her presence known.
I went to the park today because it was her favorite place to be, and I wanted to walk the paths we used to walk and sit at our place under a shade tree where she used to like to take a rest. At one point during my walk I sat on a bench. A woman walked by with the cutest little dog that looked like a puppy Rottweiler. She was black with brown spots above her eyes. The dog came barreling over to me, jumping up to say hello and kissing my hands as I pet her. She plopped down between my feet and leaned on my legs. I struck up a conversation with her owner, a genuinely nice lady. The dog sat contently, occasionally looking back at me every once in a while. I found out she was not a puppy, but a twelve-year-old. Her name was Lulu, and she came to the US from Puerto Rico as a rescue puppy. I explained to the lady why I was at the park, and she said I should get another dog because they are so good for us physically and emotionally, and I agreed. Lulu didn’t want to leave, but the woman finally coaxed her to go. I continued with my walk deep in thought. Maybe Lulu was a sign from Bella to say hello and let me know she is fine and was with me. At least I would like to believe that to be true.
I have had dogs all my life, ever since I was four-years-old. I have had them two and three at a time. I love surrounding myself with animals. To be honest, I would have another dog in a heartbeat, but circumstances haven’t allowed it thus far. Being without one now feels so strange and lonely.
I know in my heart of hearts that there is one more dog to come in my life. And I believe I will know when I know. Until then I will keep on keeping on. Remembering Bella with fondness and enjoying other dogs who say hello and dogs of relatives. I will wait for that day my little one will come along. I will bring her/him to this park and show him/her Bella’s favorite places. At least I hope it will happen.
I hope you are running around in heaven with all the pets I have had in my life, my sweet Bella. And until we meet again thank you for loving me and please know how much I love you.
Life is a series of adjustments and choices. Some minor; some major. The way you react to what happens along the way becomes either a major or a minor adjustment – or a minor or major choice. Liken it to when your back or neck is hurting so you go to a chiropractor and have him align your skeletal structure. If it works, it is a minor adjustment. You are able to move on with less pain and more strength. If the pain is still there, you must choose to maybe see an orthopedic doctor for further evaluation. How long you suffer is up to you. You have to make that choice.
Let us begin when we are born. Birth itself is a plethora of adjustments as you come into the world and adapt to a multitude of so many changes as you grow moment to moment. At this stage in life, there are no choices to make. They are made for you.
The next would be reconciling from home to school. Sometimes very scary situations arise as you go from the safe cocoon of your home to the outside world. You meet many new people – teachers, other children. Some kind; some not. You learn, you work, play sports, learn an instrument, sing, do science experiments, be in a play. It is a barrage where bending and shaping is paramount to becoming the person you are meant to be. So many adjustments and so many choices. What do you like to do? What kind of friends do you want? Do you choose to stand up if you are bullied or stand down and let it happen? Are you going to do your assignments to the best of your ability or choose to just get by?
You enter puberty. Bodily changes, wants, needs and everything in between that projects you into adulthood. You choose right or wrong. Choose to follow your urges or suppress them.
You graduate high school/college. Graduating high school is a feat in itself and quite an accomplishment from grueling years of social and educational reconciliations. It is a relief, in a way, to have finished what is required educationally. You choose to go on to higher education or start a job. Choosing college will be extending your educational process. Working towards a career of your choosing. Or you learn a much-needed trade or enter the military or civil service training. You will be exposed to many personal, social, and educational experiences. It will be hard, even grueling as you navigate yourself through the years when you truly grow into an adult. Life-changing choices and so many adjustments.
You begin a career or a job. You begin to learn how to stand on your own two feet. Make a living that can support your independence from your parents. Always an adjustment with workload, new people and getting along, making enough money to pay your bills.
You have relationships. You grow and experiment with different people and personalities to find the type of person who matches what you need. You find people who are right or wrong for you and learn how to tell the difference. You choose a person that hopefully lifts you up and does not beat you down. You have heartbreaks – many along the road of life. You date. You break up. You commit. You uncommit. He commits. She does not. She commits. He does not. Heartache aplenty. You love. You hate. You stay. You move on.
You marry. Maybe. So many adjustments and compromises and ups and downs and ins and outs. You hope for the absolute best as you take that leap and maybe you have found your person who will be a partner for all of life’s compromises. Making a choice and knowing the right person from the wrong person is something not all of us figure out. This, to me, is one of life’s greatest challenges, hardest adjustments, and so many ridiculous choices. You want to trust. You want to love. You want your person. But you must ask over and over before you decide: Is it he/she?
You stay single. You learn to build a life on your own, on your own terms. Although it may be nice to have a partner, there is a lot to be said for standing on your own two feet and letting that be the core of what sustains you through life. But it is lonely and that is a big adjustment. But that is your choice.
You start a family. Greatest responsibility in life. Raising another human being to be a good, decent person. Sleepless nights. Strained patience. Worries galore. Best job in the world despite the crazy amount of challenges and choices and adjustments along the way. But you gladly take on every one of them on an almost daily basis because there is no greater love in the world.
A loved one passes. Parent, spouse, friend, sibling. Maybe your relationship was the best. Maybe it was toxic. Maybe it was not enough. Maybe it was just good enough. You grieve in a way that steals your soul and questions your mortality. But eventually you adjust to them not being there. The void never really goes away. But you must choose to find a way to move on.
You change locations. Maybe once or twice. Maybe many times. Each time adjusting to your new home/apartment, surroundings, neighbors, and community. Exhausting, invigorating, fun, scary. So many things.
You get divorced. Sometimes it is a relief. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is ugly and painful and sad. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is just what you needed to move on and have peace. You adjust to living your life on your own terms. And the void you feel vanishes as you adjust to a life on your own.
Your children grow up. They leave. Go off to college. Move onto their new independent life. It is happy. It is sad. Sometimes you let go easily. Sometimes you hold on with all your might. You try to figure out what your new life without children in the house looks like. It is the movement and hecticness and craziness pushing you to your limit that you miss. The time you dreamt of having is here and most of the time you cannot remember what it is you wanted to do with all that time. You may have trouble filling your days. Or maybe you find fun, new, fulfilling things to do and new friendships that sustain you.
You remarry. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way you know more about what you would like in a partner and what you do not want. Maybe you meet someone great who fills the void and lifts you up and rekindles your faith. Maybe you learn to fulfill your own wants and needs in life. Either way, you explore with someone new or not.
You have grandchildren. Hopefully, you do because they are the greatest blessing in the world besides your own children, of course. You love them and they love you unconditionally. They fill your life with joy and laughter and fun. You look forward to your time together like it is a big, special event because it is. You spoil them and laugh with them and would give your own life for them.
You retire. It is a relief to be done with work that you were not crazy about. Or it is sad to be without the work you loved. Now you have all the time in the world to do what you wanted if you can remember what that was. You hope you have enough money to last you. You hope you have enough ideas to fill your time or try new things and come up with something that brings you joy. So many choices.
You get old. Ugh. Not sure what this one will bring as I only now venture into that territory. Optimistically, you can live out your days without an overabundance of medical issues and be able to live independently. Or maybe at some point you will need assistance. It may be difficult, but it will be OK. You will adjust as maybe that choice is made for you. In any case you’ll be wondering what the hec happened because life goes by fast! So try to remember to have fun whenever you can.
Finally, you pass. Who knows what happens next?! With utmost faith you will be adjusting to paradise and resting in God’s arms. You hope to be hearing the words, “Well done.”
Each and every stage of life warrants some kind of realignment and innumerable choices. Major or minor will be determined by the way you handle it through your own strength, conviction, or sheer will power. My wish is that you remain standing strong and able as you move from one phase to the other without dislocation or an abundance of angst. You and only you can make that choice.
I’ve been coloring pages in a children’s coloring book for the past two hours. Pictures of Cookie Monster skateboarding, a dolphin in mid-air performing at Sea World for Big Bird, Oscar and Cookie Monster, and Grover sporting an inner tube at the beach. I’m enjoying mixing and choosing the different crayons as I take in their familiar scent and chuckle to myself at the irony of it all.
Why am I doing this? Why would a sixty-something-year-old be coloring kid pictures? Because I miss my grandsons. Today I sit here by myself, lonely as hell, coloring because it makes me feel connected to them. I haven’t seen them in awhile because this invisible enemy – Covid-19 – has invaded our earth, and life as we know it has changed drastically. We are practicing social distancing. But what I want to do most is just hug my grandsons and be with them – coloring or cookie baking – riding bikes or playing soccer. I wish we could just snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. Instead, this virus has stolen these moments from me and them and everyone else in the world. I don’t know where it came from; I don’t know where it’s going or when. I just want it to vanish because it is a thief and a destructor of all things good.
Later I’ll mail these pictures off to the boys so they can put them on their refrigerator like I put their drawings on mine. I’ll enclose a card with a printed note that tells them how much I love them. I know it will make them smile, and they’ll know I am holding them close in my heart. Then I’ll call them, or they’ll call me, or FaceTime, and they will be silly and giggle and run around and act like crazy boys as I chuckle. I’ll fight back the tears until I hang up.
I’m hoping they’ll look at the pictures every now and again and smile in their remembering of their Mimi and look forward to all the fun we’ll have again when this horror fades away and life returns to some sense of normalcy – whatever that will look like. I’m thankful that the boys are too young to understand the magnitude of what’s going on in the world. I have faith that before too long we’ll be, once again, snuggling on the couch as we watch a funny movie and laugh. Then we’ll go to the table and color pages – Ethan telling me which crayon to use on what, as Carter furiously scribbles a kaleidoscope of psychedelic renderings.
These are the things I’ll never take for granted again.
Do you remember the last time you gathered with your family and friends to have dinner? Mine was on March 1. It was my daughter Megan’s birthday. I made lasagna and meatballs and baked a Funfetti cake, which is her favorite. We had a lot of fun celebrating, laughing and enjoying the food along with each other’s company. I got to hug and play games and color with my grandsons. It was loud and crazy and amazing. We didn’t know that that would be the last time we would all be together for quite some time.
Today is Holy (Maundy) Thursday. The word “maundy” means washing the feet of the poor. The Catholic Church commemorates this day as the last time Jesus and His disciples gathered for dinner, or the Last Supper. On that night He washed the feet of these twelve men, which was an act of humble love. It was the night that gave birth to Holy Communion as Jesus blessed and broke the bread and wine and gave it to His apostles saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” I imagine they must have questioned at the time what that meant. It was the night we received the new commandment to “Love one another.” It was the last time they would all be together. They didn’t know, but Jesus did.
This group of friends were just enjoying an evening of being together on that Holy Thursday evening. They did not have any clue as to what was going to happen in the days ahead. My family was just enjoying an evening of being together on March 1. We didn’t know what was going to happen in the days ahead. The disciples weren’t prepared. We weren’t prepared. As Catholic history progresses with the arrest of Jesus, these disciples, his friends, became scared. As more and more people in our country got sick and started dying with COVID-19, we became scared.
So here we are in real time reflecting on the events of Holy Maundy Thursday like we do each year during this Easter season. Only this year, it is different. This year I am sure we can actually feel the love and comradery the disciples felt that evening in the company of Jesus, and then the terror of what happened later that night in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed, was betrayed and then arrested. The disciples were afraid, isolating themselves in hiding. One minute we, too, were enjoying dinner in the company of our loved ones, and in an instant, we became afraid of the invisible virus that was so ferociously sickening and killing so many. We now isolate ourselves.
History has proven that life as we know it can change in an instant. But we also know that faith always wins out over fear, as proven by those brave men and how they moved forward growing our faith throughout the world.
Be brave in the days ahead. Be faithful. We don’t know what will happen, but Jesus does.
And until you can hug your families and friends again, hold them close in your heart.
I sit in front of a blank screen wondering where to begin to describe the story of my dear Bella and how much I loved her. “Oh, come on” some people who don’t understand would say, “she was just a dog.” But that’s not true. She was my faithful companion, comical sidekick, a full-of-love bunny who spent most of her 12 years keeping me company and moving me forward during a time of transitioning from a full, happy family household to a divorced empty nester living on a shoestring budget of nothing. She gave me purpose, kept me well-exercised and chased the crushing blows of loneliness away with her steadfast companionship and funny antics. To know she was there and needed me, too, made all the difference in the world to me because with her I never felt alone.
Bella came to me as a rambunctious, border-line wild, 14-week-old Labrador retriever puppy. I adopted her from a family who claimed they became “allergic” to her and had to get rid of her. When I went to pick her up, she was literally bouncing off the walls from one end of the room to the other. Her name at the time, “Lightening,” was telling. She chewed the furniture, ripped up kitchen linoleum, broke baby gates, and generally drove me to the point of exhaustion. She wasn’t a cuddly dog, but I was never out of her sight, and when I was upset, she would sit by my side and look up at me as she leaned on my legs.
A definite water dog, if I said, “bath” she ran and jumped in the tub. She loved presents at Christmas and her birthday. She loved kids and dogs and cats and snow and swimming. She didn’t mind getting dressed up on Halloween. And she LOVED to eat. A refrigerator door couldn’t open or a wrapper crinkle without her coming running. She moved with me twice and transitioned from a great big fenced in yard to having to walk down the street to do her business. I had always hoped to own another home with a yard for Bella, but that wasn’t to be the case after all.
In her later years, as she developed diabetes along with diminishing eyesight and then arthritis, she never lost her spirit. She was always willing to go wherever I wanted, and of course, was always by my side. Quick with a kiss. A foodie extraordinaire.
The house is eerily quiet now, and Lucy, my cat, looks for her constantly. They were an odd couple. Sometimes I awake in the middle of the night and listen for her breathing, which was heavy towards the end. I wake up in the morning and for a split second think I must get up and walk Bella. Then I remember. No, life is not the same without her. No sharing my lunch and dinner. No daily walks to the park. No sweet company to chase away the blues. Twelve years is a good, long life for a dog, but it wasn’t long enough for me.
I know in time I’ll get stronger, and sorry this is so sad. But paying homage to the pets I have loved is closure for me. She is missed like crazy, not only by me but all my family and friends who knew her well since she traveled everywhere with me. Everybody loved sweet Bella.
So, see you in heaven, Belly Jelly (kiss a felly). Have fun with all of our puppies and kitties up there. I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for loving me.