I was an avid Los Angeles Lakers basketball fan in the 90s when I lived in California – so I was stunned by the tragic deaths in a helicopter crash of retired Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant (who was only 41 and building a new career as a storyteller) and his teenage daughter Gianna, eager to follow in her father’s footsteps and active in a youth basketball league. Other passengers also died in the foggy crash yesterday in southern California. Bryant leaves behind his wife and three other daughters. It was unbelievably tragic!
The shock of this unexpected ending inspired me to read a lot of coverage on Bryant and I was particularly moved by Mitch Albom’s front page column in the Detroit Free Press. He emphasizes how much more Kobe had to share on his new path and that we are left with tragedy instead of the triumph Albom is sure would have marked Kobe’s new endeavors. For more, read Mitch’s column at https://www.freep.com/story/sports/nba/2020/01/26/kobe-bryant-death-mitch-albom/4585619002/
It finally happened in October – American astronauts Christina Kock and Jessica Meir conducted the first all-female spacewalk. It was originally scheduled for March 29th (during Women’s History Month) and cancelled when it was discovered only one spacesuit proportioned for the women could be found. I posted the original announcement in my blog three weeks ahead of the event, and only discovered long afterwards that the walk had been postponed.
So for those who saw my first blog and thought it was a done deal, my apologies! For detailed coverage of the actual event on October 18th and the controversy about the lopsided ratio of women in space (only 32 percent or 12 of the 18 astronauts currently eligible to fly for NASA are women), you can read an article in the Houston Chronicle at https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/space/article/NASA-s-first-all-female-spacewalk-has-officially-14543988.php
For more on the controversy over spacesuit- design bias against women, read https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/21/20920790/nasa-first-all-female-spacewalk-christina-koch-jessica-meir-spacesuit-design-bias
Oh my, gender bias is not only on earth!
August was a month of both musical love and precious, renewed friendships. Most importantly, I celebrated my 55th Cass Tech High School Reunion this month with former classmates – opening with dinner and a program at Sinbad’s Restaurant in a room overlooking the river on the first night, then lunch and a bus tour on Belle Isle, and finally at a Tiger’s ballgame (oh my, they even won for us!).
My friend Bob Allen was my guest in the fun put together by an incredible committee led by Jeff Crockett that included Ocie, Jacquelyne, Trey, Morry, Susan Patricia, Helen, Sarah, Mildred, John, Anne and Jacquelin. I was lucky enough to be active on the committee in the early planning. We had about 90 active participants over the two days, many from out of town who stayed at the Atheneum Suite Hotel on Brush Ave. and many took a sightseeing bus tour as their opening event. I am so grateful that I got to experience my high school years with these incredible comrades and hope more good times lie ahead.
The first dose of musical love this month was at DTE’s evening concert with “Heart” (with sisters Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson) on the band’s “Love” Alive tour — including opening acts Joan Jet & the Blackhearts and Elle King. I had first seen only Ann on tour a few years ago at a Detroit waterfront festival. But I had always loved their music – and the crowd seated on the DTE hillside around us went crazy as Heart ended their set with their biggest hit, “Barracuda.” I shared in the exhilarating experience with my friend Bob, and we joyously stumbled when we arrived across more of his friends. They already occupied a large space on the grass and shared their blanket for seating on the hillside as they used folding chairs behind us. Amazing.
I also got an exhilarating dose of musical “love” from the 60s by watching PBS’ American Experience documentary “Woodstock”, a chance to remember three days of peace, love and music in upstate New York. I was just graduating college and starting my journalism career when that musical milestone in upstate New York produced 400,000 fans and four days of musical history that miraculously stayed peaceful and produced many signature musical moments, including the unforgettable Jimmy Hendricks, Santana, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin – plus many more evolving superstars. What an August!
I loved having a Canadian family growing up. My dad was born on a farm in Brigden, Ontario, the third of seventeen children of a Scottish mother and English/Scotch father. Dad quit school after 8th grade to go to work and help the family. He eventually landed a union job at Chrysler in Detroit and became an American citizen. My grandparents later retired to a house on Lake Erie, where my family often spent weekends. We used an outhouse and as kids, my brother and I found that was fun. In fact, my mother’s Slovak parents had a farm upstate near Vassar that had an outhouse, too!
In June, I finally traveled back to the Bear Creek Cemetery to visit the grave of my parents and my dad’s parents – along with other relatives. I used to travel there with my brothers when I first returned from New York. We always took the ferry from Marine City across Lake St. Clair, then traveled along the river on the Canadian side to Brigden. It has been several years since my older brother Gil died and I stopped the trips.
This year I went with my friend Bob and we had to take a longer trip to the Blue Water Bridge that links Port Huron and Sarnia, since the ferry has been discontinued. The adventure seemed gone. The ferry never had long lines, although you might need to wait 20 minutes for it to return from the other shore. Once on the way, you were allowed to get out of the car briefly. It was fun to enjoy the breeze and look for other ships further up the river.
After driving off the ferry, we rode up a highway north along the river, sometimes pulling over when we saw a huge ship coming in order to take photos. Eventually we had to turn away from the river and drive inwards to Brigden, passing a museum that included a wing named in honor of the Shaw family. My grandmother was born Mary Alice Shaw and was close to her brother Francis Shaw, who became a successful communications entrepreneur.
My stay at the Bear Creek Cemetery was brief this year, just long enough to honor my parents and grandparents – and also to walk around to view some of the other Shaw gravestones. I still have many cousins in the Sarnia area and we have promised to stay in touch, even though it could mean long waits now in line to cross back and forth across the bridge.
Remember me when flowers bloom early in the spring
Remember me on sunny days in the fun that summer brings
Remember me in the fall as you walk through leaves of gold
And remember me in the wintertime in the stories that are told
But most of all remember Each day, right from the start
I will be forever near For I live within your heart
Over the Memorial holiday this year, my nieces and other family gathered in a Cemetery Chapel to remember and bury a very special mother and relative – Carol McFarland, who had passed away peacefully in hospice of end stage Parkinson’s Disease. A retired teacher, Carol had always rejoiced in her love of music and her beautiful soprano voice. On Sundays, I attended Church of Christ services at the nursing home with her, my beloved sister-in-law, where she loved singing gospel music. At the funeral, relatives sang a verse of Amazing Grace with the Chaplain. I read the poem “Remember Me.” And yes, we felt her in our hearts.
A first for women in space?
What better timing than March 29th, during Women’s History Month.
That’s when astronauts aboard the International Space Station are scheduled to conduct the first all-
female space walk. Yes, it just so happens the astronauts venturing out together about 240 miles above
Earth are finally women – Anne McClain and Christina Koch. Women will be at the controls as well – Mary
Lawrence will serve as lead flight director and Jackie Kagey will be the lead spacewalk controller.
Turns out it wasn’t orchestrated to be this way. According to NASA, these spacewalks were originally
scheduled to take place in the fall and are meant to upgrade batteries on the space station. Astronaut
Christina Koch noted the importance of conducting her mission during Women’s History Month, calling
it a unique opportunity…”and I hope that I’m able to inspire folks that might be watching.”
For additional background on women’s history month, click on https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org/2019-theme-and-nomination/