Happy Birthday Mary Patricia

My youngest sister was born 59 years ago today but Mary only lived a day and a half out of the womb. Her lungs never fully inflated. She was rushed to Children’s Hospital in nearby Buffalo New York but there was nothing that could be done for her. We lacked the know-how in those days to save little girls like Mary Patricia. Now we have lots of technology that make it possible for little girls like my sister to survive and have long lives. My mom was exposed to rubella while she was carrying Mary. I had come down with rubella that previous winter because in those days there were no vaccinations which prevented that virus. There was a time I felt responsible for my sister’s short life. That’s not the case anymore but her untimely death always reminded me of the importance of vaccinations and how they’ve saved our children and grandchildren from viruses that were once quite common. I remember standing in line at our small elementary school to receive the polio vaccine. Just a generation earlier adults and children were crippled for life because of polio. Thank God our generation was spared. Now, there is a vaccine to prevent rubella and little people like Mary get to thrive where once upon a time they didn’t.

I think about Mary Patricia from time to time when I drive by the cemetery where she is buried. My folks said that she looked like me when she was born. I remember sitting next to my Mom on the couch and feeling Mary kick my mother from the inside. Her death traumatized our family. My sister remembers putting away the baby clothes that were meant for her. My father never really recovered from her death. He died ten years later. They rest side by side in the same plot at St. Peter and Paul cemetery in Arcade New York. Maybe someday we’ll meet in the afterlife if there is one. Happy Birthday Mary Patricia from your big brother!

A beautiful day

Today’s my birthday and it was a beautiful day indeed. The sky was blue with not a cloud in sight. Birthday’s are a time for reflection and gratitude. I’m grateful for my parents who made this day possible. I was their first born. I was the guinea pig. All first born children share that experience. Nothing in school or life ever really prepares you for being a parent. My mother had a tough time with the pregnancy. She was preeclamptic which severely complicated the pregnancy. I was delivered by my Uncle Eugene Rooney. It was Misericordia Hospital in Manhattan which no longer exists. I arrived at 5:55 AM according to a telegram my grandparents received to announce my birth.

My father was at the hospital but probably not allowed in the delivery room. That would have been unusual in those days. He sent the telegram to my grandparents upstate to announce my arrival. By all accounts I was a happy infant who once slept in a dresser drawer because there was no bassinet for me. That came later and we still have that item in our basement. It served for my brother and sister too.

I was blessed to be born on the 8th of December. It is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Mary the Mother of Jesus. I attended parochial schools as a child and young adult and always got the day off. We always went to Mass on my birthday. It was a holy day of obligation. I would like to have attended today but the pandemic and a shortage of priests made that impossible this year. Nonetheless, I was able to pray the rosary on my walk today and spend a few minutes in our grotto near St. Philomena’s RC Church today.

Blue is a Marian color. Today the sky was bright blue. I wore my blue jeans and a deep blue shirt. Maybe I over did it. In any event it was a beautiful day and one that invited me to be glad to be alive.

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my Mom’s birthday. Born ninety years ago at a small hospital that no longer exists on the east side of Manhattan. Her Dad was an bailiff in the city courts and her Mom was a court stenographer. Helen was their first child. Yesterday as I sat in her room here in Tempe, AZ I looked a picture we had painted of the two of them holding her when she was two years old. I wondered what was going through their minds. Could they even imagine that their daughter would live another eighty-eight years?  What were their hopes and dreams for this little girl whom they cradled in their arms?

Mom’s been through a lot in all these years. She lost her father at four and went to live with her Aunt and Uncle along with her mother and a baby brother. They managed like that all the way through her high school years. Then she was off to college in far-away Buffalo, New York. There she completed a bachelors degree in three years while working in the D’Youville College library to supplement a full tuition scholarship she had earned. She graduated from college magna cum laude. Then she returned to New York City looking for employment as a teacher. She was denied any position because she was a woman. Then through the intercession of a neighbor whose son was a Jesuit priest she managed to enroll at Fordham University and get a graduate assistantship which allowed her to complete a Masters in Mathematics and Science. She returned to D’Youville and was hired to teach mathematics. While she was there she met my father who was enrolled at the University at Buffalo. They eventually were engaged and married and had three children. Dad died when he was forty-six and she managed to finish raising and providing for us by becoming a high school mathematics teacher. How she managed to keep us going on her spartan teaching salary was no mean achievement.

Eventually she re-married and our family size increased from 3 siblings to five brothers and three sisters. Our new Dad really pulled us together as a family and he and Mom had fourteen wonderful years together. During that time she retired from teaching and was able to spend a few years relaxing and traveling with Dad. Even after our Dad’s death in 1994 she continued to be active in our lives and her community. She visited the sick, drove friends to doctors appointment and hospital visits and became “Grandma” to twelve grandchildren and eventually a great-grandmother a couple of years ago. About eighteen months ago she came to live in a retirement community in Arizona. She’s still our Mom and now it’s our turn to hold her hand and help her in whatever ways we can. My sister and her husband have done a wonderful job of helping make Mom comfortable in her new surroundings. She’s really glad that we came to be with her on this special day. Earlier today we connected with my brother Mark and his family via FaceTime. Yesterday my Brother Brian and his wife Lillian came and we had a birthday lunch at a local restaurant. Later today we’ll be going to a special birthday dinner at my sister’s home.  We’re doing our best to celebrate Mom’s birthday and her wonderful life with us.

Happy Birthday

Today is the birthday of my lovely wife. Today we celebrate her life and all that she means to all of us who come in contact with her. She’s a remarkable individual with an incredible talent for bringing out the best in people. She’s not only my wife and best friend but the mother of our two children. She’s an incredible teacher who transforms the lives of all the students she teaches. She’s a selfless person who always thinks of others first and works toward their needs. We are blessed beyond measure by her presence in our lives. Happy Birthday, Diane! I love you and we love you!

Fifty-eight years

That’s not a long time for many, but it’s twelve more years than my father got and unless tonight is my last night I stand to have more time yet to live and make a difference. When I look around and steadily climbing energy prices and a government teetering on the brink of more tax relief for the rich and let the poor fend for themselves I’m inclined to give up. In the last fifty-eight years there have been a lot of changes. Most of them very good and a few maybe not so good, but on balance we’re better than we were before. I’m grateful to my Mom and Dad who made this opportunity possible and in the last week as I’ve thought about my birthday I’ve thought back and wondered what they might have been thinking in the first week of December 1952. They were both children of the Great Depression and my Dad was a veteran of World War II though he never saw any combat. Nonetheless, they lived through trying times. They were both twenty-six years old. A couple of kids I might call them now and I was their first child.

First born children are all a bit like guinea pigs. No one is ever adequately prepared by school or any other experience to raise children and the first one always bears the brunt of the ignorance. Despite all that I had a good life. December 8, 1952 was my special day and I arrived at 5:58 am according to the telegram my Dad sent. I was delivered by an uncle I never met in a hospital called Miserecordia in Manhattan. I was the first grandson in the family. I was preceded by three grand-daughters in two different families.

I’m hoping this year is a snow day. I used to get the day off automatically when I attended Catholic grammar school as it is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I’ve always had an innate Marian devotion. Blue is my favorite color and Ave Maria is one of my favorite hymns. Forty years ago I registered for the draft and less than two years later I was in a United States Navy uniform. The only parts of my life I really disliked were the parts I was afraid of and when I got over my fear of them I enjoyed them too.

I have no way of knowing how many more days or hours I will have left but I know that even the hairs of my head are numbered in someone’s book. It’s cold outside tonight and the snow is falling just like it does most years in December, but I’m warm here in my own home and I am filled with gratitude for my parents, my family and my life.



Today is the fourth year anniversary of this blog. It’s also my brother Mark’s birthday. Mark will be 56 today.  I’m wishing Mark a happy birthday and thankful that I’ve been able to hang around another four years to share what’s been on my mind.

The Immaculate Conception

Today is my birthday. It’s also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Besides being my birthday which is an important event in my life I share this wonderful Marian feast. I don’t talk about her much, but Mary holds a special part in heart and it’s because of this feast I guess. My mother is the best model of Mary I have. Mom loves me more than anything else. She gave me life and on this day 57 years ago welcomed me into the world, her first born.

Mom made sure that I had a proper up-bringing and that included 9 years of Catholic primary school and a couple of years of Catholic high school. I don’t mean to imply that if you didn’t go to Catholic schools that you are somehow stunted because nothing could be further from the truth. But, giving her son those same chances she enjoyed and more were what was important in Mom’s life. Her devotion to Our Lady permeates her life and it touched mine too. Mary occupied an esteemed place in St. Francis of Assisi’s life too as the mother of Jesus. This prayer attributed to Francis bears that out.

Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen,
Mary, Mother of God, ever Virgin.
You were chosen by the Most High Father in heaven,
consecrated by Him, with His most Holy Beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

On you descended and still remains all the fullness of grace and every good.
Hail, His Palace.
Hail His Tabernacle.
Hail His Robe.
Hail His Handmaid.
Hail, His Mother.
and Hail, all holy Virtues, who, by grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from their faithless state, they may be made faithful servants of God through you.

Deo Gratias for 57 years of wonderful life and praise to the Holy Queen of Heaven.

Happy Birthday

Today is the two-hundred and thirty-third birthday of the United States Navy.  Much has changed since the 13th of October in 1775 and much has remained the same. The Continental Congress authorized the outfitting of two naval vessels to search our shores and protect us from British warships supplying their troops.  In the two centuries plus that have followed thousands of young men and women have chosen to serve this country as members of the United States Navy.   Just yesterday at brunch while at Mt. Irenaeus I spoke with a physician who had served as a U.S. Navy Medical Officer for ten years. He was at the Mountain with his young family. He was a graduate of Siena College who spent time as a Franciscan Volunteer before going to medical school and after that the U.S. Navy.  He left the Navy for private practice in Greencastle, PA.  My own family has a record of naval service that spans three generations now.

There is within me a longing for the sea and the surf that has been in me all my life. Perhaps I’ll never know where it came from but it is there nonetheless. Whatever its source I salute the United States Navy today on its birthday.

Twenty-one years

Today is our daughter’s 21st birthday. Wow! Where did the last twenty-one years go? She came into our lives twenty-one years ago and at least in my case completely revised all of my assumptions about girls and women. She has gone from being cute to beautiful. She has her mother’s charm and beauty and my candor. She likes Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. She’s owns a VW Beetle now. Those are all things I did at one time or another. Just last week I told her the only thing left is to join the Navy. I don’t think she’lll be doing that anytime soon. She leaves our home again soon, this time for a year long student teaching assignment. She taught me and later her mother how to send text messages and now that’s one of the ways our family stays together.   My daughter has given me insights into the feminine mystique and in ways a father can understand. She’s been God’s gift to us and we are more than grateful. Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday to you!

My sister

Forty-nine years ago, my Mom had to go to the hospital. I was six years old then and really don’t know what I was thinking of. I knew we were going to have a new baby at our house because my Mom told me, but that’s about all I knew. I didn’t know why my Mom had to go to the hospital. Complexity is lost on six year olds. Continue reading “My sister”