Save the Roses and Try These Tips: Six Ways to Improving Communication at Home

Published in the Woonsocket Call on February 5, 2017

Effective Communication at home with your husband, wife, or partner is key to maintaining a meaningful, healthy, environment and thriving family. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Author Donna Mac, a well-known corporate trainer, based in South Eastern, Massachusetts, with 25 years of experience in the broadcasting industry, translates effective corporate communication into tips for use in enhancing communication with your loved ones.

According to Mac, sexual infidelity, commonly linked to divorce, is not the leading cause for couples separating. The corporate communications expert notes that a recent article in Psychology Today says that whether a partner’s communication “lifts you up or brings you down” is the single largest predictor of divorce.

So, mastering your communication skills may be the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give, much better than a dozen roses. Mac, founder & president of Rehoboth, MA-based DMacVoice Communications, explains her Six Pillars Of Effective Communication which can bring healthy energy into an ailing relationship and bring you closer together with your loved one.

Six Pillars of Effective Communication

“The first pillar in becoming a more effective communicator,” says Mac, noting this “is tied to ‘knowing and owning who you are.’ That means your strengths and vulnerabilities. You must be comfortable with who you are and understand that you have a right to communicate what you are thinking and feeling.” She cautions us to be careful to always communicate as calmly and respectfully as possible. Don’t wait to communicate until emotions build up to the point where that is not possible.

“Also, get a sense for whether you are you an extrovert or an introvert”. Mac notes that this will influence how you interact with your partner. According to Mac, communication tends to flows more easily for extroverts. Introverts need more time to process before they speak, but they are usually better listeners.

She also cautions against being a passive, or even a passive-aggressive communicator. Both of these styles are non-productive but they are easy to fall into. Often times it feels easier to be a passive communicator because being an effective communicator take courage and work. “These days, it’s easy to hide behind our computer screens,” she says.

The second Pillar calls for the need to understand your partner. “Understand how your personality and communication style differs from that of your loved one,” suggests Mac, who says that there are differences as well as varying points of view in every relationship. “When you disagree, be open to the possibility that either of you may be “right” or “wrong” or a bit of both. Be open to learning something new. It is also important to make it easy for your partner to share his or her vulnerabilities and ask for your help. “Create a safe space for communications by allowing and encouraging your partner to communicate often and to be authentic,” she adds.

To use a phrase from her book, you can continue to “understand your audience” over the years by listening intently and often.

Pillar three encourages you to “master the content of the conversation” you are about to have. She stresses the need to be clear on what it is you would like to say especially if you have to have a challenging conversation.

Mac says, “You may need to practice how you are going to broach an extremely difficult topic. Do your best to speak in a way that is compelling but concise and has the best interest of both of you. Instead of accusing your partner of something, talk about the way that issue has affected you. Remember, they might not know if you don’t’ tell them. Also, try not to ramble. Instead, state your case with clarity and the most positive energy you can muster. If their actions are unacceptable, know where your boundaries lie and clearly and calmly state them.”

Put Yourself Into Their Shoes

Pillar four calls for you to “anticipate questions and reactions” to conversations.” Mac recommends, while you want to make sure you get your point across, ensure that you’ve taken time to put yourself into your partner’s shoes. “Life isn’t easy for anyone. But if you take time to think about and anticipate how they may feel or react to your topic you won’t be so quick to react emotionally and with harsh words and energy.

By anticipating reaction you will be able become more proactive in your relationship, she says, noting that, “your partner will appreciate it.”

“Remember, effective communication in a trusted relationship takes time, thought and occasional discomfort,” says Mac.

Pillar five suggests that you “speak to serve” in your conversations. “When you ‘serve’ the person you’re speaking with, you are taking time to make sure that the conversation is not “all about you”. It’s for the benefit of you, for them and for the greater good of the relationship or even the entire family!” says Mac. “When you serve while speaking, you are making sure that understanding is taking place. If you’re not sure that it is, you might want to say something like, “is this making sense to you?”

Finally, Pillar six calls for you to “detach from the outcome” of the conversation. “If you follow the first 5 Pillars of Effective Communication you will be well on your way to becoming a highly effective communicator. But you aren’t quite there yet!” states Mac. It is very important that you don’t try to control your partner’s reaction.

Instead of concerning yourself with perfection, remain flexible and detached, knowing that total agreement is never possible. Plus, it’s really unimportant. What is important is the health and strength of your relationship and two powerful voices, even if they don’t always see eye to eye,” she adds.

Don’t Try to Change Others, Change Yourself

Mac suggests that if you want to become an effective communicator, don’t focus on changing the other person. We have no control over other people, only ourselves. “So work on changing what you can change in your communication style so that you can communicate in compelling and influential ways”.

While Mac’s Six Pillars Of Effective Communication can be directed to couples, look at the recommendations and try replacing “romantic” partner with “business” partner or someone you’re collaborating with at work. And replace “the entire family” with “the entire department or company in Pillar five.

“These communication tips are universal and are the foundation for healthy professional AND personal relationships. The are not easy to integrate into our lives, but the more you use them, the quicker they’ll become part of who you are and how you communicate.”

Donna Mac is author of Guide to a RICHER LIFE–Know Your Worth, Find Your Voice & Speak Your Mind and The Six Pillars of Effective Communication. She is also a keynote speaker and private coach. For more details, go to http://www.dmacvoice.com.

You Are Never Too Old for Romance

Published in Pawtucket Times, February 13, 2015

             Packing your bags can simply become the first step you take toward rekindling your relationship. Last week, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Love and Relationships Ambassador Dr. Pepper Schwartz weighed in on a recently released AARP Travel study that reveals that 85 percent of Americans 45-plus have not taken a romantic vacation in the past two years.

For Dr. Schwartz, Ph.D., a sociologist and sexologist teaching at the University of Washington Seattle Washington, an author or co-author of 19 books, magazines, website columns and a television personality on the subject of sexuality, the findings reveal a need for couples to plan romantic getaways as a way to spend quality time with their partner and bolster their relationship.

Make Time for Love

In a release, Dr. Schwartz, co-author of the newly released book Places for Passion, says “There is every indication that romantic travel really does refresh a couple’s relationship, makes them feel more in love, and makes them crave each other’s company,” “And there is also research, which indicates that trying something new is the best bonding mechanism of all.”

“I wish we could be as romantic at home as we can on a trip- but there is something about getting away that lets us forget about our daily stuff and instead, fully concentrate on each other,” says Dr. Schwartz. “When we stay at home, it’s hard not to answer the phone or try and answer one more email- but in fact, we seem to need to get away- to have a new stage setting’ for romance  to bring out the best in us,” she adds.

“That of course goes double if you have children at home; even a short getaway without them is a great romantic boost,” notes Schwartz. .

But, if a vacation can be healthy for your relationship, why are the numbers of those who have taken romantic vacations so low? According to AARP Travel research, people most often cite busy schedules and tight budgets as the primary reasons to not pack their bags, forgoing a needed vacation. However, Dr. Schwartz says that with smart and easy-to-use tools and resources, the perfect romantic vacation can be just as relaxing to plan as it is to enjoy and affordable.

Creating New Memories, Igniting Passions

Dr. Schwartz’s book, Places for Passion, co-written with Dr. Janet Lever, Ph.D., a sociology professor  at California State University in Lost Angeles, who lead teams of researchers who designed three of the largest sex surveys ever tabulated (also coauthoring  Glamour’s Sex and Health column), outlines 75 destinations across the world for couples to explore and create new memories.  Because people have such different preferences Dr. Schwartz and Lever’s 416 page book, published in December 2014, identifies romantic destinations in urban areas, around beaches, in places that offer national wonders, or those places for the adventurous.

“However, whether we are recommending, Santa Fe, Bali, Zion or Capetown, there are certain romantic ‘must haves’ that are specified in the book, says Dr. Schwartz. She also urges aging travelers to avoid “convention hotels” which can ruin a romantic mood. “We don’t like Bed and Breakfast Inns unless they are built for privacy and still provide private, luxurious bathrooms,” adds Dr. Schwartz, noting she and Lever provide the reader with a full listing of hotels, restaurants and attractions– all geared for romance.

Creating the Mood

Get expert advice to create the romantic mood, says Lever, suggesting that the hotel concierge or manager be approached for interesting ideas or help in creating dinners in unexpected places.  “We’ve heard of people placed at the side of waterfalls, alone in front of the fireplace, or even loaned the balcony in an unused suite,” she says, stressing, “You won’t know what your options might be if you don’t ask.”

Lever says, “If you are already on vacation, splurge on a room service dinner.  If you’re not, look to the future and create an ‘I Owe You’ for a future travel getaway.  Set your date, so it really happens, then enjoy a nice dinner and ponder the choices for your promised vacation.”

Book reviewers are raving about Places for Passion, too.  Dr. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., Anthropologist at Rutgers University, says, “Travel is the liquor of romance. Novelty triggers the brain’s dopamine system to sustain romantic passion. This surge soon fires up testosterone to tickle your sex drive.  And as you hug and kiss, you feel the oxytocia system – ushering in feelings of deep attachment.  So Peper Schwartz and Janet Lever have it right with t his charming book.  It’s full of great ideas on how to keep love alive.

“As for spice, we are the same authors who wrote The Getaway Guide for a Great Sex Weekend! It’s a much different type of book with a lot of tips for providing more eroticism and sexual playfulness, adds Dr. Schwartz. “But for starters people who could make sure they brought sexier clothes to sleep in (or even take off), and maybe rent an erotic movie or read a sexy book. Giving each other a shampoo and head rub in the shower a foot or hand massage afterwards also helps heat up the evening, “she says.

AARP Travel (www.aarp.org/romantictravel) includes information about most of those destinations on the website alongside other planning guides, which can be valuable tools for couples looking to enhance their relationship this Valentine’s Day weekend.

To watch Dr. Pepper Schwartz talk about AARP Travel’s research on the importance of Romantic Travel, please visit: origin-qps.onstreammedia.com/origin/multivu_archive/MNR/66070_Pepper_Schwartz_Valentines_Day_0202.mp4.

(Note: This is the unedited version submitted to the newspapers.

When That Time Comes for Liquidating Your Childhood Home

Published in the Pawtucket Times, March 29, 2013 

            It’s now a traditional rite of passage that marks a person transitioning to baby boomer-hood, that is the difficult task of cleaning out a childhood home. Like millions of aging baby boomers before her, a writer friend of mine is now facing this later life stage milestone and the challenging chore of cleaning out 50 years of accumulated “stuff” in her parent’s home, following the recent passing of her widowed father.

 

            The East Providence resident tells me that her parents, married for over 60 years, had lived in the same 1960s ranch-style house for 50 years, and the older couple’s household goods just kept accumulating.  “Beyond basic cleaning, my parents never really ‘decluttered’ or even had a yard sale,” she noted, where they could easily get rid of household clutter to make some extra cash.

 Overcoming Seller’s Guilt, Finding Time to Sort

             Never mind the emotional feelings experienced, especially the twinge of guilt at disposing of things that were once important to her parents, accumulated over five decades.  But what about the time it takes to just sift through a lifetime of accumulated household goods, clothing, and furniture, says my overwhelmed friend. “It’s just too much stuff to get rid of – especially with my very demanding full-time job and little time on the weekends to sort through things.”   

             “Many of my parent’s personal items, like a sold dark cherry wood bedroom set, dishes, glasses, barware and vases from the 1940s and 1950s, boxes of old coins, even hand-embroidered table cloths and runners, are just too nice to get rid of at a weekend yard sale,” notes my friend. But, because of their age these items may not be considered truly antiques, she says.

 

            “Where do you take mom’s collection of Franklin Mint plates, porcelain figurines of carousel horses and birds, even some Hummel pieces?” my friend asks, who does not want to drive around to the coin store, antique dealer or linen store to sell each item.  Selling on EBay is just too much work, she believes.

 

Choosing the Right Strategy to Liquidate

           So, what steps do older children take in cleaning out a lifetime of their parent’s personal mementos and personal belongings from their childhood home?  Do you rent a dumpster and indiscriminately begin tossing away their loved ones cherished possessions, or hire a professional liquidator or a junk hauler to have someone come and do the pitching for you?   What about holding a big weekend yard sale, that might just do the trick?  Be warned, by choosing one of these options you might be under-selling an item that could be valuable due to its age, quality or rarity.    

           Making the right decision on how to liquidate your parent’s personal belongings might just rest on how financially well-heeled they were,” says Scott Davis, who operates New England’s highest volume antiques venue, the Rhode Island Antique Mall with his wife Rae.  “Having liquidated many hundreds of estates I can tell you that unless you come from a family of significant means or your parents were knowledgeable collectors, it’s highly unlikely that the combined value of the estate’s tangible assets is going to have a wholesale liquidation value of over $5,000 once the family claims the items they want to keep (which are usually the most valuable)” notes the antique dealer.   “Thus you have to make a decision about how much effort is really appropriate for you to spend trying to get top dollar for every object.”

            “If your parent’s estate is known to have higher value tangible assets you might want to first hire an appraiser to determine the value of at least the most important items,” suggests Davis, noting that “a legitimate appraiser should always charge by the hour, not by item value.”

           Davis states that higher-end antique dealers or auction houses will “cherry pick” your items, only taking the most interesting and valuable things.  Antique dealers should typically pay the most for each item.  Auctioneers might bring more but will never guarantee it, and many items sold at auction bring shockingly low prices so deciding which way to go depends on your risk tolerance.  Others dealers or liquidators will offer to take a larger percentage of the household goods at a lower cost per item while junk dealers or junk removal services may take everything in the house but will frequently actually charge you for the service while keeping anything they can re-sell.   “You have to determine what type of service suits your situation best,” he says, going on to say that in his experience it never pays to go straight to the junk guy first.

           Davis recommends that in most cases it doesn’t pay to attempt to sell items yourself noting that it can be very time consuming to sell things one piece at a time and buyers are hesitant to pay retail prices to inexperienced sellers.  An antique dealer or private buyers can be easily found on-line, in local phone books, or in dealer directories that can be found in local shops.  According to Davis, if you chose this option, dealers will typically offer you less than half of the anticipated retail value of the items but they of course have a lot of risk and expense along with their entitlement to earn a profit for their efforts.

          Some folks attempt to sell their items on EBay or Craig’s List but Davis warns that unless you have a lot of prior experience, the results are usually disappointing or worse.  Selling on-line yourself requires a lot of time for research, photography, copywriting, corresponding and shipping while buyers tend to shy away from sellers who have little or no feedback; resulting in no takers for fixed price sales or very low prices realized for auction sales.

           While it may take longer to sell everything, consignment is another option you might consider, Davis says.  However, the Pawtucket-based antique dealer warns that you’ll usually pay from 35% to 60% of the items retail selling price for this service. 

           Davis urges folks to always look for customer traffic, location, reputation and fee structure if you choose to place items on consignment.  Check the references of the antique dealer or liquidator you may be interested in working with, inspecting their retail establishment to determine if it is professionally run.  Meanwhile, he notes that consigned piece usually sells in 60 days or less; otherwise the price is reduced or the item is returned to you.  Antique shops or malls are the best places to consign more valuable antiques, collectibles and vintage items, while newer or lesser valued items will usually do best in local consignment shops that focus on useful second hand items.  Pawn shops are rarely if ever your best option unless you wish to borrow money using the items as collateral, he says. 

           When cleaning out a home, consider throwing away old mattresses, towels, bedding and paperwork yourself, as these items are usually not valuable and will cost you more for others to dispose of, says Davis, noting that often times it is not easy to determine what other things should just be thrown away.  “Although traditional antiques and collectibles like pottery, glassware and china, frequently have little demand in today’s market, seemingly valueless items that include war souvenirs, political memorabilia and even nostalgic items like old phones, light fixtures and old linens, may be quite valuable,” he says. 

          Davis warns not to begin your house cleaning by throwing things away in a dumpster or planning your yard sale without calling a reputable antique dealer or estate liquidator to assist you in “separating the wheat from the chafe” first.   They are accustomed to sorting through drawers, boxes, closets and basements and their experience enables them to quickly identify valuable items, he says.

         Finally, rare antiques and collectibles can be sold for top dollar at auctions, Davis notes. “The right item in the wrong auction can produce a total flop,” he observes, noting that there’s usually a long wait between the day you initially contact an auction house and day it actually sells – probably about a year.  A good full-service liquidator can help you to determine when auctioning is the right option and if so, which auctioneer will suit you best.  They are usually paid by the auctioneer for this referral service, so it’s a no-lose for the seller.        

             For more information on liquidating your childhood home, contact Scott Davis at 401/475-3400, email him at RIAntiquesMall@cox.net, or go to riantiquesmall.com.

 

            Herb Weiss, LRI ‘12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Internet Sex Survey Sheds Light on What’s “Normal” in Relationships

Published in Pawtucket Times, February 8, 2013

Just after the little blue tablet, Viagra, endorsed on television commercials by a former Senate majority leader and former presidential contender Bob Dole in the late 1990s, the prescription wonder drug for those with erectile dysfunction in later life literally became the talk of the town.

We began to talk a little bit more openly about our sexuality, joking about the miraculous powers of the Viagra, including Cialis and Levitra, probably with the intent to relieve our own personal discomfort of the taboo topic of sex.

But even today, this columnist still hears snickers from those who believe that older persons are asexual, and that sex is of no interest to them in their twilight years. It’s a myth, experts say, their observations supported by a recently published book and a decade worth of AARP studies on sexual attitude and practices.

Creating a New Normal for Your Relationship

Based on data obtained on the internet from nearly 70,000 respondents from the United States and around the world (with significant numbers of returns coming from China, Spain, Italy, France, England, Australia, Philippines, Hungary, Brazil, and Canada), last Wednesday Random House released, The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship.

Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D, Love and Relationship Ambassador for AARP, a Sociologist who teaches at University of Washington, and her coauthors, wellness entrepreneur Chrisanna Northrup and Dr. James Witte, Ph.D., a Sociologist who serves as Director of the Center for Social Science Research at George Mason University, teamed up to design a very unique interactive internet survey that would draw relationship data from around the world.

The researchers partnered with AARP, American on Line, the Huffington Post and Reader’s Digest, who encouraged tens of thousands to take the project’s innovative internet survey.

Dr. Schwartz and her co-researchers, took a look at what constitutes “normal” behavior among happy couples and outlined what steps you should take if that “normal” is one you want to strive for. They believe that their study gives the “clearest picture yet of how well couples are communicating, romancing each other, satisfying each other in the bedroom, sharing financial responsibilities, and staying faithful.”

Since the Normal Bar survey methodology sorts for age and gender, racial and geographic differences and sexual preferences, the authors were able to reveal, for example, what happens to passion as we grow older, which gender wants what when it comes to sex, the factors that spur marital combat, how kids figure in, how being gay or bisexual turns out to be both different and the same, and –regardless of background — the tiny habits that drive partners absolutely batty.

The book provides revelations to the reader, from the unexpected popularity of certain sexual positions, to the average number of times happy – and unhappy — couples kiss, to the prevalence of lying, to the surprising loyalty most men and women feel for their partner (even when in a deteriorating relationship), to the vivid and idiosyncratic ways individuals of different ages, genders and nationalities describe their “ideal romantic evening.”

Much more than a peek behind the relationship curtain, The Normal Bar offers readers an array of prescriptive tools that will help them establish a “new normal” in their relationships. Mindful of what keeps couples stuck in ruts, the book’s authors suggest practical and life-changing ways for couples to break cycles of disappointment and frustration.

AARP Article Zeros in On Older Couples

The Normal bar survey findings in this recently released book, drawn from responses of 8,000 survey respondents who are over age 50, were published in the February/March issue of AARP The Magazine in an article, penned by Northrup, Drs. Schwartz and Witte, entitled Sex at 50+: What’s Normal? Among the findings reported in this AARP article:

Thirty two percent of men and 48% of woman do not hug their partner in public. The researchers believe that public displays of affection (PDA) positive impact relationships. Sixty eight percent now showing PDA are unhappy or slightly happy with their partner. A whopping 73% of the happiest couples can’t keep their hands off each other in public and do so at least once a month.

Meanwhile, 78% of the couples admit they hold hands at least some of the time. However it seems to be the younger pairs, because among all the couples who have been together for over 10 years, more than half say they no longer hold hands.

“I love you,” just three little words said often may just spice up your relationship. The researchers found that among the happiest couples, 85% of both men and woman said those words at least once a week. It’s a male thing – more than 90% of men tell their partner “I love you” regularly while only 58% of the woman do so.

The researchers found that 74% of the happiest couples will give their partner a passionate smooch. Thirty-eight percent of all age 50 plus couples do not passionately kiss. Kissing can be the connector between each partner, note the researchers.

Thirty-one percent of the aging baby boomer couples have sex several times a week while only 28% have sex a couple of times a month. Around 8% have sex just one time a month.

Forty-seven percent of woman praise their partner’s appearance regularly in comparison to 55% of men. The study’s findings reveal that praise is important for a couple’s happiness.

Thirty-two percent of the couples give a thumbs down to date nights. Eighty-eight percent of the happiest couples spend time alone together. The researchers recommend that you go out twice a month to “maintain the sense of closeness.”

Thirty-three percent of the respondents report they rarely or never have sex. However, even among the happiest couples, a whopping one-fourth don’t do it.

Dr. Schwartz believes that the most important observation made from the study is that sexuality is important throughout one’s lifespan. “People have to take care of their relationship and not put it on automatic pilot,” she says.

Bringing Sexuality Out of the Closet

With the graying of America’s population, it is now time to bring senior sexuality out of the closet. We must accept the fact that sexuality continues throughout the human life-span, and encompasses more than just intimate sexual intercourse. It also includes cuddling, a tender kiss, a light touch on the shoulder, or holding hands, as noted in The Normal Bar.

A well-known song, “As Time Goes By,” reminds us sexuality is to be experienced by both young and old. “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”

For more info about The Normal Bar, to take the Normal Bar survey or to purchase the book, go to http://www.thenormalbar.com.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

An Aging Baby Boomer’s Reflections on Losing a Parent

             Published on December 29, 2003, Pawtucket Times

              Last week, Frank M. Weiss, my 89-year-old father, died. While he had been ailing and was well along in years, it was quite a shock to receive the phone call from my sister Mickie that he had died.

               The death of a parent can be considered a major milestone in an aging baby boomer’s life.  In her 264-page book published by Cambridge University Press. Debra Umberson, author of “Death of a Parent: Transition to a New Adult Identity,” says “the death of a parent launches a period of self-realization and the transformations of the adult identity.”

              Umberson, a professor and chair of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, states a parent’s death is “the turning point in one’s emotional and social lives of adults and can bring changes in how a person views themselves and their relationship with the outside world.”

             A parent’s death creates an “opening that pushes them into the final transition into adulthood, Umberson says.

           Dad’s death did create for me an opportunity for reflection on his life.

            My dad loved his wife, Sally, very much.  Married for more than 62 years, she was the most important person in his life.

            His four children were also very important to him, too.

           Over the years, I remember Dad always telling me on our weekly phone calls how proud he was of Mickie, Nancy, Jim and me.  He also loved his five grandchildren, Leslie, Jennifer, Kim, Stephanie and Jamie, and his three great-grandchildren, Jacquelyn, Allison and Haleigh.

           Dad warmly accepted Justin, Deb and Patty, his children’s son and daughters-in-laws into the Weiss family.

           As a youngster, I remember Dad working hard to support the family.  Although he worked long hours, he would always find time to go to a ball game or just spend time with his kids.

           Fast forward to the adult years.  When my siblings became adults, he would continue to be our biggest fan.

          Even during the ups and downs in our personal and professional careers, Dad was alway there giving us advice, encouragement, support and oftentimes, financial backing.

          Coming from a Jewish heritage, we always joked about how appropriate it was for Dad to be in the “Schmata” business, otherwise known as the clothing business.  He worked for more than 30 years at Colbert Volks, a well-known woman’s clothing store in Dallas, Texas.  He could see a style or trend before it happened, aways predicting what new coat styles would sell in a particular season.

         How ironic, I thought when Mickie informed me that he suddenly died at Colbert Volks, shopping for a present to give to my mother.

          Dad was like the Energizer rabbit – he kept working, working and working. No retirement for this man.  Two years after his bypass surgery, my 70-year old Dad wanted to chart a new course in his career.  he began a second job and worked at C”est Simone, a national manufacturer of women’s appear, until the mid-70s.

         I will always remember:

         Stories of Dad’s childhood. He was a great football player and a Gold Gloves boxer, I was told.

          Shooting hoops in the backyard for ice cream.  He always lost– we always won, getting that double-dipped chocolate ice cream as a prize.

          At restaurants, I remember Dad drinking cup after cup of black coffee, with the decaf coffee never being quite hot enough for  his tastes.

         Dad would touch people in simple ways. He had a roll of Susan B. Anthony dollars, giving out the coins to anyone who crossed his path. “Don’t spend them ,” they’re lucky coins,” he would say.

        My dad was very honest.  Once a coat manufacturer sent him a box containing money hoping to entice  him to purchase  coats from the company. Dad never accepted that money.

         He was a practical joker. I remember being told a story about the day he sat as a very young child, at a street curb and put his leg in front of a truck, daring the vehicle to go.  This particular time the joke was on him – the truck moved, his leg didn’t, and bones in one leg were broken.

       As a teenager, Dad would tip over outhouses throughout his neighborhood.  He would  assure me that nobody was in them.

         Years later, at this sister-in-law’s house in Pikesville, Maryland, Dad walked over to her neighbor’s house and gave his advice on how to plant a tree.  Heeding his advice, the neighbor dug the hole deeper, deeper, and deeper, until the ball of the tree was five feet from the top of the hole. Later a local landscaper would come by and inform the tree planter that the hole was too deep.

        Throughout his long life, Dad cared about people.

       During his Army days, as an officer of the day, he ordered a cook to put cold cuts out for a group of soldiers who came by to eat after being out in the rain all day.  The watery beef stew was not good enough for these guys, he would later tell me.  While his superiors called him on the carpet for that act of kindness, he stood up to the military bureaucracy, demanding them to be accountable to their troops.

        By tapping his business colleagues, Dad would successfully raise money for the AMC Cancer Society to help those battling that dreaded disease.

        Later, he would be recognized by the organization for his fund-raising efforts. For those who know me, perhaps that is where I get my skills in fundraising.

         In thinking back, I thought dad seemed to know that death was near.  A week before he died, in my last phone conversation with him, I sensed he knew he was ready to go.

        Dad had made peace with is life experiences, the good and the bad, telling me that “he had lived a good, prosperous life, had a beautiful wife and was very proud of each child and their accomplishments in their lives.”

        Due to my mother’s Alzheimer’s and his failing health, years ago he was forced to sell and move away from the house he had lived in for more than 50 years, the family  homestead and a place with  happy memories from him.

       In his final days, Dad  was in constant pain and had great difficulty walking. Dad went the way most of us would want to go on December 18, 2003 –very fast and in no pain.

       Over the coming weeks, I am sure that I will continue to process my Dad’s sudden death, a major  milestone in my life.

       I am reminded of this phrase from the movie “Summer of 42”: “Life is made up of small comings and goings – and for everything we take with us – we leave a part of ourselves behind.”

       So true. While Dad’s love may well propel me into adulthood. I can assure you that my memories of him won’t be left behind.

        Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.