22 February, 2014

Tree

Almost every day, my father photographed this tree from his office window. This is not his usual angle or time of day, but I wanted to share a photograph of the Tree adorned with blue (his favorite color) ribbons in his memory.
AECB


With thanks to Linnéa Franits for the image and Steve Specht for the idea and implementation.


To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

18 February, 2014

A Movie and a Coke

by Christopher Caruso

Let me say first that I am sad, I will be for a long time, and I'm going to miss my uncle lots. He was a great guy and I loved him. But I'll be damned if you're going to cry reading something that I wrote, so knock it off. There have been enough tears lately and while some of it has to do with the IRS, the rest was for him.

I spent the better part of my free time between classes in my uncle's office at college. I'd pop in to see what he was up to and we'd talk about how my semester was going (usually not great, I'll explain later) or Apple stuff or Hobbit movies or any movie, really. I think movies were our "thing." Everyone has a "thing" with certain people and I think ours was movies. We saw many together and we always had our favorite lines. So we'd talk for five or ten minutes depending on our schedules and then we'd go our separate ways.

For the longest time at college I didn't have a major. And then I had three. The first was criminal justice, then communications, and finally sociology. I may have set some kind of collegiate record but I never bothered to check. I never really had an advisor, either. I used to make my own schedule and Uncle Thom would sign off on it. Oh...if you're ever wondering how it took six years to complete a four year degree in sociology...that's how. Anyway, he would sign off and I'd take god knows what. Finally, after semesters of this nonsense he said while signing another ridiculous homemade schedule, "you need to get an advisor and a major because this is the last one I'm signing." He was serious-ish. But I did. Well, I basically figured out what I had the most credits towards and turns out it was sociology. He knew I needed to graduate before Utica College awarded me with the "Most Classes Taken by An Undergrad" trophy. And so did I. When I finally did graduate, I found myself working at UC briefly. And when I couldn't stand to open anymore mail or file anymore transcripts, I'd pop in his office and we'd talk movies. Business as usual.

Every Christmas, when our two families would come together, we’d watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s ridiculous, heartwarming, and just plain fun to watch. We’ve watched it every year for as far back as I can remember and in a few months I’ll be 30, so we’re talking a long time here. This year, when we gather for the holidays, we’ll watch it as usual, I’m sure. And I know that when I look around to see everyone’s reaction to Clark Griswold getting a face full of wooden plank, I’ll laugh knowing that Uncle Thom would be, too. Let’s face it, there are classic movie lines like “here’s looking at you, kid” and “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” and then there’s “shitter was full!” Simple yet powerful, I think.

There are a million more things I could write about but I think Uncle Thom would have liked this version. It's the truth, it's kind of funny (I hope), but it's just a small part of what I'll miss about him. I don't remember the first movie we ever saw together but I'll always remember the last; The Desolation of Smaug. Yeah, nerd-a-rific. It will always irk me that he won't get to see the last of the trilogy, though. I hate unfinished business. But we'll definitely go, we being whoever I'm with (brother, cousins), and we'll think of him when we do. He was always game for a movie and a Coke.

15 February, 2014

Celebration of Life: Amy's Reflection on a Father's Love


One of the Really Important Things that my father taught me - along with a strong handshake - was how to make good eye contact while speaking in public, but you'll have to forgive me today because I don't think I can do both this time.

There are so many things I would like to share about my father, that I would like to say to my father, if he is listening somewhere, and most importantly that I would like to make sure my son remembers and tells his grandchildren, long after I’m gone.

I’d like to tell Finn about his patience, his empathy, his intelligence, his wit, his humility, his integrity… But I think there are others who will speak to those today, and speak more eloquently, so I just want to talk about his love.

Last summer, I was on call. While I’m on call, I often sit in front of my laptop, with our electronic medical record system open, my phone glued to my ear, and iMessage on so I can simultaneously text everyone I’m working with as I make decisions and refer patients in.

I was multitasking like this when my father text-messaged me to say good-night. It popped up on my screen and I typed “good-night kiss kiss love you lots xoxo” – wouldn’t want to under-do it - and hit “return.” But I was in the wrong window, so I actually sent the message to my attending physician. The next morning, we were laughing about it, and to paraphrase my attending's response, he wondered what he needed to do to raise his teenage daughter to be a 31-year-old who still wanted to say “I love you” before she went to sleep at night.

I told him to just love her back.

When I was six, my dad decided to teach me to play his guitar. I consider it mostly a success since I still play the piano. When I wrapped my little fingers around the too-big-for-me guitar, he told me how, when he was in college, he always dreamed about having a little girl whom he could teach this to.

It took me 15 years to realize that no 20-year-old in the whole history of Greek life at American universities has ever dreamed about playing the guitar with his daughter.

But my father loved us so unconditionally that I could not imagine a time – even before my existence – when he did not. It seemed that eternal, even to a six-year-old.

Between college and medical school, I spent a lot of time drinking coffee and doing nothing in various European countries. I went to Milan and stayed with our friend Tonia, who was my dad’s interpreter during a college trip to Italy. She told me that the most beautiful act of love she ever witnessed was my mother taking care of my father.

After I was done doing nothing, I traveled with my dad for a few weeks, while he explored the history of psychology. I was handy – in that I was capable of asking for directions in French while half-asleep and lost in Normandy and transliterating Cyrillic epitaphs in St. Petersburg – I’m still not sure how he planned to find Pavlov’s tombstone without me – and willing to order for us in German restaurants even though I don’t actually speak any German.

But my best memories of that trip are the stories that my father told about his love for my mom. We ate lunch in Arcetri, across the street from Galileo’s house, and my dad teared up talking about how proud he was that my mom had finished her master’s degree. He told me how he hovered around the college, asking her mentor over and over if she was ready to date again yet. He talked about their first date and how she told him about her cousins’ new boutique selling jeans and how he was struck by how beautiful her dark brown eyes looked when she was passionate about something, even if it was 1970s-style jeans.

A few countries later, we were sitting at a sidewalk café in Oslo, and he asked me if the women on the street were beautiful. He said, “Objectively, I know they’re supposed to be, but it’s just been so long since I’ve ever looked at anyone except your mother.” Since I was 21 and single, I just shrugged and went back to enjoying all the tall, blond, beautiful Nordic men walking by our table.

He also told me about the day he learned that my mom’s first husband had died from Hodgkin’s disease, which my dad had also had when he was in college. He said that he was thinking about proposing to her, but he thought, “No one in their right mind would sign up for that kind of grief again.” But my sister and I are thankful she did.

When my son Finn was born, I wrote to him, “Our love for you knows no limits and no bounds. It is infinite and eternal, as perfect as we are imperfect. My grandfather loved my father, your grandfather, in the same way. So did my grandparents Peter and Ida love my mother, your grandmother. I hope, if you are ever scared or lonely, you can imagine it the way I have, as an endless, unbroken thread of love running back through the generations of our family. I promise, it will give you strength when you need it most.”

January of this year was the 44th anniversary of my father’s cancer diagnosis. Most of his health problems can be traced back to his cancer treatment.

In my relatively short medical career, I have given a lot of people the worst news of their lives. I tell people that their children have cancer. Most of the time, the best and hardest part of my job is trying to help them understand that there is a tomorrow, that this is not the end of the story. Sooner or later, I tell almost everyone about my dad.

And I know they have heard his story as one about hope and faith and strength, and in hearing it, that they have found the hope and faith and strength, in themselves, to believe that their children will grow up and finish school and fall in love and raise children, like me and my sister, who will grow up and have their own families. So even though all stories end, my dad’s story, to me, is ultimately a story of hope, of always seeing the beauty of the brightest star in the darkest sky, and it’s is not one that I will ever stop telling. For me, it’s a gift that I get to keep giving, for the rest of my life.

There is a quote I really like, from a book called The Fault in Our Stars, which you should all, of course, go home and read. It reads, in part:

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's 0.1 and 0.12 and 0.112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for him than he got. But, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.”

I certainly wanted my father to have more numbers than he got, but the best thing he taught me was how to make a forever out of our numbered days.

I want to read an excerpt from a Mary Oliver poem, called In Blackwater Woods. In the last few years, I have spent quite a lot of time - more than I can say - trying to make my own peace with the fact that all of our days are, ultimately, numbered, and I have shared this poem with a lot of friends who were grieving, so I’m more than a little relieved to find out that it actually is a bit comforting. Just a little bit.

Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


Finally, I want to leave you with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, whom my father held in very great regard. We were both proud graduates of Mr. Jefferson’s University, and I feel like he'd be disappointed if I did not.

“But those 20 years alas! where are they? With those beyond the flood. Our next meeting must then be in the country to which they have flown, a country, for us, not now very distant. For this journey we shall need neither gold nor silver in our purse, nor scrip, nor coats, nor staves. Nor is the provision for it more easy than the preparation has been kind. Nothing proves more than this that the being who presides over the world is essentially benevolent.”

11 February, 2014

In celebration of Thomas Glenn Brown

To all of my father's wonderful readers and fellow bloggers,

As many of you know, my father passed away peacefully but unexpectedly last Sunday morning, in my mother's arms. He was an extraordinary father and grandfather, the best. He, along with my mother and sister, were my best friends. I cannot quantify in his loss in words. I wanted so many more years with him than we had, but I am also grateful for every minute that we had together. Even as a child, I knew I was one of the luckiest people in the world because I was his daughter.

First of all, thank you for existing. Thank you for reading, discussing, sharing and appreciating his blog. He appreciated all of you tremendously, more than I know how to share. Your readership gave him a great gift in the last few years of his life.

Secondly, please find it in your heart to keep following, at least for awhile, and please share my father's writing with new readers. He had a handful of posts already scheduled throughout 2014, which will continue to appear. I will also be sharing a few things that I'm currently writing about him, and one of my cousins, who was my father's godson, has also asked to write a piece for the blog.

Finally, my family and I hope to establish a scholarship fund in in my father's name. The scholarship will benefit a student at the University of Virginia who, like my dad, overcomes a serious medical illness during his undergraduate years. I will post more information when it is available, if you would be interested in donating.

Below is his obituary, which will appear in our local newspaper this weekend:

Dr. Thomas Glenn Brown, age 65, went home to be with those who went before him, as he passed away on Sunday, February 9, 2014 in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his devoted family.
Dr. Brown was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on August 10, 1948 to Mary Alice (Rorie) Brown and the late Harold Clifford “Brownie” Brown, Sr. His father was a senior naval officer and he was raised and educated in Norfolk, Virginia, Grand Cane, Louisiana, Hutchinson, Kansas, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was graduated from Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach in 1966.
He subsequently received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 1970, a Master of Arts degree in General Experimental Psychology from Hollins College in 1972, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Experimental Psychology from the University of Maine at Orono in 1975. He was a member of the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Virginia but was medically discharged from service after he was diagnosed with lymphoma while still an undergraduate. He was also a brother of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and a member of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology.
On January 6, 1979, he married the former Civita Ann Caruso, with whom he shared a union of profound love and mutual commitment for 35 years. They shared their singular and unconditional love with their two daughters, Amy and Megan, whom Thom supported and guided through their own challenges, failures, and successes; never was there a more devoted and proud father and grandfather. Time with his family and their happiness was his utmost priority. He enjoyed every minute with them, from family dinners to taking his wife and daughters on trips around the world. He had a nightly routine of asking his daughters how their day was and if they got any papers back, questions he continued to ask Megan regularly over dinner, years after she finished school. Thom frequently described himself as “a fortunate man.”
Dr. Brown joined the faculty of Utica College in 1975 as an assistant professor in the psychology department, becoming a full professor in 1984. He served as Chairman of the Division of Behavioral Studies from 1983 to 1988, as Vice-President and Dean of the College from 1988 to 1997 and 1998 to 1999, and as President of the College from 1997 to 1998. In the spring of 1999, he returned to a full-time teaching position as Utica College’s first Distinguished Professor of the College.
Dr. Brown served Utica College with commitment and distinction both as a division chair and as dean, demonstrating exceptional leadership and directing the overhaul of the core curriculum at the college. He was a teacher of uncommon integrity and humility, and was appreciative of the accumulated wisdom of his fellow educators and students. During the course of his career, he authored 35 papers, presentations and grants. His scientific interests included learning and motivation, specifically schedules of reinforcement and their behavioral by-products. His work in higher education centered on faculty development, freshman retention and program review and planning.
He was deeply interested in all facets of history, but particularly the history of rational thought and of the discipline of psychology, twentieth century military history as it related to his father’s naval career, and his family’s genealogical history. At the time of his death, Dr. Brown had recently written a chapter entitled “Schools of Thought: The Influence of Theory” for the forthcoming book, Pips of Child Life: Early Play Programs in Hospitals, which was co-edited by his wife Civita and will be published in May. He was a gifted writer who brought his sense of humor to all of his endeavors.
He served on the Board of Trustees for the Utica Zoological Society, the Board of Directors for the Mohawk Valley Ballet, and the Board of Directors for the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL), of which he was also president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. Dr. Brown was especially proud of his work with RCIL, a civil rights organization offering a wide range of independent living and advocacy services for and with individuals with disabilities. He was also previously a member of the Development Council, the Broadway Theatre League, the Fort Schuyler Club, Munson-Williams Proctor Institute, and the New Hartford Parent-Teacher Association. In 1991, he was named Presidenza Onoraria (Honorary President) of the Centro Studi Casauriensi in Abruzzi, Italy. His hobbies included collecting pins from Hard Rock Cafés around the world; he had visited 83 cafés in 16 countries.
Thom is survived by his wife and life partner, Civita, who was also his colleague at Utica College; his children, Dr. Amy Elizabeth Caruso Brown, a pediatric oncologist, of Denver, Colorado, Megan Glenn Brown, a psychologist, of New Hartford, and Megan’s fiancé, Matthew Rocci; his grandson of whom he was in awe, the “Mighty Finn”, Finn Thomas Caruso Brown; his mother, Mary Alice, of Virginia Beach, Virginia; and his brother, Harold Clifford Brown, Jr., of Alexandria, Virginia.
Thom was blessed with the love and kinship of his wife’s family, whom he truly regarded as his own, including his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Peter and Liz Caruso, and their children, Kelley, Peter Jr., and Christopher (also his godchild); Peter Jr.’s partner, Stephanie Perry, and their son, Gavin; his nephew and niece, Michael and Gina Killino, and their children, Michael Jr. and Jenalle; and Michael Jr.’s wife, Ginelle, and their children, Landon and Brooke. Also left to remember him are his cousins, Tom and Carolyn Rorie, Ken and Floy Rorie, and Doug and Jeri Rorie, and their families in Texas; Rosemary and Andy Anguish, their children, Andrea and Mark Elsenbeck, Andrew and Tara Anguish, and Jason and Kim Anguish, and their grandchildren, Chloe and Emily Elsenbeck; and Fred and Lucia Frontera, Clareen Miserantino, Joann and Mike Motto, John Pietrantuono, Judy and Olin Roberts, and their families.
Throughout his life, Thom sustained many wonderful and long-lasting relationships, embracing social networking in recent years to reconnect to friends from his childhood and university days and forming new friendships through his popular blog, To Gyre and Gambol (bluedollarbill.blogspot.com). He was predeceased by his wife’s parents, Ida and Peter Caruso; her aunt and uncle, Bea and Bill McAleese; and his sister-in-law, Ann Marie Killino.
At the time of Thom’s passing, he was aided by the loving support of his brother-in-law, Peter, and future son-in-law, Matthew, who made every attempt to revive him. During his last hospitalizations, Thom and Civita were grateful to Lisa Rocci who “moved mountains” to enable him to return to his home.
His family would also like to thank Dr. Michael W. Kelbermann, his cardiologist, whose honesty and sincerity comforted Thom on many occasions, but particularly during a visit just a few days before his death; Dr. James Bramley, his infectious diseases specialist, whose astute clinical reasoning saved Thom’s life more than once; and Judith M. Rosinski, his physical therapist, whose kindness and compassion Thom valued for more than 20 years.

09 February, 2014

Who Can't


A church had a man in the choir who couldn't sing. Several people hinted to him that he could serve in other places, but he continued to come to the choir.

The choir director became desperate and went to the pastor. "You've got to get that man out of the choir," he said. "If you don't, I'm going to resign. The choir members are going to quit too. Please do something."

So the pastor went to the man and suggested, "Perhaps you should leave the choir."

"Why should I get out of the choir?" he asked.

"Well, five or six people have told me you can't sing."

That's nothing," the man snorted. "Fifty people have told me that you can't preach!"

Author Unknown   

08 February, 2014

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2014 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

07 February, 2014

The Keepers And I

A few have asked what I meant by the "Keepers" in my recent posts. See: Amen and Resurrection and 18 Days Later ... . What follows is the essence of something I wrote about a four years ago, although edited and updated. I think it clarifies my intent.

A shepherd is a person who tends to, feeds, or guards sheep - especially in flocks. The word may also refer to one who provides religious guidance.

Last year I used this word to refer to those who took care of me in the hospital two years ago. They tended to me, they fed me, and they guarded my very existence. A good friend questioned my usage because the term implied "leading." To me there was an obvious reference in that interpretation. "He leadeth me beside still waters" or "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

That was, however, too literal for me. I interpreted the psalm as describing God's protection and care, perhaps guidance and care, and that is exactly what my Shepherds did for me.

Although my friend came to accept my usage, I decided to refer to those Shepherds as the Keepers. This term may also be filled with superfluous meaning, but it does avoid the religious connotation. Perhaps more importantly, it resonates with the importance I have given to lighthouses in my life's journey and the Keepers who maintain those lights.
TGB   

06 February, 2014

{this memory} 105

This is the story behind last Monday's {this moment}.

Oh, we're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo.

In the image are my two daughters back in the 1980s at the Syracuse Zoo. Zoos have always been high on our list of to-dos as I dragged my family with me just about everywhere. Another daddy memory.

I'm a believer in zoos and have served on the Board of Trustees of the Utica Zoo. The world is a better place for the existence of zoos. They do good work, and they're great family fun.

And what zoos, you ask. Well ... Rome, Paris, London, Leipzig, Central Park NYC, Washington DC, Norfolk, Chicago, San Antonio, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, San Diego (and animal park), Cincinnati, Palm Beach, Roanoke, New Orleans, and almost a dozen aquaria. Perhaps some others not coming to mind at the moment. Several whale watches too.

My girls are pretty much on their own now, but I was pleased to see them, together, taking my grandson, the Mighty Finn, to the Washington Zoo the last time we were all there.

I'm a fortunate man. Life's been good to me so far.
TGB

05 February, 2014

Mighty Finn - Update #24

Short and sweet this time, but I'll be back soon with a birthday update. And then it's the terrible twos. I can't wait to see what that's all about.

Sometimes I like to eat berries
and mull over some really deep thoughts.
So much to comprehend, but I'm making progress.

Did I mention I've been mulling over some really deep thoughts.
Well, I have, and I find that milk goes well with this activity too.

Early birthday present.
Mommy says my new kitchen is nicer than hers.
She said it took her four hours to put it together. 
That's me on the phone thanking her.

Check it out. What more could you need?
Most chicks like guys who can cook.

We had new photos taken at school.

You could put them on mugs or iPhone covers,
but I don't think we did. Cool though.

video
This is really cool. I was watching luge
and skeleton (sort of luge but head first) for the first time.
I liked it - which is why you hear me say "me."
"Take me to do that, mommy." in one word. I am just so efficient.

See you soon.

04 February, 2014

In Flew Enza

I opened the window and in flew Enza.

A lots of folks are talking about the flu this year. Some had it. Some didn't. Some got the shot. Some didn't. Everyone has an opinion, but no one got it in their butt. Arm, yes; butt, no.

I had the Asian Flu in 1957 or 58. That was a bad one - killing well over a million world-wide. Pretty much all I remember is being quite ill but especially having trouble controlling my bowels. Oh, the misery.

That was, of course, the last time I had it. Although the vaccine was developed in 1944, it wasn't popular - not like today anyway. I have gotten the shot every year for at least the last four decades, and it's kept me healthy. I do have several of the characteristics that put me smack dab in the 'oughta get' category - so I don't dare miss it. I'm one of those the flu might kill

I hear people say they got sick from it. No they didn't; it's not possible. They may have contracted the flu around the time the got the shot, but it was just a coincidence. If they had gotten the vaccine sooner, they might have avoided the flu completely, If not, it would at least be a milder version. There is more nonsense about the flu vaccine than any other vaccine out there, and the 'it causes flu' belief is the most common myth.

So ... take it next year or don't. Just don't expect a lot of sympathy from me if you get sick and you didn't get the shot.

The 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak was another bad pandemic, killing 20-40 million. A popular ditty from that era follows. Children skipped rope to it.

        I had a little bird,
        It's name was Enza.
        I opened the window,
        And in-flu-enza.


I heard it often as a child from my 94-year-old mother who always gets the shot.
TGB   

03 February, 2014

{this moment} 105

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.
TGB

02 February, 2014

To Each His Own


A priest and a rabbi operated a church and a synagogue across the street from each other. Since their schedules intertwined, they decided to go in together to buy a car.

After the purchase, they drove it home and parked in on the street between their establishments. A few minutes later, the rabbi looked out and saw the priest sprinkling water on their new car. It didn't need a wash, so he ran out and asked the priest what he was doing.

"I'm blessing it," the priest replied. The rabbi considered this a moment, then said, "Oh," and ran back inside the synagogue. He reappeared a moment later with a hacksaw, ran to the back of the car and cut off the last two inches of the tailpipe.
Author Unknown   

01 February, 2014

Tree

Almost every day I photograph this tree my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.
TGB   

Copyright © 2014 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.