Air Force


Bucket List Category: Reconnecting

As readers of this blog know, I believe people of retirement age should spend their time doing exactly what they want to do. That means continuing to work if they so desire (or must for financial reasons), traveling, taking care of grandkids, lying around by the pool, golfing, fishing, volunteering, or pursuing any of the items on their bucket list.

While my wife Trisha and I have been taking a break from many of our normal activities over the last several weeks, we have been able to pursue a few of our bucket list goals. While we did spend a lot of time taking long walks and relaxing in the Florida sun and traveling to historic places in the southeast, it was our bucket list pursuit of reconnecting with old friends that really made our time away special. 

During the Viet Nam era, I served in the United States Air Force. After my technical school training I was assigned to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas. After that, I was assigned to a NATO base in a remote area of southern Italy. My friends and co-workers were all young and it was a crazy time in our lives. A few of us got married and we all supported one another. With little money in a small Italian village, it was a no frills life to be sure.

Of course, that was a lifetime ago, but during our recent travels we were able to reconnect with some of those wonderful people from our past. First, we met Duane and his wife Barb at a Daytona Beach restaurant in the shadow of the raceway. It was for lunch, but we spent over four hours catching up and telling war stories. He and Barb had married since we last saw Duane so many years ago and he is now retired. She was terrific and we had a great time getting to know her and hearing about their family and life together.  

After a brief time in Savannah, we traveled on to South Carolina where we met our friends Dan and Marian. These folks were newly weds when we first met in Texas, and we later lived in the same little apartments over an electronics shop in the Italian village of Mesagne. That was over 40 years ago, but we were able to pick up where we left off as though it was yesterday. There wasn’t enough time to catch up completely, so after another week of travel, Trisha and I invited them to Florida where we spent four days having fun and simply spending time together. It could not have been better.

Of all the categories on our bucket list, catching up with friends and family is certainly one of the most rewarding. Is there someone in your past with whom you would like to reconnect? Get to it. Let me know how it worked out.

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Feliciano

When my wife Trisha and I speak to senior groups and organizations about successful aging, one of our most important recommendations is to socialize. Living in isolation has long been shown to be extremely detrimental to both our physical and mental well-being. Remaining social as we age has been one of the most studied and verified behaviors for continued good health and mental fitness.

This brings me to my story. More than forty years ago during the Viet Nam era, I served in the U. S. Air Force. After my first tour of duty stateside, I was sent to a NATO base in southern Italy. Being a newly wed, I desperately wanted my wife to join me. Not having much money, I devised a plan whereby I gave a buddy who was sending his wife home on a Christmas charter a few bucks, and my wife assumed her identity on the return flight. Being in such a remote part of the country, there was no room on the base for us to live so we had to live on the local economy.

Prior to her arrival, I heard of a man in a small town several miles away (it actually had a small castle) that would rent to Americans from the base. I borrowed a car and went to talk with him. He turned out to be a wonderful man named Feliciano. He was the town electrician and had four apartments above his business. He spoke very good English because during WWII he was captured by the allies early on and spent the entire war on a farm in Scotland. Beyond his language skills, during his captivity he realized a value and interest in meeting people from other cultures and perspectives. I was able to rent an apartment from him and it would be our home until my two-year tour was finished.

Visiting with Feliciano was a daily occurrence. Watching soccer on the television in his shop was great fun. He was interesting, polite, and what we might call an “old world gentleman.” Our frequent parties and loud music  brought an occasional knock on our door, but he just smiled and would say “some of the old people have complained.”

I recently discovered Feliciano died last year. It seems his beloved wife had passed away ten years ago and both of his daughters had moved out of the country to be with their husbands. The NATO base had long since closed, and when he retired, Feliciano was left with only his little home on the quiet street of his small Italian village. Finally, one morning he dressed in his suit and tie, lay on his back, put a pistol under his shirt and pulled the trigger. Unbelievably, the official report said he then pulled his shirt down and died. Proper to the end.

Learning of Feliciano’s death, and perhaps more disturbing, his loneliness, has left me very sad. I know he tried all he could to be social and he lived in isolation for as long as he could. I hope he is at peace now.

The life lessons here are so obvious, I’ll spare you the clichés. For us, hearing about our old friend got Trisha and me reminiscing about our time in that village. After some detective work on the internet, I was able to locate a couple who were good friends from our time in Feliciano’s apartment house. They live on the other side of the country, and we haven’t seen them in forty years, but we already have plans to get together sometime next month. I think Feliciano would be very pleased.

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www.TheBestofOurLives.com

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Last year I posted this link to the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs and several people wrote in to thank me. I decided it would be worth posting again. Any veteran who needs information or help in any way should click on this link to find the assistance you need and deserve.

When I joined the U. S. Air Force during the Viet Nam era, I thought my life was over. I moaned and groaned, and complained for some time. Looking back, I’m proud of my service and proud of my fellow service men. My father served and his father served. I’m happy to have joined their ranks.

We should all be very thankful for those who served our country.

On Another Note

Trisha and I want to thank all of the wonderful people who attended our keynote address at the Successful Aging Expo at the San Jose Convention Center last week. We were told we had over two hundred people at our presentation and many more came by our booth to say hello. It was a joy to see you all.

www.TheBestofOurLIves.com

Seems like we just got home and another adventure is about to begin. I truly believe I’m working harder in retirement than I ever did before. Not complaining, just thinking out loud.

Last week, we awoke and heard the space shuttle was about to fly over the bay area. Now we have a rule, for good or bad, we try not to miss any exciting opportunities that come our way. Unfortunately, we had been up very late the night before, and I looked at a drowsy Trisha and said, “Well, are we going to go see it?” She smiled and said, “Of course.” Within a few minutes we were in the car, rubbing the sand out of our eyes and eating breakfast bars and juice we had grabbed on the fly.

As we headed along the highway, Trisha asked me where I was planning to see the shuttle. I had no idea. The radio wasn’t much help and I determined that news stations are not what they used to be. They were running lots of commercials but had few details.

Once my breakfast began to take effect, and I heard the shuttle was nearing Sacramento, being an old Air Force type I knew whoever was flying that plane would fly right over the top of any Air Force base in the area. With Travis AFB to our north, I began to figure out the possible flight path. I took the next exit to a small winding two lane road through the hills that I’d only been on once before. I wasn’t sure if there would be a turnout, but finally found one just over the summit. A few minutes later, two men pulled up behind us and yelled, “Here it comes.” Over the hill came the majestic NASA 747 with the shuttle Endeavor affixed to its back. Both shimmered in the sunlight as we cheered like children and realized we had the best seats in the house. It was a thrilling and historic moment.

As we get older, it’s easy to lose our sense of wonder and simply seek comfort. But the rewards of pushing a little harder are often well worth the effort. It was certainly worth it on this day and we hope to keep pushing for some time to come.

I’m still editing my photos, but promise to publish them in a future blog.

Media News

Trisha’s Dishes, is being featured in the October issue of 110 Magazine. It’s a beautiful layout with some of Trisha’s most delicious recipes. Needless to say, I’m very proud of her. Here is the link to their online version:

October Issue, 110 Magazine

In other news, Trisha and I have been named as the Keynote Speakers for the Successful Aging Expo to be held at the San Jose Convention Center on November 3. Would love to see you there and we plan on having great fun while meeting lots of people. Here is the link for more information:

Successful Aging Expo