Category Archives: LINES FROM LYDIA

NOVEMBER LINES FROM LYDIA: SAD NUMBERS…

SAD NUMBERS–NOT WRONG.  JUST SAD.

By Lydia Bogar

I am very proud that my hometown of Worcester is host to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Green Hill Park.

The Place of Flags, at the entrance to the Memorial, hosts the American flag, the flag of the Commonwealth, and, of course, the black and white Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag that has become a universal symbol of the wounds and strife of the twenty years that our troops were in Southeast Asia.  1955 to 1975.

The Place of Names, in the deepest section of the Memorial,  is surrounded by a wall that can serve as seating for the young and old who come to this sacred place. The names of the dead and missing are first listed on “The Wall” in Washington before they are accepted onto these local granite guardians next to the flags and words.

The Place of Words is the most powerful on these four acres. Etched into these gray monoliths are letters written from thirteen service members to their mothers and fathers, girlfriends, and younger brothers. You must see these words yourself; I could never do justice to them in this small space.

One thousand five hundred forty-seven Americans.

One thousand five hundred forty-six men from Massachusetts who died in combat or later from their combat injuries.

One woman, Second Lt. Pamela Donovon, R.N. from Brighton MA.

Nor should we forget the two hundred thirty-five thousand service members from Massachusetts who came home from that conflict. Do they walk these paths? Do the parents and siblings come to this hallowed place, or does it continue to be too difficult to bear?

Construction cost: One point four million dollars.

Dedicated: June 9, 2002.

On September 18, 2011, the War Dog Monument was dedicated to the four thousand dogs–search dogs, guard dogs, tunnel dogs, bomb dogs–who served between 1965 and 1975.

“HE IS YOUR FRIEND, YOUR PARTNER, YOUR DEFENDER, YOUR DOG.  YOU ARE HIS LIFE, HIS LOVE, HIS LEADER.  HE WILL BE YOURS, FAITHFUL AND TRUE, TO THE LAST BEAT OF HIS HEART.
YOU OWE IT TO HIM TO BE WORTHY OF SUCH DEVOTION.”

These dogs were classified as equipment and were routinely euthanized or left behind when our troops came home. It is a conservative estimate that these canine warriors saved over ten thousand lives during their ten years of service. When federal law changed seventeen years ago, retired military dogs could be adopted by law enforcement agencies. The first civilian adoption took place in Massachusetts in 2002.

I’ve used numerals only for dates in this piece.  I have written out the numbers representing our fellow Americans, the casualties of that conflict, who should never be considered just numbers.

For more information or to provide a donation, go to  http://massvvm.org/

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: SKYWARN SPOTTER Rob Macedo

SKYWARN SPOTTER ROB MACEDO

Rob Macedo at the National Weather Services Headquarters in Taunton

by Lydia Bogar

Red Sox, lobsta, Vineyard v. Nantucket, chowdah…and weather! Topics we New Englanders love to talk about—with the weather and its local propensity to change every ten minutes coming in at the top of the list.

This summer, we have seen a heat index of 106 degrees.  So, will we see a wind chill of 18 degrees below zero this winter?

On Monday October 22nd, we will hear from a self-professed weather geek, Rob Macedo, Amateur Radio Coordinator for the National Weather Service Boston/Norton SKYWARN program.

Rob has always had an interest in weather, a passion that peaked when his father gave him an Amateur Radio when he was 8 years old.  His uncle was an Amateur Radio Operator, and when Ron was in high school—with the support of both his dad and his uncle–he earned his Amateur Radio license. During his years at UMass Dartmouth, Rob wove a fabric of electronics, algorithms, graphs, and meteorology into a degree in electrical engineering technology. Since graduation, he has been employed at EMC/Dell.

Ron was SKYWARN trained in 1996. “It’s amazing to be trusted by the National Weather Service to teach SKYWARN to the general public,” he says.  “I feel that technology and weather can be very complementary.”  He goes on to say that “Collecting valuable weather and damage reports is a data science problem that can be solved through technology–and the work of good people. I would say, some weeks, my time commitment to SKYWARN is just a few hours, but in stormy periods, it can be up to 30 hours.” But, he reports, “The stormy times are always the most interesting!”

There are over 7000 SKYWARN Spotters in the NWS Boston/Norton coverage area. One-third are also Amateur Radio Operators.

Rob prefers not to comment on the veracity of the Farmer’s Almanac and continues to be amazed by the mechanics of the National Hurricane Center.

He would like to go storm chasing in the future, but for right now, he’s busy working with a global team on advanced data storage issues in the EMC division of Dell Technologies. In his not-so-spare time, in anticipation of upcoming snowfall totals, Rob collects damage reports and rainfall totals from across the state.

Check out the SKYWARN website at: https://www.weather.gov/box/skywarn

Seasoned sailor or ambitious golfer, the weather impacts our lives every day. Come to the BOLLI Gathering Space on Monday October 22nd to meet Rob Macedo of NWS Boston SKYWARN.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Boga

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

OCTOBER LINES FROM LYDIA: THE HOUSE AT 25

THE HOUSE AT 25

by Lydia Bogar

I can return to the house at 25 because, when I cleaned it out and sold it three years ago, I did so with respect. Respect for the efforts taken by Daddy to buy it. The efforts of Mom, with love and support from Papa, to keep it. Respect for the gardens, the contents of the cabinets, the memories in the cellar. I can sit in the zero-gravity chair at Liza’s house, in my brother’s old room, enjoy the reflexology, and not be intimidated by the room that was his space. The best part is that I can easily say I am going to Liza’s house.  Not home.  Not Mom’s.  Not my old house.

The house is full of life again, a life of a different kind.  A single woman gardener who cooks from scratch but who is not my mother. In at least a hundred ways, she is not my mother.  A nurse.  A massage therapist.  A lesbian.  And yet, she is like her.

Liza has a few of Mom’s cookbooks. It seemed the right thing to do. She keeps them in the same place on the counter where Mom kept hers.  Kindred spirits.  Since Liza believes in and practices alternative, holistic medicine, I wonder if Mom will communicate with her from heaven.  Absolutely in heaven, nothing half way for Ruthie.  Nothing  halfway, I suspect, for Liza either.

Liza is not an ordinary nurse but a holistic nurse working with distressed patients in a community clinic.  In it for the long haul. She is fearless and focused, which at her core, was also my mother. The mother, the widow, the only child.  The survivor.

Two dogs, one old Bassett and one very spunky mongrel. There is dog damage at 25–chewed baseboard and door trim.  A cracked window not repaired.  The garage no longer holds my mother’s odds and ends but Liza’s odds and ends, mostly for her gardening. I have not been in the cellar yet, but it isn’t necessary for me to go there. I know this house, every bit of it, and yet, it is no longer mine.  Mine is at number 8. Mine for 44 years, twice the length of time that I lived at 25.

Twenty-five.  Written out, it doesn’t taste different.  With the exception of the dog fence, the yard looks the same.  Maybe when those big ugly old pines come down, it will look different. The Shasta daisies look the same. The Rugosa roses that trail the ranch fence. The flamboyant Scotch Broom that welcomes spring. The shed–with its tired, ragged doors open–looks abandoned. The birdhouse that I made at camp in 1958 is no longer on the south side of the shed. It is on a tree at number eight. The dogs and cats that live at twenty-five run in and out of the shed, taking refuge from the rain or heat, soon to be snow and cold.

Scout, the frantic Beagle mix, barely reminds me of Bobo, my first dog.  My clearest image of Bobo is a small black and white photo of her with Daddy.  Poor, silly old girl. She kept Mom company as the nest emptied.

That thought reminds me of the crazy Malamute that Steven adopted when he got out of the Air Force in 1973. That dog chewed the headboard and then the smaller, wagon-wheel footboard. What a sad sight that was.

Dogs own houses and people.

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

AUGUST LINES FROM LYDIA: IMRE’S LEAP OF FAITH

IMRE’S LEAP OF FAITH

by Lydia Bogar

Buda–the city on the hill–and Pest–the open flat land across the Danube–were joined by five bridges.

Imre was a soldier in the Hungarian Army, the only one of Stefan and Elizabeth’s three sons still in the country. Watching and feeling the frozen pellets of snow blowing across the river, he was thinking of his younger brothers who were now in America’s Army.  Could Frigyes, age 38, and Sandor, age 33, be out there with the Allies on the eastern flank of his magnificent city? Could they be having a hot meal?  Real food prepared by the soldiers in the Red Army?

Last week, the nurses in the underground told him that the Russians had conscripted dozens of Romanians who were camped under the bridges and in the derelict school on Margaret Island. Only half of the Margaret Bridge remained standing.  The bombs were out there.  Always out there. There were no lights on the bridge or on the island, or in the shattered city of Pest.  Only smudges of fog and shadow, pearl-like puffs, drifted across his line of vision.

He thought of his sister, only a year younger than he, now a wife and mother, 40 years of age and living in a place called Massachusetts. Would he ever see this village called Worcester? Would he ever meet any of his three young nephews?

His stomach growled in contempt of the frozen strips of meat and the dirty water in his cup.  There was stale bread, mostly frosted with mold, eaten in spite of warnings from the Captain.  Melted snow washed down the wretched food, if you could even call it that. Wretched is the only suitable word for the strips of meat, cut from the frozen carcasses of two cavalry horses found at the bottom of Gellert Hill. Rumors swirled around the fallen timber that his comrades used as a dining table.

The fragrant memories of his mother’s kitchen did not satisfy the ache deep in his belly, nor did the visualization of his village. He was a professional photographer but nothing in his current view called for the permanence of a photograph. Perhaps when he found his paper and pens, he would draw the Vagysala dinner table with Gomba Leves (mushroom soup) Borju Porkolot (veal stew) and Dios Torta (walnut cake). Today, his village seemed a million miles away.

Communication was nearly impossible at this point in the war, but he prayed for his family daily–especially for his parents who had returned from America only a handful of years before.

I can only imagine this was my uncle’s prayer as he vanished from the face of the earth on that Christmas Eve, 1944.

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta–educated at BOLLI.”

JULY LINES FROM LYDIA: MY HEROES

MY HEROES

by Lydia Bogar

Two weeks ago, the media  reminded us of our history–particularly our veterans, living and dead, who gave this country their courage and strength.  Among them, my father who joined the American Army in 1939, a year after his arrival from Budapest.  I have bronzed in my mind the image of him in uniform holding his DD214,  the honorable discharge certificate that entitled him to his prized citizenship.

But I am also thinking about the everyday heroes around us.  The ones we need to take notice of and silently appreciate as they weave in and out of our lives.  Truly hometown heroes.

The mechanic down the street who replaces a burned-out brake light at no charge, on a Saturday, in the rain.

The nice old guy at the hardware store who laughs with me when I tell a blonde joke.  He then easily threads the new line into the weed whacker and thanks me for coming in.

The young couple across the street who brush the snow and ice off the top of my car because I have lost another inch of height since last winter.

The  neighbor with the lilting Irish brogue who cuts my lawn and brings in the mail while I am burying my mother.

Heroes like these help to keep our small town  safe even as the population doubles and the dump is no longer open for Saturday morning chats.  I’ll never be a Townie, not even after 46 years, but I won’t be at home anywhere else either.

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta–educated at BOLLI.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: BUENOS DIAS

BUENOS DIAS

My watch was still on Boston time.  Waiting in line for customs, I had decided not to change it to El Salvador time.  If I wanted a real getaway, then I needed to leave time and home behind, but that did not mean my loved ones.  I had already thought of my grandsons.  Brady, age 11, would love the van driver’s speed and his music;  Henry, age 6, would love the two cats and frantic little puppy that live in my friends’ home; and my daughter Diane, her Nana’s girl, would love the flowers and the warm breeze off the Pacific.  I am eager to walk on the black sand beaches of the Costa Del Sol.

My 1968 Spanish is weak; the CDs are still at home in the box. There has been no time to listen to them in the five weeks since I bought my ticket.  Today, I sit in my casa du amigos within a compound with armed guards at the gate and razor wire atop the 12 foot high wall. Escuela Americana.  It is 73 degrees at 8:00 a.m.   My grandsons are enjoying a snow day.

The coffee here is wonderful, as is the homemade Greek yogurt with local honey and oat bran. The taste is different from the diet that I follow at home. This is when I decide that I will eat to fill my belly, not my appetite.

Outside the small bathroom window, the skies are hazy. Pollution? Fog? I learn that it is a little of each. Tall concrete buildings tower over the tin roofs, palm and mango trees, and more cement.  So many different textures, foreign to me and fascinating.  Another difference is the bathroom itself.  The tub and shower is a large concrete box covered in white ceramic tile. The shower head is American, and there is a faint whiff of chlorine in the water, not unlike Miami.  From the window, through the haze, I see a mountain looming large over the neighborhood. Later, I am told it is a volcano and there may be an occasional, small earthquake.

My first day in El Salvador begins, and I am hungry for it all. As the daughter of an immigrant, I am very conscious of this first use of my American passport.  San Salvador is thousands of miles from my Worcester birthplace.  I travel with courage and focus to learn of a new culture and to embrace my religion where it is strongest, where clergy and missionaries were assassinated and, later, canonized. I ask God to keep me safe on this journey.

Today, I pray for the people of El Salvador.   Those who are victims of gang violence, and for Sergio, our former BOLLI custodian, whose family is in the capital city–as are my friends who teach at the Escuela Americana.

BOLLI Matters Co-Editor, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta–educated at BOLLI.”

 

 

LINES FROM LYDIA: FROM TOPSIDE

FROM TOPSIDE

Havana, 2017 – Lydia Bogar

 

As the ship approached Castillo del Morro, the stalwart guardian of Havana Harbor, passengers coordinated their backpacks for the day’s tours, and scrambled topside to gaze at the sun rising over their destination. Thirty hours from their Miami departure and ready to enter a Communist country, many were anxious and more than a few were fearful.  Past El Morro was Jesus de la Habana, the twin to the more famous statue that casts hope and peace above Rio de Janiero.

Dr. Fitz and Francisco finished their juice and silently thanked St. Christopher for the bounty of this journey. As they approached Sierra Maestra Terminal–neglected, majestic and under renovation  –Francisco thanked his chaperone again for this homecoming.  In Boston the year before, Dr. Fitz had successfully repaired the 12-year old’s heart.

Dr. Fitz needed the change of scenery as much as the boy needed his mother’s embrace. His wife had died during Francisco’s stay in Boston, and he accepted the suggestion of his adult children to accompany the boy who had become part of his family.  Having forgotten most of his Spanish, the good doctor travelled with a bi-lingual dictionary and an app on his phone that he hoped he would not use.  Francisco helped him with the adjectives and pronouns of his native language.

Francisco looked forward to giving his grandmother the cupcakes from the North End, a place the boy embraced for its family atmosphere and sweet smells, and more than enough sugar to contribute to the acne on his smooth cheeks.  Dr. Fitz smiled when he considered the facial expressions on Francisco’s family members when they heard his changing voice and saw his growing feet.

As Dr. Fitz and Francisco walked down the gangplank, a dockworker dropped a twenty-pound wrench that rang like a bell as it tumbled onto the pier–not unlike a church bell announcing Francisco’s return.

BOLLI Matters Co-editor and  blogger, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta–educated at BOLLI.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: ANOTHER LIBRARY

ANOTHER LIBRARY

by Lydia Bogar

I love “The Low Country”–its history, culture, and food–which makes the Carolinas a good draw.  But the fact that my “best-est” friend lives on Pawley’s Island makes it an even more alluring destination.

I am also a book and library junkie who particularly likes reading local histories while visiting.  In the process, I’ve become a bit of a Civil War buff of which there is a ton in this area.  On Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, there is a gem of a library that provides all of that and more.

For the past forty years, the Edgar Allen Poe Public Library on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina has enjoyed its new “old” home in the upgraded Gadsden Battery.

The Battery, built in 1903  and named to the National Register of Historic Places in July of 1974,  hosted four six-inch guns during its active military.  The gun mounts remain in place today.   The walls are two feet thick, and it survived a direct hit by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Colonel James Gadsden, for whom the Battery was named, was an engineer during the War of 1812, and during the Seminole Wars, he was the Quartermaster General of the Florida Volunteers at Fort Moultrie located just down the road.  The fort is open to visitors and provides great views of Charleston Harbor, perfect for sunrise photographers

Why Poe?  The American writer was stationed on Sullivan’s Island in 1827, and he used this unique barrier island as the setting for his story, The Gold Bug.  The 2,000 square foot library (serving Sullivan’s Island population of nearly 2,000) houses over 15,000 books and remains well protected from storms (including its most recent visitor, Irma).  As part of its most recent upgrade, the library is now equipped with both Wi-Fi and computer work stations. If, like me,  you are a history buff or, also like me,  enjoy seeking out unique, even strange buildings, the Edgar Allen Poe Library is for you.  (The address is 1921 Ion Avenue, and the GPS coordinates are 32.7597 N, 79.8406 W.)

Another truly unique spot is Dunleavy’s Pub, around the corner from the library, at 2213 Middle Street.  The pub is a piece of real New England in the deep south whose owners are transplanted New Englanders themselves.  They  host a fabulous annual party on Fenway’s Opening Day and have treated patrons to celebrations of two of the three most recent Super Bowl wins–in style. (Their web address is www.dunleavysonsullivan.com and their coordinates are 32.7632323 N, -79.8367511 W.)

After all, who doesn’t get thirsty at the library?

BOLLI Matters co-editor Lydia Bogar soaks up a little low country flavor.

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

LINES FROM LYDIA: WANT AD

JOBS IN EDUCATION

WANTED: Teacher with a Funny Bone

Cartoonist Roz Chast

Qualifications:

  • A deep personal commitment to the nexus of knowledge and laughter.
  • Experience reading and accepting the wit and wisdom of Roz Chast, born and raised in Brooklyn, who has been drawing since childhood.
  • Understanding and appreciation of the value of chintz covered chairs and Baroque picture frames, and, generally speaking, everything related to middle class America in the 1950’s.
  • Finely tuned communication skills, including but not limited to Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast 1978-2006, and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
  • Advance a curriculum that would include discussions such as:

The artist’s reflections of everyday life and the power of black and white (she started with single panel black and white drawings) graphics.

Why Roz hand-lettered the title pages of her books, why her books feature a cartoon of herself rather than the typical author photograph, and other mysteries.

How the artist’s perspective on a family translates for you.  

During the summer, I started to assemble ideas and research for a five-week BOLLI course under the working title “Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned from Roz Chast.”

During the past few months as I immersed myself in four new BOLLI courses, I realized that I just don’t have the skills necessary to deliver this course myself.   Is there anybody out there who might like to do so?  If you’d be interested and  would like to see a potential bibliography for such a course before you decide, please let me know. Thanks for your time and interest!

Lydia Bogar (Toehead8@verizon.net)

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

 

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!