Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful to have received information within this past week about my oldest son, Jimmy Rogers, thanks to an anonymous comment on this blog which I had deleted thinking it was spam since it contained an unknown URL.  Regretfully, I have heard nothing from or about Jimmy for over seven years.  (A hat-trick striker and reserve goalie for the McLean Sting, ca 1999.)

He's in his late twenties now and until this past weekend I literally didn't know if he was alive or well or anything at all about his adult life.  It's the same situation for my other two sons, except that they each used up all eight semesters of the Virginia pre-paid college tuition plans that I purchased with them as the beneficiaries, so their trails didn't run cold until 2010 for Johnny and 2012 for Danny, when I stopped receiving annual statements from those two plans I owned.  (The plan I own with Jimmy as beneficiary has never been applied for and will be vacated forcibly by the IRS soon if it's not used or a suitable "hardship" story isn't tendered immediately to account for the delay in its use since Jimmy's high school graduation.)  (Danny and Johnny in Maine, ca 1996.)

According to a recent press release on the Internet which the URL led me to, Jimmy is an entrepreneur in Arlington, trying to bring a product he invented to market.  I wish him success.  (Jimmy and his partner.)

Of course I stand ready and am eager to spend 5 or 10 minutes, or more if he'd like, to catch up with him (or any of my sons) at a Starbucks over coffee or a restaurant over a meal.  I am free every day in December except for December 22-24th.  (Shenandoah Valley, circa 1998.)

I regret that Jimmy, and Johnny and Danny as well, have not responded to any of the invitations to them that I have sometimes posted publicly, not knowing their addresses or phone numbers, but I will always be available if they ever reach out to me.  Any father who loved his children would do the same.  (Happier times.  On the Arkansas River in 2001.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Billy Goat Trail 2014 Version

Every year I hike the Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River on the Maryland side, usually with a friend.  The trail is a moderately difficult 3-mile scramble over rocks, up boulder fields and around tree roots.

This year I did it in the fall, which is late for me, as I usually do it in the summer.  But with so many of the leaves blown off the trees by the lateness of the season, I enjoyed better vistas of the river from the trail, which runs through wooded land for the most part.

There are spots where the trail comes out upon sheer precipices overlooking the river.  Also long rock crevices on cliff faces you have to traverse.

If you're not somewhat fit the trail won't be an enjoyable experience.  But completing the trek does give one a certain measure of satisfaction, given its moderate difficulty.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Earlier this year my agency moved from its three scattered locations to a single location (plus some folks still at the headquarters building half a mile away) at L'Enfant Plaza.  There's quite a little federal beehive of activity down there, with HUD and the Constitution Center and other federal locales.  (My new cozy office.)

Basically it's a downsizing, as we all traded our more commodious offices, as befits working professionals, for tiny windowless offices or cubicles for the paralegals.  But we're on the 10th floor facing south with no view obstructions so our vista of the Potomac and the Virginia shoreline is spectacular as seen from the corridor windows.  (Sunsets are spectacular sometimes from our perch on the tenth floor.)

The noontime running is better, with many more places to run, as Haines Point, the waterfront, Nats Stadium, the Tidal Basin, Capital Hill and the Mall are all less than a mile away.  At the old location only Cap Hill and the eastern edge of the Mall were within a mile.  (Running around the Tidal Basin with a co-worker at noon, my favorite run.)

Plus my commute is shorter, by twenty minutes per day.  Progress, I guess.  (The early morning sun reflects off the tenth floor windows of my workplace.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Is he alive?' No answer.

I was returning home from the office on Lee Highway in Arlington at around noon today and as I approached the lengthy light at Washington Boulevard, I cut down a side street to avoid the light and take a shortcut to Lincoln Avenue which takes me into my home town.  I drove by a large group of people walking a big German Shepherd on the sidewalk.  One person looked familiar and as I passed the group I saw that it was my ex-wife Sharon Rogers Lightbourne, the mother of my three children.

None of my children has spoken to me in over seven years and I don't even know where they live or if they are well.  The divorce, you know.

I have asked Sharon by mail about how the children are but she doesn't answer my questions or tell me anything at all about them.  I haven't actually spoken with her in at least seven years, although she lives and works a mere two miles from where I live.

Well, I'd like to know about my children, to find out if they're even alive.  If you have children, wouldn't you want to know?

There was no parking on that street in my direction so I went down the first side street to park.  As I walked back on the sidewalk towards the party I saw that the group contained two adult men, an older boy, Sharon, another adult woman and the large dog, at least.  There might have been one or two more persons.

As the group came up on me I spoke to Sharon saying, "Sharon, regarding our youngest child Danny, is he alive?"  Sharon looked at me and said as she fell in alongside her husband James Horn Lightbourne, "Peter."

That was no answer to my question and the large party kept walking so I turned and started walking back towards my car, a few feet to the side and slightly behind the large group.  I asked Sharon a second pithy question, "Is he well?"

Sharon ignored me and stonily refused to answer.  I asked, "Is he married?"

Again no answer.  I asked, "Does he have any children?"

Those would be my grandchildren, you see.  No answer.

I asked my final brief question about Danny, "Where does he live?"  Stony silence was my only answer.

I asked the same five brief questions about our middle child, Johnny, then the same narrow, pointed questions about our oldest child, Jimmy, except whether he is alive or not because I have independently come across some recent news about him.  There was nary an answer to a single simple query of a father trying to find out about his three boys by asking their mother, at his first chance encounter of her in public in more than seven years.

By the conclusion of my short questions inquiring about our children, we had reached the side street where my vehicle was parked.  Her husband hadn't spoken a word, certainly he hadn't said--you might imagine that he would know--whether my children are alive, well, married, have children, or where they live.

Maybe he's the same type of person as she is, heartless at best, or maybe he's under her thumb, as I ultimately refused to be.  I said to Sharon, "Any parent would tell the other parent those things."

Stony silence ensued, her lined face set in gender hatred as I stopped and the large group walked away.  Shrugging, I started down the side street to my car a few feet away and said to Sharon, "I'm sorry for you."

The large group disappeared down the street past the side street, and I got into my car and drove away, having walked less than one block down the public sidewalk alongside the large group of Lightbournes.  In my years-long attempts to find out information about my children, I took the chance opportunity presented to ask the person who would best know, the mother of my children, but she refused to answer a single simple, pointed question regarding my 3 children.

I hope my children are alive and well, at least.  But if anything happened to one of them, I suspect that Sharon, who filed a "harassment" petition during the pendency of the divorce proceedings that promoted my minor children as adversaries against me, and who was ordered to pay sanctions and costs totaling almost $50,000 for her "unconscionable" conduct, wouldn't tell me.

In a classic Parental Alienation Syndrome ("PAS") scenario, where minor children's wills are overborne (some term this child abuse) and turned against the other parent by their primary caregiver, no child of mine has communicated with, responded to or expressed any interest in a single Lamberton in over a decade, although upon reaching maturity the 3 lads happily accepted almost $100K each that my mother (a Lamberton) had set aside to be used for their benefit before she died.  That's 30 or 40 or 50 Lambertons as "bad" as I am.

Sharon is an elementary school teacher in my home town.  Would you want her imparting her values to your children in a public school classroom?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cold Running

This past week presented a sudden challenge in getting used to running in frigid conditions.  We went from running in shorts and shirtsleeves to dressing in carefully layered clothes practically overnight with the arrival of a lingering arctic air mass that plunged temperatures to or below the freezing point in all the lower 48 states.  (The arriving arctic conditions knocked down most of the remaining autumn leaves by Tuesday, which had retained their fall brilliance through the prior weekend.)

Monday it was raining along with being cold and windy so I didn't run, which left me feeling guilty the whole day.  Tuesday I had to bundle up but I ran 3 1/2 miles around the Tidal Basin, being careful to avoid the ice patches created by standing water on the footpath.  (On Wednesday I did my "long run" of four miles.)

Wednesday I ran 4 miles with a friend and former colleague I met on the Mall although I jammed my ankle when I stumbled on some stairs behind the Capitol.  Thursday I tenderly ran a mile early in the morning to test my sprained ankle and then, since it felt better, I loped 3 1/2 miles around the Tidal Basin at noon, bundled up against the cold with my ankle in a brace due to the slight sprain.  (The wind was down slightly on Thursday which created nice reflections on the water.)

Friday I went out with the noontime running group at work, a shifting band of runners, and four of us did a brisk 3.6 miles around the Tidal Basin at an 8:44 pace, faster than usual because the fastest guy in the division was running with us "to slow him down" because he's coming back from an injury.  We were glad to be able to help him out on his road to recovery.  (A totally clueless tourist wandered across the field of our posed picture on Friday as we laughed unbelievingly at her.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Open Note to My Son

It's open season for federal benefits.  I'm glad we inched closer to the rest of the industrialized first-world league of nations and instituted Obamacare, deeply flawed as it is (can't wait to finally see the Repug's plan!), so our poor, unemployed, young and persons with pre-existing conditions can finally have some hope of treatment and not going bankrupt if they have the misfortune of becoming ill.

The ACA is a mishmash of portal glitches, expensive (for the rest of us) subsidies, high premiums or high co-pays, lost catastrophic plans and other frankenstein-creation problems and inequities but one thing is sure, not a single Republican hand went into implementing their very own plan from years earlier.  So don't blame them!  Their plan nowadays is apparently either go to the ER (expensive for the rest of us!) or Just Die (but don't participate in doctor-assisted euthanasia).

Back to the main point, open season for federal benefits, which runs through December 8th.  The federal health insurance plan is the gold standard in this country, single payor, the best mass plan bar none.  Obamacare could have been so easy, actually, we already have a single payer all-inclusive plan that works just fine that we could have used as a template and it's called Medicare.

So youngest son Danny, since you are (the only child of mine) still under 26, if you want to have the best health insurance in the country and be included in my plan (you woud be dropped automatically when you turn 26 but you would have I think 60 days to pick up an Obamacare plan) contact me before December 8th.  I live in your childhood house and my work number hasn't changed in 24 years and my cell number is the same as when I spoke with you the last time you called me, and I will be happy to pay the extra premiums until your exclusion from my plan.  I hope you and your brothers are well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Coming home from work last night, the sign outside the school said it was 30 degrees.  It was cold for a mid-November evening in DC.

I had run 5K during the noon hour, around the Tidal Basin.  Given the frigid conditions, I had layered up threefold, which was naturally too much so I was perspiring freely by the end of the run.

I had the footpath encircling the tidal body of water mostly to myself and it was imperative to watch out for ice patches as the tide induced water tends to encroach upon the gradually sinking cement path.  There were a few other runners who went by, one who was actually in shorts and running without a hat or gloves.

All the autumn leaves, so brilliant in their scarlet and golden hues last week, were much dulled and pretty much all knocked down given the gusting winds accompanying the current cold front.  The tall, imperious MLK statue next to the Tidal Basin gleamed coldly white with scarcely anyone present to see his frigid stare across the water at the TJ statue housed inside the Jefferson Memorial's open rotunda.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When a moment is longer than a minute

Yesterday morning, Veteran's Day, I was running hills in my home town up around the elementary school which sits atop the second best hill in town and also has several sets of stairs to run up and down on.  I attended school there a long time ago.

As I was cutting across the footpath which goes around behind the school from Oak Street to Highland Avenue, which street is the best hill in town, the PA system blared out quite audibly that we would now have a moment of silence to honor our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.  I pulled up, faced the building where I imagined there would be a flag inside somewhere, took off my hat and stood at attention, reflecting upon the veterans I have known, from my brother who served with the Marines in Beirut to a running friend who was lost in Afghanistan to other current vets of the several wars of the past 65 years, and to all the WWII and WWI vets who have passed.

As the seconds passed and I stood in respectful stillness, I got to wondering how long a moment really was.  After a minute passed without further issuance from the playground speaker, I put my hat back on, turned and resumed my run.

As I ran off, I heard the announcer come on the loud public address system to say that that concluded the moment of silence and now the pledge of allegiance would be recited in every classroom.  When I got home and looked up "moment" I discovered that although a moment currently encompasses a brief, non-specific passage of time it actually was a specific measurement of time in the middle ages consisting of 90 seconds, or 40 strokes every hour.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A mother's glance

On this Veteran's Day, I want to acknowledge the service of my family members I know to have served.  My grandfather in the Navy in WWI (escort duty in the Atlantic) and my father and three uncles served in the Marines and the Army in WWII (Peleliu, Okinawa, China; several Pacific naval engagements; Philippines; Mediterranean Theatre).  My brother Jack served in the Marines during the Beirut deployment.

The Marines were handled roughly in Beirut, losing a couple of hundred men, most in one night to a suicide bomber who crashed his truck loaded with explosives into a Marines barracks and blew it up while the Marine sentry tried to load his duty rifle as the truck careened past him after approaching him because the stupid rules of engagement called for the sentry to be patrolling with an empty rifle because he might inadvertently harm a civilian.  He had full magazines in ammo pouches on his belt but that's not the same thing in a crisis in the dark as having a loaded rifle with a live round in the chamber a mere bolt-action away.

My brother, a squad leader for a machine gun unit on the Regimental Combat Team, had been rotated out of Beirut by then but after that devastation his unit went back in, taking a few casualties to snipers and explosive ordnance during the two details.  In the summer of 1982 I was visiting my parents when Newsweek magazine came out with a story on the Marines' deployment, accompanied by a picture of a Marine marching with an American flag, flanked by two Marines with shouldered rifles, one left-handed and one right-handed.

The Marine on the right in the picture with his M-16 on his left shoulder, rail thin with his face half-obscured by the shadow thrown by the brim of his campaign hat, cleft in his chin, looked awfully familiar.  "Is that Jack?" I asked my wife.

"No," she said with certainty.  I asked my father the same thing.  "No," was his answer after a long scrutiny of the photograph.

Then I showed the picture in the magazine to my mother.  She glanced at it and immediately said, "That's Jack."  She was right.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Anti-Democratic Measures under the color of law

I just voted in Virginia and for the first time in my 44 years of voting was required to present a photo id.  I am ashamed that my state has turned to this to try to suppress economically-depressed, elderly, minority and recent immigrant voters.

Virginia is a state that went to war trying to preserve human bondage.  In my lifetime Virginia necessitated the United States Supreme Court decision (unanimous) Loving v. Virginia to overturn another of its outrageous practices, its anti-miscegenation laws. 

Did the founding fathers carry photo ids?  I'm thinking not, and they certainly didn't put a national id requirement into the constitution.

Papers, please.  I'm not trying to cross a border into a foreign place where they don't like our way of life, I am here to exercise my fundamental right of voting in a democracy!