This BLOG Post is called the ONION because ONIONS make you cry . There are tears of happiness, joy and of course sadness.

ONIONS became popular about 30-40 years ago when talk type television shows had guests tell their “STORIES” all of which made the audience and viewers cry.

Modern day network news programs present their shows with disasters, corruption, crime, murders, horror, and so forth but they always seem to end with a 30-40 second ONION story that makes you forget all the terrible events just presented.

While ONIONS make you cry nobody ever felt good when slicing and dicing (sorry Clyde) ONIONS as part of meal preparation.

EXAMPLE: Many are times when an ONION story is told showing an elementary school kid engaged in elementary school stuff when all of a sudden out of nowhere (at least to the kid) their parent arrives either from behind a door, in a costume or mostly in full Military Uniform. The parent and kid have not seen each other in months since the parent has been deployed overseas protecting our country. The reaction by the kids is usually hands to face in shock, tears flowing, an embrace and jumping into the awaiting parents arms squeezing and hugging  never wanting to let go. These scenes are most often delivered without dialogue or conversation but just the soft, soothing and comforting voice of the reporter delivering the ONION story. The camera zooms in for a close-up and then fades away as the scene for television purposes is over just in time for more reality, or is it, tv.

This type of scenario is presented in various ways but the message is always the same: ONIONS – Tears- Heroes.

Growing up in Philly I always ate a hoagie which is also known as a torpedo, poor boy, grinder, zeppelin, sub, and of course HERO.

Currently the search for heroes is never ending. The Military and First Responder’s are cast as Heroes but they will say they are not the Heroes but with our desire and thirst for a HERO we have chosen the sacrificing, caring, passionate folks who wear all the different kinds of uniforms which in today’s world offer a resource, status, recognition, appreciation, except of course, for those who develop life threatening illnesses that create strained and difficult times for their families especially when claims for insurance coverage are delayed or worse denied.

I am no HERO, probably the furthest thing from a HERO however the word is defined. Definition is where power lives and if you have the power to define, such as naming your kids, you have power. You may not be EMPOWERED but for briefest of moments you have power even if it is just for 30-40 seconds which for many of us is a long time, especially with a world where attention spans have been reduced, eliminated and “cured” with medication.

I am no HERO but I do have a story outdated, obsolete and remote as it is.

I served in the Military for just under four years. It was, for me an awakening, eye opening and rewarding time which came when I needed something, I just didn’t know what.

I was stationed overseas for over three years and was briefly home for a week or two between assignments. After a couple of days home and with none of the neighborhood kids around I awaited my return to duty with eagerness.

This is not about my time in service but about my ONION Story of coming home.

Many of the guys with whom I was stationed talked about going home to parades, fanfare and celebration. I was fortunate to have access to a vehicle and drove many of my buddies to the airport as they prepared to return home. I listened to their stories of expectations and never knew if those expectations were realized.

All their stories made me think and plan for my return home. I figured I have one chance (not the rapper) at going home and I want to make it a bit different though I knew I was not alone is this desire.

Letters home and back to me never contained information about my impending return home. On my part this was intentional. For my family, they never asked. I knew they wanted to know but it would have to come from me. Their only hope was that I came home in one piece and alone just like at birth with 10 fingers and 10 toes. My family empowered me. I made the decision and choice not to tell them.

When time came I flew in a airplane (not on the airplane, thanks George for making us think) for what seemed like an eternity all along knowing my Military service was just about complete and it was time to move on.

After a 20 or so hour flight I arrived in The United States on the West Coast. It was about four PM local time. I was directed to a barracks for transient folks entering and leaving our country.

I laid on the bunk for a few hours but the energy and anticipation of the event made it difficult to sleep. Besides my scheduled flight across the country to the East Coast was set to depart around 11 PM so falling asleep at 4-5 PM was quite difficult sort of like trying to get kids to nap in nursery school at 10:30 in the morning. Even with warm milk and graham crackers there was no way I was going to sleep back then. Recess was better since I could run, yell, scream, holler, play with a ball, swing on the swings and let out all the energy sleep was supposed to diffuse. Wrong. Let’s get RECESS back in the schools and watch the kids reduce their anxiety and stress, eliminate the medications and focus and concentrate on their work even with all the electronic distractions.

At 11:30 PM the plane departed for the 6-7 hour non-stop flight home. Like most things in life, especially in modern times, waiting is a big part of the PROCESS. PROCESS has become a popular word: The PROCESS. Lets PROCESS. Know The PROCESS. Do you have anything you want/ need to PROCESS? Add it to the list of cliches from a previous BLOG Post.

In full uniform I arrived in my hometown airport. I gathered my “stuff” which consisted of a bulky cumbersome duffle bag, garment bag for uniforms so they would not get creased, though I don’t know why I did this since I would not be wearing them anytime soon and what was once called a “ditty bag” used for smaller stuff. I guess it is part of discipline and respect for the uniform and myself.

I labored to the outside and took a taxi from the airport to the subway, aka, The El short for elevated train or subway if you will. The train took me to the bus station where I took a bus to Dad’s office. By the way, I stood in the train watching as commuters hid their eyes and faces behind their morning newspapers. Nobody made eye contact, nobody offered a seat (which I would not have accepted because that is who I am, even today), nobody said hello, nobody said welcome home, nobody did anything which was and still is fine with me. All this is in direct contrast to what ONIONS are today. Times change. Impressions change. Opinions change).

Dad was Civilian Commander of the local Army Base. The bus let me off at the front gate where I proceed to sign in telling the guards my coming home story. The all knew The Chief, as Dad was known. I called Dads office in hopes that his secretary Mary, who I knew, from our days of visiting Dad at work though we spent most of the time at the swimming pool. Once dried off from the pool and changed into “civies” (civilian clothes) we always stopped by Dad’s office for visit and our ride home since Mom took my brother and I on two buses to get the Army Base. We loved seeing Dad but we enjoyed Mary since she always had a candy dish ready for our awaiting grasp which usually contained Mary Jane candy appropriately named for Mary. Mary did answer the phone and I told her of my arrival and to please not tell Dad I was there.

Back at the Main Gate Guard House a jeep arrived to transport me to Headquarters Office where Dad worked. My “stuff” stayed at the Guard House allowing for ease of movement.

I climbed the steps, opened the front door and entered the building. I was told Dad’s office was on the second floor. I got there and don’t remember if my feet touched the ground. I went around a corner through a doorway and saw Mary standing, holding her hands to her face (like the kids on television in the ONION) and she was crying. She pointed me to Dad’s office. When I got there I hugged the wall easing my way into the open door. I said, “Dad”. Dad picked his head up from his work and said “my son”. We hugged, embraced and shed a tear or two. We talked for a few minutes and then it was off to the mess hall, aka cafeteria, for breakfast with Dad and some of the guys. I knew Dad was proud even without his words, Dad’s smile could illuminate even the darkest of space, time and hour. I always called Dad “The Rock” because of his strength of character, priced, dignity and compassion. My Dad is my HERO and role model even though he is not with me.

After breakfast Dad gave me the keys to his car and told me to go find Mother. Here again I had no plan only to surprise Mom. Mom’s daily ritual and routine included a walk to the neighborhood stores to visit folks, get her hair done and buy dinner for that evening.

I parked the car in front of our home. The front door to our home was closed so I thought Mom may be occupied in the house. Wrong. The car keys included the house key and I entered our home, took a deep breath, felt the love and yelled for Mom. No response. Mom must be out at the neighbors or at the stores. I called my brother who lived about a mile away. He happened to be working from home well before today’s fashionable trendy world of tele-commnute, work from home and remote working arrangements. Within a few minutes he was home. We hugged, shook hands and simultaneously said lets find Mom. My brother drove his car as I was shotgun peering out the windows looking for Mom on her route to and from the neighborhood. No luck. I went into all the stores she patronized which were all of them. Mrs. Feldman at the bakery gave me a cookie. The deli where my brother and I both worked while in high school offered lunch, “Come sit down for a while and we’ll catch-up”. I told them I’ll be back in a day or two.

Brother and I got back in his car and headed home where we hoped Mom would be. Brother parked behind Dad’s car. From the street I saw Mom standing in the doorway behind the screen door with a troubling, puzzling and confused look on her face which I later learned was fear due to Dad’s car being home and he wasn’t.

I got out of brothers car, stood in the street and looked at Mom. She started to shake, tremble and cry holding onto the door safety bar. As I got closer I saw her face which pained me at first but relief came upon me as Mom opened the door, said nothing and held me like a newborn for what seemed like an eternity but was only a few minutes. Mom did not want to let go which she finally did since I told Mom with all this excitement I needed to go the bathroom.

We immediately went to the kitchen table, the hub, the universe, the center of our world, the statement of our home. Mom made tea, and of course a cookie or two, for the three of us and calm soon came upon us. The kitchen table where life was discussed, decisions were made, comfort was lived, feelings let out, meals were consumed, love was spread, homework was done and the table where the weekly Pinochle card game was played with its own cast of characters.

I was HOME. On my terms. My Definition. My Empowerment. My Decision. Not like most but for me it worked as is evident by the tears or is it The ONION?

The strength of a society and culture is family however it is defined for you.

Like most things in life you don’t miss it until you don’t have it.

Keep It Simple  Keep it Real












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