Sunday, February 11, 2018

Euology for my Dad

Eulogy for Dr. Robert E. Quigley
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                                                    Obituary for Prof. Robert E. Quigley

Eulogy for my Dad

Thank you all for coming to this funeral for my dad, Dr. Robert E. Quigley. My family and I truly appreciate it. I am giving the eulogy because according to Jenny and Patrick, I am the one who “likes to talk the most.”

This eulogy will be somewhat historical in nature because as you know, my Dad was a historian and college professor for more than 40 years.  There WILL be a quiz later. Take notes!

Dad was born in 1927, the 7th of eight children to Sarah and Tom Quigley. He grew up in a candy store that my grandfather owned at 51st and Chester Streets in Southwest Philadelphia. Dad’s lifelong love of chocolate candy and ice cream began in that store.

 He attended Catholic school and graduated from West Philadelphia Catholic School for Boys in 1945. Just a few days after graduation, he marched into the Army recruiting office and enlisted. He was determined to fight the Japanese and end World War 2. On his own. Well, it must have worked because the Japanese surrendered just two months later. Dad spent the rest of the war in occupied Germany.

Dad used the G.I. Bill to get an education, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Catholic University and his master’s and doctorate in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

He was a history professor at LaSalle University, Cabrini College, St. Joseph’s University and  Holy Family College – where he met my mom, Barbara. He spent the last 27 years of his career at Rosemont College where he was chairman of the American Studies program. He loved his students, except when it came time to grade their papers, which I can relate to. He talked about historical figures as if he knew them.  He knew all the details, all the minutiae, but also, all the scandals and gossip.

One time, my sister needed to know the last name of the British royal family for a homework assignment. Ever the historian, he got out books and traced their entire lineage for her.  It took an hour.  She never did get the last name.  Jenny then asked Mom the same question.  Mom answered, "Windsor.” Thus, Jenny was able to complete her homework assignment,

Dad retired in 1995 and spent the next few years watching British comedies on TV, like: "Yes Minister,”"Father Ted,” "Are You Being Served,” “The Vicar of Dibley" and "Ballykissangel.” He also loved opera, classical music, and bagpipes,  The Clancy Brothers and Hal Roach, the comedian. 

He loved spending time in Stone Harbor, NJ and Avalon, NJ where his family owned a house for many years.

One of the best things about Dad is that he was always THERE, present and dependable. He drove us kids to school, dance lessons, dance recitals, scout meetings, scout trips, dances at St. Tim’s and Father Judge, our theater performances and our graduations.

When I was a new foster mom, as a single woman, I was terrified and weepy. He was with me at my apartment, calm and steady.

He also used his retirement to travel to see us kids and to eat at diners. His favorites were the Mayfair Diner, the Red Robin Diner and the Olympia Restaurant on Frankford Avenue. Every lunch and dinner he ate there involved soup. He was a terrible tipper, though. The three of us kids were all once waiters and tried to get him to tip more than $2, but no luck. This is probably why he always carried approximately a pound of change in his pants pocket.

My sister, Jenny, loved the musical “Annie” so my Dad took her to see various performances all over the area. She tells the story of becoming dreadfully ill from a stomach virus on the way back from a production at the Hedgerow Theater. She threw up the whole drive home, and luckily he had a random stockpile of plastic bags in the car, which came in extremely handy.  Come to think of it this may have been where he decided to begin collecting plastic bags???  He also – for reasons we do not understand collected: rubber bands, paper clips, plastic containers that Chinese won ton soup comes in, empty boxes from small appliances and newspapers.

Throughout his life, Dad read five newspapers a day and revered Walter Cronkite. It is not a stretch to see why I became a reporter and then a journalism professor. The news of the past year, however, would completely stress him out. My brother, Patrick, said the only blessing to my Dad’s dementia is that he had no clue Donald Trump got elected president.

Dad’s dementia was dreadful because it is a dreadful disease. But throughout it all, Dad retained his kind spirit and loving nature. He loved when we kids visited him at the Philadelphia Protestant Home with his grandkids, Nicholas, Sean and Jack. 

He kept his sense of humor, too. A few years ago, I took him out to eat for his birthday – at a diner. Ever the journalist, I interviewed him.

“Dad,” I asked. “What life lessons do you have to pass on?”

He looked up from his meal, which probably included some kind of soup and answered: 

“Duck! You never know what is coming at you!”

Solid advice. 

Thank you. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11, 2001

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I woke up early because I was on the courts beat at the Palm Beach Post and had to check the courthouse docket.

I turned on Howard Stern on my car radio, because I liked to hear him make fun of the news. Within minutes, he switched from talking about the hotness of Pam Anderson to yelling that planes had hit the Twin Towers.

"It's terrorism!" Stern said. 
He was right. 

I called into the newsroom, thinking it might be a joke. Jane Smith was the day editor and answered the phone. It wasn't a joke, she said. It was real.

I called Lisa L. Colangelo, my friend at the NY Daily News who covered City Hall. It was primary Election Day and she was still home because she was working the late shift. She hadn't turned on the news yet.

"NY is being attacked!" I yelled into my cell phone. "Put on your jeans! Get extra pens and granola bars! You won't be home for hours!"

"Wait, why hasn't my editor called me about this?" Lisa asked, confused. This was because all the phone lines in and out of Manhattan were down. She went to work. She wasn't home till 36 hours later. Her beloved city was under attack.

I started interviewing people in the Palm Beach County Courthouse for man-on-the street reaction. A woman in the Law Library told me the State Department building had been bombed. That turned out to be false, but I didn't know it at the time.

My stomach turned. My brother worked in the State Department building. I called my brother at work and home. Couldn't get through. Then I called my Mom, Barbara Wetzler. She was watching TV and saw the second plane crash into the WTC. The tone of her voice was awful. I called my Dad. He hadn't heard from my brother either.

I called into the Post newsroom and burst into tears with emotion from it all. I stood on a street and cried. Because I sounded somewhat whacked out, they sent Christine Stapleton out to the courthouse to work on the story with me.

I pulled myself together; I was a journalist and had work to do. Lisa called me, with a note a horrified disbelief in her voice.

"Kath, can you believe the Twin Towers collapsed?" she said. "They're gone. They're gone."

I said something reassuring like "I am sure everyone got out in time." Because I could not fathom - who could fathom - that they did not. That they were dead. That the dust cloud spreading over Manhattan was full of their bodies and souls and dreams.

In the courthouse, one prosecutor told another that the Pentagon had just been hit. I tried my brother again. Couldn't get through. An hour or so later, my brother called my Dad and said he was okay. His office got evacuated and he had to walk home, to Virginia. But he was okay.

I called my friend Jill DeForte in New York City. She was okay, but shaky and sad. I called my friend Maryanne Murray Buechner. She lived in Brooklyn but had been uptown that day with her young son. Her husband, Terry, was still in their apartment in Brooklyn and saw the towers collapse from their window.

Back at the office, it was full of purpose and pressure to get out the story. Only later did we find out all the very many Florida connections to this tragedy. Some of the hijackers trained at flight schools in Florida. They lived nearby. They went to restaurants and bars and had been among us. (The next month brought deadly anthrax to the National Enquirer in Boca Raton and fears of biological terrorism. We didn't know that then.)

My very best college friends - Tina, Chris, Luci and Nancy - were supposed to visit me that upcoming weekend. All the planes were cancelled. They couldn't come.

My most vivid memory was scrolling the Associated Press wires. There were so, so, so, so many stories. My mind could barely keep them straight. Four planes down. New York, Pennsylvania and D.C. Each city, each plane had a story. Later, each victim would have a story.

Eventually, I had to tune it out and write my story and go about the rest of my work day. But deep day, something had shifted. I liked my job, but didn't love it. I liked living in Florida, but missed my hometown of Philadelphia. I kept thinking: "If I had died today, if it had been me, what would I regret?"

Within 10 months, I started a new career as a college journalism professor at Rowan  University and moved back to the Philadelphia area. I love my job. I love being in my hometown.

To the dead of September 11, I say to you: I remember you. I think of you today. I hope you are at peace.

"The Dead of September 11" by Toni Morrison

The Dead of September 11 - Toni Morrison

Some have God's words; others have songs of comfort
for the bereaved. If I can pluck courage here, I would
like to speak directly to the dead--the September dead.
Those children of ancestors born in every continent
on the planet: Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas...;
born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles,
wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes,
feathers and cloths to cover their hair. But I would not say
a word until I could set aside all I know or believe about
nations, wars, leaders, the governed and ungovernable;
all I suspect about armor and entrails. First I would freshen
my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil---wanton 
or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; whether born of
a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple
compulsion to stand up before falling down. I would purge
my language of hypberbole; of its eagerness to analyze
the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their
higher or lower status among others of its kind.
Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for
a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts.
Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be
seduced by blitz.
To speak to you, the dead of September 11, I must not claim
false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed
just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear,
knowing all the time that I have nothing to say--no words
stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture
older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you
have become.
And I have nothing to give either--except this gesture,
this thread thrown between your humanity and mine:
I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit
of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through
the darkness of its knell.

Originally published in Vanity Fair magazine.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Boomerang: A Short Story

Once upon a time, Little Dude got a boomerang. His Mom bought it for him at the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It was multi-colored and all the way from Australia.

He can only play with it outside. This makes him sad. He would like to play with it inside.

Little Dude let Twerpy Neighbor Child play with the boomerang.

Twerpy Neighbor Child threw the boomerang in a tree. His Dad got it down.

"Do NOT throw the boomerang near the trees or the neighbors or the roofs!" Mom told Little Dude and Twerpy Neighbor Child.

They listened, for a bit. Then they threw the boomerang at the front glass door of the 86-year-old neighbor lady. She was not pleased.

Today, Little Dude could not find his boomerang after Twerpy Neighbor Child came knocking, asking to play with it.

"Where is the boomerang? Where is the boomerang? Where is the boomerang??" Little Dude cried.

"Look around," Mom said. "Keep track of your toys."

He looked and looked and looked and couldn't find the boomerang. He was sad.

Mom found the boomerang. It was in the living room, next to the computer, in the open.

"Do not throw the boomerang near the trees or the neighbors or the roofs!" Mom said.

Five minutes later, Little Dude came in.

There was a problem. The boomerang "somehow" landed on top of the neighbor's roof.

"We should get a ladder!" Little Dude said.

Uh, no, Mom said. You were told not to throw the boomerang near the trees or the neighbors or the roofs. And where is it now?

"On the roof," he said.

Mom and Little Dude went to the neighbor's house to tell him there was a boomerang on his roof and when it eventually fell off, to please let them know.

This did not satisfy Little Dude.

"We need to call 911 and ask the fireman to get the boomerang down!"

Uh, no, Mom said. You were told not to throw the boomerang near the trees or the neighbors or the roofs. And where is it now?

"On the roof," he said.

And that is where it will stay, Mom said, until the wind blows it off.

"When will that be? When will it rain? when will there be wind?" Little Dude asked.

Soon, Mom said.

She hopes.

Meanwhile, she is keeping Little Dude away from ladders and roofs. Where the boomerang remains.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"How Did I Get Here?"

In the car, driving on Tyson Avenue, coming back from the doctor.

 "How did I get here?" Dad asked.

 "Where? Tyson Avenue? I didn't want to take Bustleton the whole way," I said.

"No, to this place I'm at," Dad said.

 Ah, a more existential "How did I get here," coupled with memory loss. He meant how did he wind up in an assisted living home.

 "Well, you were having trouble with the steps in your house. You kept winding up in the hospital for your tube and bag (catheter). You fell down the steps. You weren't eating right. And you didn't like being alone," I answered.

 I left out the part about him being robbed in the middle of the night.

"Oh, I see," he said.

 "You were very stubborn," I told him. "You didn't want to leave your house. You told me 'They are gonna have to carry me out of here!'"

 "I did?" he asked.

 "Oh yes," I said. "You did. But you like where you are. You like your room and TV and the meals and the nurses."

 "That's true," he said.

 "It was just hard getting you there," I said.

 "I am sorry about all that," Dad said. "I'll remember you in heaven," he joked.

"That's good, Dad, but while you are up there, send me some winning lottery numbers, too," I said. "That would be a bigger help."

"I'll see what I can do," Dad said.

Life As A Sandwich

Here is an essay I wrote for "Rowan Glassworks," the graduate literary magazine at Rowan University. It's about being part of the "sandwich generation" - women who care for their young children as well as their elderly parents. My essay starts on Page 9:

They asked the writers to reflect on their essays:
"Life as a Sandwich" My essay, "Life As a Sandwich," came out of my daily experience caring for my young son and my elderly father. The phrase "sandwich generation" is often bandied about as an apt description for those of us who care for children and parents at the same time. I remember thinking to myself: "This is a rotten sandwich."I just re-read the essay and am struck how honest and blunt I was. That is how I am as a journalist, but I usually write about things from my own life with a veil of humor. I am glad this essay came out as raw as it did. Clearly, I needed to say it. And people in my life needed to hear it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Ode to My 20s

I like these scrunchy ankle boots
I like Philadelphia
I miss Villanova
Do I like this guy?
Should I date this guy?
When will he call?
Screw it, I will call him.
He wasn't home.
Fuck him, I am going out dancing!
The Cure
I like this guy
I love this guy
He dumped me
I hate myself
I hate my body
I will  now call all my friends and cry
More crying
Feeling better
Fuck him, I am going out dancing!
I like myself
I like writing
I love writing
Why the hell are my parents so weird?
I like this guy
But I also like THIS guy
I will date both these guys!
Wait a minute, they both came to see me tonight at my apartment!
At the same time!
I think I will drink this whole bottle
Pick one guy
That was wrong
Pick the other guy
Move to a new apartment
Then another
I love him
He loves me
He dumps me
Call all my friends and cry
Write more
Work more
Why won't they fucking edit my story already so I can GO HOME?
Oh my God. It's the copy desk calling at 11 p.m.
The mall
Move to a new city
New job
Move again to another city
New job
New friends
Lots of friends
Is every single one of my friends getting married?
Bridesmaid seven times
Sang "Ave Maria"
Sang it again
And again
I like this guy
Now this guy
I hate him
I hate myself
Write a personal ad
A lot
This time, I do the dumping
More writing
Am I any good at this?
Am I any good as a writer?
As a journalist?
I just wish I knew
Maybe I stink at this
I think I stink at this
No, I am good at this
My boobs look good
My boss hates me
Insomnia Anxiety Depression Therapy
No more beer
No more guys who make me cry
I like myself more now
I can write
Fuck it, I am gonna sing show tunes!

(My birthday is coming up soon. While I am not all that thrilled to be aging or to be over 40, there are MANY aspects of being older that are great. For one thing, a lot less angst! I know who I am, and what I am capable of, and how strong I am. I know I will survive. Hey, hey.)