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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Day with Diana**


"The laughter of a child is the light of the house."
--African Proverb
Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Somerset, PA Daily American
June 4, 2011
as "Special moments worth remembering"

*Chicago Tribune
June 3, 2011
as "Worth Remembering"

The greatest part of being a grandparent is being able to spend time with your grandchildren.  We’re somewhat fortunate in that two of the four (so far) are only three hours away, the other two are in far-off California, and one more on the way in Colorado.   I don’t know what makes that drive longer.  The anticipation going down, or the let-down coming back.  

The arrival of our son’s family is always a time of great joy.  The new baby, Ian is now four months old.  It’s a lot of fun watching his personality unfold, not to mention his prodigious growth rate.  

Our granddaughter Diana, now a worldy four years old (she’s already been to Korea three times) is an absolute delight.  She is a sunny and happy little girl with a dimpled smile and an absolutely endearing sense of confidence.  She’s full of charm and learning how to use it, reducing full-grown adults to weepy adoration.  She’s become fond of our dog, Tweeter and one of the things she loves to do when she visits is to take him for a walk.  I think getting to hold the leash is an act of independence and responsibility rare for one so young, and hence, something to look forward to.  Tweeter, of course, needs no prompting; he’s always up for a walk, day or night, hot or cold, sun or storm.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Generation What?**

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

*Chicago Tribune
May 20, 2011
as "Generation what?"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
May 21, 2011
as "Generation What?"

“Who am I?”

There’s no more introspective self-determining question that a human can ask.  It is in many ways the most important.  Knowing who you are will go a long way towards determining you r life’s path. 

People are often defined by the cultural environment in which they live.  Cultural demographers have identified these influences and have bequeathed descriptive names for those generations.

The Americans of World War I were tagged the “Lost Generation,” a name coined by Gertrude Stein and adopted by American expatriates living in postwar Paris. The term eventually grew to include those who had fought in those muddy, bloody trenches.

Their post-war world was their neighborhood. Most people stayed close, many never traveling more than 50 miles from home. Life was comfortable, predictable, and safe. Into this intimate world, the next generation was born. Because of what they would endure and achieve, they became known as “The Greatest Generation.”

Share the Road!

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
The past couple of weeks have been mostly meteorological nirvana for motorcyclists in the region.  After a hard winter and a frustrating April, the sun and warmth of spring have finally arrived in the Laurel Highlands. 
But it’s also a hazardous time.  Drivers are still growing their “motorcycle eyes” as evidenced by the numerous near-misses I’ve seen already this month.  Every year, PennDot and motorcycle groups like the American Motorcycle Association and ABATE issue cautionary statements urging drivers to look carefully for those single headlights before pulling into or across traffic, or changing lanes.  Usually it’s June before I see a general improvement in people’s observational habits.
Drivers are not the only issue.  All motorcycle riders experience that joie de vivre of the ride, but some take that joy to extreme.  Speeding and weaving, pulling stunts in traffic, riding impaired, and tailgating are some of the actions I have come to call “riding stupid.”  You’re having fun.  I get that.  But you not only risk yourself, you risk other people on the road who may have to swerve out of your way, even getting into accidents themselves. 
And there’s the damage you do to the rest of us.  In the minds of a disturbingly large number of drivers, all two-wheel operators fit the same bad mold.  It doesn’t matter whether you ride a dual sport, standard, cruiser, chopper, sport-tourer, full-bagger, or a superbike; we all look like the same hooligan. 

Secure Your Load!*

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Johnstown, PA  Tribune-Democrat
May 22, 2011
as "Secure your junk"

I rarely use this space to chip my gums.  I much prefer to write about things that bring humor, joy, or deep thoughts; subjects that I hope have wide appeal.  But after Tuesday morning, I just have to stop and take a stand.
We returned late Monday night from a trip to Denver for my middle daughter’s graduation.  During that time, she also announced that we would be grandparents again.  Tuesday morning dawned dim, wet, and gloomy (Welcome back to Pennsylvania, Ralph) but despite the weather, I headed off to work with a song in my heart.  Everything was fine until I got about halfway down the Expressway.  Just above the Widman Avenue exit, I rounded the curve to see a mess of debris in the left hand lane, most prominent of which was a uncoiled length of metal mesh fencing.  With a car on my right and the concrete Jersey barrier on my left, I had nowhere to go but straight ahead.  I applied the brakes, but resisted the temptation to slam the pedal to the floor, as the roadway was wet and even with ABS and traction control, I knew that a panic stop would not have a good outcome.  I edged as close to the barrier as I could, but it wasn’t enough.  I hit the fencing and chunks of wood. 

Monday, May 09, 2011

Reaching Across the Horizon**

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Chicago Tribune
May 13, 2011
as "Reaching over the horizon"

*Somerset, PA  Daily American
May 14, 2011
as "Reaching over the horizon"

We were talking one afternoon, you know, the kind of informal gab session that strikes as you wait out the last five minutes of the work day.  There is a curious freedom to these end-of-the-day chats.  The subjects can range from the mundane to the profound.  We might talk simply about our plans for the night, or tackle something as deep as “The Meaning of Life.”  Knowing that the time for exploration is short, boundaries are lifted and thoughts flow freely. 

Somehow on that day, the subject of travel had fallen from the sky and we were recounting all the places we'd visited, either work or pleasure.  Surprisingly, most of the lists were fairly short, 6 or 7 places outside the U.S.  Once everyone else had left, I went back to my desk (flexing today) and spent a few minutes staring at the world map that hangs over my desk. 

My Dad was a minister, one who traveled the world over.  He managed to pass on to me that same kind of restlessness.  Even in my youth, I would accompany him on his summer rounds of church camps.  By the time I was 15, I had already visited 26 states, along with Canada and Mexico. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

My Lap-Band Life: Four months in

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

This past month has been full of adventure.  My weight loss has slowed to about one pound per week.  I find that my hunger is increasing and portion sizes are creeping up, sure sign that an adjustment is needed.  I will see the Doctor on the 11th, and if he approves, he will put a needle into the port beneath my skin and put in a little more saline.  Hopefully, this will get the weight loss going again.

I had the naive thought that this surgery would fix all my heart problems.  But on May 1st, as I was returning from Erie, PA, I began to feel that tell-tale ache in my chest.  When it wouldn't go away, I went straight to UPMC Passavant hospital in the north part of Pittsburgh.  The admitted me and did a heart catheterization on Monday the 2nd.  The cardiologist found a 75% blockage in the right coronary artery and put in a stent, my 5th.  With my wife in Hawaii caring for her terminally ill aunt, I was alone.  But my friends from church came through, standing by and magnificently supporting me through the entire ordeal.  I actually learned a lot about reaching into my well of courage to get through the tough times.  You can't chose the hand that life deals you.  You can only play it with all the strength, courage, and skill you can muster.

Civil War: Events of May 1861

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

Skirmishes, seizures, and movements as the two opposing sides organize themselves for war.
On May 1, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered General Thomas Jackson, soon to be known as “Stonewall,” to seize the Federal arsenal at the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  Two days later, Union General Winfield Scott ordered U.S. troops to seize Arlington Heights, a series of hills overlooking Washington.  Arlington Heights was the home of Robert E. Lee.
President Lincoln, on May 3rd, asked Congress to call up 42,000 volunteers for the army and another 18,000 for the navy.
On May 6, the CSA grew by one more state as Arkansas seceded from the Union.  On that same day, Tennessee voted to place the decision of secession in the hands of her voters.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

It Ain't Over, Yet"*

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
May 9, 2011
as "Bin Ladin's death brought Americans together again"


Osama bin Ladin is dead.

Even a week later, there is still a sense of unreality to those words.  The terrorist responsible for the 9/11 attacks and countless other acts of violence, whom the United States has been in single-minded pursuit for almost 10 years, has been killed.  Perhaps he’s discovered that death for him wasn’t paradise and 70 virgins, but immersion in a lake of fire where he will spend eternity being burned but never consumed.

Strong words, I know.  But when I think back on all the dead and injured in his wake, I have a hard time conjuring up any sympathy.  

On a side note, there’s something viscerally satisfying that bin Ladin shares his date of death, May 1st, with Adolf Hitler.

I expected this.  I knew that somehow, someday he would be found.  Nobody with that kind of notoriety can escape forever.  What did take me by surprise was the level of jubilation expressed by the American people.  Here we were, seemingly mired in the deepest chasm of political divide since the Civil War, and then after one dramatic late-night announcement from the White House, we’re pouring into the streets, cheering, shouting, hugging and kissing, chanting “USA! USA! USA!”  It was V-E Day, V-J Day and a World’s Championship celebration rolled into one.  I almost expected to see a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.