Tag Archives: Debbie Veasey

2017: the year that I lost my Dad – but in the end, not really

Mike, our Dad, and myself in the late 1960’s

The calendar is about to flip not only to the end of a month, but also to the end of another year. The end of December causes most of us to take a glance back at the events of the past year. As usual, this one was filled with many good times

But the calendar year of 2017 was a year of goodbyes for me as well. The biggest goodbye of all was one of the hardest of my life. This was the year that I had to say goodbye to my Dad.

I’m sure that many of you can say something similar to this regarding your own fathers. My Dad, Matthew Joseph Veasey Jr, was my hero. He was also very much a role model and inspiration. But it wasn’t always that way.

Many of the memories that I hold from childhood and my teenage years regarding my relationship with my Dad are way too personal to share publicly. The specifics of those memories belong kept between he and I, and a few close family members.

Suffice it to say that I was the test case for challenging my Dad. I have a younger brother, Mike, and I’m fairly certain from conversations that we all had in later years that he would back me up on that fact.

I grew through my teen years and tried to spread my wings away from the control of this tough-guy U.S. Marine and Philadelphia Police boss. It didn’t always go smoothly.

But through those difficult years we learned a greater respect for one another. And the fact that I had already softened him up made things a little easier on my brother coming up right behind me. You’re welcome, Bro.

As I said, my Dad was a Philly cop, rising through the ranks to retire as a Captain after three decades of service to the community. I took the test at the age of just 18 as well, and passed through all of the preliminaries. Unfortunately for me, this was the one time in the last half-century that the PPD was going through actual layoffs and not hiring anyone new.

Despite taking that test and my father’s career choice, I never had some overwhelming urge to become a police officer myself during my 20’s. After that early test, I never even considered that line of work.

Dad (L) with Mike & I and our families, summer 1993

I began to draw closer to my Dad during the decade of the 1980’s. He got much more political in his 40’s, and recruited me to help out with those efforts. This involved volunteer work on a couple of Philly mayoral races, and his move into the presidency of the Philadelphia Emerald Society, a local Irish organization.

Conversations that we had during those years definitely can be given credit for at least planting seeds of change in me. I was a liberal Democrat to that point in life. He had become much more conservative.

While I disagreed with many of his positions in our discussions, which at times bordered on arguments, he forced me to think and to defend my own thought process.

Over time, I would challenge myself in my worldview, leading to more open-minded self-education on my part. This ultimately led to a wholesale change that was much more in line with his thinking.

I made him a grandfather twice over in those 1980’s, and at a young age. This allowed him to enjoy decades with his granddaughters, who he loved unconditionally. He wanted to be called “Grandfather” by them, because he felt it was more regal. Though we busted his chops on that choice of title over the years, the girls embraced it and him, returning his love completely.

That ‘busting chops’ aspect would become a staple of conversations involving him, my brother, and I during the 1990’s. Over the last three decades of his life, those little dining table discussions among the three of us will always remain some of my own life’s favorite moments.

Following his retirement in late 1989, our Dad moved down to Florida. He would spend the last quarter-century of his life there, but returned to the Philly area for regular visits. Even though we all eventually gained a greater ability to stay in close touch via access to the Internet and cell phones, he stated “I need hugs”, and would make his way up to Philly for a visit.

As he was retiring, I had decided to take another shot at the Philly police test myself. At age 28, I aced the test and was in the Police Academy by April 1990. My brother had already done the same a year ahead of me.

Dad, with myself and Mike at my Police Academy graduation 1990

I know for a fact that nothing ever made our Dad prouder than having both of his boys serving as police officers. He loved passing along advice in the early years of our careers, and then just listening to our own ‘war stories’ as those careers unfolded. We both advanced to supervisory positions, which only made him prouder. And of course, that shared experience in uniform only drew us closer.

His last visit north had come in the early summer of 2016. Then at Christmas a year ago, our Dad began to experience symptoms from the rare form of lung cancer that would eventually take his life. He struggled all through 2017, back and forth to various doctors, in and out of hospitals.

Mike and I finally flew down to Florida to visit him in mid-August. Dad had been in the hospital for two weeks that time, and we were both feeling serious apprehension.

We got to visit with him on a Saturday, spending much of the day together. Though it was in a hospital room with Dad obviously laboring to breathe rather than sitting around a dining room table, he was still as feisty of spirit as ever.

At that point, he was still holding out hope. He knew that he was battling a terminal condition. But there were tests results still to come. His hope was that he could be stabilized, go home, and begin some form of treatment that would give him a few months, if not a couple more years.

It wasn’t to be. He did return home with his loving wife Vicki just a couple of days later, but it was to hospice care. There was nothing more the doctors could do. He died the next weekend.

Unlike when our Mom passed away suddenly back in 1998 at just age 58, I was much more emotionally and spiritually prepared for this one. But it was still a gut punch. I let my tears out just once, with my wife Debbie.

Taking part in his funeral services down in Florida and back up here in Philly was cathartic. I was honored by Mike in allowing me to speak on our behalf at both ceremonies. Both church communities were fantastic. Here in Philly, both the USMC and the PPD presented him with honors. Dad would have been moved and proud.

Dad’s USMC flag presentation and PPD Honor Guard gun salute in Philadelphia

‘Matthew J’ was a tough guy, but he was always an emotional man. Life threw difficult challenges his way as a child, as a young father, as a veteran police boss, and as an older man. He fought his way through all of them with tenacity, a refusal to back down or surrender that would be a lesson that absolutely wore off on me.

On one of his visits north just a few years back, I went along with him to the cemetery outside of Philly where much of his family was buried. This included a visit to the graves of his mother and father, some aunts and uncles, and our brother Joseph, who was stillborn in December 1960.

He also did some preliminary genealogy research on his family tree back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the results of which he turned over to me. This spurred me on to include my Mom’s side of the family, and take much of those tree branches back some four and five generations.

Those things mattered to my Dad: family history and memories. As long as he was alive, the people who mattered to him during his life were still alive. They were alive in him, in his photos and stories and memories.

One thing that I’ve found over these last few months without him, going through “firsts” such as my first birthday and Christmas without him, was that his feelings on the importance of preserving family memories really are important.

You see, what I’ve (strangely to me) found is that I “feel” him now more than I ever did when he was alive. Maybe that was because I took for granted during his life that he was out there. That he would be back up to Philly for a visit in a few months. That I could pick up the phone and talk to him any time.

Our last picture together in June 2016

Now, he seems to be constantly with me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Very few hours pass in a day that I don’t hear his voice in my head. It’s not a bad thing, or a sad thing, or a somber thing in any way. It’s a good feeling.

So what I’ve found is that, while I absolutely miss him terribly, he is still with me. He is always going to be with me. Death didn’t take him away. I see and hear him constantly.

And one more thing. He was a man of faith, something that was always with him, but that developed more fully later in life.

That aspect of faith, a knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ and of God’s love, is another lesson learned by watching my hero. It may be the most important lesson that he ever passed along, in fact.

And because of this one, I know for a fact that one day I will again see my Dad. When I get to wrap my arms around him for one of his hugs again, what a great day that will be.

While 2017 is always going to be remembered by me as the year that my Dad died, I won’t really ever have to think of it as the year that I “lost” him.

Matthew J. Veasey Jr is not lost. He’s not even gone. He’s right here with me now. I would venture to guess that the same goes for any of you reading this now who knew him. It will remain that way for at least as long as any of us remain alive.

The ‘secret’ to a good marriage

Thanks to Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean, there has been a lot of discussion around the country in the past week regarding the issue of the sacrament of Marriage.

I also had the honor of attending a wedding yesterday, and got to enjoy all of the joy and happiness that surrounds those blissful occasions.

I’m going to keep the marriage topic going for one more day here. Only this time it’s not going to be the issue of ‘who’ or ‘what’ should or should not be allowed to marry.

Rather, I’m going to dip in to my own personal experience and education bag of tricks to offer some advice to married couples, and to those who are contemplating getting married.

I think that I can speak on this topic as well as most anyone on earth. I’ve been married twice in my lifetime, raised children, and gone through almost every type of struggle that most normal married persons go through, including any number that I myself created along the way. I’ve bought and remodeled two homes. I’ve bought three cars, a handful of barbecue grills, and a golden retriever.

I’ve gone from being a ‘cafeteria’ Catholic to a solid, church-going, sacrament receiving, money-happily-donated defender of the faith. My point is that, like many of you, I come from a decades-long background and experience base that gives me a strong perspective of what it takes to make a marriage work.

I didn’t come upon my own particular ideas easily or quickly, nor without causing myself and my family in both marriages a number of difficult moments. But what I have learned is that marriage can be broken down to the dedication of ones self to a pair of very simple words: love and priority. Let’s deal with the easy one first.

Some people would think that the idea of ‘love’ is the more difficult, but I say that is not true. To me, love is the beginning and the bedrock of any marriage relationship. But we also need to remember what love is and is not. Love is not that romantic feeling that you get when you first meet someone and feel that ‘connection’ or attraction.

Many people get those early months and even first couple of years of a relationship when the sexual attraction and energy are strong, when the bonds of intimacy towards one another are first being formed, confused with actual true love. True love is something that grows over time. It may actually come in those early months for some. For others it may grow over a period of years.

One thing that is certain is that you need to have a certain level of personal experience and maturity in order to understand that true love comes not only with an attraction to, but also with a respect and a deep caring for your partner. Once you obtain that level of understanding, then the knowledge of your love for another is revealed to you in your heart.

It is a fact of your life, the very fibre of your inner being that you cannot deny. When you love someone, you see the world through their eyes, you feel their pain and their joy, you would give your life for them. You never have to ask the question, there is none to be asked. It is simple truthful knowledge. This true love will never die. It cannot be burned out by the fires, or frozen solid by coldness, or stomped out by the giants that will inevitably cross our paths in life.

The Bible indicates that love is from God, and in fact states that “God is love.” He loved man so much that, despite our turn from him, despite our rebellion, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” This is the type of love that married people need to have towards one another. The type that sacrifices and gives in perpetuity, without expecting anything in return, that is not conditioned on the response of the other person.

I put it to you that in fact, true love is impossible without a relationship with God. The feelings that you have for one another, whatever they may be, however long they may have existed, will not be enough to sustain a true, deep, passionate, committed love without God’s care and involvement in the relationship. You might feel responsibility, affection, even enjoy physical intimacy, but that is not love.

The second term is a bit trickier, and hearkens much more to the tangible, physical, easy to grasp everyday world of all of our lives. That idea of ‘priority’ again takes experience. There is no substitute for actually growing up, not just physically, but more particularly growing mentally and emotionally.

Through personal trial and error, through watching the example of others, and through formal education we learn that actions have consequences. We learn that some of these consequences are good, and some of our actions yield greater good. We also learn that some are bad, and yield various levels of poor results for us.

But we also learn those many lessons in between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, learning that some actions yield better results than others. And so in most of our lives we learn to ‘prioritize’ our actions, doing those good things most of the time that will yield us the best results.

Married couples, and this is a special message that those contemplating marriage need to hear, must make one another and their family their greatest priority, and must constantly examine their lives to ensure that their personal individual priorities are not taking precedence over those of the family.

If you are not prepared to subordinate your own needs and desires to those of a spouse and children, then you should not even be thinking of getting married. If you know that you do in fact truly love your partner, and are committed to building and sustaining a family with them throughout your life no matter what circumstances arise, then you should by all means go ahead and marry them.

You should absolutely not get married because they look good, are good in bed, like the same sports teams or music as you like, are the same religion, or for any other reason whatsoever. And once married, you need to continually prioritize your family first. Not only the caring for of them physically, but the emotional nurturing of your relationships, the education of your children, these things must come first.

Most of us work hard for hours upon hours each week, and we deserve some ‘down time’ for ourselves. But we must always be very careful that this time never takes away from our family time. In fact, our first enjoyment should always be in the spending of time with our partners and our children.

We also need time to sleep, to rest our bodies. If we deny ourselves this necessary act, then we make ourselves vulnerable to emotional and physical pains and anxieties that will take away our ability to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families.

A good marriage based on true love will prioritize itself to include working to sustain our families with shelter, food, clothing, and education but which also at the same time includes time with them bonding and enjoying one another. Sleep and rest must be prioritized, because without these we cannot be healthy enough to function properly in our right mind and body, thus denying our family our best.

Most everything else is extra, a bonus that comes during those few hours each week where we are not working, or enjoying time with our family, or resting. Some weeks those bonus or extra hours may not come at all, but how can any reasonable man or woman say that they are missing out on anything that life has to offer of real lasting value simply because they didn’t get to listen to some music file, or play some video game, or watch some television show, or go to some concert or movie?

Believe me, over the course of our lives, a normal life will yield many opportunities for entertainment and pleasure. We must prioritize our partner, our spouse, our family above all else. And above all of this we must place our own personal, individual relationship with God, and realize that a home that has Jesus Christ as its rock and foundation has a far greater chance of weathering the storms of life than any home trying to do so without Him.

Most of the problems that we have all encountered in our lives, if we are fully honest with ourselves, can trace themselves back to times when we decided that we were going to make our own desires our priorities rather than the will of God as demanded of us in His commandments, as further expanded upon by the teachings of Jesus Christ, and then as grown by the Holy Spirit in the teachings of the Church down through the ages.

The two bedrocks of any good marriage then are love and priority. When you know without thinking that you love someone else, when they can say the same about you, and when you can confidently know that you will always make them your first priority no matter what else happens, then you have the stuff of a good, lasting, loving marriage.

I can tell you this for certain in my own life: I love my wife. Debbie Veasey has all of my love, truly and for as long as we live and hopefully beyond that, and of that there is never any question in my mind or heart, ever, no matter what happens. She has all of my love, and she is my priority. The same extends to my children and grandchildren, and the rest of my family. But that marriage between Debbie and I has to be the rock on which all the rest settles.

In the end, there will be one final test of your marriage that will absolutely tell if it was based on this true love. It will be the old ‘proof is in the pudding’ saying, and you won’t know perhaps until your last day on this earth. This final test is stated perfectly in the closing lyrics of a song titled ‘When It’s Love’ by the rock group Van Halen, which ends “When it’s love, it lasts forever.” Amen.

47

 

Yours truly turned 47 this year

 

Happy Birthday to me!

Well, to me and everyone else celebrating today. I share this birthday with baseball’s J.D. Drew, football stars Mark Gastineau and Joey Galloway, comedians Richard Dawson and Dick Smothers, musician Joe Walsh, and a trio of gorgeous actresses: Bo Derek, Sean Young and Veronica Hamel.

This was also Bobby Kennedy’s birthday.

I woke up a little over an hour ago after a pretty good night sleeping, and my 47th birthday started out about as good as I could ever hope. My wife Debbie Veasey was already awake and nearly ready to leave for work, but before she left she greeted me with a big smile, a hug and kiss, and a sincere “Happy birthday, honey!

She had a birthday card for me too. One of those with a real nice message and signed off with her love. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Now here I sit alone at my dining room table just like many other mornings. A fresh, hot cup of Wawa coffee beside me, loaded up with their Irish cream, which I understand that they are discontinuing.

Wawa is one of life’s pleasures, the local chain store for food, cigarettes, newspapers, and other essentials of American daily living. Here at the Veasey Ranch, we buy bags of their coffee so that we enjoy the brew not just on the run, but right here at home.

The Irish coffee creamer product that Wawa produces at their dairy is my personal favorite add-in. It’s creamy and tasty, and along with a couple of packets of Equal, helps make the perfect pick-me-up beverage in my world. I hope the rumors turn out false about the Irish cream. Don’t you just hate it when some store discontinues some product that you have enjoyed for a long time?

So it is with me and birthday cakes. As a boy growing up in South Philly, my local corner bakery shop was a little place called Hier’s Bakery at 3rd & Wolf Streets.

You could live and die right there at that intersection, which was just around the corner from our little house at 2321 S. American Street. The four corners at the intersection of south 3rd Street and Wolf Street featured Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on the southeast, the Murphy-Ruffenach funeral home on the northeast, a doctor’s office on the northwest, and Hier’s on the southwest.

Those institutions are still on those same corners today, though the actual doctor practice has changed, the funeral home gone through a merger, and the bakery ownership has also changed a number of times.

When it was Hier’s back in those ‘Wonder Years’ days for me of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, they always featured a cake which would become my birthday cake every year.

This delicious object of my annual desire came with a chocolate cake layer on top of a yellow cake layer. Running between the two cakes was a delicious, thin strip of white cream. Surrounding the whole creation was the most incredible, full, sweet, dark-colored chocolate icing. And then at the top was another layer of that same white icing which ran through the middle.

I would always take a slice and eat the yellow layer first, making sure that my fork took the thin vanilla icing layer with it. This was only the opening act though. Then I would move on to the upper chocolatey world.

There was something about the interplay between this particular chocolate cake, chocolate edge icing, and white top icing that exploded in your mouth. I can taste it still this morning, even though I have not had a piece of that cake in about 25 years.

At some point during the 1980’s, whomever owned the old Hier’s business sold out. I did go in a couple of times and inquired about the cake, but the new owners didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. I never saw my birthday cake again.

My guess is that the recipe is likely laying around somewhere, maybe in some drawer at the home of a former bakery owner. Maybe the recipe has been passed along, and the cake is being made today in some bakery out there that I have no idea even exists.

It is one of those little things in life that was a regular feature of my childhood that is now gone. It is something that was here, is gone seemingly forever, and that I do miss.

To find that same cake again one day would be a miracle akin to a Christian explorer locating the Holy Grail itself. Well, okay maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. I hope that little slice of heaven from my childhood is not repeating itself here in my middle-aged adult life with the Wawa Irish cream.

But one thing that I have learned over these 47 years that I celebrate the anniversary of today is that things change. But as to those things large and small that we have come to welcome and enjoy in our lives, the little things that make life just a wee bit more enjoyable, they will stay with us forever, at least in our memories.

I thank God for that childhood birthday cake. I thank God for Wawa Irish cream. I thank God for the woman that I woke up to this morning. And I thank God for these past 47 years. Happy birthday to me!

Three Thrilling Innings

Embed from Getty Images

Manuel holds the World Series trophy in the victorious Philadelphia Phillies locker room at Citizens Bank Park

 

Unable to get into Citizen’s Bank Park at anything close to resembling a reasonable price, my wife, Debbie Veasey, and I ultimately decided to hunker down in the comfort and warmth of our family room to watch the conclusion of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.

The 52-inch TV, our dog Petey, our home cabinets and refrigerators with drinks and treats, my cellphone to text friends and family during the game, and our new video camera would be our companions through the night.

Nowhere else that I would rather be, or anyone else that I would rather have been with, than Deb. She is a huge Phillies fan in her own right, and we enjoy watching games on TV and attending them together in person all spring and summer.

Pre-game we decided to head out to a local Chinese buffet where we talked some about what we thought would happen when the game re-started. With Game 5 having been suspended after 5 1/2 innings by incredibly torrid rain and cold on Monday night, the first time in history that an MLB post-season game was ever suspended, some unusual situations were set.

The Phillies original starting pitcher, Cole Hamels, was scheduled to be leading off the bottom of the 6th inning. But since he would not be available to pitch on such short rest (two days of the delay), Hamels would certainly be replaced with a pinch-hitter.

Local radio sports talk hosts had speculated that the Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would go with either pinch-hit king Greg Dobbs or slugging Matt Stairs. But I told Deb that I felt the choice would and should be Geoff Jenkins.

It was silly to use Dobbs that early, you might need his clutch bat at the end. And Stairs is a one-trick pony whose big bat you simply had to preserve, just in case you needed that one trick, a home run, at some late stage.

This situation called for someone left-handed, since the Rays would have a righty on the mound. Jenkins was the only one left, and was the obvious choice to me.

Apparently it was the right choice by Manuel as well. Jenkins it was to lead it off, and he drove a 3-2 pitch to deep right-center field for a double. A sacrifice bunt by Jimmy Rollins and a humpback single to center by Jayson Werth made it 3-2 Phillies right off the bat.

But that was only the beginning, as this suspended three innings of play would pack in as much drama as most full games.

In the top of the 7th, the Rays tied it on a solo home run from Rocco Baldelli off Ryan Madson. Later in the inning it would be up to second baseman Chase Utley to provide the heroics with his glove, arm, and head.

With two outs and Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett on second base, Akinori Iwamura sent a ball bouncing up the middle. Utley ranged nicely to his right and behind the bag, fielded the ball cleanly in his glove, transferred the ball to his bare hand, and pivoted as if to throw to first base.

As Utley likely knew, there would be no chance to get the speedy Iwamura on this play. But he made it seem as if he was going with the throw, fooling Bartlett, who never stopped in rounding third and heading for home with the potential go-ahead run.

Instead of actually throwing to first, Utley double-clutched, turned his body slightly, and fired a one-bounce strike to catcher Carlos Ruiz just slightly up the third base line. Ruiz took the throw and dove out after Bartlett, who was himself diving around the tag attempt in trying to get to home plate.

Ruiz stretched out and nailed Bartlett three feet short of the plate, and the Phillies were out of the inning still tied. Utley’s heady play will go down in history as one of the greatest, if not the single greatest, defensive plays in the history of Philadelphia sports. And a nice assist to Ruiz on the other end as well.

In the bottom of the 7th, the longest tenured Phillies player, left fielder Pat Burrell, would lead things off. Burrell was the only Phillies player to not get much involved thus far in the Series as he was hitless to that point. This could also well be the final at-bat in his career with the club since he is a free agent this coming off-season.

Almost every Phillies fan that I heard talking in the time leading up to the game was rooting for Burrell to do something special, and Pat didn’t let us down. He got a hold of a fastball and drove it deep to center field, the farthest part of the park, for what looked like it was going to be a dramatic go-ahead home run.

Instead, the ball crashed high off the center field fence in the deepest park of Citizens Bank Park, missing that homer by just a couple of feet. As the ball bounced back to the turf, Burrell rolled into second base, and the Phillies had led-off their second straight inning with a double.

Eric Bruntlett came in to pinch-run for Burrell, who left to a tremendous ovation, and Bruntlett quickly moved over to third base on Shane Victorino’s bouncing ground out.

Up to the plate stepped third baseman Pedro Feliz, who delivered the biggest hit of his career with a line-drive single right back through the box, scoring Bruntlett and putting the Phils back on top by 4-3 heading into the 8th.

Again in the top of the 8th, the Rays kept coming. With a runner on first, Phils reliever J.C. Romero induced young Rays star B.J. Upton to ground a ball right to Rollins at shortstop who flipped it over to Utley at second for the force out. In the same motion, Utley pivoted to turn the double play as the runner barreled down on him to break it up. The Phils all-star hung in under fire and made a strong throw, nailing the speedy Upton by a step to complete the twin killing.

The Phillies were held off the board in their half of the 8th, and so the game went into the top of the 9th with the team just three outs away from just the second World Series title in their 125-year history.

Manuel gave the ball to closer Brad Lidge, who had become known as ‘Lights-Out’ by not blowing a Save opportunity all year. Lidge got the first batter, but then gave up a hit and a stolen base to put the Rays tying run at second with one out.

Nothing ever comes easy in Philadelphia. The next batter sliced a ball to the opposite field that looked off the bat as if it could be a game-tying single. But the rocket hung in the air and went directly at right fielder Jayson Werth for out number two.

Rays skipper Joe Maddon then sent up slugger Eric Hinske top pinch-hit. Hinske, a big lefty bat to go up against the right-handed Lidge, had homered in his lone at-bat of the series back in Game 4.

Lidge quickly got ahead, and as the center field clock at Citizen’s Bank Park reached exactly 10:00 pm, the Phillies closer fired a slider that dove down under Hinske’s swinging bat and into the glove of catcher Ruiz for a series-ending strikeout.

As Ruiz charged the mound in celebration, Lidge dropped to his knees and looked prayerfully skyward. The catcher grabbed the closer in a bear hug, and the two were immediately tackled to the ground by big first baseman Ryan Howard.

The rest of the team was in hot pursuit, and the pile-on crushed those three as the rest of the players joined in the celebration.

The Phillies fans in the stands waved their ‘Rally Towels’ with glee, jumped up and down, hugged one another, roared, cried, and generally exploded with joy at the city’s first professional sports championship in a quarter century.

Back at home, Deb and I had been videotaping our evening and the game as it progressed, and we were jumping around our living room with that same joyfulness. Deb grabbed a pot and big spoon, and ran out front to clang them in celebration with some neighbors.

We watched the post-game shows both on Fox and local Comcast Sportsnet, as well as all the local news angles. The street celebrations quickly grew, and Deb and I decided to get dressed and head out.

We drove around in Northeast Philly hot spots, honking our horns and cheering out the windows with other drivers and pedestrians, and even stopped at a local sporting goods store at 1:00 am to buy some Phillies world championship shirts.

The three innings which began with Jenkins’ double, that included Werth’s RBI blooper, Burrell’s heroic double, Feliz‘ winning RBI single, Utley’s defensive brilliance, the Rays’ persistence, and finally closed with Lidge’s strikeout, were three of the most unusual but greatest innings in World Series history.

And then, those three dramatic innings ended with the Philadelphia Phillies, as their legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas called it on radio, “2008 world champions of baseball!”

It just does not get any better than this for a baseball fan. Ever. As Deb said, thank you Tug McGraw in Heaven! And let me add to her sentiments both John Vukovich and John Marzano, who were surely watching over and rooting us on from above along with the Tugger.

And thank you, sweet Jesus! Thank you, God in Heaven! And last but not least, thank you to the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies, from World Series MVP Cole Hamels, to all the players and coaches, up to the top of ownership, and down to the lowest employees on the organizational ladder.

Today, you are all my heroes. No one who was around to enjoy them will ever forget those three thrilling innings, or this magnificent championship ball club. Thank you!

Happy anniversary, baby!

For many people, true love seems elusive. At least in the popular media, women are usually perceived to be and often portrayed as being in search of it, and men often seem to be doing everything they can to avoid it.

That is a broad generalization that speaks more to the somewhat higher level of maturity that many women often have over the men in their same age bracket.

I believe strongly that, in addition to things like wealth and status, it is this maturity that older men eventually attain which attracts younger women to them as partners. It is one of the reasons that you see ‘twenty-something’ women with ‘fourty-something’ or even older men.

In the late spring of 1992, at one of the lowest points in my own life, true love found me.

I was going through a separation from my first wife, and there were many things going through my mind and heart as I made that break, too personal to discuss here.

Suffice it to say that love was the last thing that I was looking for on a Saturday night when I made what was going to be a quick after-work stop at a local private club.

Suddenly while sitting there at a bar, talking to an acquaintance, an angel walked into the place, and my eyes went right to her.

I don’t care how many people think these kinds of things are the stuff of fiction, because I can tell you that it was fact – something big drew my attention to her.

Oh sure, she looked great: blonde, built, and beautiful. She was wearing a white top and a white mini-skirt on that late-May night. She would have attracted the attention of most any guy.

She made her way to the bar, where directly across from me a group of what turned out to be her friends was sitting. After talking with them for a bit, she slipped around the bar to where I was sitting.

It was my good fortune; strike that, it was fate, that she knew the person with whom I was sitting. At one point he turned and introduced us, and we began to talk. At some point I asked her to dance. We ‘clicked’ immediately, and we ended up having a nice time spent mostly together, talking and dancing, for the next couple of hours.

I forgot all about my problems, all about my life. At that moment, my life was right there in that room with that woman. We kissed that first night, and it was ‘fireworks in the sky’ stuff. I asked her to go out again, and we actually went out the very next night to the very same club.

She became my steady date: same club every Friday night. Eventually we gave in to the obvious, and after a year and a half we got engaged. I was getting ready to do something that I never thought I would do while going through the early months of the separation from my first marriage: take the plunge yet again.

On October 7th, 1995, with all of our friends and family gathered with us, we enjoyed what remains the most special day of my life. We married at the Gloria Dei ‘Old Swedes’ Church in South Philly.

Following the wedding, we took wedding photos at a rose garden in the historic area near Independence Hall and then celebrated with a tremendous party of a reception at the Firefighters union hall.

We then honeymooned, for a couple of nights in the Society Hill section on Philly, after which we left on a week-long getaway to the island of St. Lucia, a paradise that neither of us will ever forget. There we enjoyed many of the most fun times we ever had in either of our lives.

The entire period around our wedding was an experience that I wish everyone, especially my own girls, could enjoy at least one real time in their lives.

In the ensuing years, I was not always a good and proper steward of that love, and I let her down on a few occasions, a couple of them truly testing our bond.

Through her love and faith in us, and our firm commitment to one another, and the blessings of God, we have been able to not only overcome those difficulties but rise above them.

She is the light of my life, the love of my life. My best friend, my partner, my wife. Today is our ‘Lucky 13th’ anniversary, and I can say in all honesty that I would not trade her for anyone or anything.

If you haven’t found this kind of thing, keep looking, it’s out there. If you have, and you’re not nurturing it, make that change, because it just doesn’t come along very often.

Whatever you out there are doing today, what I will be doing is celebrating the gift of this wonderful woman in my life. I am in love with Debbie Veasey, my wife, and I am happy to tell the world. Happy anniversary, baby.