Monday, December 22, 2008

The Communion of Saints

One of the Catholic doctrines that I really love is the belief in the Communion of Saints. The way I understand it is that we are all one big family, those who have passed on, those alive right now, and those not yet born. The doctrine is a kind of time machine, where past, present, and future are one. [Oops. My memory is a bit faulty. I still remember by heart many things I learned from the Baltimore Catechism, but I didn't exactly get the Communion of Saints right. It consists of the Church Militant (the living); the Church Suffering (those in purgatory); and the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven). I like my vision of this concept better!]

In this Communion of Saints, this time machine of love and caring, I think often of my Mom and Dad, of my in-laws, Ruth and Art Sanders, of my Gramma Coughlin, and of certain family and friends (Sr. Franzita Kane, Kenny Przybylski, et al). I pray for them and ask them to pray for me. Lately I've been thinking a lot of my Uncle Jack Coughlin and his tough life. I've been working on a poem about him that I will someday publish on this blog. I've also been thinking about my cousin, Jack Fitzpatrick, brutally murdered one Christmas 37 years ago as he waited in a line at Higbees to see Santa Claus with his small children. This past year Jack's wife, Mary Finnegan Fitzpatrick, died, and I think of Jack and Mary at this time of the year.

I also think about friends with physical ailments. I especially think of Jack Pendergast. He has our fervent prayers and thoughts. And we also pray for his wife Vicki. What a great day when we discovered this long-lost Coughlin cousin. Jack is the great family genealogist and the genius of Irish music with his work with Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, the association of Irish musicians. We are thinking of you and praying for you Jack! And you too, Vicki!

We also pray for our friends and family members with emotional and psychological suffering. This kind of suffering spares no families--and if you are truthful, there's hardly a person alive who hasn't faced, at least for some period of time, such suffering. We pray for those suffering anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and other addictions.

In the Communion of Saints, we pray for and help each other.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Winter Solstice"--A Dark Poem for a Dark Season

Winter Solstice

The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and

fears as real and as organized as the swirl
of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
seems to last forever:

I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
and the minute after that,
and the minute after that,

wonder if I can make it
until hope returns

until peace-which-surpasses-understanding,
as mysterious as winter solstice’s fear--
my heart standing still, turning cold,
my spirit abandoned--

until peace returns like grace like unexpected


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Addresses of Some Family Homes

I've wanted to try to list the homes where we, our grandparents, and many of our relatives lived--as many of these as possible. One thing I've noticed is how small many of these houses are--some are around 700 square feet! I'll keep adding to this list as I get the information.

To look at these houses and to see the date they were built and other information about them, try going to and type in the address you want to view. The addresses below are the current addresses; there may have been different house numbers in earlier years. Certainly there weren't ZIP codes until probably the 1960's.

Mom and Dad, along with Bobby and Denny, lived at 1120 Windermere Drive, Willoughby, OH 44094 from 1948-1951.

Gramma Cora Coughlin and Grampa Connie Coughlin lived at 1136 Hayes Avenue, Willoughby, OH 44094, from somewhere around 1920 to the early 1960's. They lived there with their 5 children, Fran, Jack, Bob, Bill, and Bernice.

Gramma Margaret Ann and Grampa Jack Fitzpatrick lived at or near 1188 E. 169th or 1194 East 169th. Street, Cleveland, OH 44119, in the early 20th Century. They probably lived there until 1926, when the house on Tarrymore Road was built. I assume they lived in that house with children Al, Julia, Fenton, Dick, Don, and Margaret Ann. The family moved to 17301 Tarrymore Road, Cleveland, OH 44119, from 1928 to the 1940's.

Great Uncle Ed and Aunt Helen Sullivan lived at 1098 Hayes Avenue, Willoughby, OH 44094, with children Mary Ellen, Sally, Johnny, and Mickey. This house was very near our grandparents' house, separated only by a field (3 or 4 houses were built in that field circa 2000). Uncle Ed was Gramma Margaret Ann Sullivan Fitzpatrick's brother.

Uncle Fran Coughlin, Aunt Bee, and children Jerry, Mickey, and Danny lived at 1144 Westwood, Willoughby, OH 44094.

Uncle Al Fitzpatrick, Aunt Catherine, and children Jack, Jerry, Sheila, and Tommy lived at 161 Eastbrook Drive, Euclid, OH 44132. Mary Fitzpatrick and her 5 kids lived there from the early 1970's on (Mary died in 2007 or 2008 and the house is now for sale).

Great Grandfather Frank Bowers (he changed the spelling of his last name from Bauer to Bowers) lived at 1210 East 87th Strret, Cleveland when he died on November 25, 1938 at the age of 79.

On my grandfather Connie Coughlin's World War I era draft registration, the home address is given as 1535 E. 78th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. This registration, which appears to be written in his own beautiful hand, states that he was single, age 26, supporting his mother, of medium height, slender build, gray eyes, dark brown hair, a natural-born American citizen, born May 9, 1891. His occupation is listed as a Clerk (auto) for Neighbors Motor Co. in Cleveland. The form is dated June 5, 1917. Grampa must have been married later that year or the next year. This address is just south of Superior Avenue (US. Rt. 6), just west of Rockefeller Park, and perhaps a mile south of the Gordon Park baseball fields and Lake Erie. It is also near the Bowers family home at 1210 E. 87th Street, where I assume my Gramma Cora Bowers Coughlin grew up.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Coughlin

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of my Mom, Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Coughlin. She was known as Margaret Ann by most people, as "Gertann" by my Dad, and as Marge or Margaret by some others.

Mom was born in Cleveland on November 10th, 1923, the baby of her family. Her older siblings were Al, Julia ("Dudie"), Fenton ("Skip"), and identical twins Dick and Don. Her Dad was John ("Jack") Francis Fitzpatrick, born in the quarry village of Bluestone, Euclid Township, Ohio, and Margaret Ann Sullivan, born in the quarry area of Brownhelm Township, Lorain County, Ohio. Jack worked for the railroad as a yard conducter and Margaret was a homemaker.

My Mom first lived on East 169th [1188, E. 169th, I believe]Street, in the Euclid Beach-Grovewood area of Cleveland. As a toddler she started speaking Slovenian because of her daily contact with Slovenian speakers in that neighborhood. I think that was a signal for her parents to move! And they moved just about a mile away to a house on Tarrymore Road, a stone's throw from Lake Erie (I think the current address of that home is 17513 Tarrymore Rd., Cleveland, OH 44119; gives the date the house was built as 1926). That's where she grew up, and that's where her mother died on March 18, 1940.

My mother was baptized as St. Jerome's Church in Cleveland, and attended Holy Cross Church and school after the move to Tarrymore Drive. She attended Villa Angela Academy for a while, but left that school (she might have been kicked out over a trivial issue, like playing hookie one day--it's not exactly clear to us). Thereafter, she attended Notre Dame Academy on Ansel Road in Cleveland, and graduated from high school in 1943. She loved the Notre Dame nuns and handled the long two-streetcar ride to school with no problem.

I think after high school Mom lived with her sister or brothers in various places, including Willoughby, Ohio. Some time around 1946, she met my Dad, Robert ("Bob") Paul Coughlin, who grew up on Hayes Avenue (nowdays the address is 1136 Hayes Ave., Willoughby, OH 44094) in Willoughby-on-the-Lake. They were married in August of 1947, at Immaculate Conception Church in Willoughby, and I, their firstborn, was born in June of 1948.

Mom and Dad made their first home at 1120 Windermere Drive, in Willoughby, about 200 feet west of my Coughlin grandparents. Their home was a tiny bungalow, maybe 700-800 square feet in size. Denny was born in June of 1950 and the house was beginning to feel crowded so they began thinking of getting a bigger house. Dad's first job after getting out of the Navy (he served on small ships in the South Pacific 1942-45) was in the Cleveland Trust Bank in downtown Willoughby. When he told the bank that he wanted to get a mortgage to build a new house (we're talking a $9000 house here--brand new), the bank told Dad no, that he didn't make enough money to get a mortgage loan. At that point Dad probably told them goodbye (but not in such polite language) and went off looking for a new job. He finally secured a job as an electrician at New York Central Railroad in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland. I have no idea how Dad talked himself into that job. He was no more an electrician at that time than I am now. But when you have a growing family, you do what you have to do to get a job. New York Central was near Mom's old neighborhood, and her brother Skip lived practically next door to the NYC yards and worked there as a welder/machinist. Dad's brothers Fran, Jack, and Bill also worked there, as did his in-laws Skip and Al Fitzpatrick. NYC must have been an Irish-mafia operation back then! Check out this link with all the Fitzpatrick relatives aboard a train at the Collinwood Yards:
Here is a funny story my Mom used to tell me about the Willoughby-on-the-Lake neighborhood: One day when I was a baby or toddler, she was walking me around the neighborhood when a crow landed on my shoulder. My mom was real frightened and left me on the sidewalk and ran into the house. It turns out the crow could talk! It was a tame crow owned by someone in the neighborhood. I think it's just an unsubstantiated rumor that the crow uttered "nevermore!"
Some time around June 1951, a fateful accident happened in that Willoughby neighborhood that affected my Mom, Dad, me, Denny, and, I imagine, the whole family not yet born:
[more coming]

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Coughlin Plants a Giant Sequoia Forest in Mentor, Ohio

I had always thought that the Giant Redwoods and Giant Sequoias were California and West Coast phenomena. But leave it to Kevin Coughlin to begin planting a Giant Sequoia forest in Mentor, Ohio. Why didn't anyone think of this before?

I don't think Kevin's plan will be without difficulties. Giant Sequoia can get, well, giant! I fear that at some point he is going to have to move his house 50 or more feet toward or away from the street to make room for that tree. I'm thinking these gigantic trees can get 20 or 30 feet in diameter and a couple, three hundred feet tall. And how is he going to protect the trees from Northern Ohio cold? Will he drape some sort of gigantic tent over the trees? And don't these trees live a thousand or two thousand years? How's he going to manage this new forest? Does he plan to live as long as Methuselah?

I wish Kev the best of luck. There are some formidable difficulties to overcome here. I'm thinking he ought to revisit his worm-farm idea or help Uncle Bill develop his hydrogen-powered cars rather than get into this Giant Sequoia tree farming scheme!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Addendum or Correction to the Previous Poem

My previous poem might have been a bit too sweet. Den and Sher reminded me that the ride home from Willoughby wasn't always rosaries and songs! Here's a poem that will balance the picture a bit.

The Straight Dope on the Coughlin Family of the 1950’s

Yea, it was a great family, but I forgot to tell you:

On those long rides home from Willoughby,
Denny had to sit by the back window, puking so often from car sickness.
And Jesus H. Christ, was he in trouble a lot at St. William’s!

We teased Mary Ellen mercilessly, but we didn’t
Entice her or force her to drink that glass of bleach—
That was her own doing and probably Mom’s mistake
For pouring bleach into a drinking glass and leaving it within a toddler’s reach.

And Kevin, poor Kevin, we dropped him on his head
More times than I can count—always accidentally, of course.
You can see the results still—it explains a lot, the politics, etc.
And sorry, Kev, about that fishing fly caught up your nose.

And Jim, the baby of the family, was like our toy, or better yet,
Our pet. Sorry about that long walk on the coldest day in Cleveland history.
The frostbite and all. Sorry your toes still get numb at the first sign of cold.

And Mom didn’t intentionally run over me, the apple of her eye,
Her firstborn son. That must have been an accident,
I keep telling myself.

And Dad probably did drink too much. Luckily,
Mom diluted the Cribari wine half and half with water.
Dad probably had no idea what real wine tasted like!

Yea, it was a wonderful family, a wonderful time,
But, when I think about it,

We were more like the Simpsons than Ozzie and Harriet!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Memory Poem

Driving Home From Willoughby, 1959

After Thanksgiving Dinner at Gramma and Grampa’s,
Dad, Uncle Jack, and Grampa located a davenport or bed
For a half-hour’s nap, hypnotized by the turkey, the full belly, the beer.

Denny and I went out to the field between the Sullivan’s and Coughlin’s,
Climbed the wild black cherry, while Mary Ellen and Kev
Played in the piles of silver and sugar maple leaves.
Mom carried Baby Jimmy on her hip, talked with Gramma,
Dried the dishes.

And then, around 7, we hopped into the old Ford,
Mom and Dad in front, 3 kids on the back seat, Kev on the hump,
And Jim stuffed up on the shelf by the rear window
(no seat belts, no rules in those days!).

We’d start the long drive home down Lakeshore Boulevard
Saying the rosary, me leading the prayers,
The Joyful Mysteries, 5 decades of Hail Mary’s,
Sprinkled with Our Father’s, Glory Be’s, and the Apostles Creed.

And when we finished (and we were the fastest rosary sayers on the planet!),
We’d sing every song we knew, full-throated:
“Anchors Away My Boys,” to “Row Row Row Your Boat,” in rounds,
To “She’s My Darling She’s My Daisy, She’s Cross-eyed, She’s Crazy.”

And then, after a bit of silent driving, we’d turn south
Down East 266 Street and home:
By now Jimmy, Kevin, Mary Ellen asleep,
Denny and Bobby groggy,

Mom and Dad spent and quietly happy.

Robert M. Coughlin
Thanksgiving 2008