Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Times They Did A-Change

So, as I may have mentioned in previous blog entries, my return to Delaware County to resume permanent residence has been chock full of different. All kinds of different. 

And that kind of surprised me.

Naturally, I assumed the home I left would evolve. It’s just that I was under the impression that evolution took millions of years. Thank you very much, Mr. Darwin.

I now realize it happens much faster with places than with species. If I had known I’d have taken more pictures. So here is just a partial list of the Delaware County mutations I’ve discovered so far:

My drug store is different (Thrift Drugs magically turned into Rite-Aid).

Wawas are different (gas stations?). 

The MacDade Mall is different. 

The Sharon Hill Acme is different (something called Amelia). 

My barber moved to Prospect Park.  That was different.

Delco politics are different. Democrats can win now?

The high schools are different.

The Eagles uniforms are different.

The funny pages in the Daily Times are different. (Even the mom’s hairstyle on the Family Circle is different. Thankfully, Mrs. Lockhorn remains traditional.)

We have gained a Ruby Tuesdays, two Walmarts, an Appleby’s and even a Sonic.

We have lost The Springfield Inn, Septembers, Grants, Maltz Brothers, The Wild Irishman, and about a million Fotomats.

But most distressing of all, Hennessy’s Tavern is now a drug store. Back in the day I liked to sit right at the far bend of the long, beautiful bar at Hennessy’s so I could see everyone come and go. On a good day I’d make witty remarks to myself about each of the customers who wandered in. The more beers the wittier the remarks. Finally, when I was just too witty for words, I’d walk home.

Today that exact spot is approximately one-third of the way down the drug store’s “Feminine Products” aisle. I checked. Very quickly.

At least Leo’s Steaks is the same and as good as ever.

Of course, all this is a very roundabout way of getting to more changes that have taken place in those closest to me. Thankfully, my immediate family is intact. But we lost quite a few aunts and uncles over the past 18 years. Again, that’s to be expected. But it’s still hard. Somehow, being home again makes me miss them even more than I did before.

Not all different is bad though.

One of the very bright family changes is with my sister, Patti. When I left Delaware County in 1996, Patti was happily married and hoping to get a good job as a nurse while caring for her beautiful 2-year-old daughter. She always wanted to be a nurse, and we all hoped that she was going to get to live her dream.

Well …

It’s 2014 and Patti is a top Operating Room nurse at a local hospital. (Ever wonder why they still call it an operating room when I hear that everything is “a procedure” these days? Sorry … just had a Seinfeld moment there.) She is still happily married, and raising a 20-year-old college student and a 16-year-old high school junior. Both of them are beautiful young women, too. Time does not stand still, does it?

(By the way, rumor has it that Patti keeps them smiling as she goes the extra mile at work, too.)

I’ve saved my sister Jayne for last. That’s because she has undergone both the most and the least change. In some ways she hasn’t changed a bit in all my time away. (It’s just occurred to me that “my time away” sounds like I was incarcerated or in a special home. I should probably work on another term for that.) 

Jayne is still married. Still happy. Still working for the same company, and still looks 10 years younger than she is. She still keeps track of every niece and nephew, and seems to know exactly how to make them love her, sometimes no matter how shy they might be or how moody or how disinterested they seem at first.

Resistance to Aunt Jayne is futile.

But Jayne has experienced the most change, too. She was a lifelong Delco resident when I left. Since then, multiple promotions have taken her all over the country. She’s had homes in Neenah, Wisconsin … Dallas, Texas (never stopped being a Cowboy hater) … Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania … Minneapolis, Minnesota … and back to Appleton, Wisconsin. And the higher she rises in her company, the more down-to-Earth she is. No big-timing, no superior attitude, not a hint of conceit in her. She is always just my little sister to me.

I could not be more proud of these two accomplished, fascinating young(er than me, at least) women. I’m thankful every day that I’m their brother.

Sometimes different can be really, really great.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Who Are You Again?

When I moved away from Delaware County 18 years ago I was known far and wide (well, wide at least). And everyone I knew knew me as Jack Huber.

Simple enough. Nothing strange about that since Jack Huber is my name. Well, the truth is that my formal, official name is John Huber, but we should save that topic for another day.

Now that I’m back, I find that the simple truth of my name has changed in many circles. In my time away, people have come to know me (or more accurately, to know of me) by a different name or description.

I’m known as “Eddie’s brother” or even “Eddie’s other brother.” Some people actually address me exactly in that manner, as in: “Yo, Eddie’s brother, settle a bet for us here.” Or indirectly, “Let me ask Eddie’s other brother about that.” It’s like when you were a kid and you asked your friend’s mother, “Hi, Tommy’s mom, can we go on your roof and get all the balls we hit up there?” (A question always followed by a rapid “no.”)

Not that there’s anything wrong with being Eddie’s brother.

It seems that while I was hobnobbing with the social elite and scratching my way to the middle there in Our Nation’s Capital, my 10 years younger brother was making quite a name for himself.

You may think that a brother of mine might become notorious in a “we-don’t-like-to-talk-about-it” way … or well-known for setting some kind of tavern game record. But that’s not the case. Not at all. Not that I know of.

Eddie runs a backhoe.

In fact, I’m told he’s one of the best at running a backhoe that there is. That might not seem like a way to become popular in a community, but think about all the times over the course of a couple of decades that someone needs to get to a power line outside a home, or dig for a septic tank or pool, or knock down a dangerous wall, or plow snow from a parking lot or schoolyard, or …

You get it. They call my brother.

That’s his job, but Eddie’s fame comes from the kind of guy he is. He’s the total stranger who stops to give you a jump when your battery is dead. He’s the go-to dude who knows how to fix your flat tire or your clothes dryer … and is happy to do it. People really like that kind of thing. Or so I’m told.

But I don’t want to leave the impression that “Eddie’s brother” has become my only new identity.

Among almost as many people -- most notably in Delaware County it’s St. James alumni and fans -- I’m “Dan’s brother.”

Dan is the one who has gotten “Eddie’s brother” most often in Delaware County until now.  He’s the reason why the “other brother” description has occasionally fallen to me.

[I know this is all a little confusing, so you may want to pause here to re-read the last few paragraphs. I certainly had to.]

Dan lives in Delaware, so he had the advantage of location on me, which I have now reclaimed. Also, he makes some amazing videos as part of his business … and one of his best was about our home town, utilizing lots of local talent, which you can see here (and which is another unfair advantage in getting known locally, but, as Tony Soprano used to say: Whattaya gonna do?).

Also he was an outstanding athlete at St. James, captaining the football team and being named All-Catholic in baseball.

But enough about them.

I’m on a mission to reclaim my identity. I thought about trying to make a big splash by winning the Wing Bowl -- the World Series, World Cup, Super Bowl and National Championship of Gluttony – held every year at the Wells Fargo Center.

However, I realized just in time that, sure, I’m a very talented amateur when it comes to stuffing my gullet, but I’m no pro. And I was right about that, too. It seems that Molly Schuyler, a 5-foot-7, 125-pound mother of four, gorged a hard-to-fathom 363 wings over 30 minutes to win the crown. To put that into perspective, that's 181-1/2 chickens that could no longer fly, if chickens could fly in the first place. She’s probably thankful that it’s a crown and not a belt.

So I’m still working on that reclaiming my identity thing.

If I sound bitter I’m not. Really. Honestly. No kidding. For sure. (No, I am NOT protesting too much, thank you!)

[NOTE: A sentimental paragraph follows here. If that sort of thing makes you uncomfortable, please skip to the next one.]

To tell the truth, “Eddie’s brother” or “Eddie’s other brother” or “Dan’s brother” are just about the coolest things you could call me. They remind me how lucky I am to have Eddie and Dan as brothers and lifelong friends.

Now with my sisters Jayne and Patti, it’s a whole different story. Their circles of friends didn’t even know they had a brother so much older (11 and 13 years) and, in fact, very often think I’m lying about being their brother for some mysterious reason.

More on that later.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Who You Callin’ “Prodigal”?

So, I’m back!

Did you miss me, Delaware County? 

(No need to answer. I know I was greatly missed in at least a few bars and all-you-can-eat restaurants, while not so greatly missed in a single church.)

I was away, living in the Washington, D.C. area, for nearly 18 years. I loved living there. 

It’s a vibrant, diverse city where I made many great, life-long friends. (Also, it’s pretty cool living so near the capital of a big country like this one.)

For most of those years I had a job good enough to afford me the $7 pints of Coors Light that the local pubs have the unmitigated gall to charge. (By the way, have you ever met anyone with mitigated gall? I hope to one day.) I suppose the prices are so high there to keep senators and congressmen from accidentally bumping into their lowly constituents. Be that as it may, as I said, I really enjoyed living there.

But without a doubt, no matter how much you like a new place … there is something about coming home.

I came back to live with my parents in a sort of mutually beneficial situation. Mom and dad are elderly (dad resists that term, but come on … he’s 82, it was practically invented for him). They each have some health issues that I hope to be able to make easier. I help out with a few bills, cooking and some of the physical chores and they return the favor by putting me in the exact situation I have always greatly desired to be in …

Rent-free living!

(One day I may be willing to disclose the ridiculous amount of rent I was paying until recently, but for now my therapy team thinks it’s best that I try to push it to the back of my brain … back deep, with the late-night drunken phone calls to old girlfriends and the fuzzy memories of my infancy.)

I’m even sleeping in the same room I slept in when we moved to Delaware County almost 50 years ago. Now, instead of sharing it with my brother Dan, I share it with a desk, computer and printer in what I like to call a “home office.”

It’s all very 21st century in here.

So I’m sort of back to my original premise for this blog after all these years. I’m finding that the home I’m finding is not exactly the home I left. And it just now occurred to me … that’s what Thomas Wolfe was talking about when he said “you can’t go home again.”

Nicely put, Tom.

Just the same I am going home.

I suppose the borders of each town are pretty much as I left them (although I suspect that Prospect Park may have secretly annexed a small portion of Norwood, but that’s just between us, okay?) However the places, themselves, have changed.

And so have I.

So I guess that’s what’s supposed to happen, right?

I hope to be pointing out some of those changes in the coming weeks and months. Or it’s just as likely that my mind will wander to topics like Mars, the state of the Phillies, or why a morbidly obese man will never be elected president again.

I hope we’ll find out where this goes together.