Margaret Mary

Progression run today, I was thinking about cool and groovy.

Another decade had passed and the 1970s were quickly approaching. In 1967, the family had moved to a house in Mt. Prospect. As the 70s began, there was a disruption in the “FORCE”. The family was very unsteady and uneven with four girls and five boys. Dinners were conducted at a long table that came from the convent across the street. This table resembled a long, board of directors, conference table. There was a time in my life when mom, dad, and all nine children would gather around the table for dinner every single night. The boys knew that they were the majority and when any issue needed to be discussed, partisan-politics ruled the day. This frustrated the girls considerably. Issues like: Where should we go for a picnic this weekend? What color should we paint the basement stairs? Should we go to 9:30 or 11:15 mass this Sunday? Enthusiastic discussions about a topic were usually followed by a vote, which the boys always won.

Something had to give. There was no doubt that the girls were under-represented and some thought that the balance had to change. Partisan politics were eating at the fabric of the family. Nobody was happy with the uneven balance. Mom was the first to notice that things were about to change. The morning sickness started in late 1969 and she began to hope for a Jennifer, the name that had eluded her through nine children. She started to make the subtle suggestions which turned to adamant demands. Dad’s demands were simple and needed no discussion.

With the 70s in full swing and summer approaching, my mother was waiting for a baby. Things were not as groovy as they could have been. Nobody in the family ever knew whether it was a boy or a girl but there was much speculation. At the board of directors table one night during dinner one of the girls exclaimed that a chance encounter with a fortune-teller at the bakery today predicted mom was going to have a girl. This was roundly dismissed by the males at the table and even countered with an ad-hoc story of a balloon salesman that gave mom a blue balloon for free. This could mean only one thing, the balance of power would go to super-majority in favor of the boys. Speculation and innuendo ran amok. My mother was vociferous in not only the baby being a girl but the girl being a Jennifer. She had gone as far as to say, even if it was a boy, it would still be Jennifer. July of 1970 was approaching and the issue would be settled once and for all. JPD boldly proclaimed that “A house divided cannot stand”, we were going to have to work together. The girls huffed and the boys puffed. My mom stewed and JPD sensed dissention in the ranks.

A very hot July was doubly uncomfortable because of the lack of central air in the house. The upstairs was like a Mississippi state prison, one of the brothers fashioned himself after “Cool Hand Luke”. The baby was due at the end of July and the baby could not come soon enough. July turned to August and still, no baby. Michael K. the friendly deacon from the rectory across the street came over almost every day to ask mom if today was the day. By August 15th, mom was ready to tell the nice deacon that today was the day to jump in a lake. She was too nice to tell him anything but the whole neighborhood was thinking about the birth day.

Conversations with Dr. H from Resurrection Hospital assured mom that all was fine and even though he was the head honcho at Resurrection, he would be the doctor for the delivery at Lutheran General. Mom had no clout at Lutheran. She was working up a long term plan to change this but in the short term she would have to toe the line.

August 17, 1970 dawned hot and humid. The boys were holding their slight majority and the girls were hoping for a new day to dawn. It was a Monday and plans had been in place to get mom to the hospital. When mom’s water broke early they jumped in the car and drove to Lutheran General. This was not the normal labor, it took a little longer. Mom was ready throw the doctor out the window when he recounted his recent trip to Tuscany for the fifth time. The baby was trying to create some additional drama to the three week wait drama that the baby had already created. The tension was palpable.

Finally the baby was born and mom triumphantly exclaimed “it’s a girl”! I remember distinctly that there was a lunar eclipse the night before. This was proof positive that the planets were coming back into line. What about the name? There were now five girls and five boys in the family. The boys were secretly relieved to give up the responsibility of the majority and the girls were elated to regain parity. The children immediately vowed to work together and the family began to function again.  JPD was insisting that this little girl be named after his own mother, Margaret. Mom wanted Jennifer but eventually relented to create peace on I-Oka Street once and for all.

Margaret Mary was born into this world and brought symmetry back to the family. Things were cool and groovy again. When mom was shown the door after only two days at the hospital, she vowed that she would be back. Mom achieved her goal when, after having ten children, studied very hard and became a nurse. She worked for many decades with the OB GYNs at Lutheran General Hospital. Everyone immediately adopted the name Meg for the sweet little baby and she was now the baby of the family. Children from all over the neighborhood descended on our driveway as the baby arrived back “home”. Margaret Mary was quickly adopted by all the children as the baby of the neighborhood. You had to reserve the right to push the stroller weeks in advance. Margaret Mary was appropriately named after dad’s mom and sister because every time she smiled she reminded everyone of their favorite Margaret. Everyone, neighbors, friends, family or total strangers treated Meg as their very own. She remains the baby of the family to this day.

The baby of the family. Favorite song today, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) performed by Simon and Garfunkel.



September 22, 2015

Progression run today, I was thinking about parades.

By 1966, there were so many kids on and around Fairview Street in Park Ridge that it was beginning to scare some of the childless couples in the neighborhood. The Ulvildens escaped from Park Ridge to find a quieter residential area. Still in their 30s, a retirement village was out of the question but the greatest generation was populating boomers into the suburbs and there was little escape. In the fall of 1965, the Salettas moved in next door. Three furniture movers from Polk Bothers were waiting on the lawn for Captain Jack Saletta (he was in the Air Force) to arrive so they could install the new fridge. Mom saw the movers, they looked hungry, and so she made them all tuna salad sandwiches. As she delivered the sandwiches, Dr. Saletta the elder showed up and eventually recounted that story to Suzy. Suzy and Barbara became fast friends from that day onward. That friendship burns bright to this day, exactly 50 years later. Irish or Italian heritage, the story was the same, the bigger the family, the better. If there was a hungry mouth, you broke bread.

I would not characterize the roving bands of children as gangs but that description is not far off. I was only five years old but there are certain memories that are fire branded into my brain. There were many families and even more children. The girls tormented the boys and the boys tormented the whole neighborhood. There were leaders and then there was the endless rabble of followers. Being five, Johnny Saletta and Teddy Kennedy and one of the Hanson boys were my crew. We were all burning so many calories at play that food was always a background objective. I remember the Hanson boy making PB & J sandwiches. Johnny, Teddy and me waited patiently as a five year old spread the peanut butter and jelly, smashed the sandwiches so they all fit into the bread toaster (slot toaster, not a toaster oven) and toasted them to five year old perfection. Needless to say, there was food everywhere. If I did not say it then, let me say it now, thank you for the sandwich. That sandwich probably allowed me to survive another day.

The neighborhood was coming together as a cohesive unit, when my mother announced in 1966 that she was pregnant with number nine, she may as well said that the Pope was coming to Fairview Street. The news spread like wildfire. Everyone was so excited, it became the main topic of conversation. Will it be a boy or a girl? Which dresser drawer will the child sleep in? The reality was hitting the family. Even though living on Fairview was a dream come true, the house they lived in was much too small. Reality hit hard and by January of 1967, the house on Fairview Street in Park Ridge, Illinois was put up for sale. Shortly after the house was listed, it started snowing and did not stop for months. The first wave of snow is iconic for Chicagoland history. The “Snowstorm of ‘67”! Almost two feet of snow fell on January 26, 1967 after the temperature only two days before was 65°F and sunny. The initial snowfall is still said to be the most in Chicago recorded history for a 24 hour period. The snow kept falling over the next week until well over three feet accumulated. After the snow fell, the wind began to blow and snow drifts paralyzed transportation. Needless to say, not too many came to the Dolan Fairview Street open house.

Storm of 1967

Storm of 1967

The snow kept falling into April. For us kids, there were snow days and tobogganing and hot chocolate. School, what school? The only thing that saved mom from complete and utter insanity was the fact that it was a winter wonderland and every kid wanted to spend every waking hour outside. The older girls in our family, would do the grocery shopping by themselves for a family of ten. They would pull an empty sled to the Jewel food store and return laden with foodstuffs. They were eight and nine years old, thanks Eileen and Maureen. Precocious does not fully describe these two. We survived the snowstorm in part because of their heroic acts. An impromptu sledding chute was built in the front yard. For a five year old, this may as well have been an Alpine Bobsled run. In reality, it was a mound of snow 100 feet long. From almost to the second story of the house to the street, up and down, up and down, I thought I was the Bill Schuffenhauer of Fairview Street.

April arrived and the weather turned mucky and the snow turned to rain. The bobsled chute was melting, slowly. What was an epic snow season turned into the most epic mud season of all time. There was so much snow that the Olympic luge trials continued unabated through the weeks of rain. Around the middle of the month, the sun came out and it got warm. The rain and the melting snow were wreaking havoc on the luge run.

On April 5, 1967 mom reminded everyone about important things. “Jim, I think it is time to go to Resurrection Hospital.” Being the ninth trip to the hospital, he could have negotiated this process blindfolded with Houdini chains tightly tied around him. The anticipation spread on Fairview Street when the news broke that mom was at the hospital. Suzy set into motion the parade and welcoming committees to implement the long anticipated plans.

The neighborly Fairview Street OB had prepared the staff and without any problems delivered a beautiful baby girl. The date was 4.5.67. A special date to everyone and easy to remember. This was a special day for both the household and the neighborhood. The name was never an issue for JPD. He wanted to make up for the Christopher naming rights and decided there was only one name. Barbara Ann Dolan, this was to be the name of the sweet baby girl and she would be named after her mother. Jennifer would have to wait until 5.6.78 if mom could keep rolling. Mom rolled her eyes to that idea but loved her baby’s name as much as she loved her own. It was a beautiful baby born on a beautiful day to a now very large clan. Little Barb was now the baby of the family.

The weather had changed for the better and spring had officially sprung on a long snowy winter. JPD figured it was time for the spring cleaning ritual. One of the major tasks would take most of the day. He removed all of the storm windows to put in the screens for spring and summer. Barb and Barb were due back from the hospital soon and he would be ready. With eight children under his care, a house for sale with showings at unpredictable times, mud season at its apex, a melting luge run outside the front living room window, he might have bit off more than he could chew. In fact, it was a perfect storm. The storm windows were strewn across the living room and the door-like outside windows were fully open to the luge run outside. The children saw an opportunity to luge out of the living room window to the street below. Suzy was hanging banners –“Welcome Barbara and Barbara” – and balloons for the triumphant arrival of the newborn baby and her momma. A parade with seemingly hundreds of children was forming to strike up the celebration. A real estate agent showed up for a surprise showing of the on-the-market house. JPD was methodically cleaning windows all over the house, not to be interrupted from his task. Just as the mayhem was reaching its zenith, Barbara and Barbara arrived home from the hospital. Strike up the band, it is time to celebrate! Little Barbara Ann Dolan was the new queen of the neighborhood. Such a beautiful and appropriate day.

The baby was christened just a week later as the snow began to fall again. Like a Fairview Street snow globe, I grabbed my sled and started to practice for the Grenoble, France Olympic trials. The nice couple that experienced the craziness on spring cleaning day bought the house on Fairview and the Park Ridge Camelot was officially coming to an end.

First day of Fall tomorrow, could snow be far behind? Favorite song today, Frosty performed by Albert Collins.

The Path

The Path

September 12, 2015

Recovery run today, I was thinking about names.

The mid-sixties evoke a certain image whether we lived through them or not. I always think of my mother’s hair. I don’t know why I think of my mom’s hair but the variety and style remind me of my early youth. JPD never really changed his hairstyle. He probably got it cut just the way he liked it when he was a teen and never changed his style. The sixties came and went and every day he looked like he was ready for the 1948 homecoming dance at St. Patrick’s High School.

By 1965, there were children in third, second, first grades and kindergarten at Mary Seat of Wisdom School. There was also three children ages 4, 3 and 1 at home every day. The house just seemed empty, no tiny baby. The Salettas had moved in next door and they had playmates for the little ones ages 4, 3 and 2. With playmates living next door and mom used to laundry baskets filled with diapers and only one currently in diapers, the house seemed empty with no baby. Just as this crazy idea had started to crystallize, the morning sickness started again. It was a good thing that the head of obstetrics at Resurrection Hospital lived two doors away because Fairview Ave was going to keep him busy over the next few years. Mom immediately started to gain the upper hand with the doctor speaking the OB language with authority. Mom was becoming the expert. Christmas 1965 came and mom was five months pregnant. Santa came bearing his sack full of toys. The boys got more G.I Joes and a slot car racing set, the girls got an Easy Bake Oven and Barbie, the younger ones got Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs – no choking hazard there. Katie got a Fisher Price Chatter Phone, it came with wheels (her first “mobile” phone).

Katie's first mobile phone

Katie’s first mobile phone

The morning sickness had subsided and things were progressing very smoothly. Mom was learning from her OB neighbor all the tricks of the trade. She was regaining the clout that she had amassed back at St. Anne’s on the West Side and her confidence was high. She had some time and was thinking about names for the baby. Her grandpa’s name was Christopher Cleary McGrath. Every Friday when she was a little girl, mom and her sister would wait for grandpa to come and visit. He would put a hard day of work in at Chisolm Hardware Distributors and rush to see his beloved grandchildren. It was Christopher’s task to give the girls their 15¢ weekly allowance every Friday. They would wait patiently for his arrival, and when he came to the door, he would give three nickels to each little girl. The name Christopher was perfect, since JPD had named all of the other children it would finally be mom’s turn to name the baby. Christopher if it was a boy and Jennifer if it was a girl.

Mom had done her homework on this baby, her new best friend, the neighborly OB GYN would be her biggest ally. Easter came on April 10 and so did all the relatives. Mom was ready to pop but Easter meant that my dad’s whole family came to the house. They all came in the morning for breakfast and the kids were able to play in the unseasonably warm spring day well into the early evening. As usual, the day heralded a beautiful spring. Mom was ready to deliver this baby and on April 18, 1966 the weather was sunny and 75°F. What a beautiful day to have a baby. Mom knew that today was the day that Christopher or Jennifer would make his or her grand debut. So smooth, they arrived with plenty of time, checked in and mom was wheeled to labor and delivery. She met up with the doctor and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. As a newly minted lawyer, JPD would take care of the paperwork and the birth certificate.

“What was that name again, no matter, plenty of Apostles left. Just pick one and be done with it…Matthew, yeah that’s it! I think mom said she liked Jennifer, I can’t name this boy Jennifer, he will end up in therapy. No, Christopher, yeah Christopher, Matthew Christopher, just fill in the blanks and away we go.”

JPD saw the doctor and thanked him for his highly efficient work delivering Matthew Christopher. The doctor looked at him funny like he was walking on his hands, backwards. Without commenting on the name, the doctor pointed to the suite of private rooms and said your wife is waiting with “the child”. Dad showed up in the private room smiling wondering where that beautiful baby boy, Matthew Christopher, was hiding. Mom heard the name and just smiled, there would be plenty more opportunities to name a boy Christopher and a girl Jennifer. It was April 18, 1966 and Matthew Christopher had made his triumphant arrival. He was now the baby – number eight – of the family. Mom cherished her stay in the hospital, it was just her and her baby. Ten glorious days in a private hospital room with a full staff to do her cooking. She was introducing herself to her new baby, Matthew Christopher. JPD was in charge of the other seven.

My favorite sunrise. Favorite song today: Wild Cats of Kilkenny performed by the Pogues.

September Sunrise

September Sunrise

September 2, 2015

Track workout today. I was thinking about Tiny today.

Sometimes we get a nickname whether we like it or not. Hopefully, this discussion will elicit commentary to determine the source of the nickname Grumpy. I have met tall people with the nickname Shorty. I have known people who tip the scale at a quarter of a ton called Tiny. I have met short people with the nickname Stretch. One never knows if your grandchildren will dub you grandfather and grandmother or pappy and mammy. The oldest grandchild is given this important task as they are embarking on another important development; speech itself. So, as important as it is to name a person, we give this responsibility to an eighteen month old child. Johnny and Michael were about the same age and took this responsibility seriously. They carefully considered all the suggestions. Grandma was ultimately responsible for the one and only suggestion, Grumpy. Grandma’s power of persuasion may have been rooted in baked goods, namely cookies. After a period of trial and error and Grandma initiating the lesson plan, Johnny and Michael began to call JPD Gumby. More cookies and a few lessons later it was official and both grandchildren were calling on Grumpy to do the penny trick again. Within a few years there would be many more grandchildren and they were easily taught by Johnny and Michael that dad was officially Grumpy. There was no one more pleased by this development than Grandma. Grumpy stuck.

Some older pictures. Favorite song today: I Can’t Explain performed by the Who.

Long run sunrise.

Long run sunrise.


August 28, 2015

Speed workout today, I was thinking about sports.

The year 1964 began in a bit of a malaise. Dad was in law school at Loyola University in Chicago. There were six children in an already crowded household in Park Ridge and maybe too many boys. G.I. Joe was officially introduced early in the year and the boys were dominating the yards and alleys in the neighborhood. Many do not know that the Saletta’s had not moved into the house next door yet and JPD was starting to learn the ropes from Ollie Ulvilden. Ollie lived in the Saletta house and made his presence known very early in Park Ridge. Ollie was a sales representative for Wilson. You know, Wilson, famous for footballs and probably even more famous for Tom Hanks’ famous buddy in the movie “Castaway”. Wilson was a volleyball. The FedEx box from the movie could have also contained a football, a basketball, a baseball glove, a golf club, golf balls, or a myriad of other sporting goods products and still be dubbed Wilson. When mom and dad were moving into the house in Park Ridge, my father was carrying a handful of boxes, a lamp and probably a child when a voice called out from the bushes, “Incoming!” A football appeared from over a hedge in a perfect spiral, my father dropped everything in his arms to make a beautiful over the shoulder catch. Dad would have danced and spiked the ball if that behavior had been invented yet. Instead, an impromptu pick-up football game started that lasted the rest of the afternoon. That was Ollie, the Wilson sporting goods salesman who lived next door. My father couldn’t believe his luck. Mom was in the process of giving birth to a football team and a company representative from the largest sporting goods manufacturer lived within a football throw! This was going to be his ticket to the big leagues. When John F. came along, Ollie and dad began to devise a plan that was unbeatable. Dad already had the T formation for a future Bears team. There would be baseball in the spring, football in the fall, basketball whenever, this was great. In reality, the Chicago area was basketball crazy. Dad’s alma mater and current law school, Loyola University, just one year earlier had beaten the mighty, two time defending champion, Cincinnati Bearcats 60-58 in the NCAA Division I Final Four championship game (it wasn’t called March Madness or the Final Four yet, that was a later invention, probably from Ollie). The Loyola Ramblers had started and finished the game with the same five young men on the court, no substitutions. This would be the Dolan boys one-day. They would be outfitted and coached by Ollie and dad. They just needed one more boy to fill up the roster.

The morning sickness began to appear early in 1964. Dad and Ollie figured that mom would soon give birth to the fifth boy and together they would be the future starting line-up for the Loyola Ramblers. It was all set. Ollie would outfit the boys and dad would coach them to greatness. Early training had started before young John F. could walk. Dribbling was his specialty. I was just toddling around at age 3 when I found myself practicing the hook and ladder, give and go play. Ollie and JPD had it all planned. As summer turned to fall, mom started to look more like she had eaten a basketball. The baby was kicking and dad was convinced that he was posting up in-vitro and almost ready for the starting line-up. Mom and dad left the kids with a babysitter after my father had passed the bar exam that fall. Mom, dad and bun in the oven traveled to Springfield, Illinois so my dad could get sworn in as a lawyer. Oh, happy day!

Meanwhile, the girls in the greater Chicago metropolitan area were preparing for the arrival of another four boys. The Beatles were coming to Chicago for the very first time. They would perform at the Chicago Amphitheatre and the town was topsy-turvy over their arrival. Ollie and dad were oblivious to the fact that the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had just cracked the Billboard charts. Instead, they were humming to the tune of “I Want to Hand You the Ball”. September turned to October and the tension mounted. Mom was due the third week of October and her O.B. GYN from two doors away was practicing jump shots with dad and Ollie. Everyone was convinced that JPD was on a roll and another boy, his fifth, was on the way.

Dad had memorized the way to the hospital by now and arrived early with a young mother experiencing labor pains. Dad knew the drill, this was the seventh birth. Check-in, up to labor and delivery with mom, he would take his position in the waiting room ready for tip-off. He sat down and watched some riveting TV. He watched The Fugitive, a couple of Twilight Zones, an episode of Gunsmoke and still no word from the nurse. What was taking this baby so long, this new arrival was going to be late for practice. Just then the nurse walked in and asked “Mr. Dolan, Mr. James Dolan?”

My father switched off the TV and responded, “Yes.”

“Mr. Dolan, I am happy to inform you that your wife has given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She is waiting to meet her daddy”, the nurse replied.

All thoughts of basketball glory were forgotten. Finally, a girl! Four boys in the house was enough to test the sanity of anyone. He now had another baby girl. He had forgotten what that was like until he saw the sweet little baby. It was October 22, 1964 and mom and dad had another baby girl. They decided to call her Kathleen Therese after dad’s beloved sister, but everyone knew her as Tootsie. While there is only one Tootsie, K.T. quickly morphed to Katie. Phyllis McAuley had been saying prayers to St. Therese, so she asked mom to help her out and name the baby after St. Therese “The little flower”. Considering this little flower had sprouted in a garden of boys, mom thought this was a slam dunk. When they arrived home on Fairview Avenue, the neighborhood celebrated the arrival of this little flower. The kids in the neighborhood built all sorts of special carriers and wagons to tote her around. Basketball became a distant memory as the season started, the Loyola Ramblers tanked that year. Katie was now the baby of the family and the little flower of the neighborhood. Even Ollie was pleased and he brought her a baseball glove which one of the boys quickly claimed as his own.

The smoke has cleared. Favorite song today: I Want to Hold Your Hand performed by the Beatles.

Clear Skies

Clear Skies

August 20, 2015

Progression run today, I was thinking about the debates.

The sixties dawned with great hope and promise. Young John F. Kennedy was making a run for the White House The future president was handsome with a beautiful wife and family. Richard Nixon, his electoral opposition on the other hand looked like a cross between Montgomery Burns and Fred Flintstone. The Irish-American Catholics were putting their best foot forward and they looked good. You may not know this but Jimmy was the sole court-reporter to record and transcribe the Chicago Nixon-Kennedy debate. This was the debate that Kennedy came out on stage bronzed after a summer at the beach and Nixon emerged from a cave with a five o-clock shadow as a dusty gray showcase to the American public. Kennedy could have worn a burlap sack and babbled incoherently for an hour and still crushed the ashen, grayscale Nixon. Yes, the Irish immigrant had come full circle. Happy days were here as Kennedy was elected in 1960 and JFK was now our man.

The West Side of Chicago was jubilant and people could be seen hanging out their windows. At Jimmy’s house, they were hanging from the windows for a different reason. With five children and mom and dad in that small two bedroom apartment, it was time to move again. This was post World War II baby boom and people were moving to the suburbs. Wide open spaces, sun was always shining, the suburbs were the land of plenty. Now, the Northwest suburbs were calling the clan. Jimmy answered the call. Mom and Dad had heard about a nice house on Fairview Avenue in Park Ridge. It was June, 1961. They left most of the kids with Uncle Pete and headed out to the suburbs with me in tow, I was six weeks old. They went in to see the sprawling mansion (actually about 1200 square feet) and left me in the car. They would have used me as a doorstop if there was a door that needed to be propped open. I was sleeping peacefully so they left me in the car (in June, in Chicago). The car was a Ford Rambler, so I was happy and content. They loved the house, bought it straight away, packed up the family and moved out of the city and to the suburbs, never to return.

It is not long after they arrived in their dream home that the morning sickness started again. It would be a particularly snowy winter and driving was treacherous. The Ford Rambler wagon could handle most conditions but when Barb turned the corner onto Fairview one day after dropping Jimmy at the train station, a snow plow made short work of the Rambler and plowed into the car and my mother. Morning sickness and a “how do you do” from the snow plow made this a day to remember. The snow plow ripped the hood right off the car that now looked like an open can of sardines. Call the fire department, we have to make sure that mother was OK. Barb was fine, she walked back to house and replenished her blood sugar level with some pastries.

Winter turned to spring and spring to summer and the weather turned hot. Mom was ready to deliver on her due date of July 15, 1962. Her new doctor lived two doors away and it was so hot that she was trying to convince this new doctor to induce the delivery. Unfortunately, she was no longer at St Anne’s Hospital and did not have the clout that she had built up in Chi-town after having five children under the care of the St. Anne’s doctor. The new doctor would have none of it, he did things his way and did not care if my mother was the expert of Monroe Street. She would have to wait for delivery and this would be a natural childbirth, no ether, and a brand new experience. One hot day turned to the next, my mother mowed the lawn, ate spicy ribs, worked on the auto body of the Rambler, but nothing would get this baby out. The Rambler was running again but every time you turned left, the horn would start to blare incessantly. It sounded like a fire alarm. Even this did not induce labor. Almost two weeks after the due date, this baby decided to answer the alarm. “Jim, I think it is time to go to the hospital.” Jimmy was taking no chances this time, he would load up the car and go. He had learned his lesson the last time. There were already many good neighbors to watch the five children, so away they went. Jim decided that he would get to the hospital by taking a series of right turns rather than blare the horn so late at night by taking any left turns. This was all new to the young father. The West Side of Chicago would have been easy but now he was in the suburbs heading to Resurrection Hospital. After taking a series of wrong turns he was forced to take left turns and pulled into the emergency parking lot with the car horn absolutely blaring. He may as well have been driving a fire truck for all the noise he was making. This seemed to increase the rate of contractions so they took my mother directly to labor and delivery while another guy in the emergency room was threatening to take a fire axe to the Rambler.

My father checked my mother into the hospital and made his way to the waiting room. This was really nice, nice chairs, new Philco TVs, he could really get used to this. Just then the nurse burst into the waiting room and said, “James Dolan, Mr. James Dolan?” My father was engrossed in a particularly interesting episode of Mr. Ed, but responded eventually, “yes?” “Mr Dolan, is that your car horn blaring in the parking lot? It is starting to annoy your wife and newborn baby boy”, the nurse informed my father. My father thought about this sixth child and fourth boy, it made him happy that he now had enough boys to field the famous T formation that his beloved Chicago Bears had made famous. He now had a quarterback, a fullback and two halfbacks.

When he was reunited with Barb, they both looked at the boy and decided to name him John, after the beloved Irish-American Catholic President of the United States. He would be John Francis, so he could have the middle initial “F”, just like the President. The day was July 27, 1962 and John F. Dolan was now the baby of the family.

Found this at the track yesterday. Favorite song: I Walk the Line performed by Johnny Cash.

Louisville, CO Tagline

Louisville, CO Tagline

August 11, 2015

Progression run today, I was thinking about pro wrestlers.

Barb knows babies. There is very little disputing this fact. With children in the Monroe Street upstairs apartment at the very active ages of 4, 3, 2 and one, the morning sickness started again. This was a two bedroom apartment with a sunroom that had long ago been turned into another bedroom. They were absolutely spilling out of the homestead when Jimmy had another idea. Jimmy was a big-thinker, always looking forward. One night he announced his grand plan, “I am enrolling in law school”. Wait a minute, you have four toddlers, a tiny domicile, a pregnant wife and this is the big idea? Thankfully, there was family everywhere, Aunt Margie and Uncle Kevin with Terry and the twins, Margie and Kevin. There was Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack with Mary Kay, Margie and Johnny. Aunt Tootsie and Uncle George, pregnant and newly married. Pa and Pete living downstairs. Marshall and Alice close enough to oversee the activity. The support structure in place in the vicinity of Monroe Street was sufficient to construct an ocean liner, law school would be a piece of pie.

For the first time, Mom would be pregnant in the winter. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mary, Mother of God Holy Day of Obligation (aka New Year’s Day), Ash Wednesday, and Easter Sunday would be celebrated while carrying around the fifth child. Aunt Tootsie would be pregnant with her first, so the seasoned veteran of childbirth would now be the mentor. “Oh yeah, St Anne’s is the only place, I know them all by first name”. “Morning sickness? Just carry Heidemann’s pastries to replenish you in the aftermath”. “Maternity wear? Marshall Field’s is the only place, we will have to take the streetcar downtown very soon.”

Dad was starting to focus in on his educational goals, cleaning the house was a way to think about his plans. The holidays were coming and going and the house was never cleaner. Winter turned to spring and even though the house was immaculate, the spring cleaning would now commence. On April 20, 1961, Tootsie called my mother for advice. She was having regular pains and she wanted to know what to do. My mother was close to being a nurse just by proxy. Even though she hadn’t studied anatomy or biology for a minute, she deserved an honorary doctorate. “Call your doctor”, she instructed. Tootsie followed her advice and, before she knew what was happening, she was on her way to St. Anne’s Hospital. Everyone was excited for Tootsie and George. The first child for the happy couple. My mother went to bed that night and thought about spring cleaning over the weekend with Jim. When she awoke the next morning, experience told her today was the day for her and her baby. Tootsie was still in labor 24 hours after arriving at St Anne’s. Barb informed Jim that today was the day and she was ready to go to the hospital when he was ready. Jim had called into work to say that a new baby was coming and that he might be a few minutes late. When Barb went to gather a few things, Jim saw a golden opportunity to get a head start on the spring cleaning. He began to sweep the floor. Just this one task and they would be on their way, Jimmy knew the route and could get there in plenty of time and could get there even if he was blindfolded while riding a bicycle. For those of you who have actually seen my father sweep a floor, it remains a thing of beauty. Not a grain of sand or a rye bread seed would remain in any nook or knothole. Nothing, in fact, would be left on the floor. My mother remained patient while the contractions grew closer. “I really think we should get going, we may be cutting it close”, my mother mentioned nonchalantly. My father was focused now and only had three more rooms to sweep. “Jim, I am calling the ambulance, if you do not put down that broom!” My father finished and put the broom away in the proper storage closet and escorted my mother to the car. They drove to St. Anne’s. They rushed my mother directly to the delivery room. The nurses were pleading, “Barb, why did you wait so long?”

My father was on his way to the waiting room when the nurse stopped him halfway down the hallway. ”I recognize you, you are Jimmy Dolan.”

Dad thought George or Tootsie had told the nurses he was here. In reality, he was a very recognizable customer, everyone knew him at this hospital. “Your wife barely made it to the delivery room, you are now the father of a 10 pound 8 ounce baby boy.” Jim made his way to the waiting room to find George with a full beard and a crazed look. No baby yet for Tootsie.

They wheeled my mother and her new baby boy past Tootsie’s delivery room and the delivery team was still waiting for the arrival of that bundle of joy. The date was April 21, 1961. It was now 36 hours after Tootsie arrived and she was still waiting. When Jim and Barb were finally reunited, they decided to call the baby Michael Peter. Michael for my mom’s dad (he was actually Marshall but everyone called him Mike) and Peter for my dad’s dad. They could hear screaming from the delivery room, but that was normal.  It would be another day until Michael Peter’s cousin, Georgie, finally made his dramatic arrival. They put Georgie and Michael next to each other in the nursery behind glass. Everyone was asking why that toddler was still in the nursery. George looked tiny compared to the professional wrestler that lay next to him. My dad could only think about the caraway seed he had failed to dislodge from the oak floorboard in the kitchen back at Monroe Street.

The long path. Favorite song today: Think performed by Aretha Franklin

Coalton Trail

Coalton Trail