Content-type: text/html Ray Manning

Monday, May 10, 2004 8:58 PM

Happy 90th Birthday!

Seeing that I will be away for a while, I take the chance to start a one week period of rest away from lifting weights. I've been hitting the weights pretty hard for 4 or 5 weeks and a few joints are sore. I'll concentrate on aerobics for a week or so and start back in to the weights after the vacation and business travel.

On Thursday morning I get up at 4am in order to get a run in prior to my trip towards Michigan. I'm at the airport at a ridiculously early hour to catch a flight. After we've lifted off on this bright and sunny day, we make a wide sweeping turn over the south bay. I can look down and pick out the Northrop Grumman building where I work, the "flagship" Northrop Grumman white building, the Los Angeles river, the Rio Hondo river, the Whittier Narrows dam (where I go cycling near the nature resevre), the San Gabriel river, and the Santa Fe dam (where I go cycling). It's cool to see the landmarks in person from above as opposed to seeing them on a map.

During the visit to Michigan I take many pictures of Flint (where I grew up) as well as the people at the parties. (Pictures to be uploaded soon.) And, of course, everyone that I meet comments about the increased size of my shoulders and arms and the decreased size of my waistline.

On Friday I drive up from Mike's house to my aunt's to have a private visit with her. (Mike is an ex-college-roommate from many years ago.) I get to my aunt's house at 2 pm and we start talking. I look over at the clock after what seems like 30 minutes and it is well past 5 pm. The time has flown past as we talk about family history, relatives, life, the city of Flint, our healths, current events, and a whole host of other things. About an hour later I leave and head back towards Mike's house.

Mike lives between Detroit and Flint on a lake. This is his third house and has only lived here for about 3 years. To confuse matters, he has a partner of approximately 14 years (who is soon to be an ex-partner) named Michael and a 3 year old golden retriever named Mikie. I had assumed that I would lose it when I met Mikie - seeing that Nopester hasn't been gone long. But I don't. It isn't until the third day that I see a perfect replication of Nopey in Mikie when I'm playing with him and I realize that his head, face, and intelligence bump (on the back of his head) are so similar to Nopey's even if his body structure is quite different.

On Saturday we have my aunt's 90th birthday dinner. I meet up with my first cousins and a second cousin and we head for dinner. It is during this set of conversations with my cousins that I most appreciate them. Before, they were just people who were older than me. Now I realize that they are fantastic family! We promise to stay in better touch.

Each day during the vacation I get out for morning runs around two lakes. The weather, as expected, varies between windy and cold to warm and humid. But each run gets the day started properly, allows some stress relief, and avoids loading the joints that are being rested.

On Sunday morning I head back to Flint in order to take more pictures of places that I used to hang out. As I'm exiting the freeway I think to myself that I should go to the cemetary where my parents are buried and check out their headstone. I make the detour and with very little diifculty I find the headstone. It is a bit overgrown so I kneel down and start pulling the grass and small weeds away from the stone so that it is more readable. After I clean up the gravestone and take pictures of it I burst into tears. Though my Dad has been dead for 21 years and my Mom for 13, I am overcome with emotion and the tears just start flowing. After quite a few minutes of this I reach down and touch the headstone for forgiveness and strength and I leave. But then I go looking for my grandparents' headstone based upon a vague memory from 13 years ago as to where it is. As I've walked quite a bit back and forth pattern and say to myself, "This is the last row that I'm looking in before I give up", I find the headstone. Their headstone is also overgrown, so now I'm pulling back the weeds and grass and thinking that I'll be visiting their birthplace in Plavec, Slovak Republic this August. I ask for guidance in discovering my Czechoslovakian roots.

On Sunday afternoon we take Mike's boat out for the first time of the year. We get out for a couple laps of the lakes until we hear that a severe weather front is headed our way. We speed back home, button down the tarp on the boat, and make it back inside Mike's house just in time to miss all of the heavy rain, thunder, and lightning.

On Monday morning I have a 6:45 am easter daylight time flight headed back towards Los Angeles. Thus I have to get up at 4 am easter time (i.e., 1 am pacific time) in order to make the flight. I'm getting up and starting my day at a time when I would typically just be ending it!

Monday, no doubt, is a long day. Since I get back to Los Angeles before noon I go to work for the afternoon and sit in meetings until I go home. Person N_V and I talk about things before having a quick Subway dinner at home and setting up his new computer. For the last hour, as I help Person N_V install new software and update his system, I'm wavering to and fro as I pass in and out of consciousness on my feet. A couple of times I catch myself almost "tipping over" and having to steady myself by grabbing a chair or the wall. It is time for sleep near 10 pm.