Vicky Collins Online

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On Father’s Day: A Gift from the Grave

My father, Ed Collins, died when my son, Kyle, was just one year old.  Perhaps he knew his time was short because on April 28, 1994, less than three months after Kyle was born, he wrote him this letter.  On the envelope it said “To Kyle on his 18th birthday.”  We gave it to Kyle this past February.  We had waited for years to see this treasure and hear my father’s voice again.  I’ve transcribed the letter here in my father’s words, as he wrote it down.

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A LETTER TO MY ONLY GRANDSON

Before you read and understand this letter, I may no longer be here.  I just want you to know, it was the best day of my life when you were born.  The 4th of February will always be a holiday.  I will celebrate it as long as I live.  I remember February 2nd, when my brother was born, and February 15 when my father was born in 1878.

I doubt if you will ever comprehend what time it was.  No electricity, radio, T.V. or computers.  Those things are taken now so much for granted, yet 125 years ago people went to bed when it got dark, the rooster was the alarm clock and at 5 o’clock in the morning people got up to eat breakfast made from oats, Oatmeal.  They took a horse drawn street car, or in winter a sleigh to go to work.

I was born in 1922.  Things were already much better by then.  In some homes there was electricity.  Mother made breakfast on a stove burning coal.  In winter 25 below 0 was a normal winter day in far away Poland where I lived.

Maybe someday you will look at a map of the world to discover to your amazement that you have some kinship in cities like Tarnow and Krakow, and maybe when you travel through Europe, you will stop in those cities.  They meant a lot to me.  I was a very sentimental Polack.  I also made a good American.

You will travel a different road in your life.  Your father and mother will show you the modern way of life that befits the end of the 20th-21st century.  I envy you.  It will be a time full of exciting inventions to make life easier for people to live.  It will be a life full of temptations to take the most comfortable road to success.

Take a little advice from a man that passed this way.  You will never know, nor will you understand life and compassion if you take the easiest road in life.  To understand life a man has to take some bumps and climb some fences.  Stop, smell the flowers, live each day, as if it was your last.  Don’t wait for thanks and appreciation from others, just do things the best and most humane way, you will never go wrong.

Just ask yourself, is it the truth, is it fair?  Will it build goodwill and better friendship, will it be beneficial to all concerned.  If you take this road, you might not always win, but you will never lose, while climbing the road, the steep mountain that blocks your way, on the way to becoming a man.  Love, Ed Collins, Your Grandfather.

For more on Vicky Collins visit her website at Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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War and Remembrance 2

Following my Veterans Day post, the conversation continues with Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina about war, service and our commitment as Americans.  Hope others will join the dialogue.  Will keep posting as our back and forth continues.

Dear Mr. Coker,

Thank you so much for reading my blog and for your incredibly thoughtful comments.  Part of the reason I write is to leaving something for my children to discover someday and to dialogue with people like you, at least virtually.  It is always a great pleasure when someone shares their thoughts and stories with me.  Would it be OK with you if I posted your letter on my blog?  To tell you a bit of the backstory that led to my blog post, I was born in 1958 in Hawaii and was a child during the Vietnam War.  Although soldiers were coming and going through Hawaii, the war and the protests were really on the periphery of my life.  It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in my 20’s that I realized how oblivious I had been and had a sense of the toll and outcry.  I learned about the service of my father (he was a Polish Jew who lost his parents in the holocaust and fought the Nazis in the Polish underground and Army) in a short memoir he wrote and by reading Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation.”  I finally understood why my dad jumped if you woke him suddenly or why he didn’t want to talk about those years.  He never shared his experiences until shortly before his death.  Like other veterans of his era, he stoically moved forward and kept the pain inside.  Mostly I grew up in a world at peace and was honestly surprised when I learned my son has to register with Selective Service when he turns 18.  I had no idea.

What has me conflicted, Mr. Coker, is that we seem to wage war for the wrong reasons these days.  Everyone stood together in WWII.  It was a righteous response to tyranny.  These days I’m not so sure.  You have a son in Afghanistan so maybe you can help me with this.  We fight to bring democracy to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan so moderate Muslims around the world can know of freedom, even as we oppress and distrust our Muslim citizens here at home.  We respond to 9-11 by going into Iraq to fend off a rogue leader and search for weapons of mass destruction that don’t exist.  We don’t consider how this will effect the people there and how painful the transition will be.  We boost Pakistan and Afghanistan while the leadership harbors our enemies and Osama Bin Laden thumbs his nose at us.  And we fight for nations with incredible records of human rights abuses and expect our participation will change the culture. If my son goes to war I want to believe in the cause with every fiber of my soul and I want him to believe in it too.  I guess I don’t feel confident that our leaders are taking us down the right road these days.  That’s why a call to duty scares me.  The other thing is that I don’t see a safer world for our troubles.  It seems we have fewer freedoms at home and a more unstable world.

If you would like to continue sharing more thoughts with me I would really appreciate your point of view.  I don’t feel castigated at all and with your permission I’ll put our back and forth on my blog.  This world needs a lot more people who are willing to dialogue through these kinds of things and I feel privileged to have a chance to do so with you.  Warmest regards to you and Polly and your brave son.  Best, Vicky Collins

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Esther’s Last Dance

Esther Heller tells me she used to be a dancer.  She says she won competitions in Paris and Athens and even Kamchatka (although she no longer is certain where that is.)  She used to teach dancing in Denver.  Waltzes and Polkas and Fox Trots.  She did it for free so people could learn to move their feet.  But now Esther’s feet have betrayed her.  Until a couple weeks ago, 90 year old Esther lived in her own apartment, overlooking the college where she also taught French for many years.  Over the past years she hardly went out but she led the life she chose.  Then she fell and broke her arm. 

Now Esther, who says she visited 200 countries and speaks 12 languages, lives in a assisted living world called Shalom Park.  She lies in bed and politely refuses to eat.  She likes Ginger Ale so she drinks a bit.  Each day she grows weaker and each day dementia takes more of the memories that have sustained her for a lifetime.  The memories of Poland and the family she lost in the Holocaust and how she didn’t go to school and how she was put to work at 13 and somehow out of sheer will she managed to go to college and eventually become a teacher at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School. 

I come in to visit her but she doesn’t remember who I am anymore or that I am the one who brought her the orange tulips.  She wants to know what day it is, what time it is, and why so many people keep coming into her room.  I show her pictures of places she has seen in Israel, Rome, Istanbul and Prague.  She looks at the Coliseum and the Western Wall in Jerusalem and says “I can’t place it.”  Now and then memories flicker by and she smiles sadly.  But she remembers she used to be a dancer and how she won competitions and taught people how to move.  From where I sit, in the chair across from her bed, Esther seems to be choreographing her last dance.  She has chosen not to follow.  She will do it her way.  She will lead as she dances out of the world.

NOTE: Esther Heller died peacefully in her sleep on December 3, 2009.  I was blessed to know her and am grateful that I had the opportunity to hear her stories. 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.