Posts Tagged ‘Mathew Tombers’

Letter From Claverack 11 27 2018 Thanksgiving thoughts…

November 27, 2017


            This year I took on the responsibility for preparing Thanksgiving dinner, to be served at the home of my friends, Larry and Alicia, with six other guests.  After cooking for two days, I loaded all the food into the Prius and followed the most level roads from my house to Alicia’s and Larry’s home.  My menu, which I printed, is below:

Thanksgiving Dinner

November 23, 2017

Hors D’oeuvres

With cocktails, champagne and wine

Selection of cheeses & crackers


Radishes with butter and kosher salt


Pumpkin Soup a la Jacques Pepin

Main Course


Rubbed in spices


Brown bread dressing

Rice and Mushroom Dressing

Traditional Bread Dressing


Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Mashed White Potatoes

Smashed Russet Potatoes with skins


Honey Glazed Carrots

Haricot Vert with sage butter sauce

Freshly baked multigrain bread




With musical merry making in the parlor

Led by

Lionel J White

            As I was very carefully driving, with pots, pans and containers rattling in the back of my car, I was listening to NEPR, New England Public Radio, and they switched to a story of a town just outside of Damascus, under siege by Assad’s forces for two years.  Children were eating garbage and there wasn’t even much of that.

So, I drove to my friends’ home, thinking of the bounty in my car and the stark contrast there was to the scene being described in Syria.  It is days later and I am still processing that story and the contrasts in the world and, as my friend, Medora, said this morning, you probably will be until you die.

We live in a world of contrasts and contradictions.

Yesterday, as I usually do on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, I set up my Christmas tree, while listening to Christmas Carols ordered up from my Amazon Echo.  Alexa, play holiday music!



It is a world of wonder and a world of hard contrasts, of political acrimony and discord and it is just less than a month to Christmas and I am heading into this most wonderful of seasons [for me], determined to enjoy the bounty I have been given and to seriously think of how I can address the inequities that exist in my world, knowing I will be confounded by them until I die.


Letter From Claverack 07 08 2017 Tornado Weather

July 9, 2017

Summer Dusk Sky Thunderstorm Silhouette Clouds


The sky yellow with

Whipping wind, dust stinging my face.


We called this tornado weather

Back home.


When I was young,

Sat an evening

On the steps of the house

called home.


The sky like this.


The ruby lipped neighbor,

Our local harlot,

Drew deeply on her cigarette, looked up and

Declared tornado weather.


Sagely, mother nodded as father

Cupped his hands to light his own smoke.


Before dawn, tornadoes came

Ripping roofs north of us.


Nights like this,

They’re familiar, frightening.


Letter From Claverack June 1, 2017 And they wonder why…

June 1, 2017

Thunderstorms pummeled the Hudson Valley last night.  This morning is as sweet a morning as one might wish.

The sky is a color of blue for which I cannot find a word; sweet, clear, refreshed from the rain.  The sharp green of the trees outside my window almost glow in the sunlight cascading down in an almost magic morning.  It is not hard to imagine that across the creek woodland nymphs are gambling in delight.

A big mug of strong coffee is at my side and jazz is playing, upbeat and uplifting.

A letter has been fermenting in my mind the last few days, ever since a couple of my friends who are supporters of Donald Trump questioned me on why he has had such a vitriolic reception as President?

I found myself surprised by the question.

It surprised me they did not understand; didn’t see what I see and I need to remember we are all individuals who are interpreting current events in different ways.

We have a President who didn’t win the majority vote and is still the President of the country, an event that has happened twice in this century, brief as it has been, and that has made a lot of people angry, uncomfortable and questioning our Founding Fathers’ wisdom in setting up the Electoral College.

We have a President that doesn’t seem to know the truth.  We like our Presidents to at least sound like they’re telling the truth.

We don’t like them saying things that are verifiably not true, things that are conflations of their own imaginations.  People notice things like that. It does not breed respect.

His Inauguration speech depicted an America which inspired despair, not hope.  His picks for almost every office inspires deep concern for many people.  Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA? Rick Perry as Secretary of the Department of Energy, the department he couldn’t remember in a debate that he wanted eliminated.  Sort of a come down from people like the Ph.D.’s who were running it before.

NOTHING this President has done is very Presidential.

In his European trip, he may have handed the mantle of the leader of the Free World to Angela Merkel.

He is picking a trade fight with Germany but not addressing the real issues and potentially hurting workers in the South, where German car companies have been manufacturing.  People who elected him may be the victims of this fight.

If he repudiates the Paris Climate Accords, he will link us with Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not agreeing and will be doing another thing that will cede leadership to China, which remains steadfast in its support.  And is capitalizing on it.  China’s Premier is in Europe right now, cozying up to Merkel.

If we are disrespectful, it is because this man has given us so little to respect – from my point of view and that is not the point of view of everyone. I acknowledge that.

My family was Republican.  The first President I remember is Dwight Eisenhower.  Wow.  Dwight Eisenhower then.  Donald Trump now.  Is it any wonder I shiver at night?

Weeks ago, I texted one of the smartest people I know, an Independent, who has voted both for Republicans and Democrats, not married to a party.  I asked him what he thought of Trump.  There was no response, until this weekend.

He said: I used to think Trump was just a jackass but he seems to be a jackass and an idiot.

Our White House is occupied by someone who seems a jackass and an idiot who is being unfaithful to the people who elected him.  Everything he has proposed is supportive of his class and destructive to the people who elected him.

He is bringing the Billionaire’s Boy’s Club to the White House.  He’s not cleaning out the swamp. He’s enlarging it.

Bucking a long-standing tradition, he hasn’t, still, released his tax returns.  His aides have “forgotten” meetings with Russian officials during the campaign.  His sons have contradicted him in terms of his financial relations with Russia.  There are all kinds of dangling Russian connections that are, at best, unseemly, and, at worst, criminal and maybe treasonous.

So, I shiver at night and tremble when he speaks.

This is all, of course, my humble opinion.

And thus, I do things that are very hygge to comfort my soul, make me feel at one with the universe, and give me a smile, such as enjoying and savoring the view out my window, like enjoying this cat on display on Main Street in Catskill, where I was doing some errands yesterday.


Or enjoying this reflection by Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut, as he readies himself for his return to earth.  See it here.





Letter From Claverack 05 07 2017 It was a dark and stormy night…

May 7, 2017

“It was a dark and stormy night,” is the much-parodied opening line of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel, “Paul Clifford.”  But it was a dark and stormy night Friday night in Columbia County; wind whipped, too.  Around 4 in the afternoon, the wind blew out the power as I was running errands to prep for a dinner party I was giving that evening.

Knowing that National Grid might not meet their expectation that power would return by 5:30, I made a quick detour and bought a dozen candles.  It was a wise investment; power only returned at about four on Saturday.  There were a half dozen of us, who dined, bathed by candlelight, looking our best.  In her later years, Madame du Pompadour only allowed herself to be seen by candlelight.  She was wise.

Martinis were ready in a pitcher and we toasted our decision not to cancel dinner.  We managed to not discuss politics [an increasingly difficult thing to avoid]; we laughed and since there was no background music, it was the sound of our voices which danced through the night.  It seemed as if we were in the first half of the 19th century or doing glamourous glamping in our own time.

We made the evening work.  It was magic.

When I woke Saturday, a tree from the opposite bank had fallen into the creek and the morning air thrummed with the sounds of neighbors’ generators as there was no power.  Out of habit, I asked Alexa for the weather and was met by stony silence.  We were cut off.  From each other.


Eventually, I did my morning errands.  The Post Office lot was crowded with folks discussing what they had suffered during the night and driving into town, one home had lost five trees.  Farther down, a great old pine had been uprooted, never to again be adorned by Christmas lights.

The Farmer’s Market was sparsely populated by vendors, most probably at home dealing with the storm’s effects.  I realized there was little I could buy as it might all go bad before power returned.  National Grid was estimating now that it would be about midnight on Saturday.

In an interesting way today, when I was at the Post Office, looking around at the klatches of men talking, and it was all men, I felt I was looking at a scene in “Midsomer Murders,” a British mystery series that started in 1997 and is still going.  The village was gathering at the Post Office to talk about the storm.

It made me feel like I was a part of a community.  A little like the community Jessica Fletcher had in “Murder, She Wrote.” Except we’re not in Maine and we don’t have as much death as Jessica encountered in her little town in Maine.

With my batteries now exhausted on all my toys, I ensconced myself at the far end of the bar at the Red Dot, close to an outlet, and charged my laptop and phone.  And had superb Eggs Benedict on potato latkes with a side of American bacon.  Totally, totally decadent.  If in Hudson on a weekend day, indulge yourself.  The Red Dot’s Mark makes the most succulent Eggs Benedict this side of paradise and, at this point in life, I have had a bunch.  And when I am on the other side, I want to know I can order his up whenever I want.  Please God.

Do you notice how I am avoiding anything substantive?

Sometimes you just have to do that.  Give yourself a little breathing space in all the craziness.

Because it is crazy out there.

It is just unbelievable to me.  Whenever I look at the news, I just go:  WTF.

So, I have taken a moment to not worry.  To celebrate my life and the joys I experience on a daily basis, knowing I must return to the dialogue soon.


Letter From Claverack 04 30 2017 Without hope, we have nothing…

May 1, 2017

It is a Sunday evening at the cottage.  Jazz is playing, the lights splash the creek.  I have made myself a martini.  It was a typical Sunday, up early, read the NY Times and a few articles from the WSJ online before the shower and then off to church, where I did the readings and then coffee hour, errands before settling at the Dot for a long and lazy brunch, reading more off my phone and chatting with a few people, home to the cottage, put away laundry, got the trash together and sat down to write.


Very hygge.

Because I need the steady rhythm of familiar things in this Age of Trump.

His aides were caught off guard when he extended an invitation to President Duterte of the Philippines to come visit him during a Saturday call.  If you haven’t been following it, President Duterte has been accused of extra-judicial killings in that country’s current “drug war.” Now those surprised aides are preparing for an avalanche of criticism as it’s hard to find a world leader disliked as much as Duterte by pretty much everyone.

Then, after unleashing a problem for everyone around him, Mr. Trump jetted off to Harrisburg, PA for a campaign style rally to “record breaking crowds,” where he railed to his supporters about the media which was, at the same time, roasting him in DC, even if he was not there.  In two events, the official White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the Samantha Bee hosted “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” withered the sitting President, the first to have missed this event since 1981, when Ronald Reagan was recuperating from an assassin’s attack.

I wake up in the morning and find I am in a state of continuing bemusement in what is going on in Washington.  It is reality television, which is what we should have expected when we elected a reality television star to the Presidency.  With Reagan, we had an actor who knew how to deliver his lines.  There aren’t really “lines” in reality television.  There is direction but no script.  We have a President who is making up his script as he goes along, knowing he knows better than everyone else.  Even if he doesn’t.

The WSJ, a deeply conservative publication, to which I now subscribe, seems to be wanting to support him and just can’t find a way not to point out that it’s all a little…off.

And it is more than a little off.

Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, said the White House was looking at ways of changing the libel laws to make it easier to for Trump to sue media organizations who criticize him.  Imagine how the Democrats responded to that, not to mention many Republicans?  Not pretty.  Do we not remember the First Amendment?  Or is Trump being inspired by Erdogan of Turkey who has been arresting thousands of people he suspects of being disloyal while cracking down on the press?  Cracking down makes it sound nice.  He is dismantling any vocal opposition to him.

One thing we should note is that the economy grew at the slowest rate in three years in the first quarter of Trump.   Maybe it’s a holdover from Obama or maybe it’s the fear of Trump.

We are in a political Wild West except in this Wild West we have nuclear weapons.

It’s a dark time in American democracy and we need to remember, in this “of the moment” world in which we live, this has not been the only dark time in American democracy.  We had the Civil War, dark time.  We survived Andrew Jackson, a really, really not nice President [who, by the way, our current President seems to identify with].

We will, God willing, live through this.

In the meantime, I will play jazz.  I will drink martinis.  I will write and I will hope, because without hope we have nothing.



Letter From Claverack 04 26 2017 Surviving a bad emperor…

April 27, 2017

It’s been a busy day.  At 5:30 the alarms starting going off as today is Wednesday, the day I do my morning show on WGXC and I need the time to be good when I go on air.   Once I was a morning person, when I lived in LA and worked for New York based companies and had to be up to catch New Yorkers.

Mornings were always best because after lunch, particularly in the early 1980’s, was not a good time.  The three martini lunch was slowly fading but not yet gone.  It was an early lesson in my career.

So, for most of the time I lived in LA, I was up about the time dawn was cracking so I could catch people before I lost them.  It won me many friends and a few who wished I would sleep longer so that I wasn’t around to harass them.

The memories I have of that time are quite fond.

Knowing myself, I am up early on the day I do my show so that I am fully functioning by the time I reach the station around 8, letting myself in, sipping coffee and getting organized.  I want to be at my best.

Today, I was pretty good, if I say so myself.  The first interview was with Brenda Adams, Executive Director for Columbia County Habitat for Humanity and the President of their board, Peter Cervi.  It went well.  They are having an event which they were there to publicize and I also wanted people to know about all the other good things they are doing, including helping people remain in their homes as opposed to having to go to a nursing home.

That was followed by an interview with an environmental journalist, Susan Zakin, which was good and funny and fun.  She is appalled by what Trump is doing.

Which brings us to our unpredictable President, Donald Trump.  It is dizzying to me and disturbing to me as I can’t seem to find a coherence to what is going on though I am not sure why I am surprised by that.  He hasn’t been, to me, coherent from the beginning.

And now he is President.

He, the President, announced today a reform to the tax code. Details to follow.  No one I’ve read today seems to “grok” it.

He signed an Executive Order today that potentially takes away protection from something like 24 national monuments.  Why?

Trump summoned the whole Senate to the White House to brief them on North Korea.  No real reports on what was revealed though some Senators said they came out of the meeting “sobered.” Though it seems diplomacy is being chosen rather military action.

A long time ago, there was a remake of “On the Beach,” a story of nuclear destruction.  In the remake, the President of the United States ordered a nuclear strike on China and it resulted in the end of human life on earth.

That haunts me right now.

North Korea is playing with fire and we’re playing with North Korean fire.  It worries me how this will turn out.

Look, I am in the last act of my life and if the world blows up, I’ve had the best of it.  And I think about the children who were playing at OMI, an art center, I visited last week.  There was such delightful young life in that room.

I think that should be protected.

Look, ladies and gentleman, the Roman Empire went through a number of really bad Emperors so I am hoping we can get through a really bad President.

Less than a hundred days out, I think he is a bad President, dangerous, more so than “W” who I thought was a bad President and dangerous.  He gave us the morass of the Middle East.

And now it is later at night, the lights are on the creek, Nina Simone is playing on Echo and I am moving toward bed in my freshly cleaned home.

The lights are on and I am looking at the creek, flowing on, hopefully forever.

Earlier, as I was settling in, I looked out my window and saw my hedgehog sniffling around the house, looking for food.  And its presence gave me hope.

The world is changing and the hedgehogs remain, constant against change.  A part of life…







Letter From Claverack 02 20 2017 Musings while seeking Morpheus…

February 20, 2017

My day began at 4:00 AM EST, 5:00 AM AST [Atlantic Standard Time] on the sun blessed isle of Saba where I woke, finished packing, drank some coffee and was picked up by my friends on the island and went to the airport to begin an epic journey back to Claverack.  Cars, planes, automobiles and trains.  Had them all covered today.


Flying to St. Martin, I went on to New York and from New York went by train to Hudson, got to my car and came home.

Earlier this week, I was wide awake in the early hours of the day and now I am awake in the late hours of the night and so, instead of staring at the ceiling, decided to open the laptop and do a letter…

When I came into the drive, I realized how hard this winter has been on the gravel drive and I have some work to do in the spring to redistribute the gravel pushed aside by the snow plow.

It did feel  wonderful to pull into the drive and see the little cottage, all snug and waiting.  Coming in, I turned up the heat a bit, made myself a martini and started to unpack.  Some things I shipped home from Miami as they would have been burdensome to carry out to Saba and back.  One of them was a winter coat, keeping with me only a lighter one.  A wise choice as when I stepped off the plane in New York it was almost balmy.  It was so warm; I almost didn’t need my fleece pullover.

As I rode in the taxi to Penn Station for the train part of the trip, we were held up by road work and I contemplated the extraordinary world in which we live.

My friend, Jan, was afraid I would spend the next four years overflowing with anger at Trump.  I’m not.  I don’t have the energy for that.  Often I am bemused, disgusted, concerned, frightened, surprised, shocked. But not angry.  Not yet.

As I was driving in from JFK, I was thinking about his comment in speech yesterday about what happened in Sweden last night.  Nothing happened in Sweden last night.  Our President baffled an entire nation, wondering if there was something he knew they didn’t.  He didn’t.  It seems he conflated a Tucker Carlson interview into something that wasn’t – or something like that.

The Swedish Government asked for a clarification and President Trump tweeted that he was referring to a Fox News report about Swedes and immigration and rising crime.  But he did say “last night.”

The Swedes are wondering if his tweet was the official response they requested.  The State Department hasn’t gotten back to them.

And I wrote about Shep Smith in my last letter, the Fox News anchor of “The Majority Report” taking on the untruthfulness of President Trump.  The very thought of anyone at Fox News taking on Donald Trump brings a smile to my face.  How could it not?

Alas for them, he has also labelled them as “fake news.”  Or maybe it is alas for him?  Fox News is the media organ of choice for his base and if they are questioning him…

So, no, I am not angry.  Yet.  And I am an activist.  Our little group, Blue DOT Hudson Indivisible is now up to about two hundred members and growing.  We’re demanding accountability from our Representative in Congress, John Faso, and our Senators, Kristin Gillibrand and Charles Schumer.  Faso is Republican and Gillibrand and Schumer are Democrats.  No one is off the hook here.

It is interesting that historians are listing Obama as the 12th best President in our history.   If you’re interested in the list, look here.

Tomorrow, after all, is President’s Day.

There will be a march in DC to say “Not My President,” to let Donald know where he stands with some people.

In New York today, music mogul Russell Simons, once a longtime Trump friend, organized an “I am a Muslim, too” gathering to protest Trump’s positions on his Muslim brothers.

Friends of mine were there.  If I had been in the city, I might have been though my discomfort with crowds has grown as I have grown older.

And I am glad I have grown older.  It gives me some good perspective.  It helps me realize that while I have no children, I do have a responsibility to the next generations.  And it is interesting to accept that I have that responsibility.










Letter From Claverack 12 24 2016 Ho Ho Ho…

December 25, 2016

Tonight is Christmas Eve.  The floodlights illuminate the creek in front of me; my trees are lit and Christmas carols are playing on my Echo.  Shortly I will leave to attend Christmas Eve festivities at the Red Dot, closed this evening to the public and home to the party Alana, the owner, has prepared.

Every year the Dot is decorated to the nines.  This year is in honor to Wendy Frost, the artist who helped Alana every year create magic and who passed away during the summer, not long after moving to Florida.

When I was a wee boy, Christmas Eve was Christmas.  It was the night we celebrated and opened presents.  My Juettner cousins would come and we would all frolic in the basement or play games in the living room until it was time for the Christmas Eve feast and then we would rip into our packages.

When they had gone home, we opened our own family presents, then sleepy I would head off to bed while my older siblings and parents attended Midnight Mass.

As things do, the traditions changed and the Juettners ceased coming and things toned down a bit.  My older siblings departed, my brother to medical school, my sister to the convent.  The next Christmases were quiet.

After my father’s passing, it seemed Christmases picked up again after a while.  My brother returned to Minneapolis, post internship, a year in Honduras giving medical care to children and a couple of years in the Air Force.

In college, it was fun to leave where I was living and return to my old bedroom, sometimes with an out of town roommate in tow.

For me, tonight is Christmas.

Christmas Day always seemed a bit anti-climactic.  The big presents had been given and Christmas exhaustion had set in.

Tonight, this Christmas of 2016, I wish all of you who celebrate the holiday, the merriest of Christmases.

It is also the beginning of Hanukkah, which rarely coincides with Christmas but it does this year.  So Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!

I am off to a party, with two quiches and some gag gifts, as Alana requested.


May this day be very merry, safe and happy for all of us.

Letter From Claverack 12 19 2016 What we need is a little Christmas…

December 20, 2016

A few hours ago, I asked Alexa to play the Holiday Station from Amazon Prime and Christmas carols have been floating through the house since then.  The lights are illuminating the creek and I have sat down, at last, to write a letter.  The last one was nine days ago, which is unusual for me.  Normally, I write every two or three days.

The frenzy of prepping for Christmas has given me ample excuses to not think about the world…

Two Christmas trees grace the cottage; one small real one, bedecked with as many ornaments as it bear and an artificial white tree, which has been my tradition for years now.

The first Christmas after my partner left, I went to the lot where we had purchased our trees and found myself paralyzed, not wanting to get out of the car and so I didn’t.  Decorating our trees had always been a big thing and I couldn’t imagine how to get through that Christmas.

So I did the unthinkable; I went to Walmart and bought a pre-lit white Christmas tree which was the silliest thing I could think of doing and it made my Christmas.  It was so silly, I laughed, which was what I needed to do that year.  And a personal tradition was born…

A white Christmas tree adorned with all the ornaments that matter.  There are a few from my mother, one White House ornament given to me by Buddy, who helped decorate the actual White House Christmas tree.  He is gone, lost to AIDS before anything could be done and I have the ornament he gave me and it has a place of pride every year.

There are the wonderful crystal ornaments Lionel and Pierre have given me the last few years, two Christopher Radko ornaments from when I was on the Board of Governors for the TV Academy, ornaments I purchased the first year I was working at Discovery – that was an animal themed Christmas.


In the last twenty-four hours, I have made 16 quiches.  It has been my tradition for the last some years to bake quiches for my friends and neighbors and there are still a few more to be made but I have made most of them and will spend some of tomorrow delivering them.

My kitchen is not quite a catastrophe…

All of this is part of my life and a welcome distraction.

Today, Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency was ratified by the Electoral College, a fact I am still having a hard time getting my head around, which is why I seem to especially devoted to the Food Section of the New York Times.

At least twelve are dead as a result of lorry crashing into a Christmas market in Berlin.

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey was shot dead today in Ankara.

Aleppo is a catastrophe we grieve but seem to have no way to respond to and I still wonder about the boy in the photograph from months ago.  He will haunt me to the day I die.  Is he safe?

It seems I may never rest until I know and I may never know but I keep seeing that photo…

And as Christmas approaches, I am so grateful to be here, in the cottage, decorated as best I could for this most wonderful holiday, listening to Christmas music…

The world is always in trouble and it will continue to be that way.  And I will work to find ways to feel like I am helping the world not be in as much trouble as it is.  Maybe I will succeed, a little bit…




Letter From Dulles Airport 12 05 2016 Remembering my moral compass…

December 6, 2016

It is a quiet Monday evening and I am sitting in a waiting area at Dulles Airport; in a couple of hours I will board a flight to Albany, retrieve my car and drive the hour it takes to get down to the cottage.

The flight from Charlottesville was very short, about twenty minutes.  I closed my eyes and let my mind wander.

To anyone who reads me on a regular basis, it is apparent I did not support Donald Trump.  It occurred to me that many think I am now a disappointed Democrat.  Long ago, I became an Independent.

My upbringing was staunchly Republican.  My first vote for a President was for a Republican.  In the in-between, I have voted for worthy Republicans for various offices.

My parents were Republicans as was my Uncle Joe, who lived next door to us in the double bungalow we inhabited in south Minneapolis.  He and my father and mother had lived in duplexes and then the double bungalow forever as my father and my uncle shared responsibility for their mother, who was gone before I had cognizance of the world.

On a brutally cold morning in a February, my father awoke, complained of the worst headache he’d ever had and was dead before the ambulance could arrive.

Uncle Joe did not attempt to take his place but allowed me space to be in his life.  We took to watching television together on his huge color television set, sitting quietly, occasionally commenting on the acts on television variety shows.  He delighted in the Osmond Family and the Jackson Five.  He read paperback westerns and drove Lincoln Continentals.  His well-tailored wardrobe filled the closets.

Not well educated, he rose to be the Senior Vice President and General Manager for seven states for American Bakeries Company [Taystee Bread], then the second largest commercial baking company in the world.  He became a member of their Board of Directors.

At seventeen, it was determined by me and most everyone else, including family, counselors and my psychiatrist, that the healthiest thing I could do would be to leave home.  Relations between my mother and I had become unbearable, probably for both of us.

Uncle Joe took me to dinner and offered to help me.  I needed, in return, to maintain a B average in college and to have dinner with him at least once a month.

We grew closer.  At one of those dinners, at a restaurant looking down over downtown Minneapolis, snow swirling in the winter night, I asked him what was the thing he was proudest of in his life.  Uncharacteristically, he hesitated.

He told me that in 1932, he stood in his office building in what was then the tallest building in St. Paul and looked down at the bread lines weaving around the blocks.  He made a promise then that none of the people who worked for him, who counted in the hundreds, if not the thousands, would ever stand in a bread line.

He kept that promise.  He made sure that those who worked for him, even if they weren’t working full time, would have enough to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.

I had not known; I was born long after the Great Depression, a child of the baby boom generation.

When I began to question the Viet Nam War, we had conversations.  He told me he no longer knew the right or wrong of Viet Nam; I must make my own decision and whatever it was, he would support me.

While he had never married, he had a great friend, Rose.  They breakfasted every Sunday morning after he’d been to church.  When she died, I suggested perhaps he might want to have breakfast with me, which began a tradition that grew to include sometimes two dozen members of the family.

It was apparent to me that Nixon’s goose was cooked when the medal Uncle Joe had received from the Committee to Re-elect the President {C.R.E.E.P.] disappeared from his desk where it had sat proudly.  If Nixon had lost Uncle Joe, he had lost it all.

He was and has remained my moral compass.  He was a humble man, not without flaws or he wouldn’t have been human, but a careful, considered, considerate man.

The last time weekend I saw him, he angered me with a comment.  Everyone told me to let it go but I marched over to his side of the house, started to speak and he held up his hand.  He told me he was sorry; he had spoken unwisely and out of turn.

It became a two-hour conversation that, when he died two months later, allowed me to feel I had had closure with the man who I now recognize as my greatest moral compass.

He was not my father but he fathered me.

On the short flight from Charlottesville, in a semi-slumber, I realized much of my hostility to the nomination of Donald Trump was because I am convinced Uncle Joe would have found his campaign deplorable and would be wounded that a man who has spoken as Donald Trump has about minorities and women would be the President Elect of these United States from the party he held so dear.

But Trump is.

I accept that and it does not mean I will not be watchful and will not civilly disagree when I feel it is appropriate and necessary for the good of this country to civilly disagree.

It is my belief that is what Uncle Joe would expect of me.