It Was 30 Years Ago Today


We told Andy to smile at a family photo and this is what we got. That’ll give you an idea of what Andy’s all about.

This is undoubtedly a day for great celebration.

Today is my son, Andy’s 30th birthday.

Well, technically it’s a celebration of the anniversary of the day of his birth, which was October 26th, 1986.  But you know what I mean.

30 years old.  Damn, you’re old.  You’re over the hill now.

Andy was born at 9:03pm at the long since demolished old U.S. Air Force Regional Hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base, so the party doesn’t start until 9:03 tonight when it’s officially official.  As you may know, Andy still lives in Alaska and really loves it up there.  Like anyone’s hometown, it’s home to him and that’s as it should be.

While October 26th is the recorded date of arrival, it was very nearly a week earlier.

About two weeks before Andy made his grand entrance, the whole family got sick with the flu.  I mean REALLY sick.  Violently so.  At two years old, Andy’s older brother Jonathon probably got the worst of it, constantly throwing up, ingesting replacement fluids so that he didn’t get dehydrated, and then barfing it up all over again before he could blink.  I remember him crying and crying and crying because he was so ill.

I was equally stricken, and for a week or so, I was in the same boat as poor little Jon was, but I swore a lot more.

Their Mom, Deborah, was also horribly sick.  Same symptoms, same threat of dehydration, and even more swearing, except that she was probably the sickest of the three of us because she was puking for two.

Taking care of Jon was hard enough when he alone was sick, but when Deb, Jon and I all got sick at the same time, there was hardly any energy to do much beyond the basics for any of us.  We were expending all our energy just being sick.  It was a miserable ten days or so for the three of us.

The Sunday before the Sunday Andy was born, I came downstairs after finally getting Jon to sleep.  I discovered Deborah sitting motionless on the couch in the living room of our quarters on 520-B 7th Street at Fort Richardson, dazed with what the Army calls “the thousand yard stare.” Actually it was closer to two thousand.  Just looking at her, you could tell that the lights were on, but nobody was home.

“Deb?” I asked tentatively.  “Are you OK?”

“I’m fine,” She replied weakly, speech slurred, “but I think I’m starting to have contractions.”

“Are you sure?” I asked stupidly full well knowing that she knew what contractions were better than I did.

She rolled her eyes and looked at me with an unusually weak look of disdain.  “Let’s just sit here for a couple of minutes and see,” she added weakly and went back to being really out of it.  Her demeanor was so weak that it genuinely scared me but she was the boss so we waited a little while.  When her condition didn’t improve and the contractions increased, she said that we’d better go to the hospital.  So we packed her up and got her off to the emergency room at Elmendorf.

She was immediately brought in and given IV fluids to counter the dehydration from which she had been suffering.  Once she got sufficient fluids in her, the contractions weakened and eventually stopped and after a time, she was released to go home with strict orders to hydrate.

During the next week, the three of us finally got well enough that we were getting back to normal.  The next Sunday, on the 26th, Andy arrived.  No problems, no complications.  Just a happy, healthy small redheaded human.

After all the commotion at the hospital, two-year-old Jon, sufficiently recovered, came over to meet his brother.  Deb and I thought ahead and pre-positioned a toy car in the hospital room that Jon could ride around on as a gift from his new brother, hopefully mitigating the attention that Andy was about to get.  It worked and they’ve been virtually inseparable ever since.


Jon and Andy, circa 1988.

Some weeks later, Robin Baizel, one of our friends who had appeared in a stage play that Deborah and I worked out in Eagle River, Alaska, came over to meet the new human.  When Deb brought Andy downstairs, she started laughing, pointed at him and then at me and said “Oh my god, it’s a clone!”  I just remember her laughing so hard that she could barely choke out the words.*


Charlie on C-SPAN.

In 2004, he and his brother came to promote me to colonel at the Pentagon.  Attending the ceremony were the two general officers from Army Public Affairs, many of my colleagues and friends, and one Charles Krohn.  Charlie was a very accomplished member of the Senior Executive Service and the senior civilian in Army Public Affairs.

After the ceremony, Charlie came up to me and said “I was really impressed with your younger son.”

“Andy?” I said.

“Yeah, the redheaded one” he confirmed.  “He’s a pretty heads up kid.  He and I talked for quite a while and he was able to hold his own with me. Very impressive!”

That’s Andy.  From the time he was little, he was always able to mix it up in whichever group he found himself.


Me, Andy’s Step-mom, Janice, brother Jonathon and the birthday boy at the Pentagon in 2003.

I was proud of him then and I’m proud of him now.  He handled himself adeptly during his Mom’s recent illness in South Carolina, spending every day for weeks at the hospital with her, while in his spare time, assisting Deb’s family in the aftermath of Andy’s grandfather’s death just days before.

So that’s the story of how Andy almost arrived a week early.  It’s also the story of why I always get my flu shot.  (You should, too.)

But the real reason for this post is that Andy, you’re 30 today.  It’s one of those milestones that make you think you’re old.  And you are.  Very, very old now.  Ancient.  Almost decrepit.  Make no mistake about it.  On the upside, you’re never REALLY old until you’re as old as me.  Or Methuselah. And if you get to be as old as he was, think how much interest will be in your 401k!


Happy birthday, sir!  Enjoy this great day!

Love you, dude!

* Quick sidebar — Deborah Ginsburg, Andy’s mom, remembered Robin’s exclamation more accurately than I did and the verbiage contained herein was corrected to so reflect.  Thanks, Deb!

Guest Post: “My Mom and the Cleveland Indians”


Jefferson Wolfe

My brother, Jefferson, penned this on Facebook and it doesn’t get any better than this. Thanks for permitting me the honor of posting this here.

My mom, Mary Jo, died in July at age 86. She was a faithful Indians fan until about a year ago when Alzheimer’s disease started to take hold.

For many years, she worked the 3 p.m.-11 p.m. shift as an emergency room nurse at hospitals in Fostoria and Bowling Green, which meant she always got home late and stayed up into the early hours of the morning.

Many nights, I would give up on the Indians and either go to bed early or go do something else. Even after she retired, she was so used to staying awake, she would regularly watch until the bitter end. Some years, there were a lot of bitter ends.

When they lost, she would always say something like, “Well, they screwed up again.”

If they won, the next day she was always happy to tell me she stayed up to watch, long after I bailed out.

“Oh, ye of little faith,” she would say.

Mom was in college at Ohio State in 1948 when the Indians last won the World Series. She remembered how every radio on campus seemed to be tuned to the Indians and classes were cancelled during the games.

It was largely because of her I started watching baseball many years later.

I got interested when I was in fifth grade and our family got cable TV. We could watch the Indians regularly on channel 43.

My mom insisted on watching the games, so I had to watch too. We only had one TV.

In those days, her favorite players were Rick Manning, Von Hayes, and Brook Jacoby.

Mary Jo holding Tess, one of our sister's many dogs.

Mary Jo holding Tess, one of our sister’s many dogs.

My mom never went to a major league game but she always followed on TV or radio. When I was younger, my dad took me to Cleveland Stadium a few times.

My dad enjoyed watching baseball, too, but he typically fell asleep in his chair when the game was on and/or went to bed even before I did.

Especially after my dad died, my mom passed a lot of time watching the Indians during baseball season and the Browns (and also probably every Monday Night Football game ever) during football season.

Early last summer, I called her and she said she hadn’t been paying attention to the Indians that year. I knew something was wrong.

I stayed at her house for a couple of weeks in October to help out as her mind got foggier. I was there during baseball’s divisional series and league championships, so I watched a lot of baseball.

Even though I had games on the TV, she never really noticed, which was very unusual. She always watched the baseball playoffs, usually rooting for players who weren’t famous but who played hard.

She would be enjoying this Indians team, with what seems like a new hero every night.

I’m certain she would love Roberto Perez’s hustle after the first game with Boston, especially the way he tagged up at first to advance to second on a fly ball. I’m also sure she would have loved watching Jose Ramirez all year long.

And, last night, there was Ryan Merritt.

The game didn’t start until 10 p.m. here in Germany, where I live now. I went to bed kind of early and didn’t wake up until 11:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. back in Ohio.

I came out to the couch and turned on the TV quietly so I didn’t wake up my wife or my three daughters, and started watching the game just as Terry Francona shook Merritt’s hand as he left the mound.

I’m pretty sure my mom would have rooted for Merritt, who was the kind of player she always liked.

For that matter, I’m pretty sure my mom watched the whole game, whether I did or not.

Win or lose, she’ll be watching the World Series, too.

Jefferson Wolfe is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany.