February 2, 1994
Dear Friends-and-Relations,

Interview with a GroundHog

PH Good morning.  It’s time to wake up and look for your shadow so we’ll know if we’re going to get 6 more weeks of winter.

GH Are you crazy?  In the first place 40° above zero ain’t winter.  In the second place, I’m retired now and there’s no way you’re going to get me up at sunrise to make a stupid prediction that’s wrong half the time anyhow.

PH Well then, how will you spend your day?

GH I’ll get up when I feel like it, read the paper with my breakfast, probably take a walk and a swim in a heated pool, do some work on my memoirs.  Sure beats sleeping all day curled up in a snow bank.

PH But if you’re retired, what am I going to do about my annual letter?

GH Look, pal.  For 22 years you’ve exploited me.  Feb. 2 is my day, and I’ve earned it.  But no hard feelings.  If you want to keep sending out your letter then, be my guest.  Just don’t expect me to read it.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to some serious loafing.

Our Trek December 18, 1992

We are visiting our daughter Lisa Kelly (and husband Bill and children Rebecca and Joshua) in their new house in Palo Alto.  3100 miles in 22 days – when we drive, we drive!  That included still being in Clear Lake, Iowa at the end of 3 days!  The original plan had been to just head due west.  But just before we left Minneapolis we saw the PBS Special on Donner Pass, and since we were held up by snow in Lincoln, Nebraska, we decided to head south rather than risk eating each other.  More snow storms meant more going south, until we were almost in Mexico.  But it was fun.  We visited with relatives and good friends in Lincoln, Boulder, Denver, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, and now, here we are.

Golden Wedding January 3, 1993

Bill said, “Time to go!”, so we piled into his rented van along with Lisa, Rebecca, Joshua, and Margie’s two older children Jason and Lisa; our son Phil, his good friend Margie Kubelik, and Margie’s youngest son Eli had already left.  A thirty minute drive over mountain roads brought us to the Mark West Lodge, and we idly wondered why our children had picked this remote spot for dinner when there were good restaurants right in Calistoga where we were all staying at the Indian Springs Resort.

It had all started early in 1992 when Phil and Lisa said they would like to do something special to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary which was due on January 3, 1993, and they suggested spending a few days at this great resort Lisa and Bill had checked out in Napa Valley.  Our family has always made a big deal out of celebrating special days, but we’re usually flexible about adjusting the date, so we agreed that the last week in 1992 was convenient and sufficiently close to the actual date.  So now we were all assembled at Indian Springs.

We figured that our kids would plan some sort of focus for the GWA, and when Lisa suggested that we wear something dressy for dinner on Tuesday, we guessed that this might be it.  When the restaurant hostess told us to wait in the lobby for a few minutes, I figured that Phil was probably making some last minute arrangements for the waitress to bring in a special dessert and sing “Happy Anniversary.”  I was therefore a little taken aback when we were shown into a private dining room with a beautifully set up banquet table, a separate wine table where Phil was saying, “Happy Golden,” and offering a choice of red or white wine.  There were hugs and laughter aplenty, but also an undefined air of expectancy.

Suddenly I heard Thea gasp, and I followed her gaze to the end wall of the room.  And I gasped, too, as I saw an enormous patchwork quilt covering the entire wall.  The eye could not encompass it all at once, but a square near the middle stood out with our names and “January 3, 1943” on it.  My brain grasped the fact that this entire quilt had been designed just for Thea and me as an expression of love from our children.  The whole room became misty as we hugged each other, hugged our children, hugged Margie and Bill, hugged our grandchildren.  .  .  .  But the surprises were not over.  A voice spoke behind me and I turned to see Andy and Nadine Ungar whom we had known since our Chicago days 35 years ago.  And no sooner had we hugged them than Martin and Anne Huff, classmates from more than 50 years ago at Antioch appeared.

What a wonderful bunch of surprises.  As the evening progressed we found out more of the details.  There will be 50 squares to the quilt, each one commemorating one year of our marriage.  (The future tense is because this gift follows another family tradition of being presented before it is quite finished!).  Margie did all of the sewing, but all of our family contributed to the research and design of the individual squares. (See the quilt. – ed.)

The Ungars and Huffs had been in on the plans from early on, and were co-hosts of the dinner.  There were specially printed souvenir menus and the wine bottles were labeled, “Selected and Bottled Expressly for Philip and Thea Hodge, January 3, 1943.”

All of the things were great.  But it was the people that made it truly wonderful.  Our children, their partners, our friends.  All the thought and effort that they put in to create this celebration.  Truly we are fortunate to have such special people as part of our lives.

And today, the actual day which marks 50 years of our married happiness, I feel the excitement all over again.  Our other daughter Sue, who had been unable to be in Calistoga (but she had been at our retirement party in Minneapolis 18 months ago), called from New Jersey to wish us a lengthy Happy Golden.  Our nephew Nick called from Delaware with the same message.

On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that we’ve been married so long – but on the other hand, it’s hard to believe that there was ever a time when we weren’t!  They have been wonderful years together, and I look forward to many more of them.

Golden Reunion June 22, 1993

Passenger to pilot: “Towers at 2 o’clock.”

Pilot to passengers: “I see them.  We’ll drop lower and circle them.”

The Towers of Antioch.  For more than four years half a century ago I had viewed them from the ground.  Now I was seeing them from the air, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat with Thea and Margie in the rear seats, while my son, Phil, flew us in his Piper Archer plane.  It was an exciting moment!

All too soon we landed at Dayton, found our rented car, and bade good-bye to Phil and Margie as they flew back to their homes near Pittsburgh.  And that evening we ate dinner at Antioch as the start of our 4-day Golden Reunion.

There were more than 20 people from my class of 1943 – many looked like slightly older versions of the faces I remembered, while others had changed so much they didn’t recognize me.  But it was fun seeing them all and remembering our happy days there before we went off to war.

And it was fun to see Antioch again and to talk with the president and the current faculty (including a couple of emeriti who claimed they remembered me).  Antioch is different now, of course, and not all of the changes are for the better.  But the Antioch of today is not as different from 1943 as it is from 1968 when we were last there for my Silver Reunion (which was also daughter Sue’s graduation).  Then, we felt it had definitely gone down hill; now it was definitely back up again.  I hope we can continue to keep in touch.

After the reunion we drove to Des Moines by a circuitous route, visiting nieces Damaris and Wink and their families, cousin Jim, countless friends in Minneapolis, and our Opera Study Group in Des Moines for another bout of three well-done operas.

New Grandchild August 4, 1993

5:45 pm, 350 Sharon Park Drive
We check with Lisa by phone before leaving for the movies: an old Harold Lloyd silent film with live organ accompaniment.  Nothing is happening, so we proceed with our plans.

7:15 pm, Stanford Theater
The movie starts in 15 minutes and we decide to check once more, “just in case . . . ”  Contractions have started!  Only every 7 minutes, but when Joshua started a year and a half ago, he didn’t wait around for long.  Better not take a chance, so we leave the theater.

11:00 pm, Kelly home
False alarm.  Contractions have stopped.  We discuss detailed plans for the big event.  Good thing we did; plans have changed since I last heard.  Thea and I return home.

Thursday, August 5, 4:31 am, 350 Sharon Park Drive
The phone rings!
Me: Hello
Bill: You’d better come.
Me: See you!

4:50 am, Kelly home We arrive.  Susan (close friend and neighbor of Lisa and Bill) is already there.  Thea goes upstairs to await signal on when to call Rebecca.  I take chairs upstairs, check that monitor is set so I can hear it if Joshua wakes up, stand by downstairs to answer door and take orders.

5:00 am Midwife (Kay) and Marion (close friend of Lisa and Bill who has been present and helped with both previous births) arrive independently; I shoo them upstairs.

5:05 am Things are warming up.  I hear Thea calmly waking 3½ year old Rebecca, and see them go across the upstairs hall from Rebecca’s room to Lisa’s.  Lisa’s grunts get louder.  No sound from 19 month old Joshua.

5:19 am I hear Thea say, “There’s her head!”

5:20 am I hear someone say, “You’ve got a baby!”  Then a loud unambiguous “Waaah.”  I listen carefully for Joshua – no sound.

5:25 am I walk upstairs and join the party.  Eve Maya Kelly is lying on Lisa’s breast.  Bill has already cut the cord.  Lisa has a beatific smile on her face.  Everyone looks tired but happy.  Rebecca tells me all about it.  Another descendent of mine, has come into being.

The Shortest Longest Day of the year December 21, 1993

4:30 am.  The alarm goes off and routs us out of our cozy waterbed in our cozy apartment in Menlo Park.  Drink juice, throw clothes on, carry already packed bags to the car.

5:00 am.  Car starts perfectly, and we’re on our way  to the San Jose Airport.   No traffic, no problem finding a parking spot in the long-term lot, no line at the ticket counter.

5:40 am.  Checked in for our 7:00 flight to Phoenix.  Leisurely breakfast in coffee shop.  Comfortable flight in full plane.  On time arrival.  On time departure on plane #2 for Tucson.

11:15am. On time arrival in Tucson.  Met at gate by tour guide comfortably before the noon hour deadline.  Scheduled 2:00 pm departure for La Paz in plane #3.  We’ll be all settled on our 75-passenger ship Sea Lion  before dark.  But . . .

2:00 pm. No plane.  Bad weather in Guaymas.  Will be here sometime.

3:00 pm. No plane.  It has a cracked windshield. Will take 2 hours to replace.

5:00 pm. No plane.  Airline buys us dinner.  See plane crew at restaurant.
Me: “When will we leave.”  Pilot: “When the plane does.”

7:00 pm. No plane.  Are told new plane will be used.  Will be here 8:30.

8:30 pm. No plane.  Are told plane is in the air, will be here in an hour.

9:50 pm.  Plane!  Wait for debarking passengers (who expected to be here 8 hours ago).                          Board plane.  Uneventful flight to La Paz.  Clear customs.  Van to ship.

Midnight.  Board ship.  Midnight snack spread out for us.  Friendly crew with apologies but no undue gushing.  Drinks on the house.  By now we’ve talked to at least half the 57 passengers.  This is going to be a fun trip!

1:30 am (I know, it’s Dec. 22, now, but try to explain that to my metabolism).  After snacks, beer, and showers, collapse into our cozy bunks on our cozy ship in the Sea of Cortez.

CRUISE December 27, 1993

Seven wonderful days aboard ship and hiking on “Islas”.  Highlights were hundreds of dolphins riding our bow wave, a dozen or more humpbacked whales swimming and sounding, and snorkelling with sea lions.  And I do mean “with”.  Have you ever cavorted with a curious young female sea lion?  I recommend it.  Some swimmers actually found tooth marks in their flippers.  Me, I settled for an occasional bump.

Hope I can bump into you in the coming year – –


Greetings from Thea – –

We did our usual traveling this past year;  Phil has covered the trips in some detail.  I just wanted to talk a little bit more about the kind of cruise we particularly like, the small ship cruise.  We have taken Clipper Cruise Lines and Special Expeditions ships.  There are others, Amer. Can. Caribbean Line, Renaissance, to name two.  Most share the features of a small number of passengers (50 to 150), informality (one class, one sitting for meals, no dressing for dinner), staff may include naturalists, historians, other people with special interests and expertise, and all carry small boats or Zodiacs (motorized multi-chambered rubber rafts) for beach landings.   In addition, all 3 of our ships were especially built very shallow-draft vessels for getting up close and personal to islands and glaciers and marine life.

Our latest trip was in December to Baja California and the Sea of Cortez.  What a fun trip!  I am very enthusiastic about Special Expeditions.  The staff ranges from good to superior and we found our fellow adventurers compatible to a surprising degree.  Phil wanted to participate in everything much more vigorously than I did;  he found companions to match him.  I wanted to spend more time watching, talking, strolling;  I found companions who felt as I did.   The naturalists were accommodating to each level of energy expenditure and arranged forays that could allow each of us to find our own group.

The four naturalists were certainly a large part of the many reasons we enjoyed this trip.  One was a marine biologist from the Seattle Aquarium, one a professor of geology at the Univ. of Western Washington, one a graduate student in botany at the University of Mexico, in Mexico City, and the 4th, a former professor of invertebrate biology, currently with (I believe) Scripps Oceano. Inst. and in his spare time our guitarist and caroler.  They were knowledgeable and energetic, full of good information and anecdotes, were all congenial people with outgoing personalities.

Our cabin was small but had room for everything we wanted to have on board, including our Macintosh Powerbook.   We had 2 twin beds, a double closet plus 2 drawers, a desk which closed up for privacy, a comfortable upholstered chair, private facilities (washbowl,  minuscule shower [don’t gain weight before taking the M.S.Lion], standard commode, medicine chest), plenty of light for reading, lots of outlets for standard U.S. electrical equipment,  and a large window which could be opened in dry weather.

We had some land time and some swimming but, because of strong winds, rough seas and cold water, not as much as we would have preferred.  Phil donned his wet-suit and swam with the sea lions while I was content to watch from a Zodiac and take photos.

As I wrote some of you during the year, we enjoy being here.  Grandchildren exert a powerful hold, and life in an apt. complex with swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, Nautilus equipment, pool table, with mostly pleasant weather and no maintenance concerns is so-o-o easy.  We don’t have much need to get away.  But sometimes the wanderlust creeps in.  In particular, when Phil has a meeting or conference somewhere, we are apt to tack on a trip.  And of course we do some traveling to visit our children in PA and NJ.

The children and the grandchildren are all well and appear to be thriving.  Not much different in their lives in ’93 with two exceptions.  Our son Philip has gotten involved with the design of a new collision avoidance system he and others are proposing to the FAA (a worthy project if I ever heard of one!!).  His business is prospering and in his spare time he and his mechanic are building a new plane from a kit.  Our son-in-law Bill Kelly has been promoted to manager of a department at Cisco (no longer a start-up company, with revenues which just topped $1 billion).  We are proud as parents and as parents-in-law!


P. S.  This first letter from California goes to many friends far and near in both space and time.  We hope some of you enjoy our yearly rambles; We suspect that others  are wondering, “will they never stop.”  Cheer up!  If you don’t want to be on our list for next year, do nothing.  On the other hand, if you’d like to hear the thrilling things we’ll do and think about in 1994, let us know via any of the media listed on the letterhead, or add a note to your card or letter next Christmas.