Is my book what you came for?  Then link to my free book: A Gift from the Heart

Introduction:

With AOL Hometown being discontinued (sad day) I am forced to find a new “web home” and WordPress seems to offer the resources and flexibility that my fit my style and thus, here I am!  So, with intent to both Blog and host web pages here, we are off and running.

Jim & Pam, and life is very good!

Jim & Pam, and life is very good!

Check out my background in the Pages to the right, beginning with ABOUT and continuing with a little background in the pages below that.

Also, check out the link to my free book, A Gift from the Heart, offered in memory of my heart donor, Roberto Cuebas, who back in October of 1994, lost his life in Brooklyn, NY, but in doing so, saved mine when his heart was donated and transplanted to replace my failing heart over in Philadelphia.  But wait, that’s what the book is all about, so go there to read the full story of the many years he and I have shared since that gift of life was donated.

Jim Gleason
e-mail: GleasonJim@aol.com

Marking my upcoming Oct 19th 25th heart transplant anniversary, I’ve been trying to go that
extra mile to use that milestone to educate the public that organ transplants work and often offer great life extensions
with my story with special thanks to my heart donor, Roberto Cuebas

(<– his photo seen here).

 

 

On June 10th I was honored with the UNOS National Donor Memorial award for service to the transplant community, especially with 20+ years of UNOS committee and twice UNOS board three year elections to serve on that board.  I wanted to share that special moment where both my wife, Pam (herself an organ donor mom) and Regina Cunningham, CEO for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where I received that heart transplant and who sponsored my nomination for this unique award.

Join me for that event with this video recording (and know that when Sue Dunn, UNOS president, made her award presentation, she covered all of the points I was about to mention in my well prepared and practiced talk to follow, I had to throw away my 5 pages of notes and just ‘wing it’!)

 

My good friend, Mary Wu, shares via her blog beautiful inspiring stories from her life that always end with an engaging question/invitation to her reader.
Today she wrote about family and friends special times involving food and asked in conclusion:
“When has something so simple been so incredible in bringing you closer together to share and care for each other? Have you ever been in a place of sharing so comfortably and easily with people outside your inner circle? What childhood memory do you have of food or some other commonality that brought your loved ones together?”

I would like to share my response to her (Her invites are so well done that I always respond to her!)

Mary:
I’m always too busy with other priorities to read and respond to your Blog Updates, BUT since they are so well written and end with an engaging thoughtful question/invitation to share the reader’s feedback to your topic, I drop those other priorities and treat myself to your next read and then find memories or life experiences to share back to your invite.

So it is with today – “Sorry no time to read and write…” but I did just stop other tasks to read this one and now must respond as usual.

Recalling my childhood adventures in the early 1950’s:
As to my childhood cooking memories, your prose brought back beautiful memories of going out to the local woods and picking blackberries with my wonderful father (we share that love and special blessing of the dad’s you and I had/have in our lives, learning over time in conversations with friends how very rare that ‘special dad’ is, given how few have that like we do/did).

Then we would come home and start cooking up the blackberry jam that was so very special (Ah, those peanut butter – Skippy of course – and jelly/jam sandwiches with this homemade treat from our picking labors which added to its taste). Mary, thanks for getting me to take time out today to revisit those memories.

As adults, my wife, Pam, and I shared a simple unique visit with a good friend down in Georgia peach country when after his very special birthday party for his very special dad (which we had been invited to and driven down to Birmingham Alabama from NJ to attend – what a vacation trip that was!!!), and all the guests had left, we were staying at their home for the night and thus remained behind for quieter family time together. Mark’s father had brought over a basket of freshly picked peaches from his home in GA. We ended up in the kitchen, sitting on stools across the cutting table from Mark’s lovely and so friendly wife, Alison, offering to join her in peeling those peaches.

What a special time of just chatting and working on the food preparation of fresh Georgia peaches with beautiful family friends!!

Back in time to 1956:
Wow, and that just brought back another unique childhood memory. After 8th grade I attended a special high school near my home where you lived at the school and they ran a farm that supplied the school with fresh food for the meals there. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we attended classes half-days and worked on the farm the other half day. On the day in this memory we were off the full day, trucked off to a distant peach orchard to pick baskets of peaches for the orchard owner, with some of that picking to come back with us to the school farm to be blanched, peeled (oh the bees and yellow jacket wasps were all over the sweet smelling outdoor processing area as we did our labors) and canned for later use. Two very special parts of that experience are still vivid in my mind these 6 decades later. First, we were not allowed to eat any of the beautiful peaches we were picking for that farmer that morning. The grove filled with bushel baskets of overflowing luscious fruit. At noon we were treated to farm fresh milk and meat and cheese sandwiches, and THEN, it was announced that we could go among those baskets and pick any peach we wanted to eat fresh from the tree for dessert!!! After a morning of ladder climbing and picking them, I can’t put words to how we wished we could have eaten them, and now to be allowed to choose the biggest and best of them – “WOW!!”

But that wasn’t the end. As I said we returned to the school farm (no, this wasn’t as you may be thinking some youth detention facility, I was studying to become a future religious brother in their community at their high school novitiate!), we prepared the fruit as described in the hot summer sunshine above. That night at the evening meal we were treated to fresh peach ice cream made with the product of our labors that morning! “Double WOW!!” (laughing out loud at this telling and enjoyment of that unique life experience).

Well, like I said, I don’t have time to read nor respond to your blog invitation (if you want to share this with your readers in any way, I have no issue with that by way of showing how your writing touches lives like mine and theirs) with so much to do here.

Mary, you are such an inspiration with your sharings that touch our hearts ‘out here’ in your world of readers. Thank you!!!

Jim Gleason
reflecting on wonderful life memories from so many years ago

Just came across this sharing written back in 2003. Don’t know if it was ever posted here, but just in case, here is my very emotional and insightful tribute to this gift from my father, also named “James Michael” . . .

My dad, James Michael Gleason, Sr.

As a young boy/man, I had grown up with a sense of “real men don’t cry” and prided myself on controlling my emotions, never showing any tears.  Even falling in love and getting married with a growing family didn’t change this stoicism.  It was the way of the strong man, or so I believed.

My father was a beautifully “simple” man in a very positive sense, simple in the sense of how he approached people and life in general.  “He never met a stranger…” would be a good description of his outgoing nature, also something he passed along to me. He interacted with anybody, always with spirited conversation and a sense of everybody was good and deserving of respect.  I can never remember his raising his voice in anger, toward me or anybody in our family of 5 growing children.  He always had time to share with everybody his many interests and they were engaging times when he did. 

When dad died of heart failure in 1969, I was the oldest male (26 years of age) in the family and supported my mother in making the funeral arrangements.  Even in this new experience my sense of pride in having no feelings continued.  There were no tears despite this loss.  Dad was 50 at the time of his death.  I had been at his hospital bedside just hours before he passed, feeding him and shaving him, seeing for the first time his vulnerability.  He had always been very self-sufficient, showing us all a healthy, vibrant life style of “can do” in everything he did.  He enjoyed the emotions of being truly human and wasn’t afraid to show that side of himself, although in retrospect, I can’t recall being hugged or told, “I love you.”  This was a generation that  didn’t express themselves in that way, but rather in many other ways.

On the morning of dad’s funeral, I was equally stoic, feeling a sense of manhood in being there for mom during such a trying moment without showing tears or emotions.  As the religious burial service drew to a close in the old church, I led the procession with mom on my arm, as we slowly preceded dad’s coffin down the aisle. 

It was at that moment that dad’s greatest gift was bestowed on his son (and I find my eyes tearing up even as I write these words, 33 years later..) as the moment welled up from deep inside, emotions of sorrow never acknowledged before.  Tears came to my eyes and for the first time in my life I accepted them without restraint, letting the drops run down my cheeks and fall to the church floor.  A very strong sense of pride came with those tears and I found myself holding my head up higher than I had ever done before, with mom on my arm, making no attempt to wipe away or hide those tears.

Clearly this was dad’s legacy to his son.  From that day on I have found great joy in both feeling and sharing my human emotions, yes, even the tears – tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of uncontrolled laughter.  I have come to see the sharing of tears as one of the greatest gifts two humans can give each other.  Every time such emotions are now accepted in my life, I offer silent prayers of gratitude to a father who gave this gift at his own death. 

My life has never been the same since, and that is a very good thing.  Today as I celebrate my heart transplant’s 9th anniversary, I openly share tears of gratitude for my donor family and tears of joy for the life I now lead as a result of both their gift and that of my dad.  In dad’s case it was too early to have been given that same chance since heart transplants were not yet available.  In my case, dying with the same heart condition dad had, my mother pointed out the fact that in my case we had a choice, while in his we hadn’t.  Yes, that thought fills me with emotions too, every time I recall it.

To download (a PDF document) and read a full testimonial to my dad, go to https://www.rjwitte.com/changeofheart/GiftFromTheHeart/Section2/chp-33b-Memories-of-My-Dad.pdf

Recently TIME magazine solicited 30-second videos for their annual Optimism issue (who knew they did that each year?), and being the optimist that I have been all my life – a gift from my father I feel – naturally I created one around the message of being an organ donor which you can see below (scroll down the images of videos until you see me in the left side against a black background): http://time.com/optimists-videos/

or click on this image . . .

We are so blessed to be able to share our stories by way of inspiring others to register as organ donors and showing the success of organ transplant, encouraging those facing transplant in their own lives.

Please join Pam and I for this Sunday sermon:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8cXE9kT6Xw

Just reading an interesting article today about happiness built on horizontal wealth vs. vertical wealth (you can read the full article here: https://medium.com/the-polymath-project/the-price-of-happiness-horizontal-vs-vertical-wealth-6057e9b35d66 ).

This part caught my attention and seems to relate to my own philosophy or value system:

“To understand it, let us go back 2000 years before Pratchett, to the great Roman philosopher Seneca — advisor to Emperor Nero and one of the wealthiest people in Rome.

“Here’s an excerpt from On the Happy Life (which I wouldn’t trade for several hundred copies of modern self-help books):

“Riches are slaves in the house of a wise man, but masters in that of a fool. […] If one takes away riches from the wise man, one leaves him still in possession of all that is his: for he lives happy in the present, and without fear for the future.”

“Take away riches from a wise man, and he still has all that is his.

“And that, my friends, is the difference. While the horizontally wealthy own their riches, the vertically wealthy are owned by them. ”

??????????????And that has and continues to be true for my life. And I live a life filled with happiness with enough riches/wealth to support that, so what does that tell you?

Recently I received a Facebook question from a long time ago co-worker at Stewart’s Root Beer stand, JoAnn, daughter of the owner, a really great man, Joe Palko. She asked, “Jim, do you remember . . .”

To which I replied:

Do I remember? Absolutely, like it was just yesterday. Some of my happiest teen and young adult memories were over the many years of working there with you and your wonderful family, especially Joe who was like a father to us tray hops (and counter men). You roped off the front parking slots on my 1965 wedding day for the bridal party to make a grand entrance and stop for root beers that day! He even offered to give me some money if I needed it for my prom night (thanks to the tips working there, I thanked him for that fatherly offer but turned him down – never to forget that moment). So much of my career success came from the working there those many years, learning the lessons of customer service, how to speak with strangers like friends, service = generous tips a valuable lesson in life, hard work = success, and so much more.

“Oh those ice cold frosty mugs!”

I loved working for Joe (Palko, father to JoAnn & Kenny, wife to Ann). He treated all his workers with respect and strong customer service minded discipline. I loved wearing the required black bow tie, both behind the counter and as a tray-hop, most used every excuse to take that tie off, at least until Joe caught them and insisted it be put back on as part of ‘the uniform’. Joe was very, very precise and careful with his product and service. In the back area there was a huge stainless steel tank that was used to take the very concentrated root beer syrup (true Stewart’s). As he carefully added just the right amounts of sugar and syrup to that tank, each stainless steel pail of water was filled to a fine pencil mark, never over that mark (which would have multiplied the resultant root beer base and increased his profit), never under that mark, but precisely to his trained eye, before being poured gently into the huge vat of brown root beer syrup, perfect to keep the flavor of the foamy final root beer drink consistent and flavorful. His hamburger meet patties were never frozen, but delivered fresh and refrigerated until put onto the grill for each order (nothing made ahead in this business). One day Joe was taking a delivery of that meat and business was slow mid-afternoon. He so proudly showed off that burger to me, a tray-hop. He cooked that patty without any salt or pepper or anything else, just pure red beef, offered it to me on a fresh bun (another ‘most important’ part of the final product) to taste and savor under his very proud and watchful eye. I can hear his words even today, 60 years later, as he said, “Now that’s what a burger is meant to taste like! ” He was so right – it was plain and delicious, and served with family pride in each and every one that went out that window to be tray-ed out to the driver’s window of the waiting car’s load of customers, regulars who came back all the time driven by that attention to detail. And I remember . . .

Stewart’s as it looked back in Fords, NJ in early 1960’s

continued . . . those hot dog and hamburger buns, they were always ‘today fresh’, the real secret to their taste and success. Joe kept a paper notebook (remember that, JoAnn?) where he recorded at the end of every day how much roll was used and the weather of the day. Then he would look at tomorrow’s weather forecast, refer back to that date range the year before as recorded 365 days ago) and use his judgement to call in that night’s bread order for the following morning’s delivery. Talk about attention to detail! Oh, such great memories and what a wonderful place for teens (and into young adults with families to support) to work. Tony, the local thesbian who practiced his upcoming play lines each night between waiting on cars. Rich, the local policeman who worked there so many years as a side job. How I remember Kenny and I competing for cars when we agreed to side-line the assigned spaces to ‘take as much as you can service’ in a free for all style, trying to time our running trips to distant cars with orders that would be coming out to on the counter trays with foamy beer mugs to be delivered. And beware taking on too much such that pending trays would be sitting too long which got Joe’s attention and wrath to the assigned tray-hop. That running around during a busy lunch hour on a hot Summer day was challenging and so much fun back then when we had the legs for it and energy to engage in fun competition. And in bad weather or lull hours, there was the checker board game in progress that two of us would attend to in between taking and delivering orders! Work was hard, fun and very fulfilling money wise, with instant tip rewards IF we gave the best service. Oh, and be sure to count those glasses when you went to pick up the finished tray to be sure somebody hadn’t ‘forgotten’ some glass in the back seat, especially the colorful ‘baby mugs’ that were in demand. At night’s end, the many glasses were counted and any missing inventory had to be paid for out of our own pockets, something I don’t every recall having to pay up, either because the desired attention to detail was done with each paid order, or Joe didn’t enforce it, can’t recall which. It was a challenge to address the ‘missing mug’ issue with a customer without causing insult or conflict (and loosing a good tip). Of special attraction was the mug with that colorful Stewart’s logo on it.

And this is what a tray order and that famous mug looked like . . . and when I worked behind the counter (on day’s I wasn’t tray-hopping), we would be able to handle with one hand eight of those mugs filled with foam headed root beer


A heavy tray with those mugs, to hang on the driver’s car window which had to be just so high to catch the hanger part of the tray

and that mug which too often was not on the final paid for tray to be taken off the driver’s car window . . . especially if the mug was one with the orange logo decal on it – a prized possession if you could get away with it! The challenge included how to inquire “Is there another mug in there?” after the tip had been collected so as not to offend but to still get that mug back.

That prized collector’s item, a decal-ed genuine Stewart’s mug, a ‘steal’!

Ah yes, I enjoyed those great hard but very profitable days, working there with your wonderful family for many of my formative years, sometimes taking fun from my students who came in from my ‘day job’ of teaching high school math, itself an interesting challenge. Even then, I felt proud to be giving them a lesson ‘out of the classroom’ in the meaning of hard work and customer courtesy.

JoAnn, I remember fondly those teen years, especially running the lot with your brother, Kenny, on those hot Fords, NJ Summer days!

– Jim Gleason
February 2019

PS: Shortly after responding to JoAnn’s question, I learned that her brother and my friend, Kenny, had passed away just last year. My condolences to his wife, Trudy and family. He was a dear friend and will remain in my happy early days of memories even this half century later.