Love is like Big Puffy Clouds

Love is like big puffy clouds…..
From far away, they look light and soft and wisping balls of cotton.  But when you get inside, you’re in a heavy fog.  Geoffrey Swetz

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Our First day of Vacation; Three Weeks in Europe

“I need to push you to be inspirational,” Carlos says as we sit in the VIP lounge at the Miami Airport.  I’m already sitting with journal and pen in hand as he tells me to write something and here we go…

Last night Carlos called American Airlines to see if he could get an upgrade.  It only cost an additional 30,000 miles, but we got a direct flight to Barcelona and an upgrade to business class.  Originally we had to connect through JFK on coach.  I love my man!  Earlier, we flew right through the business class priority access check-in and security, and now were enjoying complimentary cocktails and a buffet in the VIP lounge, as Carlos’s Facebook status update tells the rest of the world.

Ouch!  My hand hurts already.  In today’s day and age, it’s been a long time since I’ve taken ink to paper, which is how I am writing this now.  Not only are the muscles in my hand atrophied but my already horrible handwriting is almost illegible to me.  Did I mention we are in the VIP lounge?  Be right back.  I need to refresh my Long Island top shelf Iced Tea, and get another ham and brie finger sandwich.  You want anything?  Don’t worry, I got you covered.

A few hours ago, I asked Carlos if Iberia was a good airline. I had heard of the name of the airline before, but knew nothing about it.  Oh my god!  What I didn’t know that I didn’t know.  After leaving the VIP lounge, we proceeded past the long line of coach passengers and quickly when through the business class short line and down the ramp. Carlos and I were in a row four.  He had seat C and I had seat A.  Carlos had a second of apprehension as he realized we were not sitting next to each other.  I said not to worry and I’m sure somebody would switch seats with us.

We entered the plane and were directed left to the front of the cabin.  We found our seats, A and C right next to each other.  They were so huge, there was no room for a seat B to be in between them.  We had soft fluffy pillows and thick large blankets.  There was a small tray standing in between us for drinks. We each had our own remote control for music, the seat had 12 points of positioning plus a rotating message function and a small goose neck light for personal reading.  In front of me was a big periodical folder, a tray for personal items, drink cup holders, and a little cubbyhole for various things.  Even with all of this, the most excessiveness I noticed was the almost 4 feet of empty legroom between me and the seats in front of us.  Now I’m a 6’ 2” man and trust me that legroom and coach is nonexistent for me, and I always ask for the emergency exit row for the extra inch.  But this was ridiculous.  They could literally fit another row seats in every row.  I felt like a six year old boy in a highchair dangling my feet off the ground.  With my 6’ legs fully extended, my feet still fell about 8 inches short of touching the seats in front of me.  Was this really necessary?  Just then I looked down at the Star Trek looking control panel and noticed two buttons.  The first looked like a chair and the other was just a straight line.  I pushed the first button and my chair moved slightly to the ‘full an upright position’.  I could feel my eyes widen and my mouth salivate as my brain processed what the second button might do.  With anticipation, yet no hesitation, I applied enough pressure for the button to click the chair into motion and held the button down until the ride was over.  Slowly the chair moved forward, and the back extended backward, and the legs came up, and the headrest went back, and Oh My God I was in a full lie down and go to bed position.  I unconsciously let out a little girl giggle, and then I knew exactly what all that extra wasted leg room was for.

Moments later the flight attendants came and gave us each a cute cloth and leather personal care kit consisting of lip balm, socks, shoe bag, sleeping eye patch, cologne, moisturizer, toothpaste, ear plugs, shoe horn, toothbrush, and a hairbrush.  Carlos just found a pullout footrest I didn’t even notice before.  Where is the owner’s manual for this chair?  OMG!  OMG!  There is one!  Carlos just found the pamphlet describing all the features of the seats.  Just after he glanced at the instructions his head disappeared between his legs, bending down to look by his feet.  Up he came with a personal TV screen on a swing arm.  We get to watch our pick about 15 different movies.  We don’t need to watch what everyone else is watching – we get to pick our own.  While we were looking through the catalog of film selections and deciding what we would watch together, I said to myself “hey, what if we were not travelling together… I must have my own personal screen and selections too!”  I bent down and sure enough, I had my very own entertainment center.

Time for dinner.  Carlos and I looked over the wine list and selected one for dinner, and also looked forward to the aperitif that would be in our near future.  We both decided to choose the mushroom ravioli for dinner and we were trying to decide which of the four appetizers to select. Was it the warm bread with EVOO, veal consommé, cheese plate with grapes and dried apricot, or the tenderloin roast beef with gooseliver pate.  As we were making our final selection, the flight attendant brought a platter of all four of them for each of us.  Oh yeah, I forgot that, first class doesn’t choose, first class gets in all.

We had a delicious meal with glasses of wine being refilled before we ever thought they needed to be, and service that knew what we wanted before we knew we wanted it.  Halfway through the flight I told Carlos that I felt sorry for the people in the back.  He said he completely forgot there were other people in the plane.  This is the first flight in my entire life that I hope never ends.

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Planting for the Future

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Years and years ago, before I can even remember, there was an big old tree near our family’s cemetery plot in Sheppton, Pennsylvania.  Eventually it died and a couple years later, a tiny sapling sprouted from the rotting wood.  My Dad nurtured that little plant, fed it, and with a fence, protected it from becoming a deer’s breakfast, as well as from cars and people trampling over it.  He even asked other friends and family to watch over it when he couldn’t make the long trip from home.

This weekend, it was about 15 feet tall and had all of its leaves holding onto its branches, glowing in bright shades of orange, looking over where my Dad’s body was laid to rest.

My dad knew how to create life – something that would grow and last.  Throughout his life, he planted trees and grass and bushes.  He took pictures of sunsets and nature, and family.  He encouraged thoughts and ideas, and relationships with family, and friends, and with God.  He took the time necessary, year after year, to make sure that what he started would last, and remain long after he was gone.

He showed me the beauty of a sunset.  He taught me about balance… that of riding a bike, and that of life; about appreciating what I have, and working for what I want; about respecting others, helping a friend, and taking care of family.

He taught me to ask questions, and to do the research before accepting the common consensus; to make my own decisions and not follow the crowd, unless they were already going in the same direction I decided to go.

He taught me how to fix things when they were broken; how to look at a machine and figure out how it works and how to repair it – and to try and make it better, even if nobody ask for it or would pay me to do it.

He taught me to love my neighbor as myself, and to have a relationship with God.

Who Stephen Swetz is for me is:

human database of knowledge
a bright red sunset on a crisp clear evening
made with TLC
a white beach hat, shorts and black socks
tennis player
little league enforcer

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Stephen D. Swetz

Stephen Dimitry Swetz

Stephen Dimitry Swetz, 77, of Boynton Beach, Fla., passed away peacefully Friday after a short illness.  He was born in Sheppton to the late Stephen and Anna (Wandzilak) Swetz.  A graduate of Sheppton High School, Mr. Swetz moved to Glenolden and since lived in Philadelphia and Springfield, Cedar Grove, N.J., and Boynton Beach, Fla.

He graduated from Drexel University, Class of 1963, with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, received professional engineering certification in the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and was employed by Westinghouse and GPU for over 38 years before his retirement.

Mr. Swetz was an active member of the Holy Name Society and taught religious classes at both Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church, Philadelphia, and St. Michael’s Byzantine Cathedral Parish, Passaic, N.J.

Stephen sang for many years with the well-known Holy Ghost Choir. He most recently was the assistant cantor for Holy Apostle B.C. Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Stephen will live in the memories of his beloved wife of 47 years, Eugenie (Runtagh) Swetz; sons, Geoffrey and his partner, Roberto, and Matthew and his wife, Suzanne; grandson, Nicholas Stephen; dearest sister, Patricia Best and her husband, Bob; and nieces and nephews, Ventriss Whalen and her husband, Tom; Bill Beard and his wife, Phyllis; and Rhea Beard and Patricia Bautista.

The funeral will be held Saturday at 9:15 a.m. from Frank J. Bonin Funeral Home Inc., 542 N. Wyoming St., Hazleton.  Divine Liturgy with Office of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. in St. Mary’s B.C. Church, Sheppton.  Interment will be in the parish cemetery, Sheppton.  Friends and relatives may call today from 7 to 9 p.m. Parastas will be held today at 7:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Stephen’s memory to the American Cancer Society would be appreciated by the family.

(Published Oct. 22, 2010 in the Hazleton Standard Speaker)
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