Memories of my Mother

My family lost my mother this past week. She’d been fighting cancer for over a decade. I flew back to our hometown last week while mom was in hospice care and back to Seattle on Saturday. On Friday, I flew back for the memorial service on Sunday. During these flights I found myself thinking of all the memories and lasting impressions that I have of my mom. I thought that I might write this entry to share some of them.

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Mom, with my daughter Sunny in 2006

My mom and I are only 19 years apart in age. One of the things about having young parents is that you get to see them in their younger adult years. I got to see my mom as a single parent. We didn’t have a lot, and my mom worked (which was not as common back then as it is today). Even then, mom made sure we got to play little league, and be cub scouts. I remember my mom hurting her back when I was around 7 years old. She had fallen off a ladder while trying to put something up in the attic. It hurt her for years, but she still took a job in a law firm file room, moving heavy files to support us.

My earliest memory of my mom is from around 1971 when we were living at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC. My mother and I were walking on the sidewalk by our apartment in bare feet, taking each step very deliberately while my mom sang the song “Bare-Footin'” in the deepest voice that she could. In my little two-year-old mind, I was hearing the deep voice and the word “bear” (rather than “bare”) and thinking that we were pretending to be bears. I remember giggling the whole time.

I remember camping, a lot. We went to Hershey Park, the Worlds Fair in Knoxville, The Catskills Game Farm, and all over the tri-state area, usually staying in a tent. I remember waking up one Easter morning, staring at a dark circle on top of the tent, which later turned out to be an Easter basket that my mom had hidden there. I remember us hiking on Bald Eagle Mountain and accidentally winding up on the Appalachian Trail. The hiking was progressing in difficulty, where we had to climb rocks to stay on the trail. Duane and I were having fun, but this signaled to mom that something was off. We finally figured it when we came to a road crossing that had a sign reading “Bald Eagle Mountain 5 miles” to which mom exclaimed, “I knew that trail was too hard to be the right trail.”

We used to stay in the cabins at Bass River State Forest. We had an inflatable rowboat that we used to use to get to the swimming area across the lake. My brother Duane and I were little, so mom did the rowing. It was usually the three of us and a small cooler that had our lunch in it packed into this little boat going across the lake. On one occasion, the sky turned grey prompting mom to get us headed back before the rain came down. We loaded up the boat and started back across the lake. About halfway across the lake, the rain started. Mom, who had been going at a pretty steady pace jokingly said, “oh, no!” and started alternating oars in the water. The boat might have moved faster, but the zigzagging that this rowing caused made the boat have to travel twice as far. By the time we got to the other side, the sky had opened up into a full South Jersey downpour. We were soaking wet, the boat was filled with water like an inflatable tub. We laughed about it for the rest of the weekend. Another time in the same cabin, I remember my mom chasing a bat around the cabin with a broom trying to get it to fly out so that we could go to bed.

On our trip to the World’s Fair in 1980, my mom put a watermelon in the stream behind our campsite, thinking that the water would keep it cool. We came back in the evening and cooked dinner over the campfire. After dinner, mom went to pull the watermelon out of the stream. When she tried to lift it, she almost fell over because the melon was much lighter than she expected. A beaver had chewed through the bottom and eaten all of the edible portions from the inside. This was another memorable laugh.

We used to go to Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, where they had a drive-through safari. There were signs everywhere that said not to feed the animals. After all, they weren’t raised to be pets and could literally bite the hand that feeds them. There was a car in front of us that was feeding the baboons thought a slightly opened window. This was entertaining until one of the baboons realized that the vinyl rooftop could be pulled apart. So, in the baboon’s mind, here you have this object with delicious food on the inside, and peelable skin on the outside; in short, he’d just found the biggest piece of fruit he’d ever laid eyes on. Through some grunting and hooting, he soon had help from another 4 or 5 baboons. They proceeded to rip this guy’s roof apart. They never got inside, but they did do considerable damage to the car. I remember mom, repeating over and over, “This is why we don’t feed the animals.”

My mom had worked at a hospital when I was young. She’d once seen a wrestler who’d suffered a broken neck. When I wanted to wrestle in school, mom reluctantly agreed but told me that she wouldn’t be able to watch me. I wrestled for 2 seasons in junior high school and my sophomore year in high school. When I learned that I wouldn’t wrestle in my junior and senior years due to injuries, my mom came to my last wrestling tournament. We spent most of the day together in the stands apart from the couple of times that I was on the mat. I really appreciated that day because I knew how difficult it was for her to watch me wrestle.

When my daughter was 3 or 4, we went to visit the family in NJ. All week long my mom would tell Sunny that baby Brooke was coming out to the campground. Finally, we went to Christmas in July up at the pool. Sunny, knowing that Brooke would be there, was running around the pool deck, babbling “baby-Brooke, baby-Brooke, baby-Brooke….” My mom thought it was hilariously cute.

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Sunny meets Brooke for the first time

A lot of my memories are of funny things that we’d shared. However, there were also times when my mom was a great source of comfort, support, and advice.

I remember going to the movie theatre with John to see War Games, a movie about a computer hobbyist who accidentally hacks NORAD while trying to play an online game. When I got home, I had an instant interest in computers. My uncle told my mother that he had a TI-99/4A that he’d bought (thinking that computers might be big someday). If she didn’t mind, he’d bring it to my grandmother’s house so that I could play with it. My mother, who’d become a computer operator at the law firm where she’d worked in the file room, was supportive of the idea. While sitting on my grandmother’s floor that summer, I learned to program and became consumed by it. It became a passion. Mom could see the pivot that this day was in my life long before I did it. She supported me through it, even when it meant that I’d move away.

I remember feeling very conflicted in my senior year in college. My school had just dropped my major from its offered programs. I wasn’t taking this well. When I discussed it with my mom, she’d said, “You’ll figure it out. You always do.” And just like that, everything was different. The external situation hadn’t changed. But, something inside me did. I finished my major while working for the USDA. A short time later, I got a job in HP’s LaserJet R&D group and just kept going from there.

I remember visiting home from college one time. My mom was watching Ashley on the evening that I arrived. Mom was holding Ashley on one hip with the kitchen phone pressed on her shoulder while she stirred spaghetti sauce with her other hand. I remember thinking to myself that she’d done this before. It was the first time that I’d observed my mom as a mother (in this case, a grandmother) as a third party.

When I married my wife, I was worried about how my family would like her. I remember my mom coming to Boise for the first time after we were married. She and Kelley spent the day together and had a wonderful time. That night, as we were getting ready for bed, I looked at Kelley and joked, “You stole my mom.”

Back before cameras were digital and people had to pay for pictures to be developed, my mom used to have a belief that pictures that didn’t have people in them didn’t have as much value as photos that included people. It was a better memory captured on film if the people that you were with were in the picture. So, whenever we were taking a picture of a sunset, or a mountain range, or a grassy field, mom would either be in the photo or take a picture of us in front of whatever we wanted in the picture. In January 2019, I went to visit my parents in Florida. While I was there, I wanted to take a picture of a turtle statue. I had mom stand with the statue like we’d always done. That was the last picture I took of my mom.

Mom at Tarpon Springs, FL

I’ve known my mother for almost 50 years. These are just a few of the great memories that I have with her. As I got older and came out to visit, it didn’t matter what we did. I was just happy to have coffee with my mom and find out what was going on in her life. She still would plan to take me somewhere and make a routine visit a special memory. I am extremely grateful for those 50 years and lucky to have her as my mom.

Not a Good Time To Blog

I wrote this 5 weeks ago. I was on an airplane from Oakland to Seattle, returning from visiting my father:

It has been some time since I’ve last written a blog entry. I’ve been attempting to keep every blog post free of negative news. In doing so, I may have skipped over over the happiest event of the past year, my brother’s wedding.
Don’t get me wrong: the wedding was wonderful. My brother lives on the other side of the country, while his bride lives in another country. As such, while they’ve been traveling to see each other, I hadn’t yet gotten the opportunity to meet the bride and her three sons. I was incredibly happy to finally meet them and to see how happy that they are together with my brother. The wedding was beautiful. It was held on a beach at sunset, followed by a reception filled with tradition and song. This was going to be a great subject to blog about.
But… The night before the wedding, my father-in-law passed away after a long battle with cancer. As soon as we got home, we were planning to attend his memorial service. Kelley went to Boise first, with Sunny and I to follow. The memorial went well, a small ceremony with his friends done in the way that he had wanted. There was also a very nice moment, where my daughter, who is at an age where she often puts her needs above all others, walked over to my mother-in-law, said some nice words and have her a big hug.
This was on December 10th. On December 11th, I flew home. I remember the date because it is the fourth anniversary of the passing of a good friend of mine. My blogging is an inspiration that I draw from the memory of this friend. He was a socially astute person, a talent that he later followed into a career in social media. I always wished that I could be more like him in this respect. And so… I began to blog more regularly. I keep telling myself that someday I will blog about him. And, each time that December 11th rolls around, I tell myself that I’m not ready yet.
December passed rapidly. January was filled with work obligations. Just as those obligations were coming to a close, I learned that my father is gravely ill. And so I tell myself it is not a good time to blog.
But therein lies the problem. If I keep postponing blogging until all of the bad times disappear, I may never blog again,and consequently, miss blogging about the good stuff in between. Moreover, I may not recognize the good that is interspersed in all days, because I’d be constantly comparing it to the bad in order to determine if it is time to start blogging again.
That is untenable. It’s time to blog.

Field Day 2014

The Gregson Field Day Team
The Gregson Field Day Team

I was planning to have an awesome adventure for ARRL Field Day. I bought a new radio, had it set up, but also had other plans. My wife had a conference in LA, and my daughter, Sunny (who I’d wanted to do Field Day with), wanted to go camping. So, the plan became go camping and have Field Day at the campsite. As the date for Field Day approached, my daughter started telling me that she wanted to do things other than radio on the camping trip (play soccer, go fishing, make s’mores, etc.). So, this became a camping trip with Field Day as a side story, rather than Field Day with a camping backdrop.

A little history

I began amateur radio when I was an Engineer at HP. The HP Boise site had a  Field Day event every year. Most years, there were a lot of participants from the HP Boise Amateur Radio Club (HPBARC). This gave us a lot of radio knowledge and skill in one place. I tended to be the cook a lot, and worked a radio here and there. When I left HP in 2005, I moved to the Seattle area, and did Field day with KB7YWE (who had also moved from Boise) for a couple of years. When I moved to California in 2009, I did field day from my apartment (which my neighbors hated) for a couple of years. I usually worked 10m – 20m because a 40m dipole in an apartment complex was really awkward.  All told, the fewer people we had, the harder Field Day was. I don’t recall getting more than a handful of contacts in any Field Day since the HPBARC days.


This year, I had a mobile rig ready to go, and a really cool antenna. Now I could tune the antenna (without leaving the truck) for any band 6m – 40m. I also had 100w of power, where my older radio had 50w of output. And, of course, if my antenna were in a poor spot, I could always start the truck and move to a better spot.

This worked very well, as I didn’t need to move the truck at all. I found that I had better range going west than I did going east. This is unfortunate since there are people to the east and water to the west.

The Camping

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Our campsite was rather normal. We had a tent, a fire ring, a gas grill, gas stove and a picnic table that was cluttered with stuff. We had what we needed to enjoy the trip. We ate steaks both nights, and s’mores both nights. For lunch on Saturday, Sunny made a fruit salad while I worked the radio.

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When I was doing my dry runs with the radio, I was using QRZ on my Chromebook to look people up and log my contacts. Being in my driveway, I could use my home wifi for internet service. Once I was at a campsite, this option went out the window. So, I used paper logs and typed in the contacts when I got back to the house. It was only after I typed all the results into QRZ that I realized that I can’t download them back out as a summary for the contest logs, without paying for the XML downloads.

Improvement for next year: Boot the Chromebook into Linux and run radio logging software on it.

Time Spent on the Radio

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time on the radio. I did hop on at the beginning of the event. I worked a few stations and then Sunny got into the truck to see what I was doing. She noticed that I was keeping track of everything on paper. And, just as she did with the shopping list when we got the food for the trip, she wanted work the clipboard. I thought that would be kinda cool; I could work the radio while she could participate in the way she wanted to. I told her what to write and where on the log sheet to write it, and she picked it up pretty fast.

We heard a station, KH6LC, identify itself as a Pacific section station. This meant that they were on an island in the pacific, usually Hawaii. Plus, the operator was saying, “Aloha,” a lot, a pretty bold clue. I said to Sunny that I really wanted to get this one. I tried calling a few times and sure enough, they answered. It took a little bit of patience on their side (which I really appreciated), but after a few attempts, we had exchanged information and completed the contact.

After the Hawaii contact, I told Sunny that I’d like to try a couple more, and then we’d do something “fun.” She said back, “That’s ok, I’m kinda having fun with this.” I really like that she said that.

A little while later, Sunny wanted to try working the mic. Like any first timer, she was a bit timid, and afraid that she wouldn’t know what to say. Soon, she was calling out my callsign, and after 6 attempts to contact other stations, WB6QND, from Los Angeles made contact with her. She was so happy, she did a little dance in her seat. That was her first QSO.

After a while we went off and did some other camping activities, played soccer and cooked dinner. At the end of our second campfire, Sunny went to sleep and I hoped in the truck to make more QSOs, making my last one at 11:45pm. I went to sleep. I ventured onto 40m which was challenging, because there were so many stations on 40m that you could here the adjacent stations while trying to make contact.

I woke up the next morning, with the sun. While Sunny slept, I make a few more QSOs. Once Sunny woke up, Field Day ended for me, as I cooked breakfast, broke down camp, and headed back home.


All-in-all, we made 27 QSO’s the best total since I participated with HPBARC. Also of note, I put less time into this Field Day than any other that I’ve participated in. I look forward to next year, when I can put more time into making contacts and improve on this total.