Monday, May 8, 2017

A Fond Farewell

Dick Brennan retired from Eastern Air Lines in May of 1988. At the time, he'd been working there for over 26 years, and he most certainly had 26 years' worth of stories to tell you if you ever sat down to talk to him about it. Twenty-six was also the year Eastern Air Lines was first formed, as well as the year my father was born. He even died on the 26th of August in 1999. I'm not sure why the number 26 was so prevalent in his life and career, but clearly it was, and astute readers of this blog might find other such instances of the number elsewhere*.

Today's poem, written by my father on May 15, 1988, is titled "A Fond Farewell", and for reference, it's 28 lines long, but the poem he references at the start, "Oft in the stilly night" is also 28 lines long, so perhaps he was paying homage. It's worth mentioning that when you add the numbers of 1988 up, you guessed it...26.

A Fond Farewell

The opening lines I quote, my friends, are filled with gratification
To an Irish poet--Thomas Moore--who has been my inspiration.
"Oft, in the stilly night,/Ere slumber's chain has bound me,/
Fond Memory brings the light/Of other days around me."

We go through life bumbling along,
But our failures should always make us strong.
A weakness in others is but our own reflection,
Encouraging us--not a cause for dejection.

Sometimes we worry: Did we do the right thing?
But brooding can never change anything.
So it's better to face our life with a smile.
A light heart can shorten many a mile.

The environment sometimes makes our spirits pall.
We feel hemmed in--our backs to the wall.
But a cheerful word, a smile, a laugh
Makes an upward swing in our personal graph.

Men hunt big game and the biggest fish.
To break a record, some others wish.
Clawing for success--always around the bend.
But you don't have to hunt to find a friend.

In Eastern Air Lines, this has proved to be true.
Once again, I'm proud to know people like you.
You are caring people, loving, sincere.
You have shown this often--year after year.

I am leaving Eastern with mixed emotions.
For some of my feelings, there are no magic potions.
I'll miss you, but will not say goodbye.
I'll be grateful to you 'til the day I die.

-Dick Brennan

*Let's Pray That Daddy's Not Drunk is also 26 lines long.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Paul’s Birthday 8/23

My brother Paul's birthday is still a month away, but as I haven't uploaded anything to this site in a while, I wanted to make sure I got something timely up at least. Here's a poem my father wrote for Paul when he was still a kid [year unknown as of this writing].

Paul’s Birthday 8/23

It seems like only yesterday
You were a tiny tot.
You finished all your cereal
And slept in a little cot.

And now you’ve grown a big boy
With a mop of curly hair.
You always seem so friendly
And never have a care.

Today we celebrate with you;
We’re going to have a ball.
It’s the twenty-third of August—
Happy Birthday, Paul!

-Dick Brennan

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Let’s Pray That Daddy’s Not Drunk

In the lore that is Dick Brennan's life, the poem below is often either very well known, or not known at all.  Perhaps by sharing it here, more of you will know it exists, and maybe even understand that my father knew his demons quite well.

My dad was an alcoholic.  A drunk.  He'd slur his words, and come home very late from his buddy Frank's bar, which was all too conveniently located right between work at Kennedy Airport, and our home in Rockville Centre.  But the story of his drinking habits and history are only understood in the context of his life overall.  He didn't stop drinking until he was around 60 years old.  Most reading this reflection and poem haven't even reached that age yet. 

But he did recover, and did find sobriety.  He was even able to work as a bartender in the same bar he used to drink at!  Talk about willpower! 

This poem was written sometime between 1968 and 1973 (if you know when, please tell me, and I'll update this).  When he wrote this, my father was in his early 40s, had recently lost his first wife to cancer, and was trying to raise four young children on his own. 

Let’s Pray That Daddy’s Not Drunk

I went out as usual on Saturday night.
I knew that later I’d be high as a kite.
My kids were bathed and asleep in bed.
It’s tough on a man when his loved one is dead.

But for some strange reason, I thought a lot,
When in the bar, I never drank one shot.
I joked with the guys and had some beer,
But my mind kept thinking of memories dear.
Two hours before closing, I called it a night,
Very staid and sober—not as usual tight.

I went home to bed, I climbed the stairs,
For the first time in ages, I said some prayers.
Next morning I rose and cooked for us all,
My kids were amazed—I felt ten feet tall.

We went to church, I prayed my own way,
I realized this was Easter Day.
Coming out of church, I walked on air,
Then my youngest said, “Last night we all said a prayer.”

When I heard his words, my spirits sunk.
“Daddy! We prayed that you wouldn’t get drunk.”
The older ones hushed him, but the truth had been spoken.
I knew that my vows of marriage I’d broken.

My conscience was troubled for a moment or two,
But then the truth hit me. Suddenly I knew
That their mother—my wife—was praying for us all.
She had heard and answered her babies’ call.

Dick Brennan


Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick’s Day 1975

Dick Brennan wrote poems for personal occasions like weddings and retirement parties, but he also wrote for his Eastern Airlines colleagues at Kennedy Airport, and his friends at The Commuter's Club in East Rockaway, where he contributed regular poems for their newsletter.

In this poem, he gives us all a history lesson, not just about the Irish, but about the United States as well.  And even though he wrote this poem almost 40 years ago, his closing wishes remain oh so true today.  Enjoy!  

St. Patrick’s Day 1975

It started many years ago,
When Adam first left home.
Since then the Irish as we know
The whole wide world did roam.
In bygone days, they sailed each wave,
Even kidnapped Patrick as a slave.
He brought them faith, he changed their way,
He’s still remembered to this day.

St. Brendan The Sailor crossed many a sea,
Came to America in Five Hundred A.D.
But ‘twas uninhabited—no one to convert—
So back to Ireland—the land of his birth.

Much later from Russia, people came.
We know them as Indians. Who gave them this name?
Isabella believed Columbus was sound
When he quoted Galileo that the world was round.
Though centuries late, all credit is due
For his voyage in Fourteen and Ninety-Two.

Since then many people have come to this land,
All colors, all races, all creeds hand in hand.
Working together, they fought for the west,
And made America the greatest, the best.

But one tiny island—on the map just a dot
Did more than her share, in fact quite a lot.
Her sons and daughters have built up her name:
Ireland can truly be proud of their fame.

Right now they say we have a recession,
But we’re happy and proud—never show depression.
We shall overcome, what more can I say,
Rejoice and thank God on St. Patrick’s Day.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Poem for a New Year

New Year's Rockin' Eve premiered in December 1973,
40 years ago, but Dick Clark wasn't the host until the second year. 
Though he reported live from Times Square in 1972,
he wouldn't become host of the show until December 1974.

1974 would be the year my father married my mother, making it one of the biggest years of his life.  It was also, then, the year I was conceived, probably on their honeymoon to San Francisco, based on the dates (go figure!).  But before 1974 arrived, 1973 was coming to a close.  That makes this poem 40 years old now, folks!  Exactly 40! 

So put yourself in the brain of Dick Brennan circa late December 1973, so much going on his life, widowed and about to re-marry, to start life all over again at 47.  But none of this was his job to write about.  His "job", instead, was to write a short poem for The Commuters Club for New Year's Day 1974.  The poem is 40 years old, but the sentiments may sound familiar...

New Year’s 1974

After all the feasting, we’re feeling weary.
The weather tends to be cold and dreary.
The news is awful – high prices – low fuel –
How can we keep warm when we can’t keep cool.
In the midst of this talk of our pollution,
It’s hard to decide a New Year Resolution.
But facts are facts – we must do our best.
As citizens we’re now being put to the test.
Let’s show the world we have the will
To prove that we have the best country still.
May the blessings of God down on you pour
In Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Four.

Forty years later, so much still resonates!  And beyond the bulk of the poem, the closing wish is no less sincerely felt than it is today.  God bless you and yours in this new year ahead!  May 2014 be filled with an abundance of love, joy, and peace!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas

I missed an opportunity to give you all a Thanksgiving poem from my dad, but it'll just have to wait until next Thanksgiving.  Fear not, lots and lots more coming from him through this blog in the mean time...including this little gem!

It's fascinating to read a poem describing human life this way from someone who's now part of the bigger picture in Heaven.  I hope you enjoy! --Sean

Thanksgiving is over; we all had a bash.
Now we’re sick and tired of turkey hash.
Christmas is coming, shopping lists are long,
Even razor blades for Old King Kong.
From store to store, to and fro,
God help us—I hope it doesn’t snow.
Easily assembled, instructions within:
Don’t try to buy it—you cannot win.
With heavy traffic you have to fight,
On Christmas Eve, you’ll be up all night.
But then you sleep—you get no applause.
The credit goes to Santa Claus.
But the feeling within you tells you God is near:
Happy Christmas to all, and a bright new year!

Dick Brennan

(no specific date available yet, I'll keep looking!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Poet Laureate, An Astronaut Said So!

My father was lauded by a great many people for his beautiful writing skills, particularly his poetry.  The personalized poems he wrote for birthdays, weddings, and retirement parties, not to mention many more special celebrations, eventually earned him the greatest title of his lifetime.

As a 26-year employee at Kennedy Airport's Eastern Airlines, Dick Brennan was known by so many people around the airport.  His friendly smile and heavy Irish brogue were just the first things people noticed about him.  His mannerisms with his cigarettes, his hands folded behind his back, and his particular look were all part of the second.  But it was the man behind the mannerisms and the accent that really affected people who met him and knew him. 

A gate agent at Eastern Airlines, Dick Brennan had many brief interactions with thousands and thousands of people from all around the world.  Celebrities, superstars, and famous musicians alike came through his airline gates.  Maureen O'Hara, The Beatles, and the list goes on. 

As people from all over boarded their flights through his gates, my father had to deal with every complaint imaginable, people yelling and screaming at him as if he was the one who made the rain pour and winds blow.  But it wasn't people like this who kept him there so long, or loving his job so much.  It was his friends and colleagues at Eastern Airlines and Kennedy Airport who made each day so very enjoyable.

And poem after poem, newsletter after newsletter, Dick Brennan quickly became the go-to man for personalized poetry.  He no doubt had to turn many people down, as the requests must have come from all over.  But as his reputation as a great writer grew, so too did his esteem from his friends and colleagues.  He eventually earned the amazing title, "Poet Laureate of Kennedy Airport".  In 1975, he wrote a "We The People" poem and an Employees' Constitution for the Eastern Airlines team at Kennedy Airport.  It was so well received in fact, it was framed and hung in the executive offices.  More impressively, it got the attention of one very special man.

Frank Borman was an astronaut at NASA, and as the Commander of Apollo 8, he manned the very first mission to fly around the moon.  When he eventually retired, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor recipient took over as CEO at Eastern Airlines, a position he held for the next 11 years.  But in his very first year, he heard about my dad.  And in a letter to him dated October 17, 1975, Frank Borman wrote:

Dear Dick:

Jack Piverotto showed me copies of the "We The People" poem and the employees' "Constitution" which you authored for your local Employee Sales Program.

With your unique talent, it's no wonder the people of Kennedy consider you their poet laureate!

Thank you for your interest and efforts in this most important program.

Frank Borman

A career and a life filled with poetry.  An honor from one of the greatest Americans in history.  A title given him by his peers that he proudly held his whole life long.

Today, November 6, 2013, is my father's birthday.  He was born in 1926, so if he were alive today, he'd be 87 years old.  No matter.  The life he lived, with its ups and downs--just like the airplanes he watched each day--was a good one.  And his greatest honor is one I celebrate with his soul today. 

Happy Birthday, Dad!  May your proud legacy continue forever!

I love you and miss you, and look forward to the day when I board my flight to see you again!