MIAGD: On a rollercoaster

MIAGD: Make it a great day

I’m confident, “this, too, shall pass.”

I’ve always adjusted to “new normal,” and I shall adjust to this new normal as a progression and a part of life’s process.

Life’s roller coaster has given me all the joys, thrills, woahs!, arms in the air (but feet on the inside), too short a ride, and the desire to never stop.

And, if there’s something to be on the other side of this life, I’ll be heading for that line, too.

It’s still a fantastic ride, despite several seats that are empty.

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MY DAY: The 6:03 PM telephone call

In 1983, I was at Ball State University on my first time away from home on my birthday and Mother started a tradition of calling me at the time I was born, 6:03 PM.

JOLLIFFE-HAAS - Darin 1964Sometimes, she’d call as I was in the middle of something, but I would immediately call her back so she could officially kick off my next year.  Most of the time, when my anticipated birthday-call fell on a weekday, I would explain to whomever, the tradition and that at 6:03 PM, I would be taking a call.  Private students began looking forward to this call.

I absolutely loved this call.  It was that one connection that only she and I had originally share from my beginning, and our beginning as Mother and son.

These telephone calls continued, without fail, until last year, September 25, 2018.

This morning, I was clearing out items on my phone and discovered I still had the last recorded birthday message Mother was ever to deliver.

For the past sixteen years, my neighbor, Kay Moore, has been my Ohio mom and I’ve always called her “Mama Kay.”  Even her daughter and son refer to me as their brother.

Tonight, Mama Kay extended the Mother-Son tradition; she came over to give me a birthday kiss and hug at 6:03 PM.

Even when there’s a change in cast, the show must go on…

Thank you, Mother, for everything.  Know you are loved…


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MY DAY: The delivery man, Dr. Robert Ulrey


Dr. Robert P. Ulrey

Wednesday morning, September 23, 1964, Dr. Ulrey examined my mother who had begun labor pains a few hours before.

“I don’t think the baby is ready to arrive within the next few hours, or even today, but I’m hoping it will arrive tomorrow so we can share the same birthday.”

Robert Ulrey, born in Seymour, Indiana in 1920, would turn 44 years old on that Thursday in September 1964.

After World War II where he served in England, France, and Germany, he returned to the states where he graduated from Indiana University Medical School.  Dr. Ulrey moved his family to Elwood, Indiana, in 1956, where he would serve as a general practitioner until 1968.

My mother, Diana Barmes, became a secretary/receptionist for Dr. Ulrey in June 1963. Mother and her family, Leroy and Donna Barmes, adored Robert and Jean Ulrey, as did many of our friends and family from the communities of Elwood, Hobbs, Tipton, and Alexandria.

Sept 23 1964

September 23, 1963: Mother with her mother and grandparents.

Wednesday, September 23, 1964, was a bit muggy by the afternoon.  While my grandmother, Donna Barmes, was with Mother, timing the contractions, she received a telephone call that her ten-year-old son, Tommy, had cut his head open at baseball practice.  Mother rode with Grandma Donna and Tom as they to Dr. Ulrey’s office.  While Tom was receiving stitches, Grandma Donna held Tom’s hand while looking out the window to time Mother’s contractions.  Several times, Dr. Ulrey looked out the window to give Mother a thumb’s up.

By nightfall, both grandmothers were at our house on the huge hill at the corner of Ninth and Main Streets.  They were urging Mother to reconsider going to the hospital earlier than Mother’s intended midnight departure.  Mother kept insisting that she felt fine and knew it was not time.  While Mother took a bath, taking her time, she would call to Grandma Donna in the kitchen who was still timing the contractions.

Finally, shortly before midnight, Mother was dressed and announced she was ready to go to the hospital.  One of my grandmothers went to wake my napping father, all of the twenty-two year old father.  Danny Jolliff was ever barely coherent upon awakening from any kind of sleep and that night he lived up to comic proportions as he searched for his keys (in his pants’ pocket), trying to find his light-weight jacket (it was hanging on the back of a dining room chair which he passed a number of times during the search), and when he heard Mother groan from a contraction, he dashed outside and drove his white Chevy Corveire through the backyard and right up to the porch.

“Danny, I feel as though I could walk to the hospital,” Mother laughed.  To this day, it would not have surprised me if she had walked to the hospital, five blocks away.

Mother said that around 2:00 AM, Dr. Ulrey, now the “birthday boy,” arrived to check on Mother.  I was not ready to make my appearance.

“We still have twenty-two hours for the baby to make my birthday party.”

The warm September sun rose and Mother was still not dilated enough, despite the fact that I was head-down in the birth canal.

Morning. Afternoon. Evening.

No baby Jolliff.

Mrs. Jean Ulrey had driven to the hospital, several times, to check on Mother so she could report back to her husband who was busy at his office.

Dr. Ulrey came to check on Mother before heading out to celebrate his birthday and also, after dinner.


It was now Friday, September 25th.

The next morning, Mother, greatly fatigued, was told that when the time came he was going to give her anesthesia because he didn’t wish for her to risk her own strength, possibly health.  Mother was disappointed but understood his concern.

The day languished on for Mother.

The moment arrived and Mother was wheeled back to the delivery room where the anesthesia was applied.

6:03 PM, Dr. Robert Ulrey welcomed me into the world.  Since Mother was sedated, I always smile on the fact that this beloved doctor not only delivered me but was my sole welcoming committee.

The Ulreys moved to Evansville, Indiana in 1968.  Dr. Ulrey became an anesthesiologist, retiring in 1985.

I was never to meet my Delivery Man, again, but since childhood, knowing my birth story, I’ve never forgotten to remember the good doctor on September 24th.

As our family began welcoming guests to Mother’s visitation this past August 2019, we deeply appreciated Dr. Ulrey’s son, Steve, driving from Bloomington to pay his respects.

For me, personally, it reconnected me to the day his dad was my Delivery Man.

God bless you, Dr. Robert Ulrey, as you continue your eternal rest.


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MY DAY: A nice Thursday evening

Front Street Buildings

Front Street Buildings; Dayton Ohio

I’m waiting at the downtown Dayton bus terminal and the evening is absolutely splendid with the nice breeze flowing through the buildings and open arcade.

Midweek hit like a drunk bat out of hell when we discovered a leak in my kitchen that soaked the carpet and, fortunately, drained through the floor down to the drain and surrounding cement floor. The plumber arrives tomorrow morning.

I taught at school this morning and afternoon and only had one student due to the others having unscheduled rehearsals, illness, and homecoming events.

I left the house for downtown Dayton, completed three errands, and grabbed the No. 1 bus to Taqueria Mexican Restaurant on east Third Street. My chicken fajita was delicious and the service most excellent.

I strolled back to the center of town, grabbing tons of photos already posted on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

I’d classify this day as damned bully!

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MY DAY: My new normal in one month…

New Normal definition: What replaces the expected, usual, typical state after an event occurs. The new normal encourages one to deal with current situations rather than …

It’s now been one month since Mother’s funeral and this new normal is slugging along.

The grief is one thing.

I get it.

The new normal, however, is a category completely separate and oft times puzzling and frustrating. Grief often has familiar patterns; a new normal has no patterns and some days feels as though I’m walking blindfolded on a tightrope carrying two 5-gallon buckets filled with wet peat rocks, and holding a bowling ball beneath my chin.

As Mother entered her final journey, I wrote about my experience watching a parent transition. I wrote these entries to keep our family and friends informed, and to address my participation in her journey.

in mid July, I began receiving messages from individuals who expressed their appreciation for me being able to express my emotions and thoughts as it assisted them in either their future journeys with their own parents, or shed some light on what they experienced. As of this week, the count is now over one hundred messages.

I was fortunate to spend 55 years with Mother. The end of September, I will begin my 56th journey around the sun. This new normal will commence with the procession of important dates and holidays that we shared.

I still find myself searching for Mother’s “likes” and comments on my posts. There are things my dogs will do and I think, “Oh, I need to tell Mother what Erma did with…” This is quite normal for those who have lost loved ones.

Now, it’s my new normal.

So be it.

This is all a part of life’s process. I will gradually embrace it, pieces at a time. I will figure out how to proceed with life, knowing that Mother is still near. I’ve always believed our loved ones never truly leave us.

I am tremendously grateful for my students who keep me laughing, keep me focused, and keep me seeing the pieces of this new chapter falling into place. Bless you!

I was raised to “make it a great day.” And so I shall.


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MY DAY: Football, traffic, teaching

I’m sitting on my front steps waiting for my DoorDash delivery from Frisch’s and the traffic on Shroyer Road is non-stop.

It’s one of the biggest nights in Kettering: the much anticipated Kettering vs Alter football game. The community goes all out for this first seasonal game that sparks much anticipated rivalry.

I can easily hear the stadium announcer and Fairmont’s marching band from my front porch.

Earlier, three students from Alter stopped by before heading to the game. They asked if they could park in my drive since all the high school lots and surrounding neighborhood are completely packed with cars.

This was another fantastic week of teaching and I’m proud of all the effort from students.

Alter’s play, 26 PEBBLES, is filled with a number of my students. Centerville HS’s cast lists for CACTUS FLOWER and FIRST DATE will be posted tomorrow; all my students made callbacks and are chomping at the bit. My sophomore from Beavercreek was cast as a lead in an original play.

The studio is off to another great season.

Tomorrow will include yard work for the holiday weekend and the start of our Holiday at Home festivities.

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MY DAY: Sumner winding down

I love the energy of school resuming, especially with marching band; however, this is my least favorite time of year: the end of summer.

While we officially still have several more weeks of summer, this weekend reins in the season. It’s Holiday At Home Festival time, here in Kettering, and the last hurrah for barbecues, swimming pools, and other familiar seasonal past-times.

This has been a non-summer for me. I’ve not been in a summery mood since Mother’s illness began unfolding rapidly in June. It feels as though I slept all day and missed out on an entire day of beautiful weather and opportunities for exploring. It feels like the emptiness on a Sunday evening.

Still, I’m in no way regretful I’ve missed summer as I spent it the best way I could, being with Mother as much as possible the last few months. I would never think of trading those moments for anything else.

I’m sitting on my front porch waiting for my pizza delivery at 10:45 PM. The night is cool and the air fragrant with a sweet scent I cannot identify.

Weeds have taken command, and the haggard plant appearance that oft accompanies summer’s end is ruling my front yard.

It’s almost time to post a video of “September Song,” a favorite of Mr. Logan’s, and an annual tradition for his granddaughter, Kate Harrigan and me.

Here’s to the end of August.

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