To my Dad, on Father’s Day 2022

I don’t have a good pic of my Dad in my computer, but here is a pic of me and Claire instead…

She was 8 here? Not sure. Claire is 24 now, all grown up.

I wanted to sit down and write a handwritten letter to my father this morning, but then I thought it might be better if I posted it right here for the entire world to see:

Dear Dad,

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m tremendously grateful to see you and Mom at church this morning, then later today for dinner.

You and Mom are an energetic 73, another thing I’m very grateful for!

You and Mom are such a huge blessing in my life, and I’m glad you live right here in Florida so that we see each other frequently.

Now that my own girls have reached adulthood and are successfully “launched” I’m even more appreciative of what you and Mom did in raising 4 children to adulthood…. and beyond.

None of us were charged with a felony!

It’s not easy, and every stage of parenthood has unique challenges. You and Mom raised an FBI agent, a Registered Nurse, a Fashion Designer…. and whatever the heck I turned out to be!

I know I was wild teen and a huge pain in the ass, but you both supported me when I went to Taiwan, started a goofy balloon business, and more recently went to Ukraine. You both put up with a LOT, most of which I will not detail here due to federal secrecy regulations.

You both provided me an example of what it means to embrace responsibility, love your family and also serve the community, especially your work with our local school and in our church community.

You stayed together in your (53 year!) marriage, even despite challenges.

Now that I’m 48 I’ve come to realize that the BEST men in our society do what you did; accept responsibility, work hard, and love your family.

You went to church to support Mom, even though you were not a very churchy type of guy.

Over 53 years that amounts to 2,756 Sunday services!

That’s a whole lotta Sundays! You must love Mom a lot.

You also earned good money, kept the house nice, and took care of Mom.

A real man takes care of his wife and kids, even if it means waking up at 5AM and driving to a nuclear power plant in a Toyota Corolla with a gazillion miles on it.

You’re still working now, as an unpaid maintenance guy at Harvester Methodist!

There are men in my generation who did not have fathers, or grew up in the turmoil of divorce. Those men did not have the benefit of the example you provided for me, and they are worse off for it.

As Greg the Famous Prison Guard once told me:

“All the guys in my prison had ONE THING in common: no fathers around.”

Dad, you were always around, working 2 jobs sometimes… my entire life.

So on this Father’s Day I’m thanking you, publically…. right here on my blog.

I’ll see you at church at 9AM!

Love,

Your Son Ben

Unexpected Surprises.

When I booked my flight to Warsaw back in March I had no idea what might happen when I got to Ukraine. Fly there April 3, fly back home April 30th. Everything between those 2 dates was pure potentiality, random occurences, and more than a small amount of risk.

I wanted to take ACTION, but I had no idea what might result from booking that flight.

I just FELT that I had to go there, in my gut.. and in my heart as well.

When I got to Lviv and met Pastor Prokip I had no idea we would raise $12,400 to help purchase a much needed van for his church, with help from the generous folks at Harvester Methodist back home in Land O Lakes :::

And if helping my friend Volodymyr Prokip was the ONLY outcome of this trip I’d be very happy, very grateful, very BLESSED to have this opportunity.

I’d be grateful just to have MET this man, and the folks at St. John in Lviv.

I took a step in FAITH to go seven times zones east, and if I had NOT followed that instinct I NEVER would have met Olga and her daughter Vlada:

I went to Europe as a single Dad, NOT on any dating apps at all, just writing my 3rd book plus a crazy desire to volunteer and just Do Something Helpful.

But how can a guy like me meet a gal like Olga (also single….) and NOT ask her out for dinner?

On our first date we had a great time, Olga thought I was totally insane, but she went on a 2nd date anyway… Thank Goodness!

Olga has worked for the last 2 decades in the shipping business, so she’s smart, speaks English fluently, and I made her laugh…

Olga is also an active member of the Kyiv Rotary club, and I liked that about her.

I knew that I was flying back to the States on April 30th, so we went on a few dates, we felt a connection… but the future was a big looming big question mark.

Olga’s daughter Vlada is 15 (she turns 16 next week) and she reminded me of my daughter Grace: smart, quiet, and plotting Eventual World Domination. We included Vlada on our outings, and we all got along well.

Vlada is a nice kid, she’s a credit to her mother, for sure.

She’ll probaby grow up to become President of Ukraine someday, so we’ll be able to say we “knew her back in the day”…

Olga and I both knew the visitor visa requirement to come to the USA was complicated, so I came back to the USA not sure if we would see each other again… unless I flew back there.

That same week US Immigration came out with the Unify Ukraine visa, a program that allows Ukrainian citizens to come to the USA for 2 years, AND let’s them work here… the only requirement was that I fill out a form (the I-134) saying that Olga and Vlada could stay with me and that I’d help them out when they arrived.

I filled out the form, thinking it would take immigration 6 months to process everything… and our application was approved in less than a week!

I have a 4 bedroom house… just me here since Claire moved out 5 months ago.

Claire even took the cat.

Ms. Lemonssss………… noooooo…………

Olga and her daughter flew here three weeks ago. Before they arrived I took the all the stuff out of my 2 spare bedrooms and repainted both rooms, bought a dresser at IKEA, bought new bedsheets, etc.

Olga is encouraging me to eat healthier food.

The fridge in my kitchen went from empty to filled up with all the veggies and healthy food that it takes to sustain 2 Ukranian ladies and a goofy American.

I still like my instant coffee, but Olga conviced me to buy an Espresso machine.

I’m taking Olga and Vlada all over Florida… last weekend we visited Miami.

Crystal clear water, looking down off the pier in Sunny Isles, FL
Breakfast with some Americans, Ukrainians, etc….

Yesterday we took an hour drive down to Sarasota, visited the Ringling museum, swam in the ocean, goofed off a bit….

For some reason I make Olga laugh, often. The last few months of her life since the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been tough. Several of her friends are missing, presumed gone. She still has an apartment in Kyiv, but until this conflict is over it is not safe for her or her daughter to go back.

A Russian missile could kill anyone in Ukraine right now, randomly and without mercy nor logic.

A few days ago Olga told me this is the first time she’s felt peace in months.

We laugh often, and this is the best thing I can give her.

Olga encourages me to eat more vegetables. We hit the pool together most mornings.

I say goofy stuff and Olga laughs.

Vlada is in tennis camp up at the Land O Lakes rec center… in addition to her Secret KGB Training.

As I write this in the early hours of Father’s Day I’m looking forward to going to church with Olga and Vlada this morning.

We’re going to my parent’s house for dinner tonight.

Grace is somewhere over in Australia, but I’ll see my Claire tonight.

I don’t know what the future holds for us, after the war Olga and Vlada might want to go back to Ukraine, but for NOW I’m glad they are here.

Life is full of unexpected surprises!

Ben Alexander

SUNDAY June 19th 2022