By Mike Mombrea Sr.
After 97 years on this planet I’ve reached a pondering stage in my life.
I’ve come to that proverbial fork in the road that Yogi Berra urged us to take. We have spent the last 60 winters in sunny Florida. My wife passed, so I’m pondering whether I should spend the coming winter in the Sunshine State.
Two of our children spend the winters in West Palm Beach, and have condos minutes from where I would be. That will have some influence on my decision.
Having made many friends with other snowbirds, we’ve developed a daily routine. After breakfast, several other old geek snowbirds sit around the pool. We compare our medications and discuss our aches and pains. After solving the world’s problems we share the latest news about our northern families.
Some opt to play shuffleboard until lunch time. After checking the noon news, we reconvene at the pool and enjoy the warm sun, as we continue to share our joys and sorrows. Everyone has a story to tell. Many are interesting and some are boring.
Some swim daily in the heated pool. After our afternoon nap, we check the mail and come to decide whether to have dinner home or to go to a favorite restaurant. Various places are suggested.
Then it’s back to the condo in time to watch “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy.” After watching the latest newscast we think of what we will discuss at tomorrow’s “meeting.”
When I meet someone new and I tell them I’m from Buffalo, the first response is usually about our so-called Buffalo bad weather. I kindly tell them that Buffalo has two seasons, winter and the Fourth of July. I like our weather and we have little worry about hurricanes, floods and tornadoes or earthquakes.
Everyone has stories to tell about their grandchildren and about their jobs before retiring.
Before falling asleep, I reflect on the blessings and fond memories I have received. I’m fortunate to have been born into a close-knit Italian family that came to this great country to seek a better life. My relatives had to overcome the disadvantage of not having a formal education and the effort of learning a new language. I’m so proud that they passed down the morals and ethics that I hope will be extended to future members of our family. They also instilled in us a strong faith to overcome life’s obstacles.
When World War II broke out, I enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was trained as a fighter pilot in single engine aircraft. Before the war the training period was 128 weeks, but because of the need for pilots, it was condensed to 36 weeks. The training was intense, and I was in two flying incidents that were nearly fatal.
After discharge I took advantage of the GI Bill to further my education. I was trained as a photojournalist for TV and worked at Channel 4 for 32 years. I covered thousands of stories here and abroad, including interviews with presidents JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Ford. I also covered every national political convention for 12 years. I tried to look at every human being as someone who deserves dignity, regardless of their social status.
As a Catholic, I had the joy of covering the installation of Pope John Paul II in Rome.
I was honored to be installed in the Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
Everyone has an interesting story to tell. I hope my friends in Florida don’t get tired of mine.
Mike Mombrea Sr., of Buffalo, worked for 32 years as a photojournalist for WIVB-TV.