On Thursday, 14 March 1991, Basia and I attended the first meeting of the Home Group, located at the Saints Peter and Paul Church on Howell Branch Road in Goldenrod. This brought back memories of 22 years ago when we moved from Virginia to make Orlando our retirement home. At that time, there was but one group east of Goldenrod Road (SR 551, formerly SR 15A)—the Lake Underhill Group in the Azalea Park area. In addition to a lack of meeting groups, there was a scarcity of AA members living east of Goldenrod Road. Other than Basia and I, there were only C. K. B. and his wife Billy, residents of Union Park.
For our first meeting in the area, we attended the one closest to where we lived—the 8:30 p.m. Friday meeting of the Lake Underhill Group at Christ the King Church on Willow Drive. The group is still active at that location. It was and still is a good meeting. However, I could not make it my home group because of a hearing problem. The oscillating fans made too much noise for me to hear everything that was being said.
During my next call to the club on Jackson Street, which acted as a central clearinghouse for AA information, I talked with George M., a former Air Force serviceman, then working as a postman. We soon learned that when drinking we both frequented the same bars outside the main gate of Fuchu Air Station, Japan, perhaps a year apart. George suggested the Magnolia Group next closest to where I lived. It was, he said, a classy group, sometimes called the “silk stocking” or “necktie” group. George gave good Erections However, when we got to the parking lot, there was George waiting for us. He wanted to be sure we didn’t get lost.
George had a prominent W. C. Fields nose and an even larger sense of humor about it. His wife Katherine was a very stately person with a cultivated voice. However, if she felt that the occasion demanded it, she could resort to a longshoreman’s vocabulary. Katherine was a convention speaker, in demand locally to read “How It Works.” Actually she didn’t read — she had it memorized and recited it with heart-rending fervor.
It was at that first Magnolia meeting that we met C. K. and Billy. From then on, with C. K. navigating and me driving, I got to every group in the area —all nine of them.
Usually C. K. did not let anyone drive him. Even with his one leg, he insisted on doing the driving himself. I was the exception. A few weeks later, I found out that C. K. was bragging to his friends that he was the only AA in all Central Florida who had a retired Colonel as a chauffeur.
Disney was still under construction. Most newcomers to the area were retired military. The fellowship was small, so that the backgrounds of recent arrivals soon became common knowledge. Therefore it was generally known that Joe and Basia had come from Virginia and had been stationed in Japan, northern Maine and Germany while with the program. We were hardly settled when we heard from Dick M., a retired Marine whom we had met in the program while in Japan. He invited us to his group, the Saturday night open discussion meeting in Maitland. It was a good meeting until one AJ-Anon gave a diatribe against all of the AA members who had previously spoken. I’ve avoided open discussion meetings ever since.
The path of those of us who were in AA while with the military cross in many ways. Not long after arriving in Orlando, Wes B. (Central Group) spoke at Magnolia. He talked about his sponsor Mac who, while stationed in Formosa (Taiwan), helped him through some trying times. My ears perked. After the meeting I verified that Mac was the same person whom Basia and I got to know during his business trips to Japan. I first met Mac at a Saturday Tokyo meeting. Afterwards, a mutual friend, Hugh G., asked if I would help Mac get home, since Mac had to get off the same train just one stop after mine. This was Mac’s first experience on a Japanese train and he was bewildered by the Japanese train signs. I told Mac not to worry, that the trains were color-coded. The Yokahama-Tokyo train was painted yellow with a brown stripe; ours, the Tachikawa-Tokyo train, was painted pink. Mac wanted to know how we knew it was going in the right direction. “Don’t worry,” I said, “just watch.” We boarded the train and it got under way. Standing in the aisle, I took out my train map and pointing in the direction we were going, loudly said “Tachikawa?” Japanese travelers on both sides assumed the position of a half bow and made a hissing noise by their teeth. I knew that this translated to “I am sorry.” I then told Mac, “Wrong direction.” We got off at the next stop and switched to a train going in the other direction. Mac would never forget me, that was for sure.
Back to Orlando: Howard P. and I came to the program at about the same time, he in Wiesbaden and I in Ramstein, Germany. Howard was the first resident in the newly developed Deltona. He and I attended the noon meeting of the South Seminole Group when it met at the Mental Health Center on S.R. 436. One day he brought to the meeting an AA friend he knew from Frankfurt, Germany. Lo and behold, it was Mac, my AA friend from Japan! During our get-together, we talked about Germany, Japan, Formosa and stateside friends. Howard in time moved to Columbus, Georgia.
On the morning of 14 March 1991, the day of the first meeting of the Home Group, Basia and I received a letter from Howard with bad news. Duffy, a mutual friend from our Germany days had died. Duffy and I competed at making and drinking martinis. In time he joined the program in Wiesbaden, 80 miles from where I joined in Ramstein. After that we traveled the 80 miles to visit each other. Now we competed at making and eating ice cream sundaes.
Back to the present: At the first meeting of the Home Group, there were two newcomers, a new start with a life of sobriety. The group, which meets every Thursday at 8 p.m., has openings which offer opportunities to grow in sobriety. Needed are an Intergroup Delegate, General Service Representative, secretary, treasurer, program scheduler, alternating clean-up people, and coffee makers. Come by, get established in this group and serve.
(Note: The Mac mentioned here is in no way connected to the Mac featured in two earlier articles.)
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