Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Life assortment

We picked up some more plants for the garden last Saturday. I think in another year this garden will be packed full and look like an old lady’s garden. No rhyme nor reason, no plan, no symmetry. One picture has the water lily in it, and if I ever meet a fellow tall enough to stand on a ladder and pound the stake further into the ground, it will not be so ungainly tall.

A knock on the door early this week. On the screen door, actually. This global warming thing is more than serious. It is August. It is the end of August. Kids are going back to school. It should be hot, hot, hot in Northeastern Ohio. But, it hasn’t been eighty in a week or two, and when I wake up in the morning, the house is down to the mid fifties. I open the front door wide and let the sunshine in.

So, a knock on the screen door. I went around the corner to see who, and it was a man in khakis and a shirt with the logo of the big owner of trailer parks from New Jersey to Ohio. I stepped out, he introduced himself and I did the same. He blended his first name into his last and I really didn’t get it. He started out saying, “I understand you recently sent a letter to corporate in New Jersey.”

Poor fellow, pushed a bad button. I’ve never sent a letter to the owners of this park. So, I told him what I have done. “I located the bureau responsible for the condition of parks that people live in, and got some drains installed.” I showed him phone pictures of the inches deep lakes between the last units on this road. I told him there was a current brouhaha over grass length, but certainly reasonable adults could compromise on that. I told him I’d put several hundred dollars into landscaping after the drains, as management here ignored the torrential storm that washed all the soil, grass seed and straw away.

Mr. Polo Shirt looked quite ready to get off my porch, and I asked his name again, as we shook hands. “Bob, said he.” “Oh, The Bob,” replied I. “I suppose.” He left. I told my neighbor later, and her immediate reaction was “I cannot believe he led off intimidating you by saying you sent a letter to corporate.” I thought for a minute. I guess that is a kind of intimidation. I’m seventy four, and still waiting.

Laura is through all the classroom instruction and taking behind-the-wheel. She is not a relaxed driver yet, but she’s quite collected. She has eight sessions in the contract, and, what with school and band and damn football and other students, scheduling has been a pain. The previous week night classes were five to seven; last night’s was seven to nine.  Some night driving. I dropped her at the school and was barely home before a text. Could the instructor drop her at home instead of the school.

Why? Where does he live? What time? What is his name?, I shot back. He lives five minutes from here and can go home. And all the rest. I consented; I’d hate to be working at nine myself. At the appointed hour the car arrived, but Laura did not get out. I went out. “We’re finishing the paperwork, Gramma. I’ll be right in.”

I stood back and waited. The instructor never knew I wondered if I’d done the right thing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

How fast the past separates from us

Or, further Friday night thoughts.

My parents swept us all over the country. We children were to see all 48 states before we graduated high school. For me, the oldest, that meant many states more than once.

My dad was an aeronautical engineer. I could not even estimate his annual earnings, but my parents were depression children, and made sure we knew the value of a dollar. We camped everywhere we went, and especially in the west, where camping was as basic as dad’s service days.

Dad was an Army man, from the day he turned sixteen. I think he was alternatively destined for truant’s confinement, but I blogged that to death long ago. He packed his radio equipment on mules. He learned all he could from every person he met and every book he encountered. He marveled he was born the same year the Wright brothers flew a plane, and lived to help put a man on the moon.

Reading a map while riding in the front seat made mom ill, so the job often fell to me. I wonder if she knew the gift she gave me. My dad was an encyclopaedia of natural history, geography, meteorology. Back in the days we drove this country from town to town (“66 goes right at this intersection, Dad.”), Eisenhower was president, and I listened for hours to “this man’s army” being able to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Canada to Mexico, on one unified highway system. To dad, the proposed Interstate Highway System was first and foremost to move troops.

Dad designed electrical systems for space capsules and flew around the country and the world to visit Lockheed engineers and Boeing engineers and army bases, but his heart and his discipline always were “this man’s army.”

Interestingly, my father-in-law was a civil engineer. He was after my dad’s depression era, had the benefit of a real education. My dad snatched three semesters at Tri-C college in Indiana, between the army and unemployment. My father-in-law graduated from Case Institute of Technology.

I wonder if my daughters remember how often I told them Grandpa Noragon was an engineer of State Route 2 along the top of Ohio, and becoming Interstate 90 into Pennsylvania and New York State. Probably as much as they remember Grandpa Lytle worked on both Project Mercury and Apollo Eleven. Grandpa Noragon went on to engineer infrastructure for Sun City, Arizona. I think they only returned to Ohio because their first grandchild was born.

I tried the civil engineering story out on Laura the other day. I drank up every syllable of my dad’s civil (military) engineering stories. I’m sure they were lost on my kids, and they surely were lost on Laura. Old news. Whenever you want to change the subject, Grandma. I know all this history isn’t lost on a new generation. They are learning it from a new source.

My dad, John Lytle, at a family picnic in the fifties. I wish I had a corresponding photo of my father-in-law, James Noragon.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Waiting for the band bus

It’s Friday night, right up to Thanksgiving. It’s late this time; the game is at Austintown Fitch, in Mahoning County, two counties away, east on the turnpike. It’s not even a league game, so it doesn’t count. I don’t understand the stupidity of having kids knock the crap out of each other, extra.

It’s late; it’s a long way to and from Austintown. Too late for Radio Theater Los Angeles; listening to the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn interview, again. Fabulous musicians, wonderful to hear, but a re-run nevertheless. I wonder if PRI will ever get the kind of money they need. They’ve even called me to thank me for my pitiful continuing donation of a few dollars a month. Think how sad that is.

Well, it’s a beautiful night. I have on my lightest jacket and have it unzipped, a wonder for an always cold old person. I’m parked at the curb, not in the lot. It’s a faster get-away out to Stow Road, down to 303 and home. It can be a game of chicken, running the lane between the incoming and the parked cars. I told Laura, if your mirrors can clear, so do you. Just watch for that.

There is a white car parked to my left, in the lot, under one of the many lights. They do light up this campus like day, every night. And, the stadium lights aren’t even on, because it’s an away game. The car seems to have a wrinkled front fender, and I study on it intently, to the melody of Take the A Train. Finally I take a close up picture, but still cannot discern actual crumpled metal.

I’m not the same person as last year. I can stare at that crumpled fender, oblivious to everything. Suddenly the dents disappear, then reappear. I do not understand. I look harder, but nothing happens. I check my phone for the time. ETA is 11:30 for the band busses. The dancer’s bus has already come and sent the dancers on their ways.

The dents disappear again and reappear again. I see it! They are images of the leaves to the tree in the median and a car pulling into or out of a space interrupts the light from one of the lamp standards. How neat.

The band straggles out from the school. They are delivered to a different door, to go in, put up their instruments, change out of their uniforms, and stagger out under the weight of a loaded garment bag and a hat box. No wonder they leave the instruments in a locker at school.

Laura opens doors to deposit her burden in back and then fall into the front seat.

“How was the game?”

“We won.”

“I know, 20-7.” I cheat and keep an eye on the running score so I have an idea when to leave. As for football, I could care less.

“Three guys went down. One went to the hospital.”

It must have been late in the last quarter; the football dad who “broadcasts” the game, somehow, on the internet, has typed no mention of it.

“How were they hurt?”

“I don’t know. I don’t understand football.”

The trumpeter who marches in the band falls asleep, and we start home. It’s another Saturday morning.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Citation dénouement

For three days I stopped at the office and asked for someone to show me what of my “property” was in violation of the rules. The first two days no one was sent to show me and the third day no one was at the office. I duly noted this each time on the citation, and this morning filed it in the rent folder.

Laura went out to measure the length of our grass, my best guess being that’s what is in their craw. Our grass, mowed five days before, was just over four inches. Our mower is factory set at three inches. The rules state “cannot exceed three inches.” We got out the mower manual and see we are capable of moving some assembly and lowering the cut. That was on the agenda for today, if we ever got up from last night’s away game.

Yesterday, Dan was roaring through properties, a mowing fool. “Can’t talk!” he shouted, when I tried to flag him to stop his huge, roaring machine. “Damn wimmin!” This morning, Cathy explained, as she was leaving for a day out.

The owners are coming in three weeks, she told me. Apparently this week’s drama is practice for the next three weeks. Cathy paid her neighbor, Danny, three dollars to weed wack her property and mine. I pointed out that Dan had mowed the majority of the properties on the street. She hasn’t been out to see.

But, the people Dan is feuding with (and there are many), he skipped. Cathy hadn’t noticed. I pointed out my Mr. Next Door and Mr. Across the Street. Mr. Next Door keeps his grass tidy at all times, though it’s pushing over three inches. Mr. Across the Street, who I love for his attitude, has lengthy grass. I’m thinking he may mow once before the New Jersey suits show up, and it won’t be the day before.

Dan the Maintenance Man probably will keep his favorite lawns scalped for the next three weeks. I doubt we’ll lower our mower blades to mow thereafter. I think three inches is good; shorter is tough on grass, and the stuff here that passes for grass. 

Cathy and I have a fantasy of hiring a landscaper when our ship comes in, and putting a fence around. Pretty arrogant for renters, eh! Laura now knows every nook and cranny to weed wack.

Laura and I weeded today, and bought new mulch to dress the whole garden. It’s that time of year. I weeded an entire bucket full before I failed. The bags of mulch are staged, and the rest is up to her.

Pig says, if a New Jersey suit comes up the steps, he'll knock him down! Toad will jump right on his chest.

Laura and I, and  Pig and Toad hope all our friends in Texas came through the storm, and I hope the trailer park feud made the rest of us smile. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Docs in a row

It will be an unparalleled pleasure to push the whole big red bus affair through the gate and see how it rolls. The attorney (we’ll call him Taz, for cause) is in charge of thinking through the pain and suffering, lost employment, pension, all that stuff settlement, and I have been in charge of listing all the docs, as I was the one referred to, and sort of obliged to go, at minimum, to a doc of my choice with the same credentials.

Today was the last doc, the one who performed the abject failure radio ablation of several C’s a while back. In fact, it was his nurse I wanted to see, but as it has been two years since that procedure, no Amy without the doc, too. I had no idea of the protocol, and booked the appointment with his nurse weeks ago, Tuesday last being her first opening.

Some scheduler picking through the records found my violation of procedure and called me to reschedule the whole affair until sometime in September. I pulled off the road, pitched my finest aggrieved patient performance ever, and was magically rescheduled for today, with Amy and the Doc. Now the drug store is working on getting insurance to OK the dissolve in the cheek version of a pain patch they already pay for. Amy, the head pharmacist, is working on that one.

When Dougie Howser and the guy from NCIS, the DC neurosurgeons, took away my Celebrex, they changed my life. My physical therapist and I have agreed we’ve hit the wall on balance training until I have the pain controlled, so here we go, again. Or, as my neurologist told me, “Those neurosurgeons, they hate blood!”

So, when Medicare goes picking through the pile, looking for charge backs, all my docs are in a row.

Here’s a little story about Taz. He rides his bicycle to work six miles each way, every day, he says. He is a law abiding cyclist, and would never ride the fine line between lanes of stopped traffic, clearing side view mirrors by inches. That’s what his friend, Taz, does. Five months of conversations and I’m having a clear mental image of Taz.

I must remember to ask if that suit hangs in the office closet, because he rides to work in and spends his day in jeans and an anti-Trump tee shirt.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


My neighbor called me, on her way out of the park. “I just saw Joe with a stack of pink folders and said ‘Hey, where’s mine? I want to come to the party, too.’” Joe told her they were citations, and he had none for her, but one for her neighbor, which would be me.

I retrieved the bag from my doorknob, and it is a citation, for unwhipped weeds. How petty. Three unrectified citations equal an eviction. Thirty days to fix it. I stomped off for an inspection, and made it around the building without my cane. Laura mowed on Sunday, and, frankly, I didn’t see a problem.

On the other side I met Dan, the maintenance man, mowing at top speed. I flagged him down and asked where my problem is. Poor fellow, he’s flustered. He’s out mowing everyone’s lawn at top speed (Joe delivered forty odd citations.) I asked him “What?” And he replied “Those women!” I told him to be sure he went down and around my place, too, through the previously verboten side yard that now is well established.

Back in the house, I collected my library book to return, my car keys and my curiosity, and went to the office, via the mail box (all junk). Theresa, the big boss, came out, and I said “Hey, what’s going on?” It seems that “corporate”, which is one above her boss, Bob, the regional vice president who was nailed for drains recently, will be here “sometime in September,” and she’s starting early.

I asked where my weeds needed whipped. “Behind your shed,” she responded, sharply.   Inquiring minds do wonder who climbed down the very steep hill behind the shed to observe the weeds, but did not become an inquiring mouth. “Three citations and you’re out,” came even more sharply. “Out of my hands.”

When Laura came in from school, I inquired, and she confessed she has been very lax of late, especially with Kathy, the neighbor. Laura’s being sucked down the damn social media rat hole again. Over the summer she lost phone privileges, and is twelve hours on, twelve off since school started.

Sadly, I realized she has her nose stuck in the computer when she’s phoneless, inhaling that social drama. I could deal with it, if she handled her end of the bargain and took care of the grass. I pointed out to her that we’re both down a blind alley now, with no place to go and keep her in the school district.

Laura is at “hands on the wheel” driver’s ed tonight. It was a pretty, blue kind of day, but that citation sure kicked the karma out of it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Summer’s almost gone, winter’s coming on

I had a sad look at the pink mandevilla this weekend. I love flower gardens but can neither make nor maintain one. Mandevilla to the rescue, and thank you to Laura, who lifted the pots onto the hooks and continues to lift the watering can.

Early June
The pink mandevilla is fading back. Its leaves are yellow, its blossoms drooping. Sunday Beth admired it as she left and reminisced about a fellow staff member at the plant who brought in his pink and yellow mandevilla every fall, to hang in a window and winter over. It’s a safe bet there are no cats in the plant.

Late August
For two summers I’ve hung the white mandevilla by the house. I remember last year’s plant was stunning, and so is this year’s plant. I believe it was up until we hung the pine greens wreath in November, and watched a nuthatch liberate pine seeds from the pine cones.

The yellow mandevilla is this year’s sleeper. It absconded so quickly with the railing that pig’s nasturtium completely slipped my mind. Next year, pig. Seasons go round; next year will be the same.

Except, next year there will be no eclipse. Our view begins in ten minutes. The sun is bright, the sky the least bit overcast. It’s hot (still summer!), and no one is out. Our partial solar eclipse will be at its maximum at 2:30 and over at four. 

I turned on the TV and found ABC, and probably most of America, is following the eclipse. It just past totality on the west coast.  I do hope the schools are viewing; the event is spectacular. Now I wonder how dark we will become in an hour. 

PostScript: The band practices outdoors, and was allowed out, with the admonishment not to look up. Some had glasses and shared them around. Mostly, according to Laura, they joked about President Trump looking up.

Friday, August 18, 2017


John McCain: “It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole.” That was a long time ago, when GW was still in charge of the war in Iraq. The metaphor never goes away. This started out to be a not too serious piece, about disappearing statues. I was going to toss in the stock market and Durham, North Carolina, although the last could be more serious than an impromptu dance party. I tabbed over to Google news to check up on Durham, and the headliner is Steve Bannon, shown the door. Talk about Whack-A-Mole.

Back at home, we have our own clear and hold strategy under question. I went to lunch today, a perk of being old and unemployed, and willing to confront the vagaries of the stock market. We went to another branch of the same chain as yesterday, and I was momentarily puzzled by the same menu as yesterday in what was a different city. Strange pictures pass through a traumatic bran injury.

Deb got iced coffee, with milk. When the waiter set it on the table, I was fascinated by the color of white milk descending through black coffee. “Don’t touch that,” I admonished her while I reached for my camera. But she did, and the colors muddied a little. Never mind; it’s still pretty.

Then I learned the eclipse glasses we turned up, after diligent searching, have been recalled. It was in the local newspaper, and already emailed to all Acme card holders. I bought four pair at a buck ninety nine each, so it will behoove me to fish the receipt from the unbalanced receipt glass and go to Acme this weekend.  That’s like another lunch with someone I like.

The eclipse itself has been recalled in part of the Hudson School District. I realized Laura would be in school on a historic day, and suggested she ask if they would be allowed to go look, with approved glasses. Yesterday she reported No, the students would not be permitted to view any part of the eclipse during school hours. However, the middle and elementary grades would be permitted, she reported. Considering we no longer have authentic glasses, I suppose I can wait out the truth of this information with careless confidence.

On the way home I saw the scene below, except with the workman’s boots extended from the back of the van. It was a wonderful scene, and I wanted it captured for my repertoire. Being in federal offense country, I opted to turn around in the Boy Scout property and come back for the picture. When I pulled in, the poor fellow flew out of the truck and dropped his cigarette. “I wish you were still sitting in the back of the van with only your boots sticking out.”

“No, m’am.  I could be in trouble for that.”

This is a helluva mess some misguided voters got us into. Go to the polls in November!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Four way stops and other discrepancies

Do you take those tests on Facebook? I am addicted. “Only 5% can correctly spell these top misspelled words. Can you?” I take the test. I can spell the top misspelled words. Frankly, I’ve always considered the tests fake, because I pass them.

The other day I took a driver’s test. I’m zipping along on those nice, green “Correct Answer” and clicking on “Next Question”, when I got one wrong. I do that occasionally. But how to proceed at a four way stop?  Hello. Everyone knows you keep pulling away in rotation. Everyone who stopped ahead of you goes, then you go, and so on, forever and ever at the four way stop by my house.

Not so. This is the Federal, US of A Law: everyone stops. Everyone leaves, in order. But, if two cars stop simultaneously, the car to the left yields to the car to the right. This is not the law at my four way stop, that controls plant traffic from the west, two high schools from the south, and regular people from the north and east. Everyone always knows who stopped before them, and we just go on, so we can go home. And I got it wrong because two cars might stop at the same time. Impossible. Rational people always work out this stuff.

I must look at the doodads on my phone for the microphone for recording. Today I worked my way into high cotton country to have lunch with Ruth. I was listening to an incredible discussion on PRI on the week’s events. All I had to take notes, while navigating the twists and turns of the Adirondack foothills, was the little scrap of paper with the restaurant’s address.

Perusing the notes this afternoon, I spent far too much time translating “listop” into “dystopian.” I must look into this. I recall Hamilton and Emily read nothing else, though I migrated Emily into decent biographies and autobiographies around her senior year. Laura’s genre is dystopian, and I didn’t make a dent in ninth grade. Maybe this year. Maybe it’s a phase. There’s more world to look forward to as each year of high school is in the rear view mirror.

And, I read our side of the aisle is drafting articles of impeachment over Trump’s lack of morality in handling of Charlottesville. That’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. I wish they’d wait for a much more substantial issue. Russia, for instance. It’s not that much longer.

You know I like pictures with posts. I thought I'd ask the wait person to take a picture of Ruth and me, at lunch. But, my parking meter was running dry, and Chagrin Falls has police on scooters who do nothing but monitor meters. Just so no one is confused over who is who, I'm on the left and Ruth on the right in the top picture on my side bar.

Finally, it’s raining, and my rain barrel has a wide open mouth and an empty belly.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I’ll be damned

I’ve never treated my cars lightly, except the Nissan my husband left me, with no further instruction. I drove it, until it quit. My brothers took pity, rebuilt the engine and instructed me firmly in car maintenance. Every since I’ve told every vehicle, “I’ll take care of you and you take care of me.” And so we’ve gone on together, very well, for forty five years.

Last weekend I drove my  Dodge Caliber out to the farm, on my sort of road. Here are Deb’s instructions: take 303 west out of the Village and through Richfield. You’ll go up a big hill and down a couple of camel back hills. My kinda road. I’ve driven it a few times, and, in fact, it’s the road where Jan and I nearly cashed out.

The tree crews were out, decimating trees that might drop a limb and black out the east coast again. The “big hill” was one lane, and we were flagged to a stop at the bottom. The uphill lane was closed by those monster chipper machines. When the lane of traffic cleared downhill, the flagger at the top turned his flag to “stop” for his traffic, and our guy at the bottom signaled “slow.”

I was half way up the “down” lane when a panel truck came out of the lane stopped at the top, swerved around the flagger and started down the hill, hell bent for extinction. I considered my options, decided I could just fit my extended van between two parking pads of the next chipper, and swung in, to the rush of wind from the out of control truck. Our mirrors cleared by inches. When I could, I pulled out and finished going up the hill. I do not know what happened behind me. I only worried my sister would be half way through a classic panic attack.

To my surprise, she was simply unfazed. “I knew you’d save us,” and on we went, to a farm in Medina to buy fleece. She had the panic attack the next day, with covers over her head all day. That van, Sarah, saved me in many ways. All her break downs were convenient, and saving our lives was above and beyond.

Going up that big hill to Deb’s last Sunday, of course my foot was on the accelerator. Cresting that kind of hill at a fair amount of speed is certainly worth the gas. But, my transmission was talking back. It gave a couple of starts when shifting. “Oh Dear,” said the driver, and eased up a tad. The same behavior on the saddleback hills, then I was at the farm and forgot, until I came home to the same reactions from my car.

Today was my first opportunity to get to the garage. Randy, the guy at the desk said, “Hmm. It’s a CVT you know, but we’ll take a look.” I came straight home and looked up “CVT.” One auto magazine summarized my vehicle well:

“In summary, there are a few advantages to getting a vehicle with a CVT: It’s good on gas, gives a relatively smooth ride, and is versatile enough for daily driving. It also has a few drawbacks. It’s nowhere near as fun or engaging as a dual clutch automatic or manual transmission. It can also make quite a racket when accelerating hard. Keep these points in mind when looking at your next car.”

Now I know not to worry. Continuous vehicle transmission. A continuous chain that runs on a whole lot of gears. I asked them to change the oil, and brought it home.

School starts tomorrow. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Yesterday, in a garden

Yesterday exceeded perfect. I went to see my friend Deb and take her up on her offer of new potatoes, kale, garlic.

I’ve never been to Deb’s house. I knew she had it, and she and potter husband Steve had gutted and renovated the almost 200 year old house. It’s nearing completion and when I pulled into the farm yard on the perfect day, Steve swung down through scaffolding from the old metal roof he is repairing.

Steve pointed out some barns and gave me history, as I stood planted in one spot, adhered to my cane. The fine, beautiful weather had kicked in my allergies and plugged my ears long since, and I felt like I was floating through images of my surroundings.

Deb led me to the garden. “Be careful, uneven. A hole in the ground. A little downhill here. You want to wait while I go harvest?” as she opened the gate and took down the top of the Dutch door style deer detractor.

Delightful, like a mother hen, one of whom laid an egg and was announcing it to the world. “And the raccoons and fox!” Deb said. I followed her in, and we chatted while she turned up taters and snapped kale leaves. Just a perfect sort of day.

“I’m  looking everywhere I go; I’m lookin’ for a home in the heart of the country. I’m gonna move; I’m gonna go, I’m gonna tell everyone I know, lookin’ for a home in the heart of the country.”

Then she led me through the house. My god, ten inch plank floors, refinished. “This used to be here; we moved that from there. We found the old church window that had been incorporated in the house.”

My favorite: Deb said there were no footers in the original house, including the two story bit that began as one. Some of the second floor was grounded on the old ceramic crock that was the chimney. The stairs were built on a stack of field stone, and held a hundred or more years of children thundering up and down their steepness. “The stone was dust,” she said. A contractor told her the house was held together by tradition.

We drank iced coffee in the sun room, petted the dog and talked about bits of things. I only remember looking up Gallipolis. How long will anyone remember old horror and atrocity?

When Laura came home, she found the produce, draining on the counter. This morning I find she has rearranged it.

Charlottesville has not dispersed. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump supporter, said of Trump’s non-response, (an air ball to the Third Reich, said Jon Oliver) “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

School starts soon. I sat Laura down and discussed the attitudes she might encounter soon, in her radical right school district. “I know, Gramma. Don’t worry. I can handle them.”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Peaches and national identity

I stopped for a chat with my neighbor. She keeps the TV on mute all day, to keep an eye on Trump. If mine is on, I keep the TV on Home and Garden. I can’t control Trump, or run from him. I feel like a personal Guam.

Every day I read all the news I can. Perhaps I’m as much a junkie as my neighbor. Yesterday we had the first news of white supremists in Charlottesville, VA. Why Charlottesville? It’s only a pretty little town in Virginia. Near Montpelier. I intended to drive through the town and show it to my granddaughters, as unimpressed as they probably would be with a little college town. Well, the accident intervened, in any event.

My point is, it’s little, it’s pretty, and its citizens keep it that way. Pride. As the troublemakers began gathering last night, citizens held hand and sang “This Little Light of Mine.” Their defense against bigoted hate mongers who, today, have hurt people. Cars run into people. What is wrong? They cannot change national identity with violence.

I was in the middle of the Cleveland race riots in 1965. Not voluntarily. The Ohio National Guard camped in the vacant lot beside my apartment building, under my bedroom window. Every morning I picked up my baby, walked out the front door, past guardsmen, around the corner to my babysitter and on to my job at Freiberger Library. I took the opposite route at five pm. I was never afraid; it was my job to walk straight through and not be afraid.

My sister brought me Ashtabula peaches yesterday. “I have Ashtabula August peaches. Can I give you some. I’ll be there in five minutes.” And she was. This is my real life. Sun warm peaches from the orchards along Lake Erie, Ashtabula County, Ohio, America, The World.

The National Guard is handling white supremists in Patriot Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. I hope every other one of us remembers our job is this election, in November.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer in the Connecticut Western Reserve

Being without a job has some interest. I have more time to read and think through the news, though we all know I’m not so good at remembering and using it any more. Remember how excited we all were in January; we would shout Hell No and show the entire gang of fools how to function. Now it’s like being stuck in a sea of molasses. The president of the greatest nation on earth is shouting at the other side, “Fight tonight?”

Back home he taunts McConnell about unpassed legislation and pins the opioid epidemic on his predecessor. It’s a quagmire down there. The rating numbers tell him to go home and he brags on his prowess. “Fight tonight?” There simply will be overwhelming international cleanup, led by a military that knows its job. I can’t follow the president’s reasoning, so I don’t.

Fortunately for me, further down, there’s other news. Not good, but I can follow the gist of it. Taylor Swift really had her butt grabbed. Good for her for standing up. I expect she will win. The eclipse approaches, and we’re prepared.

In other events, the state of the climate news has been released. My childhood Northeastern Ohio climate no longer exists. All the seasons begin later. That’s not too awful. Three fourths of the years are milder. And wetter. At the old house last weekend, Kay’s brother from Texas stretched long on the sofa and announced he would exchange Ohio’s beautiful weather for Texas in a Dallas minute.

And I sympathized with him on returning to Hades and leaving Paradise behind. I didn’t set him straight, but I did remind him to vote every November. The D’s have a lot of work ahead, down there in Texas. And in forty nine other states.

Back at home, Laura has finally embraced my edict, there will be a vegetable with every meal. Given her natural inclination, every meal would be some variation of mac and cheese. In all fairness, she has produced lovely meals all summer, heavy on the vegetables. Last night we had chicken and asparagus stir fry, accompanied by mashed potatoes.

Yes, that’s a pat of butter in the middle. A little excessive, but good. Years ago I told my doctor, “I eat butter. Deal with it.” 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kicking a crummy week to the curb

Laura and I had a lunch date with good friends, including Laura’s “boss”. I call call Deb “boss” so I can tease Laura. Deb is her friend and mentor and helping her learn the art of porcelain clay. I love typing that word: p-o-r--c-e--l-a-i-n. But, a bad day got in the way of one of them, and we will reschedule.

I am a gasoline coward. Occasionally I let it slide under a quarter tank, but not often. Except this week; I put the car in the drive last night, needle hovering between 1/16 and Empty. I got Laura from the library yesterday, which I’ve used as my unacknowledged babysitter for the last six years. They get some of my tax dollars, nowhere near their value as mentors and teachers. And, I kept driving and the needle kept going down.

“We love Laura,” Randy, the library’s director, says, as I thank him again. “She’s never bounced a ball off the glass window wall in the reading room. And if she had, and I sent her outside to bounce the ball in the courtyard, you wouldn’t yell at me. She does trade shoes with Annie, but mostly sits and reads.”

Today’s very first job was gas. I have a pumper again. First there was Hamilton, then Emily. They are only two years apart. I pumped gas again this year, because Laura was not legally able. Now she has a temporary driver’s license, she’s still legally too young, but legally allowed. Go figure, Ohio.

Laura had her last paycheck to deposit. We worked our way into Hudson by a route that is a miracle; it feels like driving into The Twilight Zone.  

“We’ll pass the bread store,” Laura volunteered. I pulled into Great Lakes Bakery. Laura got a loaf of bread and a bag of cookies. I got two or three kinds of scones. “I put in an extra oatmeal/cranberry,” said the clerk, “for a midnight snack.” It won’t last that long.

Back on the trail of the bank, we saw a great license plate. Does it refer to the fish, or the fisherman? 

Back to business, I mentioned The Great American Eclipse is nearing. We need glasses, which I have not located. On-line is too late and the couple of opticians I’ve called had no idea. “Clip on sunglasses? No, we don’t have any.”

However, we did reach the bank. “I have over four thousand dollars!” announced my discreet granddaughter, as she came back to the car. 

“There’s another optician on the way home, by Denny’s,”  I said. “Let’s ask.” “You mean Perkins.” I pulled into the opticians and we asked the receptionist. “I was asked already this morning,” she said, “and I had no idea except I stopped at Acme on the way and there is a display, just to the left when you go in the door.”

We drove to the other end of the parking lot, to Acme, and bought four pair. You never know.

A neighbor’s hibiscus, on the way home. I came in and checked the little MP3 player I left charging. I must leave in a few minutes and I’ll tell Kathleen about “Portrait of a Lady,” and she’ll tell me what I already told myself. I found out this week, the big red bus driver has my library. This week I did not know Henry James. When told he’s a great American author my brain fumbled and fumbled for a book, and came up with nothing. 

The next morning I woke up and knew six years of college literature, an undergraduate and a graduate degree were gone. I couldn't think of any authors. All day I could not look, through tears, on the computer for references. So, Randy looked for me, and hugged me before I left.

Today I told Kathleen, counselor nonpareil, about “Portrait.” I sobbed through half a box of Kleenex and we laughed about using disinfectant on the sofa when I left.  Her best solution was mine: sue the effing big red bus for millions and millions. And go home and download “Portrait” and begin listening. So, that’s the week this week. One week and one band practice until school starts.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Way back machine

Last night I was mesmerized into thinking of old days.

My mom scooped up everyone she recognized into her plan du jours.  From the time I introduced her to the Burton Fire Department’s annual pancake breakfast, it was her pancake breakfast, and we could count on it being the plan du jour some Sunday, some March.

When my oldest daughter, Beth, went to college, it was essentially on the same plan as I used. Once on campus, don’t go home. She picked the same school, Case, but I never went home, and finished in three years. She never came home, either, but she was sidetracked by working.

By her second year Beth abandoned the dorm, moved in with her boyfriend and his five roommates. This motley crew, together with her regulars, were herded by mom to the Burton Fire Department’s annual pancake breakfast in 1983. For the record, mom’s regulars were the beloved cornmudgeon, my brother, Walt, his three boys, ages twelve and down, my daughters Beth and Shelly, Mom and me.

And, for the record, the college boys with Beth were Rich, Jimmy, John, Tim, Fred and Pat. Pat is now our very own Pat who is married to my dear friend Ann, who I visit in Wisconsin as often as possible. I remind Ann I knew Pat before she did and she asks why did I not warn her. We love Pat, too. In fact, he is a crux of this story.

College fellows, young boys and Walt being bottomless, the all-you-can-eat servers were pretty much assembled at our table. “Table” is misleading; we sat for many feet along several tables assembled end to end. Eventually there was a server behind Walt, one behind Fred, one behind Pat. They took the pancakes from runners and refilled the three afore mentioned plates.

Age took its toll; Walt said he must back out. Fred looked Pat dead in the eye and announced, “It’s a throw down between you and me, friend.” Pancakes kept coming. People for tables around were involved. Sides were chosen. Cheers went up when one took more pancakes. “Pat, Pat, Pat!” and “Fred, Fred, Fred!” filled the hall.

Pat was cute, but Fred was cuter. Like every cool guy in ’83, Fred's hair was long and curly and tangled. He wore the right, nerdy engineer glasses and a week old dirty shirt. He beat Pat’s crew cut hands down, regardless of the age of Pat’s sweat shirt. And his server passed him reject, tiny pancakes. Pat’s server slipped the plate sized, oversized numbers. I’m sure the Pat and Fred shouts resonated in the kitchen, too, and the chefs were discriminatory in what went on each platter for the servers.

It went on and on and on, pancake for pancake, until Pat’s fork crashed to his plate. His eyes were glazed. His lips murmured “I have stomach lock.” Fred held his fork on high, and said nothing.

It was a fine day.

 Beth, probably 18

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Dregs of the summer that was not

The kid is armpit deep in a movie marathon. Her only desired trips are to the library to swap an old stack for a new stack of DVD’s. Today is too beautiful. I threw open the door and told the cat Laura really should mow the grass. The grass we defended from the four wheeled churning machine. And she went. I don’t hear the sound of a reel mower down the side yard yet, so she must be over doing Cathy’s and our shared yard. I love the sound of a reel mower. 

We are invited to a cookout at the old house, at six. Kay invites us to “do’s” at her house often, and they are a delight, if for no other reason than watching a new person use the old house and the old kitchen. Kay is left handed and right brained, too, and seeing her process food literally opposite, and put a fine meal on the table is worth the wait. Her brothers are visiting from Texas; it’s a celebration.

I opened my email to find the pictures I’d just sent. It’s the way I process pictures; I limit my learning to things that really interest me. I found not one, but two emails with band directives. Relentless. I began to write “ruthless” and reconsidered. Ruthless just flowed from my finger tips. I know when these kids are parents, driving twice a week, they will be as committed as the kids. Dear god, parents swarm past a grandmother delivering the band, to get to the tail gate party.  I’ve begun delivering Laura and whoever I’m driving to the auditorium door. They can walk. I’m committed to getting the job done.

Being comatose for April, and essentially incommunicado for May took a direct hit on my crapped out thyroid. The DC neuro’s would have none of those Ohio meds; they stuffed me with anti-seizure and skipped the synthroid. But the real damage was back here, where the rehab doctors were satisfied with generic synthroid, nevermind the real stuff my daughter brought and they locked up in the nurses station. Damn the T3, T4 and TSH results, full generic ahead. My endocrinologist has not regained control in the last two months, and my nice new hair is sprinkled on the pillow, in the sink. Like I told Procrastinating Donkey, be careful what you wish for; the nice haircut will only last two months.

Two weeks, two days, three band practices, one band show and a backpack of movies until school starts.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Old people die more often of loneliness than any other reason

I can’t prove it, but I know it.

I’ve thought long of late on the lack of interest in old people in our society, how deep it goes. When does it begin? What makes it so easy for children or relatives to drift off?

I began thinking of old people last summer, when I effectively stripped myself of friends and family to take care of grandchildren. Everyone had a solution, but five different solutions weren’t the fix to one problem.

Another sort of loneliness opened to me about the same time. Jean, who wintered in Florida, and summered here in town, was someone’s mother. My friend would roll her eyes and tell stories of getting mom to and from Florida; the routes they must take, the fruit stands they must frequent, and the cross road stores. My friend relished the half of the journey she could speed on the interstate, hair flying, music blaring. She covered the big chunk of her heart consumed by the mother she did not have.

My mother was our family.  We visited relatives when I was a child; the many on my father’s side of the family, the few on hers. As their husbands died, mom folded her sisters-in-law into her plans. But, not her mother. Jan and I included our mother in our day trips, but I saw to our grandmother, for as long as she lived alone.

Last summer my path crossed Jean’s, again. My friend told me, in a choked voice, she’d brought her mother from Florida and admitted her to Regina, in the locked ward. I went to see Jean. I think it was Labor Day weekend, and I had nowhere to go, in any event.

Regina emanates the grace of an old Catholic establishment. It is the peace that surrounded my Aunt Ruth, an IMH Sister. Jean and I visited for more than an hour. A sister invited me to stay to supper with Jean. Jean was the same old Jean, but who could not remember if she had been there an hour or a month, and knew her daughter had brought her. The longer I stayed the more often Jean told me she was no longer angry with her daughter.

I stopped in the lobby and texted my friend her mother was open to a visit. I know my friend visited, and I’m sure Jean made no effort to be on her best behavior.

It was easy for me to see Jean. Every other weekend Laura was with her mother, and I’d been invited nowhere, so I went to talk to Jean. My visits with Jean grew shorter; the strain of remembering who I’d said I was became apparent.

There was a three month break in visiting when I was hospitalized. Then it was Father’s Day. I took Laura, for what became a longer visit. Jean had a firm grip on the activities of childhood and asked about them. When we left, Laura took Jean’s hand and said she was pleased to have met her. I think that was the best part of Jean’s memory. 

My biggest memory, then and every time, was all the old women, lining the walls, watching for a word, reaching out to touch first.  I cried all the way home, every Sunday except Father’s Day when Laura was in the car. I cried for all the old women, and for my friend’s mother, who could not forgive her trip to Regina.

I don’t understand this behavior. My friend thinks because her mother was raised by a cold, cold stepmother, she had no relationship with family and with empathy, no experience in family bonds and exchange of civility.

What of children raised to know, who are within easy distance. How do they become so involved with friends, children, other family to forget a parent?

Jean died last month. My friend told me Jean had been moved to hospice. I got her room number and went to sit with her, at the end of her life. She was arranged uncomfortably in the bed. I found a nurse’s aide to make her more comfortable and easier breathing. Then I held her hand and thoroughly examined the peace of the room and the day outside the window. I did stare down a young nun who came to help Jean find the peace of some such thing, but who left to find something else to do.

I wondered about Jean’s spirit. We knew each other, but weren’t close acquaintances. I am her daughter’s friend, though Jean and I are of the next generation. Well, I’m not ninety, but we are of the generation of parents to our daughters. What is the disconnect, parent to child? Both sides, one side, some of each, both of each, none of each?

I was thinking of the room, the meadow, the blue sky, the shallow breathing, what bit of Jean’s spirit would linger for a time in the room, before drifting out to the blue sky? I didn’t know. When the young nun returned, a little more anxious and less discreet about wanting the side of the bed, I squeezed Jean’s hand, wished her God speed, and left.

Her daughter texted later that evening that Jean had passed. She’d finished drifting on. Jean told me once that the river was the biggest attraction she and her husband had to this valley. Perhaps she drifted south first.