Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday, in the sun

Another football game last night, another win. A conference game, to boot. I listened to almost all of M Butterfly, John Lithgow and B. D. Wong, waiting for the band bus. Laura got into the car just at the beginning of the end of the play, so I turned off the radio and we talked football and Saturday. We were home by 10:30, to bed and up today to zip through everything ignored last weekend.

Fall is on its second go-round here; the air at home is off and the heat on. But such a nice night; half a new moon. The windows were down on the Laura’s half of the car; kids are oblivious to lovely cold. Cold on Saturday morning, another matter.

We took the long way to grocery shop. First, a round international stamp and a stop at the mail box. A stop at Ace for three things, and I remember two. Since we were way down on the Ace end of town, a stop at Great Lakes Bakery. Laura, still not warm, found nothing on the day old rack that suited, so I suggested a loaf of challah. “Has lots of egg yolks,” I encouraged. “It’s a nice round braid,” she observed. I know; I used to make it every week.

The long way, back road trip to Krieger’s for groceries. I let Laura fall into and sort out her best method of grocery shopping. She’s been a while believing the meat counter at the back of the store is OK; good bacon, good hamburger, good pork, good chicken, good bacon. She finally believes it’s OK to spend “too much” if you’re within your budget. Budgets are next. We seldom go to Giant Eagle these days.

Tonight, Lexi’s birthday party. Laura’s not too tired from football sleep lag and I’m not too tired to take her. Lexi is having a character party; everyone is a character in a play and solves a mystery during the evening. Laura is playing a fortune teller. That’s all she knows. For a month I’ve inquired into a birthday present, but no response. Last night I was informed Laura has made a snitch necklace, drawn a picture and made a pendant. Grandma not necessary.

I’m close to the Moto Mod Hasselblad. Has a ring, doesn’t it? I was at Animal Control earlier, you may recall. It’s in a part of Akron reclaimed from our industrial past. This sort of building stops me in my tracks. The phone is OK, but doesn’t close in with any agility, and etcetcetc. Laura was on the opposite end of a row of buildings at Great Lake’s Bakery. By the time I zoom on the phone, the shot is gone. This elevator shot needed some zoom. My garden could use a Hasselblad, too.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Earlier this week we exchanged a number of comments about the Kent State University shootings. 1970. Not nearly so remembered, but a part of my 1970, the bombing of Rodin’s statute “The Thinker” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The bombing was in March, KSU just two months later, in May. I worked across the street, at the Freiberger Library.

The Weathermen, Students for a Democratic Society, Black Panthers, SNCC, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, all seemed a level above we intersection blockers who protested. Members of these organizations and more could be found in our student union, back in their infancy, posting their own meeting notices, and probably drawing away the more radical and angry among us.

Anti-war protests in 1970 were fueled by Nixon’s escalation of the war and expansion into Cambodia. The anger of the late seventies was more laser focused on injustice at home; we’d heard “plastics” as well as “Mrs. Robinson,” back in the sixties, and activists were slipping off into new corporate jobs. The war in Vietnam lingered; America moved on, buying homes and having babies.

Weathermen always seemed the most likely to me to have put the bomb at the Thinker’s base. Or anyone. The Weathermen always seemed very small to me, and looking them up just a bit ago, they were. The FBI didn’t think so, but it was 1970.

The Museum remounted the statue without repairs. A brilliant move that also preserved the artistic integrity of the work. Those of us who had the statue both ways appreciate its representation of the frailty of the social contract.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is mounting a new exhibition of work of Rodin, and in conjunction with that announced they had been contacted by someone naming a suspect in the bombing. The information cannot be corroborated, and remains hearsay. And, the “suspect” has been dead forty years.

The current nature and number of protests indicate how little has been accomplished. Minds must meet; it is the only solution. How long must it take.

''The Thinker'' by Auguste Rodin was photographed March 31, 1970, by Plain Dealer photographer Dudley Brumbach, days after a bomb blew out its base. It was a gift to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1917 by Clevelander Ralph King. PLAIN DEALER HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Does this advance the story?

At cards on Monday, Nancy wheedled from me that I do remember how to read and in the last six months  read Lunch at the Piccadilly, because I saw its cover and waited weeks for it to come to the Peninsula library. The book is a tiny slice of life in your hand. Before you die, you will know this book. The slice of life will not be augmented or diminished, but you will have read a book.

I have taken to spending the last hour of drowsing in the morning in recreating the books lost in the Red Bus. I started with Middlemarch, which I recall as an absolute favorite. I cannot remember a single name. But I remember the younger sister called her older sister ‘Doty’, and I have built the action and the plot rather comprehensively. I may move on to Far from the Madding Crowd, or Stone Soup. I wonder if I will ever tackle Henry James, who started this. I suppose when I remember a title, I could start.

Nancy brought me her copy of the current book, A Long Way Home. The club meeting begins in forty five minutes. I want to go. The discussion lasts exactly one hour, according to my sponsor, and then everyone eats wonderful treats. But, at the end of the hour, I must drive fast to the high school to get Laura, then drive fast to downtown Akron for her appointment with her counselor, then fast back to the high school for band practice.

Scheduling therapy every Wednesday all summer has been great. Of course, I forgot school and band and life as I scheduled out through October. But, we’re tough. It will be part of what we remember about this year, “the year Grandma double booked Wednesdays.”

I’ve read book clubs have multiplied since the last election began; fueled, of course, by women. The more books women read and discuss, the more dissension is fomented, apparently. I’ve been opinionated all these years without a club.

The room was packed, about 25 of us for A Long Way Home. I introduced myself as someone who has lived here thirty years and is finally showing up. Then I settled back to listen. On the whole the women considered it a book of inspiration; a five year old pulling out street smarts that kept him alive until rescued to an orphanage. I look at how books are written, as well as the subject. So, I sat back and listened, on the whole.

I found the story of the five year old boy well presented. But the story of the adult boy, and especially the interminable Google Earth search for his home needed a major rewrite. I suggested, to a horror struck crowd, this part of the book does not advance the story. I was countered with “Well, it took him a long time to trace all those railroad lines,” and so forth. My argument fell on deaf ears, but not deaf lips.

For next month we are reading Behind her eyes. I’ll try. Remember, I didn’t make it through Lord of the Flies then, and probably could not, now. Which paragraph does not advance this story? Janie knows, I’m sure.

My Uncle Hank. Mom took this picture about 1935.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What I’m doing today

Thumbing through Facebook yesterday, I stirred up the memory of Martin Agronsky. I couldn’t remember his name, and searched Gronowsky, fruitlessly, until it came to me. Those hosts and commentators were the social media of my parents’ day. Last night’s broadcast was discussed in the office the next day.

At five, six, seven I recall none of Agronsky’s commentary. He was at the beginning of a career that included Pulitizer journalism; I assume he was fairly liberal, probably more so than my father. Of the Kent State shootings, my dad said “They didn’t follow orders,” and I turned on him for the first time ever. “They did nothing to die for.” The end of my closet liberal self.

I was enticed back to Facebook at the beginning of the year, when we would show the new administration he couldn’t tell us what to do. One day Pantsuit Nation began showing up in my feed. A few reads and I knew I must join. But, it turned out I was already in because someone nominated me. So I nominated two people. I wonder what they thought, or if they were just pleased, like I was.

I’m happy to have been part of the glorious beginning of the rebellion, until the end of March and the major brain injury. Now, struggle as I may, I am not the same person. I joined the village book club, to force myself to read. They’re reading “A long way home,” and I must get back to it.

Every morning I read my email, my news feed, Blogger and Facebook, in that order. It’s “something to do” for a couple of hours of my day. Yesterday, another epiphany. Facebook is like my balance work at the gym.

An exercise involves stepping on a series of boxes. They are two, four and six inches tall. Kristen mixes the order, so I don’t get too cocky. I step up with one foot, the other follows. I step down. I move to the next box, which may be shorter, or taller, and repeat. The tallest box is the struggle I overcome, weekly.

It occurred to me, the boxes are an analogy of Facebook posting responses. The commentator ascends a box, makes a statement, moves along to the next box and repeats. Add to the growing conviction that Mark Zuckerberg knew full well he was illegally pushing the election, and I’m about done with Facebook. Too bad I cannot make a Joe McCarthy analogy.

I need to get Laura’s band uniform from the cleaner and read my book. Until later.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Martin Agronsky to Earth

When I was a child and walked uphill to school, both ways, my mom got up about six a.m., I’d guess, packed a lunch box for dad, filled his thermos with coffee, made breakfast for dad and me, and went back to bed. Dad and I ate our oatmeal while Dad listened to the news. I must have listened too; I remember learning AF of L/CIO, and, later on, there was a war in Korea.

Dad would push back his bowl, drink his coffee, smoke a cigarette, stub it out in the cream left in his bowl, and stand up to leave. Every morning he said, “When Martin Agronsky ends, you must leave for school.” 

Every morning I took the bowls to the kitchen, emptied the remains into the garbage, rinsed the bowls, and then sat on the arm of Dad’s Barcalouger, until Martin Agronsky said “…brought to you by the AF of L/CIO. I left for school.

That is a test; at the end there will be a multiple choice question.

Friday evening I introduced the cats, and there seemed no problem. Toby spent his night outside my door, keeping me safe; Gypsy spent her night on top of the kitchen cupboards, keeping away from Toby. 

I slept fitfully, and woke up Saturday with a gorilla on my chest, completely unable to breathe.  In my fiber career I spun pounds and pounds of dog and cat hair until I was too allergic to animal dander to carry on spinning hair.

I did wonder briefly, when I told Gypsy she had acquired a home, if a thousand square feet were adequate to house two cats. Now I can definitively say NO. Laura put out the cat; I texted my neighbor, and went back to bed, until time to take Laura to her homecoming festivities. Cathy and I agreed to start the cat removal business all over again, this morning, at ten a.m.

At eight a.m. I called my vet and tried. “Dr. Mike, I’ll have her spayed; can you see if some foster service is taking cats to re-home.” Dr. Mike was as blunt as the Humane Society and Summit County Animal whatever—a plethora of cats this year. He would spay and return her. That's not part of the test. I like Dr. Mike; I just said "No".

I asked Cathy to check with her vet, and spent the rest of the morning between the repair shop and my insurance company. The former failed to notify me my car was pushed out from today to Friday because the wrong hood had been sent. 

The latter wasted half an hour of my time attempting to talk me happy, until I hung up. Then the body shop called back and said my car actually will be ready Wednesday (at closing). I said if the paint was not dry, it would not change my rating of them.

Then it was time to play cards with the Methodists, and I had no intention of staying home. Right in the middle of a game of gin rummy, Cathy texted me she found a home in Richfield for Gypsy. That will amuse some readers, but it will not be on the test.

The test will be true or false: A rising tide lifts all boats. No, it can be multiple choice. Who told me that, my dad, or Martin Agronsky.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

From the ridiculous to the sublime

Back when I was a weaver I had a weaver friend with a house full of kids and husband and friends and noise. It was a nice place to go. The years went on, the kids thinned out and one day it was quiet, except for my friend, and a cat on the sofa. Karen called all the kids, who, she knew, took their cats and dogs, and no one claimed it. They all knew it, but not where it came from. “It just came from the shadows,” Karen said, “got on the sofa and became the house cat.”

Here’s a story about guilt and karma.

One neighbor brought home a kitten for her children, and consigned it outside when fleas were evident. The kitten survived and, according to my neighbor Cathy, who knows all the news, has had two litters. Those kittens have been taken in, or something. They’re gone.

Someone named this cat Gypsy. She is quiet, unassuming, non-demanding. She sits on porches in case a meal is forthcoming. I find her on my deck. She offers to come in. I say “No,” and she sits down again. She is tiny, maybe six pounds. In my mind’s eye she is a corner cat, like the one at Karen’s house.  I try not to get involved. I have a cat, and as my sister pointed out, I will not outlive my cat. I cannot be responsible for another cat.

The original “owner” offered to take Gypsy back if flealess, so I got a dose of medication, which Cathy applied. The cat is flealess, for the time being, but remains homeless. Cathy puts out a plate of food and retrieves it when Gypsy empties it. I’m not reliable enough to do that; my cat gets a fresh bowl of crunchies and a clean bowl of water every morning. Take it or leave it.

The open kitchen seems reduced to Cathy of late, who cannot afford to feed her own cats. I can, but would only be setting up a wild critter feeding station. Winter is coming on. I thought about setting up a house for the cat, but, again am only inviting wildlife. 

Come spring this little cat will be pregnant again. Sometimes I think I’ll just go across the street, kick in the door and tell that person how worthless she is. Fortunately, I have neither the balance nor the strength to take down a door. And, the four little girls are nice little girls.

Cathy and I have talked this to death. Yesterday I gave her my lovely cat carrier, asked her to put in Gypsy when she fed her, and I would take her to the Humane Society. My county is a long oblong; the Humane Society is at the northern border. I called ahead, but in twenty four hours had no return call. I found the building, and was turned away. “Oh, yes. You called. I just didn’t get around to calling back. We don’t have room.”

It was over ninety degrees yesterday. I headed south, for the freeway, and Summit County Animal Control, on, of course, Opportunity Parkway. I don’t know this part of Akron; it was reconstructed from the huge old B.F. Goodrich complex. There is no compass in Kay’s lovely car; I don’t know left from right anyway, and have never fired up my phone’s GPS.

I bet most every cat transported in a car howls. Gypsy said nothing. I apologized for the length of the ride, the cursing at all the detours (downtown Akron is being reconstructed), and the swearing at all the idiots who were as unhappy with construction as I. Gypsy said nothing. After several stops for instructions, we found Opportunity.

Gypsy waited in the car, all windows down. Not allowed inside. I stood in line for close to an hour as the single clerk labored away. At the counter I learned they are at capacity, and couldn’t take her. “But you are a taxpayer funded agency for animal control!” said I. I didn’t spend thirteen years in government for nothing.

They would take her to be euthanized. It would cost me $25. It was so hot; dripping tears were indistinguishable from sweat. I put my debit card on the counter. “We don’t take Visa debit cards; the charge is too high. Do you have a Master Card?” I took back my card and left.

This week we’ll get to the vet and transform her into a proper house cat. She and Toby came to terms in five minutes or less. He must remember being a four week old kitten in a Pittsburgh parking lot. He wants someone to lick his ears, too, like Ryon used to. As for leaving them homeless in the not distant future, I don’t think so. I can make arrangements. But, I’ll be damned if I pay another $50 per month to put a roof over her head. If asked, only one cat lives here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Close call

We’re connected at the hip to our smart phones. Or there over the heart. Or back pocket, though I cannot imagine how that one works. Or just in the hand, and able to remember to pick it up whenever we move.

I’m on my second Motorola android. The phone store folks call them Droids. I had the first one at least five years, and gave it up only because the battery died. Unlike my previous flip phone, there is no replacing the battery of a smart phone. 

The phone world was juggling at the time between several operating systems. Blackberry was popular. My daughter, Beth and my friend Ann would never part with their Blackberries. I think Beth even had hers repaired, just to have that pull out keyboard.

I knew people who had I-Phones at the time, but they were so expensive! I picked a Motorola because it’s an American name that used to be in Chicago, Illinois. That was my rationale. That phone outlasted the Blackberries. “You still using this!” said the salesman, when it went down fighting, its battery deader than dead.

That was three years ago, just about the time Verizon removed the option of owning a phone. No, it had to be purchased on time, over the life of a contract. I circled the store and eventually selected a Samsung, based on cost. It was the cheapest.

How I hated that stupid little phone. Nothing about electronics is intuitive, in my opinion, and Samsung did not follow the protocol I’d memorized for my Motorola. I gave the Samsung to Emily and got the Motorola. End of phone drama, until Laura’s birthday, last year.

Laura had a flip phone to then, and I told her we had a long list of errands for the day and bring her phone, in the event I lost her somewhere. The penny never dropped until I told the sales person  that Laura was there to  get a new phone. The only caveat, a Motorola. It is one of my best surprises. I probably can’t beat it this year.

While she wandered, looking for a smart phone, I was literally drawn by the center store display of Moto Mods. All these catch words were new to me, but I understood one item simply by looking. The pistol grip of a camera. This Moto Mod was a Hasselblad. I thought about an old boss of mine who was also a photography nut, lending me his Nikon camera. It was so expensive, I ended my SLR photography days with my tried and true Minolta.

The Hasselblad was on sale for a hundred dollars. Of course, it involved the phone upgrade to the Motorola that could be Modified for other purposes. It was so tempting; it was like walking through treacle to get out of the store with only a new phone for an excited young lady.

For two weeks now I’ve been looking at an email: “You’re close to an upgrade!” I merely have to pay off the phone I have (which will be accomplished in next month’s billing) and the new Moto Mods are mine for the picking.

Damn, that new Hasselblad is beautiful! The email is still there. I’ve thought about it and researched it. So tempting. Lucky for me, no eyepiece viewfinder conversion. And Hasselblad doesn't appear to make the camera in red. I’ve dodged the bullet. But, what a beautiful piece of equipment.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Small mystery resolved

Remember the glass beads I heard falling, falling and clicking on each other, after the craniotomy, before I was conscious? I found them.

Today I had an EEG, which records brain wave patterns, and looks for, among other things, indications of seizures. My EEG ten or twelve years ago gave no indication of seizure activity and neither will today’s in my opinion. I see today’s test in a continuing pattern of the waste of taxpayer money. And mine, too, considering the cost of my supplemental Medicare insurance. But, …

I was in a recliner in a darkened room, and the technician recorded brain wave patterns on a computer behind me. For whatever reason I was asked to become drowsy over the hour long test. About three quarters through, I became aware of the glass bead clicking noise, back there by the computer. 

Occasionally I heard the sound of the keyboard strokes, but the majority of the sounds were of glass beads. In my mind’s eye there were no beads dropping, but no matter.

When the test was over, I quizzed the technician about the noise, and we got to the bottom of it quickly. It was the rapid clicking of her mouse, recording brain wave patterns. I tried it with my mouse here and had a more muted click, but I understood what was happening. The tech certainly had a task specific mouse that clicked easily and freely, unlike my very old mouse.

How interesting my brain used my curtain of beads to display images I’d seen of the National Mall during that day in March. I wonder how that translated in EEG brain waves.

Now I’m curious about the March readings. “Normal EEG, except connected by little glass beads.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to get up in the morning

People began calling me at eight this morning. I don’t recall the first, and would have to sort through my brain to recall the second.  Laura owes the first. Awake enough from the call, I was stripping down to shower, and thought “I didn’t hear her leave!” Sure enough, she hadn’t, two hours before.

It’s Homecoming this week, and today was Pajama Day (oh the games they play). I was pulling on yesterday’s jeans when she was in the door, and I left in my nightshirt, too, to drive her to school.  I remember, the first call was the drug store; the new synthroid script is ready.

My thyroid numbers continue to drop like a stone. I did new blood work last Friday afternoon. The new numbers were on my “chart” on Saturday, and my first thought was “Oh, shit.” I seriously cannot afford to lose any more weight, and the operative word is “afford.”  I’m from a size 12 to 8 over the last six months. Jeans are out of sight expensive, and I need to go look into 6. They’re like fifty dollars a pair and two pair are the absolute minimum, and etcetcetc.

At cards this afternoon, I complimented one of the women on her new bag. She responded since she has to wear the same shoes every day of her life, she would compensate with bags. I know I miss four inch heels, but since the Maytag suits forced me into trousers back in the eighties, I have not owned a dress.

When I joined the staff of my township, I did survey my closet. Jeans, jeans, occasional chinos. I thought it over, and decided if my jeans had a well pressed crease, a nice jacket and a nice blouse, they should pass anyone’s inspection. Four inch heels would have been mighty fine, too, but out of balance. Haha.

The next-to-last call was the neuro nurse practitioner. I thought we’d agreed  last week, there would not be another MRI of my brain when all they are missing from the one taken by, gasp, a competitor hospital, is the written report. Pick up the phone, please. I’d also resolved to my satisfaction the EEG tomorrow would settle the seizure question once and for all, and she need not renew the Keppra.

However, she’d had a talk with Dr. You Know Who (I had no idea) and his opinion was that two catastrophic brain events warranted continuing the anti-seizure medicine. Case closed.  I suggested I could just skip the EEG tomorrow, since the case was closed. “Oh, no. You need to have that!”

The last phone call:  the body shop. My car is in the line and work is happening. I can call Ken any time to see how it’s coming. Hurrah. I went to play cards.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Friday end of the week

When I woke yesterday, it was another one of those “I want my life back” days. It came on all week, starting with not getting past runs when I played cards with the Methodists, Monday. My mind doesn’t move quickly; I don’t remember what I read long enough to remark on it.

I remember being impressed by my father’s speech. Every word and sentence parsed, perfectly diagrammed, formed into a full paragraph before we heard it. I can sit quietly by, pretending, and the topic will move on before I’m called upon. Another escape.

Poor Kristen, my trainer, took the worst hit, at eleven at the gym. I plugged away, my face an inch thick in tears. I’ve watched these professionals work for the last six months now, and they are as adept at steering situations as workouts. Kristen is no slouch, uphill as it was.

She attempted to make good of every activity she quizzed me about, to little avail. Finally she was reduced to what time I got up that morning. Ninety minutes before the eleven appointment. Long silence. “Did you make your bed?” Of course I’d made my bed! “Well, see,” said she, in triumph.

Kay invited me for dessert last night. We sat on the back deck of the old house, tea and raspberry tarts. My mother would love this woman, for raspberries and tea, too. I told Kay about the state of cars at my house, and especially how I despise the little Kia assigned to me. Kay said she was up to four cars now, two over her limit, and until she sold the excess I was welcome to one. Pure Mom.

To boot, I could do her an enormous favor and help her retrieve two cars from the mechanic. The plan was to go in the Kia to her mechanic, get the Saturn I was to drive, deliver the Kia to the airport, stop at the mechanic on the way back and retrieve the car she intended to drive and scoot on home in time for me to get Laura at ten a.m. from an overnight. This required me getting up at six a.m. this morning. Kay was so into the project, I could not tell her six a.m. left my repertoire years ago. So, we did it.

When I pulled into her place last night, an enormous cloud of purple in the garden. Dad’s fall blooming crocus, colchicum, in full array. When I got home, I looked in my little garden, and there they were, just beginning to come up. Another year and they will be a purple cloud.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A teen club that rankles and a club I could sell

Laura is a self proclaimed slug, and failed gym back in fifth grade, to prove it. I know there is close to too much on our plate, but I keep looking for something that will engage her, physically.  She has a bicycle and miles of paved roads. The tires were flat, so it sat unused most of the summer.

I ordered a foot operated bicycle pump. While we waited its arrival, she walked the bike up to the complex maintenance barn and got one of the maintenance guys to pump up the tires. Laura rode to the mailbox, she rode home. The bike has languished in the shed ever since, accompanied by the pump.

A flyer in the mail this summer announced the advent at our school of the Drug Free Clubs of America. Get ready for this: every member takes a urine test, which remains anonymous. If it indicates drug use, the club involves the parents. If not, the child joins. Then whenever invited to participate in drug use can say “No, I might be tested.”

Frankly, it turned my stomach. I put the flyer in the trash and never mentioned it. This girl has walked a long road since she was fragile and susceptible to overtures of a pusher. I’m sure she knows of the club; the school pushes it enthusiastically. I think Laura’s opinion might include a four letter word. Maybe I’ll check, one day.

Monday I played cards with a Methodist. Just two of us this week. We played gin rummy and rummy. It was enlightening. All I could see were runs. I couldn’t sort out the other worthwhile card combinations. I wonder if I can add that to the suit against the Red Bus. Sadly, Peter was in the hospital and not available to snatch my cards and sort them into what I should do, while, he, in the meantime, cleaned the table. Hope he’s back this Monday!

I did learn, though, the local Boy Scout troop is sponsoring an “adventure” group, hosted by the local Appalachian Outfitters. I know all the scout leaders in the community, got hold of one and asked about the group. They have just begun the season, are meeting at the park right now, but about to move to the library because it cold and dark in the park.

There are seven girls and three boys in this year’s group. They are planning a white water rafting trip and figuring out how to pay for it. Since these kids are in a different school district, they all would be new acquaintances for Laura.

When I saw Laura next I asked what she knew about white water rafting. She knew she’d never done it. I told her about the group, who they were and their plans. Oh, yes, she’d like to try that. So, they are on the calendar for next Tuesday evening.

Monday, September 11, 2017

What the yooofff do

I found that word, yooofff, on John Gray’s blog this morning. It makes a great title for a post I was not going to write.

The blog commences last Friday; the football game! Another of the despicable non-league games. Only one small injury this week. We were home by midnight and in bed soon after.  It was obvious this time last year neither Laura nor I are nighthawks. Nine or ten hours a night, at the right time, suits each of us. “Sleeping in” is no panacea; it’s confusing.

The next day was Saturday. We were invited to a picnic that Laura could not attend because of---a band show. I certainly intended to go to the picnic. We got up close to noon, ate breakfast, set out on errands, arranged neatly as all right hand turns until the last left into the grocery store. Great logic, eh? Turn right, first star on the left, you’re home.

The learner’s permit drove, and made careless mistakes that I attributed to tiredness, the second to last involving speed and overshooting a drive. I decided I would drive on the way home. We reached the grocery, drove down the lane and Laura pulled into a parking place. “Slow down” commanded grandma. How fast does a car go when the driver slams the gas pedal, not the brake.

Damn fast, I’m here to tell you. So, lucky for her, a concrete stanchion stopped the car. My body still remembers that abrupt stop.

Aunt Janice came and bailed us out. She took Laura home, then to the band show, and later took me to the airport to rent a car.  As I waited an hour for a tow truck, I managed to make all the appropriate calls; filed an insurance claim and put a car on hold at the airport, picked it up, and at the appropriate witching hour, retrieved Laura from the band show.

Sunday was the heart to heart. If you are not focused, in the moment, paying attention, you do not drive a car. Oh, yes, there have been plenty of tears over two days, the most touching being “I can’t believe you’re not mad at me.”

Today I got through the part that could have made me angry at someone. The insurance person told me on the phone that between the mileage (75,000), the age (2010) and the damage, it could be a total loss. I saved it for the adjustor, who said, “Calm down, calm down.” The appraisal came out for big bucks, but under the value of the car. Thank you, Universe. While I’m at it, I’ll pay for getting the scratches and scrapes removed, and that car and I will keep on cruising. It will be two or three weeks to the end of this, and another trip to the airport to renew the rental car (or get a different one!).

Today was the first cards with the Methodists. It was their picnic I missed on Saturday, too. The Methodists raise a lot of money out of their kitchen, and election day is a big turkey dinner fundraiser for them. A huge wooden chicken stands outside. It says “Save a chicken. Eat turkey.” The chicken was a stand in bill board for the picnic. I found him in the card room, waiting placard replacement. What a guy.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Inspection, 5:15

I am so fortunate to have a laser focused OCD grandchild, who performs circles around my best output. The children here are the end of the line, so she leaves the house at 6:20 a.m. and the bus comes back after four.

This band has band mothers, who leave us in no doubt of expectations. The trumpeter came in the door announcing “Inspection is at 5:15”. We performed rapid arithmetic and saw we must leave at 4:45, or 30 minutes from the present.

The cookerer headed for the kitchen, and in ten minutes produced mashed potatoes and chicken and pea pod stir fry. It was good. In those ten minutes I gathered all the trash to be emptied. We ate, we left, trash in hand for the bins, which went to the curb while I started the car. Teamwork, I’m telling you.

“Does it really take thirty minutes to put on a uniform?” I enquired. I was told there are a couple of tricky fastenings, then you must do things with your instrument, then with your squad leader, then…  “But if they get there with five minutes to spare, I’ve seen guys get into that uniform in five minutes.”

But, getting Laura to band isn’t my only excitement this week.

After a week of playing chicken with the insurance company, I was issued a three month supply of Belbuca. For everyone who does not remember, my first lumbar vertebrae was crushed in ’03 or ’04. How time flies. The orthopedic guys could not fix it, and then I had bad experiences with several pain doctors. That really didn’t matter, as they dispensed narcotics, which made me comatose.  I was living on Advil, until I persuaded my doctor to prescribe Celebrex, and I went merrily along for many years.

To their credit, a lot of doctors told me the various body parts I was destroying with Celebrex. They simply did not comprehend the difference between functioning with some pain and not functioning. Or, as I told my doctor, “I eat butter. Deal with it.” And then, the neurosurgeons just threw it all out the window. No more blood thinners. Except for occasionally being drugged with narcotics, I have lived with debilitating pain since the big red bus sent me down the aisle in March.

I finally had an appointment with the pain doctor. He’s about thirty five years old and just too cute. Single, too, I hear. We reviewed the list of narcotics I’ll not take again. He sighed and said, “Well, we’ll get you Belbuca.” And, he did. Now I suppose I’ll hear all the rest of them tell me about disintegrating body parts. I eat butter, too. I can walk to the corner and back. That’s ¼ mile. Take that, liver and kidneys!

I had breakfast with Carol. A year ago last spring she and Frank moved to South Carolina’s outer banks. In September they evacuated. This year they happen to be here visiting. Pre-evacuation, I guess. I had breakfast with Linn, who had a love letter from my brother Mel, who thought she was moving away after fifth grade. Then she didn’t…

There were two separate lunches with two separate fellows who thought I should be their girlfriend. I’ve known them for years. Sudden interest? The one who is eighty turned back to kiss me good bye, then hoped that wasn’t too forward.

And last, but not least, I got out of bed this morning, and in my best Scarlett rant said, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be cold again!” I stripped the bed and switched to winter feathers and flannel. Notice, the cat has staked out territory before the pillows have gone down.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

From sea to shining sea

My brother, Walt, had an extended van with bench seats behind the front seat.  It held about nine passengers, ten or eleven for good vacations. Way before the days of seat belts. Mom called it the “Flapping Chicken.” It was a Chevy, and its body was flapping away on the highways. He had such a big van because once he was married to a woman with six children. Plus, at that time, his three.

One year Mom and I took her grandchildren to see the Atlantic Ocean, starting in Maine. I think my oldest daughter will remember it as the year her oldest male cousin, a head taller than she, refused to get on the ground under the camper and knock lose the camper’s foot, because he was too cold. Directing a look of disgust at him, Beth went under and got the job done.

The next spring the children discussed potential vacation venues. My niece Michelle prevailed. “Pacific Ocean!”  She had a bottle of the Atlantic, and intended to balance the collection with a bottle of the Pacific. Neither of us entertained naysayers. It was 1980. I wanted to see the Columbia River and Mt. St. Helens, which had erupted.

We worked our way across the country, seeing things children are obliged to see. I remember the kids won the license plate game at Mt. Rushmore, where they collected the twenty or so missing states in the parking lot. We pulled off the interstate for gas. Montana, I think. Mom leaned against the Chicken, shading her eyes and said “Look up the butte, there. I’m sure that’s the road my father took in 1936.”

My grandfather was big on vacations, too, and took his two kids and my longsuffering grandmother across country in 1936, brand new Buick 1936 Buick Roadmaster and color film in the camera. My Aunt Flo always moaned “Do anything but make me watch the movie of 1936 again!”

We took the road. It went up, up, up, around and around. Once it dipped slightly into a valley with a picture perfect farm set into fields of green crops. We came out at the Columbia River, and picked up a trucker on the CB who regaled us for an hour with stories of his great grandparents crossing this country in covered wagons.  The Columbia River is breath taking.

We drove California State Route 1 down the coast, through sequoias, to San Francisco. Michelle got her jar of Pacific. All the children had jars of Mt. St. Helens ash. My brother wanted to drive Lombard Street, but left it to me, so he could see better. He redeemed himself when I was driving on the way home and the Chicken lost its fan belt in the Great Salt Desert. I’ve always been terrified of dying by fire or drowning. I can add dying in the Great Salt Desert to that.

There literally was nothing and no one. “Drive it until you peg out the heat gauge, turn off the ignition and coast to almost a stop, do it again, until we find help,” Walt said, and so I did. Like those car races on the salt flats, I put the Chicken to her max of about a hundred miles an hour, killed the engine and coasted on down, over and over. Like a scene from Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, a gas station materialized from the rising heat waves. I do not recall gas pumps, but I distinctly remember two solid walls of fan belts.

Good times. Yesterday I smelled campfires while I was outside. Today I saw a map of the smoke.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thankful for, in this week’s sadness

We went to Grandma Ruth’s for a Labor Day picnic. I don’t see these two grands often; in fact, not since being in the hospital, and incoherent. Francis is the focused kid who rode his bicycle from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, to collect his passport that I transported. Long story. Caroline is the other young lady in the DC pictures. I think she will round out next summer’s vacation pictures well.

I needed a picture. Here are four in a row, of goofy people lining up for grandma’s obligatory picture.

As plates were passed at the table, I mentioned we needed to be grateful to those who were and are responsible for Labor Day. To my pleasure, grandchildren returned words like mining and car industry. Francis is also grateful for a vintage Vespa scooter he scored and has restored, including vintage paint. Caroline is not happy with the blue.

Compliments of France, for Joe and all the guys who like mopeds.

Like Laura, France is working on his driver’s license. He’s two weeks younger than Laura, actually, and about that far behind her in driver’s education classes. Laura has one in-car session left, and almost all three’s on her last class. Three is the best mark for the twenty odd skill categories tested. France has started none of the testing, yet, and was a little on his mother’s nerves, advocating starting at once. Competition is good.

Caroline will be fourteen in January, and eligible for a moped license. If I knew how I would post a large “grin” emoticon here.

During the evening, Grandma Ruth’s daughter called, from her home in Sacremento. That family is leaving and going north for a while, to evade the smoke and smog. This morning I checked blogs I follow, to find a levee near Ellen Abbot’s home and studio broke. We hadn’t heard Stuff fromEllen’s Head recently, and I’d checked up on her by email. All was well then, and yesterday she and Marc were rescued by air boats.

The president’s termination of DACA is another unspeakable this week.  The Rep from Iowa, Steve King, announces ending DACA will restore the rule of law. What’s wrong with these people? Nearly eighty percent of American voters support DACA. I hope it shows at the polls. Vote this November. Vote next November. Vote in your primaries. You are in charge of selecting the people you vote into office. Always vote.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Raising a modern child and other facets of the week

Hard to believe this child is wearing velvet and lace to homecoming. With her friends, not with Denny. “Don’t be concerned, it’s his fault.”

Here is the back of her tee shirt. It’s Laura’s second year of American Sign. She eats lunch with deaf friends. “They eat a lot slower because of signing.” “That’s good for you, eating slower.” “I know. I’d eat with them anyway.”  American Sign can bring tears to my eyes. It’s lovely, like swans on water.

Laura is becoming a decent driver. I have her drive most everywhere, in daylight, and discuss any shortcomings when the trip is over. She has driven at night with her instructors, and, perish the thought, on the freeway. I’m not up for riding shotgun on the freeway. She’s only been at this a couple of months. I did see one of her driving instructors wrote “Catches on quick” by the maneuverability test.

I don’t know what the weather is up to this last month. Temperatures should be in the eighties during the day, but barely make seventy, as in seven, zero. The house hung onto its heat until the last couple of days, but now the morning temps in the house are mid fifties and not rising to seventy. Of course, no sun is shining on us, either.

It's time to clean the filters and switch to heat. If it's going to be cold in the morning, I prefer to wake up to, say, sixty.

Last spring, when I first came back, I pathetically climbed the steps to the office and asked if the maintenance man would show me how to clean the filters. I’d seen the furnace guy seem to whisk them out, up to his armpits over the barrier. I didn’t get it. Dan was there before I was home. He pulled down the top wall of the furnace room, reached in and pulled out the filters. Honestly! I was so unmechanical five months ago.

Then, Dan was going to wash the filters in the kitchen sink. Laura wrested them away and had them to the outside faucet in a heartbeat. I’ve raised her well. Filters are on tomorrow's job list.