Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gone Forever

There are moments, little fleeting moments in life, like bubbles: you want to catch them and hang onto them forever, but you know they’ll only pop. I wonder couldn’t we bottle those brief, perfect memories, preserve them forever, like scent. Then, when disillusioned, or sad, or tired, we could uncap their precious contents and allow them perfume our disenchantment away?  Reluctant Memshaib
There were two messages on our digital answering machine that I wanted to keep forever. One was from my Dad, when his mind was in better shape, being silly and sweet, and the other was from my sister, mispronouncing my name on purpose. Both of these messages brought smiles whenever I heard them.

So there I was pressing the delete button to get rid of the telemarketer hang-ups and recordings. It’s not nearly as gratifying to hang up on a recording – the recording keeps right on going after you break the connection on your end. I often don’t answer the phone until I know who it is because I don’t feel like listening to the recorded spiel that starts with "Stop what you're doing right now..." and ends with “If you want to be removed from this list forever press 9”. Yeah. Right.

And I continued pressing “delete” button until all the messages on the machine were gone.

All of them.


My dad’s silly message and my sister, clearing her throat and saying “Lalana…”

(The correct pronunciation phonetically would be "Lay-law-knee")

When I e-mailed my sister to tell her how upset I was, she told me about her daughter, who also lost two important messages she wanted to keep when she switched to another mobile phone.

One message was from the man who later became her husband, asking her out on their first date.

And other was Grandpa singing happy birthday to her. Sooo sad…

But, you hafta move on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Importance of Gorilla Tape

It's only a car.
If money can fix it, it's not a problem.
Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014), Car Talk

I had about an hour to rehearse what I was going to say when I walked in the door after going to town to the exercise class and to pick up the mail:

Honey, you’ll never guess what happened…
Honey, I have sort of bad news…
Honey, there’s a slight problem….

But I needn't have wasted my time. As soon as he heard me come in he wanted to know...

What was that horrible noise I heard when you were leaving?

Oh. Well. That was me sideswiping a tree and tearing off the driver’s side mirror. It’s dangling by the cable. It’s a clean break and I think it can be put back in place with some kind of adhesive.

Fixing something like that is rather expensive, but one of the upsides of driving a 23-year-old car is all it takes is a bit Gorilla Tape to hold it in place until he gets around to applying the adhesive and I’m good to go…

Thursday, October 05, 2017

In which I go to a reunion...

Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future….
Next week it will be a month since I left on my vacation, and plunging almost immediately back into the daily routine has distracted me from finishing what I wanted to say about the trip. Richard teases me that his ADD is catching and that I am becoming more like him… easily distracted.

As the plane started to hurtle down the runway on the leg from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Los Angeles, the young man sitting next to me made the sign of the cross, so I knew he had some sort of spiritual foundation. I believe God put him next to me because it would have been a rather miserable flight otherwise.

A young couple with two young children was sitting directly behind us. The girl, who was about 3 years old sat behind me and kicked the back of the seat off and on for most of the flight. Her little brother, who was maybe 18 months (or younger), began to scream and screech almost as soon as the plane left the ground. This was not the regular crying of a tired baby but more like a temper tantrum, and it lasted for most of the time we were flying over Texas (Texas is a b-i-g state). One of the parents ended up camping out in the bathroom with the screaming child until he finally fell asleep.

I couldn’t seem to get my tray table unfastened from the back of the seat, and so my seat mate showed me how to do that (I am badly challenged mechanically), and he showed me how to work the entertainment console on the back of the seat, even though I never did use it because we ended up talking most of the rest of flight. Over the sound of the screaming child we talked a lot about faith, and God's provision, and how God takes care of us. He was one of the most inspiring seat mates I have had on the many flights between here and the West Coast.

I stayed with my sister. I received instructions on how to use my smartphone (about which I am still mostly clueless), I visited our dad just about every day...

went on some outings with my sister, saw sea creatures...

  and beautiful flowers…

 and then I went to the reunion.

A neighbor from down the street who I had lost touch with was there. My boyfriend in the 7th grade, who I did not recognize at first, was also there. Some of the people I most wanted to see did not come, so I was a little disappointed about that, but it was okay. During most of high school I felt like Pluto circling around the bright shining inner circle, but there were actually a few people who did remember me after 50 years.

Each place setting at the table had goodies we would remember from our childhood in the 1950s, including red wax lips and candy cigarettes (which I didn’t appreciate too much).  Folks had a good time with those wax lips.
As a back story to the reunion, there was a large Japanese American population in the city where I grew up, and so there was a large minority of Japanese American students at the high school. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, many of the grandparents and parents (as children) of the students I graduated with had been rounded up and sent to internment camps, one of which was at Manzanar.
Nobody talked about it. I didn't find out this had happened until I was in college. Three of the students in our graduating class made a documentary film, "The Manzanar Fishing Club,"

about some of the men, women, and children who were confined there and found ways to sneak out, either under the barbed wire that surrounding the camp or hidden in vehicles that were part of work crews, and go fishing. One of the social studies teachers at the high school, Mas Okui, was in Manzanar as a child when he was 10 years old, and he was interviewed in the film. He was at the reunion and spoke about it.

One of my Japanese American friends from school sent me the DVD to watch last year and I brought it with me so I could pass it on to someone else at the reunion. But before that, I showed it to my sister’s family. I was surprised to learn that the grandparents of my niece's husband were in Manzanar and that he had gone to school with the granddaughter of another individual who was featured in the DVD. It was connection I never expected.

One would like to think that would never happen again in this country. One would hope.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Day at the Beach

Summer means happy times and good sunshine. 
It means going to the beach...
Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys

The four of us have quite wonderful memories of our camping vacations when we were children. We camped in the mountains, we camped at the state beach parks at San Clemente and Carpinteria.

We camped the old-fashioned way: we slept in tents in sleeping bags on cots or on air mattresses, mom and dad cooked on a white gas Coleman stove, and at night we had a white-gas Coleman lantern with a brightly glowing mantel to light the campsite and flashlights to guide the way to the rest rooms. If you had to “go” after the last trip, then there was a bucket in the tent.

Dad always made “campin’ cocoa” with canned milk diluted with water, sugar, and cocoa powder. And lurking in that last swallow were usually small balls of cocoa that did not dissolve.

Last Saturday the oldest brother decided he wanted to make some “campin’ cocoa” that we were going to take with us to the pier at Hermosa Beach and drink with our pinky fingers in the air. And so we did.

The beach was a hive of activity. That Saturday was a Beach Cleanup Day on the California beaches, and at Hermosa Beach people of all ages were scouring the beach for trash. They were staging and setting up on one side of the pier.

Something very different was happening on the other side of the pier. The Best Day Foundation also had an event. A large group of volunteers were helping children with special needs have an experience that some of them had never had before: a day at the beach.

Children who couldn’t walk were pushed to the shore line in special chairs with wide balloon tires to join those who could walk...

and they waited while men on large surfboards, some of them with rigid seats, helped the children on the boards and took them out to the end of the pier.

On the return trip they waited for the right wave and surfed in to the shore.

Something about this touched my heart, and I found myself crying as I took picture after picture. That afternoon I cried as I tried to tell Richard about it, and I started crying yesterday when I told my friend Judy about it at lunch.

I lost some of the photographs I took because of a memory glitch on my camera but Best Day Foundation was kind enough to let me borrow some of theirs, which is why the surfboards are different colors..

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Paying Attention

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day... fifty the day after that... and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it's—GASP!!—too late.” Stephen King

I would tend to agree with Mr King, but sometimes when you need 1000 words to describe something because you don’t have a picture then you do need those pesky adverbs – and adjectives – to paint the picture.

Now that breeding season is over and the Common Grackles have finished raising this year’s brood, they have begun to gather in large flocks. One such flock roosts at night in a wooded area near the house. On days when it is likely going to be too hot to walk later in the morning, I usually begin walking in that brief period while the sky is still pearly gray, just before the sun breaks the horizon, and by the time I turn around and head back the sun is up, and they birds have roused and have left the roost, making quite a racket as they discuss things among themselves, and are heading off in a group to wherever they spend their days.

They don’t fly in a nice formation like geese would but string out across the sky without much organization, like a black ribbon that seems to go on for a while before the last bird disappears over the trees.

But the other morning as I watched, the black ribbon of birds began to twist and coil and turn back on itself and swirl vertically and horizontally before it straightened out and headed off again. I stopped and watched this amazing spectacle, probably with my mouth gaping.

True, the display of this small flock of Grackles did not rival the amazing film I have seen in nature programs of a murmmeration of starlings, but I never thought I would see anything even close to that in person.

I am so glad I kept watching them instead of just glancing as they took to the air (ho hum, it’s a large flock Grackles and I've seen them just about every day for several weeks, so what?) and then looked at something else.

One morning in early winter when I was walking in the park, a bald eagle came from the woods at the edge of town and flew directly overhead toward the residential area. They do winter in the area, but are usually not that common near the town, so seeing one is sort of a big deal. It flew right over two women who had finished their walk and had cut through the car lot of the dealership that is next to the park. They were looking in the window of a new car and never saw the eagle it because they weren’t looking up.

I realize people can’t pay attention to everything – because after all, if you are paying attention to one thing you can’t be paying attention to something else, but…

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Farewell, Mollywog

Some months ago I started to write a post, and then it petered out and never got finished:

I have returned from the groomer with Molly, and she is stretched out on the couch next to me while I read. Her coarse fur has been shaved, and her warm body feels like velvet as I stroke her. The arch of her ribs is like a knobby fan under my hand, and which rises and falls as she breathes…

We noticed several days ago that something was wrong with her breathing. We took her to the vet yesterday, it looked to him on the x-ray that she had a tumor in her chest that had ruptured and her chest was filled with fluid and blood -- from one area he got pure blood when he tried to draw it off so he stopped. It didn’t look good, he said. He wanted to keep her overnight, but we decided to bring her home.

She was still very groggy from being tranquilized, and we had put her on the floor in her bed, but by the time I went to bed she had recovered enough to to hop up on the couch and stretch out in her spot.

This morning I sat down next to her on the couch, coffee in my right hand, Bible on my lap open to this morning’s reading, and my left hand stroking her fur. And again, her ribs felt like a knobby fan under my hand. Only this morning, there was no rise and fall, because she wasn’t breathing. She had died in the night.

And appropriately enough, this morning’s reading from the Old Testament was the first three chapters of Ecclesiastics

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven…
A time to be born and a time to die….
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.

Today there won’t be much laughing or dancing. But it will come.

 I am going to miss this dog so much.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Going to Plan B and C

Judy and I get our hair cut by the same beautician, Amy. Back in January Amy relocated her beauty salon out in the country—way out in the country—and so Judy and I began to schedule our appointments on the same day and within 30 minutes of each other so we could drive out there together. Judy gets her hair cut every 4 weeks on Wednesday. In the past, I would often wait 6 months to get my hair cut. I am not ready to get my hair cut every 4 weeks, but every 8 weeks works out well, so every other month Judy and I go together.

The original plan was finely crafted. I would get my next hair cut on September 13. On September 14, I would go to Springfield and fly to Los Angeles to see my family and attend my 50th high school reunion. My brother-in-law’s birthday is on September 20, so I would be there for the party and come home the next day. So far so good…. except the plan fell apart.

I was rather dismayed when I went in to stand next to Richard at his computer while he went online to the Web site we always use to arrange airplane flights and discovered the airline is no longer offering morning flights from Springfield to Dallas-Ft. Worth at a reasonable time—the only morning flight now leaves at 6 a.m. (think: get up at 2:30, leave here at 3 a.m., drive 2 hours to Springfield to get there at 5 a.m. to go through the check-in process). And the next flight was at noon. There were no tickets left for that flight on September 14 or on September 13, so I had to schedule the flight on September 12. And instead of arriving in Los Angeles at about 2 p.m., that flight puts me in Los Angeles at 4 pm. Traffic is commonly congested and slow moving on the Los Angeles freeways at any given time, but at 4 pm? Have mercy!! Hardly bears thinking about.

But, breathing a sigh of relief that I was actually able to arrange flights too and from Los Angeles, even if not on the days I wanted or at the time I wanted, I came in and sat back down at my computer and lifted August on the calendar to see September and suddenly realized that I would not be able to get my hair cut on the 13th

Without dragging this out any more, Judy had an appointment today to get her hair cut, and Amy (who was on vacation) when I called last week, returned my call on Monday and told me she could cut my hair after she did Judy’s hair, so that was going to work out, but…

What we've got here is failure to communicate
The Captain (Strother Martin) to Luke (Paul Newman) in Cool Hand Luke

We began meeting at McDonalds so Judy would not have to drive down my driveway, which was a disaster until our neighbor did some work on it, and so we could have coffee after our hair cuts. When I told Judy that Amy would be able to cut my hair as well she said, “I will pick you up then at 9:30…”

So I sat and waited for her to come and pick me up. In the meantime, she was at McDonalds waiting for me to drive in, and then she finally called to find out where I was.
She came and got me, and as I got in I insisted that it was her fault—she should have said “I will meet you at McDonalds.” And we laughed about it. It is so lovely to have a good friend to tease and laugh with.

My hair looks great now, and it should still look good 4 weeks from now when I see these folk, most of whom I haven’t seen for 50 years.