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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

In a precarious place

The place where I walk with the dog in the early morning or in the afternoon when the weather is not quite so hot is a long paved loop that connects at both ends of a church parking lot and wraps around a large pond in front of the building. It is a safe place for us to walk – no cars to dodge. For me, I am not afraid of falling because the road is clean -- there is no gravel or rocks or debris to stumble over. The asphalt is sort of dicey in some spots but easily negotiated. There are plenty of things to keep the dog entertained, from hunting small mammals that scurry around under the tall grass to barking at those big things in the pastures. Ah yes. Barking.

Behind the church is a large pasture that curves around to the east and then comes down the hill and stops at the pavement. Living there are 20 young heifers and steers of various breeds of beef cattle: Black and Red Angus, Herefords, black ones with white faces, and some white and cream colored ones that may be Charolais or Simmental.

I love looking at these cattle. They are on open pasture, so when they lay down to chew their cud in that mesmerizing circular grinding motion, they are not laying in a slurry of excrement and mud as they would if confined in stockyard pens. They are clean. Their hides are glossy and beautiful, especially the Black Angus.

Molly loves to bark at them.

Mostly they ignore her, but occasionally they become curious about this small gray thing bouncing around and making noise at them, so they will come up to the fence and stand in a line watching her.

And then on the opposite side of the loop is the back pasture of a small farm where a herd of goats lives, guarded by 3 big Great Pyrenees dogs.

The dogs know we are there as soon as I slam the car door, and they come trotting up to the woven wire fence, letting us know in their low big-dog voices that they are on the job. They and Molly bark at each other, trading insults, issuing challenges, and explaining how tough they are. She doesn’t seem to care that they could easily be 60 pounds heavier than she is. She lets them “have it.”

And then there are the Killdeer. As soon as we start to walk past the area where I think they have their nests, one will begin running in front us on its twiggy stilt legs, piping continuously as it goes. If the dog stops to sniff something, the bird stops and waits for us and then resumes leading us away from where its eggs are.

Killdeer prefer to nest on bare rocky ground and there is no real nest as such, just a small cleared area. The eggs look like gray stones. They have a habit of choosing very unsafe places to make their nest.

This one sits inches from the asphalt on the frontage road we drive to get to the main road into town.

She has been sitting there for a while. When cars pass next to her she will get up and spread her wings, but I fear one of these times the jerk who deliberately swerved off the road to smash the turtle 2 weeks ago will try to do the same thing to her. Pretending to have a broken wing is not going to stop him. I hope her eggs will hatch soon and she will be able to move her little ones to a safer place.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Deliberate cruelty

Yesterday a report came in on the scanner that someone in a car was seen throwing a kitten out the window while they were speeding down the highway. The car got off at the convenience store, and the local police looked for it but didn't find it, and turned the license plate over to the state patrol.

And this morning when I was driving home, I noticed a a dead turtle in the gravel right of way on the frontage road by our house. The turtle wasn't there when I left the house an hour earlier. I could see from the tire tracks in the gravel that the driver of the car had deliberately swerved off the road to smash it. I stopped to look, and it was a large female full of eggs. So not only did this horrible person go out of his or her way to kill the turtle, he or she wiped out another generation of turtles in doing so.

I get it that people run over animals. I have run over a squirrel in the road, and on our driveway a chipmunk, frogs, and in fact, I ran over a turtle once myself that I did not see because it looked too much like other rocks on the road. They were accidents, and I felt terrible when I saw what had happened.

But to do it deliberately? We are so cruel to each other--killing, maiming, and destroying--that I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it trickles down to all creatures great and small. But at the moment I am having trouble figuring out what to do with all of this anger.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Repeat and rerepeat: The same old story

I have been taking the dog to the vet about three times a week since May 12. Last Tuesday when I made the trip I saw a dragon, a whale, a pig, and a hag, complete with hooked nose and jutting chin, chasing each other across the sky. It was lovely. And then up ahead I saw something that wasn't quite so lovely -- a turkey vulture in the middle of the road picking at the remains of a very large snake that had tried to cross and was almost certainly run over on purpose. I slowed way down and crept along to give the vulture time to think things over and launch itself into the air.

And this was because some years ago when I still worked at the post office, one of the women who delivered the mail on a rural route came up on some vultures having lunch and frightened them badly. At least one of them threw up all over the front of her car. She said it was horrific. I never forgot that story.

From that point on I have always approached vultures on the road very cautiously.

When I got home, I told Richard all about the vulture I saw and about the woman at the post office. She had driven to a house nearby to wash her car off, and the children who lived there later gave her a card with a drawing of a vulture puking on her car. I told him about that too.

He hesitated a minute, and he said…

Don’t you remember you told me very same story about two weeks ago when we went to vet together and there was the group of vultures at the side of the road….

 No. I did not remember until he mentioned it.

I guess I am now at the age where this sort of thing starts happening. It is scary though. Very scary. Hard to know what is “normal” for a geezer and what is not. I have always hoped that my mind would remain "sharp as a tack" as I approach old age and if I live long enough to become an "elderly elder." Now I am not so sure that is going to happen.
I will be making another trip to the vet tomorrow for the dog’s last treatment. No telling what I might see between here and there, but I will think carefully about it before I say anything to him…

Monday, March 27, 2017

No padding here!

I find it rather annoying that authors have forgotten how to have their characters “walk” from room to room. Especially female characters. Oh, sometimes they do walk, but with increasing frequency they seem to “pad” from room to room:

She padded from the bedroom to the kitchen.
She padded from the kitchen to the living room

This usually happens in the morning when she first gets up or in the evening as she is winding down.

And so it goes with variations.

Last night I cracked the window a good 5 inches and fell sleep listening to the chorus of spring peepers in our pond at the edge of our pasture.

And I woke up at 2:45 to thunder and lightening and pouring rain, and it took a while to fall asleep again. Our place has been struck twice by lightening; fortunately, both times it was just the well pump was that damaged, but still. I say fortunately (although replacing the pump wasn’t cheap either time) because a friend at the aerobics class lost her house to a fire caused by lightening. One tends to be a little “concerned” when a thunder-and-lightening storm moves through.

So I was rather groggy when I woke up a little before 5 a.m., and I most assuredly did not “pad” from the bedroom to the bathroom and from there to the kitchen to get my morning cuppa coffee. I might have lurched, staggered, or wobbled. I may even have walked.

As I headed for the coffee pot, I looked at the floor and found myself remembering with surprising clarity the summer of ’62, when I was 12-going-on-13.

Two of my dad’s sisters and their families were going to the Seattle World’s Fair, and Aunt Vera invited me to go along with them. Her oldest daughter, who was the first grandchild born to that generation (I was the second) is about 18 months older than I am. Our ages were close enough that we could really enjoy each others’ company as we grew older.

We stayed in a campground outside of Seattle at the edge of the rain forest. Some of us had a close encounter with stinging nettles. We saw huge yellow slugs. We had a wonderful time. 

Back to the real world: no, giant yellow slugs were not oozing their way across the kitchen floor, but there were 2 (!) garden-variety slugs laying down a trail of slime.

I knew better than to use my fingers (have you ever tried to get slug slime off your fingers?), so I used a scrap of paper to scrape them up and deposit them outside.

And launched myself into the day, profoundly grateful and feeling very blessed to have had such a wonderful Aunt.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Baked projectiles

The daffodils and blooming shrubs are covered with about 2 inches of very wet snow, and I suspect the lizards that have been sunning themselves on the foundations of the house and the porch will once again retreat back to where they go when the temperature is too cold.

This too will pass, of course. It will be in the mid 60s in a couple of days.

He has split the biscuit with a fork around the edge and added blackberry fruit spread to each half. But instead of just picking the biscuit halves and eating them, he begins using the edge of his fork to cut each half in half and eats it that way. With a fork.

Then, a piece of biscuit that he is trying to cut in half shoots out from under the fork and smacks into the plastic bowl of the salad spinner at the edge of the table, leaving a purple smear. He wipes that off with his finger and licks it (no point in wasting good fruit spread). 

Why don't you just pick up the biscuit with your fingers? Why do you have to eat it with a fork? 

With a fork? he says. I need a jackhammer. 

And then begins to laugh, spears the biscuit on his fork and starts eating it and making exaggerated chewing motions.

This is like eating hardtack, he says. 

When I was having dinner with my brother and his wife in November and commented on the wonderful biscuits they served, he said "Bisquick," and then this sweet man sent us a box of Bisquick for Christmas. The biscuits "made from the box" were wonderful, but the Bisquick is gone and Richard is adamant that he does not want to eat "store-bought biscuits." 

So we are back to "same-old same-old"  Just another exciting Sunday morning breakfast, where jaws get the exercise.

Saturday, March 04, 2017 which I am somewhat embarrassed

A family--husband, wife, and son--that recently moved here from Houston has been coming to church for a while, and I arranged to have lunch with the wife, Sue, on Friday. Her birthday is coming up, and I decided before I left to meet her at the restaurant that I would pay for her meal as a present. I grabbed a bill out of the envelope of cash I had just gotten from the bank to cover day-to-day expenses for the next couple of months, which had eight $20 bills and one $10 bill, and stuck it in my pocket.

I don’t carry a purse around town, so that was all I had.

Sue arrived, and I told her I would pay for our food in honor of her birthday. When the cashier gave us the total ($16 and change), I handed her the bill. And she stood there holding it, looking expectant, and repeated the amount, and I said “I gave you a $20,” and she said, “No, you gave me a $10” and she held it up. Sure enough. I had managed to miss all of the $20 bills in the envelope and instead pulled out $10.

Sue stepped into the breach, whipped out her credit card, and said “and we will put the rest of the cost on this…”

Eventually I knew I needed to shut up and stop apologizing, so I did, and we went on to have a pleasant lunch together.

How embarrassed was I? Had a hole opened in the floor, I would have happily crawled in and pulled the linoleum back down on top.

But I have learned a lesson. The next time I decide to do this, I will actually look at what I have in my hand.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Guns and roses

Having heard enough stories about the behavior of family members after the death of an elderly relative—circling like vultures before the person dies and then squabbling like scavengers on the carcass of a dead animal over who will get the choice bits—our mother decided years before she died that we “were not having that in our family.”

So she began making lists of the things she wanted each of us to have, and she didn’t wait until she was dead for some of these things to be passed on.

Some time ago our dad fell and fractured vertebrae in his spine. He spent some time in a nursing home and then recovered enough so he could be moved to a group home, but would never be able to live in the family home again. We moved to that house in early 1960s, and most of the childhood memories of the two youngest in the family are connected with that house. My brothers and sister began the gut-wrenching task of clearing the house so it could be sold.

And the lists came out, and I had a long conversation with the brother who is the executor of the family trust, and he began reading things off the lists that my mother and father had left, making sure that I either had those items already or still wanted them.

I was to get was the butcher knife. The butcher knife? Me? My dad’s sister had given my parents a set of kitchen knives as a wedding present when they got married in 1945. The knife is razor sharp. On the occasions when the four of us have been in the kitchen working to prepare a meal, we would get into good natured “mock arguments” – especially the younger brother and I -- about who was going to get the knife. I think everyone would have liked to have it.

My sister e-mails me and wants to know if I want one of the fine china tea cups my mom loved to collect. She didn’t just collect them and sit them on shelf to gather dust. She gave tea parties and her friends drank tea out of them.

A box arrives. There is the knife, which I will eventually mail to one of the others so they can enjoy it too. There is one of my mother’s teacups...

some aprons, some kitchen towels, the good stainless steal flatware, a stoneware mug I always drank out of when I stayed there on vacation. There is the bobble-head Chihuahua that one of the kids got Dad when it was the Taco Bell promotion. Something is wrong with one of its eyes and it looks sort of creepy.

Another box arrives. Only I have to go to the pawnshop at the end of the road to pick that one up. The two old .22 rifles that our Dad got from his father have arrived. I suppose my brother could simply have boxed them himself and mailed them, and no one would have been the wiser, but he decided to do this legally. This means they have to be shipped from someone with a Federal Firearms License to someone who has a Federal Firearms License, and for me to take possession of them, I have to fill out the ATF Form. I find myself chuckling under my breath as I answer “no” to questions wanting to know, among other things, if I am…
  • a felon…
  • a fugitive from justice…
  • addicted to illegal drugs or controlled substances…
  • mentally defective (well, Richard might have an opinion about that)
  • in the country illegally
And one day a big Mercedes sedan pulls up in front of the house. This man was the lowest bidder at a shipping Web site that my sister used to find someone to pick the desk up and bring it here. He had a truckload of stuff, but by the time he reached Oklahoma, where he lives, my desk was the only thing left and so he wrestled it into his car. I used the desk throughout high school and college, dad took it over when I moved out and used it to prepare Bible study lessons and funeral speeches and wedding ceremonies...

 and now it is here. 

And a chapter in our lives is about to end.

My niece writes:
Said goodbye to my Grandpa and Grandma's house today for the last time before it is sold. While this collage might seem like pictures of random little things, these things are packed full of wonderful happy memories for me. I have so many memories at this house I could fill a novel. From tea parties and puzzles with my Grandma, to snacking on loquats on the bench swing in the backyard and spitting the seeds with my Grandpa, I could fill pages with these memories…

A lot of tears have been shed…

The house has been sold, and escrow is supposed to close on March 2. Another family with two little boys will be moving in. I hope they have as much joy in that house as we had.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Forever 33

As each year passed in our son's life and we celebrated that birthday, the details of what we did become just a tad fuzzy.

We had a party for the extended family when he turned 1 year old, but by the time his second birthday arrived, we had moved to Oregon and we were the only family, so birthdays were rather quiet, usually with just us to honor the day.

The birthday I remember the best was his 4th birthday, when we were in Oregon. He was obsessed with trains – indeed, the first words he spoke that could be construed as a sentence were “go by by car train.” So for that birthday, I took him and the blanket (he carried the blanket with him everywhere he went) for a ride on the Amtrak train. It was commuter train, so there were frequent stops. It didn’t cost that much and we didn’t go very far – maybe 25 or 30 miles. We got off at the next town were there was depot, waited a while, and got on the return train headed back the other way. The joy on his face was worth every penny the tickets cost.

After we moved here, we did take some pictures with the cake at each birthday when he was young, and because we did not have a flash attachment for the camera, these were always outside. It was always chilly, and sometimes there was snow on the ground. Were we taking pictures outside this year for his birthday, we would be in shorts and t-shirts it is that unseasonably hot.

When he was 6, one of the ducks roaming the yard thought we might have something interesting for her to eat. We were somewhat worried that she was going to fly up on the cake pan and help herself, which she was showing every indication of doing. I believe Richard chased her away.

He will forever be 33 years old. Had he lived, he would have been 40 years old tomorrow. I can hardly get my mind around that.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I don't wanna talk about "him"

We heard a very good sermon Sunday on Micah 6:8: “This is what the Lord requires: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

She brought out ways in which we can as individuals can do justice and love kindness.

And then she drew on the analogy of her experiences walking her Labrador Retriever and later, a Golden Retriever, to point out how we do and do not walk humbly with our God. It was perhaps not a perfect analogy, but it was hilarious—and quite thought provoking—as she described her powerful dog dragging her down the street, not wanting to go where she wanted to go, seeking out stinky stuff to roll in, and generally not letting her be the leader in the same way that we tend to be willful and stubborn and don’t want to let Him lead us.

Richard pointed out to her afterward that these problems also afflict owners of small dogs that weigh less than 20 pounds. She wants to go her way, bark at and challenge other dogs, chase after stuff she can't possibly catch, stop to investigate every smell and leave her mark on it, roll around in stinky stuff. Every time I have walked the dog since Sunday morning, I have thought about how much like her I actually am.

It has become obvious that the man who is in charge of this country right now does not appear to do justice, or love kindness, as evidenced in the aftermath of his ban on travel from Middle Eastern countries starts to play out—with students unable to return to school and families separated because the husband or wife can’t get back into the country. Neither does he seem to be walking humbly with his God.

The other day we were eating lunch and I looked up and Richard was staring at me. I went back to shoveling in the food and looked up again and he was still staring at me.

What? Why are you staring at me?

I am trying to think of something to talk about that isn’t about Trump. I don’t wanna talk about him. It’s going to end up that he is all we talk about, and I don’t want him to be the topic of all of our conversations.

I agree.

I don’t wanna talk about him either.

Monday, January 02, 2017

In the Memory Bank

A few weeks ago while I was having lunch with a friend at a restaurant in town, woman and her husband walked in with another couple. If one were serving a platter of gossip at a meal, this woman’s reputation could fill it and overflow. Although I know I was wrong to even think about gossiping about her, I am pleased that I did not follow through. I said nothing about her to my friend.

I started wondering whether gossip is one of the seven deadly sins. I know my friend was raised Lutheran so I thought perhaps she might remember what the seven deadly sins were and if so, was gossip one of them? She said she didn’t think so. Had either of us been carrying a smart phone we could have whipped them out and done an Internet search right then and answered the question, but  at the time both had very dumb phones, so we just talked about it a while.

I began telling her about the thriller Seven, which told the story of two police officers on the trail of a serial killer who murdered his victims (one was actually still alive when found) by posing them to be symbolic of these seven deadly sins. I knew the movie starred Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, and Gwyneth Paltrow. I could see the face of the actor who played the killer but I couldn’t remember his name. I struggled for a while, and then gave up, only to finally remember, a few minutes later, that it was Kevin Spacey.

We began talking and laughing about memory and ways to compensate. She uses lists to help her keep track of short-term things. “This has been happening to me for a long time,” she says. Not sure what the solution is for "long-term" memory retention.

Then a few days ago when I saw the icon of the program we chose to watch off one of the Internet services I commented to Richard that one of the actors was sitting in an egg-shaped chair exactly like the one Will Smith sat in while he was taking the examination in the movie…  and my mind went blank and I couldn’t remember the name of the movie. He stumbled a bit and said Men in Black.

And we laughed, trying to reassure ourselves that this is just normal for our age, me trying to beat back the frisson of fear. My mother watched several close friends die of Alzheimer disease, and she was terrified of getting it herself. And for that reason some years earlier she had began working Sudoku puzzles to try to keep her mind active. I believe she was actually relieved to find out she would be dying of cancer instead.

I get what she was afraid of, I really do. This “memory thing” is one aspect of getting older that I really am having trouble with. The reassurance that it is normal for “my age” is somewhat reassuring, but the inability to instantly remember stuff is still rather frustrating.

As part of the worship service of the church we started attending in the spring of 2015, the congregation recites as an affirmation of our faith the Apostles’ Creed on the Sundays that we don’t receive communion. I have never made an attempt to memorize this. I just read it off the laminated pew card.

On Sunday mornings I leave the house at 7 a.m. to take the dog on our morning walk so I can return in time to fix breakfast and clean the kitchen before we get ready to leave for the service. I usually don’t think about too much very significant as I walk along with her – I contemplate what I am going to write about next on the blog, or I offer up little prayers for people who come to mind, or my mind just wanders a bit. Yesterday though, as I watched a heavy fog bank approach from the south and then settle down over the land, with the leading tendrils of fog flowing over the hills, suddenly running unbidden through my mind was the Apostles’ Creed…
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by
the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried…
There it was, the whole thing – without making a mistake or missing word. I was literally walking through a cloud rather than walking on one but it felt wonderful.