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Monday, November 9, 2015

Sunday Morning Laundromat

Johnny Cash had a hit single, enumerating his discoveries while walking down a Sunday morning sidewalk after a Saturday night of revelry. The juxtaposition between the wholesomeness of small town Sundays and the physical, emotional, and spiritual pangs of small town Saturday night bars are palpable.

This is not that sort of story…

Sitting in a Laundromat at a time on Sunday morning when I should have been sitting in church. I pay dis-interested attention to the parade of other patrons lugging their plastic baskets or over-sized trash bags crammed nearly to bursting through the single door.

The d├ęcor is a very accurate representation of 1960’s vintage government office building. Neutral colored walls devoid of any type of decoration to stimulate any visual or mental activity are complemented by 7 cold gray plastic chairs which have been endorsed  by the American Chiropractic Association;  they are guaranteed to throw out anyone’s back thus generating  business for the local bone-cracker.

Oh, being in a Laundromat isn’t so odd…it was a weekly ritual my first 3 years of college.  Even after marrying my Lovely Bride, we still schlepped clothes, soap, and babies off to the village’s one of 2 do-it-yourself facilities.

And, over the course of Life from time to time, when a machine would take a dive and then give up the ghost, off we would go; over loaded baskets in the trunk of the car and inevitably realizing after arriving at the Laundromat the detergent was right where we left it by the front door.

So, it is not the fact our Whirlpool has opted to not spin, nor the fact the fix-it-guy has a somewhat casual approach toward customer service which is most disconcerting- it is being a sixty-something married bachelor. Doing laundry on a Sunday morning when I should be in my regular spot in the congregation.

I can’t take credit for the phrase “married bachelor”- in fact it was uttered by the fix-it-guy during his “yup-it’s-the-clutch-I-don’t-have-the-part-have-to-wait-till-Monday”s visit yesterday. I reluctantly accepted the truth of his words.

Oh, not the Dan Akroyd/Steve Martin “Wild and Crazy Guys” type of bachelor. Nor the Lake Wobegon Norwegian bachelor farmer social misfit immortalized by Garrison Keillor either.

I ticked through the list of notable bachelors in my mind.

I am neither the Felix Unger overly OCD neat-freak, nor the Oscar Madison quintessential slob.

Definitely not the Jim Rockford, sports-car driving type. Most people are put off by Bess, my 18 year old Jeep. She is the antithesis of a four wheeled chick-magnet. She is more of a vehicular chick repellent, actually.

I am most definitely not the sophisticated man-about-town, lady on each arm type of bachelor.

No, I am nothing like any of the above.

I am…well… me. Married to LB, patiently and prayerfully awaiting her recovery and return to our home.

Tomorrow, the 10th   it will be four months to the day that LB’s, my and our entire family’s lives were inexorably altered.  As of yet-with dramatic physical and neurological progress on LB’s part aside-our lives are still altered; with no end-date forecast.

All of which explains why I am sitting in this particular place at this particular time. With work, caring for dogs and visiting LB, Saturday and Sunday are the only times I can cram five days of household duties into two.

So, I am up very early, cleaning, sweeping, watering plants, feeding the backyard birds, grocery shopping, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

Usually, while I am performing the above, the washer and dryer happily chug along, performing their tasks. Alas, for the past 10 or so days now they have sat idle. Oh sure, the washer fills, agitates, drains and repeats- it simply does not spin the water out.

Opening the lid reveals a sodden intermingled mass, not the nicely damp centrifugal force arrayed items; eagerly awaiting a spin in the dryer. I am thereby faced with some options:
11)  Wringing the wet items out by hand, hoping the majority of water actually makes it to the sump,
22)   Loosely drape the dripping things over step ladders and odds and ends of stuff, allowing the water to run willy-nilly on the laundry room floor, in the hopes the majority actually makes it to the sump,
33)     Say “forget it”, toss the drenched, dripping pile en mass  inside the dryer, set that sucker on Turbo Dry, and hope for the best.

None of the above is a truly satisfactory solution. I have tried them all.  All more than once.  The only real solution, aside from popping for a new machine, was to call the fix-it guy.

We have used him for close to 20 years now. He used to be more responsive, willing to stop at night on his way home from his last appointment. Now… he has slowed down more than just a bit. His primary concern after his last appointment now seems to be getting home to dinner.

When once all it took was one phone message and he would be at the door, it now takes a couple messages, one or two conversations, re-hashing the ills of the World and all who are in it, and then hoping he doesn’t forget we even talked. 

It is really sad to see how far down the hill the poor guy has slid. Sure glad none of that has happened to me.

So, here I am….in the Laundromat, shaking my head in amazement that it now takes as much money to start one machine as would have washed and dried 2 full loads when I was in college all the while trying to ignore the gentle guidance of a mother to her child;”What the *&^% are you doing?!  You can’t fit in the washing machine!”

With a wistful smile on my face, I think:

I sure hope the fix-it guy can find the part. And he remembers to show up.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

So long, Old Sharp

I knew it was a question of “when”; the inevitable “if” being a foregone conclusion. Still, one is never fully prepared when the news is received.

With a series of pops, snaps, buzzes, sparks, flashes, flames and smoke; our trusty microwave announced it demise the other day. As disturbing as this was, I was most profoundly impacted with the collateral loss of my roast beef and potatoes innocently expecting a gentle thermal increase.

While scraping the ash and debris speckled dinner into the trash, I tried to recall when we obtained this particular microwave. In all honesty, it was probably during Clinton’s first term. Face it, a microwave has become a purely utilitarian device. No longer a kitchen luxury, and as awe inspiring as a bowl of instant oatmeal they are just---well--- there.

My thoughts wandered over the years, as I retrieved a pan and lid, placed a new batch of roast beef and potatoes in it to warm. A twist of a knob, a “foomp” of gas igniting; and my meal was under way. Old school, yes.

I remembered that back in the 1960’s they were called “Radar Ranges” What a wonderful name! It bespoke of the times; the Cold War was raging, the Space Race was full on. Planes were flying faster, higher, and farther. Technology was emerging, and all was good; or so we thought. It just sounded so with-it, so cool, as if the Great American Marketing Machine were proclaiming “HA! Take that, Godless Commies! We are so advanced we COOK with radar!”

So it was that one evening, my Dad came home more excited than a kid on Christmas Eve.  He had heard a new restaurant was opening the next town over—AND---they cooked everything with RADAR!

The following Friday, we piled into the Pontiac, and headed west. I can’t recall the name of the place, or even the location. I was perhaps 11, and my dinner was going to be cooked by the same stuff seeking out Russian bombers trying to sneak across Canada!

I do recall waiting in line, the atmosphere fairly abuzz, no pun intended. Had we been paying attention to the countenances of the exiting diners, we may have been somewhat less enthusiastic.

Finally, we were seated. A review of the fairly simple menu, orders placed, and we eagerly waited what The Future would hold. Literally and figuratively; after all, we were sampling the New Day of cooking! A culinary revolution would soon be placed beneath our very noses!

After what seemed half an eternity, with all the fanfare usually assigned to the hanging up of a used dish-rag; dinner was served.

As it turned out, the presentation was apropos for the culinary delights. Our individual plates all held variations upon the theme of monochromatic gray. Be it beef, chicken, potato, or beans; all looked blandly, un-appetizingly, similar. On the positive side it was hot, I do remember that.

I also recall the placed folded about six months later.

The Seventies ushered in an era of God only knows what. The upstart Radar Range was now being subtly referred to as a “micro-wave”. 

This was more fitting to the times; because all we were saying is give Peace a chance. Microwave was much more palatable. Rather than huge, Russkie bomber hunting radar waves cooking one’s food; the much more benign “microwave” worked all the wonders.

A little, bitty, nice friendly wave; just like the ones found on a calm, relaxing day at the beach. Only they are in your kitchen, for a mere grand.

But, like all technological wonders, the price began to drop. Do you remember when a basic desktop calculator was about a hundred bucks?

Being the practical family we are (remember, LB and I had 4 children) we didn’t jump on that bandwagon any time soon. We finally broke down and got our first one in the late seventies or early eighties. The thing broke a couple of times, and we had it repaired. The last time it quit, we discovered it was cheaper to replace it. So we did.

That one also died, and was replaced. With six people in family, that bad boy got a real work-out. It also died and was replaced by a Super-Duper sale one. It was too small, too under-powered, and in general not well received.

I don’t know what became of that one only that the lately departed had arrived. And now… it has been ceremoniously committed to the dumpster at the end of the drive.

I rather like not having the thing there. I don’t need a kitchen appliance with more complex controls and computing power than John Glenn’s spacecraft used, lurking over my shoulder.  We didn’t really cook in the thing. We don’t consume micro-wave popcorn. We have a stove, we have pots and pans.

Hmm…maybe we can start a new Foodie Trend---RETRO WARMING!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Voices in the Dark

The other night, I overheard the most remarkable discussion. As utterly ridiculous as it may sound, I could have sworn I heard Ike and Mimi having a conversation. Oh, I know it sounds completely absurd, and folks will speculate I had been nipping at Grandpa’s cough syrup, but I know what I heard.

In the small hours of the morning, while tucked away cozily in bed, Mimi snoring by my side, I heard a wee little voice: “Mimi! Mimi! You awake?” coming from downstairs. “Naww…” I thought while blinking my sleep heavy eyes.

“I am now.” I heard a voice beside me say. “What is it? A burglar?”

“No, nothing that cool. Boy, would I run him off!”

“Sure, Junior. You just keep thinking like that.” She emitted a big yawn, then “Good night, Ike.”

“No wait! I saw something big eating LB’s hostas.”

“Yes. They are known as “White-tailed deer”. The Latin name is Odocoileus Virginianus. They are so named because the early settlers, at least the ones who bothered to record such arcane things, encountered them in the Virginia Colony.”


“They are a member of the ungulate genus, along with moose, caribou, horses, camels, and other such hoofed mammals.”

“Who’s late?”

“No one is late, you Bil-Jac head! Un-gu-late… a hoofed mammal!”

“Oh, cool.”

By now, I was upright in bed, frantically mashing buttons on my phone. I was amazed! A dog which I had always assumed had the IQ of a banana was absolutely right!

“Hey, Mimi?”

“What Ike?” I detected a slight tone of annoyance in her voice now.

“How did you learn all this stuff?”

“Well, after 12 years of reading the guy who is married to LB’s  Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Field and Stream magazines, some things sunk in, I guess.”

“Ahhhh, I see. Thanks, Meem.”

“No problem, Little Buddy. Good night.”

Silence settled over the house for a short period. Then….

“Mimi…you awake?”

“Yes, Ike, I am awake” she replied in an icy tone.

“Why don’t they call those deer “Whatever you said Ohionus”?

“At that period of our nation’s history, Ohio didn’t exist. It was part of the continent which was disputed between France and England. Settlement was highly discouraged, not only for political reasons, but also safety.”

“Safety? Why? Were there monsters?”

“No, no monsters that were known. The indigenous peoples of the area had, for the most part, a decidedly less than receptive view of illegal immigration than their counter-parts to the East and Northeast. “

“Oh. Hey, are there many deer around?”

“Oh my, yes! The white-tail subspecies we have here is the most widely naturally distributed large mammal in North America. It is by far the most common large mammal in the State. In the late 1960’s there were about 17,000 deer in all of Ohio. Today, there are estimated to be 700,000 plus.”

“Wow! I think about half of them visit LB’s garden.”

“So, don’t worry, Little Buddy, they won’t harm you. Unless, of course, you irritate a buck during mating season, then all bets are off.

“Okay, thanks, Mimi. I feel better. Good night.”

“Good night, pal.”

I snuggled under the blankets, my mind trying to decipher what had just transpired. I gave the pillow a couple of adjustment thumps. Sleep was gently overtaking me, when I heard it…

“Mimi! Mimi! What is this thing!?”

“What now, Ike?” she replied rather snappishly.

“This thing is really weird! It has a white head, with a sort of long snout and a kind of a pig nose. The ears look like little pieces of black leather. It has this really kind of scruffy gray fur, and it looks like little tiny hands for feet. And, the tail! It has no hair at all!”

“Ahhhh, yes. You have just met a member of Didelphis virgininana…or the Virginia opossum, most often referred to simply as “’possum”.  Did you know they are marsupials?”

“Really? Wow! No I didn’t. Uh… what is a marsupial?”

“A mammal with an external pouch in which it carries yet unborn babies while they mature to their birth size. A kangaroo is a marsupial.”

“Wow! Pretty strange, huh?”

“Actually, they are fascinating little creatures, Let me explain….”

At that point, I pulled the pillow over my head as Mimi’s Biology lecture droned on.

Before I fell asleep, I made a mental note to lock up my outdoor magazines.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Joy and Tears

Do you believe there can be humor and joy amidst the tears?

I know, I know… it is a dichotomous thought. So totally ludicrous, the height of incongruity;  it is one that is hardly worth even considering.

Yet, we have found humor, and laughter, joy, and peace amidst the tears, the uncertainty, and the emotional vacuum which has drained us all.

At one point, while LB was in a very serious state; barely able to speak, and sleeping nearly around the clock, one of our granddaughters and I were visiting her. She was lying mostly motionless, drifting in and out of sleep as I read the new stack of cards she had received. We noticed her toes wiggling. Just for the sake of asking a totally stupid question, I said “Is there a baby Bulldog down by your feet?” With her eyes still closed, not hesitating a moment, she replied clear as ever; “Believe it or not…there is!” Our beautiful grand-daughter paused from her task of taping the cards to the cabinet and wall; we stared at one another, and burst out laughing. As we were reveling in this bit of humor, LB chuckled, knowing she had made a joke which was well appreciated.

There were those moments when she was transitioning to regular food; traversing the path of pureed and then “mechanically softened” (read; ground to a near mush), and finally to a full regular diet that will remain with me for the remainder of my life. There were times I would make an effort to be with her at meals, not only to keep her company, but to encourage her to eat.  One evening, while she was laboring her way through God only knows what it was, she set her fork down after about 4 bites. We talked for a few moments, then I encouraged her to have some more. She looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes, the most serious of expressions on her face and informed me; “I am finished. This tastes like crap. I refuse to eat any more crap.”  The culinary wonders of ketchup were once again proven. A few squirts and the meal became palatable, to a degree.

As she has become more active, she has perfected getting around the rehabilitation center by scooting her feet while seated in her wheel-chair. This is a temporary form of locomotion; as her legs are becoming stronger. However, she soon discovered that by hanging out by the front door, she could slip out when people were entering or exiting. The concern arose that she really shouldn’t be outdoors alone. The yard/parking area slope gently downward and it would take nothing for her to go rolling off. The possible end results are not terribly good; so, it is best for someone to be with her.

However, given her sweet personality, and ability to befriend people the decision was made to put an alarm on her chair. All of which worked. For awhile.

I knew it was a merely a matter of “when” and not “if”, but LB figured out she could switch from her chair to a non-monitored chair, and VOILA!—the great outdoors are hers to conquer. She was discovered the other evening, trying to convince the driver of a transport ambulance to drop her off at the mall!

After the circumstances of what happened, and all the dust settled we got a good chuckle out of that one. The nursing staff was giggling away as they put the guard on her ankle. It’s okay, though; for now she calls it a lock-box, and thinks one of our daughters made it for her.

She has a group of lady friends. They have meals together, they play cards together, the go to the music programs and such, they cruise the halls together. I call them “Cindy and her posse”. Some staff members think she is forming a coalition of constituents and will run to be elected President of the Resident’s Committee. Or the Big Cheese of the place.

During the seeming never-ending sameness of our days for the moment, these little flashes of humor burst upon the scene with an unexpected brilliance and wonder not unlike a fireworks display against the inky backdrop of a summer night sky.

But, the one thing which never fails to bring the biggest smile to my face, and lightens my burden the most is simply holding her hand; me walking, her rolling along. Just being together, hearing the musical sound of her voice, seeing the wonder of the Inner LB through her eyes.

Then recalling just how close we came to having to relinquish her to the One who created this wonderful person.

That is the greatest Joy of all. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Lessons I Have Learned During LB's Illness

I have always endeavored to learn what I can from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes. Also, I have tried to learn from the other stuff Life throws my way.

Sometimes, the lessons have been profound, learned at an early age; "Don't chew gum found on the underside of theater seats."

Sometimes, the lessons are less profound, yet equally impactful; "Darn! I should have paid attention to the weather forecast! It is pouring, and I don't have a jacket!."

Regardless, I do try to find a nugget, however small, in each occurrence in my life. With that in mind, allow me to proceed....

-I hate coming home to an empty house. Even with two dogs to greet me, it is an empty house.

-I hate leaving her at the rehabilitation facility at night.

-Had LB and I taken an hour with an attorney to have prepared Powers of Attorney documents, it would have been a lot simpler, cheaper, and significantly less stressful than dealing with courts.

-Buying groceries for one is a pain. A gallon of milk becomes yogurt before it is used up. A loaf of bread becomes bird food, and a dozen eggs wind up being cooked in the micro-wave for dog-food add-ins.

-After more than 42 years of marriage, you don't ever get used to going to bed alone, and waking up alone.

-Our children and in-law children are indispensable. They have been absolutely fantastic during this time.

-Our grandchildren truly are deserving of the term “great". They have been supportive and caring toward their Grandma from the beginning.

-It is true. Don't sweat the small stuff. And, the vast majority of things are small stuff.

-While man can live on frozen waffles alone, it isn't the best dietary choice. Even with justifying butter as getting one's dairy requirements.

-I will no longer get irritated when I can once again receive a text message from LB. Not even when I am in an “important meeting”. No meeting is that important.

-I miss hearing the silly, goofy things of her day. Now, it is therapy, therapy, and more therapy.

-We have all had those day-dreams about how wonderful it would be on our own. We can do what we want, when we want; and no one to tell us the difference.
Well, it isn't wonderful
It completely stinks.

-True friends have been, and will be, there through it all.

-Some friends have vanished like the morning mist after the sun rises.

-When some people say “We'll pray for you”; they don't

-When some people say “We'll pray for you”; they don't stop praying.

-Don't put too much stock in the dire predictions of the medical experts. LB has been proving them utterly wrong. Daily.

-Don't sell yourself short. There is a vast reserve of strength deep within.

-Remember to water the flowers and plants. Unless you enjoy replacing the ones which have died.

-Each day holds a promise of hope. Don't allow it to be obscured by temporary clouds.

-LB is an incredibly strong, determined, tough woman---much more so than I have ever thought.

-The Lord was right. He won't leave you, or forsake you.

-Regardless of the outcome, LB and I have made this journey together.

-1 Corinthians 13:15 is right. “And now these three remain; Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summit to Valley

A bit more than two weeks ago, or a fortnight; for my readers in the U.K., I was enjoying an extended time of Life Being Good while relaxing on the summit of some now forgotten mountain.

Within a matter of moments, I found myself plunging wildly into a valley the depths, darkness, and endlessness of such I have never encountered. This reckless ride was triggered by a phone call, from our very responsible 17 year old grandson, telling me my Lovely Bride had become suddenly, and extremely seriously ill while working out with her trainer.

It was not an overly rigorous workout, in fact, they were just warming up.  It was not an overly hot or humid day; rather it was somewhat pleasant. It just happened. By the Grace of God, the local fire station was literally next to the park they were at; the local hospital within a half mile. Still, LB was very, very ill.

I cannot say we are out of the woods; but I can feel confident in saying we are coming to the end of the stinking swamp which had threatened to consume us.  When just a few days ago, darkness was all around, with no hint of sunlight (or moonlight, for that matter) to be found. Now, the glint of brightness peeks through the leaves with  more frequency.

Our journey along this trail is far from ending. In fact, it seems as if we are just now finally preparing to leave the trail head. I try not to get my hopes too high, as several times plans had changed, or been delayed due to never-ending paperwork, forms, verification and what not.

LB would not have recovered to the state she is currently in were it not for the countless prayers of literally thousands of people around the globe. I shall be eternally grateful to every person, for every prayer offered on her behalf. It boggles my mind when I stop to consider there is a continual, 24-hour-a-day barrage of prayer upon Heaven  for her. Believers in Europe, Australia, South America, Africa, the Pacific Islands, Alaska... on and on... I don't know whom all of you are, however, I am very deeply indebted to each person.

We are blessed with a extraordinary support group. Our children, later-in-life-through-marriage children, our grandchildren, friends beyond number; the care, assistance, support has all be overwhelming and very humbling. I can never repay you all for your help, your warmth, your concern for the two of us. Even if it was listening to me vent, and overlooking my lack of charm at times.

I have noticed one thing interesting from the valley perspective.

Only from the valley floor can one truly appreciate the splendor and majesty of the mountains. That view is lost to us from the summit. I know LB and I will be back on the summit once again.

Until then, please keep her in your prayers and good thoughts.
I thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Verse

A poignant, touching original verse in honor of Father's Day 
by  J.E. Hopkins 

P is for the Patience youse had when I did dumb stuff
O is for the Offerin’ of time youse made in my life
P (again) is for Passin’ the Skills of being an adal..adol… a Grown-up to me
S is for the Smarts needed to raise a bunch of kids

you are Tops!