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Archive for April, 2010

Yesterday, after all the moaning and complaining about furniture hauling, and obligatory dinner engagements, amid my feeble attempt to elevate window gazing to some kind of esoteric past time; the sun came out and ruined the ambiance. Suddenly through the glare and reflection of the double glazing I saw something that disturbed me. With thinning gray hair, and unshaven face, I looked the part of the curmudgeon, all too often portrayed by lonely old men. Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, had turned it into an art form, unfortunately  I’m not vying for the Oscar this year.

The Face In The Window.

My ‘son in law to be’ called to tell me, he didn’t need my help after all, making it all the more difficult to deny the obvious, but not enough to stop me from grumbling to my wife about our evening dinner plans.  Reluctantly I frumped my way to the shower, and made my best effort to remove the veneer I had glimpsed in the windowpane. With a clean shave, and a definable part in my hair, the least I could do is look the part of a willing participant when the door opened to the hosts home.

Sometime between exiting our front door and arriving at the wood and glass paneled door of their two story Tudor, my foul mood had lightened, retreating with the rain that had arrived earlier in the week. Donna and Howard, transplants from the Boston and Arizona are good people. Witty, but thankfully they lack that uncomfortable sophistication that makes me uneasy around PhDs. I think that’s why I like them so much.

The evening went well. Alice, remember Alice, and Lenny were there too. The Amulet that keeps Alice’s Forgetful Demons at bay was no where to be seen, but it’s power appeared to be shielding her from their debilitating curse. She was on her game and she knew it, asking questions and responding appropriately, I was pleasantly surprised. Lenny, I think  if I had to select an author to describe Lenny’s mental state, Edgar Allen Poe probably would do it best. “While I nodded, nearly napping…” It’s sad in a word, as he struggles to stay abreast of the conversation, with his hearing failing I’m not sure how much of the dialog he is getting.

My father in-law, gentle, stubborn, proud, hanging on to life, sometimes I don’t understand why, or how he finds the strength. The translucent skin that covers his hands reminds me of rice paper. The thick blue veins just beneath, blood pumping relentlessly. Hands once steady, now quiver ever so slightly, not from the cold, or parkinsiens, just old age. Fine porcelain fingers long and thin, the fingers of a musician. Time is ticking, I hear it, my wife hears it too, but no one wants to talk about it. It’s as if, as long as we ignore it, it will stay away on holiday.

Through out the evening the conversation was light, favorite movies, and how couples had met. I was surprised as my wife delicately skirted any details involving the early months of our courtship in front of her parents. A woman nearly sixty years old still worried that her mother might find out she was a bit on the wild side. I didn’t push it, but I found it amusing.

Honey, since your parents don’t have a computer I will say it here.  I’ll always remember Alcova  Reservoir, Wyoming  February of 1982, ever so fondly.

Talk to you later.

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Within twelve minutes of getting out of bed I’ve received one phone call, and placed two others, all tied to events that could potentially put into motion, social commitments that will alter my do nothing weekend plans.

One Those Lazy Rainy Days.

I’m what some may consider a social recluse, okay recluse might be a bit over the top, but given the choice between sitting at home to watch a gentle spring rain, and move a couch in the cold wet downpour… The gentle repose while watching mother nature from a warm chair sounds like a no brainer.  So why am I calling my ‘son in law to be’ to ask him if I can be a part of his redecorating plans? I know, I know… “some day there might be grandkids, you want us to be a part of that don’t you?”  Hmmm… Moving a couch, babysitting a cranky three year old, while it’s parents are away in Vegas for the weekend, or watching it rain. This is a trick question right? I called.

Exhaling a momentary breath of relief when the voice mail picked up, I pulled the receiver away from my head as the recording yelled in my ear to leave a message. The temptation to hang up and run was nearly over welming, but with caller ID; my reach out and touch someone moment had been digitally captured. I left the message. Now I sit and wait, all plans are on hold, my do nothing weekend has been interrupted. I have ceased doing nothing, to do nothing while I wait. See what an active social life can do to you?

The other call was from a woman who thought it might be fun to get together for dinner with them and my in laws; Alice, remember Alice? and Lenny. I’ve written about Alice and Lenny in the past, dear people who are going through the trials of being octogenarians. Hearing losses  accompanied with losses of vision are the more obvious symptoms. Bouts with questionable  lucidity, tempt that the question be asked; should these two be running the show on their own?

Alice has taken to wearing a small egg timer around her neck, like some kind Talisman to ward off those ‘Forgetful Demons’ that occasionally plague her. She proudly assures my wife, her daughter, that her Egg Timer Talisman allows her to leave the kitchen with burners blazing, confident it’s gentle ding will remind her to check the soup on the stove. A solid plan as long as you remember to set said timer. So far her Amulet has been able to keep the Forgetful Demons at bay, at least in the kitchen anyway. I think I may have to step in when I see the string around her finger, to remind her to set the timer, that reminds her that the soup is ready. Crap getting old sucks.

Talk to you later.

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Fifty years old, a bench mark of sorts considering my reckless youth. This weekend, Sunday I will be turning fifty. When you’re twenty it sounds so old, now it sort of has a ring to it. Seventy five is now my new fifty; down the road far enough that it’s not a threat, but still looming in the distance.

I’ve never been a big fan of birthday celebrations, surprise parties, the sing-a-longs at those family dinning establishments, they annoy me to no end; the group of waitresses and bus-boys gathering round to serenade some poor patron who accidentally let it slip that it was his birthday while ordering a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.

Over the past fifty years years I’ve seen huge changes in technology and styles. Womens fashions come and go and seem to return anew. Men’s fashion? Do we really have fashion? Polyester leisure suits, platform shoes, mullet style hair cuts, the AMC Pacer and eight track tapes, the  zenith of fashion and technology, gone never to return. Going to the airport to meet friends or family at the gate, times have changed. The things you could make in art class have evolved too, I remember giving my mother an ashtray for Mothers’ Day, I can’t imagining that happening in any art class of 2010.

In our house the standard rule was, you could have an official birthday party inviting over friends on your eight birthday. I don’t remember too much about mine, a couple of faces, a name or two. It’s funny how something that seemed so important back then fades to a Larry or a Norman but nothing more. It’s odd how insignificant moments come to mind with striking clarity. Favorite times are the catalysts for total recall; playing Frisbee Dodge Ball until some one gets hurt, or Star Light Moon Light until the neighbors call to complain, calling out Hand Check! in a crowded restaurant; Mom instinctively raising her hands above the table with the rest of us, then blushing while scolding us for causing a scene, those were good times.

Fifty years, that’s a lot of water under the bridge.

My First Scary Movie Came Out In 1960.

The music of the sixties had a greater influence on me in the Eighties, I felt like I was out of step with the rest of my friends  as they listened to the BeeGees, I was getting Experienced.

Just A Bit Out Of Step

I remember eating Hamburger Helper at the dining room table in Colorado Springs, as we watched Neil Armstrong take that Big Step and never looked back.

Our World Was Never The Same.

I learned that trusting the Government was a thing of the past. Starting with tricky Dick my faith in the government was jaded for ever. We’ve had run of bad luck.

The Presidency Has Had A Thirty Eight Year Dry Spell

The late seventies and early eighties were a bit of a blur, too much alcohol, and this stuff nearly ruined me.

My Favorite Song of The Eighties, "Cocaine" by J.J. Cale

I married my wife in 1982; before that spiral got too tight, we have three great kids, life is good.

My Co-Pilot

This is the woman that saved me from myself, the choice wasn’t as easy as it sounds; buy a much needed truck and she stays, or buy two thousand dollars worth of nose candy and she leaves, I bought the truck.

The Beard Comes And Goes, But That's My Jake.

My oldest Jacob, Butcher of Wood, Baker of Bread, not too sure about the candlestick maker.

Tovah The Writer, And Reader Of Trashy Romance Novels.

This is my oldest daughter, smart as a whip, she has been the challenge and reward of parenthood.

Trustworthy To A Fault.

My youngest, the Lovely Seven Of Nine, finding her way through a very complex universe.

I never meant this post to come out as a photo journal, but some times pictures serve better than words. I’m going to take it easy this weekend, letting the moment creep up on me, but I swear I’m leaving if they start singing Happy Birthday!

Talk to you later.

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Damn it! I’ve done it again. As I lay here, head on my memory foam pillow; I mentally count the hours of sleep I’d get if I were to drift of right now. 11:30… 12:30 …1:30…2:30…3:30…4:30 Starting with my right index finger and thumb I tap out the hours, I run out of fingers on my right hand and complete the sequence on my left, five. Five hours, not bad, not great but…do-able. My hair is still damp from the shower I took before going to bed, in the bathroom I can hear the  rhythmic drip.. drip..drip from the shower stall.

Aquatic Pestering

I ease open my left eye to catch a glimpse of the clock on the nightstand, a dark mass is obstructing my view. I recognize it, and I move my hand to reveal the pale blue glow of the digital clock-face, 11:33 p.m.; ‘come on, fall asleep all ready’. In the “I got to get to sleep game” every minute counts. The tempo from the bathroom has changed, it’s now a drippity draup.. drippity draup.. as the fat water drops hit the bottom of the trap in the shower basin; every noise in the house is suddenly magnified and irritating. My wife, who has picked up a bad cold, coughs out loud next to me, the CPAP machine reacts to the change in air flow while she struggles to get the cough under control. It’s a bad cold, and I hope she gets through it soon.

Events of the day play through my head, a short lived text-ed conversation with my youngest brother earlier this morning occupies my thoughts. To call it a conversation might be  exaggerating it a bit, but it’s the most we’ve exchanged in probably two years. We recall child hood moments, trading stories and Ha Ha’s. It’s hard to discern a true Ha Ha from something less genuine when communicating in text. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to carry on a conversation this way, we are allowed to assume the meaning behind the verbal dialog. With no audio inflection to indicate the true emotions of the individual, we can believe what ever we want to. I believe we had a nice chat.

The drippity draup has changed to a drippity drip, they are much crisper than before. I open my left eye again, promising myself that this is the last peek, trying to determine in my mind if it would be better if the clock read midnight or something less, 11:43 p.m. I decide that 11:43 pm is better than midnight, I reposition myself in bed turning my back to the nightstand in a last ditch effort to eliminate the temptation to peek one last time. The drippity drip has eased up to a solitary draup… draup… draup… the slow fat drops are coming slower and slower now, as I feel the clutter in my head ease up too. I resist the taunting from the pale blue light behind me, as I try to match the steady  rhythmic respirations of my wifes CPAP machine.

Tomorrow night I promise, head on the pillow by 10:00 p.m.

Talk to you later.

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Weekends, it seems like I live my life for weekends. The five days in between are spent looking towards Friday’s end, so it can all begin again. Today is my wifes birthday, so it was breakfast at The Butcher Block, a little Thrift Store shopping, a quick stop at Walgreen’s to get me some reading glasses, and home by 1:00 p.m. for a nap. When did we both get to be so old?

As I sit on the couch watching reruns of Law and Order, the phone is ringing off the hook. It’s Birthday wishers, friends and family calling to wish her Happy Birthday, asking the standard questions. “So… what’d ya do today? What’d ya get? I must admit I don’t make answering the questions easy. I hear the hesitation in her voice.

“Well.. we went to the Butcher Block, and then The Salvation Army and did some shopping.”

“The Butcher Block? Well it’s a… it’s this… uhh.. it’s this dump of a restaurant that A.J. goes to for breakfast on Friday’s with his buddies. They like him there.” Like an unexplainable quirk of humanity, that there could be a place that actually likes me as a patron. As we walk into The Butcher Block together, the two women working behind the lunch counter look up confused, pause for a moment, then wave like first cousins greeting me at a family reunion… “A.J!” We exchange niceties, I introduce the birthday girl, and for the next 45 minutes she is An Honorary Butcher Block Diner, entitled to all the rights and privileges of a full time member.

The walls are cluttered with battery operated plastic clocks, and cheap sports memorabilia, there is shelf after shelf of salt and pepper shakers and crappy looking cookie jars. Collectibles, as Mick the owner likes to call them. Remember the holiday classic, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, with its Island of Misfit Toys? Well, this is where all the crap that never got sold at the yard sales circa 1979 ended up.

We grab a booth and talk about the things that old married people usually talk about. The choice of our daughters’ hair color, how our youngest will be the interpreter for a local high school graduation ceremony at The Pepsi Center, the on going issues of her aging mother and father, and Macrobiotics. Don’t ask me how she managed to slip that last item into the conversation, but I do not like the implications. We finish up our late breakfast without anyone breaking into The Happy Birthday Song, Thank G-d for small favors, I hate that!

We leave The Butcher Block, with Birthday Greeting and Wishes from the two women who call out to Jann by her first name. It may be a dump, but it’s a friendly dump, and it’s mine.

Happy Birthday Kiddo

Happy Birthday Lover, hope you had a nice day.

Talk to you later.

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Today is a very special day for many Christians through out the world, a day for family and friends, a time to give pause and reflect on the choices that are made through out the year, a day for salvation. As I watch from my vantage point, I recall going to Easter services only once or twice growing up. Recollections of tight fitting shoes, squirming in my new Easter clothes, feeling hot and restless while sitting on a hard wooden pew. Gazing into the collection plate as it made its way past me, I felt guilty that I didn’t have anything to drop into that gleaming brass dish. While Ireland had their Catholic, Protestant thing going on; we in our house had the Catholic, Lutheran thing happening. I think my parents struggled for many years with the differences in their religious heritage, finally rejecting all forms of faith based observance, opting for a more secular plan. What is it with those darn Catholics? Maybe it wasn’t so much the whole Catholic Lutheran dilemma, as it was my grandmother the Catholic matriarch. She epitomized the very notion that, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. My arrival one month after my Mother and Father were wed certainly did not help the situation. Needless to say she and I were never very close.

At a very early age maybe 4 or 5 years old I remember laying next to my mother feeling safe and warm, paging through a family Bible. It was beautifully illustrated with prints by the Masters, pictures of the Virgin Mary cradling a small child, sorrowful images of Jesus carrying the cross of the Crucifixion through the streets of Jerusalem while on lookers jeered and threw stones, and a picture of Jesus being removed from the cross, his limp body gently draped across his mothers lap, the sadness that I felt then is still clear in my mind. I’ve long since made choices in my religious beliefs that differ greatly from my Mother and Fathers’ faith, and yet it seems odd how after all these years, I still carry those early childhood scenes with me.

Exploring Unfamiliar Terrains.

As Passover winds down and I write this post, many of you may be sitting on hard wooden pews, trying to concentrate on the message of the season, while your feet ache in some ill fitting shoes, as you watch your kids fidget next to you in their new holiday clothes, I am faced with my own religious tribulations. Now that I am the parent with grown children of my own, children who are in a relationship with a person of a different faith, the religious dilemma has come full circle. I’m sure my parents never considered any of their children would choose a faith other than Christianity, and to their credit; they did come to terms with my choice, as we tip toed our way through the unfamiliar terrain.

As I think about today and my children, a certain uneasiness looms in the back of my head. I sense a loss of heritage, the ending of a lineage. The responsibility I had assumed as a parent, but didn’t manage to pass on to my children, I think I know how my parents must have felt. Now it is my turn to stumble through the fields of loss dreams, and unfulfilled expectations, attempting to find that place where we can accept the choices our children make, and give them our blessing.

Talk to you later.

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As the weather warms, and cool breezes roll off the still brown slopes of the foothills, I think of flying kites. When my wife and I first got married, we spent much of our time outdoors, riding bikes, taking long walks in the park, and flying kites. Not any run of the mill kites, this kite was called a Rainbow Stunt Kite. Six small diamond shaped jewels tied together; stacked one on the other, each with a thirty foot streamer, they would float across the sky dancing left and right, making figure eights and loops. If there was ever a test to a relationship, The Rainbow Stunt Kite provided the potential for a communication breakdown. Who would have thought something as simple as flying a kite could bring ruin to two lovers. With two sets of control lines, and six thirty foot streamers, it would take the better part of 20 minutes to untangle the mess after a crash, think of it as foreplay only with kites. Getting this temperamental dragon aloft took two people. While one person held the control lines, their partner, soon to be former best friend and lover, would hold the final kite in the string waiting for the perfect breeze to arrive before launching.

A Rainbow Stunt Kite

It sounds simple enough, you would think that two people who had perfected the art of passion in the bedroom, could at least get a kite off, timing was everything. As the perfect breeze approached, the launcher, that was usually my wife, would gently swing the string of six colorful fabric diamonds, with their thirty foot ribbons into the wind. Effortlessly the train of red, purple, blue, green, yellow, and orange jewels would rise from her hands, get to about 15 feet above the ground before stopping abruptly in mid flight. The launcher, love of my life, would then begin The Dance Of The Thirty Foot Streamers, as she tried to untangle their ribboned tails from under her feet. She would prance and trot about like a spirited Philly trying to stomp a snake in the pasture, eventually our fabric Rainbow would climb up above the ground clutter.

I would take it through its paces, rising high over head and then plummeting to the earth breaking left or right, dragging a wing tip in the dirt before returning to the safety of the deep blue sky. My wife enjoyed flying the kite, occasionally she would panic when she would get it too close to the ground. Watching her fly it was more fun than seeing the kite itself. Contorting her body left and right, arms spread wide she would close her eyes tight as the kite nosed it into the ground, tumbling and cartwheeling, and for the next 15-20 minutes we would untangle the knotted mess, so we could take to the skies again.

Those were the days of B.C. before children, where we had a brief chance for it to be just us, learning to communicate, developing patience, I cherish those first 12 months together as a young married couple, looking back I realize how important that time was. Years later we would continue our kite flying adventures, but it wasn’t the same with three little people in tow. Well some of it was, The Dance Of The Thirty Foot Streamers had now evolved to include a whole troop of performers.

Talk to you later.

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