Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Learning You Tube and Other Stuff

We learned to use You Tube the other night.

I'm pretty disappointed in the user interface. I figured since the thing was so popular it would be pretty good.

I uploaded a video first. There's a form you have to complete. Almost every field is required but it doesn't say so. That is until you have tried to submit and then it tells you the first field you missed. So I fixed that field and lo and behold the form had lost my other entries. That's very rude. And then repeated for every field until I figured out all of them were required.

Finally I got the little video clip uploaded but next you have to wait for the processing to occur which took a really long time. I expected it to take about as long as Blogger because that's the only other experience I had to compare. But it took forever.

Well finally it processed but I didn't want everyone in the world seeing the clip so I restricted it. But I didn't have any contacts so I had to add some.

Adding contacts is not as easily done as I had hoped. I won't go into the details but finally I managed to have 2 contacts. So I went to share my video with them only to find they didn't show up in my security list. Finally figured out you have to assign the contacts to a group before you could share something.

I won't even start to describe the trouble Judy had which was not really all You Tube's fault but mostly.

But she got a friend before I did. And it was a guy. But I am not the jealous type.

Speaking of Judy, she knows the name (first and middle and last) of most every person in my family. She knows my grandkid's birthdays and what they like and dislike. She makes these amazing gift bags for the girls and the younger boys. The older boys she says are harder. I have 8 grandchildren. And she knows my kids and their spouses and all their birthdays. And even a lot of my cousins and a few of their kids. And my dad's birthday and my mom's and when mom died and mom's and dad's anniversary. Stuff like that including all sorts of stuff about me that I don't even know myself. Like my eye color. I hadn't really thought about my eye color and don't really examine my eyes that much. And all this knowledge is collected and absorbed from the briefest of conversations and associations and visits. Really I don't understand how it happens.

Now I, on the other hand, am a book of different cover, a horse of a different color, a person of a different stripe, or some other idiosyncratic phrasal idiom. I can't keep track of the names of her aunts and uncles and brother and sister and respective spouses (past and present) and their children and their children much less birthdays and anniversaries. I do pretty well remembering her mom's name though. And I am pretty good with her children and their children. Now the birthdays that I track I must admit I owe it all to my Treo's calendar.

I just bring this up because this will be my first Thanksgiving and probably Christmas and whatever other holidays there are with her family. Should be interesting.

The Bobcat or Cougar or whatever hasn't been back to my son's so no news on that front.

The opossum that I chased away returned and proceeded to die behind the washer. Yours truly had to carry it way out into the pasture. Something, however, carried the carcass back up in the yard today though. The disposal quit working but I got someone to come fix it. The water heater pilot light went out and I had to light it.

Nothing much else going on except for decisions that will have long term and far reaching consequences for our families' future generations and perhaps the existence of life on the planet.

But nothing much more than that.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Interesting Visitors

My son sent this to me by email on Saturday.
He was going to let his dog out in the backyard.
Changed his mind though after seeing the visitor.
Grabbed his camera and took several photos.
Later she was up a tree with 2 young'ns.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Trip to Hobby Lobby

I've been sick with a cold the last several days. So Friday night I took Zicam Nighttime and went to bed. I remember getting in bed but not much else until Saturday morning's sun began gently drifting through the blinds.

We headed over to dad's house to get a few winter things out of the closet for Judy. We stopped by the cemetery and I visited mom and dad for a bit. We visited some of Judy's family, too. It was such a beautiful day here. It has been 5 weeks and one day since dad died. His marker has the date of death on it now.

I miss dad. I don't miss the Alzheimer's but I miss dad.

Then later we were driving down Western and Judy said "Can we go to Hobby Lobby?" Well, of course we could and we did.

The fellow that started Hobby Lobby lives out in Judy's general area somewhere. His name is David Green. I think he is about 5 or 6 years my senior. I read his biography not too long ago. It is titled More Than a Hobby: How a $600 Startup Became America's Home and Craft Superstore. He started out working in a local T G & Y Store. T G & Y was kind of the Wal-Mart of stores of my youth for those who may not know. At any rate Green and his wife, Barbara, started out with a little miniature frame business in about 1972 or so. And that eventually grew into Hobby Lobby Creative Centers which number some 386 stores at last count.

Our store was in a large strip shopping center and we had to park quite a little ways from the main entrance. When we entered I got one of the remaining few carts. Judy likes to have a cart to hold her purse. I like to have a cart to give me something to lean on and push and make me feel like I am of some use during the excursion.

There were a lot of people in this store. But the people were vastly outnumbered by the stuff. This store is really large. I think it might approach the size of a Wal-Mart - maybe 80% or 85% as big. And everywhere you look there are rows and rows of shelves. And on the shelves is all this stuff.

I think a lot of the stuff is from China. And a lot of it is painted. I wondered if any of it had been tested for lead. Wondered if I should get a mask or something. But then I had this fleeting vision of me putting on a mask and people panicking inside the store and the shelves all starting to fall against each other and things falling and breaking here and there. Hobby Lobby is not a good place for a panicked crowd.

I had no idea why we were in the Hobby Lobby. It is not the kind of store I would ever enter by myself, willingly at least. I had been in this one another time, also with Judy. I will pretty much go anywhere she asks me.

I dutifully pushed my cart in front of me as Judy led us up and down the aisles. She stopped a woman who was wearing an apron and had some kind of tag. I learned we were hunting some kind of figurine for a grave ornament. The saleslady knew where some were and took us to them. But they decided that a laughing horse wasn't really the right kind of figurine.

There were so many things inside the Hobby Lobby that it kind of made me feel a little out of balance - like losing your balance in the shower sometimes - or maybe it was my illness. And then it started feeling kind of tight and closed in - a little claustrophobic. I felt light headed.

I watched others in the store while I was following. There was a group of women that had found a large metal cross of some kind. They were very happy and one lady was clutching it tightly to her body. I cannot imagine feeling such happiness over such an object. I wondered what in the world was so special about that cross.

Then there were others here and there - mostly ladies - but a few men. All of them seemed intent on hunting something. I could not tell if they were having any success or not. Frequently they would pick up something and examine it in close detail and then return it among the others of its kind. I don't know if that's good or bad.

I could not help but think of the Chinese workers who had made these things. I wondered if they were made one at a time in a cottage type industry or if they were made on some kind of line with division of labor by task. I wondered if they knew about the Santa Claus figures they made or the religious images or even the laughing horses. They were pretty good craftspeople.

I asked Judy what was down at the other end of the building. She said it was fabrics and craft items and so on. She asked if I wanted to go down there. I didn't.

We left empty handed after about an hour.

Friday, October 26, 2007

1950 Chevy Truck - Before

Of course we had a Collie!
She is in this photo on the left dad is petting her.
Her name was Lady. All of our girl dogs were named Lady.
We had one other Collie named Sandy when I was much smaller.
Sandy was killed in a traffic accident. Our neighbor felt really
awful about it. I just talked to him the other day.
He and his wife just built a new house.
I am not in this photo. April 1959.
That's our little house in the background.
Lady, Dad, Mom, my Unky holding his youngest,
my cousin Pam, My Aunty, and my brother.
We're standing about where the old truck
is sitting in the next photos - not exactly - close.

Don't you just hate it when a tree grows up in your truck?

Yes, that's me cutting down the tree so we can begin reconstruction
Even I can use a limb cutter.

Engine compartment wasn't so good either.

Inside the cab had seen better times.

The bed was rotted. More vegetation to be removed.
We had the original sideboards in the old granary building
(to the right in this photo - barely)

A little Red Neck piece of heaven I guess.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

1950 Chevy Truck

My brother and I both learned to drive on this truck.

I put a dent in one of the doors - maybe both doors - a few times actually. I was really young when I would go out and feed the cattle myself. It made me so proud. I wasn't really supposed to. Usually I could push the bales of hay (they were small then) over onto the bed of the truck. I wasn't supposed to lift a bale to the truck bed but I didn't obey very well so had a hernia repair when I was about 10. Got a new catcher's mitt though.

My brother and I both started driving out in the pasture before we were tall enough to reach the floor. But it had a really low gear called "compound" and once you had it going in that gear you didn't need to do anything but steer. Brakes never did work anyway. I've heard people call "compound" a granny gear but they obviously hadn't met my granny.

My kids both got to drive it in the pasture, too. My son lived an entire year with my parents once and helped work the cattle and do other things on the farm. He still fondly recalls that experience.

The 1950 Chevy wasn't the first truck we had. The one before this one was bigger and older. I think it might have been a 1946 Chevy 2 ton. It made this 1950 Chevy 3/4 ton seem like the most modern vehicle in the world. This isn't it but is kind of what I remember it looking like.

We, along with most of the families we knew, only had one car and dad drove it to work. But we had this truck for use on the farm. Dad had some taller sideboards for it that we used to haul a few head of steers to market on occasion. Looking at the size of the thing now it hardly seems worth it but I clearly remember us doing it.

I loved going to the stockyards in Oklahoma City. It was just a busy and complex place. Sometimes dad would take us to eat in Cattlemen's which is still there. I remember the murals on the walls and the red upholstered booths. I thought that was about as uptown as you could get.

Right inside the door was this old rocking chair and the owner sometimes sat there. On the floor by the chair was a spittoon. And it wasn't just for looks then either.

Mr. Wade owned Cattlemen's during my time and he had won it in a dice game. But that was like in 1945 or something and the restaurant dates from 1910. It is still there today in the stockyards area of Oklahoma City. I used to eat lunch there several times a month.

At one time supposedly the "oldest waitress" worked there and she was in her late 80's. I can't remember her name now. I don't know if she really was the oldest but she had to be a definite contender.

But the image that sticks out in my mind is my mother driving the old 1950 Chevy to the nearest shopping area which was quite a ways off. Everyone dressed up then when they went out and mom dressed up as nice or nicer than most. She sewed all of her own clothes and was really a good tailor. So she'd put her nice clothes on and dress me up as well and we'd climb in the cab of this old truck with the cattle sideboards dripping manure here and there and off we'd go. We wouldn't be the only truck with stock sideboards though.

Once I remember becoming lost inside a department store on one of our trips. The sheer terror and panic I felt at not being able to find my mother amidst the sea of legs and bodies still is fresh in memory. Someone found me though and our reunion was wonderfully sweet.

I tell you though when you climb in the cab of this old truck you really get a sense of how much larger people we have become than we were 50 years ago. That seat doesn't adjust very much and the steering wheel does not move at all. I know quite a few people that would not be able to drive this thing.

I left the vacuum windshield wipers on the truck. The guy that restored it for me wanted to replace them with electric ones. But I wanted it to be as close to the way it was as I could make it. You've really never lived until you've driven a truck with vacuum wipers in a bad rain storm.

I hired the guy to restore the truck the year my mother died. I had this idea of me and dad driving the thing around with our grandkids in the back. But it took a really long time to restore the truck. Dad wasn't able to really go anywhere by the time I got it back. And it wouldn't have made any difference to him by then anyway.

The old truck isn't of much importance historically or to anyone but me and a few others in my family. But it makes me kind of happy and I guess that's not so bad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


After I was old enough to effectively defy my parents I stopped attending church with them. I think I was 13. It wasn't a complete loss to them because I stayed home and had lunch ready for them when they returned. It was good for me because I did learn a lot about cooking. But it was distressing to my parents all the same and, looking back, it was not one of my shining moments.

I rejected all religion then and embraced science. I became convinced that the evolution of species was an adequate and sufficient explanation for the existence of life. I found no persuasive argument to support the idea of any necessary existence outside the physical. That a good many others, who were older and more experienced in life, agreed with me was gratifying to my 13 year old mind. Paradoxically I thought of myself as being independent and rebellious. I did not understand then that my own rebellion was being joined by what would become some 80 million or so of my contemporaries.

My favorite poem was Design by Robert Frost:

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth-
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witch's broth-
A snow-drop spider, a flower like froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth hither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?-
If design govern in a thing so small.

The coincidence of the small white creatures on a plant that normally is blue but in this case is white still fascinates me today so many years after first I read it. Frost died in 1963. I turned 15 that year. I don't know when I read the poem.

We humans are so good at speculating on the meaning of coincidence. I still do it today, too.

Frost forces the reader to choose one of two metaphysical possibilities: there is order and design to the universe but it is dark and evil or there is no order at all, at least in small things.

The third option to my mind was not metaphysical but natural and orderly and even beautiful. Unless you were the moth of course.

And so in my mind evil died along with God.

When I was 13.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Husband Test

Last night the washer overflowed in the garage. While I was inspecting the machine we noticed an opossum behind the washer. They, along with raccoons and a few other animals, like to come into the garage to eat the cat's food. The cat doesn't really enjoy them being in there.

The opossum did not enjoy being wet however and so moved on his (or her) own to a place near the open garage door. I yelled at him and wielded a nearby broom which had just been in service sweeping water out of the garage. Usually opossums curl up in a little ball and play opossum when you yell at them but this one was apparently traumatized enough to flee when the opportunity presented itself.

Then I figured out the drain pipe was clogged. By running more water of course if you were wondering. Have to be quick on the knob. Judy's washer is labeled "Silver Anniversary" and is a Maytag brand. I think that means it was produced in 1973 which makes it 34 years old. Pretty good service I'd say.

I poured an entire gallon or so of Drain-o down the pipe and it began draining.

I think this was my first test of husbandility.

I passed but not because of any skill or knowledge.

But I've always thought being lucky was as good or better than being competent.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Instructions To The Captives

Yesterday the sermon text was from Jeremiah 29.

It is a letter from the prophet, Jeremiah, to the Israelis who were taken into Babylon. Historically it is called the "exile" or "diaspora" and refers to the event in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar hauled off a rather large group of Israelis.

The captives, as one might expect, wanted to return home. They had some seers and prophets who were quite happy to tell them what they wanted to hear: that a return would come sooner rather than later. But Jeremiah told them that return was not imminent and, indeed, would last 70 years and they best get about the process of living in this new reality.

5"Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.

6'Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.

7'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'

8"For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.

9'For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,' declares the LORD.

This didn't have anything really to do with the message but I found it interesting.

When I began caregiving I remember feeling a lot like a captive. I struggled with how to balance my own life against my parents' needs. The hardest decision I made was when I decided to ask Judy to marry me. I knew full well that it was going to be very difficult. I also knew that I was not going to be able to give her the first priority in my life as long as I was caregiving. She knew all this, too, of course. But knowing and then experiencing it is different. It was really hard.

In some way we are all captives. Now I am free of the 24/7 confinement and responsibilities of caregiving but I have other constraints that are different but nonetheless real.

I think the application of this passage is to get on with your life and make of the best of it you possibly can. Make a place for yourself and enjoy it. Pay attention to your family. Pay attention to your community, too. I like that last part of that verse: "in its welfare you will have welfare."

Then I really like verses 8 and 9. In the NIV the end of verse 8 is "Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have." It is true in my experience that I can usually find some expert that will tell me what I want to hear. Either way though it is best to be skeptical of advice especially when the advice is something we long to hear.

Then, too, these captives were told that this was not to be a short experience. It was going to last 70 years. That means most of those who heard the letter read were going to die before the promised deliverance.

I thought about this part and my own family and the families of so many others I know. My earliest known ancestor that came to the United States arrived on a ship in 1738. He and his son survived the voyage. We surmise that others of his family likely perished. Upon arrival he sold himself and his son into indentured servitude. His would have been at least 3 years and probably more nearly 7 or longer. His son's would have been 14 years. That was how he paid for the cost of the passage.

Surely he wanted a better life for himself but I have to imagine that it was also as much for future generations of his family that he braved such terrible hardships. And that's been true in my family ever since that the parents sacrificed so that their children could live better.

There are some things worth great sacrifice and not everything happens immediately.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


The sermon in church this morning was on moving forward.

Part of moving forward the speaker said is not allowing the past to hold you back.

I am certain he wasn't talking about a particular caregiver whose father and patient just recently died. But it made me think a lot about the similarities between my life and the message.

It is a valid point that I know well from experience. I've done it myself before for one thing. And I've seen a lot of other people make the same mistake.

That's not to say one should ever forget the past or certainly the lessons learned from previous experience. I am convinced that history does not have to be repeated when it comes to mistakes.

Reminded me of a Mary Chapin Carpenter song: Not Too Much To Ask

To hear you say my name, to see you search my eyes
To feel you touch my hand, it more than satisfies.
If I was not the first, just say I'll be the last
It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask.

Now I can only dream of being all you need
And I can only try to be the reason why
You think about today and forget about the past
It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask.

Now I can only dream of being all you need
And I can only try to be the reason why
You think about today 'cause the past is just the past
It's too much to expect, but it doesn't hurt to ask
It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Grandparents Day

I am so busy. It reminds me in a way of the time after my mother's death. Then there were so many new things that required me to adjust to them and there were so many things to do. I knew then that I was not taking the time to grieve my mother's death - couldn't really. Eventually I came to terms with her absence but whether I really experienced the grief of her passing is still unclear. It may be that way now with my dad's death.

Life surges around me like a river engorged by flood and debris. I do what is necessary and in order of appearance and I enjoy it so. In the chaos of the whirlpool there is no time for reflection or stillness but only for action. And even if there is a placid place I don't really want to stop. Eventually I have to of course and I will. But riding the rapids is exhilarating now. Maybe because it is so opposite to the previous experience. It is ironic, too, because that life was also like a river with rapids. But so different.

Thursday was my first ever Grandparents Day at the school that 3 of my grandchildren attend. I have one in 4th grade, one in 2nd grade, and one in 1st grade. My daughter-in-law says I attended once before when the 4th grader was in pre-K. I do not remember it but I defer with respect to a better historian. Still for me it is my first in emotion and memory if not in the physical.

It is a private Christian school and the event began with assorted breakfast goodies in the reception area of the church associated with the school. It is a large place and when I parked (my son later said he parked in a "sea of Buicks" which made me laugh) a nice young high school age fellow asked me if I wanted a ride on one of the many golf carts that were plucking us up in a little groups here and there. I didn't really need a ride but somehow felt it would be more gracious to accept. There were a lot of old people there and many of them did need rides.

I searched the sea of faces for my son's inlaws but did not find anyone familiar. So I entered the auditorium (also of the church) and two nice ladies helped me find a seat. But then I moved three times to better see the stage and perhaps click a photo or two. Just when I was settled my daughter-in-law's father found me and I joined them in an extra seat they had reserved for me. And around them were sitting others I had known from years before. I would not have known them but it was good to see them again.

Each class presented a song. My 1st grader has apparently inherited my disability to incorporate hand movements while also singing I noticed. All of the children were marvelous and I judged my own particularly so.

I did not win anything. First we stood if we had 5 grandchildren and we couldn't count our step-ones. But quickly I resumed my seat and ultimately one person remained with 21. Neither did I have the most great-grand-children (as I have none) but someone had a bunch. I didn't have the youngest. I was not from the farthest either and that went to someone from Oregon. And the winner of the oldest grandchild was a man who had a 45 year old. (I figured he was driving one of the Buicks!)

Then it was to the classrooms and my son's mother-in-law took the lead with me and her husband trailing behind in hopes of not becoming separated and lost. But when my 4th grader saw us the leadership role was forevermore lost to her. She told us "now follow me and don't get lost." And we did. We saw the work and met the teacher and took a picture and then we repeated that 2 more times with each other child. Then we had a rather fast tour of the music room, art room, and library. My 2nd grader won something for his painting of a boot.

The next big event was shopping at the store. My grandchildren were all exceedingly excited about this opportunity. I asked Kay what to do and she said she gave each one $5. I asked her if she was going in there (to the store) with them. She was so I gave her $30 and fought my way upstream to try to join Bob, her husband. But he had escaped already! So I stood by the wall where the boot painting was displayed and waited.

Then we all went to lunch and they told me to go to a Chili's except I had no idea where it was. My 4th grader and my 1st grader accompanied me. This was another first for me. I had never transported a grandchild in my car before. I am not wise in the ways of children either. I said "Who's riding in front?" and my 1st grader said "I have to sit in back Pop." But my 4th grader climbed in the front. Only later did I learn her parents also make her ride in the back.

Then on the way my 1st grader was saying something about Star Burst candy and I thought he was offering me one. And I said I didn't want one. And they laughed at me. My 4th grader, patiently, explained that her brother was asking my permission to eat one of the candies of the horde he bought at the store. Ah Ha! I remembered from my own child rearing days that children did ask permission for various things. But then I thought to myself that I didn't really know the answer to this question so I looked over at my 4th grader and said "Well, can he have one?" and she, looking at me a little strangely, said "sure" and so my permission was granted.

I became lost of course on the drive. I had to turn around and that was a little awkward. My 1st grader commented "Pop, you have a map" because my car has one of those navigation deals. He was being smart-alecky either.

Finally we arrived and I even remembered to help my charges out of the car and to watch for cars as we crossed the parking lot. Everyone else was awaiting us and my son, with some sense of glee, commented on my being lost.

It was 12:30 or later when my grandparents day ended and I resumed my race once again. It ended too soon really.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Twice Blessed's blog made me think about the concept of home. Her husband wanted to travel and she felt he was looking for his past.

It is common to read about dementia patients wanting to go home even when they are home. I've experienced it myself. My mother, who had Parkinson's, wanted to go home. My dad would try to explain to her that she was home. They built this home together and had shared it for nearly 40 years at the time. They had lived on the land 50 years then. But Mom wanted to go someplace else.

My grandmother lived for a long while with my mother and father. She was always wanting to go home. She would get up in the middle of the night and pack her suitcase. Mom would ask her what she was doing and she would say she was going home. Once dad caught her on the road in front of the house. She was entirely naked and he put his old Owens Corning red windbreaker on her. He tried to persuade her to come back to the house but she kept telling him she had to go home. Later she "escaped" from two nursing homes because she was trying to get home.

Before Dad died my brother and I took him to the place he was born and raised. That house is not the house he was born in but one that was built a few years later. I think the first one burned maybe.

But Dad never wanted to travel. He knew he was home up until the very end of his life. Just a few days earlier he had been restless at night and I found him down in the office. He was just looking around. I escorted him, rather callously as I think about it now, back to his room. I wish I had spent more time with him. I think he was taking a last look.

This farm and this home were more than just soil and sticks for my dad. They were more for my mom, too, but more than anything they were Dad's dream. It is not often that we achieve so much of our dream. So maybe that's why he never wanted to leave here because it would have meant leaving a dream fulfilled.

I wonder though what is home for me.

Is it the place of my childhood where I spent nearly 20 years of my life? Or, is it the place where a young husband lived with his young family for nearly 20 years more? Or, is it the home I designed and built and lived in so briefly before the divorce? Or, is it dad's and mom's home where I have lived the last 9 years? Or might it be at Judy's house where I am gradually now moving in? Or is it some yet unknown place that remains to be imagined and dreamed and built in the future?

Really all of the places I have lived except for two have been the homes of others. And the two that were mine I remember fondly but with no profound sense of loss and surely no desire to revisit.

I know that Judy's home will soon feel like home to me as well. And yet if we move from it to some other place I also know that I will eventually feel at home there, too.

I do not know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Fun Part

Sky wanted to know what the FUN part of my work is.

Dad and mom bought 160 acres of farm land when I was not yet 3 years old. It was in the country then. But 57 years later it is a not-so-little island of land in a sea of development. Dad and mom wanted to live and die on their farm and asked me and my brother to not sell anything until after their deaths.

It was hard keeping that promise and in fact I really thought I likely would not be able to keep it. But as it has worked out nothing has been sold so far. Over the years we've had many inquiries. A few years ago I leased some ground to a large retailer. That got us into the development business.

But not being able to sell land reduced the opportunities although we continued receiving inquiries. One of the fun parts is listening to all these ideas and learning about such a wide variety of businesses. I am continually amazed at how different and specialized each business is. Their need for a location and a building is just as varied and specialized as the businesses.

We want to control the quality and appearance of the development. So we've been pretty choosy and particular about what we allow. But even thinking about how the land should be used and where different things should go and how it all should work together is rather difficult. But that's one of the fun things, too.

Working with architects and engineers to create designs and plans that satisfy all the parties and meet the needs of the community is very interesting and some of it is a lot of fun.

The actual building process is really a great experience especially when the building begins to emerge. I thought I knew quite a bit about certain things but I've just now begun to learn the depth of my own ignorance. But learning like that is fun, too.

You can't just build anything you want or imagine.

There are reams of government regulations that have to be satisfied. Plans have to approved at several places including appearing before a city council meeting. And there citizens can come and voice their disapproval. And usually someone is against whatever it is. Some might not like the use or the tenant or the design or me or most anything. There's a certain amount of politics to it.

I don't like that part very much. I am not very good at it right now but I am getting better.

It is a competitive business, too, and some of the developers are not very nice. I don't like that part much. I subscribe to Stephen Covey's abundance thinking. But some developers subscribe to the scarcity thinking. So for them everything is a competition and they want to win by most any means.

Most other developers are really nice though and will work with you and help you. It reminds me of our farming neighbors from bygone days. I like that part.

I've noticed that when you live in town and have a big piece of land that some people have very little respect for your property. People walk (or drive) across the yard even when the gate is closed and they'll cut through the pasture. When it was country we would never have had a neighbor do that. We wouldn't have minded but they would have asked if they could cut across. But the more the town crowds in around us the more disrespectful some people become. I think they believe it must be some kind of public property or something. They just can't conceive that someone would have a large piece of land like that.

I don't like that part and it worries me given that people can sue you for anything.

It takes a lot of money to develop. That means dealing with banks and financial brokers and lawyers.

Most of that stuff isn't very fun. Although I have met some wonderful people.

Another thing that isn't very fun is the negotiation process with the potential buyers or tenants. Deals come along and then die and resurrect a thousand times. It is a lot like the emotional roller coaster of caregiving. Every time I tell myself I am not going to let myself care about some new deal. But it never works because some deal comes along and if you get enthused about it then you want it to happen but you have all these constraints you have to consider. And you have to be willing to let the deal go.

That's not fun for me but some people just relish that part.

One of the deals we did is a Starbucks and we designed it and built it. There's a really nice patio. When I see people sitting out on that patio it makes me really proud. I think Dad and Mom would be proud of that, too.

That's a fun part.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Difficult Day

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I suppose it was the coincidence of mom's birthday and the third week of dad's death. Or perhaps it is just the time that has elapsed now. Or maybe it is something else I have not considered.

I did not want to exercise and I did not want to work. I could not concentrate and I could not focus. I felt alone and isolated. I was silent more or less. If anyone had described me, and they did not because I am expert in hiding, they would have called me moody and depressed.

My brother said we were orphans now. It is true of course although usually an orphan is a child. But there is also something unsettling and isolating about losing both parents to death even as an old man. Having parents a long time does not seem to compensate for their absence.

Then I've apparently moved into the role of patriarch of our little tribe. The steward role is more comfortable but maybe only because of familiarity. Still the transition is neither automatic nor simple. Strange that it is easier to do what dad would want than to figure out what I want. And the doing is still a problem regardless which is chosen.

Full time husband is different than part time husband. Another transition but with at least as much joy as adjustment. Today is my first Saturday to spend the entire day here except for one quick trip this morning.

The business is complex and difficult. I think the easy part may well be behind us. I wonder if it will be as rewarding when the struggle is more intense.

Today upon my return I stopped by the cemetery as I never made it there yesterday. I stood there amidst those I love. I wondered as I wrote that whether I should use the past tense. But I love them now. That's the problem really. Love is continuing from past to future. That's why the missing them is so intense when they first are gone. The missing feeling diminishes with time. I know that from experience. The love does not though. It remains but I think becomes stronger or at least more mature or more something.

The worst feeling though I am dealing with right now is guilt. Intellectually I know it is unwarranted. Spiritually I know it is unfounded. Emotionally though it is present. It is stronger now than it has been. I don't know why. It is not a new feeling of course as it was present during the entire period of caregiving.

Guilt is an actor in a little movie that runs in my mind. Each time I lost my patience and each time I made the wrong decision and each time I was unprepared and each time I ignored the obvious are all there. And in the little movie I fix one thing and the movie runs to the end and dad dies. And the next time it runs I fix another thing but he dies again. It does not make any difference what I fix or how patient I am or how prepared I am or now quickly I respond, the result is the same.

But this will not last too long. I've visited this place before. I suppose it is good that I know this place because the first time around it was a terrible visit and it lasted much too long.

I am not sad at all most of the time but this post must make it seem so. But that's not the case. I am quite happy in fact - which actually can be another source for the guilt to exploit.

But there are good days and bad days and that was true before and it will be true tomorrow.

Friday, October 12, 2007

October Birthdays

My son's birthday is the 8th. I wasn't present when he was born. I was in the army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. It wasn't too far from Oklahoma City and I had my car but I couldn't get permission to leave. Lots of people have children born so in the interests of country, world events, human species, and cosmology it isn't a terribly important event. Only to the individual is it really significant.

I left anyway as soon as I could sneak out unnoticed. They didn't really need me. That was in the day when fathers were persona non grata at the hospital when babies were born. The medical profession at the time apparently felt that fathers had a lot of germs and stuff and were a serious health threat. I was in my fatigues. Soldiers were also personae non gratae at the time what with Viet Nam and all. The nurse was was probably 2 decades my senior. I don't know if she disliked me because I was a soldier, a man, or a father. But we had a pretty good yelling match in the middle of the hallway. I was adamant I was going in and she was equally adamant I wasn't.

But I did get to see both mother and baby even though for only such a short time. And I made it back to post without being caught and probably imprisoned for life or perhaps executed.

My mothers birthday is today, October 12th. This used to be Columbus Day but it was changed shortly after my son's birth. Columbus Day is rather controversial now in some parts. But while my son was young we often celebrated his and mom's birthday at a family gathering. Mom's been gone nearly 6 years now. I'll run by the cemetery today and stop and visit her and dad and my grandparents and my aunt and uncle. They're all there together now.

There are two empty spaces next to dad and mom. I bought 8 more spaces in the same section but up by this old tree on the north side. Dad paid $80 each for the plots he bought when his father died. I paid $1,250 each for the ones I bought when my mother died. Dad bought 10 in 1960 and we used 7 in 41 years. So I figured if I bought 8 more that someone would use them in the next 40 or 50 years. Especially given that there are more of us now.

One of my grandson's birthday is Sunday, October 14th. He was born the year mom died so I always remember how old he is. This year he turns 6. I was there for his birth. In fact a whole bunch of people were there when he was born. I think they have video. Apparently in the span of 31 years it has become okay for not only fathers but anyone who wants to be present for the birth to be right there in the room.

I tried to remember what I liked when I was 6 but couldn't really think of much. So I got this green M & M dispenser (it looks like a green M & M) and in the very bottom I put a bunch of loose change. On top of that I packed it full of little bags of M & M's. Then I got him a card shaped like a "6" and put 6 each $1 bills inside the card. I put another bag of candy on the bottom of my gift sack and then the dispenser on top of that and then another bag of candy on top. Figured the bags of candy would be my packing protection. Tucked in the card and gave it to my son-in-law to take home. I think it is something I would have liked when I was 6.

A week from tomorrow is my 15 year old granddaughter's birthday. She's Judy's granddaughter really and I think that makes her my step-granddaughter. But I just call her my granddaughter. She plays the harp and piano and likes to be in school plays. She had her picture in the paper the other day because she designed a piece of clothing. She's pretty cool. Judy is taking care of her gift.

My first granddaughter is 10 this year on the 30th. I haven't figured out what to get her yet. She lived with me for a few months when she was first born. And I was there for her birth. She and I used to color together. That was before I came to live with mom and dad. She invited me to her school's grandparents' day which will be next Thursday. She wrote me a note and I wrote a note back to her telling her I would love to come. This will be first time.

And of course another birthday of sorts this month is my anniversary. This will be number 3 for us. I think this one will be special because in a way it is starting new again. I am told this anniversary officially is supposed to be either "leather" or "crystal" whatever that means. We're still thinking about what we're going to do but we both kind of like the idea of retracing our 1st trip together.

I was going to post about work but it seemed better to me to write something else.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Work and meetings

I think my work is finding me rather than me finding it. At least for now. And it's nice to have something to do actually. Like all work there are things I enjoy more and things I could live without.

We had a big (as in important) meeting today. I thought I was pretty calm about it. Got up and drove over to the house and exercised as is my custom for the last few days. Then showered and dressed and walked over to the little office we have set up.

First thing I noticed was that my mouth was dry as cotton. Our guests were a little late so we had to wait and that seemed to make my mouth drier no matter how much water I drank.

Finally they arrived and we all drove over to the meeting. It was a good meeting and really did not last much more than a couple of hours. We drove back to our office and our guests left.

Then I noticed how tired and kind of deflated I felt. It was a good meeting so it wasn't that. It was a beautiful day. I felt great. But wow I was really down.

Finally figured out it was the coming down from the adrenalin high I was on for the meeting. Funny that I didn't even realize it.

A long while ago my work consisted mostly of meetings. One does gain a certain conditioning for them and I don't have it right now.

Meetings are not things I enjoy so much. But they are necessary to get to do the things that are enjoyable.

I suppose that's the way a lot of life is though.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My Area Is So Changed

Today I took my son and a friend to a new restaurant in what is now called the midtown area of Oklahoma City. There is a renaissance taking place there as well as in other sections of the city.

One thing that I found especially interesting was that my childhood pediatrician's office was directly across the street. Of course the pediatrician has been long gone many years and the office was vacant much of that time. It may be a lawyers' office now. And next to it is the building where my parents' doctor worked and that building is also being restored after long disuse. The building housing the restaurant was a pharmacy when I was a child and we used to go there and get our prescriptions filled.

After we left the restaurant we drove to other nearby areas so my companions could show me the many changes to our city. Truly I was so surprised.

I moved from Oklahoma City in 1994. I returned in late 1998 but I really was not able to get out much. The car I had then I sold in 2004 and I had managed to put on about 11,000 miles in a little over 5 years. Even the last few years when I got out more I drove to the same places a lot so I've seen very little.

This evening we attended a book signing by an author friend. It is so strange to be able to come and go on a mere whim. And afterwards we sat in a little restaurant for a while and enjoyed a snack and just being together. No planning, no arrangements, no time constraints - just did it - and then we drove home.

And when we got home there was no urgent job to complete or responsibility to consider and no emergency to manage.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Are you getting things back to normal?

Several people asked me on Sunday "Are you getting things back to normal?" I was shocked the first time someone asked me that. What does normal mean for me anyway? Has there even been a normal day in the last 9 years? Do people have normal?

There's no going back to 9 years ago. Even if I could it would mean that I wouldn't know Judy and we wouldn't be married and I'd be 5 grandkids short. I'd be 50 and I don't even want to repeat that. And so many other things that I can't even imagine it. It's like It's a Wonderful Life when Jimmy Stewart wishes he hadn't been born and Clarence fixes it for him and he learns that every life and every second of every life is so connected to every other life. And Clarence gets his wings and we learn that angels have their own problems. Or like that scene in Our Town when Emily has died and she's in the cemetery and wants to go back and relive just one day. And Mrs. Gibbs tells her to pick the least important day she can but Emily picks her 12th birthday. It is so painful for her and she only hits the highlights.

It's really the same way it was when I came here in 1998. I didn't like it at all at first. It was hard for me. My son wants me to write some of that and maybe I will but not now and maybe never. Little by little though I found my way and things became manageable and eventually things fell into some kind of normalcy. And then later when mom died it happened again except that there were two of us that were screwed up and trying to find a new way. And then there was the uncertainty of dad's disease and my marriage and trying to figure out how to make it work.

That's all it is really is figuring how to make it all work. That's what I'm doing now. There are little things and big things and maybe gigantic things. Right now I am concentrating on learning to live with my wife and hanging out with her and handling these various meetings and so on when they happen.

For instance, today I had 3 meetings and a lunch. And when it was over I got in my car and at first I thought I'd swing by dad's house. But then I thought "why?" and so I headed straight here. Doesn't sound like much but pretty significant. Or like yesterday I went to church with Judy while she practiced in the orchestra. And then we came home - here - together. That's a pretty big deal. Or Saturday my gas grill ran out of propane but Sunday I found the nearest Blue Rhino exchange place.

I suppose they are baby steps but they seem pretty adult size to me.

Am I getting things back to normal? I think I am. It isn't always pretty. It's stop and go and full of errors and indecision and guesses. And sometimes it seems like it is a dozen steps backwards for every one forward.

The giant things are "where are we going to live" and "what am I going to do" and stuff like that. Some of my blog friends are dealing with whatever is bigger than gigantic problems like faith and the meaning of life.

I don't know any of that.

I'm trying to figure out how to spend 7 nights here instead of one. I think its harder for her than for me.

SNAFU - Situation Normal All Fouled Up - well, edited for decency - that's what we said in the army.

I've arrived.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

What to do

It is Saturday morning. I am in my new home and sitting here trying to decide what I should do. I don't know what to write about today so I decided to write about not knowing what to do.

I could go over to "the house" and exercise or I could go over to the park and walk a bit. But really I overdid it yesterday and I need to take a day off exercising.

Some friends today are walking for Alzheimer's. I've read their blogs already. I've glanced at the forums I follow. I had nothing to say.

I don't feel like writing on any important subject. I have a few things I should read but don't want to do that either.

It doesn't feel like home yet here. But it no longer feels like home over at "the house" either. Which reminds me of the book The Man Without A Country. I remember reading that book as a child and thinking how awful for Philip Nolan.

Today is one of the big football games for my area: OU versus Texas. I never went to one but everyone says they are always a spectacle and an event. I never was much of a "fan" which greatly distressed my teachers and others who were responsible for fostering school spirit and so on. I read a blog where a fellow said he was going over to a party to watch the game on a big screen.

Well, I am getting up and going to do something.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Judy's Backyard

This is my new home's backyard. Those are hay bales to the right and way off in the background is the South Canadian River.

We haven't made it out of town yet but decided there really wasn't any rush.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I am 59 now. Dad was only 43 when his father died. He was 71 though at his mom's death. His original will and trust documents were prepared in 1979 when he was 62.

The attorney has prepared a will for me. It has made me think about my own future and any work I may start and some future retirement period and then that inevitable date with death.

Dad worked every day until he turned 81. That was the same year I came to live with him and mom. I think he knew he needed to quit. Physically he was in really good shape then and he was just beginning to have some issues. I think he was at his most productive between 62 and 81. I was reminded of that by the funeral. There were a number of people from the work part of his life that attended and several more that sent flowers and cards and called and emailed.

There wasn't much said really about his working life at the funeral. It is strange that we pour so much of ourselves into that aspect of life and yet when we die, at least if we are old, that part does not seem so important. I think that is in part because that aspect of life just continues on. And it seems to accelerate.

At 59 though I know I have to think about work and retirement and family life and how all that works together now. It is so different than when I was 20 or even 30 or 40. I was 50 when I moved here and I was able to work quite a bit even as a caregiver. Thanks to the Internet for that because it would not have been possible otherwise. But there's no going back to that work and, surprising to myself, I don't want to anyway.

So I've been thinking about priorities and what has to do be done now rather than later. I am the executor of my dad's estate. So I have to finish fulfilling his desires. That's going to take a while and really is mostly underway now.

I haven't figured out my priorities yet. But I think it is good that I've figured out I have to think about them.

There's a certain numbness that I feel that I think stems from the caregiving. Like when your leg is asleep for a while in church and when you stand up it doesn't cooperate well with the rest of your body. That's how I feel right now. But just like the asleep leg begins to tingle and throb and feel so strange - almost hurts - and then finally it joins its colleagues; so, I think that's what's happening to me.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Visit to Social Security

I do not recall visiting Social Security when my mother died. Someone must have but if it was me then the visit made no lasting impression.

I checked the website and found the instructions on what to do when someone died. So I called and reported the death on the Monday after my dad died the preceding Friday. The person I talked to said I needed to bring in the death certificate to complete the process and I received the certificates this past Saturday.

So I found the address of my local Social Security office this morning and headed up there as soon as I got around which wasn't terribly early. It was just before 11 when I opened the door. I was greeted by this uniformed officer kind of fellow who asked me what I needed. I told him and he responded that I needed a ticket and pressed a button on a keypad next to a keyboard and monitor mounted on a stand directly in front of the door. A little printer soon ejected a paper slip with the number "78" printed on it.

I thought "78!" and wondered where in the queue that put me.

The computer screen appeared to be a 15" CRT. As nearly as I could tell there were three options on the screen. One was for applying for social security cards or numbers and a second was for appointments. Everything else, which included my task, was the third choice.

I chose a chair next to the window on the 2nd row. It was one of those kind of vinyl covered chairs and I think it was sort of orange colored or at least it reminded me of that. It was actually pretty comfortable. There were about 20 or 30 people in the waiting area. They rather grouped themselves into little units. There were a few of us who were alone but we were in the minority.

The people who had appointments were called by name. The people who were getting cards were called by numbers in the 120's range and the rest of us were also called by number but of a different range. I heard 72 called and thought to myself that I wasn't too far from the current number.

There were three windows labeled with the numbers 1, 2, and 3. Window 1 was nearest the door and right across from me. Window 2 was closed. Window 3 seemed to be handling the people needing cards. Only once did a door open and someone called out a name and a man and woman rose from their seats and disappeared into the inner sanctum of the place.

Soon someone else entered the office and the polite officer asked them their business. They tried to explain in detail but he quickly got them a ticket and helped them find a chair. I heard the man say he had been living out of country and now was returned and need to inquire about Medicare benefits.

I must say this officer's voice and demeanor was so soothing that I think he must be an invaluable resource to this particular office. I wonder if anyone knows the contribution he makes just by his presence and his calmness and his courtesy. He just so easily put everyone at ease that he helped.

But he left for a break shortly afterwards and the next person that came in rather cautiously approached the computer monitor as though it were a wild animal not quite domesticated and capable of inflicting injury on the unsuspecting. I watched him read the instructions on the monitor but to my astonishment he proceeded to strike several keys on the keypad in quick succession. He did manage to get a ticket printed but it seemed to him unsatisfactory and he interrupted the lady at window 3 for further guidance. She had to come out and type whatever it was necessary to generate the ticket. I think he was a little deaf.

The next couple seemed to know exactly what to do or at least the woman did. And she had the ticket in her hand almost before I had time to wonder about it. They sat across from me and down to my right.

The next couple was a man and a woman. The man apparently had difficulty with his eyesight because he leaned way over to peer at the CRT and the keypad. Whatever he needed to do required the last 4 digits of his social security number and this seemed to be one step too far. He kept talking to himself and left the lady there by herself to grapple with the keypad. The lady from the previous couple tried to help. She finally got a ticket but I really have no idea whether it was correct or not because they were still there when I left.

Finally my number was called. The man who I thought was deaf apparently didn't hear the number very well and he asked several times "Did you call [number_of_choice]" to which the lady in window 3 replied "No, it was number 78." I took my place in front of window 1 and slid across my ticket on top of my official death certificate. The lady received both and typed something on her own keyboard. Finally she asked if I was a relative and what relationship and what was my social security number. And a few minutes later she handed me the death certificate. I said "is that all?" and she said it was.

It was 11:35 AM. About 40 minutes and I thought to myself that it could have been much longer.

All in all I think it was a sad experience if not just a little frightening.