Friday, November 30, 2007

Unintended Consequences

I love these unintended consequences stories.

My son sent me one the other day.

Emory building draped in black to save birds
Many crash into environmentally friendly design with soaring glass windows

Basically the story is about a building on the campus of Emory University. It was built specifically to "go green." It's the math and science center building and this is an image of it. The reflected forest is easily visible.

The unintended consequence is that the glass confuses birds by making them think the forest reflected by the glass is in front of them when it really is behind them. Then, confused, they smash into the glass with fatal consequences. Apparently 60 birds were killed the first year.

Caregivers know about unintended consequences.

Personal Update:
You just can't qualify for a mortgage with no income history. There are rules about this kind of thing. Especially now. But my banker lady came to my rescue. She tells me she has everything handled at the bank and has ordered the appraisal and will have money at the closing. Next big hurdle is the inspection which will occur on Monday.

Today is my stress test.

We're having company this next week, too. My stepdaughter arrives Saturday. We're very excited.

And I may have an opportunity to meet someone of the cornbread persuasion this next week if all works out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Considerate People, Grateful People

The other morning I had to run by the cleaners so I stayed home longer than normal so I could drive by there on my way to the farm. This put me into more traffic than usual as well as another route.

Soon I encountered some construction that caused the road to be narrowed to one lane somewhere way ahead of me. Traffic in both lanes slows to a stop and go pace. And people coming up from the rear really can't tell what's happening until they get closer to the construction zone.

Most people waited their turn and signaled and then courteously moved over into the open lane and someone would let them in. I was already in the open lane so I let a fellow in a black SUV over in front of me.

Usually if you let someone in like that, you'll get a wave or a mouthed thank you in the mirror or a nod or some kind of acknowledgment. Nothing like that with this fellow though. Then the guy rides the line which for some reason irritated me to no end. It was distracting for one thing.

Soon another car passes me in the closed off lane and comes up alongside the SUV. The guy wasn't trying to cut in or anything but there just wasn't anywhere for him to go. He was trying to get over but he ends up in front of the SUV. I figured the SUV would let the poor guy over. But NO, the SUV driver pulls up so tight the guy cannot get over. He did it deliberately. Now this is the guy that I just let over.

So of course I let the new guy over in front of me. He waves at me and mouths thank you in the mirror! That's like doubly grateful.

That made me wonder.

The first guy wasn't grateful or at least didn't express it and he surely wasn't considerate of the other guy either. The second guy was grateful so I wondered if he would also be considerate.

Didn't have to wait long to find out because pretty soon another car ends up just ahead of the second guy who is now in front of me. And my second guy with no hesitation motions for the new guy to come over which he does.

Gratitude and consideration: I think they go together.

On a more personal note:

I did not meet with the mortgage company yet. I may not be able to qualify for a mortgage. There's a big difference between me personally and our family business interests. The estate will not settle for a very long time. There's also a big difference between me acting on my own behalf and when I was acting on dad's behalf. The mortgage business is under such scrutiny now, too. So I may have to pursue alternatives. And the worst thing that could happen is that we don't get get this house but we still have a roof over our heads.

I bought a new pair of Brooks running shoes yesterday. My old ones had more than 1,000 miles on them. It surely makes a big difference getting a new pair.

Friday I go for my first ever treadmill stress test. My doc thought I should have one since I exercise so much and I've never had one and I'm nearly 60 now. My competitive nature makes me want to do well!! Judy says I am making way too big a deal out of it and that it's basically a nothing kind of thing especially compared to my normal exercise routine. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ex-Caregiver Applies For Loan

My telephone call with a mortgage banker:

Banker: Let me get your sales contract.
Flinty: Ok, great.
Banker: Wow, that's a great price!
Flinty: We think it is a great price, too.
Banker: You want a 15 year mortgage right?
Flinty: Yes. I'm nearly 60 so I thought 30 years might be
overly optimistic.
Banker: Well, rates have fallen so I think we can get you
in at 5.625%.
Flinty: That's amazing. That's what I was paying 40 years
ago.
Banker: I can start the application and then you can come
by and sign it.
Flinty: That's wonderful.
Banker: What's your current address?
Flinty: Well, that's kind of complicated. But my official
address is still at my dad's house.
Banker: How long have you lived there?
Flinty: 9 years.
Banker: Do you own that property?
Flinty: No, it was my dad's.
Banker: Do you own another home?
Flinty: No.
Banker: Employer name?
Flinty: told her
Banker: How long have you worked there?
Flinty: Well, I just started this year.
Banker: Where did you work previously?
Flinty: I helped my dad.
Banker: What was your base salary?
Flinty: I didn't have a salary.
Banker: What is your present base salary?
Flinty: Well, I'm going to make more next year.
Banker: Hmmmm.
I'm going to see them tomorrow.

This is me down on the floor coloring on Thanksgiving day. Judy's niece's daughter was down there with me for a while. She's about two. I think she lost interest and left me to complete our project. Maybe I will take this to the meeting with the mortgage banker.



This is a photograph of rather marvelous weed that I took after our first freeze of the year. It was an ugly weed but it was just out there all by itself and so tall. It wasn't old. I noticed when it came up - at least after it achieved a certain height.

I thought seriously about running over it with my car but that seemed wrong somehow. I guess I could have stopped and pulled it up but that seemed a little too much effort.

But it didn't fare too well from the freeze.

Still one has to admire the tenacity of life, even in a weed.

I don't think it knows it is a weed though. I think more likely it considers itself handsome and other stuff to be undesirables.

No point to this - just something that struck me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Most Life Still Unclassified

I read an article dated November 13, 2007 entitled After 250 Years of Classifying Life, 90 Percent Remains Unknown.

Most everyone has heard of Carl Linnaeus. He was a Swedish naturalist who published in 1735 a 13-page booklet called Systema Naturae that proposed a method of classifying living things. His book sparked an attempt to classify all life. He originally included minerals, too.

A few days after I read the above article I noticed that a copy of that booklet sold for about $300,000 (150,000 British pounds). The seller was an Edinburgh college.

Linnaeus' book was published 63 years before the discovery of the platypus. Of course the platypus wasn't lost and a good many people already knew about it but 1798 is the date some European discovered one. I have wondered if Linnaeus' system would have changed any if he had known about the platypus. Charles Darwin published On The Origin of Species in 1859. That might have changed Linnaeus' taxonomy had he known about it.

Someone introduced me to C. S. Lewis not long after my conversion to Christianity. Lewis had become an atheist at about 13 and marked his conversion at about 31. It wasn't exactly my story but close enough to pique my interest. I was quite fascinated by his tales.

Of particular interest to me in his stories were the sentient and self-aware animals and trees. Not all animals and not all tress were sentient beings in his stories but some were. And those that were also had the ability of language.

The stories made me think about things I had never considered. One has to respect such authors.

I've known a lot of animals. Some of them were considerably better company than some humans I've met. And some I don't miss at all and I'm happy some are gone.

When I visited Muir Woods in California to see the giant redwood trees I touched several with great reverence and awe. They seemed to me to be completely in a different class of anything I'd ever encountered.

Sentient animals doesn't seem such a stretch to me really.

I wonder if old Carl Linnaeus's system of classification is anywhere near correct? Probably be a few more years before we know since it has only been 272 years. Then again I don't suppose it makes much difference to me one way or another.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Insight

There is a story that is often told to demonstrate insight. It is not absolutely known to be true and it has evolved with the many tellings. Some scholars believe the incident never occurred at all.

Still it is an outstanding and wonderful story and it does indeed demonstrate the nature of insight as well as anything my mind imagines.

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, April 30, 1977 to February 23, 1855, was a great, German mathematician and scientist. His reputation has only grown since his death and deservedly so.

He was a real prodigy and there are numerous anecdotes about his early genius. The "insight" example is one of those.

In the version of the story I heard Gauss was in elementary school and his teacher assigned the entire class the task of summing all the integers from 1 to 100. The assignment as much as anything was to keep the students occupied for a while so the teacher could do something else.

The teacher was astonished as young Gauss within mere seconds raised his hand and reported the correct answer.

Gauss somehow had recognized that if one wrote the numbers 1 through 100 horizontally on the paper and then beneath them wrote the numbers 100 through 1 that the sum of each pair of numbers was always 101.


1 2 3 4 ... 97 98 99 100
100 99 98 97 ... 4 3 2 1
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
101 101 101 101 101 101 101 101

So it wasn't very hard for Gauss to multiply 101 by 100 which is 10,100. Then he divided by 2 to get 5,050 which is the correct answer of the sum of the integers 1 through 100.

Even if this did not happen almost everyone has had enough experience with insight, either one's own or another's, to know it might be true.

Giving an example of insight or even experiencing insight itself is so far from explaining insight.

I recall once a long time ago when I was trying to help my son learn to tell time with an analog clock. After many frustrating days my own solution was to simply do away with analog clocks in favor of digital ones. But the rest of the world seems unwilling to adopt that solution. Finally one day my son just "got it" which is another way of admitting that insight occurred.

So many things are like that. Those images for instance that if you look at them casually at first you see one thing but if you keep staring then you see another. And finally you get to where you can easily see one or the other or even both sometimes.

Insight is far removed from anything I know how to do with computer programming.

I have a friend who likes to say "in my logical thinking" a lot. And often his thinking is extremely good and useful. But it rarely is logical. Rather it is often insight.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Death

I've been thinking about death. Ever so often I go through thinking spells. I always have even as a kid. Apparently not everyone does. I've been told I'm a little peculiar in this regard.

I read once that death is an ineluctable reality. I like that word "ineluctable" that means unavoidable. I don't know why we just don't say unavoidable though. Ineluctable is not heard much. In fact I've never heard it.

When I was thinking about death I read there were more than 300 theories about the why of death. That's a lot of theories.

Regardless of the theories there are only two general ways of looking at death. I concluded that a long while back. One way is that death is normative and natural and is in fact supposed to occur. The other is that it is neither normative nor natural and should not occur.

We all know only too well that death surrounds us. It is everywhere and ongoing all the time. It isn't a question of whether it occurs because it definitely does.

I once believed that death was normative and natural.

But then in an instant I had an encounter with The Creator. I had heard people talk about such encounters but I could not fathom what they meant. I describe it as being in a pitch black room with no light from any source and then someone suddenly flips a switch and a search light illuminates the room. At first it is so bright that it is hard to see. But the eyes, in this case spiritual ones, begin to adjust by and by. And it turns out that there is so much more than the physical.

I came to believe the Holy Scripture, The Bible.

That's a problem though when it comes to death (and not a few other things for that matter). Because The Bible clearly teaches that death is neither natural nor normative.

One day death will cease according to The Bible because the root cause will be corrected.

We moderns also hope to see the end of death but by an entirely different process.

Anyway I was thinking about this the other day and decided to write some of it down.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New House

Front
New Porch?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reflections on FirstThanksgiving

First it was my son-in-law who asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving. Then my son asked. And my daughter by email. And a friend here and there. My cousin sent an email.

It made me a little angry actually. I did not want to be reminded that this was the first one since Dad died.

It is my children's first ever Thanksgiving to miss coming to the farm entirely. And I am their father and their children's grandfather. It is my brother's first as well and he and his family spent it alone except for his mom-in-law.

I went to Judy's mom's. It makes me feel a little traitorous. I know my family needs me. It was like the funeral though. I did not want to plan it or do it. My brother stepped in for me. I had no stomach for Thanksgiving this year. (That's kind of funny) In past years the event at Judy's mom's has been huge. Thankfully yesterday's was very small. I did not want many people around.

So I am glad it is over now. I wish Christmas had also come and gone.

I was talking to the Lord about how I feel. In the 25 years now that I have talked to Him I have learned it is pointless to hide anything. He already knows. And I know that He understands. That is comforting somehow.

He told me that next year will be a new beginning.

I was thinking how emotional the week has been: First Thanksgiving on top of buying a new home and about a dozen other things anyone of which could be considered life changing on its own.

I read that 132 million Americans will shop today. About 1/3 of them apparently decided to come to the Kohl's and Penney's near dad's house. Both opened at 4 AM.

Going to exercise now.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Met The Sellers

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Truly there is so much for me to be thankful for this year. I said the same thing last year and the year before that. It is a long tradition in our family to consider ourselves blessed. It is an even longer tradition in my larger family of Christ followers to consider ourselves blessed. And on Thanksgiving it is a wonderful time to stop and think about the blessings and the God Who provided them.

Wednesday afternoon I met the owners of my hopefully soon-to-be home.

He was a kindly looking gentleman about my height. He seemed fit and could have passed for younger than his 86 years but not so many. His hair was gray and neatly trimmed and his clothing was business casual or better even though he was working inside the house. The overall impression was a gentleman in every sense of the word.

His wife was sitting in the corner and was so quiet I did not realize she was present until she spoke. She was much shorter but similarly dressed and equally self-possessed.

Gracious is the word that comes to my mind to describe this couple. Just very, very gracious.

I knew a bit about him from my Internet research. He had a difficult early life and had assumed responsibility for his mother and 3 siblings when only a young man, or an old boy more rightly stated. But he wasn't a boy for long nor were others of his generation back then. That was in North Carolina. In Oklahoma City he eventually became quite successful but certainly not overnight nor without ups and downs.

He asked me what I did for a living. I told him I had been taking care of my father who recently died and who had Alzheimer's. He told me he had Alzheimer's, too.

I felt a sickening shock of emotion hit me in the gut. I suspected they might be moving to an assisted living facility. And I wondered about Alzheimer's. Only natural given my recent experience to think that. The shower in the master bathroom had a hand held wand and a shower chair that made me wonder more.

That was all wondering though. But meeting someone like this in the very early stages of Alzheimer's who tells you he has been diagnosed is much different than wondering. I wasn't prepared.

I never had that experience with my dad. He never admitted to an infirmity of any sort let alone Alzheimer's. And he had few infirmities other than that one. I do not know if I wondered more because of the man's admission or because he has been diagnosed.

I covered quickly though.

It is amazing how much of an only possible future can rush before the eyes of the mind in a mere instant. It is not really the future but only the imagined future built from the experiences of my own near past and from the often read shared experiences of other caregivers.

I wanted to grab him around the neck and hug him. I wanted to weep. I wanted to yell and scream. That's what I wanted.

That's not what I did of course. I was calm. I told him he was doing really well. I told him I admired him and his home and what a pleasure it was to meet him. I told him how excited we were to have the opportunity to move into his home. His dignity and independence suddenly became of foremost importance to me and I struggled to keep things ordinary.

He told me about his history and about the landscaping he'd done just three years earlier and about how many wonderful years they'd had in this home. We knew many of the same people. It is a small world. And they're moving into an independent living facility for now. His wife emphasized the point. That it was independent living. I know the place, too. It is very upscale and it has various levels of care available as needed. It is a good choice I think if one has the means and ambition. Services offered include independent living, assisted living, nursing/rehabilitation care, Alzheimer's care, and short-term stays according to the web site.

His wife talked about how difficult it was to move into a place less than 1/2 the size of this one. They're giving a lot of stuff away to a local charity. There's a beautiful grandfather clock that's going to a grandson. The man said it was like living in a motel and looked wistfully again around the now nearly deserted dining room and living room.

There were objects here and there with little tags bearing a dollar value. I suppose they were from some prior sale. I wondered again to myself and this time it was about the idea of having someone else pick through the relics of one's life before it has ended. Maybe it is only like a garage or yard sale but I wondered if it would be different if one were moving to Independent Living. It has been difficult enough for those of us who have lost loved ones to go through their things. I wonder if it is more difficult if it is your own things? What to keep? What to give? What to destroy?

I wondered. Would I, if I made 86, have the fortitude to make such a move myself? Or would I ignore the inevitable and bury my head (so to speak)? Or would said head be buried for me?

We, there were four of us - my son and me and two more men - finally excused ourselves and moved to the garage. There we rather gleefully climbed into the attic and looked at the furnaces and hot water heater and the electric panel and the garage itself. Each man exclaimed "What a great garage!" upon entering the space. The Realtor joined us in time to hear the last exclamation and laughed that only men would first head for the garage of a new house and then spend so much time applauding its merits. Too funny really.

Then we spent more time walking around the yard and examining air conditioners and sprinkler heads and gates and walls and termite bait traps and stuff like that. We spent a long and uncomfortably cold few minutes discussing where the air conditioner units sat and how old those units were and what SEER they were and could I squeeze in the Generac from dad's house along beside them. And the landscaping required more cold minutes and we discovered piers had been dug and knew to look for cracks inside among other things.

Then we toured the home and I looked at space and imagined living there and my companions looked with more detachment at structure and status and other problem areas.

There are some problems and not all small. The official inspection will occur in one week.

I like these people and their house.

I am thankful I met them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

House Buying

So by last Thursday or Friday we had chosen the area we liked which was 5 miles from my mom-in-law and 5 miles from my dad's place and 5 miles from church and a few other convenient places we frequent.

By Saturday we had a short list of 5 or 6 properties and I emailed them to our Realtor.

By Sunday we had driven through the areas and really there were only 2 houses of actual mightbuyability. And one of those we toured ourselves because it was under construction and I found an unlocked door.

So Monday we visited the one that remained.

We told the Realtor to prepare an offer. We signed papers about an hour later. We went to dinner.

Strangely enough the excitement I felt changed to an unnerving calm. I was happy but numb. I felt the same way I did when dad died. Numbness kind of describes it but not really. Emotionless might be better. Emotionless isn't really emotionless though because emotionless makes others feel a profound sadness. And try as I might I could not make my emotionless state lift.

Tuesday we waited and waited and waited some more. Judy had a terrible day from other things. She wasn't sure she even wanted it any longer. I was still emotionless.

Finally at 5:30 PM the Realtor called.

The owners are in their late 80's and the man's son helps him. The son wanted to counter our offer but the owners wanted to accept. The owners finally won out and signed the contract just as we wrote it.

Now I feel guilty about that. The man is 86. I suspect they are moving to an assisted place. I could have been that son and my dad could have been that man. The son was right.

But I feel happy about getting the house and my emotionless state has lifted.

Now begins the house buying stage.

(2 month anniversary of Dad's death)

Monday, November 19, 2007

House Hunting

We have an appointment today with a Realtor to tour a home.

House hunting is considerably different now than the last time I did it. We ran our own MLS searches and narrowed to an area of town. Then we narrowed the list of possible homes. Then we took the on line home tours for each property. I even could have gotten a fixed rate mortgage locked in over the Internet. I didn't but I could have. I also looked up the address of the property to see if any liens had ever been filed and found the ownership information. Searched again to find out about the owner.

The last time I searched for a home there was no Internet capability at all.

Brave new world.


Personal Effects


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Personal Effects

I've been working on my will. The lawyer wanted to know what I wanted to happen to my personal effects.

I said "I don't really think I have any that amounts to anything. You mean like watches and stuff?"

That's what he meant. I told him I really didn't have anything and really never had. He said "You might buy a Rolex."

I do admire Rolex watches. They really do represent great human achievement in so many areas not the least of which is self-promotion. A business I once managed won a Rolex in a contest because we sold a bunch of stuff. I gave it to the salesman that was most responsible for our success. Seemed right at the time.

I took a look at my watches. I do have 2 original Pulsar watches. Pulsar was the first digital watch back in 1972. Then I have 3 Timex Ironman watches. And a Seiko. And a Mathey Tisot. My son said he wanted my Pulsars. No one has indicated much interest in the others.

I've always thought it would be nice to own a nice fountain pen. I don't own one though because I seem to lose my pens pretty regularly. Besides I don't really like fountain pens that much. I did buy some disposable fountain pens a couple of years ago. They were about $3 each. So every time I think I might want to buy a nice one I just get another disposable.

I have a walking cane collection somewhere. Maybe someone might want it. Of course I need to find it. But, now that I am living with my spouse, I couldn't just bring it in the house even if I found it.

A friend gave me a Native American artifact last Christmas. It's some kind of scraper deal. I like having it because I can imagine someone a long time past actually using it.

I couldn't find much else to list for my personal effects.

This morning after I finished exercising I looked through Dad's dresser drawer. I wondered if he had any personal effects I had overlooked. He used to have a ring but I think it broke a long time back and he never fixed it. I found a Timex watch but he didn't wear it much if any. There are some pipes but he quit smoking at least 40 years ago. I found a little pocket knife and a coin purse. There were several wallets he'd kept. I'd like to have his wings but they were no where to be seen.

My brother said that when he was doing genealogy research on our family that he discovered my great (or maybe great-great) grandfather's anvil is still owned by the family but somewhere out in Texas. I don't know if an anvil is really a personal effect though. And what would I do with an anvil if I had one?

If I get some personal effects I'm supposed to write them down and next to that the name of the person I want to receive them.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

When I was 20

Another blog buddy's loved one died on Thursday. Five us now in the short few months I've maintained this blog. I worry that all my friends will lose their loved ones. Yet they were each there for me when my dad died and I want to be there for them. I read their blogs with both anticipation and dread.

Stef's Nonna, her grandmother, is the most recent casualty. Stef introduced me to the Lion King not very long ago.

I was very close to my paternal grandparents. They lived across the driveway from us when I was a child. When you live with someone like that there is a special bond that forms.

My Pop died when I was 12. At that age I was still enough of a child that the event was soon swallowed up in the death of my own childhood and the birth of my adolescence and the frenetic chaos of that time of life.

My Granny died when I was 40 and struggling with my own midlife problems then as well as the emerging adult lives of my children.

So Stef's loss made me think about how I might have handled the deaths of my own grandparents when I was 20. I was so self certain at that age. I was married at 20. I knew what I wanted my life to look like even before then and by 20 I was busy accomplishing that goal just as a painter might prepare the canvas and sketch the still image and then proceed to paint.

Paintings, as good as they may be, are not alive. We value them though because the good ones, the really good ones, capture a portion, only a portion, of a glimpse of the magnificence of life.

A short while before 20 I still imagined myself as a university professor type doing research in theoretical physics and teaching a few classes and walking around with a tweed coat that had leather patches on the sleeves and smoking a pipe and looking altogether rather intelligent. And whiling away the mornings in the union over coffee and talking about the quantum nature of matter and space and nth degree tensors and stuff like that. And in the afternoons heading to O'Connell's for beer and listening as the conversation turned to girls and politics and whatever. And taking classes that assigned us to watch Juliet of the Spirits.

But that didn't last so long.

I did not know about being then but I was all about doing. Maybe it has to be that way for some of us, or most of us, or even all of us.

I suspect if I had lost my Pop or Granny when I was 20 it might have disrupted that self certainty a little. But probably not enough and maybe none at all. Self deception is not easily displaced. Even now that's true.

I think I know what I would have done. I would have read every book on death and dying and grief that I could find. I would have not stopped until I understood the subjects and what had been thought and written by others. I think that because I have done it more than once.

But knowledge is no more a substitute for emotion than is doing for being.

I no longer think that there are 5 stages of grief with all deference and respect to Dr. K├╝bler-Ross.

As strange as it is to write it there is a certain beauty to grief. Is it so bad I wonder that we should stop and remember? Not that we stop very long. Is it so bad to feel the sadness or to experience fear or even to question our regret? Not that grief should be welcomed but at least that its arrival is recognized. And what if it did not arrive? Or what if it does not? What does that mean?

Saturday morning musings.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Interesting People

One thing about my new life is that I get to meet more people. Most of them are so interesting.

The other day I met a lady who was looking for a location for her retail operation in our market and was seriously considering our site. She came by both to learn a little about us and let us learn something about her.

I thought to myself when I first saw her that she was a runner. It wasn't long before my hunch was proven correct. She's a marathoner. She had to be at least in her late 40's but she could easily have passed for mid 30's.

A marathon is 26 miles plus! The longest I've ever continuously run (well, jogged) is 3 miles.

But what really impressed me was that she had begun this particular business about 20 years earlier by acquiring three stores from another owner. I asked her if she had experience in this particular industry and she replied that she had not. Her degree is in accounting and finance she said and when she could she hunted around for a business that she could own and run.

Now she has 100 locations!!

But the most important thing from my perspective as a potential landlord is that she still has the original 3 stores she started with and they are still in the same place.

Interesting people.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday Night On The Town

We decided to take Judy's Mom out to dinner last Friday night. I knew before asking where it would be. Because it's the place she likes: El Chico on Western.

It's been there a long time but not forever as the younger people in our party think. There are 4 of us in my car and Judy's son will meet us. Judy's son and nephew both are in their late 30's. In their memory I think this El Chico has always been there.

But we older ones remember when the area was pasture land. Judy's mom's memories are older than ours of course. I think she knew the family that farmed it or a relative farmed land adjacent to this one. I've been told but I have forgotten.

In the mid 1960's the farm gave way to a hospital and a strip shopping center. There was a cafeteria in the shopping center that I especially remember. It had ceilings that were popular in that time and always reminded me of caves. There was stuff on the ceiling that looked like it would be soft and maybe spongy if you could touch it. I think it was some kind of sprayed on asbestos stuff for fireproofing and soundproofing.

I didn't like cafeterias then and really they haven't gained on me any. For one thing I never knew what I wanted to eat. And someone to the left of me invariably banged his or her tray into my hand while I was trying to make up my mind. Then I would see some dish that looked positively scrumptious and I'd ask for it. And some lady, or sometimes a man, would hand me the dish and say something. I didn't really know what was said so I would nod my head hoping that would suffice.

And then by the time I got to the end of the line and looked at what I had on my tray all those good dishes made a terrible meal. It is funny how some things can look so good individually but when combined makes an awful whole.

Then there was the problem of hauling the tray to the table without spilling the drink. The secret, learned years later, is to not watch the glass. If you watch that glass you are nearly guaranteed a spill. Like when you're driving don't watch the curb unless you want to run into it.

Once seated there was the noise and all the bodies that seemed so close around on all sides. And the cornbread that looked so good in line was dry as sand.

Eventually the strip center and its cafeteria gave way to the hospital which is now called a medical center. Inside the hospital there are still photographs and little bits of writing here and there that recall the history of the place for any who might be interested. I wonder if anyone reads them now or even cares.

Back at El Chico's Constance was our waitress. She was a lovely young woman with exquisitely dark skin, nearly to the exotic. Her name should have been Consuela or Constanza or Conecheta but her name tag read Constance. She was very attentive and very pretty and very poised for one so young. She overheard us wondering about when Judy's son would arrive. She kidded us about being ready to order until he came. And when he came she knew his name and what he most likely wanted to drink so she asked him. His surprised look let her know she had been successful in her eavesdropping. And when he sat down we had to tell him how she knew his name and drink.

I wonder if she knows how special she is? I wonder if someone has told her that she has the potential to be anything she wants and do anything she wants? I wonder if she will educate herself? I wonder what will happen to Constance.

I meant to order Fajita Nachos but said Fajita Enchiladas. Maybe it was the memory of the old problems with the cafeteria that had returned to haunt me. Still it was rather a good choice for me in fact and I would order it again.

Later we all sat together on the enclosed back porch of the old house. The house is from 1900 but the porch is much younger. Still I could not help but wonder how many times had others gathered on this very place just as we were all doing now.

There was new Eggnog from Braum's that was offered to all by Judy's mom. I don't like milk or anything made with milk but I accepted the hospitality all the same. And she encouraged a little nutmeg that I also accepted but drew the line at the imitation rum flavoring.

There was conversation about other family members and who was working where and how soon Thanksgiving was upon us. And what are we all doing for Thanksgiving anyway?

Too soon it was time to go and we parted.

This little gathering was nothing at all in the great scheme of things. Ones just like it were happening all over the world in one way or another. And all of those were just as unnoticed and just as overfamilar as this one.

And yet I could not help but wonder in awe at our little gathering. I suppose it is good that we become accustomed to the familiar otherwise I suspect we could not survive the exposure to the unique, wondrous beauty of love and family.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Friend

I had this friend once.

I thought about him last night.

I don't know why.

Last time I saw him was at an IHOP on South Meridian. He invited me. I was a new caregiver then of about 4 months. I didn't even know I was a caregiver. In fact I still wasn't really planning on staying with mom and dad. It was temporary and when mom was better then I'd leave. Get back to my life and so on.

It was March, 1999. In just a bit more than a month I would be faced with the May 3rd, 1999 tornado that came so very close to dad's and mom's home. But I didn't know that then.

My friend was 15 years my senior. So, let's see, he was 65 and I was 50. I worked with him for a long time and I started there when I was just a kid so we had known each other for more than 30 years. He was in his late 20's or early 30's when I first met him. I thought he was so cool. It was big time hero worship on my part.

He had developed emphysema. He was on oxygen then but he was trying as hard as he could to make the best of his situation. That's they way he was about everything. He lied about his age to get in the army during the Korean war and he served in Korea, too. He endured a lot of hard stuff. He loved the military though and was a Colonel in the guard.

He was already inside by the time I arrived. He had his little portable oxygen tank there and the thing around his head that held the air hose against his nose. He never wanted me to see how much trouble he had walking so he'd arrive early.

The waitresses all flirted with him and he flirted back. He was one of those men who was good looking and trim and athletic. He was self-assured, even with oxygen and a cough. Some women really liked him and he really liked them back. But most everyone, men and women, liked him and wanted to be around him. He was just that kind of man.

They knew what he liked because he came to that restaurant a lot. He had lunch with his daughter there once a week. He had other friends that he met for lunch, too. Different places for different friends. I had been invited to some of those lunches, too.

At this place he got the Belgian waffles with the strawberries. I have no idea what I ate. We talked about my mom and my dad and our families. He and I had prayed together several times. He wasn't a believer but he had known me both ways.

That was a Wednesday. We left together. He had to stop every few feet to get his breath. I stopped with him. We made it to his car and we told each other "I love you" and we hugged. I watched him drive away.

Over the weekend I think he passed out and his wife had to call 911. He died the following Tuesday.

He was a really good friend.

Sometimes I think about him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chiggers

I had to crawl in the big bin where the oats are kept the other day. This is an image of my right lower leg. All those little red whelps are Chigger bites. Apparently there was a small Chigger army living in the oat bin and a battalion or two decided to mount an excursion up my leg.

No, they didn't stop at the leg. I pretty much have them all over my body that same way. The bites really itch.

I had kind of forgotten about Chiggers which is amazing because I recall knowing them pretty well from my childhood.

The bites will more or less be gone in a couple of weeks.

I hope the horses enjoyed the oats that I rescued from the opposing horde of Chiggers. Does make me wonder what else is in there. I was told to watch out for snakes but I didn't see any of them.

We used to have some gold fish in the horses' water tank. I was going to try to get a picture of them. They do a great job of keeping the tank clean. And they will come up to the surface when a horse drinks and try to eat stuff off the horse's mouth. Usually there is plenty, too. But these white birds (I've heard them called egrets or sea gulls or pelicans) found out about the gold fish and ate them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Remembering

My mom died 6 years ago today. I remembered.

If anyone else remembered it was silently because no one said anything to me. Not that I really wanted anyone to say anything. It isn't as though I think we should celebrate it or something.

I wrote about her death and the events leading up to it just now in this blog. I had a whole bunch of words typed out. But I erased everyone one of them.

Erasing. That's what it feels like to me. I mean death feels like erasing. I think I may well be the only person that remembered my mom's death today. A few weeks ago was her birthday and a few of us remembered and mentioned it to each other. I will remember all the dates for a while, maybe a long while. But others will gradually forget.

Back when mom died I used to take dad to the cemetery every day. That's when I realized that I didn't know when my grandparents and my aunts and uncles had died. I didn't remember when my friends died. I had an entire calendar of deaths for a while. Morose I know.

Cemeteries are interesting places. I spent so much time out there with dad. Some graves are visited but most aren't. The older ones are visited less and the newer ones are visited more. There are some exceptions but even then it is because of one or two people who visit and I always wondered if someone else would take over when they quit coming.

Dad would stand and talk to mom. I would move away so he could be alone there with her. I would walk among the others and read their names and dates. I would imagine their stories. And oftentimes there would be other alive people out there and I would watch them but from afar. Or I would watch the funeral graveside services.

Even then I knew that someday we would stop coming. And we did finally. One day dad just said no he didn't want to go out there anymore. And that was that.

Dad and mom visited the cemetery a few times a year. Mom would get flowers and they would decorate the graves of their parents and dad's sister and her husband. And sometimes they would visit other cemeteries where other family members were buried and they'd do the same things.

I never wanted to go. I didn't find it very interesting or important. And after all those people were dead and what difference did it make if there were flowers there or whatever. It wasn't like they'd know.

And now it is my time to visit the graves. There are more of them. I realize it isn't about decorations at all. It is about remembering.

Someday I will follow my parents in death. Maybe my son or daughter will take up the task when that happens. Or maybe not.

I realized something else though during the cemetery period. Finally it occurred to me that there weren't many of us in my family actually alive. Most of us are already on the other side. I know a very few of them. I know the names of a few more. But I feel connected to all of them just the same.

Someday I will see them all. I don't know what they are all doing over there but I am pretty certain they are busy and happy. I always imagine it will be kind of like the big family reunions that I remember as a child except the bathrooms will be nicer.

Anyway my mom died 6 years ago today and I remembered.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Little Family

I registered for the Alzheimer's forum on June 11, 2007. I started posting on this blog on July 9, 2007. It was not my first blog effort but has been my most consistent. My greatest stress was about that time and I posted about it on July 15th.

I remember that time so well. I felt as though my head were being squeezed in a vise and that I might not survive it myself.

I had not allowed comments on my blog entries before July 14th but on that day I forgot to check the box for "Don't allow." It seemed too much trouble. Nothing bad happened so I didn't check it anymore after that.

Lori posted a comment on July 18th. She began her blog on June 30, 2007.

Betsy posted a comment on July 20th. She began her blog in September, 2006.

Nancy posted a comment on July 21st. She began her blog on July 10, 2007.

Monday, September 17, 2007, Lori's Helen died.
Thursday, September 20, 2007, Nancy's Russ died.
Friday, September 21, 2007, my dad died.
Friday, November 2, 2007, Betsy's mom died.

Another friend, chris, lost both parents during this time.

I purposely did not include the others' names who posted comments. But I know who they are and I know when they posted. I did not want to include their names in this post. But they are dear to me. They are just as dear to me and beloved as Lori and Nancy and Betsy. I know that I do not really protect them by omitting their names but I have to try.

All of us hold in common the role of caregiving for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's disease. We shared and continue to share our lives and love and work and joys and frustration and grief. We tried and still try to help one another. We never criticized and we never judged and we supported each other the best we could. I personally found the words of these friends to be amazingly comforting. I was deeply surprised. We shared the last days of our loved ones and we shared our own feelings and emotions and thoughts and dreams and nightmares.

Alzheimer's is one of those diseases, and unfortunately not the only one, that often takes enormous effort from everyone and which frequently kills the patient slowly and cruelly. It takes so long sometimes and the caregiving is so intense that we forget that the end still is death.

But death does arrive. He is sometimes late and sometimes early but he always comes. He is not altogether unwelcome in the case of Alzheimer's patients. I know that myself from first hand experience.

And yet I am sad that he came and took my dad away. I am even sadder that he took Helen and Russ and Betsy's mom.

He will come again to touch others that I love. I find that heartbreaking.