Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Going Home Again

One thing I made sure was working properly on my last visit out was Dad's chair that lifts him up to the standing position, then, he can lean into it and gently have it sit him back down (and I have to say the DeBeers Diamond  "three months salary" marketing staff have nothing on the folks that sell furniture for older folks).

He loves it, one more thing to help him stay in his home. He recovered from his stroke a few years back better than anyone thought, but he now has a hard time standing and sitting without a little help.  Every morning, he gets up and gets settled in it and reads the daily message from "Our Daily Bread" and then the Bible.  That's something he's done every day since retirement, after his morning work out (Dad was a Golden Glove Boxer and still has a very strict exercise regiment that included swimming and Nautulus at the Y with my Step Mom well into their 80's).  Then it's time to get dressed and get about enjoying the day.

Actually, I checked the chair out when he was sleeping in one day, it's quite comfortable and seems to be built better than some of my expensive yuppie furniture.

But dang, I was hoping for an auto launch feature that would get  me airborne. 

Initiate Launch Sequence!  (that's it??)

The family room, where the chair is housed, has barely changed since I was in sixth grade.  My parents built it onto the house over what was most of our huge cement patio.  We took a vote as a family one year when I was in grade school. Vacation to Hawaii with the kids (the parents had already gone on their 25th anniversary alone) or add on a family room?  The kids decided it.  Family room!  We can play!  We can make noise.  We can spill stuff!  We can take the TV set completely apart with tools while they're at the grocery store (oh, dang, busted)

It has the previous living room carpeting down over the original harvest gold linoleum now and the drapes have been updated.  But much is unchanged. The 1970's fixtures for the fluorescent lights that Dad crafted by hand. Still there. That Mexican hat on the Wall?  A VERY embarrassing River dance gone South episode from some tap recital of mine.  The barre built into the wall where I did my ballet warm ups was removed and replaced with paneling.  It was there under the kitchen window that Mom once took out with a golf ball from the back yard when that was the back window to the house. Fore! (hey, I didn't know Mom knew that other word!)

On the walls are funny tin signs and Montana art.  On another wall are numerous awards and mementos from the community and  Uncle Sam, every single member of our family - Mom, Dad, brothers, sister, serving in Defense, Local or Federal Law Enforcement or the Armed Forces, with the Air Force and Navy battling it out for the best space. And the picture of Jesus, which has witnessed slumber parties, ping pong games (we'd set the table up inside in the winter) Loony Tunes, and probably cursing during that 1983 Minnesota-Nebraska college game.

The couch is new, but the quilt is one my Mom crocheted  in the 70's.  There is another one, but it sits in my linen closet at the Range, where I can occasionally hold it, smell the scent of Chanel No. 5 that only exists in my memory.  It's where I can remember her hands working away on it while we kids watched westerns on TV and tried to outshoot Marshall Dillon with our little cap guns under the watchful eye of our Lord.
We've made just a few changes in the house.  The main bathroom, tub and shower were outfitted with handles and bars and a shower chair for ease of bathing. The waterbed was replaced with a quality regular mattress that makes it easier for him to get out of bed, but with a heated mattress pad so it's warm through the night.

The small bath by the family room, though, was in dire need of help.  It was always the "utility" bathroom, old faded paint, bare window, no storage at all, and small and hard to get around in as there was nothing for him to hold onto if his balance or strength waned.  But it's the one he uses the most.

Before he died, Big Bro took care of the construction and I took care of the  paint and the decorating.
Still, with a full time home health aide I arrange and lawn service that comes weekly I am happy he can stay in his home. He originally said he wanted to move in with me when my Step Mom was diagnosed with cancer and I bought an old money pit of a big house on some property with a view of a small lake, a single story, no steps, "mother in law set up" outside of town, the original "Range." I hoped he'd be happy there. But she went into remission, with great thanksgiving, but was then diagnosed with Alzhemers.

He cared for her in his home through that, until her death, years more than we expected, but not easy years for him.  But as she was his cross, she was also his salvation and he refused to put her in a nursing home, even when she acted out in anger against her children, not recognizing her own life, but somehow, always recognizing him.

But after she was gone, he changed his mind. His Mom was from Indy, and he enjoyed it there, but he didn't want to leave where he's lived all these years.  He wanted to stay where his memories are, good or bad, in his own church, in that old house.  I  understood and sold the place I had bought, at a loss, but one I gladly bore.

This is the home in which his memories reside, in every furnishing that's 30, 40, 60 years old.  There have been other houses, for summer vacations and the old family home in Montana, but this modest little place was always the center of the family.  Outside, is the bed of my Mom's rose garden, replanted with other flowers now, yet still containing for him, those pink and red and coral buds and blossoms, long after they've fallen to dust, no more dead to him than the hands that tended them, the drops of blood they sometimes drew.
In that family room, he sits in his recliner and watches his favorite sports, while around him are the artifacts of loves never lost, triumphs and defeats, as well as the living laughter of what little family remains and the friends he holds dear. Few of them are related to him by blood, but rather by the strongest bond - love.

My room at home is virtually unchanged and that was not by my request, but his will. Photos of family and family and extended family all around.  The rainbow I painted on my walls in junior high. Dad said I could, but I had to use leftover paint which is why my rainbow is every shade of totally tacky 1970's paint we had.  (yes, we had rooms painted those colors!)
There is no view. There used to be a view of beautiful mountains, but they are hidden from where we sit by tall, big box marts. He refused to sell when they literally bought up several blocks, RE-zoned residential and commercial, so we look out the windows to the vast walls of a commercial business, their parking lot lights illuminating the place like Attica Prison during a break. Curtains keep the light out at night, sort of.  Dad realizes the value of the home just went to zip, but he doesn't care. It's his home,  it's our home.  It's where we lived, and it's where he will pass, hopefully and quietly in his favorite chair, his Bible open and a can of cold beer waiting for when the game is called.

He knows his days are short, we all do. But he's very happy, lousy view and all. The pastor comes and gives him communion regularly.  His neighbor's have him over for meals and their children come and play board and card games with him.   I fly out as often as I can, becoming an expert on the cheap air fares (how many stops?)  My step brother and his wife drive three hours to take him to lunch. My cousin Liz drives up from California several times a year (her partner's Moms live an hour from Dad).  He has friends, good ones, but new ones, as all of his original group has passed on. He still works out each day, including and exercise bike and he eats very well with a hot meal daily from the sweet ladies that are his home health aides and the snacks and small meals I leave for him in little freezer containers between visits.
Around the house are small sayings, quotes that mean things to him, verses from the Bible.  "This is the Day the Lord hath Made, Let us Rejoice and Be Glad in It" is one that always makes me think of him. Each day is a gift from the Lord, he says, and I can't disagree.

I can't say what the future will bring, but one thing my brother and I both agreed on before he left us. Dad has outlived two beloved wives and two children (he and Mom lost a baby when they were first married) and I'm going to fight to make sure he does not experience any more loss of what he holds dear.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Are We There Yet?

For my pilot readers, yes, that is Jeppesen CSG-1P Slide Graphic Computer (E6B as we knew it as student pilots) used by Spock to figure the time before impact. I wonder if I still have one.

Pilots have to take regular re-examinations to fly passengers legally.  For private pilots, it's every two years.  For commercial pilots it's every six months for the Captains, and once a year for the copilots under traditional training.


And, like any pilot, I hate taking exams.

Written or otherwise. I think it started in early school years when I got a question really wrong.

The question was: "Where do women mostly have curly hair?

Apparently, the correct answer was Africa.


Checkrides are the one part of the job that I think most civilian commercial and military pilots hate. Doesn't matter how many hours you have, how many missions you've flown. And they don't get any easier. Doing maneuvers to perfection while everything on the airplane seems to fail, one after another, while a check airmen is peering over one shoulder and those stripes on your uniform are resting on the other. It never mattered how many years I'd done it or the fact that I'd never failed one, taking that first step into the briefing room to start the oral, my mind would go completely blank. Circumstance and fear had a way of subtracting information from my brain with surgical precision.

Yet somehow, when the first question came up, everything resusitates, not by sheer brilliance but simply from the fact that I'd studied my rear end off for weeks ahead of time. To this day I can still draw the entire electrical system of a 727 on an unfolded cocktail napkin.

I think it looked something like this.


click to enlarge

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Piano Guys - A Great Song, a Great Honor.


I don't know how many of you have listened to "The Piano Guys" but their music is just awesome. This video is special as I was one of the several folks that got to be part of the production process. (My author name is in the credits).  The wife of Jon Schmidt, the piano player, read my third book "Small Town Roads" and sent me the most heart warming handwritten letter as to how those words, as the book had an underlying grief theme, helped them as they had just lost their 21-year-old daughter in a tragic hiking accident. That meant so much to me. Great family, great music, and a connection was formed. I was so honored to be part of this video.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Battle Walls

It's been a week. That's all I can say. Dealing with the past. Dealing with the present. Work mostly, but I'm absolutely wiped out from a writing standpoint. If a zombie attempted to access my brain tonight it would be the Weight Watcher meal of cerebral activity. I'm mentally and emotionally done. The wall is up and I just want to hunker down with my best friend, and for a meal with Og and his family last night at the Range was just what I needed.

But the week before my time off was not fun and I needed more of a vacation than putting up storm windows and cleaning gutters and raking leaves at Dad's.

Let's just say - picture me, picture large opposing attorney type person that's going to grill me as an expert witness. Picture said attorney spying Barkley's picture on my laptop screen saver and saying "I don't like dogs, I like cats!" Picture said attorney looking at me and my black skirt and long hair like I was the spitting image of the dog loving floozy their ex-husband left their short haired visage and cats for. Blood ensued. We won the battle, but not without some scars.

Then the news tonight. I can't even talk about it without anger and tears.

So, I can only leave you with a dinner photo. Smothered Steak. Almost rare, but not quite, with a gravy made of red wine, beef gravy stock, horseradish cream, pepper and fresh mushrooms. Recipe is in the sidebar, it's beyond easy to make.


Back to work after two weeks off to care for Dad - I'll be back but it will be a couple of days.