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My hernia operation, Part Four (and final) . . .

I awoke while I was being moved from the recovery room to an area where my daughters could gather and watch my coming out of that place of darkness into the bright light of overhead searchlights, all of which appeared to be focused on me. I was awake, but I was not completely in control of my facilities—oops, I mean faculties. I made ridiculous uncontrollable grimaces, rolling my eyes and asking pertinent questions such as where am I, is it over, you’re cute, who are you, did I tell you that you’re cute, and I asked the doctor, if it was alright to tell the nurse she’s cute.

His reply? “You can say anything you like until the anesthesia wears off, and then you must assume responsibility for anything you say.” He said it with a smile, but it was a serious smile and that dramatically reduced the lasting effects of the anesthesia. I believe the last dumb thing I said that the guy across from my cubicle was taking my picture. That’s something I learned from my sainted mother. When someone, whether male or female, sat with knees apart and facing her, she would say that they were taking her picture. In all fairness, I must admit that the patient opposite my cubicle, although wearing a hospital gown, had apparently been allowed to retain his under-shorts, or perhaps his surgery did not require them to be removed.

However, I doubt that. I had cataract surgery some years ago, left eye first and right eye one month later, and in each instance I was required to wear nothing but the hospital gown and yes, they checked to determine that I was in compliance and if not, the eye surgery would not have been performed. Go figure!

I was moved from the gurney to a not-so-comfortable hospital chair that had a host of features, bounded by a wall with technical-looking things on it, drawable curtains on each side, and a host of people gathered in front completed my recovery cubicle. Everyone seemed very pleased with my condition, all smiling and offering compliments and suggestions. My three daughters were there along with the doctor, a couple of nurses and several aides, all apparently focused on me.

I felt like Timmy probably felt when awakening after Lassie ran home and barked that Timmy had fallen in the well and he went under and didn’t come back up but they reached Timmy in time and got him to a strategically placed hospital and he got over his ordeal and continued to star in 321 episodes (1954-1973).

Incidentally, and in no way germane to this series of postings, Lassie was not a girl dog. Lassie was a boy dog because boy dog’s coats have a brighter sheen and color than girl dog’s coats and are far more presentable on screen. Had Lassie been a Pit Bull or a Great Dane or even a Chihuahua, movie-goers would have seen that subterfuge and would have insisted that directors stop shaming Timmy’s friend  with a wrong-sex name. A better name would be Sirius, the ancient’s name for the Dog Star, very appropriate for an earthy dog star and far more manly.

Patience, be patient, I’m almost finished with my quadrilogy. I walked out of the hospital under my own power, sans wheelchair, sans two burly attendants, one on each side to keep me on my feet. I wanted to walk through the parking lot to my car, but my daughters insisted that I stay at the entrance and wait for the car to come to me. In all honesty, I did not protest strongly, nor did I protest when they escorted me into my home, fed me and tucked me in—actually, I enjoyed all the attention, but it waned rapidly and everything returned to normal.

That’s it. That’s my quadrilogy of my hernia surgery, and I’m sticking to it.

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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in health, Humor, pit bulls, surgery

 

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Wanna read about my hernia operation, Part One?

I know very well that neither you nor anyone else wants to read about my operation—well, okay, perhaps one in a thousand does wants to read about it so I will offer it up for that one in a thousand, that one that is willing to wade through such drivel just in case it might be educational or funny or foolish or all three—just in case.

I recently managed to shed fifteen pounds of avoirdupois from my 67-inch frame—that’s five feet and seven inches in height, a total of 67 inches. Okay, perhaps by now it is more like 66 inches due to the compaction of vertebrae in my backbone—that’s one of the privileges, or perhaps the vicissitudes of aging.

Mind you, I am not stooped or hunchbacked as was Quasimodo the Bell Ringer, nor do I ring anyone’s bells—in fact, I never have and probably never will. As for my height, whatever the total number of inches I rise from the ground upwards may be, I am militarily erect, and in my not-so-humble opinion I would stand tall even if I were the little fellow on television that was always saying, “Zee plane, boss, zee plane!”

Had I been taller I would have ruled the world, but as it is I’m content to be in charge wherever I may be.

Out of respect for any reader that may take umbrage, I will refrain from repeating something that Mae West said in one of her films when she responded to a tall stranger’s knock on her hotel door. She looked up and told him that he was “a tall one,” and he responded that he was “six feet, six inches.”Oh, well, what the hey! I’ll tell it anyway, and if anyone takes umbrage they shouldn’t have read it. What Mae West said was something on the order of, “Well, come on in, big boy, and we’ll talk about the six inches.”

But as is my wont, I have digressed—-back to my operation. On a fateful morning in late December 2011 while waiting for the water in the shower to reach a reasonable temperature (I’m a wuss when it comes to cold showers), I was admiring my image in the mirror, an image sans clothing, while examining the areas that still needed slimming down (just as an aside, cold showers don’t work for me).

In my pinching and lifting and rearranging for effect while holding my breath (stomach in, chest out) I found something that send me scurrying to the physician who was unfortunate enough to have me on the list of people assigned to him to monitor their health, a doctor in the Internal Medicine Clinic at the Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio TX. I first called his nurse and confided my fears, and after enduring my plaint she checked with the doctor and returned my call, telling me to “Come on down!”

I told the doctor that I had discovered a lump in my lower left abdominal area, a lump that was present when standing but one that disappeared when I sat down or lay down. He suspected that the lump was an inguinal hernia, but then used a hands-on search—with my trousers and under-wear on the floor—and said, “Yep, you have an inguinal hernia in the left groin and also a smaller one in the right groin.” What he actually called the hernia on the left was “a potential candidate for surgery.”

He said the smaller hernia could merely be followed, and at this stage he felt that surgery was not necessary. He set up an appointment with a doctor in the proper clinic at BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center, now renamed as SAMMC, San Antonio Military Medical Center). He said that BAMC/SAMMC might decide that surgery would not be necessary and then added, “But they really like to do surgery over there.”

On that cheerful note I will conclude the first part of a quadrilogy, one comprised of the suspected hernia, its diagnosis, the surgical repair, and recovery. I am breaking the series into four parts because I have been criticized for making my postings far too lengthy. It’s something similar to the old joke about two drunks in a bar, a bar bet and a cuspidor. Click here to read the joke—it’s funny and you can share it with your children. However, you’ll probably need to define the word cuspidor. The joke is in the last paragraph, and the post is a long read, but don’t be discouraged, and please don’t fast-forward to the joke—you’ll miss a lot of excellent prose!

As an aside, the Free Online Dictionary defines quadrilogy as “A series of four related dramatic, operatic, or literary works.” This posting definitely qualifies to be classified and presented as a quadrilogy. My discovery and its diagnosis were dramatic, the surgery was operatic (Get it? Operatic, as in operation?), and this carefully couched and presented 4-part series is the very epitome of a literary work.

This constitutes the first part of my dramatic, operatic and literary quadrilogy and I’m sticking to it.

Stay tuned.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in health

 

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Revisited: Long necks, fast food, good health & long life . . .

Once again on reviewing past postings I was so impressed with my writing that I am reposting a narrative from February of this year. The posting was apparently unread, or perhaps read and misunderstood by the readers. That posting was an effort on my part to assist Michelle Obama, our First Lady, in her drive to improve health in the United States, particularly in our school children. Oh, that’s the United States of America, a designation that is always voiced by Michelle’s husband in order for us to distinguish our nation from the United States of the Mid-east, of South America, of Central America, of Canadian America and of Lower Slobovia. I submit that the addition of America is not necessary, and its addition could perhaps cause confusion in his listeners, especially since a factual United States of America would include Canada, Central America, South America, and of course the United States of Mexico since it is geographically located in the chain of Americas. I grant you that the distinction is growing dim because of the continuing invasion of Mexican citizens sloughing off the chains of their native country.

Long necks, fast food, good health & long life . . .

A blogger in Virginia is posting photographs of people that lived a century or more in the past. Click here to see how folks looked and lived in those years. You’ll find your visit interesting and highly educational. As an added attraction, you will be exposed to some brilliant photography of the present, particularly of our planet’s flora and fauna.

However, there is something missing in the blogger’s photos of folks that lived far back in time, something to which neither the blogger nor any of her viewers have called attention, so that task obviously falls to me. I pondered long and strong on the subject, and this posting is the result of my research. See how many fat-necks you can find in these photos—possibly one, the man in the photo at top left—but certainly no more than one.


There is an obvious dearth of girth in the subjects being photographed—please forgive me for the pun, but I would appreciate a salute for my creation of the term dearth of girth, pun though it may be—I probably should have it copyrighted in the interests of gaining remuneration for my efforts. The photos above are a sample of photos showing the lack of girth in the photographer’s subjects.

These photos of people from the past show more long-necks than Texas’ Lone Star Brewery—other than the possible exception noted, there is not a fat-neck in the batch. Having noted that, I embarked on a seriously studious search for a cause-and-effect for the lack of fat-necks and the overall dearth of girth, and I documented that which most people already know in their hearts and minds, but their stomachs won’t let them admit it.

The cause is the plethora of ubiquitous fast-food outlets, and the effect is pure fat. We go into the front door of those so-called restaurants skinny, and come out the side door fat. We are labeled by others with terms ranging from ample or pleasantly plump to heavy, large, overweight, huge, obese, blimp, lard-butt, lard-ass, fat-ass, morbidly obese and myriad other terms, but they can all be summed up with a single three-letter word:

FAT!

Take a quick look at a list of fast-food restaurants provided by Wikipedia. Please note that these are international chains, and the list does not include local non-international fast-food outlets, nor does it include fast-casual restaurants, coffeehouses, ice cream parlors or pizzerias.

A&W Restaurants, Arby’s, Arctic Circle Restaurants, Au Bon Pain, Blimpie, Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits, Burger King, Hungry Jack’s (Australia), Camille’s Sidewalk Café, Captain D’s, Carl’s Jr., Charley’s Grilled Subs, Checkers, Chester’s International, Chicken Cottage, Chicken Delight, Chicken Licken, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Church’s Chicken, Chowking, Culver’s, Dairy Queen, Del Taco, Dixy Chicken, Duchess, Dunkin’ Donuts, Hardee’s, Hesburger, Jamba Juice, Jollibee, KFC, Krispy Kreme, Little Caesars, Vegetarian Moe’s, Southwest Grill, Mr. Hero, New York Fries, Noble Roman’s, Panda Express, Panera Bread, Pollo Tropical, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Pret A Manger, Quick, Quickly, Quiznos, RaisingCane’s Chicken, Fingers, Rally’s, Red Rooster, Sonic Drive-In, Subway, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno, Taco Cabana, Taco del Mar, Taco Tico, Taco Time, Tim Hortons, Vapiano, White Spot, Wendy’s, Wendy’s Supa Sundaes, Whataburger.

Hey, let’s be honest. Let’s be honest and admit that everyone of us in the United States—whether citizens, legal aliens, illegal aliens, vacationing foreigners or visitors from other planets—are up to our collective fat asses in fast-food outlets.

Such outlets should be outlawed. It can be done, and we have almost two years to persuade people to prepare the necessary documents for such action. Congress should write a 2,800-page law and push it through the House of Representatives—for that it may be necessary to reinstate Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker—then on through the Senate and over to the White House for President Michelle Obama’s signature. That lady is a shoo-in for the 2012 elections and she will sign it—trust me!

Let’s do it! Let’s eliminate fast-food outlets! We can do it! We can slim our population down to match the subjects in this blogger’s photos. We’ll all be slim, hale and hearty and live to the century mark and more.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Frog legs, pocket knives & hackberry tea

This YouTube video is in no way related to the primary subject of this post, namely the treatment of raw sewage to recapture the 99.9% of raw sewage that is water and make it potable. I intend to end this post with the same video. I am presenting it here to ensure that my legions of followers have the opportunity to view it. If you view the video at this point and are so turned off by it that you don’t read the posting, it’s your loss—you’ll miss a highly educational essay—timely, well constructed and presented, and I say that with all sincerity aside. I know, I know, everyone always reads my posts all the way to the bottom, but just in case . . .

This morning while watching a cable show—MSNBC—I learned that at sometime in the future much of our drinking water will consist of treated sewage. That knowledge as defined by Wikipedia rests uneasy on one’s gustatory palate:

Sewage is water-carried wastes, in either solution or suspension that is intended to flow away from a community. Also known as waste water flows, sewage is the used water supply of the community. It is more than 99.9% pure water and is characterized by its volume or rate of flow, its physical condition, its chemical constituents and the bacteriological organisms that it contains. Depending on its origin, waste water can be classed as sanitary, commercial, industrial, agricultural or surface runoff.

The spent water from residences and institutions carrying body wastes, washing water, food preparation wastes, laundry wastes and other waste products of normal living is classed as either domestic or sanitary sewage.

The purpose of this post is an attempt to allay the fears of those that may be taken aback when told that the water they drink in the future will be sewage, coming direct to them as treated sewage from some remote treatment plant that has taken the action necessary to eliminate contaminants from raw sewage and now wants people to believe that the water is pure and potable—drinkable.

I know that’s a stretch, given the fact that the so-called sanitary sewage includes body wastes donated—love that term donated—by the community. However, I have personal knowledge that the decontaminated liquid may be consumed without fear of the consumer becoming contaminated—how that knowledge was gained is the purpose of this post.

As a young boy growing up between the ages of six and nine years I lived near a flow of treated sewage moving away from the city’s treatment plant via an open concrete-floored ditch—locals called it the Big Ditch—idling along on its way to Luxapalila Creek, a stream that joins Mississippi’s Tombigbee River, a stream that converges with the Alabama River to form the Mobile River that in turn empties into Mobile bay on the Gulf of Mexico—take that, Mobile!

Purely as an aside, the Indian word Luxapalila is said to translate into English as floating turtles. Considering the effluvial characteristics of human waste materials entering the stream, perhaps the first syllable of turtles, accidentally but aptly, describes the water and its contents—how’s that for coincidence!

But I digress—back to the Big Ditch, its contents and the marvelous flora and fauna that thrived—-or throve, take your pick—when I was a boy. The ditch may well be covered by now, or perhaps its contents have been diverted elsewhere. Many years have passed since I was treated—so to speak—to a life in that area and that era. Perhaps the Big Ditch is still fulfilling its destiny as a playground for the enjoyment of today’s children, activities in dialectical opposition to their parent’s wishes.

On more than one occasion I and one or more of my boyhood friends—always boys, although girls would have been welcomed and we would have been delighted by their company, but none accepted our invitations—dined on the banks of the Big Ditch, feasting on fried frog legs and hack-berry tea, a simple meal easily prepared. From our respective homes we brought a small frying pan, a small pot for boiling water, a block of pure lard, our pocket knives, a bit of corn meal, a pinch of salt, a few matches and our appetites to the Big Ditch, a Shangri-la for giant green bullfrogs easily rounded up by a couple of hungry boys.

We built a small fire and boiled water for our tea—yes, we used the nearest available source of water, that which flowed along the bottom of the Big Ditch. When the water was boiling we dumped in handfuls of hackberries gathered from the proliferation of hack-berry trees that thrived on the banks of the ditch.

The hack-berry tea was set aside to cool, and we heated the pure lard in the frying pan. After separating the legs of several frogs from their bodies we skinned the legs, rolled them in the corn meal, placed them in the frying pan and turned them until brown.

Don’t laugh—our culinary talents and our gustatory senses  at our age were underdeveloped and unrefined, and we had minimum expectations that the meal would equal those served in fancy French restaurants specializing in fried frog legs and offering fine wines to accompany the meal—cuisses et vin de grenouille frits—the French refer to the legs of frogs as thighs instead of legs. The use of the word thighs is probably considered a sexual reference by the French, intended to affect the mood of a dinner companion, whether male or female. A Frenchman might say, Mon cher, j’aime le goût des cuisses, delivered softly and translated as My dear, I love the taste of thighs—his after-dinner delights would be guaranteed—dessert, so to speak.

So there you have it—treated sewage can be safely ingested, digested and further processed by humans without fear of damage to their bodies or their life expectancy. My body shows no perceptible damage from the meals of cuisses et vin de grenouille frits, and I am just a hop, skip and a jump away from successfully completing eight decades of living life to its fullest—whether because of the frog legs or in spite of the frog legs is unknown. However, also unknown is the collective fates of my various boyhood companions. Some of them or all of them by this time may have already exchanged their earthly realm for one or the other of our two alternatives.

I must reluctantly admit that the others—some of them, none of them or all of them—may have already succumbed to the ravages of various diseases that were directly attributed to those meals of cuisses et vin de grenouille frits, and I do not recommend such meals to today’s boys, at least not meals garnered from the same source or similar sources—nope, I would neither recommend it nor suggest it.

I am of the opinion that today’s youth, although physically larger, stronger and enjoying greater longevity and enhanced motor skills, are not significantly more intelligent—in fact many, perhaps most, are somewhat lacking in basic subjects as demonstrated by accumulated grades given on an incredible numbers of tests administered by our schools. There are so many unknowns that I hesitate to imply that meals such as we prepared in the Big Ditch increases longevity, but I will postulate that such meals may promote a higher level of intelligence.

Today’s youth lag behind in the three Rs—reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic and their skills in communication skills are deplorable—they are deficient both in receiving and transmitting the spoken word, obviously derelict in vocal expression and auditory reception. I feel that my detailing just one of my eating habits as a boy proves, at least in some degree, that consumption of treated sewage water will not be harmful to us and our neighbors, and that proof has been beautifully presented to my viewers. That’s why I was motivated to make this posting and I feel that I have made my point—my efforts were successful and productive for society.

I apologize for diverting my attention to other problems facing our society and our nation—I couldn’t help it—it’s either in my nature or it could possibly be the result of my being distracted by a cantankerous keyboard.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: The fact that I frequently watch MSNBC does not mean that I like MSNBC. I frequently tune in to get the side of the news and opinions that are presented by other, more reliable and more truthful cable entities. I do not  dislike MSNBC—I enjoy its graphics and its presentations of news that are not permeated with and perforated by personal political presentations, situations that are far less frequent than presentations that are afflicted—tainted, so to speak—well, let’s face it—filled with and distorted by such taints and afflictions. Tune in to MSNBC on any weekday evening and listen to the talking heads in its evening lineup—you’ll be both attracted and reviled by their vituperative views on subjects ranging from A to Z—from armadillos to zebras–but particularly on Cs and Rs—Conservatives and Republicans.

One more postscript: Having clicked on the center of the above YouTube video, you have read the notice that someone, somewhere and somehow decided that the videos violated copyright, and it is stated that “the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants including Real Clear Politics” . . .

Obviously when I showed the video and in effect compared it with the effluvia and solid particles that characterized the Big Ditch in my boyhood, I stepped on someone’s pepperoni and they demonstrated their ability to exercise their right to censure that part of of this post. I consider it a violation of my right to express my disgust of the vituperative drivel that nightly spews from the show. It’s still on YouTube, along with similar excerpts from other Ed Shultz’ nightly rants—check ’em out.

And just one more note: I understand now why the network abruptly tossed Keith Olberman out the window—they didn’t need him because they had Ed Shultz.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Long necks, fast food, good health & long life . . .

A blogger in Virginia is posting photographs of people that lived a century or more in the past. Click here to see how folks looked and lived in those years. You’ll find your visit interesting and highly educational. As an added attraction, you will be exposed to some brilliant photography of the present, particularly of our planet’s flora and fauna.

However, there is something missing in the blogger’s photos of folks that lived far back in time, something to which neither the blogger nor any of her viewers have called attention, so that task obviously falls to me. I pondered long and strong on the subject, and this posting is the result of my research. See how many fat-necks you can find in these photos—possibly one, the man in the photo at top left—but certainly no more than one.

There is an obvious dearth of girth in the subjects being photographed—please forgive me for the pun, but I would appreciate a salute for my creation of the term dearth of girth, pun though it may be—I probably should have it copyrighted in the interests of gaining remuneration for my efforts. The photos above are a sample of photos showing the lack of girth in the photographer’s subjects.

These photos of people from the past show more long-necks than Texas’ Lone Star Brewery—other than the possible exception noted, there is not a fat-neck in the batch. Having noted that, I embarked on a seriously studious search for a cause-and-effect for the lack of fat-necks and the overall dearth of girth, and I documented that which most people already know in their hearts and minds, but their stomachs won’t let them admit  it.

The cause is the plethora of ubiquitous fast-food outlets, and the effect is pure fat. We go into the front door of those so-called restaurants skinny, and come out the side door fat. We are labeled by others with terms ranging from ample or pleasantly plump to heavy, large, overweight, huge, obese, blimp, lard-butt, lard-ass, fat-ass, morbidly obese and myriad other terms, but they can all be summed up with a single three-letter word:

FAT!

Take a quick look at a list of fast-food restaurants provided by Wikipedia. Please note that these are international chains, and the list does not include local non-international fast-food outlets, nor does it include fast-casual restaurants, coffeehouses, ice cream parlors or pizzerias.

A&W Restaurants, Arby’s, Arctic Circle Restaurants, Au Bon Pain, Blimpie, Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits, Burger King, Hungry Jack’s (Australia), Camille’s Sidewalk Café, Captain D’s, Carl’s Jr., Charley’s Grilled Subs, Checkers, Chester’s International, Chicken Cottage, Chicken Delight, Chicken Licken, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Church’s Chicken, Chowking, Culver’s, Dairy Queen, Del Taco, Dixy Chicken, Duchess, Dunkin’ Donuts, Hardee’s, Hesburger, Jamba Juice, Jollibee, KFC, Krispy Kreme, Little Caesars, Vegetarian Moe’s, Southwest Grill, Mr. Hero, New York Fries, Noble Roman’s, Panda Express, Panera Bread, Pollo Tropical, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Pret A Manger, Quick, Quickly, Quiznos, RaisingCane’s Chicken, Fingers, Rally’s, Red Rooster, Sonic Drive-In, Subway, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno, Taco Cabana, Taco del Mar, Taco Tico, Taco Time, Tim Hortons, Vapiano, White Spot, Wendy’s, Wendy’s Supa Sundaes, Whataburger.

Hey, let’s be honest. Let’s be honest and admit that everyone of us in the United States—whether citizens, legal aliens, illegal aliens, vacationing foreigners or visitors from other planets—are up to our collective fat asses in fast-food outlets.

Such outlets should be outlawed. It can be done, and we have almost two years to persuade people to prepare the necessary documents for such action. Congress should write a 2,800-page law and push it through the House of Representatives—for that it may be necessary to reinstate Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker—then on through the Senate and over to the White House for President Michelle Obama’s signature. That lady is a shoo-in for the 2012 elections and she will sign it—trust me!

Let’s do it! Let’s eliminate fast-food outlets! We can do it! We can slim our population down to match the subjects in this blogger’s photos. We’ll all be slim, hale and hearty and live to the century mark and more.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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US National Cemetery burials . . .

To whom it may concern:

Interments in America’s national cemeteries are accomplished under rather rigid rules and regulations. Those directives specify who, why, how, where and when such burials are made. I am not aware of any exceptions to those rules—one cannot, for example, choose a shady spot with a hilltop view and request burial there. Such requests may be made, of course, but will politely be refused.

As earth is removed to accommodate new arrivals to the cemetery the length, width and depth of the excavation is done in accordance with regulations and is intended to accept four burials, with the potential of accepting a total of eight burials. The mandatory concrete vaults are constructed with four niches for future occupants, and the excavation is filled when the four occupants are in place.

Before the caskets are lowered in their separate compartments plastic strips of material, fitted with several lengths of plastic pipe placed cross-ways, are placed on the bottom of each compartment. The resulting space created between the vault bottom and the bottom of the casket when lowered allows the lowering bands to be removed, then each compartment of the four-unit vault is covered and sealed.

Should one or more of the compartments need to accommodate another casket in the future, only the earth above that compartment need be excavated. The vault cover will then be removed, another strip with rollers will be placed atop the lower casket and the second casket will be lowered, the vault cover will be replaced and the excavation will be returned to its original configuration.

Let me say at this juncture without any attempt at being flippant or funny, that those  consigned to burial in a national military cemetery do not have, nor do they need, lots of elbow room. Each of the four-compartment concrete vaults discussed above has the combined potential of holding a total of eight caskets, two in each compartment. Land for burials is limited, and every effort must be made to accommodate as many burials as possible in the space available.

I imagine that some people feel, as I have felt in the past, that they would like to have their final resting place on a hilltop in a place shaded by a towering oak that marks the spot—a beacon, so to speak—with a magnificent 360-degree view of the surrounding area—minus the diameter of the tree, of course.

The view would be a monumental panoramic scene of hills and valleys, wildflowers and streams and waterfalls and myriad wildlife moving about with balmy breezes caressing the flora and fauna of the area. I suggest that those who long for such a final resting place should consider the attractions of perpetual care and companionship with those that have exchanged this realm for another, and for themselves at the end of their journey through life on earth, a journey that ultimately returns each of us, in one manner or another, to the earth—in Biblical terms, to the earth from whence we came.

I feel tremendously privileged that both I and my wife qualify for interment there, a right that was accorded her based on our marriage and her support of a husband far too often away from home for extended periods, and for her maintenance of our home and possessions, and for fathering as well as mothering our three children in my absences. At some time in the future, interred in one of this nation’s national cemeteries, I fully expect to be happy and comfortable when I am reunited with my wife of some fifty-eight years in our cozy one-fourth of a community crypt in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery.

My wife is now, and I will become, part of a community that enjoys maximum security—its grounds are immaculately kept and visitations are virtually unlimited. And at this juncture I must explain, in the interests of full disclosure and again with no attempt at being flippant or funny, that although I look forward to that reunion I will do nothing to hasten it—I will, in fact, do everything I can to delay it.

Our condominium lacks the towering oak tree, but a young oak has been planted nearby and is thriving, and with the assistance of weather and ground keepers and a bit of luck it will tower over us some day. Nor does our site—our suite, if you will—include a vista of hills or valleys or streams or waterfalls, but balmy breezes waft o’er the community and wildlife abounds.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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One soul departs, and another arrives . . .

One soul departs,

and  another arrives.

I have read the letter that follows many times and each time my heart—my soul, my spirit—soars to incredible heights, and then descends to incredible depths. I know that I am not worthy of those heights, but I would like to believe that I do not deserve to remain at those depths.

I have vowed that in the time I have remaining above ground on this sphere—this earth—I will dedicate my efforts, my will, to live my life in a way that honors my wife, my family, my friends and my God. I hasten to add that I will accord that honor in my own way and not necessarily in ways favored by our society, nor by actions sanctioned by various religious denominations. I know that I cannot undo the things I’ve done in my lifetime that I should not have done, but I can try with all my might to do the things I should do in the time I have left in this realm.

I will begin this writing by saying proudly that I have the finest neighbors anyone could possible have, a beautiful couple that lives just a few feet away on the west side of our house. The husband is a self-employed architect and the wife is an educator-at-large in local school districts. They have two grown sons and a brand-new granddaughter.

My wife was in hospice care, and shortly before she died our neighbor gave her a gold chain with a pendant fashioned into the I Love You symbol in American Sign Language. She expressed her sorrow to my wife for her illness and her sorrow that she could not be with her until the end—her elder son’s wife, living in a distant city, was near child delivery and the doctors anticipated problems with the baby. My wife died before the neighbor left, and the neighbor’s sorrow—her sadness—is eloquently expressed in the letter she gave me before she left.

With her permission I have reproduced the letter and am posting it exactly as written, including the pen-and-ink sentence at the top of the page. She professes little talent for writing, but in my opinion, unlettered and unfettered though my opinion may be, she has a tremendous talent for writing and should pursue that talent, whether as a vocation or as an avocation.

Her letter follows, exactly as written. The first sentence just above the poem—This was in my heart today—was written in ink in the upper margin:

This was in my heart today:

Courage is not the towering oak
That sees storms come and go,
It is the fragile blossom
That opens in the snow.
—Alice MacKenzie Swalm

Dear Mike,

You hurt so deeply…..so, so deeply. You are sad, on top of sad, on top of sad. And all I know to say is, “I’m sorry.” So trite…..it screams out that I can’t even begin to feel your pain. I want to just sit and cry, cry, cry with you. Janie left you for another. That will always break your heart. She left you, she left you…how could she? You were always there for her. Year after year, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, second after second…..you were always there for her. But she left anyway. Gone, gone, gone. You always knew that she would leave you. It never mattered. You would do it all over again if you could. If only you could.

She said that you were a “Good Man.” A good man. A loving man. A caring man. A clever man. A funny man. A loyal man. A knowledgeable  man. An interesting man. But a man all the same. Not perfect, but not a requirement for Janie.

And there lies the real beauty. Janie left room for others to live their own lives. To make their own mistakes. To make their own amends. To write their own stories. To make their own verses and rhymes. To be their own selves. To find their own beauty. To find their own strengths. To find their own weaknesses. No matter where you were in life, whether in the good or the bad, she welcomed you home when you were ready to be home. She didn’t push or prod. She just waited. She knew you would eventually come home. She led by example. Every needle, every probe, every surgery, every bruise, every doctor visit…she said, “Be strong. Be strong, be strong, be strong. It was her battle cry. No words needed. She screamed it out with the softest of cries. So strong…..yet so, so gentle.

I’m your neighbor. I’m just simply a neighbor. How could I be touched this way? For me, death and birth are coming at the same time. I didn’t want to choose one over the other. But here it is, saying choose, choose. Janie’s example said to pick life. Choose life, she said. It is with sadness that I go. Even when I should be filled with bubbling joy. Be strong, she says. Go and be strong.

You are a good neighbor. The best. Be strong. Be strong. Be strong. “Live” she says. Be strong. She will wait for you to come Home.

With Sad, Sad, Sadness,

Your Neighbor, Your Friend,

Kathy

Postscript: At the memorial for my wife, our daughters placed the “I Love You” pendant in their mother’s hands, along with a small card with Biblical quotations given to her many years ago by her sister, Christine. The only other jewelry was a gold chain with a small pendant that I brought home many years ago from a foreign assignment while in the military. The pendant has a French quotation that translates as “I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.”

My neighbor is back home now and back in work harness. Her granddaughter, Caitlan, was delivered successfully by Caesarian surgery. The baby weighed eight pounds and two ounces at birth, and she is healthy, happy and growing by leaps and bounds.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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