RSS

Tag Archives: Dallas

From grimace to grin, from pain to peace and from earth to Eden . . .


Janie,
my wife and the mother of our three daughters, for eleven years was a long-time ovarian cancer survivor dating from 1999. In recent months the cancer had metastasized to her lungs and other organs, a spread so severe that surgery and chemotherapy were no longer options. She was also a long-time dialysis patient with a schedule of two days each week, Monday and Thursday, for two hours each day. She had dialysis on Monday, 8 November but because Thursday was November 11, Veteran’s Day, her dialysis appointment was shifted to Friday. We did not take her to dialysis on the following Monday, and she died just three days later on Thursday, November 18 at 9:15 in the evening.

Early in the morning on the Saturday after her last dialysis I was at her bedside and we were talking about going to dialysis on the following Monday. She was very quiet and I was doing most of the talking, and at one point when I paused she said, softly but very clearly, It’s time. When I asked time for what, she again said softly but clearly, It’s time to go. I broke into tears, just as I am now doing while writing this. Choking back my sobs I said that it was not up to her, that God would decide when it was time, not her, and that she should keep fighting until He made that decision. She smiled slightly and sweetly and made no response.

I stumbled on blindly, sobbing and speaking in broken tones and told her that I didn’t want her to leave me, that she couldn’t leave, that I wouldn’t let her leave, that I needed her and our girls needed her, that we would complete almost six decades of marriage on December 13, and that her birthday would be the day after Christmas. I told her that we had 58 years together, all beautiful except for one, and for that year I desperately needed her forgiveness, and I begged her to forgive me—I begged her for forgiveness that I had not earned and did not deserve.

She looked into my eyes for a long moment, then speaking slowly and softly she said, I forgive you, and then she said, You’re a good man. I told her that if she left me I would follow her and be with her, not knowing when but that I would definitely follow her, and I promised her that from that moment on I would make every effort to live my life towards that goal. Her eyes were closed when I told her that and I wasn’t sure whether she had heard me, but then she said, I’ll wait for you, and a few seconds later she said, I’ll tell Jesus you’re coming. I don’t remember any conversation after that. She lapsed into sleep and except for a few precious times that she acknowledged me and others when we spoke to her, she was silent up to the moment she left us.

I had asked her earlier if she wanted a chaplain to come in and she shook her head, but early in the evening on Thursday, November 18, I asked for a chaplain to visit us. Hector Villarreal, a Protestant chaplain, arrived at six o’clock and prayed with her and for her, and for me and our three daughters. He told her that God loved her and wanted her to be with Him, and that He was waiting for her.

The chaplain said that she would draw her last breath on earth, but that she would draw her next breath in heaven. We were at her side when she took her last breath on earth, and we truly believe, then and now, that she took her next breath in the presence of God, and that her spirit, her marvelous soul, never judgmental and so perfect in every other respect, is now complete and happy and whole again, untarnished by toil, trial and tribulations encountered during almost 79 years of life, years that she lived and loved to the fullest—born in 1931, she died just 38 days short of her 79th birthday, December 26. We would have celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary on the 13th of December.

The hospice nurse noted the time of her last breath as 9: 15 PM on Thursday, November 18, 2010. She had lapsed into a coma the day before, and her breathing had become labored, with her mouth sagging open and each breath an audible gasp for air. She was on oxygen, with the maximum allowable flow of oxygen to her nostrils from a bedside tank.

From time to time, depending on whether she seemed to show pain either by sound or movement, the hospice nurse administered liquid pain medication, placing it under the tongue with a syringe. The nurse assured us that the hearing is the final sense to go, and that Janie could hear every word we spoke, so we talked to her right up to that final breath with our hands on her, on her face and smoothing her hair and softly stroking her arms and hands and feet and adjusting the bed covers, each of us in turn professing our love, recalling our favorite times of our lives with her, with all our words interspersed and muffled by sniffs and sobs.

When our daughters left the room, I asked the nurse if she could do anything about the way Janie’s mouth drooped open, twisted and misshapen, drawn down and to the left from the way her head was turned to the side for so many hours. The nurse said that nothing could be done, that it had to be done at the funeral home.

I insisted that we try, and I began trying to place her head differently in an effort to restore her features to a more natural position. The nurse assisted by folding a hand towel and placing it under Janie’s chin, and that helped slightly. Her mouth, however, still sagged to the left and her lips were open and peeled back with her teeth showing. The nurse said that was all we could do, that the rest was up to the funeral home staff.

Everyone except the nurse left the room, but I stayed seated beside the bed with her while the nurse was completing her report, and several minutes later I spoke aloud, saying that my eyes must be playing tricks on me. I thought I had seen a fold in the blanket high on her left chest rise slowly but perceptibly, as if she had slowly inhaled. I watched it intently and after a brief period it appeared to lower.

The nurse either did not hear me or perhaps simply ignored me, and continued with her work. I felt that the blanket fold had moved, but I knew that I could have imagined it, that I was perhaps trying to will my wife to take another breath. The air in the room was very still. The overhead ceiling fan was not on because she never wanted it on.

A few seconds later I again spoke aloud and said that my eyes were still playing tricks on me. I saw the same fold that had moved a few seconds earlier move again, rising ever so slowly but perceptibly and after a brief period I saw it lower. Again there was no response from the nurse. She may have felt that I was so stricken with grief that my imagination was running wild, and that perhaps I was trying to will my wife to breathe, to return to me, to return to life from the other side.

Our daughters had been out of the room since their mother took her last breath, but Kelley, the youngest of the three, asked them if they wanted to come in to see her again. They declined and Kelley came in alone, and as she entered I glanced at her mother’s face and my heart began to pound wildly.

I told Kelley to look at her mouth—it was no longer contorted and sagging. Her lips were closed and her mouth showed a hint of a smile, an uplift at the corners—just a hint of a smile but enough for any observer to see that she looked calm and peaceful and perhaps a bit amused. Kelly told the others that they needed to come in, that there was something they needed to see, and we all marveled at the transformation of Janie’s face—from a grimace to a grin, from a sagging mouth to a smile, and from pain to peace.

When I felt that my eyes were playing tricks on me I was wrong. They were not playing tricks. I believe—no, I know—that I saw the blanket fold move up and then drop back down after a few seconds, and I saw it repeat the movement a bit later.

She did indeed draw her last breath on earth, and it is my honest belief that she then drew her next breath in heaven. I believe that our Creator allowed her to return and draw another last breath on earth, a breath that enabled her to live again, albeit just long enough to correct the awkward position of her lips and her mouth and begin that beautiful smile that she shared with me and with our daughters and with others throughout her 78 years of life on earth. I truly believe that she heard me ask the nurse if anything could be done with her mouth, and I believe—no, I know—that after she took her next breath in heaven, she asked God for a favor and He granted it.

I believe that through the power and grace of God my wife was allowed to return to this life just long enough to slough off all the pain and misery of years of surgeries and chemotherapy and dialysis and several days gasping for breath while under medication for the pain caused by ovarian tumors that almost filled both lungs. I believe the Master sent her back to earth to occupy her body for the brief time she needed to complete the metamorphasis from a chrysalis to a beautiful butterfly, to return that smile to her lips for us before returning to Him. He knew that I needed that, that we needed that, and He gave her the power to do it for me and for our daughters.

Her return to the world of the living, though only for a very brief period, is a miracle because of the miracle it wrought in her appearance. It is for me the epiphany I have longed for and sought for many years. I have always wished for a sign, an unworldly experience I could view as an indication that life does exist after death, that there is a divine presence, that God exists and is responsible for all the good in mankind. That smile on Janie’s face on her last night on earth has given me that sign, and for that I thank God and I thank her.

Sleep well in heaven, my darling.


Postscript: Janie is buried in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery. She lies among military veterans of our wars, many of whom are cited by our nation for bravery and duty performance. Janie is just one of many there, but she is one that deserves every commendation and medal that may exist to commemorate her exemplary life as a wife and mother. Her obituary appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News on Monday, November 22, 2010—click here for the full publication.

The request below appears at the end of the obituary. Perhaps some of the readers of this posting will find it in their hearts to support these or similar organizations with donations, and join in the search for prevention and cures for ovarian cancer and kidney disease, two of the deadliest and most debilitating afflictions known to mankind.

From Janie’s obituary: In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in her memory to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, P.O. Box 7086, Dallas Texas 75209, http://www.ovarian.org or the American Kidney Fund, 6110 Executive Blvd., Ste. 1010, Rockville MD 20852, http://www.kidneyfund.org

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 4, 2010 in death, Family, friends, funeral, health, marriage, Military

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Second letter to Larry, my brother (1919-1983) . . .

Dear Larry,

Next month will mark the twenty-seventh year that has passed since that October day in 1983 when you, as Shakespeare has so poignantly observed, “shuffled off this mortal coil.” As you probably are aware, I did not attend your funeral, but I can make no apology for that—when the call came with the news, I was en route to Washington’s National Airport to take a flight to Miami for an assignment that was critical to my job with the U.S. Customs Service.

I had prepared for the flight for several weeks and could not afford to miss it. I’m sure you understand—the bills were still arriving with monotonous regularity—I know it’s trite to say, but I needed to be able to “put food on the table and shoes on the baby’s feet.” Please know that I was there with you in spirit—I thought of little else on the flight to Florida.

I’ve written letters to two of our sisters, Hattie and Jessie, and I plan to write to Dot and Lorene, our other two sisters, and possibly in the future to our mother, our father and even to the stepfather our mother unwisely allowed into the family in 1942. All are gone now, but I trust and would like to believe that you are in communication with them. I have serious doubts that the stepfather is available—he may be somewhat lower on the metaphysical level of existence than the others.

I would like to couch this letter in terms of us remembering certain times when we were together. My memories are still just as fresh as they ever were, and I hope yours are also—I would not want to talk about happenings that you may not remember.

I remember vividly the fishing trip you took me on when I was about four, perhaps five years old. We lived at the old Box place in Vernon, Alabama, and we went fishing in Yellow Creek near the house. My float went under and I snatched the hook out of the water and snagged it on an overhead branch. I thought I had a really big fish until you reached up to remove the hook—I was really disappointed, but at least you had a good laugh.

You were at home on leave from President Roosevelt’s CCC—the Civilian Conservation Corps—a respite from helping build in Utah what you described as“ roads that started nowhere and ended nowhere.” The family had a homecoming party that included a washtub filled with ice and beer. Someone left a partially filled can on an inside table and I drank some of it, and a short while later I stood on the top step of our front porch and barfed it up in view of the entire family. Shades of child abuse!

Do you remember taking me on a rabbit hunt on a snow-covered day just a year two later when I was in the first grade? We were living on Eleventh Street South in Columbus, Mississippi and you were home, once again, from Roosevelt’s CCC. We only found one rabbit that day, but that one generated memories that are burned into my psyche—memories of the rabbit, a nylon stocking and a bedpost that will always be there. A click here will refresh your memory and will create a memory for any potential viewer of this letter.

Do you remember when I was living with you and your wife Toni and your two boys in Suitland, Maryland and I broke my right leg sliding in to home plate in a ball game? I had a full cast from my toes to mid-thigh, with a forty-five degree angle at the knee, and you bought a set of crutches for my use. Long before the cast came off, I used one of the crutches in an attempt to kill a pesky bee and broke it—the crutch, not the bee—the bee escaped unharmed. In spite of my pleas, you refused to replace the crutch, saying that what I did was dumb, that it’s impossible to buy just one crutch and you told me to manage with the remaining crutch—I managed.

I wrote a long-winded story, more than a bit fictional, of that broken leg, a tale that was told and can be found here. The tale tells how I and my Little League team won the national and international championship that year.

You bought me my first bicycle, a beautiful item that needed only the pedals, seat and handlebars installed to make it complete, but you made me disassemble it right down to the wheel bearings which I cleaned and repacked with the special grease you used on your fleet of trucks. I followed orders with some resentment, but I realize now that your method contributed to the bike’s longevity and to my safety. Click here for the full story of my first bike, first kiss and first train ride.

You may have put this memory aside, but I remember coming home late one evening and you were seated in the living room with a half-full pint of whiskey, and Toni was crawling around on her hands and knees on the floor, groaning and moaning and mumbling. You explained that you had caught her at a place where she should not have been, with a person she should not have been with. You said she had swallowed a lot of sleeping pills and that you would take her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped out after she went to sleep. Toni was mumbling something over and over that sounded suspiciously like he hit me, but I couldn’t be sure—it could have been my imagination.

Being a young fellow of at least average intelligence, I took my leave and returned to the apartment in Suitland that our mother and our sister Dot were renting from month-to-month, and stayed there until things quieted down. We never discussed the incident after that evening—I don’t know whether you took her to the hospital or to a doctor. I’m guessing that she did the same thing with the pills that I did with the beer I drank at that party some ten years earlier. That would probably have rendered a trip to the hospital or to a doctor unnecessary.

The outcome of that incident was a temporary breakup of your family. Toni and the boys went to her mother’s place in New York City, and you and I returned to Mississippi. I have no knowledge of your activities or whereabouts for several years, and just four years later in 1948 I was reunited with you and your family in El Paso, Texas as the result of our stepfather casting me, our mother and our sister Dot aside in Midland, Texas and we managed to negotiate the 300 miles to El Paso on a Greyhound bus.

That refuge was broken up a short while later—our mother and sister returned to Mississippi, your wife and sons took a plane to New York City, and you and I pursued her—our pursuit first took us to Dallas where we met the Greyhound bus you thought she may have taken from El Paso. You said she may have taken the train and we could meet the train in St. Louis. We failed to meet the train in St. Louis because we spent the night in jail in Valley Park, a suburb some 20 miles west of St. Louis. We continued on to New York City and stayed with Toni and the children in her mother’s apartment in Greenwich Village for several weeks, and finally from there back to Mississippi. If your memory is faulty in this instance and you have access to the Internet, click here for the full story of our trip across the continent to New York.

Do you remember the sleeping arrangements in your mother-in-law’s apartment? It was a two-room affair with a tiny bathroom, and we slept, cooked and dined in one large room—pretty crowded but far better than our room in the Valley Park jail. I was accustomed to such luxurious surroundings from years spent in places that either had no bathroom or the bathroom was somewhere down the hall and shared with others.

As for our sleeping arrangements, I remember that the two boys shared a baby bed, and each night we placed the top mattress of the only bed on the floor for you and Toni, and I slept on the bottom mattress on the bed near the window.

I’m sure you remember the night when an intruder threw a leg over the sill of the apartment’s only window! Although we were on the second floor of the building, someone managed to climb up and enter through the open window. The shade was pulled down—yes, windows had shades in those days—and when the intruder straddled the window sill the shade rustled and you awoke and shouted and threw a shoe at the window. One loud curse and the burglar was gone. We never knew exactly how the person climbed up to the window. Evidently the intruder survived the drop, because there was nobody in sight when we finally got up enough nerve to raise the shade and take a look outside.

We finished the night with the window closed, and without the occasional breezes that slipped into the apartment. We had a really uncomfortable night. Nope, no air conditioning in those days, and no fan. I hadn’t slept well before the incident, and it certainly didn’t reduce my insomnia for the remaining nights in that apartment.

I remember you and Toni arguing one morning and you telling her that we were leaving and that you were taking the two children with you. I will never forget Toni running downstairs to the sidewalk, screaming for the police, and returning with two of New York’s finest. The officers said that you and I could leave and take our personal things with us, but nothing else—you were ordered, under the threat of arrest, to not attempt to take the children away from their mother.

You left the apartment before I did, and as I was leaving Toni told me that if I ever needed anything to call her. I never saw her or talked to her again—I know that she remarried, but I never knew her married name or her whereabouts, and to this day I do not know whether she has also shuffled off this mortal coil—if still alive today she would be about 86 years old. I would like to believe that she is alive and well—I have never wished her anything other than well, and whatever the event, I still wish her well.

I doubt that you ever saw the picture I’ve included in this letter. It’s from a 35-millimeter slide, probably taken in the mid-1970s—I’m guessing 1975 because there were some other slides that showed our 1975 Oldsmobile 98—it looks new, and we bought it in that year. The slide was scanned in and printed by Cindy, your niece that lives, loves and works in Alexandria, Virginia. Unless my memory fails me, the black-and-tan hound was named Bugler, and the little Cocker Spaniel in the lower right corner was named Useless.

Larry, there are many things I would like to discuss with you, but this letter seems to have legs. Let me chop them off for now, with the promise of returning soon with a whole new set of reminisces. I trust that you and any potential viewers of this letter will understand my feelings and my reasons for taking them back in time. Some of my memories are pleasant, and I enjoy speaking of them. Not all are pleasant, of course, but in this world of Yen and Yang we must take the good with the bad, and learn to smile with the one and frown with the other.

From your only brother, the only member of our family still standing—all the others are gone.

Mike

Postscript: Regarding the names of the two dogs in the image above, my memory did indeed fail me. My niece in Arkansas, my brother’s daughter, e-mailed me on 9-5-10 to say that the black-and-tan-hound was named Sam and Bugler was his pup, and the Cocker Spaniel I presented as Useless was named Puny. Thanks, Deanna, for straightening the names out for me.

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

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Neighbors ‘R Us . . . (via The King of Texas)

The original posting has been available since September of 2009, and has garnered zero votes and a similar number of comments, so I’m bringing it out of the Stygian darkness of past postings and into the brilliant light of a South Texas August sun. Casting any semblance of modesty aside, I can truthfully say that is beautifully written, tremendously interesting and well worth the read—enjoy!

Neighbors 'R Us . . . The purpose of this posting is to share a recent e-mail from my next-door neighbor and my response to that e-mail. The posting includes titillating observations on house-sitting, cats, iguanas, the Galapagos Islands, timeshares, exotic places, lawyers, teachers, builders, grammar, Fox News, McDonald’s, skiing, Texas, Colorado, refrigerators, snot and more—it’s a veritable smorgasbord of completely unrelated items—brace yourselves for a bumpy … Read More

via The King of Texas

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A letter to Jessie (1915-1997) . . .

Dear Big Sister,

I hope you like this photo—I have several shots of you from over the years, and this is my favorite—just check out that glorious smile!

I believe this is where you were living just before you and Victor bought a farm near the air base and moved there. I remember it clearly, especially because when I was home on leave having completed Air Force basic training, I climbed a tree in the front yard to inspect a squirrel nest and had to holler for help from Victor, your husband and my brother-in-law—he brought a ladder and helped me down from my lofty perch!

This coming December will mark the thirteenth year since you left us. My family and I have passed the time peacefully—very little fuss or muss. We have health problems, of course, the young ‘uns as well as those of advanced ages. I know there are no health problems where you are, and no calendars or clocks—there would be no need for them.

I can capsule the major changes in my family rather quickly, changes that have come about since you left. Important changes for my girls include Kelley’s marriage in 1998 and the subsequent births of a boy and a girl. The boy is now eight and the girl is 6 years old. They live in a nice Dallas suburb and are doing well.

Debbie lives just one mile from us. She works at one of our local schools and loves her job. Landen, her son, was graduated from high school last year and is continuing his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA. Lauren, his older sister, was graduated by UTSA this year. Her degree is in Early Childhood Development—she is great with children and seems happy with her work with a local Child Care center.

Cindy and Michael are a properly married couple as of last October, still living, loving and working in Northern Virginia. As you will probably remember, they had been a committed couple for many years, a total of twenty years prior to their marriage—they finally put it on paper! They seem very happy—no children, but they have two cats on which they shower all the love and rights and benefits that would be accorded children.

I won’t be able to bring you up to date on your family—you are probably more up to date than I am. I can’t tell you much about your sons, Wayne and Lynn, but I believe that Lynn still lives in South Korea and Wayne still lives in Maryland. I know very little about the boys and their families, but I imagine that you are watching over them—I want to believe you are, and because of that it takes very little imagination! I also know very little about your daughters or their families. I haven’t seen them since we were all together at your funeral. I talk to Toni infrequently on the phone, and exchange e-mails with Vickie even more infrequently.

Jessie, I’m writing this letter for the purpose of recording some of our mutual history in response to my daughters’ request to learn more about their aunts and uncles and cousins. As I continue with my writing I realize that it makes me feel I am in some way connected with you—if you would like to respond to this letter in some fashion, please do so—trust me, I’m up for it, and as the television commercial says, I’ll leave the light on for you!

This is the third letter I have written. The first was to Hattie, our sister that lived only one day—you probably won’t remember her. She was our mother’s second child, born in 1917, so you would have been only two years old at the time. Had she lived she perhaps could have shared some of your responsibilities as the eldest of six children. Looking back on those years, I know that it was tough for you, but you willingly shouldered those tasks and thereby took some of the weight off our mother’s shoulders. My letter to Hattie is posted on my Word Press blog and can be found here.

It’s odd, but I rarely heard any of my siblings talk about our father—a bit from Larry, a bit from Lorene and nothing from you. Most of what I know about Willis I learned from our mother, and I never heard anything positive. There must have been something other than the negative things, given the fact that our mother birthed seven children for him.

I wish you had told me about the incident in the garden between our dad and you, his teenage daughter. Mama said that he gave you an order and you did not comply quickly enough, so he beat you with one of the wooden stakes, or poles, used for growing beans to climb on—unmercifully, I believe, was the word mama used.

I also wrote a letter to Larry, our brother. You may have been looking over my shoulder when I wrote it, just as you may be looking over my shoulder as I write this letter to you. You can read the letter to Larry here. I was recently contacted by Larry’s daughter Deanna, and we are now friends on a web site called Facebook, a place on the internet where people can find new friends and chat with old friends—not necessarily old, of course! I have mixed emotions about the process, and am considering opting out of it.

I often wonder about Larry’s first wife, Toni, and their two sons, Troy and Marty. If she is still in this life, Toni would be about 86 years old now—you might want to check around to see if she is there with you—one never knows, right? I’m sure you remember that I lived with Larry and Toni for a couple of years or so in Suitland, Maryland. That was a hectic time in their marriage and I was caught in the middle of it. That was not unusual for me—things were hectic from the time Mama married Papa John until I enlisted in the military at the age of sixteen, a period of some seven years. The military provided the stability I needed. I finished growing up in the military, and as you know I stayed with it and retired after 22 years. I can proudly say that I assisted Uncle Sam in fighting two wars during that period, wars waged in Korea and in Vietnam. We lost both wars, but I will always be proud of my contributions to them.

Hey, big sis, this letter seems to have a mind of its own, and it’s getting far too long for a single posting. Let me close this one out and get back to you later with more details. There is so much to talk about—perhaps we should consider putting the letters in book form when I run out of words—if I ever run out of words, that is!

Lots of love,

Mike

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Family, marriage, Travel, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cowboys, coffee shops and overnight in jail . . .

The year 1948 was a really busy one for me. I began the year in high school in the second semester of the tenth grade, but I left school to travel with my family—stepfather, mother and sister—from Mississippi to Midland, Texas. Although dropping out was not my decision, I must honestly say that I was not too upset.

As a preteen and teenager, I was a voracious reader of adventure novels—Zane Grey was and still is one of my favorite authors.  I looked forward to being in the land of wild Indians and cowboys, horses and rustlers, crooked bankers and comely maidens, cattle drives to the rail head, stampedes and shoot-outs, fast-draw sheriffs and outlaws, snake-oil peddlers and bible-thumping circuit riders—I was not obsessed with all things western, but I was an avid—okay, rabid—fan.

I spent the rest of the year, at various times traveling, living and working in Midland, Texas and El Paso, Texas. In September of that year I traveled by auto with my older brother from El Paso to New York City, with a Sunday overnight stay in jail in Valley Park, Missouri, a small city a few miles west of St. Louis—it has probably grown a lot since then. On release from jail, we paid a brief visit in St. Louis to my stepfather’s sister and her husband in an effort to borrow gas money to get to New York.

They declined to help out, saying they couldn’t be certain that we were who we said we were—some really cautious people there. We only asked for $20 (gas was twenty-six cents a gallon in 1948) but they were adamant and refused. And here I will be just as cautious as they were by offering my apologies in advance if some are offended when I say that their refusal to help two people adrift on a sea of uncertainty may have been based on the husband being of a certain ethnic persuasion—if you catch my drift. Hey, give me a bit of credit—I’ve already apologized for the slut—oops, I meant slur.

The fact that my stepfather’s sister and her husband apologized to my stepfather and my mother at a later date does little to soften their refusal to finance the remainder of our trip to New York. Twenty dollars? The couple owned and operated an upscale coffee shop in one of the finest hotels in St. Louis. They could not possibly have believed that my brother and I were anyone other than who we professed to be—I told them things about my stepfather, both pro and con, that I could only know from having lived under his rule for some seven years.

Here’s a not-so-brief discussion of our futile chase of a wife, a bus and a train enroute to New York City. While my brother was at work at the El Paso Smelting Works (we lived in one of the company houses on-site), his wife took his wallet, his car and their two children to town, ostensibly on a shopping trip. Around noon on that day, a Friday, we received a call from a parking lot attendant in downtown El Paso. He said the woman that left it there told him to call her husband to pick up the car. My brother called a taxi and asked me to go with him to pick up the car. I unwisely agreed to go—big mistake.

We retrieved the car and immediately headed east. My brother had checked the Greyhound bus schedules and said that she had probably taken the bus and we could catch her in Dallas, more than 600 miles distant. He neglected to ask me if I wanted to go with him—he simply pointed his 1942 Mercury coupe, the one with the steering wheel lock hack-sawed off and the ignition system hooked up to the fog lights—yep, it was hot wired—turn on the fog lights and the engine could be started. We left El Paso and headed for Dallas with my brother driving—I was riding shotgun.

The Greyhound had a fair start on us, but we arrived in Dallas before it did. His wife and children were not on it. My brother then checked the train schedules out of El Paso and decided that she must have taken the train to New York. He said that we could beat the train to St. Louis, so we headed for St. Louis, another 6oo miles away.

A funny thing happened to us on that leg of our journey. We were only 27 miles from St. Louis, and had our forward motion not been impeded, we would have beaten the train from El Paso. However,  around noon on that Sunday in Valley Park, Missouri, a small town (then) just 27 miles west of St. Louis, we passed a drive-in restaurant where two uniformed city police officers were having lunch in their police cruiser, with an attractive young short-skirted female carhop leaning into the driver’s window. We were in slow-moving city traffic as we passed, so we had time to admire the rear view of the carhop, and that was probably a fatal mistake. The cops dismissed her and scattered gravel as they dug out in hot pursuit of us, siren blaring, red lights flashing and a bullhorn roaring Pull over! Just as in the old black-and-white Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan and James Cagney movies.

Following the stop and a few questions and answers, my brother and I were arrested, patted down and placed in the city jail. We were suspected of auto theft, and the police posed the probability that we were guilty and possibly had kidnapped and murdered the owner of the car—yes, they used those words, and repeatedly asked us what we did with the gun and where had we hidden the body of the person we murdered after stealing the car.

I hasten to add that the only thing we were guilty of was being stupid enough to first race a Greyhound bus from El Paso to Dallas, and then race a cross-country passenger train from El Paso to St. Louis, all the while driving a hot-wired car with the steering wheel lock hack-sawed off, three different sets of license plates in the trunk, no personal identification and no luggage. Add to that the fact that neither my brother nor I had a scrap of identification on us, and I had a handful of .22 caliber long-rifle cartridges in a pocket of my jeans. We were arrested on Sunday, and after our overnight jailing we were released just before noon on Monday. We were told that we could only be held 24 hours without being formally charged with a crime and booked. We were released after 23 hours in jail, with no apology offered, just an emphatic, Get out of town and don’t come back—just as in those old-time western movies.

We had valid explanations for the hot-wiring, multiple sets of license plates, no identification, no luggage and a pocketful of rifle cartridges, but the officers obviously did not believe us, and told us that none of our story could be checked on Sunday because the offices that could verify our story were closed and inquires could not be made until Monday. We  asked them to call our mother in El Paso and she could verify our story. We also asked them to call the parking lot attendant, but they had no interest in calling either. No computers could be checked, of course, because computers had not yet been invented—well, invented perhaps, but none were in use at the time.

The police station boasted two cells in a metal cage, constructed with flat metal strips rather than bars, located in a back room. Apparently the two sections were bolted together after being placed in the room. Each section was approximately 6 x 10 feet, and each had a steel bunk bolted to the middle partition—just the flat knee-high steel platform—no mattress, no pillow, nothing in the way of bedding.

The only other furnishing was a ceramic toilet with no seat and no lid, filled nearly to the brim with things that defied descripti0n. My brother’s cell was similarly equipped and similarly filled to the point of overflowing. I had a faucet on my side, and early in our stay my brother asked our captors for a drink of water. One of those worthies retrieved a pint milk bottle from a pile of rubbish in a corner, passed it to me and told me to get my brother a drink. The bottle was dirty, so I filled it partially and then shook it in an effort to get it clean, then poured the contents into the toilet, and that was a huge mistake. It stirred up the contents of the toilet and unleashed odors that filled the air and our nostrils for the rest of our stay. I told my brother that I couldn’t get the bottle clean and he wisely decided that he wasn’t really thirsty after all.

The cells were separated by a metal partition—I was placed on one side of the partition and my brother was secured on the other side. We could talk but could not see each other. The room had no lighting—daytime lighting was furnished by one double-sash window on my side, with the lower sash raised and no screen—the back side of my cell was against the wall with the window.  Flies, mosquitoes, sounds and odors entered with ease—sounds and odors seemed to come and go, but the flies and mosquitoes only came and never left. A single overhead naked light bulb mounted near the room’s ceiling far above the top of our cells served for night lighting—it was never turned off while we were incarcerated.

My brother and I were smokers—I had the matches and he had the cigarettes, but we were able to improvise. There were several small holes drilled through the partition, just large enough to pass a cigarette through, so he would pass me a cigarette and after lighting it, I would pass the lighted match through the hole so he could light his cigarette—we thus confirmed the adage that necessity is the mother of invention.

Late in the afternoon nearing dusk, I glanced out and saw a young boy standing outside the window and staring at me—he was probably twelve or so—I asked him if he would run an errand for me, and if he would I would reward him for it. He agreed, so I gave him fifty cents and asked him to bring back two packs of Camel cigarettes. Don’t laugh—in those days with cigarettes at eighteen cents a pack, a half-dollar would buy two packs with fourteen cents left over. With an apology in advance for using the word bastard, the little bastard took my fifty cents and never came back—hey, I said I apologized!

The cops came to us at about dark-thirty and asked what we wanted for supper, saying that sandwiches were available at a nearby restaurant. My brother and I asked for milk and two cheeseburgers each, and I must admit that the burgers were first-rate. As an aside, burger buns and burgers came in one size in those days—small—nothing even approaching the huge ones we enjoy today. We learned later that the food was not furnished by the city—our suppers were paid for with the few dollars they took when they searched us before placing us in our cells. If there was any change left over they kept it, because no money was returned to us.

There’s lots more to tell about our trip, but I’ll save it for another posting—this one has rambled on long enough. I tried to make it brief, but posting is closely akin to eating peanuts, running downhill and having sex—once started it’s hard to stop. Stay tuned for additional information regarding our jail stay, including a discussion involving a length of rubber hose.

That’s my story—partially—and I’m sticking to it!

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Redux: Neighbors ‘R Us . . .

This is a re-do, or re-post, of a prior listing, a mini-essay that spells out the trials and travails of maintaining watch over my next-door neighbors’ home and its contents during  their numerous extended absences, times during which they jet off to exotic resorts in various states to rest and relax, to shrug off the tedious tasks of watering and maintaining lawns and plants and to be relieved of the tedious tasks of caring, feeding, petting and grooming their cat and their two large iguanas.

Actually, I haven’t really petted and groomed the iguanas, mainly because the girls (both are female) have a nasty habit of snotting at people. I’m unsure whether that is an expression of contempt  or respect or love—I am sure of its nastiness—I was struck just above my right eyebrow, a strike made without warning, not even a hiss or a growl or whatever iguanas do to signal a snotting. I am re-posting the original story and using these comments as a lead-in to the fact that my duties have been severely truncated. I still have the home and yards and plants and the cat to tend to, but the iguanas are gone, and in the words of that worthy from the 1960’s (MLK):

“I’m free at last, thank God all-mighty, I’m free at last!”

And now for a speedy disclaimer: Almost none of the above rant is true—almost everything in that drivel is my pathetic attempt at being humorous. The truest part is the fact that I do, in fact, voluntarily act as the caretaker for my neighbors, and I am generously compensated for my efforts, compensation that for a long time included the use of an upscale condo, one located in a very desirable area. However, they finally despaired of me and my family for not utilizing the condo, especially not for extended lengths of time, so they sold it—bummer!

The most untrue part in the above paragraphs is any indication I may have given to a reader that I’m glad the iguanas are gone. That of which I am glad is the fact that they went to the home of a doctor, a licensed exotic reptile collector, one that will undoubtedly attend to every wish and whim of the iguanas.

I’m happy for them, but I miss them—their care was never a burden for me. Well, I suppose the part that involved removing their potty pan from their cage, cleaning it, refilling it with water and returning it to the cage was not my favorite task, but it never detracted from the care I lavished on the ladies. I had my favorite, of course. The larger lady actually winked at me occasionally—not that I consider her act a come-on—it was probably just a friendly gesture meant to reinforce the bond that existed between us. The smaller one never winked at me, not even once, and she in fact was the one that snotted on me. I’ve been rejected by females many times over the years—well, not really that many times—but never so strongly and never so final! The iguanas are no longer part of my neighbor’s lives, nor of mine. I have a sneaky hunch that they do not miss them nearly as much as I do—in fact, I can truthfully state that the pleasure they display when we discuss the iguanas borders on ecstacy.

And now on to my redux of the original iguana posting—you can find it here.  Both the original and this redux are long reads, mini-dissertations if you will, but in my humble opinion are well worth reading. The original post is dated September 27, 2009.

The purpose of this posting is to share a recent e-mail from my next-door neighbor and my response to that e-mail. The posting includes titillating observations on house-sitting, cats, iguanas, the Galapagos Islands, timeshares, exotic places, lawyers, teachers, builders, grammar, Fox News, McDonald’s, skiing, Texas, Colorado, refrigerators, snot and more—it’s a veritable smorgasbord of completely unrelated items—brace yourselves for a bumpy ride!

A rather lengthy (but highly educational) prelude to the e-mails:

Please overlook my ending the next sentence with a preposition—sometimes in writing, one must simply suck-it-up and run with an improperly located preposition.

In the house on the immediate west side of my home reside two of the best friends and neighbors any reasonably sane person could wish for.

There—I did it—I ended a sentence with a preposition. Look how silly it would be to end the sentence thusly: “. . . for which any reasonably sane person could wish.” And here I must echo the words of Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister and hero of World War II, as regards the prohibition of never ending a sentence with a proposition: “This is a situation with which I will not up with put.”

I rest my case.

AIntoThisStuffMy next-door neighbors own several timeshares, broadly scattered around our fifty states. They share their domicile with a cat and two large—quite large—iguanas. Well, they don’t share the actual domicile with them—the cat rambles everywhere, but has a pet entry into their garage for his return at nightfall and at sunup. As for the iguanas, they pass their days and nights in a comfortably large outdoor cage on the backyard patio, a cage with natural climate control aided by a cool-water misting system for summer and a heating system for winter. Both iguanas are ladies by nature, although both lay eggs—lots of eggs, with no contact or input (so to speak) from the opposite sex—which is probably a good thing—if there were contact and input we would probably be up to our waists in iguanas.

The ladies spend their waking hours eating lettuce and iguana-food pellets (enhanced with a sprinkling of orange juice), dumping into a large water-filled pan and hissing menacingly at passers-by. Incidentally, iguanas have a nasty habit of marking spectators. At first I thought they were expectorating (I got hit just above my right eyebrow), but I later learned that the iguana was not spitting—it was snotting.

ALizzieBigYep, the material came from its nostrils. I suppose the word snot as a verb would be conjugated as follows: present tense snot (Do iguanas snot on people?), past tense snotted (The iguana snotted on me), and future tense snotted (By this time tomorrow the iguana may have snotted on me again—but I hope not). My online research revealed many things, not the least of which is that iguanas in the Galapagos Islands snot salt—an environmental curiosity, I suppose. And sometimes the snalt (combination of snot and salt) is green in hue, a color caused by a bacterial infection. In my case I was not subjected to the “green sheen” category—obviously my neighbor iguanas are healthy.

Yeah, I know—TMI (Too Much Information). It’s simply that I enjoy sharing trivia—even gross trivia. Just imagine throwing up (so to speak) this tidbit of information for consideration by attendees at a crowded cocktail gathering—why, one would be spotlighted and lauded by all! And all would welcome learning a new word—snalt. And just consider the possibilities for spirited speculative discussions—should an iguana be fed pepper, for example, the nasal output could be called snepper. And I would suppose that if it were black pepper and a bacterial infection existed, the snepper would perhaps be tinted black, and if red peppers, the snepper would be tinted red. And if fed green peppers, the snepper would probably be green, similar to to the ocean-green hue of snalt, as documented in the Galapagos Islands.

AMineAllMineI would like to believe that the action of my neighbor’s iguana stemmed from mutual respect and admiration, but I believe it was delivered to the tune of, “Stop staring at me!” Since that single incident I have kept my distance with my cap pulled low—just above my eyebrows.

They both work (the neighbors, not the iguanas). The husband is a highly talented builder and the wife is an educator in a local school district. They have vacation timeshares and occasionally jet off to some exotic location for a week or so of rest and relaxation, this time in Colorado.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that my family also has a timeshare. We gather in the spring at an exotic location for several days, a location that has all the amenities one could desire. And also in the interest of full disclosure, I must state that the location is only a short drive from home, and is made available to us by our neighbors. Their action is purely altruistic and is in no way related to my house-sitting, cat-sitting and iguana-sitting in their absences. If I felt that it was in the form of compensation I would reject it.

Yeah, right—of course I would—not!

AMyOnlyRegretThis is my neighbors’ original e-mail, sent just prior to their departure for one of said exotic locations:

Hi—our brand new refrigerator has a busted condensate pan! It is, of course, under warranty but we didn’t have time to meet a service tech before we left. Consequently, sometimes when it goes through the defrost cycle a little water leaks out onto the floor. I share this information with you not so much as a warning, but as a disclaimer against any potential legal action filed as a result of a slip and fall by a good-hearted neighbor in the process of feeding our critters! In the meantime, instead of getting packed, my wife is cleaning the house from top to bottom because she doesn’t want that same good-hearted neighbor to think that we are a bunch of slobs (as for me, I just issue disclaimers).

I’m going to send this now before my beloved bride reads this, because she might not appreciate my humor!

And this is my response to their e-mail:

Hi—I’m sorry to hear that your new fridge has a problem, but I’m sure the company will make it good. If you like, you can ask for the service tech to come in while you folks are out of town. We aren’t going anywhere. You can give the company my land line number and my cell number. Just tell them to call me and we can set up a mutually acceptable time for him (or her, or them) to fix the problem. I’ll make the fridge available and stand by to ensure that he (or she or they) do not abscond with either of the girls or Rhalph.

Is Rhalph spelled properly? Or is it Raff? Rhalph looks right to me.

Thanks for the heads-up and the disclaimer. I’m already considering my options in case some calamitous event precipitates a lawsuit. You know, of course, that my son-in-law is an attorney affiliated with one of the most prestigious law firms in the Dallas area.

However, please don’t even think of canceling and rescheduling your sojourn to the mountains. In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that the firm, and therefore my son-in-law, handles only lawsuits lodged against corporations—lawsuits against McDonald’s, for example, in the case of “Elderly Lady Spills Hot Coffee in Lap While Leaving Drive Through Lane,” thereby suffering extreme physical damage caused by the beverage coming in contact with certain highly sensitive epidermal tissue, and irreparable mental anguish caused by the depilatory action of the hot coffee.

As Sean Hannity of Fox News is wont to say, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” My son-in-law is the only lawyer I know, and I have no desire to know any others—nay, I have a pronounced aversion to knowing any others.

Oh, and still in the interest of full disclosure, I made up the part that reads, “. . . one of the most prestigious law firms in the Dallas area.” The firm could well be such, but I have never heard, read or seen the claim in any forum—not in discussions, not in print and not in radio or TV commercials.

Hey, I just realized that today is Saturday (I didn’t really realize it—my wife just told me) and y’all are already on your way, so obviously my offer to stand by while the fridge gets fixed is moot. However, I will give myself full credit for making the offer, albeit a day late, and I’ll still send this e-mail—otherwise I’ve wasted a lot of typing. And I’ll make the same offer for next week, or whenever, just in case you both need to stay on the job.

Enjoy, and be careful—I know that most skiers take the lift up and ski downhill. If you do ski, you should reverse that practice—ski only uphill and take the lift back down, and you’ll never be in danger of attempting to occupy the same space occupied by a tree, a situation that is impossible due to an immutable law of physics, namely that “No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.” And if you should happen to encounter a tree while speeding uphill, any damage, either to you or the tree, should be negligible.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it—I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Crabby old man—revisited . . .

On the tenth of this month I posted the contents of an e-mail I received from my son-in-law in Dallas. His e-mail consisted of a news report, and a poem supposedly crafted by a man that died in a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska. The only comment generated by my posting was dated a few days later, but was rejected by Word Press as spam because it was posted from a commercial web site. I belatedly discovered the comment, and finding myself with mixed emotions as to its content, I decided to allow it so I could respond.

Click HERE to read my posting of the poem, and click HERE to determine whether the poem is truth or fiction.

My purpose in making this posting is to share that comment and my response with my viewers. I believe the comment is a canned message to bloggers, probably used as a message intended to attract them to a commercial web site. In our federal government terminology it would be termed a boiler-plate letter, a canned reply to an inquiry—the only changes needed would be dates, names, locations and the event in question.

Should a viewer to this posting have an interest in buying or selling diamonds, or wish to learn everything you ever wanted to know about diamonds, click here for the commercial web site—it’s worth a visit.

This is the original comment on my posting, exactly as received:

Great post. It is clear You have a great deal of unused capacity, which you have not turned to your advantage.

The way you write shows you have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself.

It seems to me that while While you have some personal weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them.

And this is my response to the comment:

Great comment! Thanks for visiting, and thanks for commenting. I apologize for not responding earlier. Word Press considered your comment to be spam, and therefore tossed it atop my spam garbage pile.

I just noticed the comment yesterday. I agree with Word Press that it is spam, intended to draw me to your commercial web site and perhaps add to your take of moola. I visited the site, and found it interesting and quite informative.

I am not, however, in the market for diamonds, neither for buying nor for selling them. I dragged your comment out of the garbage because I was fascinated with your analysis of my writing, and therefore approved the comment in order to respond to it.

I made no effort to correct minor errors in your comment—errors such as improper capitals, unnecessary commas, and duplicated words—while/While. Since the errors did not materially divert from the comment’s purpose, I allowed them to stand.

I am in awe of your ability to analyze my writing with only a small sample available. I am particularly astounded by your ability to compliment and criticize one’s writing ability in the same brief sentence—you have both complimented and criticized my literary efforts in each of the three sentences in your comment.

I cheerfully accept your criticisms and compliments with equal fervor. I also accept the fact that you have effectively outed me as a modern-day Janus, an ancient Roman god believed to have two faces that faced in diametrically opposite directions, features that enabled him to see into the past as well as the future.

Thanks again for the comment—it pleases me, so much that I plan to bring it and my response into the daylight as a separate posting, one in which I will recommend your website and highlight it for easy access by viewers to my blog. I may also expound on your astounding ability to analyze persons on a limited sample of their writing ability. You are apparently well-trained in the disciplines of psychology as well as psychiatry.

I can only imagine what personality traits you could identify if given a handwriting sample—by using the proven process of inductive reasoning, you might well be able, as was the god Janus, to peer into that person’s future!

Postcript: I would propose that every reader of this posting do the following: Imagine that you are the ancient Greek god Janus, the god of two faces. Step out of yourself, then turn around and face yourself and then ask yourself whether the comment of the diamond merchant may apply to you. Click HERE for more information on Janus.

Can you truthfully deny that you see yourself reflected in the three sentences?

Can you truthfully claim that none of the three apply to you?

I did exactly what I suggest you do and I saw my reflection—hence this posting.

Ain’t that weird!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 28, 2010 in death, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,