Forgive my unintended sabbatical, Gentle Readers. Hubby, Oakley, and I have been enjoying an extended stretch of normal days. You know the kind, the ones that unfold according to routine where you get up, do your work, walk Oakley, watch maybe a bit too much TV (such as impeachment hearings), perhaps lunch with a friend.
The good kind of normal, like really high end vanilla ice cream, the slightly off white with the seeds speckling it. On its own, it’s great, but it’s able to provide a backdrop for hot fudge or strawberries if those are available as well as supporting a swirl of whipped cream.
We give thanks for the basics right now be they vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. We have the pantry stocked for the winter with human and canine food. No outstanding bills loom over us; no human or canine health crises or passages to the great beyond disturb our peace. The vehicles declared their suicide pact null and void. None of them have acted up since my VW’s last trip to the dealer’s just after Labor Day.
Outdoors, the garden was prepped for next spring with layers of cardboard and mulch. One of my friends who is an experienced, wise gardener suggested that as a last ditch effort to rid the bed of the rogue mesclun mix and seeds in the compost that hadn’t cooked properly. Just poke holes with a spade, add the plants, and voila, instant garden this May.
Indoors, I’ve been decluttering. How two people and a total of two dogs can crap up a house like this is beyond me. Not purging the knickknacks and books so much as the piles of junk like boxes that we didn’t know what to do with, so we put them in the dining room until we could figure out the best course of action. Then they decided to use it as a breeding ground. I passed those on to a couple of friends who have an Etsy shop. Or the bags of hoarded inanities and old clothes that I piled into my car for their ride to a donation center. I was a little surprised that I didn’t get a flyer with information about opening my own Goodwill franchise.
We have opened some space. What it will be filled with remains to be seen, but we welcome the good and normal.
We started shopping for a new car Labor Day weekend. We have our eye on a sea glass pearl (light teal) Prius with all wheel drive. I didn’t go for a test drive, but I did sit in one, and it felt as if she was giving me a little hug.
We are overdue for one, and wanted to make an informed, rational decision unlike other car purchases we’ve made in the past. Like when my Chevette dropped pieces of the engine while I was driving. Or when the Pulsar’s timing belt broke, again while I was driving. Or mice eating the Thunderbird’s electrical system. There was the day when I closed the door on the Sentra and a chunk the size of my hand sheared off and turned to dust when it hit the ground. And who can forget the front end of the Crown Vic getting obliterated by the deer who ran in front of it, the turned around and ran in front of it again?
Between the two of us, we have three old vehicles. Just old. Not at an age where they could be considered vintage. Just…old.
However, they are paid for. Neither of us like going into debt, so we pay cash when we can. That’s why we own a ’95 Corolla that Hubby inherited from his mother. It could likely survive an episode of “Game of Thrones.”
A ’93 Ford F-150 that Hubby uses for hauling wood and other materials. It has the most comfortable seats and a ride better than some luxury cars I’ve been in.
And an ’03 GTI, my primary vehicle. With a “T” as in “turbo.” As in I wonder if energy streams come out of the back end as they do from the Enterprise in the opening credits of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when I hit the gas. The sound system still works. She handles well in adverse weather, so I can ask for little else.
Old they may be, however, they’re all paid for, so that’s a plus.
This month the three of them formulated and tried to follow through on what looked like a suicide pact.
The F-150 started it. While Hubby drove home, the brake lines went out on him. He arrived safely by some act of grace. The dealer managed to get the parts, get it fixed, and retuned it to the road.
That being done, attention turned to the power steering on the Corolla. Just needed a little fluid and a bit of adjusting. She came back to her usual self for a few days until her brakes and fuel lines started acting up. Hubby took her to several repair shops, but no one was willing to touch it. He decided to do it himself. Right now, she’s in several pieces in the garage.
Then the GTI’s electrical system decided to flake out. First, the gas gauge thought it would be funny to bottom out at random, even just after I’d filled up. One trip to the dealer about an hour away.
Next, she began being balky about starting and stalled as I turned into the driveway. They replaced three electrical relays. OK. All is good. She took us to and from the last Ren Faire of the season without issue, a 180-mile round trip.
And then the next day, she started acting up again. And stalled on me in traffic. With a semi coming down the road behind me. Thanks be to whatever benevolent forces which started the car and saw me home that day. Hubby took it in; they replaced an engine speed sensor. She’s been fine since then.
For how long, we don’t know. But we do know what we want, and won’t need to scramble to figure out our next vehicle.
I held the small bottle of pills in my hand. Fourteen pills. One twice a day for seven days. “May this be for the best and highest,” I stated before taking the first one.
Since when, March, maybe even late February, I’d been eating echinacea, cranberry juice capsules, uva ursi, and olive leaf extract for a bladder infection that just wouldn’t go away. Oh, it would calm down for a couple of weeks, then would drag me out of a sound sleep too many nights in a row with urgent trips to the bathroom.
I just need to take more of this; I just need to have a good night’s sleep; I just need not to drink this or that and it will take care of itself. I chanted that litany to myself and to Hubby.
The last couple of weeks found me feeling as if I were coming down with the flu, going into the fatigue, the aches, a bit of a chill, then it would go away. I’d feel better, then it would come back.
No, I don’t want to go to urgent care. I know they’re OK with us paying by credit card since we don’t have insurance right now* but I just need to figure out the right combination of herbs and homeopathy.
No, really, I just need to double up on this and….
You know I don’t like doctors.**
Oh, I just have a middle aged lady bladder. Really, i just have to do this and that and no, I don’t because I don’t want to find out I’m diabetic right now.
Woke up feeling as if I were coming down with the flu again, plus had a cramping sensation so intense that I feared that my periods were coming back on line. I dug through the drawers in the powder room. Found the thermometer, an old glass one that I think we bought when we first were married. Washed it very well. Popped it in my mouth, held it for a three minute eternity.
Yep. Elevated temperature. Couldn’t tell how much, but it was elevated. Very well. Now what do I do?
Went to Dr. Weil’s website. You will need antibiotics. Period. End of quotation. Not much to be done from a supplement and nutrition standpoint.
OK, what would I do if this were Oakley? I would have taken him in much sooner. He doesn’t have insurance, but that’s not an issue. So, even though we can pay for our doctor visits out of pocket, thank The Mystery, why am I doing this to myself?
Oh, let’s see…arrogance, fear, a total lack of self respect and esteem, maybe? Will wrestle with that in my journal later.
But for now, take Oakley to day care and proceeded to urgent care.
No insurance? OK, we just need you to pay a deposit. Have a seat.
The nurse gave me the bag with the plastic cup, wipes, and a lid, then pointed me to the rest room. A far cry from childhood samples caught in a baby food jar.
That completed, the nurse practitioner came in, gave me a once over and asked all the questions: how long had this been going on, pain levels, and any allergies they needed to know about. No judgement, no shaming, nothing but gentle care. OK, we’ll call in a prescription for an antibiotic to the pharmacy across the street.
Went to the pharmacy. Browsed while I waited. Bounced back and forth between keto and vegan magazines until the headache took hold. Prescription filled, not as much as I feared, plus the pharmacy tech found a couple of coupon codes after I told her we didn’t have insurance.
Went home, set intention that the pills be for the best and highest. Had a snack (the nurse practitioner explained that it would upset my stomach otherwise), and took the first pill.
Time to pick Oakley up. Started feeling better on the way home.
I slept through the night.
*When Hubby was pushed into retirement four years ago, he just took a lump sum without benefits. The company that bought the one where he’d worked for over 35 years is notoriously unkind to retirees. They offered us a COBRA plan for $2K a month. We tried going through the ACA, but kept getting calls and letters requesting more information and more copies of his W2 and 1040s for his last couple of years. We withdrew after three months of fighting with them.
**Long story about why I look askance at anyone in a white coat that goes far beyond the scope of this entry.
And finally a couple of weeks ago, the clouds parted and the sun came out, drying out the garden bed soil enough to plant a few tomatoes and herbs.
First I had to dig out about two inches of soil to get rid of the mesclun mix that had taken over the bed. Had I not done that, I would still be pulling it out by hand. Sprinkled in some dried chicken manure to replenish it, then poked holes for the lavender, parsley, sweet and Thai basils, and tomatoes. Three red ones, one golden, and one cherry (cherry is small and red, so we have a double count with it). Two of the tomatoes have set blossoms. The lavender blossoms opened to graciously share their fragrance with us and the bees. Now all I need to do is water as needed, pull a couple of weeds now and then, and wait.
The tech issues were a little more complicated. Sometime in the wee smalls of Monday morning, the modem that had served us well by keeping us connected to the outside world via the DSL line installed in 2002 if I remember correctly, joined the choir invisible, ceased to exist, etc. It became an ex-modem.
Usually, Hubby deals with tech issues while I make a cake. He was out of town. I called him to let him know what was going on and to please call my cell phone (our “landline” is actually a VOIP* system).
Now, bearing in mind that he was a telecomm engineer** for 35 years, he began rapid-fire troubleshooting questions, some of which I could answer (no, no adverse weather; yes, I did the unplug/plug thing; what’s wrong with it is that I can’t get connectivity, period).
“You’ll have to call support.”
I have to call support. I’d rather go to the dentist and gynecologist at the same time, thank you very much. And have them trade ends.
Not having much choice, I sucked it up and called. The human rep I spoke with after negotiating the queue was kind and friendly and helpful. He talked me through the steps of rebooting, and then…
And then with no warning, the power went out.
Rep asked when I thought the power would be back. I guessed about two hours. He or his supervisor would call me back then. OK, thanks.
And then my text chime went off several times. Hubby had tried to call, but kept getting the “all circuits are busy” message. What is going on? Did the tower go out?
I refrained from replying, “How the hell should I know?” I just called him, told him that there had been a power failure in the middle of the call to the support center, and that I needed to call Com Ed.
Com Ed didn’t know what was going on, either. I submitted an automated report.
Another call from Hubby. No, dear, I don’t know what happened to the power.
At this time, the muscles around my left eye started getting twinge-y. Went to the powder room where we keep the over the counter meds in search of something to take to keep the twitches and twinges from blossoming into a full blown cluster headache. I was out of my preferred pain killer. Great.
Breathing my way through the discomfort, I called Com Ed for an update. Very small, localized outage due to an equipment failure. If this was the transformer that I think it was and if anyone from Com Ed read this, we told you so.
The text chime dinged several more times. Updates from Com Ed, and forwarded texts from Hubby that he’d received from them.
Confirmed that I’d received them. Tried to sit quietly. Tried to visualize the tight muscles giving me the headache unwinding.
And with a flurry of beeps and chirps, the power made a triumphant return.
Now to wait for the ISP rep to call back.
And update Hubby, who reminded me that the call center closed at five and the odds were that they wouldn’t call back. And wait.
No call. Five o’clock rapidly approached.
I called again. Negotiated the queue, ran through the paces with another pleasant rep. Yep. Sounds like a dead modem. We’ll get someone out tomorrow. Thank you.
Called Hubby for another update. Another round of troubleshooting questions (yes, they ran tests; no, I don’t know which ones; the guy will be here between eight and noon; African or European?)
Done with technology for the day, I walked Oakley. I ate ice cream for dinner. I had a salad or something to mitigate the ice cream, but I ate it while I stared off into space.
At least I slept OK that night. The tech arrived at the end of the time frame I’d requested, but he quietly and efficiently did his job, bringing us a new modem that brought us up to speed, literally and figuratively.
For now, we are able to do what we need to online, but hopefully we won’t take 20 years for the next upgrade.
* stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Same as calling on an actual landline, but over the internet.
**who worked on one of the rudimentary forms of the internet in the days of our courtship.
The weather finally decided to warm up and act like spring here in the soybean field. The final measurable snow fell a couple of weeks ago and yielded four inches of slop. We stayed inside, needless to say.
Except for that day, we’ve been able to resume walks with our friends on weekend mornings. Oakley and Bonnie Blue read and respond to the social media posts left by other dogs as we meander the riverside trail connecting two parks, the one where we meet and the one that’s our turnaround point. It’s not a long walk nor is it a strenuous one, but it’s good friend hangout time for us as well as the pups.
Here at home, the first task outdoors will be cleaning out the raised garden bed. I still have a couple of weeks before I can plant this year’s crops, but remnants of the rogue lettuce and other plants I don’t recall inserting into the soil last year need to be pulled before that happens.
It is good to have that to look forward to. It’s good to participate in the cycle of life, of growth. In the last weeks, I had yet another passage to process. The husband of a close friend (and a friend in his own right) made his journey to the Other Side a couple of weeks ago. He had Parkinson’s. It wasn’t a battle, nor a journey during the 10 or 12 years of living with it. It just was a part of their lives. Until the last couple of weeks he was still engaged, curious, and did his best to follow the tango steps from his wheelchair as my friend and their teacher danced during a visit. Not long after that he just started the quiet drift to the distant shore. It was peaceful, comfortable, and full of grace. His funeral and interment will be next week.
We started 2019 in the soybean field not with horns and confetti but with deep sighs of relief. Oakley, Hubby and I are healthy for the most part. My sister and her husband (who had quadruple bypass surgery back in September) were able to make the trip from Michigan for the holiday gathering at our brother’s. We have the basics and enough to share. We are truly grateful.
On New Year’s Eve we went to Trader Joe’s, then to our favorite Indian restaurant for tandoori chicken and a dessert that’s like a cross between carrot cake and pudding. We went home and pulled in the day behind us, choosing to stay off the roads. The combination of unrelenting rain, impaired drivers, and cops looking to meet the year end ticket quota put a damper on evening celebrations for us. We finished the day by watching Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett perform selections from the American standard songbook followed by Renee Fleming sing opera and jazz with the New York Philharmonic on PBS. We made it all the way up to 10, then retired. I listened to the big band dance party on WDCB, a local public station that specializes in jazz, blues, folk, and runs a four-hour block of shows from the golden age of radio on Saturday afternoons. A touch of old school tasteful glamor provided a pleasant end to the holiday. Except for the midnight interruption by the neighbors who observed the coming of 2019 by bringing out the heavy artillery, all was calm.
We woke to a mud-colored sky that spit snow and rain by turns. In spite of that, a sense of peace, of hope settled around me. Relief that 2018 had passed, and that the time to pick up and go on had arrived.
In the smaller, more personal world, the relief was akin to feeling as if I’d pulled into the garage after a drive in a severe snowstorm. We navigated the losses, the changes, and arrived in 2019 with dents and scars, but we’re here and ready to get on with it as the crowds exhort in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
It wasn’t just me who felt it. Some predict that the energies of the universe will lead humanity in a positive direction this year. Others who watch politics believe that the new Congress will finally reign in the chaos emanating from the Oval Office.
Either way, I feel as if it will get better from here.
Bread, milk, eggs? Check. Coffee and tea? Check. Oakley’s food? Check. Better part of a bail of toilet paper from Costco? Check. Phones charged? Check. New snowblower? Check. Ready.
We had the first significant snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Only about six to eight inches which would have been enough of a pain in the butt had that been all it was, but combined with a leading edge of freezing rain and sustained northeast winds of 20 m.p.h. and gusting up to 50, it was a problem worthy of school closings.
Easily solved for us, though. We just holed up, hunkered down, and remarked “holy crap!” every time a gust swirled around the house. The lights flickered for a millisecond, but otherwise we came through unscathed.
Well, except that there was the driveway to contend with after the snow tapered off midmorning. When the wind hooks as it did Sunday and yesterday, it scrapes the front yard almost clean of snow, but pushes all of it into the driveway and into drifts against the neighbors’ hedge. Hubby’s maiden run of the new snowblower took about 45 minutes. Now that he’s familiar with the its quirks, it shouldn’t take more than a half-hour next time. I peeked out of the upstairs window to see how things were coming along. He looked as if he was having fun; not quite at the level where he might be humming the theme from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” as he and the machine wen through their paces, but happier than he’d been in a while.
Thank you for your understanding about my absence the last few weeks. We are still in the process of picking up pieces, reassembling them, and carrying on in the wake of saying “see you later” to Hubby’s family members.
His brother in law finally let go of this world and slipped into the next two weeks ago this coming Monday. BIL’s passage came almost six weeks to the day after Hubby’s sister made hers. Hubby went to the well-attended funeral. The officiant and the attendees all had kind words about BIL. He and Hubby’s Eldest Sister had owned a couple of pharmacies. They had done well for themselves, and supported an organization helping refugees settle into their new homes. And he had filled prescriptions for free so no customer had to make the Hobson’s choice between food or medicine.
And then Hubby found out that another sister (he has/had three older sisters) has cancer. She just started treatment, so we don’t know how this will play out.
After we finished that call, Oakley and I went outside for his bedtime potty run. I looked up at the sky and snapped “REALLY?!?!” at any forces, spirits, deities who were listening.
We are not alone in the tsunami of loss this fall. The passings of humans and pets; changes in circumstances; and news of one close friend’s husband entering the last stage of Parkinson’s show up in my social media feeds, emails, and texts. At times giving updates on conditions and passing on the word about transitions has left me feeling as Walter Cronkite must have when he read the casualty counts on CBS’ evening news during the Vietnam era.
Surviving these times involves focus on the tasks directly in front of us. Hubby came home and went back to work on his assignments for class. I walked Oakley a lot and made sure Hubby had reasonably healthy food to eat. We do talk about memories of the dear departed; he finds comfort in his religion.
And we stay on the routine, the rough schedules giving structure and meaning to the day.
The raw, tender edges of the gaps torn by their absences will scab over and heal in time. Yes, there will still be the openings that will never quite close again.
Last Friday brought the first frost advisory via the five o’clock weather report. I went out into the rainy late afternoon and pulled the last of the tomatoes so they could ripen indoors. Covering the plants last year resulted in watery, sour spheres despite a stretch of warmer days afterwards. Not something I wanted to go through again. At least in a brown paper bag they’ll get some semblance of color.
The cool rain didn’t bother me, even as it trickled down my neck and back. Earlier in the week we’d had to turn the air on after cooler weather briefly flashed its ankles at us. That had lasted for a few days until heat and humidity returned. Friday marked the end of the run for the heat and the beginning of weather more in line with the autumnal equinox.
I can’t say that I was sad to see September go. I let the rain wash it away.
I let it cleanse me of the anxiety over my brother-in-law’s bypass surgery. Four of the five blood vessels were 80-100% clogged with the gunk that collects in them as we age. Some can circumvent it with diet and exercise. In his case despite doing everything right, plaque still took up residence on his arterial walls. The surgeon was shocked that BIL hadn’t had a heart attack before this. No damage to the muscle, and just a couple of days after his surgery, he sounded more energetic if a little breathy. He was able to walk to the end of the block and back ten days after surgery.
I let the rain wash away the sadness surrounding the passage of the father of my high school best friend. He was funny, kind, and flew a B-26 in WWII. His students in the agriculture department at Michigan State were lucky to have him. He was 96, and living with problems peculiar to people of an advanced age. It was time, not to take from anyone’s sorrow. It was just time.
In the fading light, I looked upwards at the variegated grey clouds.
We’d had one call Tuesday night from Hubby’s oldest sister, one of the calls after ten p.m. that bodes unwell when you get to be our age. Second oldest sister was on her way out. Another round of sepsis came on and the weapons-grade antibiotic couldn’t touch it and it’s any minute now. Oh, and Oldest’s husband is failing, fading. Maybe six weeks according to the doctors at Cleveland Clinic. The radiation intended to kill off the cancer irreparably damaged his lungs, making them look like the red lace doilies used by children to make Valentine’s cards.
The call we’d hoped some miracle would stave off came about 2:30 Thursday morning. Second Sister had slipped the veil into the next world. She was only 64. A retired junior high guidance counselor, gardener par excellence, and active in helping refugees.
Hubby had been able to get an earlyish flight to Phoenix. He left at 5:30. Called me at 8:30 that night. I supported him as best I could. Funeral the next day, Friday. Family members flying back and forth between Detroit and Phoenix, tending to the living as they prepare to say goodbye to the passed and the passing.
The rain washed away the helplessness, the sorrow.
I took the tomatoes inside, then sat in my spot on the sofa. Oakley, sleepy from an afternoon at day care, snuggled his tush against my hip. I rubbed his ears. We don’t need words to talk. I read some poems. I watched some mindless filler on TV, too, until bed time.
Hubby arrived about three a.m. I heard his footsteps and the soft scrape of the chair across the kitchen tiles, and went back to sleep.
Many hours later, we talked of his travel experiences, seeing his family, and the service. We talked, too, about the need to get our estate planned and our advance directives down in ink. Neither of us want heroic measures. Personally, I want to include a clause that will warn anyone thinking of putting me on life support that if they do, I will haunt them to the end of days.
And while I don’t know how my funeral will go beyond hoping that people will say kind things about me, I do know that I want the memorial to conclude with a reading of Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon, followed by a pause, and then for the very last thing, Spring by John Denver. (A live performance would be cool, but it’s up on YouTube if that doesn’t work out.)
I hope that’s many years off, though. Our immediate tasks are to tend to his brother in law, support his sister when that time comes, and go about the present and all there is there, letting the seasons cycle as they will.
In the meantime, I’ll let the rains of autumn wash me clean.
Since the last missive, colorful and interesting opportunities for personal growth took over the days. I just haven’t been able to write anything coherent here in WordPress Land. However, this wave of experiences abates, and I hope to hang out on a regular schedule again.
It’s been mostly good happening. I’ve been taking a writing and environment class at a literary center in Geneva. The teacher is passionate, enthusiastic, and better prepared than some instructors I had in academic situations. It’s a small class, only four students, and we enjoy each others’ company. I will be sad to attend the last session next week.
The draining part: we’ve been dealing with another round of automotive follies the last few days. It’s to be expected when one co-owns two vehicles produced before the millennium and one shortly after. We may as well count them as new with all the work Hubby’s put into them. Last year was the year of his Corolla needing quite a bit of work. I can’t remember everything that needed to be done, but it was pretty extensive. Then the air conditioning crapped out on it just after Labor Day.
This year, my VW needed help. My A/C crapped out. Since heat and I don’t get along, and since Oakley is my usual passenger, we moved that up on the priority list.
And then there was the oil leak.
And the lock that didn’t respond to the remote.
And then this past weekend, the latch activating the door over the gas cap quit working. Of course I only had an eighth of a tank of gas left. The well-intentioned attendant at the gas station offered to pop it open for me with a screwdriver. Since that would lead to the need for the quarter panel getting replaced (VWs of that vintage do nothing half way), I politely declined.
Hubby figured out how to open the door manually. Open the hatchback. Pull out the panel over the gas cap from the rear. Apply pressure from the inside. Still had to do some rearranging and moving of this bit and that part, but he was able to fill it up.
Better yet, he was able to get the gas cap door fixed and the new lock installed. Not a pretty sight to see the innards of the door stacked on the workbench in the garage, but he completed the task. No screws were left behind, either.
Somehow, literature concerning Toyota Priuses materialized in the last week. We may be materializing one in the near future.