.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Utah Day 3.

This was the day of compression/decompression.  Tomorrow morning I had to sing a duet with my cousin (whom I knew has a great voice, but with whom I had never sung in my life) followed immediately with MY sermon at the funeral.   I have to confess at this time that singing How Great Thou Art at a funeral is not a foreign thing to me. I sang it the first time (that I remember) at the funeral of Jan's father, and have sung it so many times since, that Janet no longer enjoys the song or likes it at all, it is so associated with moments of grief in her life, and I am relatively sure that if I go before she does, there is almost no chance in the world that it will be sung at my funeral.  ON the other hand, it reaches right down into my core, and I think it shows.  I think I mentioned that I sang it at the funeral of one of my friends and the funeral director asked me if I would sing it at another funeral that week and that he would pay me to do so.  I said that I would do it for nothing, and within a short period realized that I had to say no from that point on or I would sing it once or twice a week for the rest of my life.   Having said that, my friend Bill, whom I had picked to be one of my pallbearers was killed in a household  accident a few months ago  and he was such a close friend that I sat, almost in agony at his funeral because I hadn't been asked to sing, so it cuts both ways I guess.

So here I was committed to sing.  I should admit  that my emotions are right on the surface all the time.  I cry watching the flag bearers march in parades.  When I was a missionary in Finland, I had to go to the US Embassy to get my visa renewed and when I got to the Embassy, it took me quite a while to do the job, because I stood for a long time in front of the Embassy looking at the flag (which I hadn't seen for over a year) with tears running down my face.  Having emotions close to the surface has been handy for my work as an actor.  When my character is supposed to cry on stage, I cry, and I have been told that when I am angry on stage, I am rather frightening.  The fact remains that my youngest daughter used to sing duets with me on numerous occasions (Christmas, church services etc., I don't recall any funerals) and, almost ten years ago she told me that she was not going to do that any more because I kept sobbing and messing up the notes. (She's a musical purist.)

As I sat at my laptop and prepared my talk, I had visions of finishing How Great Thou Art with tears running down my face then moving to the pulpit (or lectern, which ever they call it at funerals) a basket case and not being able to speak at all.  I called my cousin Kathy to make arrangements for rehearsal but she was tied up during the day. (She works for the Utah Attorney General) and I ended up going to my nephew's home for an evening snack where we got reacquainted (I really hadn't seen him or his family since his absolutely stunning older daughter was in middle school.  While we were at the home, she revealed her college major in photography and took pictures of everyone.) There were several members of the family including a couple of my nephews from other side of the family (My sister's kids) and one of my sisters and her husband as well.  It was a wonderful evening, except that I still hadn't rehearsed my song.  I called Kathy, and she said (as I understood it) that she and her accompanist would meet me at the church at eight thirty A.M. and we could rehearse then.  Famous last words, but we ended that day with laughter, some tears and a lot of good feeling.  (Of course I went home and read through my speech/sermon or what ever it was two or three times before bedtime.)  I should mention that the funeral was scheduled a 11:00 AM so I was still very nervous about this duet thing.  If it had been a solo, I would have felt more secure.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I promise that I will finish the Utah trip, if only because members of my family will kill me if I don't, but today was just a fun day.  Jan went out with one of her friends  for a bit of decadence (or at least as decadent as she can be) in her friend's car with no family member hovering to make sure she was okay.  Their decadence for years has been to go out periodically and have a diet Dr. Pepper float.  (With ice cream and everything)

While she was off playing I went to get parts for a compressor that had died, and the guy at the welding shop showed me how do repair it all by myself (with no bill)

WE got together for dinner of some potato soup that had been left by a friend (The folks at church are still working hard to make sure we don't starve.) and then watch our DVD of the opera Falstaff with the Royal Opera Covent Garden.

To those who don't know, (an I am always surprised at the number) this is an opera restaging of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor which is one of the many that I have never directed (although Jan has) but I have seen it (and our video) enough times that I have always been able to follow the dialogue  pretty closely.  Today, I couldn't , perhaps because of general loss of memory, perhaps because it has been awhile, or whatever, and I found myself jut sitting back to enjoy Verdi's music and admiring the consummate acting by Renato Bruson who played the leading character.

The Buckbasket scene was hilarious, and I smugly thought that Janet had staged it with better timing, though she didn't have to worry about music and a libretto that demanded singing from the buckbasket by Falstaff.  (To those who have missed this scene, Falstaff has tried to seduce two different women (using the same loveletter for each). They catch on to him, invite him to an assignation and  arrange for everyone in town (including their husbands) to show up looking for him.  They also trick  him into hiding in a large laundry basket (the buckbasket) which they arrange to have thrown into the river (with him inside, wrapped in women's laundry).  You don't have to understand a word to get the picture.    To make a long story short, we watched the opera, cheered for everyone, sat though the curtain calls and Janet went to bed.  I came to the computer for a while but will soon go watch Numbers (one of my many vices).  The only problem is that she can't yet get into our "sleep number" bed in a waterbed frame, and there isn't room for us both in the bed she is now using.   We have to be satisfied with snuggle on the couch for Falstaff etc.

I still sing her to sleep with the Gershwin tune Our Love is here to stay  ( I have done that almost every night since her surgery in Finland, but now she joins me and we sing a duet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nothing to do with Utah

I just had to post tonight.  Janet and I have spent most of the past week at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.   She was referred there when doctors studying the CT scans of her aortal problem observed that there were lesions on her liver and suggested that they should be investigated.  We were referred to a Gastroenterologist who then took MRIs and new CT scans of the area.  She determined that Janet had a "mass" in her liver and referred her to the Mayo Clinic.  Adding this to the concern we had about her aortic dissection (I've been calling it an aneurysm but aortic dissection seems the right term, I guess) we have spent most of the month in a state of mild panic.

We arrived at the Mayo on Tuesday and began a battery of tests and had a consultation with one of the main doctors in the transplant segment of the hospital.  We felt both better and worse after our consult since he had some doubt that cancer was involved, but also was sure that Janet was not a good candidate for a transplant.   We finished up Friday with a bone scan, another CT scan or Two, and a lengthy and unpleasant sonogram.   They were reluctant to do an MRI without consultation with Jan's orthopedist since she has about a foot of metal and a bunch of screw holding her femur together.

Today we had a consult with the oncologist who went through all of Janet's tests old and new and concluded that any cancer was about out of the question.  She did schedule one more test, a bone marrow biopsy to rule out a lymphoma since Jan's speen was slightly enlarged but we came home feeling  one of the great terrors we've been fearing is not there.   I almost grabbed the oncologist (a very nice greyhaired lady much younger that either of us ) and danced her around the floor, but Jan shoved her wheel chair in front of me.    Hooray, Hooray, now if the bone in her leg heals up and we find some excuse to shake the ongoing concern about her aorta, we may be able to go do some "fun" things.   I'll continue the story of the Utah trip tomorrow or the next day. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

UTAH day two

It is amazing how differently one day can end up from another.

I awoke from my sleep in the Travelodge without an alarm.  I had left a wake up call for six A M with the desk, but I awoke about ten minutes early, (for those who know me in my dotage, this would almost be alarming --pun intended but so weak no one would catch it) and emerged from my bed without much pain (this is also a little strange, the first ten minutes after I get out of bed are generally the worst minutes of my day because of back pain).

I showered dressed and packed and was in the office to meet the shuttle at 7:00 which was a little late for an 8:20 plane, but I made it, even after a near strip job at the security gate.  I had apparently picked up a ball point pen somewhere that had enough metal to make the gizmo  buzz.  Just as I entered the plane a guy asked me my name. He had, apparently been waiting at the American airlines desk with a wheelchair.  (I could really have used it, I was really pooped.)  I found my seat and had a wonderful trip.  The young lady next to me was an art student from Evergreen College in Washington and was reading a book  on the communication processes in the various arts.  I had once taught a course in that area so we chatted about art, generally, art as it relates to two dimensional painting (her specialty) as it relates to sculpture, puppetry, and theatre.  The flight went very quickly and we seemed to be dropping into Chicago in almost no time at all.

I had been very concerned about my flight being re-routed to Chicago.  I am among the millions who have missed connections in Chicago because-- -well, just because.

The plane had just opened its doors when a little tiny young lady about five feet tall, jumped into the aisle and paged me on the speaker system.  Was soon as I identified my self she told me that she would wait for me at the door.  I figured "okay" and gathered my gear together to move up the aisle.  As I reached the door, she grabbed an arm and shoved me into a wheel chair, stuffed my carry on between my feet, my cane behind it  and my laptop into my lap (logical enough) then checked my boarding pass. 

"Your flight is already boarding" she stated in some sore to slavic accent.  She then started me up the ramp like a shot. 

I have to say that this little bitty lady handled my 235 pounds plus baggage better than anyone I have ever seen.  I am not sure what her genetic and work background is, but I wouldn't want to do anything to make her angry.  I also wouldn't want to compete against her in a marathon.   My flight came in on D and my next one went out on C so I had assumed that they were fairly close together.  Not so.  I know for an absolute fact that without that little lady I would probably still be in Chicago.  When we got to the gate, she ignored the line, shoved my boarding pass in the bar code reader and zipped me down the ramp.  At the bottom she pulled out a little PDA type gizmo that had my name, already had the box checked for excellent service, and asked me to sign it with a stylus.  I had to grab her arm to slow her down long enough to give her a tip.

I settled down in my seat after a small journey down the aisle, had to move when I discovered that I had misread 16 C to be 18 C and settled down for a very fine lflight.  My seatmates were a very interesting lady from Kenosha., Wisconsin who had two sons at BYU, and may have been a Mormon, but I rather doubt it.  She is currently a student of acupuncture at some oriental school   of acupuncture so she spoke to us in Mandarin (she doesn't have to learn the language, but she needs to learn the names of herbs, body parts and contact points in Chinese.)  The other lady was a student of architecture at one of hte Illinois Universities, and she too had a lot of interesting information.  We all napped a bit but the plane arrived in Salt Lake on time, my son was there to meet me in the car I had arranged and I was whisked to the home of relatives, where I watched the end of the Gator Bowl and clumped off to sleep.   Actually to toss and turn and finally wake up to work on my speech for the funeral.  I was really struck with how different the two days of travel seemed to be.

More later (again)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Funerals have their own sort of ethos. There is always an element of sadness, because someone who is loved is no longer with us. Even people of faith in a hereafter suffer through a period of loss. For many who have no such faith the loss is often more intense, though that is not always true. Along with a sense of grief there is also a certain joy in seeing friends and relatives that have not been together in a long time. One of the features of funeral pictures is the vivid contrast between smiling faces and tears.

I was feeling pain at the same time that I was looking forward to seeing some of my family, but I was really not expecting the same contrasts as they affected my travel. Living in South Georgia, most of the time, when I fly, I fly from Jacksonville, FL. Fares are generally lower from Jacksonville than from either Savannah or Atlanta. It is a three hour drive to Jacksonville, there is ample parking and limited auto traffic, while Atlanta is four hours away and the airport with the traffic around it is a zoo.

Because Janet can't put weight on her foot and has problems getting out of most of the cars except my old Pontiac Montana van, I determined to have my son drive me to Jacksonville, and pick me up on my return so that the car would be available if Janet needed it in Statesboro. He dropped me off in plenty of time and drove away. I checked in with a minimum of difficulty and using my cane made my way to the American Airlines terminal (which is the very furthest away from the ticket sales area). By the time I arrived I was pooped enough that the airline worker at the the desk took one look at me and put me on the list for assistance during transfers, and after a short wait we all started to board the plane. The line stalled at the door for about thirty minutes, and finally an agent came out an told us that the airplane was suffering mechanical problems and would not be able to fly. We must all return to the ticket agent and make arrangements for a flight the next day, or possibly at ten thirty that night.

One of the difficulties of walking with a cane is that one is slower than almost everyone else. By the time I arrived at the ticketing area, everyone else is already in line, and the flight that evening was already filled. I put my carry-on inline and staggered over to a bench to sit and pant. It occurred to me that contacting Expedia might be as useful as talking to the ticket agent. I called Expedia and after about half an hour of cell phone use, some pleasant young man with Expedia found me a flight to Utah, connecting at O Hare in Chicago rather than in Dallas/Fort Worth. I had some nervousness about O Hare because I have missed more connections at O Hare than anywhere, but at least I had a tentative departure the next morning and arrival at Salt Lake that afternoon. I still had to wait in or about the line (when one is almost the last one in line it is easy to get someone to save your place) in order to get someplace to sleep that night. The line moved very slowly because a young black man, his wife and two beautiful, happy children seemed stuck at one of the booths. As I got close to the front if the line I heard enough to understand his problem. He had checked his baggage, which was now back at the booth, and his checked baggage contained a pistol in a case. It had passed Xrays to be checked the first time, but they had inspected it at the booth. He not only had the weapon but it had bullets in the magazine (very against the rules). He offered to take the bullets out and throw them away, but they wouldn't let him touch the gun. I didn't get the end result, but he was still there at the booth, tearing his hair, about two hours later. He may still be there for all I am sure.

I finally got to one of the booths where the lady gave me a voucher for the night at a nearby Clarion Hotel, and she told me where to catch the shuttle to the hotel. Thinking that my troubles were over, I caught the shuttle, got to the hotel desk where the clerk shook his head sadly and said, "Would you please go back to the airport and tell American Airlines that they have already taken my last room, we have no more space." (Actually that sounded reasonable. This was New Years Eve, and the Gator Bowl was to be played the next afternoon. The highway into Jacksonville was full of Clemson fans going to the game and the airport was still littered with Nebraska fans planning for the same. On reflection, I am surprised that any rooms would be available in the Jacksonville area.)

I went out, got back in the Shuttle and talked the reluctant driver into taking me back to the airport. When I got back to the Airline ticket booth, the poor young guy was still haranguing the ticket agent at one booth (and his wife and babes were looking much less happy than before) and the other booths were busy. I cut in line to tell the lady that the Clarion was full whereupon she stopped what she was doing to tell the other agents. I had a feeling that the shuttle downstairs was full again and on its way to a filled up Clarion.

At any rate, they gave me a new voucher to a Travelodge (not as fancy, but at that time, any bed was a good bed). About that time I realized that I had not contacted my son who was going to the funeral as well (I think my children, probably wisely, don't think I should go anywhere by myself.) He was traveling from Memphis, with his plane scheduled to arrive at about the same time as mine and we were planning to share a car rental from the airport, but the car was reserved in my name. I tried to call him, but the Travelodge interior was a dead cell area, so I walked out of my room onto the grass to see if I could get service. I did, and got his voice mail when I realized that he was on a plane that actually left on time. At that time, the door to my room closed and I was standing bare footed on the grass, outside, with my key sitting on the table in the room. I clumped bare footed to the office, got a new key and went back to my room. Fortunately I heard the clerk tell a new customer that the rooms had wireless access (wireless, but phoneless) so I went back to my room, hooked up my laptop, changed the car reservation so that it was in his name, stepped outside (with my key in hand) and left him a voice mail on his phone telling him where to pick up the car, then went to sleep. It was 12:20 AM and I had an 8:20 flight in the morning. More later.