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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas—Well not quite yet

I’m going up to Columbia SC tomorrow to participate in a Messiah sing along.  I have been a passionate choir singer most of my life.  I have sung in and directed choirs  in  Idaho, Washington (just a little bit), Ohio, Rhode Island, New York, in four different cities in Finland, here in Georgia in five or six different choirs.  I have been a sort of always available bass.   Last year I sang with a choir at the University that I had sung with before, and almost for the first time, I found myself uncomfortable.  I just didn’t have the sense of everything.  I was beginning to have a lot of tempo problems, and when Janet fell down in the auditorium coming to our Christmas concert and broke her femur in multiple places, I think I just took it for a sign that my “career” as a choir singer was over.

I have been planning for quite awhile to go to Columbia for the wedding, Tuesday, of one of the Young Men that I taught in church several years ago.  He is finishing a degree at Georgia Tech and he and his fiancé will be married Tuesday in the Columbia LDS Temple.

A week or so ago my daughter, who lives in Columbia, called me to aske if I would be interested in coming a day early to participate in a “Sing along of Handel’s Messiah.  I probably have sung (bass part only)the Messiah at least fifty times in concert, and Georgia Southern University has sponsored a sing along Messiah four or five times (but not lately).  All my reservations about choir singing went away instantly.  The Messiah is one of my favorite pieces of music.  I have had to search the house high and low for my script, but I will charge into this one at full tilt.  I think this may be the first time I have sung the Messiah in the same choir with my daughter (who is the kind of alto that, when I was directing choirs, I would have killed (well not really, but you understand) to have in my choir.

Well, Halleluiah any way, it will be a fun evening tomorrow night. (I will weep  in some of the songs, I do that a lot since I passed three score and ten) but I will be full of joy anyway. 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Organ recital (?)

Patrick (the Born Again Redneck) and I have exchanged a few messages about Organ Recitals (the discussion of those parts of the body which are going to pot).  Though I present them more often than he, he has had some recent opportunities to wax eloquent on the subject.

So far, about the only parts of my body that I haven’t whined about in the blog are probably my hair and my waistline.  (The latter is much too healthy of late.  The rest of me has become so decrepit that I am personally acquainted with MDs in half a dozen specialties spread over three of four states and a cruise ship.

You would never guess what part of me is so troubling that I am thinking of taking it to the doctor-----The fingernail (or at least that part of the body on which it rests, the finger.  Ii have a hangnail that has become infected.  I would have taken it to the doctor before now, but it is embarrassing.   A HANGNAIL??????

I have dosed this dang thing with every cotton pickin’ medicine I could find.  Mercurochrome, triple antibiotic, iodine, peroxide, tea tree oil, I even dipped it in some fungicide.

I know, because I remember, what my dad would have done about the time it got swollen up to a little over one and a half times its normal girth.  He would take out his pocket knife, sterilize the blade with the flame of a match, and give it a good quarter of an inch slice (perhaps incision is a better word), let it bleed and excrete puss, and slap some iodine and a bandaid over it.  I remember two or three back yard surgeries in my pre-teen and teenage years.  It always seemed to work (particularly if the swelling was caused by a sliver or splinter) but I just don’t have the guts.

My mother would have soaked the finger in some kind of stuff that she manufactured that “drew the infection out”.  She also loved some stuff called iodex ointment that was black and smelled a little strong but which really worked on infections (I looked for it in the drugstore, then asked the pharmacist, who laughed aloud)  My mother was also big on gentian violet (what ever that was) which, when applied, stayed for weeks.

I will probably just complain about it a lot, say s**t a lot when I bump it and it will either go away or my wife will put a gun to my head and suggest that even if I am embarrassed I should go to the doctor. (Twenty, thirty, forty bucks to treat a “hangnail”?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


just reflecting.  I miss tracksy.  For those of  you who never used it, Tracksy was a hit counter –plus.   I used to go into Tracksy almost every day just to see how many and who were hitting my blog.  It didn’t give URL’s or addresses, but it identified  the town or area from which the hit came, how many and which pages the reader checked out, if the reader was a repeater, and all sorts of similar information.  A couple of years ago Tracksy just disappeared. (you can still google it, but there is really nothing there.)

This was very frustrating to me because, quite honestly, the darn site influenced my content.  It was easy to see what pages people (even those who never commented) read, which ones were googled, if someone got there from the “next blog” feature of blogger (I use that a lot), and I tended to write things that got hits.

I tried to subscribe to a hit counter from Google, but my ineptitude took over, and I never got any information from it at all.  I subscribed to sitemeter and I get a weekly e-mail full of zeros.  (I think that if it didn’t generate the occasional comment, that I was the only one reading my blog.  This has influenced my content already.  I have decided to write whatever hits my on a given day.  If  it is political, okay.  If it is the weather, fine.  If it is one of my Mormon Missionary in Finland stories, it will have to do.  If is is just B. S. that’s okay too.  I am going to try to post at least once a week (this week I posted three or four times, not counting this one.)  my next post (since I have figured out how to post pictures and albums on Windows Live Writer) I am probably going to post some of the pictures from our cruise to Alaska (including some that i had to scan).  

The whole political thing I gave up on awhile ago, but I have reached the stage where I can’t completely shut up about it.  I remember predicting, way back in the  primaries, that, based on his communication skills, Obama was going to be our new president.  Now I think he has fallen into the Jimmy Carter trap.  When Carter was the inept Governor of Georgia, he used to give the occasion real stem winder of a speech.  Really excellent communication.  He did pretty well as a candidate, but when he became  president, he fell into the hands of speechwriters whose speeches he felt it necessary to read.  As a result, I almost defy anyone who watched a speech at that time to remember anything about a Carter speech than his eyes looking down at the script, then he looked up, said “My fullow Amerkins” and flashed the Carter grin.  From there, it was always down hill.

If I were a speech teacher, as I was for many years, most of Obama’s campaign speeches would have been grade “A”.  The best of his speeches this year would be “B minuses”, with a few C’s and even a D or two.  The whole joke about Obama’s teleprompter is tied up in the fact that he is reading speeches, failing to look at and connect with his audiences (When you are looking at the teleprompters, only those people who are sitting on a liine behind the teleprompters get a sense of direct eye contact.)   All of his speeches have developed a rhythm—Duh de de duh duh duh, Duh de de duh duh duh, and he doesn’t speak in paragraphs but in phrases.  Boy does he need a good speech coach.

AS for the Copenhagen stuff, the only question is whether the U.S. is going to be raped, or simply (excuse the expression, I am usually more dainty) screwed.  The difference, as I see it is whether what happens to us as a result is done to us while we are protesting, or if it is done with our consent.

Oh well.  So much about blogging.  I will be back soon.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Because I Can

I am in and out of neurologist's offices with annoying frequency.  I have written before of the tests and treatments that were my experience back in 1991 when they first discovered my "polymotor peripheral neuropathy.  One day when I got lost in Augusta, trying to make it from the family practice center to the main hospital (about a block and a half) I put my head on the steering wheel, at an intersection, with cars lined up behind me, and I just sobbed.   At that time, I had just accepted the fact that my life was essentially over.  (That was about eighteen years ago, so you can see that I was a little over pessimistic).  Since that time I have had a quadrupal bypass, a shattered ankle, some wild urological infections, laser surgery to patch some holes in the retinas of both eyes, an aorta that wanders all over the place (they call it a tortuous aorta) and the typical loss of memory, energy, hair (on top of the head, it still grows well on my chin, in my ears, in my nose, and on many of those surfaces where we would just as soon not have hair.  I still have to go to the neurologist to be tested, prescribed medications and now, with a couple of vertebrae rubbing against each other I go with pain and frustration, and occasionally, I fall down or weave like a drunk for no discernable reason, but seriously, I am holding up about as well as any old coot I know who is over seventy five years old.

Going to neurologists fairly often, I find,in those offices a magazine called Neurology Today.  I read the magazine often and learn a lot.  In one of the magazines a few months ago there was a story written by or about a guy who has multiple schlerosis and some form of muscular dystrophy. The article was an explanation of why he continued to walk out to get the mail, help with the dishes, repair things around the house and do a number of things that are very difficult for him.  His family and friends kept urging him to sit back and let them take care of these things for him.  His reply to them was that he continues to do these things (him speaking) is "BECAUSE I CAN".  His point is, that if one fails to do everything that one is physically and mentally able to do, and allows others to do these tasks, soon one will no longer be able to do those things, and will become, in one's own eyes, an invalid, and be forever completely dependent on others.

I read the article with tears in my eyes because it explains so much about my dear wife.   She is so much more frail than I.  Since her aortal surgery in 2006 and the discovery of her total aortal dissection (which they are trying to control by keeping her blood pressure so low that she has very little energy) in 2007 and the shattering of her femur (above her artificial knee) last December from which she still needs  to use her walker with some frequency.  She is in almost constant pain, has terrible night sweats, restless leg syndrome that often keeps both of us awake at night, at has great difficulty walking, and has serious tremors in all of her extremities.  I had been preaching to her to not try to do so much.  She gets up in the morning often to fix breakfast, vacuums the floor and last week got out the steam cleaner and did our living room carpet.  Yesterday (Black Friday) she was up at four in the morning and was out shopping with my daughter and myself.   We were in and out of several stores as she tracked down presents for our children and grandchildren.  She overdid with enthusiasm and at bedtime last night had so much pain that she finally had to take a lortab to get some rest.  I try to keep her from overdoing, and try to do as much as she will allow for her, but I know that it is necessary for her to do as much as she can in order to maintain her strength, morale, and to keep the marvelous twinkle in her eyes.  She has to do things because SHE CAN.  I was thinking the other day that with all the old coot frailties that we both have, we have had more fun, laugh more (even giggle a little) and are much closer now than we were in the forty nine years of our marriage that preceded her surgery in Finland.  (Because we can)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Stephen King Truck Driver

After we got home from North Carolina, we went into medical mode.  First I had really fun diagnostic tests on Monday and Tuesday.  On Wednesday was Janet's quarterly appointment with her rheumatologist.  This is an appointment to which I always look forward.  This guy is so efficient, communicates so well and has done so much to make Janet's life more livable that each trip seems to do something wonderful.  The disadvantage is that he practices in Brunswick which is well over a hundred miles from Statesboro.  The drive is not bad.  Most of it is either on I-16  or I-95, and along the way are a couple of outlet malls, and we know some good restaurants in the area not to mention that the salt marshes and inlets from the sea are really lovely no matter what the season.

We had just turned from I-16 to I-95 and I was in the outside lane when a long eighteen wheeler passed me and came up behind a box truck.  I was going faster than the box truck, so I went past them and noted that the big truck was tail gating the box truck so closely that there wasn't five feet between them.  I went past them and began to work my way into the center lane when the big truck went past me, still in the same lane, so I was really curious about what happened to the truck he was tailgating, I never saw it again) as if I were standing still (and I was only a very little bit above the speed limit.)

I probably would not have thought anything more about it if I hadn't rounded a curve  and found him again tailgating a truck very closely (this time a tanker), by coincidence I ended up beside him again because the car ahead of me was driving beside the tanker at about the same speed, so the  big truck beside me was boxed in behind the tanker and beside me.  This continued until the driver of the big truck got frustrated, moved over close to me and began to blow his air horn.  I really had no place to go, but the tanker turned off at an exit  and the big truck blew past me and down the road.  I had a chance at this time to look at the side of the cab and noted that the truck was from either Darnel Trucking or Darvel Trucking from some town in Florida that began with an S' .  ( I will refer to that truck as Darnel because "big truck" is a little non specific in a world filled with big trucks.)

For the next thirty minutes, Darnel was in view, sometimes  ahead of me, sometimes behind me.  I came to the conclusion that the driver was crazy, drugged, or obsessed with the Stephen King (I think) book about the truck that pursued someone down the highway.   He switched lanes shifting between traffic pockets like a grand prix driver (or someone in a sports car on the Atlanta bypass), yet he never seemed to gain any time on me.  He was almost constantly in view, sometimes in front, sometimes in the rear view mirror.  He seemed to intentionally drop into pockets where he could tailgate some other car or truck and twice he came up behind me so closely that I couldn't see the top of his grill in the rear view mirror.  I thought at first he was playing some kind of "I'm bigger than you, get out of my way" sort of bullying playground game till I remembered that the first two events like this that I saw, he was tailgating fairly big trucks.  Eventually we came to a State Weighing Station and he pulled off into it.  I was relieved not to have him on the same highway with me.   I buzzed on down the highway about five miles faster than legal (it is a Georgia thing) until we entered a construction zone near where we turn off for the doctor's office and, just as we turned off, he came barreling down the road at high speed in a place that was marked 40 mph (with signs that fines are doubled in a construction zone).  I assume that he had very good radar, or good into about where the State Patrol would be stationed.  I was glad to see him blow by.  If he had turned off where I turned off, I might still be cowering behind some billboard or service station in South Georgia.

Friday, December 04, 2009

It is tough to live in Georgia in the wintertime.

The year before we moved to Georgia (1969, i think) we lived in Oneonta, New York (a lovely place to live) and in December of that year we had a lot of snow.  In the driveway we had two cars: One was a Saab of the kind (and year) that Columbo used to drive on television (a 250 or 520, I forget) and a new 1968 Ford Econoline van.  After the snowfall I had to go out with a broom stick and probe through the snow to find the cars.  (The Econoline was closer to the surface than the Saab).  It didn’t make much difference because by the time they plowed the road it added ten or so feet of hard snow to the other snow that was there.  If we hadn’t brought cross country skis home from Finland when we were Fulbrighting two years before, we would have been stranded in the house for almost two weeks.  (I still have the skis, I have tried to yard sale them away two or three times, but they don’t sell well in Georgia.)  Our kids got to our cars before I could.  They tunneled their way (I was using a snow shovel)   The tunnels terrified their mother, but they got there.  We had a wonderful red retriever (I can’t think of the breed) who lived in the back yard most of the time and it was a delight  to see him bound under, then over  and through the snow (pretty soon he had trails.  smart dog). 

Now we are in Georgia.  One of my tomato plants still had blooms and has three little tomatoes that are not quite ripe yet. (actually this wasn’t even a tomato that was planted.  We had a big flower pot outside the door into which we tossed stuff that was to be taken to the compost pile. I went out to dispose of it and I had four little lemon trees and two tomato plants.  The lemon trees didn’t make it but the tomato thrived. We had the first tomato about two months ago.

It is December in Georgia, the Confederate roses have fallen off , but the Mandevilla are still climbing the pergola in the back yard and we have three separate kinds of Camelias blooming in the back yard (with two others in bud).  The weather is really nasty and rainy.  I had to wear a jacket this afternoon (it was down in the sixties).   We had tornados predicted for day before yesterday, and Savannah dismissed schools at eleven A. M.   The tornados stayed away, though some rain came and the children were delighted (I hear it was pretty bad in Atlanta.)  Janet has suggested that with this cold weather, we might consider building a fire in the fireplace, but I haven’t done it.  Instead, I am puttering on the computer, writing this post (I will post some pictures, but I left my camera in the car and I’m too lazy to go get it) and doing some computer Christmas Shopping.  It is really tough to live in Georgia during the winter.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Janet and I went up to our daughter’s home in Columbia S.C. for Thanksgiving dinner, the one condition being that I go up a day early to cook the Turkey.  ( I may be remembered for nothing else but Turkey when I die.  I vary my techniques:  Sometime I brine the Turkey, sometimes I cook it in paper bag, sometimes I just roast and baste, and this time I used a Turkey bag.  It always seems to turn out well, thus the invitation.)   I usually use Tone’s Italian seasoning for the dressing and I make some to cook in the Turkey and some to cook outside the Turkey.  I made both giblet gravy which I love, and gravy from the pan drippings (Which would be better with giblets, but I have people in my family who object to giblets a lot).  For some reason, for the first time that I remember the non giblet gravy came out lumpy, but a quick whiz in the blender made it smooth as silk. 

The dinner came out very well, with pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, and apple pie, and lots of whipped cream to finish it off.  My two sons (both well over forty) drove up on Thanksgiving day, ate, played games with us and left that evening.  One son brought the sima (Scandinavian mead which has become a tradition at Thankgiving.  It was delicious though not as carbonated as usual. I had boned out the turkey and bagged the meat and the dressing so that my younger son could take the carcass home to give his cats a thrill. 

The boys bagged up a bunch stuff and left for home about ninish (three hour drive home) and I was a bit concerned because late night driving after a big meal can be worrisome.  I was also concerned because wife and daughter were planning an attach on Black Friday, and I wanted to be awake in the morning to chaperone them.

Black Friday shopping was enormous fun and we spent much less than I had feared and got some real bargains on things we needed.  When we were loafing around the house playing with Roscoe the dog and Meow the cat the phone rang.  One of the sons said, with some panic in his voice, we didn’t get any turkey or dressing when we came home.  My answer was  “Well turkeys are still forty to forty nine cents a pound  some of the stores, go buy a turkey, roast it and you’ll have your own supply.”  They agreed that this was a good idea so they bought one, and the rest of the day was filled with calls about how much seasoning, how much bread in the dressing, etc. etc., etc.  Then their was peace, until evening when younger son called.  “I have good news and bad news” he said.  Suspecting that they had cremated the turkey,  I asked for the good news first.  “The turkey came out great,” he said, and the dressing was good.” 

“What’s the bad news ?”   “Well, when we were boiling the potatoes, the electric range caught on fire!”    “What”?   “It came out okay.  I knew where the fire extinguisher was and put it right out.  The range is dead, so we had to finsih the potatoes in the microwave, and except for the smell, and the black streaks on the wall over the stove, everything is okay.”

When we got home, I pulled the back off the stove to discover that it hadn’t been, (as I suspected) a grease fire, but all the fire was concentrated in the wiring behind the switches and dials.

Jan has hated the appearance of that range since we moved here so today I bought a new range.  The wall didn’t quite come out very well, but most of the black streaks are gone (In one place, the wallpaper is permanently damaged, but we will decide what to do about that in the days ahead.  I am thankful that we had a good time as the family.  I am thankful for the fire extinguisher, and mostly I am thankful that the house didn’t burn down..