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Three score and ten or more

Monday, January 31, 2011

Still Trying—Sometimes very trying!!

I have had a real problem sitting down to post recently.  It isn’t that I have nothing to write about.  When you are older than dirt, stuff comes up, and you fight it, surrender to it, or sometime just ignore it.  The health issues are the hardest to ignore.  We had a very pleasant Saturday until evening. Number two son was visiting and helping with some puttering around the house, and I was in the computer room beginning to pay some bills when his voice came loudly from the other side of the house.  “Father!  Come quickly, Father!!”

I detected an imperative element in his voice and yelled “I’ll be there in a second.”

To which, his reply was NOW, bring a chair from the office that has wheels.”

I dashed out into the hall way to see him holding Janet somewhat erect, but looking  very shaky and tear-stained.  I grabbed the chair from one of the desks, fought it through the door, and dragged it to where they stood.  Stuart pulled the chair close and carefully seated his mom in the chair.

“Mom bent over to pick something up and she suddenly had a pain in her neck, and lost  her balance.  I heard her yell a little and found her hanging on to the sink, unable to walk.”

Janet mumbled something about how badly it hurt and we wheeled her down the hall and got her up on the bed.  I was sure at the time that she had had another stroke, and started to call 911.  She was speaking clearly but weakly by then and she indicated (somewhat emphatically) that she didn’t want to go to the hospital. 

Somewhat foolishly I acceded to he will, got an aspirin down her (just in case the magic of aspirin was needed) and covered her up on the bed.  Stuart and I gave her a blessing which seemed to calm her, and she remained quietly on the bed.

  That was the beginning of a long difficult night for both of us.  After a while she felt strong enough to go to the bathroom (with a lot of help) and in that process I got her clothes off and got her under the covers.  We both woke up a lot (she really didn’t sleep and seemed to want to watch the TV through half closed eyes for a long time.  Finally  she went to sleep and slept most of the nest fifteen or twenty hours.  She woke up and told me she had promised to take some books to one of the sisters at church and wanted me to take them.  I refuses, telling her that I wasn’t going to leave her alone.   But she persisted to the degree that I felt better to do as I was told, so I took the books to church, gave them to the appropriate lady and rushed home.  Fortunately she slept all the time I was gone and in the evening got out of bed for a few minutes.

This morning her neck still gave her pain but the migraine type headaches that she had been having were still troubling her.   We went down to the city swimming pool (heated therapy pool)  and moved around in the water, and she felt pretty good by the time we went home.

It obviously wasn’t a stroke, (though, given the same circumstance again, we will spend the time in the hospital-just in case) and we are both a lot calmer tonight.  This is the type of thing that throws old coots seriously off balance, but the older we get, the more common they are.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I finished up my last post with a lot of talk about food, but I have to confess that over the years our favorite breakfast place has been our local SHONEY’S. I suspect that over the past fifteen years, we have breakfasted at SHONEY’S close to forty Saturdays a year . It is nice to go into a place where most of the servers recognize you, and our favorite server Linda (don’t have a clue about her last name.)meets you at the table with your beverages already poured and has your order in her mind already. Our kids, over the years have been fans of SHONEY’S breakfast buffet (When they were little, they were broken hearted when we discovered that the last SHONEY’S was on the east side of the Mississippi, and when we made a trip as they were in their teens and we found one on the west side, they were absolutely thrilled and cheered as they went in for breakfast. Strawberry pies from SHONEY’S have been the “birthday cake” of choice for many of our family for years. The biscuits and white gravy at SHONEY’S are the best in the south. The biscuits are “melt in your mouth” and the gravy is wonderful (once in a while supplemented by the sausage gravy.) Our kids have always gone to the buffet, but Janet and I were menu eaters, and the foot was always economical. For almost five years we had the Sunrise Special and two diet Cokes for 8.01 (pre-tip). The prices have gone up a little since then but were still the best breakfast for the money anywhere. One could sense that their business was falling off as they began to sell the breakfast bar for 4.95 on weekdays once or twice a month, and the evening crowd of cars really dwindled, but we were shocked to arrive home, looking forward to a quick comparison between the Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford and our traditional meal at SHONEYS, and we were terribly let down to find that our SHONEY’S had gone out of business. We talked about feeling a little guilty at not having stayed home in Statesboro for the Holidays and patronized them to the last minute.
A second disappointment came when we arrived home to a snookerfest. While we were up in South Carolina for Thanksgiving, we did a lot of Christmas Shopping in electronics. Several items were purchased (I believe at BEST BUY or Office Max, but I’m not sure) on “black Friday and featured really significant rebates. One of the things I bought was an updated edition of my preferred Photo program Photo Impact. I have used PI 6, PI 11 and now this was Photo Impact 13. PI has been through a couple of manufacturers but the results were very good. It is now made by Corel, and marketed by Nova Development. After the purchase, I very carefully filled out the rebate package and mailed in everything they gave me at the purchase (after making copies, of course) My wife bought some stuff from Logitech whose equipment has always been satisfactory and it too featured a rebate, thought not quite as large. There were a couple of other things with smaller rebates from others. We arrived home to find almost identical postcards from all identifying some miniscule item that had not been returned in the rebate package so the rebate couldn’t be sent. It was so obviously a fraud on all their parts since the cards were obviously pre-printed and, checking with a friend (from him I discovered that is was Office Max for PI 13.) his card was identical. They saved themselves some rebate bucks but I have my last version of Photo Impact no matter what number they put after it, I am through with both Nova Development and Corel and now, reluctantly with Logitech because I am convinced that the whole thing was a fraud. I couldn’t prove it, but I can avoid the merchants now forever. Btthhhhtht

Medical Care

I ran out of most of my prescriptions while we were traveling, so I made haste to the pharmacy to get renewals today (yesterday being a holiday).   My co-payment was 193.98 dollars.  My co payment for exactly the same drugs a month an a half ago was 142.00 (which was quite frightening at the time.  Looking at my receipt, all the drugs which had a 25.00 co payment last time had a 30.00 co payment today.  This, in addition to a more than 300.00 increase of the amount they took from my social security pension last month for Medicare.  I received my yearly accounting of what is taken from my university pension for insurance etc. and discovered that I am also paying some from that pension for Medicare accounting.  I still have one presciption to go for the month, one that has to be compounded and comes from a different pharmacy.  Last month the co-payment was 45.00.  I shudder to think what it will be this month (The insurance people make that decision.)  I am sure glad that government health care is making health care so much less expensive.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eating Eastward

When I confirmed our flight from Washington with American Airlines ,  I clicked the spot on the computer that asked for notice of the flight status four hours before the flight the following day, Tuesday.  Our flight was due to leave at !2:20 P.M.  At about eight o’clock in the morning, my cell phone rang and announced that our flight was on schedule, which was a relief because according to the TV, on Monday, everything was jammed up from New York to Dallas because of ice and snow.  We finished packing  and had a pleasant breakfast of Brown Cow Yogurt (we are fans) and cereal, loaded the car and set off from Camas (near Vancouver, WA) to Portland International with enough time to check in by ten-thirty. (When you have to deal with a walker and a cane, as well as passing through security with Janet having a metal knee, metal thumb joints, one metal wrist, and a bunch of hardware on her right femur, you take the two hour in advance advice pretty seriously.)  Just as we arrived at the entrance to the air-port, my cell phone rang to let me know that our flight would be delayed till !:50.

Counseling with my daughter-in-law and grand-daughter we decided to take the extra time to have a little more substantial breakfast, so we u-turned on airport drive and stopped into a Shari’s, a chain restaurant with a pretty good breakfast menu.  We all had eggs, biscuits, hash browns, and several cups of hot chocolate then set off for the airport.

The check in was amazingly swift, and though they gave Janet the full body search the security pass was pretty good. ( When we came this way from Memphis, we passed through the x-ray machines, and though I have reservations at my naked body being seen by ANYONE, we really zipped though security, I vote for x-rays).  When asked about the lack of X-rays at PDX the agents said, with some bitterness, that they were scheduled to get them some time ago, but that they were sent to Memphis instead.  Because our gate was quite close, we didn’t wait for the ordered wheelchair for Jan and walked to the gate.  Even with the stop for breakfast, we ended up with almost an hour to wait for boarding.  We might have eaten more, just to kill time, but there were no “snack booths” near our gate.  Incidentally my cell phone rang twice more as we were citing at the gate to let us know that our flight would be delayed till 1:50.  The very nice people at the gate allowed us to board early so that we could get down the ramp with the walker, and the first leg of the flight began really well, though we were very worried because we were scheduled to arrive (now) at Dallas/Fort Worth at  7:30 and our flight to Memphis was scheduled to depart for Memphis at 8:10, and  DFW is probably the only airport in the country where it is harder to make a short time connection than Chicago.

I had prepared a couple of turkey sandwiches to eat during that flight, and it is a good thing because, though there were ample soft drinks and juice available for the flight (a mixed blessing when one is seventy six years old with a seventy six year old prostate) there seemed to be very little that was edible.  The greatest difficulty at this point was that Janet’s leg was in great pain during the flight and the flight was so crowded  that there was no chance to access her pain pills.  She was in real agony when we deplaned and this time the wheel chair was fortunately ready for her as we exited.  She was wheeled quickly up the ramp where we were picked up by a cart.

With very little time to make our connection, we found to our dismay that another handicapped couple was in the cart, also with an almost immediate connection, but at a different gate.  Our driver rushed them to their gate then off to ours, where we arrived  at 8:05 for an 8:10 flight.  As he pulled up to the gate he was yelling “Two more!  Two more!”.

The gate clerk calmly pointed up to a sign that said that the plane had been delayed till 9:00, and the driver turned to us and said, “It looks like you have time for a snack if you can find some food”

We didn’t find food, and I discovered that I had left my can hanging from the back of Janet’s wheel chair back at the other gate, but you win some and you lose some.  I did score a couple of cokes, made it to the bathroom, and though I couldn’t get to her pain pills, I did find her a couple of Tylenols.  We began to board in a very short time and we were off to Memphis.  While we were at the gate, I turned on the cell phone (which, of course  had been turned off during the flight) and found three voice mails informing me that our flight from Portland would be delayed till 1:50.  I am not complaining, I would rather get an overkill of information than none.  Thanks, American Airlines.

The flight to Memphis seemed rather short though Janet spent much of it leaning back on her seat with eyes closed and teeth clamped tight, obviously not sleeping but in pain.  We deplaned, and again went off before Janet’s wheelchair arrived, but we had heard that the baggage area was close by, and, even in pain she moves pretty well with her little walker. (It is a little three wheeled walker called a Winnie Walker which was given to her by our youngest son, and it was one of the best purchases ever.)  Of course we took the elevator to the wrong floor and lengthened our trip a little, but we got our baggage off the belt just about the time our third son (the one who sang in the Memphis Christmas Concert) arrived to pick us up.  It was late, and we stopped at  a McDonalds to have a McRib on the way to Oxford where we arrived sometime after midnight and where we went in his house, undressed, collapsed on the bed and didn’t move till Noon the next day.

So far, as far as eating our way eastward, it doesn’t seem like this was the best food of the year, but when our son arrived home from his job at Old Miss Library he took us out to dinner (actually, we asked him to find a really nice restaurant and we would take him out to dinner).  He drove us to a place that, at first glance, looked like a hole in the wall restaurant that was called “208” for its address on 208 Lamar in Oxford.  It turned out to be one of the nicest restaurants we have ever patronized.  It had a part that was sports-barish, but we were taken to a nice center table where we had fantastic food.  I wish I had taken my cameral.  We had a flank steak appetizer that was delicious, (though a little spicier than Jan would like) the three entrees that appeared and tasted like they had come from a famous gourmet kitchen.  I had a chicken dish that was melt in the mouth, on a bed of mashed (but not candied, thank heaven)yams.  Janet had a six ounce tenderloin about which she raved with every bite, that was on a bed of mashed potatoes (again a rave, and mashed potatoes are common in our house.) Ryan had a rib eye with some magic sauce.  I am not sure what else,  because he was on the other side of the table, and he didn’t offer to share, but our meals were plated beautifully tasted magnificent, and we marked “208” as a place to which we would return often.

Yesterday we had Ryan’s chili which has won Chili cook-offs three times, and then this morning, we returned to another “hole in the wall” which we have patronized before and loved.  Oxford has a breakfast restaurant called “B B B” for Big Bad Breakfast which is a little bitty place, always crowded with more running waiters (servers, to be politically correct)  and more pleased patrons per square inch than any other place anywhere.  This morning we had a wonderful breakfast with omelets (they call it with justice, the awesome omelet) eggs, biscuits, eggs, sausage, andouille, home fries, and heaven only knows what else.  Janet also bought two quarts of granola to take home because they make some of the best in the world.   Now, this afternoon we are going to have a Ryan-cooked turkey, and i am going to  go to bed this evening feeling well fed, gournetised, and pleased.  Tomorrow we leave for home, a ten hour drive, which may be interrupted by a motel stay (depending on Janet’s endurance.  I don’t look forward to tomorrow’s meals (wherever they may be eaten) but I will have the memory of the past few days to carry me back to Georgia. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Well at last.

We are beginning to be normal people on vacation.  It has been an eventful couple of months.  We went to Coumbia S.C. for Thanksgiving, (fortunately before the snow arrived), from there to Mississippi and Memphis for the wonderful Christmas Concert of the Memphis Symphony  and visiting our son in Mississippi for a bit, then a not quite miserable flight from Memphis to Washington where grandchildren worked their magic as we tripped up to Northern Washington for a stay till Christmas at Lake Chelan where we went into the snow on purpose.  The children went sledding (where the grandparents declined an invitation to join in) then we explored interesting restaurants and shops in the tourist filled Leavenworth (with more sledding by the children).  As we went back to Lake Chelan I discovered that living in Georgia for forty years has seriously affected my long-trusted ability to drive on snow slick roads, even in a four wheel with studded tires (none of which were available when I lived in Idaho as a youth-sort of).

An additional two weeks back in Vancouver where our son received an Army call to spend two months in Baltimore and Washington D.C. and our granddaughters explored the equestrian arts, and enjoyed (I’m serious) a return to school.  Our eleven year old grand-daughter is exploring her choice of Universities for creative writing (she is finishing her version of a new edition of Harry Potter) her  oldest brother, a senior in High School is applying for scholarships to study bio-engineering ( he hopes to study at Georgia Tech where he was accepted some time ago.) and her second oldest brother is satisfied with playing in the band and finishing his Junior year in High School.

The whole thing has been very healing.  After a hellish flight into Memphis from Portland we are now chilling out (literally, it is colder here than it was at Lake Chelan though there is a bit less snow) in Oxford Miss where again we are visiting our third son and preparing to return home in Georgia this weekend.  Life is better now, not perfect (no life is) but better.

I hate to say it, but the horrific events in Tucson reminded us that others have greater problems than we do and even that has been healing for us. 

We appreciated the contacts from so many both in E-mail and blog comments, as well as Facebook that have shown us we we have caring friends that we have not yet even met in person.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

political grumble

I have been trying not to use my blog for political commentary, partly because I got carried away a year or so ago, but, I was paying bills on line and noted that my Social Security ( which has not yet reached a total that matches what I paid into it) dropped 300 + dollars this month from last month.  I presume that this is the new increase in payments for Medicare.  Janet checked hers (which is much less than mine even though over the years she paid much more into SS than I) and hers dropped a little over 100 dollars which now makes our payment into Medicare well over what I had to pay for Non government medical insurance. (almost double, in fact).   Thank you President Obama.  I would feel better about it if your Medical Insurance doubled as well.

Monday, January 03, 2011


I was listening to a PBS fundraiser the other day, where the main thrust of the program was “Hallelujah Broadway.  In the process, three of the singers on the program performed a medley of tunes from the musical “Godspell” and (not for the first time) I was moved to tears.  I have mentioned some of things I did in the theatre earlier.  I am not sure I can be absolutely accurate, but, as either a Director, Scene Designer or actor, I  averaged three to four shows a year from about 1959 to 1988.  From 1988 to 1997 I focused on puppetry and averaged (again) three to four puppet performances a year.

I prided myself that no critic ever said something negative about one of my shows that I didn’t know about, and hadn’t  tried to fix already.

One of my favorite shows was Godspell.l  It was part of our summer theatre program where we did two shows in repertory (on alternate nights) using the same actors in both shows.  For our summer company at that time we gave four high school scholarships for the summer so that the students could get both high school and college credit.  We also opened up the casting to members of the community (pretty common now, but a rare thing in that time.)  The shows were done in arena (theatre in the round) in a temporary theatre that we set up in one of the university dining halls that was not used in the summer.

The two plays selected that year were Godspell, directed by me, and Happy Birthday Wanda June, directed by a guest director brought in for the summer.  Two more different plays would be hard to find.  Godspell is a rock version of the story told in Matthew, in the Bible.  It is, in spite of the Rock background, a very reverent piece, reframing the language and concept, but retaining the meaning of the scripture.  Happy Birthday Wand June deals with two “explorers’  returning to civilization after some years in a South American jungle.  It is told in very strong language and imagery, illustrated best by one of the characters who says “S**t, f**k, Sh*t, F**k, that’s all I hear now.  I used to be scared sh*tless that I would say sh*t in public.”  It deals with sex, violence and has a very cynical view of society.

The actors had some problems shifting back and forth in the two styles at first.  This was further complicated by the fact that Godspell is a musical and –Wanda June is not.  One of the recent graduates from the Music program (who was also a theatre type) rounded up a combo to play for the show, and it was excellent.

In past summer shows the Music Department had adopted our summer musicals as a cooperative project, but had decided  not to do so this summer for some reason that I have now forgotten.  I was philosophical, I had direct choirs and had even conducted the orchestra for one of my past musical shows, so I decided to just go it alone.  I was sitting in my office reading the score, and realizing that the varieties of keys and tempos in this “Rock Opera” were well beyond my capacity to do and still direct the show when there was a knock on my office door.  David Matthews, one of the professors in the music department stood there and said something like “I hear that the department isn’t officially supporting you this summer.  Could you use some help?”  

He will never know how close he came to having his feet kissed by a theatre professor.  His presence opened up many opportunities for innovation that would not otherwise have existed.  He taught the entire score to the entire cast, and while he was doing it, i told the cast if there were any parts  which they wanted to try to do as solos or special numbers they could attempt them in the vocal rehearsals.  In this way I picked all the soloists.  Many of them did not  follow the characters in the original improvised script, but I had a feel that this was the way it was originally done.  The actors for Jesus and John the Baptist were terribly obvious (though I had some real thinking about which would be which).  Each of the others just fit in like puzzle parts, and the performance was, in essence, improvised, then polished by David and myself.

My theme came from the scriptures in the Book of Matthew which were the basis of all the action.  I chose “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, for of such are the Kingdom of Heaven ” (excuse any mistquotation, I don’t happen to have a King James Version at this writing) as I set the play in a playground with a swing set, climbing bars, a couple of big wire spools to serve as platforms and tables.  All of the actors except Jesus and John came to the play as audience members, some with dates.  The theatre was built as an arena with four sides and openings at the corners, and all seats were reserved so that I could place my actors where I wanted them.

The play begins with the offstage sound of a shofar (we were fortunate enough to find a real one, to avoid recorded sound, and an actor who could play it) followed by the wonderful tenor voice of John singing “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”  The theme is repeated as he walks around the audience challenging individuals to come to baptism *(For this he carries a large pail of water and a sponge, hardly the river Jordan but it is a musical)  The actors, some reluctantly came out of the audience to have a sponge-full of water splashed over their heads then go to the large trunk at the edge of the stage and select costume items.  There was always some inter action with dates or those sitting near bye.  One of the actors was a tall handsome black man dressed always in a white suit and with a lovely date (selected by him, not by me) and when he stood to come forward she grabbed his hand and protested vocally, but he focused directly on “John”, walked down front ripping off the white suit as he came till he tossed it beside the costume trunk and stood there in boxer shorts selecting his costume.  Her reaction varied.  Some days she sat with arms folded shooting daggers with her eyes through the opening parts of the show, but one night, stomping out through the exit door.  He (and she) almost always got some kind of ovation in the act.  Several nights there were members of the audience who spontaneously joined the show (getting wet at the time) and each night they were steered to items of costume that were not used by the cast, and were drawn gently into some scenes, though most must sat at the edge of the stage and watched. 

I was constantly surprised during rehearsals at the segments that were created by the cast, and by unknown skills the just erupted.  I needed someone to play the recorder, expecting to have it done by the band and faked by cast members by I had two actors who played the recorder very well, and one of them had two really beautiful wooden recorders, one with a high pitch and other low that looked perfect for the show.  They played the music wonderfully.  I had one cast member who was a summer graduate student in education (and I am sure who went to class and got her credits, but I don’t know how or when) who played the guitar very well to accompany one of her own solos and one of the small group numbers. 

Part of the play is to invite the audience to come out on stage to break bread and have wine (in our case, a sparkling grape juice) with the cast, and most days much of the audience took the “blessed” items and chatted softly in fellowship with the cast.  (Who did a lot of hugging as folks came down)

An unexpected result of this came well after the show when the local radio station called me to ask if I wanted “equal time”.  Non-plused , I asked “Equal time for what?”  The radio representative explained that the pastor of one of the Baptist churches in town who had a weekly radio broadcast on their station had brought his youth group to see the play.  He was most disapproving of the Book of Matthew set to rock music and had tried to get his youth gathered together to leave at intermission, but most of them had come down to have “communion” with the cast.   On his radio broadcast he had described Georgia Southern College, it’s theatre program and me specifically as satanically influenced and as the manage of the station described it (He offered me a tape, which I declined) as “The Anti-Christ”.  I declined the offer of equal time since I thought that it would not be useful to emphasize the good pastor’s opinions.

I have to say that though most of my cast was not “religious", as rehearsals commenced, they asked for a moment of silence at the beginning of rehearsal and, as a group, treated the material and the performance with great reverence.  I had thought of this, but since I was at the time, what could be called the lay pastor of the local Mormon church, I carefully avoided anything that might be interpreted as proselytizing or bringing my religion to the group, so I was actually thrilled and pleased, and think it added much to the performance when the cast as a group determined to treat the text and spirit of the play with reverence.  I will always consider this production and particularly the beginning and the “crucifixion” scenes high points of my life, in and out of the theatre.