Memory Quilt: Part 4 of 4

I sure wish I’d been keeping a journal “back in the day.” It would help me nail down some of the tees in the memory quilt with more specificity.
I have started a journal several times. It only “took” once. That was in the journal that I started on October 26, 2012, which starts this way: “this will be page 1 of my journal. I need to start writing every (or at least “most every”) day. We’ll see how I do. Discipline is not my strong suit.”
It’s just one more woulda/shoulda/coulda…

Ron Jon Surf Shop (2002)
We were living at the first place that we lived in Tampa.
Paula, Joseph & Caroline headed for Cocoa Beach to meet up with relatives from Missouri.
My road warrior days were at their peak. I couldn’t get away, other than via Delta or US Airways.
My souvenir was this tee.

Margaritaville—Cayman Islands (2008)
Paula and Caroline went to the Cayman Islands for a gymnastics meet, using some of my frequent flier miles. (Back when they were worth something…)
I have never been to the Caymans.
This is another souvenir from a trip that I never went on.
The tee shirt got a lot of use.
But like many light colored tees, I spilled coffee, chocolate sauce and probably some drool on it, making it an around-the-house tee until it got a place in the memory quilt.

Dr. Seuss nightshirt (2009)

This was a Christmas present from Caroline.
I spilled lots of early morning coffee on it. Some jelly and apple butter too.
It got torn in a couple of places and the tears kept getting bigger and bigger.
Finally it got put into safe keeping. I was never gonna throw it away. Ever.
Thanks to the Memory Quilt it will always be with me.


USF Dad (2011)
Another present from Caroline.
I’ll always remember the day that she and I walked around campus together. I told her that I was envious.
She wanted to know why. It was easy: I loved college. If I coulda made a living going to school, I’d still be “working.”
I made the tactical error of helping a friend sling paint wearing this tee.
The shirt suffered. Bigly.
It never recovered.
But I like where it is now. I especially like the heart-shaped stitching.

Table Rock Lake shore clean-up (2012)
My sister and her husband moved from the prairie of central Illinois to the Little Aunts Creek arm of southwest Missouri’s Table Rock Lake in 2008.
In early July 2011 I moved into their spare bedroom. Three months later I was in an apartment at The Abbey in Springfield. I’m still there, in a different apartment down the hall.
Paula and I “made up” soon after she kicked me out.
I was a bad influence on Don.
Go figure.
Seems like my quest for sex, drugs and rock-n-roll was just a bit much.

RE the shore clean-up tee itself.
I have never actually participated on the official day.
But I always spend some of my lake shore time picking up the trash that some asshole tossed. (Those pathetic littering pricks should be subjected to my “Reverse Rapture.”)
And Paula&Don always reward me with a tee each year.  

Rock House “classic” (2013)
This is not the first R.H. tee that I’ve bought. That would be the orange “classic.” That one is in worse shape than the one in the quilt, however I’m not ready to stop wearing it. Someday it will probably be in a quilt.
I didn’t tell Kathy where to place any of the tees.
She picked the perfect place for this one.


Rock House Summer Music Festival (2015)
It was my 4th year back in Missouri.
My fourth R.H. Festival.
It was the first festival after the party got too big for Bruce&Jeanette’s backyard.
I got myself a couple of tees…and even got Violet and The Undercurrents to sign the back of one of them.
I was still just “one of the crowd” back then.
Now I’m the treasurer for the 501(c)(3)…another one of the many good things that have happened to me since I first stepped foot into 41 High Street, Reeds Spring, MO.    

Mexican Villa/Springfield Cardinals (2017)
I love a good silent auction. This tee was included in a bundle of goodies from the Mexican Villa.
I have never been inside any of the Mexican Villa locations. (None of the “goodies” were for meals.)
I have never been to a Springfield Cardinals game.
I have never even been inside the gates of Hammons Field.
Maybe someday I’ll eat at the Mexican Villa.
Maybe someday I’ll take in a Double A game here in Springtown.
But whether that happens or not, I really like the color that this tee adds to my Memory Quilt.
I especially like the birds and the bat.


There you have it.
18 Tees in a Memory Quilt.
Some stories.
Some that I will never forget.
Some that are more than a bit foggy.
Some memories are noticeably missing, e.g. somehow none of my Oregon State tees made it into the quilt. WTF??!!
Next time.  Next Memory Quilt.

It took 564 days…

…and it was worth the wait.

On September 21, 2017 I walked away from a silent auction as the winner of a one hour flight in a speedy single engine Cessna.

Five-hundred sixty-four days later, on April 7, 2019, Wayne and I flew to Farmington, picked up Dad, and flew back to Springfield. Total time in the air: 2 hours, 5 minutes. (Wayne is the pilot. It’s his plane. He donated the $750 dollar flight that I picked up for only one-hundred-and-eighty dollars.)
When I found out that I had won the flight, my first thought: “what the hell am I gonna do with this? who’ll go flying with me?”
As I walked to the car, I flashed on the obvious solution: help my 91 year old Dad have a new experience.
I called him as soon as I got into the Prius. I told him how much fun I often have at silent auctions….and that tonight I had won something with him in mind.

“Dad, have you ever flown in a small plane?”
“Well one time your Mom and I….”
“Not commercial dad. I’m talking single engine. Seats 4. Max. And everybody wears headphones….”

Dad was up for it!
And it looked like we might take the flight within a month.
Dad lives 200 miles east of Springfield. A few times a year he stays for several days at my sister’s at Table Rock Lake. One of those times was gonna happen in late October.
Wayne, Dad and I put 3 pm on 10/22/17 on our calendars.
Our one hour flight would take us down over Jasper, Arkansas and over Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock and Beaver Lake.
Dad would see fall colors and lots of water….a couple of his favorite things.

We didn’t fly on October 22, 2017. Low, heavy clouds.
Wayne said we could go up, but all we would see below us would be clouds.
We decided to postpone until Dad’s next stay at Paula&Don’s.
And then things changed.
Here is the entry from my journal the next day, 10/23/17:
“exchanged some texts with wayne. he tossed out the idea of flying over to get dad and then flying him to springfield. i like the idea. called the lake and left a message to that effect. hopefully we can make it happen.”
It took another 541 days until 4/7/19 when Wayne asked: “do you have the need….the need for speed!”

I’m not sure how many times after that day in late October two-thousand-seventeen that we would shuttle Dad from/to his place in Doe Run via automobile. At least 5 or 6 times.

There was conflict after conflict.
…a schedule conflict with the travel days for Wayne (he owns a business with operations here and in Chattanooga)
…a schedule conflict with the travel days for me (I told my sister she could take my seat if I was gonna be out of town on a date that worked…but she’s “not interested in flying,” aka chicken)
…we didn’t give Wayne enough lead time (yeah, this is another way of saying “schedule conflict”)

We got close to flying a couple of times. But close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and slow dancing…not in getting Dad an experience.
Finally, we were able to make all the schedules mesh and put a flight on our calendars. Early in the afternoon of Sunday, 4/7/19 I would meet Wayne at the airport. He and I would fly to Farmington and pick Dad up and then the three of us would fly back to Greene county.
And then it seemed that once again it wasn’t gonna happen: the weather looked like it was gonna put the kibosh on the day! Fuck me.
I have little or no faith in “crack meteorologists” and their forecasts, but 10 days out I started paying attention.
It didn’t look promising from the get-go…and then it got worse.
The first few days the “experts” were calling for some rain on Sunday the 7th. By the time Wednesday the 3rd rolled around their forecast was for afternoon rain and thunderstorms on Sunday.
On Friday it looked like not only would the weather be too nasty to fly on Sunday…if the forecast was right, we probably wouldn’t even wanta drive across the state that day.
It looked like I was gonna be driving Dad home on Monday, and it would be back to the drawing board.

Wayne and I talked at noon on Saturday. He was optimistic that there would be decent weather if we pushed the time back a couple of hours. It wouldn’t be great weather, but Dad would be able to pick out some landmarks.
I told him that sounded good to me, but that I did have a couple of questions: “You don’t happen to be a doctor or EMT, do you? And are you concerned about ferrying a 92 year old across state who has had a pair of “three nitro days” in the past week?”
Wayne laughed. “No, I’m not a doctor. You don’t want to take a chance and postpone again do you?”
He was right. None of us are getting any younger…and none of us are promised tomorrow.

I’ll always remember April 7, 2019.
We woke up at our happy place, Shady Acre Motel, after a great Saturday evening of music by The Nace Brothers at The Rock House.
We had brunch and mimosas on our balcony at The Abbey.
Then I headed to the airport to finally meet Wayne after almost 18 months of lots and lots of text messages and several phone calls.

The flight in both directions went by too quickly. A tail wind got us there in 55 minutes. Randy and Dottie had driven Dad the 5 or 6 miles from his place outside Doe Run to the Farmington airport. It took us 70 minutes on the return flight. There were some scattered clouds. Otherwise, the weather was perfect.
Dad loved it.
I loved it.
So did Wayne. (He took a great selfie. Dad is the oldest person who has ever flown with him in the 30+ years he has flown. Wayne is a fantastic pilot. Perfect landings, even with a 20mph crosswind in Farmington. I have flown in small planes several times, and never experienced better touchdowns.)

I made two FB posts with pictures that afternoon. {In my journal I often include an annotation for FB posts.}
FB at 4:46 pm
On the ground in Farmington.
Greene County…here we come!!
{picture of wayne, dad, me in front of the plane. taken by dottie.}   

FB at 7:42 pm
We had the need.
The need for Speed.
Melvin, Steve, Wayne…pilot extraordinaire.
It was a great day.
It was a great day to fly.
{the selfie that wayne took of us. when we took off from spfd he asked me “do you have the need?” and he asked dad the same thing. he told me that it was from the movie top gun…and then I remembered.}

My social media day on 4/7/19 started with this FB post:
FB at 8:23 am
This will be me and my 92 year old dad this afternoon…his first time up in a small plane.
Details and pictures later.
{link to “treetop flyer” by stephen stills}

It ended this way:
FB at 8:10
Perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.
Saturday night at our Happy Place.
Final Four.
Friends; Music; Music by friends.
Hotel sex.
Mimosas on the balcony.
Flight with Dad.
Binge watching with my baby.
Red sky at night.
{picture of a red sunset from our balcony}    

Great memory.
Great experience.

Aunt Esther’s 8 words of wisdom

I used to write letters. Letters that traveled here-and-there in envelopes with a USPS stamp.

I still write letters. But not all that many, and not all that often.
I don’t have to buy all that many “forever stamps” these days.

My Dad’s side of the family has always written lots of letters. I don’t know where this propensity to write letters falls in the nature-nurture debate.

I recently learned that Uncle Gilbert, the oldest of dad’s four siblings, wrote hundreds of letters to his oldest child…and she held on to all of them!! Good for her. And good for him.

My Dad writes letters and notes, including thank you cards, fairly often. Sometimes he sends the very same letter to me and my two younger siblings. (Those specific letters are the subject for another day….)
I have lots of those letters and cards stuck away. There are some good ones. 🙂

When my kids were pre-teens I tried to get them to write letters to my folks, in the hopes of getting some family history down in writing. There was some success, but not nearly as much as I would’ve liked. I do have electronic copies of 20+ letters between my kids and my folks. I wish that number had an extra zero in it. I haven’t read any of those letters in double-digit years, but I recently confirmed that they are on the hard-drive of this laptop, and are backed-up.
I was an active letter writer once upon a time, including several to some senators while I was stationed at Ft. Bragg. I provided them specific examples of how army life was very different from what I was reading about in Newsweek and Look.

I wish I had kept copies of some of the letters I wrote, and of the letters I got in return, whether it was from “public servants” or from friends over the years. I’m pretty sure that there were some gems there. Especially the ones that got me summoned to a session with my company commander and later with a major general at the JFK Center for Special Warfare. (I was a PIA of a soldier. What a surprise….)
I have a friend from “back in the day” who has joined me and “Tissell” at some junior college basketball games when I head to the Leadbelt to take in a MAC basketball game. (Everybody who grew up in Elvins had a nickname. Dad’s is on my folk’s headstone at the Weiss cemetery. But the story behind the nickname “Tissell” will have to wait…)

I bring this up, because Rick has a letter that I wrote him when we were in the service. Most likely I wrote it from Ft. Bragg, although it could’ve been from Ft. Leonard Wood. I don’t know where Rick was when he received the letter.

I haven’t seen the letter myself. Rick mentioned it to me when we had breakfast right after I had left Floriduh and moved back to MO. A little while later, there was an electrical fire at his house that resulted in significant smoke damage. When they were able to move back home after a lengthy smoke and water restoration effort, they came back to LOTS of boxes.

“The letter” is in one of those many boxes. Someday Rick will find it again. I look forward to reading that letter. He says it’s a doozy.
My ex had a great aunt who was known for saying “don’t get old and dilapidated…it’s bad business.” I loved that!!! When we made our annual visit to Missouri, we always tried to have a meal with Aunt Esther. It’s hard to believe that she passed away over 27 years ago, in March 1990.

She was 92 the last time I saw her, but I can still see her smile as she admonished us as we headed out: “Don’t get old and dilapidated. It’s bad business”

She wrote those 8 words in every letter or card we ever got from her. When she had been dead for a little while (I don’t think it had even been a year) I asked my wife where she had put the cards and letters from her Aunt Esther.

“I threw them all away…”

I couldn’t believe it. I thought she must be kidding.
“You didn’t keep ANY of her letters? Not even one? There is nowhere to read ‘don’t get old and dilapidated…it’s bad business’ in her handwriting? You didn’t keep any of them?”

“No. They are all gone. I threw them away.”

It was obvious that my ex was very special to her Aunt Esther. I’ll never understand why she didn’t keep at least one letter. Just one.
I’d love to see that phrase again, in her own handwriting.
Just once.

I’ve taken Aunt Esther’s words of wisdom to heart. Keep moving…don’t get old.
I’ve taken this lady’s words of wisdom to heart too.
“…We can’t do it over
They say it’s now or never and all we’re ever gettin’ is older
Before we get to heaven, baby let’s give ’em hell…”

Roadtrips: 2011 and 2017

I’ve always loved a roadtrip.
I’ve been on more than my share.
There will be more.
I aim to move even farther to the lower right on the bell curve that tallies up road trips.

Our 2017 road trip is only a couple of days away.
I’m expecting to put over 3K on a rental car in a period of 14 days.
We’ll sleep in OK, NM, AZ, CO, and KS.
We’ll see concerts in Albuquerque (Santana) and at Red Rocks (The Avett Brothers).
Shelly will see the Grand Canyon for the first time.
I’ll see parts of Utah and Colorado that I’ve never seen before.
This roadtrip is a vacation for her and a getaway for me.
There will also be a reunion factor as my son is planning to meet us in Denver on 7/9/17. The last time I saw Joseph was 2 years ago. There are stories there….both past and to come. One of my favorites is The Epiphany.

I shudder to think how much I woulda spent on film and processing if I had taken this trip in 1980. (That summer’s first roadtrip took me from Corvallis to Green Bay for a high school reunion. Not mine. I took hundreds of shots on that trip. In the digital age, add a zero.)


This upcoming roadtrip is very different from the one I took 6 years ago.
That one back in 2011 was:
Shorter…at only 1,200 miles.
One-way…from New Tampa, FL to Reeds Spring, MO with short layovers in the Atlanta suburbs and at my folks place in the Leadbelt.
It too was a “getaway” but in a much different sense.
No live music in route.
No pictures.

Six years ago I was traveling alone in a packed car that I bought on eBay. Before I hit the road that last Tuesday of June, 2011, I had shipped about 25 boxes of books, albums, CDs, slides&pictures, and some household good to my sister’s place at Table Rock Lake.
I was down-sizing. Bigly.
I left behind a 3400 square foot house filled with furniture…and “stuff.” I moved only one piece from Tampa: the small rocking chair my parents bought for me when I was a toddler.

My marriage of 37 years had imploded a few months earlier. It was time for us to start new lives.
Before I drove away I wrote one page letters to Paula, Joseph & Caroline. (I re-read the letters every once in awhile. It’s a good thing to do.  I did it again yesterday.)
I didn’t know how long I’d live at my sister’s when I arrived on July the 5th. (After 3 months we couldn’t stand the sight of each other, so I moved to The Abbey…where Shelly and I are about to renew our lease.)
I had no idea how long I’d live in Missouri. I still don’t….


When we hit the road on 6/29/17, we’ll be traveling with a USB drive loaded with literally hundreds of hours of music.
Back in 2011, it was a shoe box full of CDs.

The majority of music we’ll listen to on the trip will be people I’ll be seeing in the second half of 2017 (Shelly will have to miss some of the shows):
Shovels and Rope
The Avett Brothers
Wood Brothers
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Ryan Adams
Jason Isbell
Father John Misty
The Rainmakers
Drive-by Truckers
Band of Horses
Bob Seger

When I left Tampa in 2011, I hadn’t seen live music in years. (No wonder I was not a happy camper….but there was a lot more to it than that!)

Six years has flown by. I have made lots of new friends.
The vast majority of them are music lovers.  Many are musicians.
I fell in love.
My life is good again. I hope yours is too, and that you are traveling the high road.

Be. Be kind. Just Be.


A guy’s gotta dream…part 2

A month or so ago I wrote that I had told Dad my dream of the way he’d pass away. He and I don’t talk about certain things. It’s an unwritten agreement.
One of the things we don’t talk about is what happens when people die. We almost did one time, not that long ago in the grand scheme of things. My Mom had been dead an hour or two, back on 7/1/13. There is a story there. But it’ll have to wait to be told until Dad is gone.

Dad turned 91 a few days ago. I chauffeured him to my sister’s at the lake…a 250 mile drive. The next day it was lunch at his favorite place in Branson, then cake and ice cream back at Paula’s. Today we had breakfast on the southside of town, then it was to the Abbey. I showed Dad and sis the 36 garden boxes. Three of them are mine. I picked a head of iceberg lettuce for him…the first homegrown he’d ever had…and a few onions.  Then on to Doe Run for the two of them.

It was nice to spend time with him; I have lots of “Dad stories.” Some are already written, but nobody will see them until one of us has had a published obituary.
When I wrote about “dying like Leroy Nichols” it was only about the incident itself. In the case of my dream for Dad’s death, I’ve got his entire day planned out. Some of my friends have heard this dream. Shelly has heard it several times. Here goes….

Nothing special. Cereal; a mix with half of the bowl corn flakes and a top layer of “all bran.” I always referred to it as straw. Being regular is very important to my Dad. Some day in the future I’ll be sad that I can’t hear his voice in a sentence that includes the words “my bowels….”
A couple of cookies. Store bought oatmeal ones.
This day there would be a treat: finishing off a can of pears.

Walk down to the creek.
Spot a deer in the woods on the way, and a few fish in the creek. Spend a few minutes checking out the paw-paw tree.
Take a lap of the yard that he mowed yesterday. “The east 40” and “the west forty” to Dad. He mows about an acre and a half of yard, some of it with a push mower.

J. Vernon McGee and “Through the Bible Radio Network” on the radio. Dad has been listening to this on the radio since the early 60’s. The good reverend has a very distinctive voice. He died in 1988. His radio ministry will continue, thanks to people like my Dad who contribute often….including after they die.
Hopefully “the doc” will be in the book of Romans this day. That would be Dad’s favorite.
The lunch menu would include his favorites:
Some braunsweiger on a saltine, with a slice of a sweet onion.
There would be pickles, chips and caffeine free cola.
Desert of a nice bowl of butter pecan ice cream.

A couple of dividend checks in the mail. Neither one worth more than a C note.
A nap. When he would tell me about it later, he would say that he had nodded off for “maybe 15 minutes.” The nap actually was 76 minutes.
A surprise visit by someone from down at the church. They’d stand outside for awhile and talk about how great Dad’s place looked. The garden boxes would get compliments. They’d see some birds and a mother rabbit with 2 little ones.

5:35 pm.
I leave B-307 and head downstairs to rack up some steps in my daily walk-and-talk with Dad. Typical call just over 30 minutes. Dad talks most of it. It’s hard to be sure how much he hears. Some of his responses might just be guesses.
For sure some of mine are. When I’m about to hear a boyhood story of his for the twentieth time, there is a good chance that I go on “auto listen” and toss in an occasional “uh huh.”
Today he’ll have lots of stories and things to talk about.  We’ll both laugh a lot.
After we finish, he’ll eat a snack and watch MASH or Seinfeld or Raymond. He’ll laugh a lot.

6:48 pm.
My sister calls him on her drive from the hospital to the lake. It’s probably a 45 minute drive; worse in season. I hope the call this day is a mix of reminiscing and dreaming and planning a visit.

There is still plenty of light when they finish talking, so Dad decides to take a look around the place.
He likes what he sees. He sees all these things he wants to do. Some of these could involve the use of a ladder. (Fuck Me!!)

As Dad admires his home, he sees a cardinal out of one eye and a fox squirrel out of the other. Dad and I have talked lots and LOTS of basketball over the years. He loves defense, and if I’ve heard this phrase once I’ve heard it 2000 times: “you have to keep one eye on the man and one eye on the ball.”

At that moment, as he admires the cardinal and the squirrel, his heart stops and he collapses onto the lawn. A couple of passing cars witness it and brake hard to get into the driveway. 12 minutes later Dad is dead and on a stretcher.

8:12 pm.
Paula calls. She had just received the notification call that our Dad is gone.

For almost everyone I’d wish for a day and a death like this.
The last day: doing things they enjoy.
The death: dying quickly and painlessly.

Be. Just BE. And don’t be stingy with the hugs!!

Making “that call”

I’m sure glad the weather broke a bit, so that I could pound the pavement some. I needed to take a fast walk to get the morning behind me.


It has been awhile since I had to make that first call. Even though it was over 5-and-a-half years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. Not just that call itself, but the before and the after.  The next couple of times I had to make the call are a little fuzzy.  That first call is a story for another day.

Today the “before” began with a phone call from my sister Paula. A little bit later there was a text from the preacher, Ray. Then I made a bunch of unanswered calls, and then exchanged texts with both of them.

Two hours after Paula and I first talked, I decided that it was time to make “the call.”

“The call” was to the dispatcher at the office of the sheriff in St. Francois county….where my almost-91-year-old father lives alone in the country.

He has lived in that house outside Doe Run longer than any other place in his life. 29 years. And he doesn’t know any of his neighbors. Not even their names. Nobody I can contact to check on him, other than the sheriff. Fuck Me!!


Today was the same fact pattern as before: numerous calls to both the landline and the cell phone go unanswered. When I made that first call to the sheriff back in 2011, the folk’s landline was busy and they weren’t answering the cell. My Mom often forgot to press “End” at the conclusion of a call on the landline. Like today, the ringtone volume on the cell had been turned down to 0.1.

I’m not sure how many times my sister or the pastor tried both linesthis morning, but I made a dozen calls to the house and the cell before I called dispatch and asked to have someone go check on Dad.

Then I get to wait for the phone to ring…thinking about “the after.”

There are lots of possibilities:

A. The sheriff calls and tells me that everything is fine.

B. The sheriff calls and tells me that Dad died in his sleep…or in his blue chair…or at his desk…or in the yard…or wherever.

C. The sheriff calls and tells me that Dad is alive and appears to have had a stroke.

D. Dad calls to thank me for having the sheriff check on him….and says that he hadn’t gotten any calls on either phone….and has no idea why not.


Once again it was “D.” I was glad to hear his voice and not that of some deputy or EMT.

Dad’s landline was dead this morning. (Later I called his provider to report the outage. Another unsatisfying contact with AT&T. Fuck Me!!)

Once again he turned the cell’s ringtone off. (That one is a losing battle. It’s never gonna stop. He’s never gonna stop turning it off and not knowing it. I repeat: Fuck Me!!)

Thankfully it was NOT “C.” I don’t want him to spend the last years of his life in a nursing home like his three nonagenarian siblings did.


This is the first time I’ve written about family. In my first blog piece I wrote: “There are lots of things that I want to write about that might upset friends and family. I’m thinking that they know more about my life and my lifestyle than they acknowledge.”

My relationship with my Dad is complex. I’ve got lots of “dad stories” but I’m not sharing them for awhile. I did share my dream of how I wanta die. I’ve got a dream of Dad’s last day too. I might share that sometime soon…I have already shared it with Dad. Most of the other family stories will have to wait.

Until then:  Just Be.  Things happen….that’s all they ever do.

“We’re all gonna die….”

On Saturday, March 18, 2017 I spent a few hours at the viewing for my late Uncle Joe, dead too soon at only 77. He survived the “widow maker heart attack” (which has a 90% kill rate) for about 30 years. It took three decades for a complete closure of the left anterior descending coronary artery to kill him. Still not long enough…

To attend the viewing, I did an “over-and-back” to the county where my Mom’s family has lived almost their entire lives. If it wasn’t for the military in the case of her three brothers, she would’ve been the only member of her immediate family to ever receive mail someplace other than St. Francois county, MO.

Continue reading

Me and the Police—Part One

I have had “conversations” with fellows wearing badges three times since moving back to Missouri in 2011. Two of them are a tad bit bizarre. The other was mundane….I was clocked doing 78 in a 60 in Highlandville on our way home from The Rock House. The only story there is what I coulda done with the $217.50 that it cost me…
The most recent event was just three days ago…and will be the subject of Part Two.

What follows is copy-and paste, word-for-word from my journal entries for June 16 & 18, 2013…including spelling errors, incomplete sentences, lack of capitalization, profanities. I did delete the portions of the journal from those dates which don’t relate to my stroll. The words in quotation marks are 99% accurate….
ok. so this story is gonna be a doozy.

I go for a walk on varvera road, and it ends with me having to pull dad from the dinner table with my dying mother to talk with a deputy sheriff.

I had been walking for over 30 minutes, talking on my cell to my uncle john the entire time. Doing “laps” up and down the road. Just racking up steps. Having a really good conversation…talking about our gardens and dad’s garden….talking about the weather….talking about fishing….talking about them selling their business, ways to structure the sale, and tax consequences of the alternatives.

I’m on a lap heading toward the highway when a huge black truck stops and the driver rolls down his window….i ask john to hold on.

“Are you OK?”
“Yeah, i’m just fine.”
“Are you sure you’re OK?”
“Yeah. I’m just taking a walk and talking to my uncle on the phone….my dad lives just down the highway.”
“And you’re sure that you’re OK?”
“Yeah, I am sure that i’m AOK. Thanks for asking.”

They drive off. I start joking with my Uncle John.

“Do I have crazy eyes? Do I look like i’m not Ok? That was strange. If somebody messes with me, I might get crazy eyes!! I’ve got a long fuse, but if somebody messes with me, i’m sure i’ll get the crazy eyes….”

we both laughed and kept talking about the possible sale of their business….

about 15 minutes later the black truck passes again, this time headed south on varvera road. We wave at each other.

A few minutes later i’m almost back to 221 and I spot a sheriff’s car turning onto varvera road. I make some flip comment to john. “well now I guess the sheriff is gonna ask me if i’m ok….jeez.”

the deputy stops, rolls down his window and says “what are you doing?”
“i’m taking a walk and talking to my uncle.” (john is still on the phone)

“you can’t walk on this road.”
“it’s a public road isn’t it?”

“no it’s a private road, and the owner doesn’t want you walking on it.”
“Who are you, and where are you from?”

“i’m visiting my dad. He lives right there. Dad had that house built almost 25 years ago.”
“where do you live?”
“i live in springfield.”

“why are you walking this road?”
I lift my shirt and show him my pedometer hanging on my belt.
“i’m pretty serious about walking. I’ve been walking this road every time I visit him for months now.”

“well you can’t walk this road. You need to go home.”
WTF?? I need to go home??? this guy is an asshole!!

I walk off. And continue talking to uncle john, who was still on the call.

“did you hear that?”
“sort of…”
“he says it’s a private road…and then tells me I need to go home???”

I start walking east on 221, on the other side of the road from the folks’ house, and walk past their driveway. The deputy is still sitting on varvera road. He can see that i’ve walked past dad’s driveway.

I tell john what i’m doing…that i’m going to walk to the bridge to look at doe run creek…that I can’t get to the creek on dad’s land because the guy who called the sheriff on me has messed everything up so that there is lots of standing water on dad’s land….and the creek is messed up too.

I think about continuing to walk east on 221, but realize that I don’t have my wallet or ID on me, so I cross the road at the bridge and start walking back toward the house.

The deputy pulls onto 221…in front of another car and moves slowly. the asshole is also a bad driver!! I tell john that he is creeping along and say “if he pulls over and hauls me off, it will cost you money because i’ll fill a wrongful detention suit against your county….and i’ll win!!”

the deputy pulls into dad’s driveway, just barely off the road and stops at the gate. He is glaring at me.

“i told you that you needed to go home. Do you live here?”

again with the “go home”???
and i’ve told this guy that i’m visiting my folks.

“this is my dad’s place. I told you that. I told you that I live in springfield. I’m visiting him on Father’s Day.”
not only is he an asshole. he’s as dumb as a box of rocks.

“is that your car?”
“yes. The vehicles in the garage are my dad’s” {my car has florida plates}

I walk off and head into the garage. uncle john is still on the phone.

“one more time with this ‘go home” stuff?? what the fuck? does he think i’m lying and walking into a stranger’s garage.”

I walk to the back of the garage and tell john that the deputy can’t see me back there…
“i bet he drives up here to check on me!!”

and he does. Un-fucking-believable!!!

I tell uncle john that I need to hang up and go get dad.

I open the door. Mom and dad are at the dining room table. Dad is on the phone with paula. I tell him that I need him to come outside and tell the deputy that I am his son and that i’m just going for a walk.

Dad goes out and talks to the deputy. He tells him that I am indeed his son. That paula and I have been walking on this road for quite awhile. The deputy says he needed to check on my story and that I shouldn’t be walking on this ‘private road.’

The deputy leaves. finally.
Text to Shelly on 6/16/13 at 7:53 pm. You won’t believe what i just went thru on my walk…it involves a deputy sheriff. Unbelievable!!

From Shelly on 6/16/13 at 7:54 pm. Oh no! Are you in jail?
To Shelly on 6/16/13 at 7:55 pm. No…but i’m righteously indignant!!
I called Uncle John back. “i only get one call, and i’m using it to call you….” we both laughed.

I told him that I was going to find out if it was a private road. He said that the county commissioners could find out for me, and that one of them goes to his church. He suggested that I contact Patrick Mullins….and I will.

it all comes down to the way the deputy handled it….being gruff, accusatory, and telling me that I needed to go home. WTF??!!

If he had been pleasant and simply said, “it’s a nice day for a walk, but this is a private road and the owner has asked me to tell you that he’d like to walk elsewhere” I would had said ok, walked in and asked Dad if he thought I was a private road…and either way i’d have still followed up to find out.
But the guys attitude, and especially telling me that I “need to go home” did not set well with me. he’s got a badge, a bad attitude…and no brains.
{what follows is from the 6/18/13 journal entries}

it’s almost noon…just got out of the shower. I was sweaty after my long walk…..on varvera road.

Earlier I called and left a message for county commissioner patrick mullins. He was out….they took a message…and he called me back in just a few minutes.

I told him that I was related to john stevens, and that I need to know if varvera is a county or private road. He said he could find out, but that if it was ok with me he would pass this to the commissioner who represents this part of the county. I said “sure…i would like that.”

a couple of minutes later the phone rings and it was the guy in charge of the county road department. He told me that varvera road is public…he also suggested that I speak with the county commissioner based on the way the deputy handled the situation.

He passed me to gay wilkinson, who confirmed that the road is public…and that he was surprised that the deputy didn’t know that. He said I should feel free to walk the road any time I want, and that if anybody said anything that I should have them contact him. He gave me his cell number, and said that either I or the person questioning me could call that number at any time.
While the 2013 journal file was open, so that I could copy-and-paste the above journal entries, I scrolled down a bit. Here’s what I wrote early on the morning of June 30, 2013:

scurrying to hit the road for doe run…
for a family get together. 🙂
and to watch Mom die. 🙁

she died at 1:21 pm on July 1, 2013. I’m sure that she didn’t think it was all that funny to see a sheriff’s car in the driveway.
I didn’t. I still don’t.
Some people who have badges are arrogant assholes. Most aren’t….like the guy I’ll write about in Part II.
This song is about the city cop in Highlandville with the ticket pad….  I can’t have a blog post without some music.

Epiphany #1

It was spring of the year 2000. The world had survived the Y2K scare…amazingly using a 2 digit year hadn’t brought the planet to its knees.

We had taken a family vacation to Arizona during the December school break to evaluate AZ as a place to move. There had been some executive level changes at the niche consulting firm where I worked that were going to be tough to live with, i.e. my new boss was not only a roadblock to any career advancement for me. He was also more than a bit forgetful, on top of being a terrible listener, generally clueless and a grade A butt-kisser….not to mention the misguided politics that he regularly spewed.

Paula wasn’t happy with the gray, drizzly winters in Portland. She wanted to live somewhere warmer; we had talked about moving somewhere with more sunshine. I suggested southern Orygun or east of the Cascades, near Bend. She wasn’t interested in staying in OR. After our 10 or 11 days in AZ, checking out Flagstaff, Sedona, Phoenix and Tuscon, we weren’t ready to move there. We weren’t writing the state off either.

Heavy inertia was gonna keep us in Tigard for awhile. How long was unclear. The money and the culture and most of the people at S&A (except doofus) were top notch.
The original “Who wants to be a Millionaire” with Regis Philben had first aired in mid-August, 1999. It, along with Seinfeld, provided conversation fodder in the office. I have always liked games, and I had made several attempts to get on the show. There were a number of hoops to jump through, some involving luck; others involved skill.

I got close to making the final cut a couple of times. Close, but no stogie. A couple of times a week, Joseph and I would sit together and watch Regis and the contestants. It was great fun. I heard “Dad, you should get on this show!!” a lot. It didn’t happen, but not for my lack of trying…

And more than a couple a times a week, his behavior would have me saying to myself, “I gotta get outta here…this 10 year old is gonna kill me or drive me crazy!!” Joseph was a handful at that age.
About 6 or 7 months after the show had been on the air, Joseph and I had a conversation in his room one Saturday afternoon. I have always referred to it as “The Epiphany.”

At breakfast Joseph asked if we could shoot some fireworks off in the cul-de-sac later that evening. The weather prediction was for a nice day for a late February. At that time, I always kept a decent sized supply of fireworks on hand.

My neighbor across the way and his 12 year old were like me and Joseph. The four of us liked to blow things up and make noise. I told Joseph, “if you have a good day today, I’ll see if Jim and Ryan want to meet us out front after dark to light up the sky and get loud.”

I never had to track Jim down.
It was mid Saturday afternoon, and Joseph had been sent upstairs to his room for the third time. Now this piece I’m writing is NOT about him being an oppositional, defiant child. It is not about my parenting skills, or lack thereof. It is not about what Joseph had said or done to warrant another timeout. If I had been keeping a journal back then, I would be able to provide more detail. And probably more accuracy and specificity. But I’m betting that the following dialogue is very close to what transpired when I opened the door to his bedroom, walked in and sat down next to him on the bottom bunk.

Me: At breakfast we talked about shooting off fireworks with Jim and Ryan. What do you think?
Joseph: I don’t think it’s happening.

Me: You’re right. Why do you think it’s not happening?
Joseph: Because you and her keep sending me up here!!

{I repeat: “…this piece I’m writing is NOT about him being an oppositional, defiant child.” So let’s move on to the meat of the pow-wow….}

Me: You want to play a game?
Joseph: Sure. Can we go outside? I’ve been in this room all day…

Me: Let’s play our own version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”….but we’ll play it right here. How does that sound?
Joseph: Who is gonna ask the questions…you or me?

Me: Me. And just like on the show, the questions will get progressively harder. OK?
Joseph: Sure. Ask me anything.

Me: How many days in a week?
Joseph: (grumbling at my audacity to ask this no brainer!!) Seven…of course. Duh.

Me: Buddy, they’ll get harder…our game is gonna be just like the one that Regis plays. Man-o-man….you gotta lighten up!

Me: How many weeks in a year?
Joseph: (facial contortions at getting another softball…) Well, everybody knows that. Fifty-two.

Me: How many days in a year?
Him: 365, except in a leap year and then it’s 366. (with a smirk…)

Me: How many years do you think you’ll live?
Him: About 75.
Me: Good answer! (I was hoping he’d get close…and I liked that my 10 year-old son did.)

Me: This is the last question. How many days do you think you’ll live?
Him: About a million. (That woulda been the answer if I had scripted it!)

Me: Nope. Do the math.
Him: What do you mean “nope!” And what do you mean “do the math.”

Me: So you told me 365 days in a year. And 75 years is a good answer for how long someone will live. So if you have those two facts, how would you figure out how many days you’re going to live?
Him: I’d multiply them together.
Me: Exactly…do the math. Here’s a pencil and paper.

He banged it out. 27,375 days.

Then I told him the point of the exercise.

“Joseph, that was fun. Think about this: You haven’t lived six-sevenths of your days, so you should have another another 23 or 24 thousand days. I hope most of them are going to be good days. But some of them are going to be bad days….you’ll have plans to do something outside and the weather will be bad; grandma might get sick or die…after all, she’ll be turning 75 at the end of March; maybe you’ll be sick yourself; or it might be a bad day like today. This day hasn’t been much fun for any of us, and one reason is because of the things you did and said. Joseph, you don’t want to be responsible for ruining your own days. I’m going back downstairs now. I’ll come get you when it’s dinner time. Please think about trying to make each day a good one. I wish we were going to be setting off fireworks tonight. Let’s make it happen one day soon.”

Now for MY Epiphany.

The “game” played out like I wanted it to….for Joseph, although it didn’t have the impact on him that I had hoped for. But as I walked downstairs I thought about how the game we had just played applied to me too…and the fact that I’d already lived about 70% of my allotted days. I pushed the numbers around in my head and came to the realization that I only had something like 8,200 days left on the planet.

I didn’t like my boss or my long-term prospects working for him.
My spouse wanted to live somewhere warmer.
I loved Portland (and I still do), but the long winters with the gray and drizzle can be challenging.

I walked into the family room and told Paula: “Joseph and I had a good talk. He’s staying in his room until we have dinner ready. And I’m gonna see what kind of severance package I can negotiate. You need to start looking for a job in a warmer city.”

I had a great relationship with the HR and Finance folks and I knew I could get good, confidential feedback from them before I submitted my resignation. It worked out well for me. She found a job teaching in Tampa.

She and the kids were there when school started in August. I stayed in Tigard to sell the house. After the sale I did a solo cross country drive…without a cell phone. I spent time with some friends that I hadn’t seen in many years. I did my part for the close on the purchase of our house in Tampa (i.e. signed and initialed a stack of papers) while I was staying with a friend in Denver. I took a break during the drive and flew to NJ to interview for a job, which turned out to be the last W-2 position I ever had. There are some stories there…but they’ll have to wait for another day.

A couple of things hadn’t happened at the time of “The Epiphany.”

1. Warren Zevon’s last appearance on Letterman came a couple of years after we had moved back to Floriduh. I saw that entire show in late October of 2002 while sitting in a hotel room in Virginia Beach. Zevon was the only guest that night and he played several songs. One line from the show has stuck with me. When asked how the cancer diagnosis had affected his work and outlook, Zevon said, “You put more value in every minute. … It’s more valuable now. You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich.”

That last line, along with Alfred E. Neuman’s “What, me worry?” are my mantras these days. The latter since I was barely a teen-ager, and the former since that night over 13 years ago.

2. Kris Allen didn’t release his cover of The Script’s “Live like we’re dying” until late September of 2009.
“Yeah we gotta start lookin’ at the hands of the time we’ve been given here
This all we got then we gotta start thinkin’ it
Every second counts on a clock that’s tickin’
Gotta live like we’re dying oh
We only got 86,400 seconds in a day…”

What did I learn from Epiphany #1 that day in 2000, from Warren Zevon in 2002, from listening to Kris Allen in 2009, and from subsequent events? I have to keep re-learning it all the time….

Life is precious. Enjoy every minute you have and enjoy every bite of every sandwich. Tell the people who you love that you love them. And be. Be kind. Be nice.

Just Be.


Casedy & Crayons

“For you, being creative isn’t just something to do. It’s an actual survival impulse.” That was Shelly’s horoscope per the local paper one day last week.

That not only applies to Shelly, but also to her oldest grand-child. Eight year old Casedy accompanied us to the Wichita suburbs over the weekend as we visited Shelly’s oldest of three children, and their soon to be 2 year old, Cecily.

The two cousins had some fun together, and Casedy entertained all of us with her creative writing. (If only I could be so creative!!)

With a box of crayons and several sheets of paper, each sheet written in the color of the signatory, what follows are Casedy’s creations. Admittedly I have helped a bit with the spelling, but everything that follows is her’s. I like all of them, but the last one is my favorite.


dear casedy,

it’s me purple crayon. i love that i’m your favorite color. but start making sense. stop coloring outside the lines.

yours truly,

purple crayon.


dear casedy,

we need to talk.

everybody knows that I’m the true color of the sun. not yellow. she is mad.

the true color of the sun,

orange crayon.


dear casedy,

everybody knows that i’m the color of the sun.

everybody knows that!

tell orange she’s out of her mind.

the real color of the sun,

yellow crayon


dear casedy,

the blue crayon thinks he is better than me.

please tell him he’s not. then I will be happy.

yours truly,

light blue crayon



tell light blue that he is not more important than me.

then i’ll be happy!!!!

yours truly,

real blue crayon


dear casedy,

why did you peel my paper off?

why casedy.


your naked friend,

green crayon