Not as easy as it sounds

“Sit to Stand”
It sounds so simple.
So very, very simple.
And then you get old.
Or get diagnosed with idiopathic acute Transverse Myelitis.
Or both.
I was diagnosed with TM about a week after I woke up paralyzed from the shoulders down. It took me about that long to remember those 2 words.
And lots, lots longer to be able to stand up.

“Sit to Stand” is a Physical Therapy exercise. (You can find pieces on “The Power of the sit to stand.” Google it. It is a Big Deal.)
There are measures and standards for the task. I don’t know or give 2 shits about either of them…especially the “standards.” I just know that standing up has become a very a big…and difficult…thing since that day in mid-September of 2023, days after my seventy-fifth bday.
(One factor in my perspective might be because of how far short of standard I now fall. And I gotta admit the bar seems pretty high. The chart at Physiopedia says that if you’re on Medicare and do less than 11 sit-to-stands in 30 seconds that you are below average…and a fall risk!! Time yourself.)

A “true” sit-to-stand means you can’t use your hands for assistance.
I wish!!
If the surface is high enough (and that most likely means a tall bed…but not any chair, couch, or any commode that I’ve encountered) I might be able to stand without using my hands.
Otherwise it’s a full body exercise to stand up.

I had recovered enough to attempt standing a couple of times before I left inpatient rehab on October 25.
The therapist would lower the mat an inch at a time.
When she got it as low as it would go I was screwed….standing wasn’t possible, no matter how hard I pressed on the mat with both of my arms.
Then Maddie told me that most chairs, couches and toilets are even lower.
Fuck Me!

My Dad (who will be 98 on May 26) spends most of his TV time in this low chair that is hard for anyone to get out of. (I don’t know how he does it!!)
As long as I have a chair with arms and the chair isn’t too low, getting up is doable….but it can be a struggle.
Neither Dad nor I need a lift chair. (The subject of our similar infirmities drops into many of our daily calls. That piece of furniture has never been a topic on our phone calls…at least not for either of us. We know people who benefit from and need the chair’s help…)

When I moved into The Abbey in October of ‘11 I had a dining table with four chairs…and a bean bag chair. That was all my furniture. Period.
I slept on a blowup bed for over a year…until I was talked into buying a box spring and mattress by Shelly. (I can’t imagine trying to get up from that fancy air mattress now. It would have to be “technique”…i.e., roll onto the floor, get on hands and knees… Yada yada.)

Bean bag chairs have been a pain in the ass since 1968.
I’ve owned, or encountered them, a few times.
The one I threw into the dumpster here in Springtown heard “never again” as I tossed it years ago.
WTAF was I thinking when I bought that thing?

In TM times, we now are doing lots of Adulting.
One thing we did was buy a new couch and chair.
It replaced ones that I paid 250 bucks for at a flea market back in 2011 when I moved to Springtown. We both loved those two pieces…but they looked like they shoulda been in a college student’s apartment…
(How that stuff made it from the north side flea market and finally up the two flights of stairs at The Abbey is a story for another day.)

That checkered couch&chair were comfy, and stained, and in need of covering. Since no “standard” covers would fit the oversized pair, a set of very $pendy custom covers was the only option.
Hard pass.
So instead Shelly headed for one of Ashley’s never ending sales. (I consulted from afar. She sent me pictures…)
I spend most of my time on the new couch, and it is a tiny bit easier to stand up from than old faithful was.

Whether it’s watching sports, Jeopardy, or streaming, when there is a commercial break I Stand Up. Sometimes I stay up and do some of my PT “homework.” Other times I do a few sit-to-stands.
Others I struggle to stand and cuss my legs and my pathetic glutes. (Shelly used to tease me about my “cute butt.” Transverse myelitis blew it up. Lame glutes makes standing very difficult…)

I’m sitting here listening to my first audiobook: “No time like the future…an optimist considers mortality” by Michael J. Fox.
On Saturday an acquaintance suggested audiobooks as I lamented my lack of interest in reading (which I blame on nerve pain and gabapentin).
GREAT suggestion Pat….I appreciate it.
Not sure why I picked this book…but so far it’s Great too.
The book is “A moving account of resilience, hope, fear and mortality, and how these things resonate in our lives…”

Listening to him read his memoir is gonna make me stop whining about sit-to-stand. (Don’t be a whiny bitch Steve…for cripes sake!!!!)
Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 29. At 57 he had complex spinal surgery unrelated to Parkinson’s that threatened him with paralysis.
Seeing young folks in wheelchairs at therapy has always been eye-opening and a shot of reality too.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was “wheelchair bound.”
Today I vacuumed the apartment.
It took awhile.
It wore me out.
I had to take a break.
But first I had to stand up.
I’ll keep getting better at it.
Commercial breaks will see to that.  (And man-o-man are there a LOT of them!!!)

Scatter me here and yon….

Let’s get this outta the way right up front: we are ALL gonna die.

This is one of several docs that will be in the “Black Audit Bag” after I have said my final “Fuck Me!!”
The “BAB” will include not only legal and financial documents. There will be directives, keepsakes, and copies of some the things that will make their way to this blog…starting with this one.

I recently wrote that Shelly is gonna be spreading my ashes in 5 places. Subject to change, these places (listed in the order that I first stepped foot there) are:

1. Weiss Cemetery, outside Doe Run, MO.
Take Buck Mountain Road south of town; about a quarter mile past the bridge over the creek you take a right on Effin Road. (That is not an F’in joke!)
You’ll see the gate on the right. Drive 150 yards through the field to the gate into the fenced two acres.

A little of me will get buried in the family cemetery.
Shelly will scatter my ashes at the other 4 places.
I need to nail the specific plot in the family cemetery at some point. Close to my folks, but with the appropriate distance.
There will be a headstone. Maybe small, flat to the ground, with only this engraved: Steve Weiss 1948- 20–.
Maybe a stand up stone with more info and an emoji or two.
The ashes that get buried will be in either a Prince Albert pocket size can or my favorite reefer stash box.

2. Cape Perpetua, OR
In 1978 my late mother-in-law called this the most beautiful place she had ever been. The next year a picture from the crest looking south was the cover of the annual Rand McNally road atlas.
It is my favorite place along the Orygun coast….and I’ve driven every foot of the 363 miles of Orygun’s Route 101 numerous times.
Cape Perpetua is about 2 miles south of Yachats on 101. It is a typical PNW headland, forming a high steep bluff above the ocean. At its highest point, the cape rises to over 800 feet above sea level. From its crest, one can see 70 miles of coastline and on a clear day as far as 37 miles out to sea. A great spot for whale viewing.
There are some unique features at Cape Perpetua: Cook’s Chasm, Spouting Horns and Devil’s Churn.
Some of my ashes will get tossed into the latter.
Devil’s Churn is a long, wide crack in the coastal rock that fills with each ocean wave, occasionally exploding as incoming and outgoing waves collide. I can sit there for what seems like forever watching the power of the incoming waves.    

3. Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL
The first time I stepped foot on this beach was in early 1989. I was still in Portland and was on an AA&Co. project….sign-off manager on the tax software for S-corp returns.
The project was a pain in the ass. Things were way fucked up at A-plus Tax.
The beach was everything I’d heard…and more.
A couple of years earlier the “Great International White Sand Beach Challenge” said it had the “whitest and finest sand in the world.”
The sand is 99% pure Quartz. It is soft and cool on the feet. In a word, it is AWESOME.

We moved to Sarasota in May of 1989. Our kids were born at Sarasota Memorial on 12/30/89 and 5/30/91.
During the 7 years that we lived in SRQ we hit every beach between Anna Maria and Marco Island.
Siesta Key was hands down the favorite.
Many weekend mornings found us on the white sands of Siesta from 9 am until noon.
I never expect to have mail delivered to me again anywhere in Floriduh…but I hope to spend time on Siesta Key beach again before my ashes do.  

4. The Rock House, Reeds Spring, MO
Several of my ramblings and reminisces center around this place.
I’m not a “things happen for a reason” thinker. I’m in the “things happen, that’s all they ever do” camp.
But I do believe that sometimes a place, and the people there, can change ones life.
My life certainly changed because of The Rock House.
2011 was a helluva year for me. In the depths for much of it. My life really started to change for the positive after the first house concert I ever attended: Three Penny Acre at The Rock House on October 8, 2011.

We’re all gonna die, but unless we self-annihilate we don’t know when that will be.
Maybe Bruce & Jeanette will have moved to Baja for winters and Oregon for summers by the time Shelly is “Sprinkling Steve from coast to coast.” A new owner might not want my ashes scattered there.
Maybe this special place won’t be a receptacle for my dust…or for my wake (the details of that party will be one of the directives in the BAB).
That would be a shame.

5. Leadville, Colorado
I used to tease Shelly about her thinking that Colorado is the center of the universe. It was a toss-up between Leadville and Golden as to which was the true center.
The first time I was in the highest incorporated city in the United States (at 10,142 ft) was July 28, 2015.
I just read my journal entries from those 3 days in 2015.
My favorite afternoon there, on 7/30/15, included flash fried brussel sprouts at Tennessee Pass Cafe, beer on the deck at the Pastime Bar, a “george thorogood trio” at the Scarlet Tavern and this line from my journal: “We staggered back to the hotel. (“we” meaning me…)”

Shelly had bragged often about Leadville before our first visit, and not just about her favorite pizza in the world from High Mountain Pie.
The experiences in Leadville exceeded the lofty expectations. (So did the pizza…)
We’re spending her birthday this year in Leadville. I’m looking forward to it.  

There are legal restrictions regarding scattering ashes. Not in water. Not on private land. Yada Yada Yada.
I don’t care.
My ashes won’t care.
Shelly, the urn is in your court….

My Musical Epiphany

epiphany [ih-pif-uh-nee] a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience

I could call the conversation in my head in early March a couple of years ago an epiphany. (More on that internal dialogue in a minute….) . In fact, I do call it “My Musical Epiphany.”
The experience and the end result of it were very different from “Epiphany #1.”
This time the experience itself was solitary. It was on a long walk alongside Sinking Creek at Echo Bluff State Park early on a Sunday morning on the last day of an awesome roadtrip. (Our first trip to the Ryman; TTB in concert; found a diner that we loved; discovered and explored Echo Bluff S.P.; just the two of us with no cell service, a fireplace and balcony with a view…and more.)

This time the epiphany didn’t result in me quitting a job and moving cross country like Epiphany #1….but there was a bit of a lifestyle change.
On that fateful stroll in early 2017 I decided that if a show that I wanted to see was playing within 4 hours of me that I’d buy tickets. (On occasions I have exceeded the 240 minute “cap”…)
What happened next is referred to as “Ticket Buying Thursday” in my journal. That afternoon I bought tickets to: Dawes at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa; Joe Jackson at the Uptown Theater in KC; Tom Petty (with Joe Walsh opening) in Little Rock; and The Wheels of Soul Tour (Tedeschi Trucks Band, with Hot Tuna and the Wood Brothers opening) at The Amp in Rogers.
I have seen more shows in the last two years that I did back in the 80’s in Portland…and I saw LOTS of shows “back in the day.”

The Conversation?

Leon Russell.
Roy Orbison.
Death and Dying.
Life and Living.

1. Leon.
Here’s an excerpt of my FB status on 11/13/16:
“As we got in the car to head home from downtown after a stroll thru downtown to walk off breakfast, I heard a teaser on NPR of this song…and I reacted when they cut if off: “I love that song…don’t tease me!!” But I didn’t hear the awful news.
Then we get home and I learn that one of my heroes has died. This hurts.
He was scheduled to be the opening act for the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the first show I’ll ever see at the Ryman. That night next March in Nashville will be bitter sweet.”
{The song I linked to was “A song for you” Goosebumps.}
I get teary every time I think about that November morning.

2. Roy.
In a piece I wrote on here:
“For some reason that I don’t remember, I did NOT go see Roy Orbison at the Schnitzel on October 22, 1998. Roy had made this fantastic come-back. He had dubbed himself “Lefty Wilbury” in the super group The Traveling Wilbury’s. Roy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1987. Lefty Wilbury was quoted as saying “It’s very nice to be wanted again, but I still can’t quite believe it.”
I couldn’t believe it when his gig at The Schnitz ended up being one of his last shows. He was dead 40 some days after he left PDX. The man with the magical voice was dead at 52.
The lesson I learned from that: YOLO.”

3. Death and Dying.
We’re all gonna die.

4. Life and Living.
Life is for Living.

I learned the very same thing from My Musical Epiphany as I did from Epiphany #1.
I have to keep re-learning that lesson 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.

We’re all gonna die

Sometime in the late 90’s I started looking at the online edition of the St. Francois County Daily Journal several times a week. Mostly I just look at the obituaries.
The D.J. is the only daily in the county where I was born, where my 92-year old dad lives today and where he has lived the vast majority of his life. My Mom had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. If you don’t count time in the military, none of her siblings ever lived outside the county. The total population of St. Francois County, MO is about 65K.
I know very few people there. I went to grade school and junior college county. After dropping out of school, I got drunk most days. I broke several other laws for most of the next 18 months until I was drafted. I haven’t lived there in almost 50 years. But I skim the obits daily.
The county has 2 Wal-Mart Supercenters. If on a busy Saturday I should camp out at each store for 4 hours, on one of the benches by an exit, I doubt that the number of people I’d recognize, or who would recognize me, would reach double digits. Especially if you don’t count blood relatives. And I’m not sure that my 2nd cousins and I would even notice each other.

These days, and for the past 12 or 15 years, I check out the obits almost every day.
Primarily for conversation fodder.
And sometimes to feel grateful.

Today the conversations that the 10 or so obits elicit begin with me saying either : “Dad I see that __ __ died. She was 88….” or “Dad, did you know Frankie Weiss? Her dad was Les Weiss.”
Sometimes his answer will take up a good portion of our daily half-hour, give or take.
Other times, question and answer don’t combine for more than a minute.
Some times we’ve got other things to talk about and the topic of who died never comes up…especially during March when it’s basketball tournament time.

My Mom died July 1, 2013. She was 88. I miss her every day. But there were times when calling her could be a huge downer.
If a 16-ounce glass contained 8 ounces of liquid, mom wouldn’t call it half-full…she’d have it verging on being bone dry, especially the last 8 or 9 years.
She did have some health issues. A couple of heart attacks and bypass surgery. But Mom became a whiner…bigly. She could suck the air out of the room that I was calling from a thousand miles away and in a new york minute. “I don’t know why the Lord has done this to me? Why, oh why, oh why??
Mom didn’t have cancer; she wasn’t on dialysis; she didn’t liver failure. Her primary complaint was her back.
I became very good at starting phone calls with a word other than “how.”
Never “How are you?”
No “How are things in Doe Run?”

I decided that the obits would help the conversations become more enjoyable.
I’m a data driven dude. And this data would be fodder. The percentages.
Even after I started every call with something other than the “how” word, Mom would manage to bring up how awful God was treating her. I would quickly say something like this: “I looked at the 10 obituaries in the Journal earlier today, and only 1 of those people was older than you!”
Sometimes she would be older than all 10. It was rare that more than 30% of the 10 were older than her.

Confession: I can be a asshole with my words. I have been called “direct” and foul-mouthed. (Note: I have mellowed and lightened up with age. People will attest to that too.)
Sometimes at my worst (and her whiny worst too) I might spew: “Mom, 9 of the 10 people who are being covered with dirt were younger than you, and not one of them died from chronic back pain….”
But I always continued “…and we need to be thankful for and enjoy every day.”
After 2004, most of the times I said “we gotta enjoy every sandwich Mom…or every piece of pie that you bake!”
Mom would agree. We’d laugh. We’d say “I love you…talk to you tomorrow.”

So that’s the conversation element of checking out the obits.

The gratitude was two fold.
1. I was grateful that I could talk to my folks every day.
2. I was especially grateful when my comeback to Mom’s whining was “….and 4 of the people on the list of 10 were younger than me Mom!!”
Keep in mind that I started doing this many years ago. I wasn’t old enough to draw social security. And some of the 10 who had stopped breathing were younger than me.
I’d often just sit and think about the percentages.
And give thanks.

The local paper here in Springfield runs a grid most days of those who aren’t having a full “display obituary” published.
The data: Name, Age, Town/State, Death Date, Arrangements.
Today’s grid has 34 names.
My Dad is 92. 7 were older than him. 20.6%
I’m 70. 11 were younger than me. 32.4%
That makes me think. The percentages.
And give thanks.

There are countless songs about death and dying.
The title of this song by one of my favorite bands gets right to the point. The last four lines sum it all up:
“So try not to get upset
Everything is fine
Hey, it’s not that big a deal
We’re all gonna die”

Until then, you know what to do.
Enjoy the sandwich. Give lots of hugs. Lots & Lots of hugs.
And be Kind.

Love is The Answer

It’s short. It’s simple. It’s true. Love trumps hate. Period.

The 33rd Imagine Concert was the last “large venue” concert of the year for me, unless something unforeseen happens. I saw LOTS of large venue shows in 2018.
12/8/18 was a great evening in too many ways to list….but I’ll try:
Bar food
Music by friends
Music with friends
All of it with the person I love, and who loves me.
Damn, I’m a lucky old coot.

Today started with brunch in a hotel here in town. Got the room for a steal in a silent auction for a good cause. Got stuck in an elevator on the way down to eat. Could see the front desk across the atrium as we called for help. The person who caught it after we were on the elevator seemed to be having a bad day. Laughing woulda made it better for her.
It did for me.
Just sayin’.

Came home and listened to The White Album. I’m getting ready to spin disc 1 again.
Earlier, Shelly and I sat on the couch and listened to the album that I heard for the very first time just over fifty years ago.
A couple of years ago I wrote about “first time tunes”…FTTs. Songs, often with places attached, that are indelibly stored on my body’s hardrive. I used over 200 words to describe the first time I heard the White Album….in KC…in 1968.

The magic of music…and memories

As we listened to “While my guitar gently weeps,” I hummed and caterwauled along.
And thought:
about the lyrics;
about yesterday;
about John Lennon;
about my life today;
about my past;
about the future;
about being.

Just then the CD changer moved to the next disc: one that I burned of songs by many of the artists who I saw in 2018.
The first song that plays off my “mix tape” is by a guy who I finally crossed off my bucket list last year, seeing him twice in a six day stretch. Both times with friends from my first time living in Orygun.
Friends, music, pie…heaven.

I’ll be seeing Amos Lee again in just over 100 days in KC.
Damn, I’m a lucky old coot.
I expect him to sing this song on 3/26/19, which summarizes what I was thinking as I listened to the Fab 4 this morning and contemplated the meaning of being.

“I believe in the power
Of love, love, of love”

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…”

This can’t be right…

I’ve always been good with numbers…at least that’s what they tell me.
I was a CPA once upon a time. I was/am a number cruncher, but I was NEVER a bean counter.

“But this can’t be the right number….”

I had just turned 17 when The Who released their first album. I cranked it up to 11 when Roger Daltry belted out:
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
This is my generation
This is my generation, baby…”

As I headed for 18 and draft eligibility, I was a fundamentalist Baptist minister’s son who was just starting to feel his oats…and who was developing a serious craving for adult beverages.
That was 52 years ago.

“But this can’t be the right number….”

Before we left Missouri and moved west in the Bi-Centennial Year, I had a friend who I partied with on a regular basis. He had just finished pharmacy school. This lyric was my reality.
“…This friend of mine said
‘Close your eyes, and try a few of these’
I thought I was flying like a bird
So far above my sorrow
But when I looked down
I was standing on my knees…”

Somehow I’m still standing 45+ years later….upright even. Go figure.

“But this can’t be the right number….”
I was 29 and had been living in Corvallis for a little over a year when twenty-nine-year-old Jackson Browne sang:
“In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don’t know when that road turned, into the road I’m on
Running on, running on empty…”

I wasn’t running on empty. I was running on homemade blackberry wine, home grown weed, white crosses, black beauties and all the shrooms I could find.
That was 40 years ago…and is NOT Fake News.

“But this can’t be the right number….”
I have always been early to rise and late to bed. (Is 2 am late to bed or early to bed? Just asking.)
Never lived on a farm, but this was…and still is…my perspective on sleep. (Did Warren Zevon ever live on a farm?)

“…So much to do, there’s plenty on the farm
I’ll sleep when I’m dead
Saturday night I like to raise a little harm
I’ll sleep when I’m dead…”

I closed lots of bars. I was the last one to leave lots of parties. Sometimes I even remembered what I had done the night before and how I had gotten to the place where I woke up. The vast majority of those blacked out nights happened before I was 25. But not all of them.
It is NOT sleep deprivation that has me questioning this particular #.

“But this can’t be the right number….”

I can keep telling myself that “this can’t be the right number” but I know that it is.
On 9/13/2017 I start my 70th trip around the sun. Sixty-ninth birthday; 70th trip.

I’ve got more questions than answers. I don’t know much, but…

I know that I am lucky to be alive.
I know that I am in the minor leagues compared to many of the folks who graduated H.S. the same year as me.
I know that some of the folks who were in the minor leagues compared to me have bones planted or ashes sprinkled. Dead from ODs, car wrecks, cirrhosis…or just being with the wrong people, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Been there; done that. Got lucky.

I know that I am lucky that I didn’t spend time in an orange jumpsuit after being get caught doing some of the stupid things that I did….and I am NOT talking about drug possession. (Nobody should be locked up for a personal stash….U.S. drug laws are idiotic!)
I know that I am lucky to have family, friends and a partner who have my back.
I know that 69 is just a number.
So is 70.
As a numbers guy, the number 86,400 means something to me. That number pops into my head at least once each and every day.

“We only got 86,400 seconds in a day
To turn it all around or to throw it all away
Gotta tell ’em that we love ’em while we got the chance to say,
Gotta live like we’re dying…”

Enjoy every bite of every sandwich.
Just Be.

Crazy thoughts….

…i have them all the time: crazy thoughts.
I’m not alone.
But then again, we all are…

I’ve been thinking about this eclipse hysteria. I’ve had a pair of “shower thoughts” about this craziness.

Today I’m seeing pictures of people flocking to “viewing spots” in mass. I have no idea what and where the largest gathering will be. Some people probably won’t agree on it anyway….facts be damned. For awhile afterwards I’ll know and retain “the answer” long enough to have gotten it right for Jeopardy or Who wants to be a Millionaire.

But I really don’t care.
I’m not that far from “totality.” Not much over 100 miles. Plus I could use it as a reason to head to the Leadbelt to see my 91 year old dad. But I’m heading to Tulsa on Tuesday, and totality is in the wrong direction. Dad and totality are 200 miles east of me; Tulsa is about the same distance…and due west.

Which leads to Crazy Thought #1: what if they miss the path of totality by about 100 miles or so? Or heaven forbid a couple of hundred.
I was responsible for the technology at a niche consulting firm in the years up to and including Y2K. Now I’m not thinking that these 2 events are all that similar. But 1/1/00 was a bit of a bust, eh?

The difference being that if the distance should be off, the science doubters & the climate change deniers & the flat earthers would love it. (Yes there really are beings that appear to be human that spew flat earth lunacy!!! Now THAT is some truly crazy thinking…)

Personally, I expect NASA to nail it…as usual. (Who knows if the “crack meteorologists” will be close re cloud cover, etc?)
I expect to view from here in SW Missouri, basking in 96% totality. That was always an A in any class I ever took. I’ll take that anytime. (In fact, I’m heading in the opposite direction from the totality tomorrow to go with friends on their houseboat, for an adventure and some revelry…)

The second “shower thought” is a bit crazy. So crazy that I would expect Homeland Security to be all over it. (But in the current admistration, all bets are off!!)

Crazy Thought 2: On Monday, August 21 there is a chain of coordinated terrorist attacks at the local time of totality, happening from coast to coast at places where there large gatherings.

When Joseph and I had our conversation at thirty thousand feet, I certainly wasn’t expecting what would happen less than 48 hours later. I’m not expecting anything awful to happen tomorrow.

My Dad often uses the phrase “the times in which we live.” When I was younger it would have been “if the Lord tarries.”
Both phrases are based on his apocalyptic wishes.
I have different views that Dad’s when it comes to “The” Rapture.
I even have my own special version of the rapture….

Heck, I have thoughts far crazier than these two! (Or three, if you toss in the rapture…)

…And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.”

I most certainly hope that the Eclipse of 2017 turns out to be one big happy traffic jam with not even a single incident of road rage.
One can hope…and enjoy more lyrics from a song from the top of my personal “Eclipse Setlist.”

“Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying…”

Be. 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.