Hello…Good-bye…Later

For those that have not noticed, I have been away.  I was way down under, down under a large pile of covers.  This served a dual purpose; I was wonderfully warm and cozy and with the covers pulled over my head I was invisible (well it seemed to work when I was three).,

I was dragged from my hiding place kicking and screaming; “Mom is expecting us for breakfast, get dressed, you can have your coffee on the way.”

“Mom”, is Marion (Wicked Witch of the West, one of the octogenarian couple and mother to the SWMBO), Marion is suffering with cancer and is at present going through the first of four cycles of chemotherapy; I have assisted with her in-home care.

“John (elder brother to the SWMBO and present care giver to “Mom”).wants to have a talk.”

Family conversations, at least those within the SWMBO’s family, are not on my top ten best things; actually sitting in on one thiumeir conversations is like being a very special corner of Hell.

Dad (John senior, male component of the octogenarian couple) was at the kitchen staring at his empty coffee cup and trying desperetly to reach through the fog of his dementia and remember what he was going to do with this thing in his hand.  “Mom” was in her bed, sighing, afraid to get up, mentally reviewing her morning list of medications, “Cyndi”, she yelled down, “do I have any Imodium…I have to have Imodium, I’ve got diarrhea again.  Where’s my orange juice, can’t take my pills without my orange juice.”

John (the elder brother)sat in the blue wing-back chair tucked in the far corner of the living room, his face concealed  by the open book he held.

“How long has she had diarrhea, Johnnie?”

“Since Thursday.”  He turned a page.  “I’m leaving next Tuesday .”  His head turned slightly to his right as moved his gaze to the next page, he paused briefly and again, turned the page.

“Mom, and you making it to the bathroom alone?  Michael, make sure she’s cleaning herself.  Michael’s going to get you down for doughnuts.  When are you coming back ?”  The SWMBO was definitely in the house.

Never revealing his face, “Don’t know.”  Another page gone.

The SWMBO’s voice could be heard throughout the house, “John, come to the table for doughnuts.”

From his chair, eight feet away, “Don’t eat breakfast.”

“Are there any jelly doughnuts, I like jelly doughnuts.”  Dad looked from box to box opened on the table.

“Dad, you’ve eaten three jelly doughnuts already,” I said, “can I get you more coffee?”

“Three, are you sure?  They were really fresh.  Three?…Are there any jelly doughnuts, I like jelly doughnuts…when they’re fresh.  Are there any jelly doughnuts?”

On the ride home; “You’ll have to stay there through the week; I’ll come over on Saturdays and you can go home over the weekend.  You’ll have be back Sunday afternoon.  That should give you time to take care of our yard.  I think you know that the only way this is going to work is if they move in…its the only way we will be able to spend any time together…its the only way they can save any money…its the only way…and when I’m home, I can help you with them.   Oh, State Farm wants everyone in the Division to put in fourteen hours OT every month.  If you were still working I would be happy to retire and help more.”  The SWMBO was driving, nibbling on her fingernails, interrupted only by a need to adjust the temp control.

“…its the only way” was fading away as in my mind I pictured climbing under a large pile of blankets and once more becoming invisible.

 

 

Dear friends, with my new (insane) schedule and the duties involved, I will be restricted to writing one day a week.  I promise to share my meditations from the weed garden and observations and conversations with warriors of the finest ilk.

The NW Oncology Group, here in Kennesaw (GA), provides chemotherapy treatments for 60-75 victims of cancer daily.  Some, like Mom, once a week, others; every other week or so.  There are no masques there, no casts, they face a common foe, and…and there are no tears.

There are smiles, gregarious outbursts of affection, it is never quiet and there is much laughter.  I can not say I know the cause, I can only speculate at this point, but I hope to find out what it is that brings light and laughter into their lives and I promise I will share.

 

peace out, pilrims

 

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Weed Garden

 

I love my weed garden (there is not a single cannabis plant to be found).  I am the only human in the house that shares this sentiment.

Over the years I have planted trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials around the house and throughout the yard.  Digging here is much like anywhere in Georgia; there is red clay and there are rocks, rocks of every size, shape and mineral imaginable.  The rocks went into a pile; I called it, my pile of rocks.

On one particularly hot summer day, four years ago, I envisioned a rustic rock wall, along the culvert that made an eight foot deep cut into the little hill that is my back yard.  The culvert runs for about a hundred feet before sliding into the five foot diameter drainage pipe beneath the lane.

It was an ambitious plan and after careful thought and a chilled beverage, I scaled back my vision of a wall to about twelve feet.  Even so, it was still a lot of rocks to move.

As happens with many of my visions, things changed.  The wall I envisioned moved from the top of the hill; I carved instead into the bank and stacked the stones.

Just beyond the top of the wall was every imaginable natural, wild growth to be found in Georgia.  One year the rains carried blackberries, blackberries that grew in grand proliferation; to the delight of the neighbor’s children as they approached the brambles with buckets and visions of jams and pies.  The storms came and as storms are want to do, they brought change; the blackberries were soon replaced with fragrant honeysuckle (and poison oak, not the best year).

It was that year of the ‘fragrant itch’, in late spring the wall evolved, into a garden.  The pile of rocks all but disappeared and became three small, terraced sections, bordered by rough stone walls.  Taken as a whole, the garden was shaped like a leaf.

I turned the earth, that wonderful Georgia red clay, and added fresh soil and turned it again.  I planted… wild flowers. In a few short weeks, tall, gangly green plants had pushed through the soil and raised their heads of yellow, orange, blue and red to the summer sky; and then the fun started.  Bumble bees from three counties took up residence, along with a host of butterflies and by early July, the humming birds.

I took to having my morning coffee; sitting on the wet grass beside the garden, the new inhabitants took little or no notice of me even the feral gerbils that had burrowed their way in (chipmunks).

Today, once again, the SWMBO, informed me that the garden, like my unkempt hair was “unbecoming” and had to go.  One is going all too fast on its own, the other…not by my hand, if however she wished to disassemble it…

As it is every Spring Season, the garden is overrun with weeds and leaves from the old sycamore that had at last surrendered to the assaults of wind and lightening.  Vines of various types had worked their way up from the culvert and through the cracks in the wall; some moved the stone in sections and that part of the wall would be redone and others anchored the stones in place, like a living thing.

Familiar earth, rich and black, turning easily, as a familiar shovel blade cut into it, weeds give up their hold, for a season.  Soon I’ll sit quietly in the grass and listen to the sweet music from my little weed garden.  And I’ll smile, a lot.

Peace out, pilgrimsImageImageImage

Emergency Response Times

In the midst of the second “crippling” winter storm to hit Northern Georgia in as many weeks.  The vigorous efforts of local, state, federal and military entities to improve response times and to keep our roadways flowing prompted  the posting of this earlier piece.

 

30 September 2017

Office of the Mayor, New Worldsville, State of Caution Her Honor, the Mayor, wishes to acknowledge the concerns of New Worldsville’s citizens regarding response times to emergency calls.  Mayor Weaver is confident that 911 calls being followed by 27 minute waits (on average) for police, fire and ambulances will soon be a thing of the past.

~

04 October 2017

Presented to the City Council receipt of delivery: 50 hood-mounted Laser Canons from Weaver Munitions Works, New Worldsville, State of Caution. Weaver Munitions Works factory technicians provided to install said canons on designated city vehicles,

~

07 October 2017

Directive to Chiefs of Fire and Police Departments, New Worldsville, from the Office of the Mayor.

Those vehicles that have been equipped with the new accessories will be the first deployed to any 911 emergency calls.  If in the course of responding to these calls, should any civilian vehicles not acknowledge proper right of way, use of their new equipment may be warranted and sanctioned.

~

12 October 2017

Notice from the Office of Ms. Darcy Weaver, Mayor, New Worldsville, State of Caution

Mayor Weaver is happy to announce at this time that in keeping with her promise of 30 September to the people of New Worldsville, emergency response times have been slashed to 4 minutes.

She is pleased, as well, to report that there are now over 14,000 employment opportunities available for those young people that survive to graduate from our fine centers of learning.

~

The mayor looks forward to the opportunity of serving you for another 4 years.

Drive courteously…and don’t forget to vote.

The Major and Darcy Weaver, Chapter One

Every self help group in the world would have you list all of your accomplishments.  I have limited myself to: being able to fold a fitted sheet.

When time and tides swept me in to the mire of madness and depression and a string (a small string) of hospitals and treatments; I left behind my young son.  He didn’t and doesn’t understand doesn’t know me.

That was forty years ago.  Forty years ago I penned a series of fairy tales.  In those very simple, crude tales I told him about all the things that I, truly, believed in, what I valued and what I hoped to leave him.  He never received them, but I’ve carried them in my head and my heart for forty years; and oh how they have grown.  I hope that for you, they will have a life of their own.  I do know that they were always intended to be shared.

The Major and Darcy Weaver

“Miss Weaver,” the Major spoke to the young woman’s back.  Expecting a more immediate response to his address, he raised his voice to a more commanding tone, a more comfortable tone, for a Marine Corp officer, “Miss Weaver!”

“I answer to ‘Darcy’, Major, my mother was ‘Miss Weaver’ “, Darcy continued her walk to the VW bus.

“Miss…Darcy, what the hell are we doing here?”

With her head in the back seat of the bus her response seemed to echo, “You’re here to lose a Storytelling competition and I’m here to help you write about the experience.  Ah…here they are.”  Darcy threw several pieces of clothing at the Major, dug further through a collection of what appeared to be last week’s laundry.  “Yes, the hat…needs feathers, big, dumb feathers.  Feathers, where are the feathers…here? no…no…yes, yes…no, break one?…YES.”

The Major had no idea what was happening, or whatever was going through her mind.

The bus seemed to be swallowing Darcy up as less and less of her was visible and the pile of last week’s laundry seemed to be growing.

The bus, a poly-chrome green, well it was more like Jackson Pollack discovering every shade of green while designing a mobile Rorschach test, green.  It blended nicely with the trees that framed the parking area and yet not camouflaged; the Major, Darcy and the bus were alone in the early morning hours.  But those hours of solitude were swiftly passing as more vehicles arrived.

The cars, trucks and RVs filled the parking area.  The Major couldn’t see an exit, his pulse quickened; all the voices around began to blend into a maddening cacophony.  What were they saying?  What language?  He heard the scream again, who screamed?

No one else responded…The Major couldn’t breathe, in the cool of this mountain morning sweat was rolling down his brow, burning his eyes.

A small, gentle hand rested on his shoulder, “Major, in the bus, you’ve got to change.”

“Change?”  The word didn’t register.

“Yeah, change, take off the khakis and put on someone else, like the costume, the one you’re holding, become a storyteller…and don’t forget the hat…the hat sells it…and oh those feathers, love the feathers.”  Darcy almost swooned at the thought of the feathers.  The Major wondered which of the two of them had problems.

The Major climbed in the bus and noticed for the first time the garments he held; a forest green velvet coat, Edwardian style, brown wool trousers that resembled tree bark, with purple paisley braces, an off-white ruffled front shirt with lace cuffs, a tattered brown ascot, olive green sneakers with, international distress orange laces and The hat…a scarlet colored felt beef eater style, oversized…with feathers.  There were peacock tail feathers, one bent up, like a thin, colorful check mark and bright yellow-orange flight feathers pointing…down.

Just before emerging from the Rorschach test of a bus, he opened the door and asked, “What’s the bus’ name?”  Why did I do that, she’s going to tell me…it’s going to have a name, I know it’s going to have a name.

“Donnenel.”  Came the answer.

“What’s a ‘Donnenel’?” Why am I doing this to myself? The Major thought.

“A very lazy elf, he was a mess.  Let me see what you look like, let me see.”

The Major began to make his way through the pile of last week’s laundry that was the back seat of the, ever so green, VW bus when a scream stopped him.  “What are those, WHAT ARE THOSE, THOSE THINGS?”

As only his left foot had managed to make itself visible at that time, “You mean my socks? These ARE your shoes.”  He didn’t remember Darcy having size 11 feet so they really might not be ‘her’ shoes.

Not willing to face that yell again, he removed the olive green sneakers and then the regulation military issue khaki socks and replaced the shoes, sans socks.

“Better, they ruin the look.”  She tugged at the tail of his coat, pulled a sleeve down just a hair and stepped back to admire her handy work, “Much much better.”  The Major just raised one eye brow, the left, just enough to be discernable as he gave her a look.

“How has your prep been going, what have you done?”  She asked as she stepped back a pace to view him again.

“I’ve been reading all of Anderson’s, spent a weekend in B&N in their children’s section looking at contemporary things, I think I was being taken for a pedophile, and I don’t know…I don’t really get it.  Storytelling.”

Darcy slowly lifted her violet eyes from a speck of lint on his lapel, her back straightened, her hands in fists, rested squarely on her hips as she spoke and from the tone of her voice, he had no doubt who was in command.  “Most people will tell you that there are five elements of storytelling.  The setting: where the story’s taking place.  The character:  This is whom the story is about.  Plot: what’s happening.  Backstory: what happened before and how did it contribute to the current situation.  Detail:  which specific things should your audience notice.

“That’s all well and good, but when you are telling a story, not reading it aloud, not reciting a thing you’ve rehearsed over and over ’til it’s perfect.  Storytelling is about taking your audience someplace else.  Your biggest problem is figuring how you’re going to get them there, Major.

“We’re here to write an article about you losing a competition, a competition that no one has won in 37 years, because no member of the judging panel has ever been taken left this field, no one has gone ‘somewhere else’ .  You’re going to tell a story…you may lose, BUT, know this; you’ll walk back to Mountain View if you just quit.

“There are your judges, four very ill tweens, six vets; who like you are wounded, their scars are on the outside and that smiling little girl, blind since birth.  So…show me what you got soldier and it better be your best.”

What have I got?  You want a story that has hope, courage and paints pictures in the mind, he thought to himself.

“That’s what storytellers do.  And you forgot heart, gotta have heart.”  The Major never noticed Darcy was responding to just his thoughts.

“Darcy”, speaking softly, almost a whisper, “Darcy I don’t know that I have any of that…not any.”

“You forget, Major you’re someone else, you’re the storyteller.  You’ve got every story that you’ve ever heard, every dream you’ve ever dreamed to draw on.  Wasn’t there a time that you wanted to, had to, tell someone something, something important, and a story was the best of all possible ways, the only way, to say it.  A story for a child, an elder, someone you loved, for someone who was loved?”

The Major knew that in his life there were only the five letters, letters to the families of the men that were with him, with him then, and their responses.  Those responses he had never opened.  Afraid to accept that his letters failed to tell the story well, tell who their sons and daughter were; to him, to each other, to so much more than their country.  Not knowing that without those replies, the story would never be complete.

“No, no never.”  His head turned to the side, looking off in the distance at…nothing.

“Well, you’re going to today.”

The lighthearted lilt returning to her voice, “You might think that Major Quickstep doesn’t have enough of that, but today, today you are Shaman, and that is your stock and trade.  I mean would the Major ever dress like that?  What’s your first name, and if you say ‘Major’ I will slap you.”

“Stephen, its Stephen P. Quickstep.”  Sounding like a boy in grade school responding to an inquiry from a teacher, head hung down and scuffling his feet.

“What’s the ‘P’ stand for?” she was back to adjusting his costume.

“Oh, nothing, just my grandfather’s idea of a joke.”

“Stephen, I am in journalism, or at least a journalism class, and neither ‘Nothing’ nor ‘Joke’ starts with a ‘P’.  Never mind.  Let me fix that hat.”

“It doesn’t fit, it keeps falling down over one ear, and the feathers tickle.”

“Yeah…and it is sooo cute.  Just work it into the story.”

“What…?”

The Major was called to the stage and walking up those two steps to the small platform, he was thinking; Hope… Courage… light and dark… how do I get them there? Heart…He glanced up…thirty seconds…crap.

Edith Waycott Vogt, “Mom” Vogt, maternal grandmother, domineering ruler of all clans

 

 

Shakespeare was a visionary; he looked into the future and saw a striking young woman. He named his character Kate.  The vision he saw was Edith Waycott, striking anyone and everyone, physically and verbally, that got in her way.

 

In an age when it was not proper for a young lady to pursue higher education, she earned degrees in German Literature, Physics and mastered the piano (solo concerts on two continents).  Being mildly unattractive and more accomplished than most men, she was not popular at parties (and didn’t really care).

 

Mom Vogt had many stories, all worthy of The Family Jewels, but I have selected one that took place in mid-1942 and is set in the Brooklyn Navy Shipyards, Mom was in her late 50’s and weighed about 115 lbs.  Her eldest son was serving in the Navy, her second son in the Army Air Corp and her teenage daughter was driving her insane.

 

The shipyard was staffed by men, women, giants and dwarves, who, for whatever “defect” were felt to be unfit for military service; and a large percentage were functionally illiterate.

 

Mom had always felt the illiteracy was intolerable in any circumstance; race, gender or station; and at this time, the government agreed with her.  The war effort was demanding much f our shipyards; building new ships, refitting commercial craft to military specs and repairing the vessels that had already engaged in action.

 

Welders, fitters, machinists and riggers walked through the ‘yard’s gates each day skilled in their trades but these new ‘yards needed workers that could do their respective jobs with less supervision, mobile enough to move from task to task, ship to ship, they had to be able to read instructions, instructions that might be unique for each job; measurements must be made within exacting tolerances; shipyards needed teachers.

 

Mom Vogt volunteered, she, like her students, wanted to do as much as she able; for the war effort and her students.

 

Her first day as teacher in this rag-tag school was quite memorable.  She entered the room assigned to her; her students had already arrived and were greeted to a hollow voice yelling for help.  The class sat quietly, hands folded in front of them and resting on cafeteria style tables.  Twenty-seven bodies and the roster listed twenty-eight, “Help, get me out of here you assholes.”  No one moved there was no reaction at all, “Get me out of here, hello…teacher, get me out.”

 

In the corner of the room was am industrial size garbage can, Mom walked toward it, the call for help got louder.  Lifting the lid and glancing inside saw a little person sitting inside.  He looked at her unsmiling face cupped his hands round his mouth and quietly let out a “Help, get me out.”  At this point the entire class, the little man included broke into laughter.

 

As the laughter began to subside, Mom pointed to a huge young man, “Get him out, now.”  She looked at the class, each and every face and knew that she was the teacher that had bullied, insulted, been bullied or just didn’t care in their lives, the reason they were here.

 

“Class is dismissed.  I want you here at 8:00 am tomorrow and everyone bring a phone book.”  She turned her back to the class, gathered her things together, pinned her hat in place and left.

 

By 8:00 the following morning there were twenty-two bodies sitting in front of Edith Waycott Vogt, she glanced up, jotted a line or two in a journal before stepping from behind her desk.  She saw three New York City phone books (even then they were impressive).  She pointed to the little man, formally of the garbage can, “Get the phone book from the pay phone in the hall.  There was something in her voice that didn’t invite the word “no” (I knew that tone all too well).

 

He returned with the massive missal, “Pick one.”  A book was selected; she picked it up, returned to her desk, turned and faced the class.  She tilted back her bottom resting on the edge of the desk coyly crossing her ankles and with a little smile, a twinkle in her eye she preceded, with little effort, to rip the phone book in two.

 

“We will begin with the alphabet…”

 

The three intact phone books remained on the tables for the rest of her classes.  Every day before or after class someone would try and fail to match the teacher heroic feat and her twenty-two class monitors never allowed any disruptions during class; and they were very, very glad she was on our side.

 

 

For those that doubt this phone book trick could be accomplished; Mom explained it to me (understand that she did have an octave and a half reach, big hands).  First you fan the pages as if to show that the book is real, the purpose is to create a minuet space between pages.  Second you grip the book with your hands about three inches apart.  Draw the hands closer together further separating the pages.  Finally, with a twisting motion you begin to tear the book, carefully, one page at a time.

I have seen this done by various strong man acts in several circus side shows and always with great staining and displays of triumph; but my Grandmother had the power. 

Emergency Responce Times

30 September 2017

Office of the Mayor, New Worldsville, State of Caution Her Honor, the Mayor, wishes to acknowledge the concerns of New Worldsville’s citizens regarding response times to emergency calls.  Mayor Weaver is confident that 911 calls being followed by 27 minute waits (on average) for police, fire and ambulances will soon be a thing of the past.

~

04 October 2017

Presented to the City Council receipt of delivery: 50 hood-mounted Laser Canons from Weaver Munitions Works, New Worldsville, State of Caution. Weaver Munitions Works factory technicians provided to install said canons on designated city vehicles,

~

07 October 2017

Directive to Chiefs of Fire and Police Departments, New Worldsville, from the Office of the Mayor.

Those vehicles that have been equipped with the new accessories will be the first deployed to any 911 emergency calls.  If in the course of responding to these calls, should any civilian vehicles not acknowledge proper right of way, use of their new equipment may be warranted and sanctioned.

~

12 October 2017

Notice from the Office of Ms. Darcy Weaver, Mayor, New Worldsville, State of Caution

Mayor Weaver is happy to announce at this time that in keeping with her promise of 30 September to the people of New Worldsville, emergency response times have been slashed to 4 minutes.

She is pleased, as well, to report that there are now over 14,000 employment opportunities available for those young people that survive to graduate from our fine centers of learning.

~

The mayor looks forward to the opportunity of serving you for another 4 years.

Drive courteously…and don’t forget to vote.