Thursday, November 30, 2006

We've lost the historian of the neighborhood, the elder statesman of the circle. Bob made the decision to have the doctor pull the plug, after 3 weeks in intensive care. He did not want to go on . He wasn't healing. His heart stopped once. They used paddles to shock him back. The doctor said,"if this happens again, do you want to be resuscitated?" Bob said no.
Bob asked the doctor to remove the tube. There was time for the family to gather around him and say goodbye. He lasted about 20 minutes.

My across the street neighbor was a good friend of my husband to be. When I married my second husband, Bob attended the wedding. They had a bantering type of friendship. Bob Hurd called my Bob Willings, cheap. My Bob was across the street in the Hurd house, looking for a type of screw or washer. My neighbor had jars and jars of them.. Both houses were piled high with parts and machines...all needing just one repair to get them running again. The repair projects were on-going.

The first time I was in my fiance's house, the kitchen table was piled high with car parts. The first time I was in my neighbor's house, his kitchen table was also piled high...with groceries and stuff.

Some people just stand out by virtue of their personality. They earn the respect of others. Bob Hurd was one of those. His name was really Donald Robert...initials are dr. He was teased as "Dr. Hurd". He was one of the smartest persons I ever met. I once told him that He was way underpaid for the experimental engineering He did for a living. He did not have an engineering degree.. He instinctively knew how machines worked and what was needed to make them work better, faster or more efficient. Bob repaired things for me and for any one that needed help. He could repair his car, tractor, lawn mower, outboard motor. All those machines are mysteries to me.

While tinkering on this project or that one, my neighbor told me stories of the people who live on the circle. He spoke of Milford as it was when He was a boy. He spoke of pets long deceased, fields now with houses on them. Life in the depression, building his house with his own two hands. I heard of his boyhood adventures...cutting a path through the woods full of poison ivy. sneaking cigarettes that his mother always knew He had. I learned that I own the fence in my backyard. My father in law had it put in. Bob watched him do it. I thought it belonged to my neighbor across the fence.

I learned of the quarrel with a neighbor over chickens getting loose and eating the neighbor's garden. The sneaky dog who crept up behind you and bit you on the heels. Bob cured him by smacking him with a board. His own dog would hear Bob's car driving down the street. The dog would come to the door before Bob drove into the driveway. Bob decided to test to see if this was true. He turned off the motor to coast into the driveway . By turning off the engine, He had lost power steering. He nearly drove into the porch. I heard of tall trees that Bob climbed and looked into birds nests, three stories about the ground. ...stories of helping his brother Jim on St. Croix...stories concerning his skill with a gun and at times, using them.

My husband did not last long. He died the same summer We were married. There was so much to do, so much undone. I drove into the driveway on Park Circle and saw that my lawn had been cut. Bob knew I had a lot to do. He brought his lawn tractor over and cut my grass. In the winter, there was Bob with a snow blower...guiding it down the street to clear every one's sidewalk. I wasn't special. Bob helped everyone. He explained that since He got the snow blower up and running, He might just as well continue down the sidewalk.

My neighbor always had a garden. I have one, too. We became gardening buddies. I treasure memories of discussions of how our tomatoes are growing, the continuing squirrel problem...and especially the art and science of making good mulch. He saw an ad in a gardening magazine for a tumble barrel to make mulch. If We each bought one, there would only be one delivery charge. We each bought a tumble barrel. When they came, they were in kit form. Bob put both of them together. I know that he enjoyed putting things together. From then on, it was MULCH WARS. Who could make a batch of mulch in the shortest period of time? Bob always won. His mulch looked dark brown and of a good consistency. Mine was still grass and leaves. Bob would cut the neighbor's lawns and rake up the grass clippings. I learned that my neighbor would put his clippings through a shredder to break them down faster. It made beautiful mulch. He would grow vegetables and flowers just to give them away. When at his house, I would be handed a flower or a pepper. He would insist that I try a pear warm from the sun and just picked off the tree.

Bob loved to go to Ocean State Job Lot. That store sells off batches of all sorts of things. If you don't buy what you see and want today, you won't get it. It will be sold out tomorrow. Most of the items were cheap. Bob would buy several of a good find. He'd give the extras away to people who He thought would like it. I am the recipient of a bulb planter, hand pruner and rake...and lots of jams and jellies.

Bob had a little red Nissan truck. If you needed anything moved, Bob would be there. I had inherited a run down house in Orange that was filled with junk. In order to renovate the house, the contents had to be removed. Bob was there, helping me clear out the house. There was a scaffold in the yard that my husband had used when He put new siding on the house. It belonged to my neighbor. We packed it up and returned it to his yard on Park Circle. I grew very respectful of the way Bob Hurd tied things down in the truck. He must have used some scientific theory about shifting objects. It took him a half hour to tie the truck down for the move back to Milford. Nothing moved. He did an amazing job of tying down. Bob knew about knots.

The same skill was demonstrated when I bought my own truck. My grandson, Chris was moving from Milford to Raleigh North Carolina. Chris had taken all He could in his own car, but there was a lot of his possessions still at my house. I decided to drive the load to Raleigh. I am bringing boxes out of the house. From across the street, comes my neighbor. I am packing all wrong. Bob takes over. He does the most amazing job of packing and tying. His son, Bob, also helps. The entire six foot bed of my truck is filled with boxes, including a double bed mattress and box spring. Over the top, Bob ties a tarpaulin. Everything is right. Nothing shifts. I make the trip without use of my rear view mirror as the load covers the rear view window. Bob turned tying down into an art form.

There is a kitchen at New Haven Friend's Meeting. The knives there, are very dull. It is frustrating to prepare food in that kitchen because the knives don't cut. I ask Bob if He would sharpen the knives. I remember my neighbor saying that He was particular about sharp knives . He hated to see anyone using a knife on a plate. Of course He would sharpen the knives. I brought them over to his house. We started out in the basement. Bob pressed the knives to a series of grinders...finer and finer. We ended up in the attic where the knives were polished on a wheel with jewelers rouge. When He was finished, I had the sharpest and prettiest knives! This project was accompanied by stories of the knife He bought His mother when He was little, how handy the knife in his pocket is, and a story of a knife He made. Later, He sharpened some of my knives and gave me a whetting stone ...accompanied by a lesson on how to use it. I keep my knives sharp and think of Bob.

One activity that was a life long interest of my neighbor ,was fishing. He watched the water temperature, drove to the bridge on Buckingham and checked to see if the other fisherman were catching anything. I wanted to learn to fish, too. His son, Bob and I took fishing lessons together. I learned about the different type of rods and reels, what the laws were, need for a license in fresh water and how to tie the filament on. Then the time for fishing came. Would I like to fish with him? yes of course I would. We went to the bridge. Bob handed me his extra rod and reel. I cast. The line went up and over the power lines overhead. I was a lousy fisherman. Bob caught a little snapper. It had a parasite attached to its gills. Disgusting. Bob pulled the parasite off and put the fish in his bucket. The little fish was bleeding. I felt sorry for it. A girlfriend comes by and stops to talk. At the base of the bridge, a beautiful blue crab is basking in the shallows. Another fisherman and his son, climb down the bank and scoop up the crab. Carol knows what they are about to do. She scolds them, telling them that they are not hungry. Leave the crab alone. The two men ignore us. They leave. Carol is still ranting about ecology and nature. Bob rolls his eyes. He eats things that He has shot or trapped or caught on a fishing line. Later, Bob teaches me to bread and to fry snapper blues.

Bob's constant companion was a little black cat. When it died, He got another little black cat named Magic. Magic was a kitten born into the Erwin's house...a household on the corner. Magic spent his kitten hood in a box upstairs with his litter mates. Tina Erwin kept the light on for them. Magic developed a fear of the dark. Magic was Bob's "dog". He followed Bob around the neighborhood like a loyal puppy. When Bob came to my house, Magic came too. Magic wanted to explore my house, but my dog, Rascal, wouldn't let him. From that time on, Rascal barked at Magic. I was at Bob's door one day with Rascal on a leash. True to form, Magic was at Bob's heels. Rascal thought I was going into the house, so she started for the door. Both Bob and I warned Rascal that the house was Magic's territory. Magic took a swat at Rascal's nose. Rascal got the message.

When Bob went into the hospital, all the neighbor's wanted to do something to help, to say thank you for Bob's help and friendship toward others. Spencer Hoyt replaced the broken pane of glass in the storm door. Charlie and Neil helped Bob into my truck. Tina Rourke came to the house at least three times a day to feed Magic, change his litter box, let him in and out. Tina cleaned Bob's floors and counter tops. She put things away, as best she could discover his storage system. We expected Bob to come home from the hospital. Neil came back and cleared the leaves from Bob's lawn. The people at Maxines asked every day how Bob was faring. Bill Hunt, too ill himself to come out, called me several times to learn how Bob was doing.

Jesus said,"In my house, are many mansions." There is a new mansion in heaven with a beautiful garden. Cats and dogs play on the lawn. There are boats for boating, fishing poles for fishing, and all projects are finished.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A few weeks ago, my neighbor called me. He hadn't slept very well for several nights. When He lies down, He has trouble breathing. Could I give him a ride to the veteran's hospital? Of course. We drive to the hospital. Bob sees the triage desk and his records come up. I park the car while Bob sees a nurse. While waiting in the waiting room, I marvel at the computer system. No matter where Bob is, there is a terminal that can pull up his records. He could be in the emergency room, at the doctor's office, in physical therapy...where ever He went in the VA complex, his records were at hand.

The nurse examined him and told him to come back the next day when the doctor was in. I drove my neighbor home. The next day, Bob drove himself to the VA. I don't know what happened, as I wasn't there.

A few days pass. Then, my phone rings. The voice is so distorted, I can hardly make out who it is. Bob is really ill. He needs to go back to the VA. I quickly get ready and park my truck in front of his house, expecting that he will come out shortly. He's sitting on the porch, with not enough strength to get up and walk to the truck. Neighbor says He's letting his cat in before he goes to the VA. Cat goes in the house. Bob follows. I wait. No Bob. I turn off the truck and walk inside his house. He is hanging over the sink, to catch his breath. I ask if He needs assistance to get into the truck. He says, "no". Bull. Next door, the neighbors are sitting down to breakfast. Father and son follow me to Bob's house. They help him out of the kitchen to the porch. Bob has to sit down to catch his breath. After a rest, He is assisted to the truck.

At the emergency entrance, Bob needs a wheelchair . Wheelchair provided. I wheel him to the triage desk. He is exhausted. Medical people move him to the emergency room. I wait. After a time, the doctor allows me in to see my neighbor. He is hooked up to a machine that puts vapor in his lungs. He wears a cone over his nose and mouth. Laborious breathing. Bob has sensors on his chest, monitoring his heart. He looks like a Buddha...fat belly...and like a bug with antennae coming from his chest. Couldn't help it. I laughed at him....bug image made me do it. It turns out that was the correct response, better than doom and gloom concern.

Bob gives me the phone number of his x-wife, the keys to the house. I will inform the family where Bob is, through his wife, Dee. The keys go to my tenant, Tina, who will look after Bob's cat, Magic.

My neighbor is seriously ill, but I think He will come home...this time. He is getting slowly better. He has pneumonia. A tube runs into his lungs. Antibiotics and vapor. Once his heart stopped. They had to use the paddles to bring him back to life. The doctor asked Bob, if it happens again, do you want us to resuscitate you? Bob answers, "no". He is 86 years old, quite a character.

This man has inserted himself into my life. We garden together, fight squirrels together, exchange Christmas gifts. I visited his family in St. Croix and had a wonderful vacation. Same St. Croix family used my house when they were in Milford. Bob has started his snow blower and cleared off his driveway and sidewalk. Then He continues down the street and does every body's sidewalk. He said that since the snow blower is started, He might just as well do the whole street. He is nice to everyone. I meet Bob at Maxine's sometimes, for breakfast. We're "regulars". Bob was a good friend of my husband, Bob Willings. My neighbor tells me stories of what life was like at my Park Circle house before I met my husband. I feel the history of the house. I feel I know my father-in-law and mother-in-law, even though I never met them. I heard their stories.

It seems I am not special. Neighbor does things for everyone in the neighborhood. At first I thought He was a little too nosy about my business. Then I saw that He was just interacting in a friendly way with everyone.

When Bob went to intensive care, the neighborhood responded. Tina went 3 times a day to take care of his cat. I helped Tina clean Bob's kitchen. It was a mess when He left. Family from out of state came. We turned down the heat and cancelled the newspaper, to save Bob some money. The son from next door, came with a blower, and clean the leaves from Bob's lawn and driveway. Cards came in. If there was anything that someone could do, they did it. Bob is a member of the greatest war two. Get well, good neighbor.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh Thanksgiving. We're not a Norman Rockwell family. I wish We were, but We deal with what We've been given...and the baggage We've added to it, baggage others have burdened us with...and our efforts to straighten ourselves out and others in our straighten up and be emotionally and socially healthy.

Andy came back three weeks after He left. It seems He didn't go to North Carolina. He stayed in a local motel and spent the $3,000 I saved for him out of his social security disability checks. He slept at the motel and ate out in restaurants. It doesn't take long to spend money, living like that.

I opened the kitchen door to let Rascal out and found Andy sleeping on my porch. It was freezing cold. He slept in his coat. "Good morning." says Andy. He was broke and homeless. I could not turn him out. He came back in....foolish man that doesn't plan ahead. Andy stays with me all October.

OK, Andy. You can stay until your next check comes. Then you have to go. A month goes by. Social Security notifies Andy that they've over paid him. They're withholding a check to recoup the over payment. Andy has no money to live on for the month of November. Bad timing: the next check comes a day before Thanksgiving. I feel guilty. I am turning my grandson out the day before Thanksgiving.

The November check comes and Andy is agitated. He lashes out at me, refuses to pack anything. He has made no reservations in North Carolina. Andy has no plans. He is heading for a disaster. I offer to drive him to the bus stop. I said that I will cash his check for him and hold the money until He is at the bus stop and his ticket is purchased. Andy gets very angry and lashes out at me. He refuses my help. He snatches the check from my hand and announces that He will cash his own check at Western Union...and He will stay the night at the motel, getting on the bus in the morning. Oh No! This is the same pattern He exhibited in September. He'll spend all the money and turn up on my doorstep. I am very upset because I can't reach him. There is no reasoning .

The Harolds had invited me and my 3 grandsons to Thanksgiving dinner. I call Judy and explain that We have a crisis. There will be a family meeting on Thanksgiving morning to discuss several issues...including how to help Andy. Judy is having people sit down at noon because several families are coming from out of state. They want to get on the road early. I understand. Judy invites us to come later, for dessert and drinks.

Thanksgiving morning: Chris and Stephen arrive. We discuss changing their living arrangements. We are all upset about Andy's determined rush toward disaster. We all can see him , homeless and hungry, perhaps living under a bridge...or a victim of crime.

Thinking about Andy overnight, I have two suggestions to my grandsons: Visit Andy at the motel, bring him home, help him pack what He needs and drive him to the bus stop. The other suggestion is to propose that Andy move in with his brothers...on conditions...He take his medication and cooperate with the household. I all ready know that Andy won't do any such thing.

Chris and Stephen go into Andy's room and talk to him. I sit in the car and watch the rain. My feet are getting cold. They're in there a long time, but eventually all three come out. Andy has agreed to eat a Thanksgiving dinner with us. Judy has served several hours ago. We go to the diner next door...about the only thing open today. Andy orders lobster and steak.

While we're eating, Stephen is talking to Andy about the proposed rooming plan. Andy agrees. He needs to renew his prescription. He agrees to go to Milford Hospital to see the psychiatrist on get his meds. (our fingers are crossed). Stephen gives Andy a cigarette. They smoke outside the diner while Chris gets the car. Andy walks toward the car, then stops. He has changed his mind. He's going back to the motel to stay another night. He says He'll take the bus in the morning. We have lost the fight.

Chris and Stephen and I drive home to Park Circle. Andy is definitely a danger to himself. Seeing no other option, Stephen picks up the phone and calls our local mental health clinic. They tell Stephen to call 911. Stephen talks to the Police about Andy. We meet the Police at the motel. Stephen and I are interviewed. (Chris is sleeping on the couch.) Stephen signs a written complaint. The Police arrest Andy.. involuntary commitment. They take him to Milford Hospital for safe keeping.

From there, Andy goes to Yale Psychiatric Hospital for treatment, rest and lots of food. Andy is rail thin from not eating. If We're lucky, the social worker will find a bed for my grandson in a group home. This is a Thanksgiving I will remember.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

ABC, Good Morning America, has advertised that they will be presenting a feature called the New Seven Wonders of the World. It starts tomorrow. This makes me very curious: what are the 7 wonders? I wonder.
Sitting down with pen and paper, I soon had a list that split into two: One list was natural wonders. The second list was of man made wonders. Both lists soon went beyond the number 7. This is my list. Feel free to let me know what you would add to the list.
1. The Hubbel telescope and its successor
2. Particle accelerator in Switzerland
3. Satellite communication ...and spy network
4. Pyramid
5. transplants
6. The genome map
7. Computers and the world wide web
8. Digital technology
9. Micro-chips
10. the 5 floating bridges
11. Great wall of China
12. Old city: Lamu Island, Kenya . It was built in the 12th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site
13. Thailand's ruins of Sukhothai, built in 1238
14. Our ability to split the atom, create power to help and also to destroy.

1. Victoria Fall, Africa
2. Grand Canyon, USA
3. Great Barrier reef, Australia
4. Redwoods, California
5. Great Lakes and Niagara Falls, USA
6. Galapagos Island, off Chile
7. Antarctica ice
8. Lake Baikal, Siberia 7,000 feet deep, the deepest lake in the world

Can you think of anything else?

Post Script: GMA choices: The tibetan Temple, Potala, in Lasa ; Old city - Jerusalem; the artic ice caps; North West Hawaiian Marine Monument; the internet; Mayan cities; and lastly-the great animal migration across the plains of Africa.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's election day and I voted the first thing in the morning. Now those irritating political ads will cease...because it's election day. Our governor is doing a good job, so I voted for her. I hope she gets a second term. I voted for a few people that are local. They're running on the state level. I know them and I know they will do a good job.
However, about the federal elections: the power grab and the inhumanity associated with PACS funding our legislators just turns my stomach. Our elected officials are hypocrites beholden to the PACS and not to the people in their district. (PACS are political action committees). I voted all green party on the federal level. My candidates may not get in, but at least my votes are part of a statistical picture. The environment and environmental issues count. I'm thinking of changing my registration from Republican to the Green Party. The only drawback is I won't be able to vote in Republican primaries. Is this better? Or worse?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Written by Frank Kaiser of "Suddenly Senior". He wrote it so well, and speaks for my generation, that I am repeating it here in my blog.
I'm a member of the Silent Generation. A charter member, really, so dubbed by Tom Watson, Jr., then-president of IBM, when he admonished my DePauw University graduating class of 1957 to "speak out, take chances, and be daring."
Life Magazine picked up Watson's sobriquet and, because it was so right on, the term stuck.
Today 49 million of us - born too young to have struggled through the Depression or fight in World War 2, and too old to ally ourselves with the free-spirited '60s - are sandwiched between the much larger GI "Greatest" Generation (63 million) and the Boomers (79 million).
We Silents were considered bush-league. Politicians and advertisers trivialized us like some cosmic flatulence that loomed when no one was looking. Our war was Korea. Who's heard of that? Our generation didn't even rate a US president.
Though you couldn't prove it by me, we are credited with starting the sexual revolution. (In the 1960s, anthropologists say, it simply became publicly respectable to talk about it.) We're also the folks who brought the world incomparable national wealth and unimaginable progress in technology and science.
We even produced a few activists - Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Betty Friedan, and Ralph Nader come to mind.
But most of us went directly from school to risk-averse work and marriage without ever waking our human spirit and inviting it out to play
Conformity was success. Author William Manchester observed that we were "withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous and silent." Even as teens, few of us ever rebelled, a common rite of passage for other generations.
In part, it was economic fear. The taste of financial hardship still lingered from our childhoods. (To this day, I won't eat tongue, our family's only meat dish for years.)
Postwar prosperity promised economic security. Those of us lucky enough to get jobs with MaBell, Sears, IBM, and other enlightened employers of the era buried our fear under profit sharing, lifelong job security, fair annual raises, and retirement plans. All they asked in return was not to rock the boat.
And part was political fear.
The assault on America's political liberty by the witch-hunting House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in tandem with Senator Joseph McCarthy's unscrupulous inquisitions scared the hell our of us. McCarthy whipped up anti-communist sentiment to such fervor that it was dangerous to express an opinion anywhere about anything.
Fearing future retribution, I chose not to join a college political club. Who knew? People were going to jail for beliefs and affiliations held 20 or 30 years earlier. Free speech appeared doomed. And many of our elders, including world-be employers, considered the junior senator from Wisconsin a hero of the century.
We became apolitical. Safe. Silent. And boring.
But life was good. We were Organization Men in our grey Flannel Suits. We did as asked, show up on time, and never questioned authority. It was all so easy. Our mothers had taught us well.
Now, as we hit our 70s and beyond, many of us Silents are panicking. We were going along, and getting along, doing that which was expected, when BAM! Lightening-like, we realized that we only go around once and we'd better start living life on our own terms. Today, in our autumn, we are following our bliss. At last!
Redefining retirement, a judge I know is now handcrafting beautiful wooden chests. An ad guy I worked with treks the world, paying his way with the occasional travel article. Another sails the globe. Alone. Yet another, now in her mid 60s, is in medical school. We've finally reached the teenage rebellion stage!
We've survived more changes than the earth normally sees in millennium. Don't believe it? Try explaining to a 20-something what life was like in the pre-TV 1950s.
Today we dare to be truly alive, to reach for our potential and grasp a world of realization and fulfillment, of spirituality and serenity that we never knew possible. And all on our own terms.
This may be our generation's greatest achievement.

And these are my words: Mr. Kaiser speaks for me and all the friends I grew up with. I like my conservative formality. It kept me from making a fool of myself. It had me saving my money and working hard. But times have changed. I've done my duty...gone to work...raised my family...cared for the sick...volunteered in my community. I've told my family, and I mean it, that I am reserving the rest of my life to pursue my own interests. If there is a problem, I tell children and grandchildren to go solve it themselves. You can find me in the garden, in the pool, on an airplane or in a museum. I may be barefoot, wearing roller skates or tap shoes. I am busy enjoying life.