Wednesday, November 26

"Beyond The Point Of No Return..."

There comes a time in every person's life when the tide ebbs towards the horizon, but fails to come back complete. This has become a truism for my wife's Mother.

These past dozen days have been difficult for our family. Judi's 87 year old Mother crossed an anticipated, but dreaded threshold this past Friday...she can no longer take care of herself. Since we have arrived home from our recent trip north, Judi's Mom, Francis, has been telephoning Judi...sounding as though she was on death's door and complaining that she couldn't get herself out of bed to go to the bathroom. Judi, being the dutiful and faithful daughter, would drop whatever she was engaged in and drive the 10 minutes to her condo to assist "Mother." This regular routine became more lengthy in time requirements and disruptive to our day-to-day lives. But Judi hoped (and prayed) that her Mom would begin to regain sufficient strength so that she could again manage on her own.

On Friday, Judi asked if I would accompany her, "in case I am unable to go myself some times in the future." What I found was a woman almost completely incapacitated...unable to raise herself out of bed without our help and too unsteady on her feet to remain upright even to take a few halting steps. As much as it pained me to speak what I observed to be truth, I told Judi that unless we got her Mother immediate medical attention, we would one day very soon find her deceased. Long story short, "Mother" was transported to a local hospital by ambulance, where she remained for five days and was immediately treated for dehydration and undernourishment. The poor woman was not eating any of the food prepared for her, but was subsisting on bottle after bottle of Ensure. An accompany diagnosis confirmed what I had been declaring for weeks, her dementia and Alzheimer's had advanced to the degree where she was no longer capable of caring for herself.

Yesterday Judi's Mom was admitted to a local rehabilitation center where she will remain for a minimum of two weeks, perhaps longer...then she will be transferred permanently to a skilled nursing home. It was and is the right decision. There is, however, some mixed emotions regarding this turn of events...first the relief that she is now in the caring hands of professionals who will look after her every need, but a sadness that once were far happier times can never be again. Today will mark the first time that "Mother" will not be joining us for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

A page has been turned. At bottom we are thankful, but understandably not joyously so. Another example of life requiring adjustments...some more trying and emotionally painful than others. She and we shall made them and persevere. One day at a time and this day I wish all who this way come embrace your loved ones and give thanks. Too soon they slip away. God bless.

Tuesday, November 11

"Well, I Thought It Was Funny..."

It is a regular occurrence with me. I observe or hear something I think is funny and I am unable to restrain myself from making some comment, too often much to the chagrin of my dear wife, who thinks the verbalized observance on my part is either "too loud," or at worse "too loud and totally inappropriate." She is usually right...but I do it anyway.

After church this past Sunday we decided that since there was nothing in the refrigerator but cobwebs perhaps we should grab a quick bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before returning home. Judi selected the Winghouse, a sports bar/eatery that has 2,912 televisions lining the walls, all tuned into the various on air sporting events, none of which can be heard due to the incessant beat of the throbbing rock music blaring from an equal number of stereo speakers. Throw in a couple dozen rabid sports fans, rooting at a fever pitch for their respective teams, and one quickly understands that quiet conversation is out of the question.

Upon reaching the entrance we were greeted by a young lady who obviously came through puberty with flying colors and, to her credit, cheerfully greeted us as though she'd been waiting at that door all night long for our arrival. "Hi! Would you like a table?" There instantly was my opportunity for a impromptu remark. "I'd like a bar stool, but if they have all been given away, why yes, I'll take a table. Do you gift wrap?" Even Judi thought that was funny. However, the hostess, whose still developing brain hadn't apparently caught up with her very mature body, failed to make the leap of synapse, and with that unmistakable quizzical look on her face said, "Let me show you your table." I let it go.

Upon directing us to our table, situated directly right under two of the television sets that were impossible to view from our vantage point, she yelled "Your waitress will be with you shortly." Right on cue came another twenty-something beauty whose outfit consisted of a pair of shiny black short-short pants that would give Hugh Hefner a cardiac infarction and a top that was so low cut that one could almost see Brazil. "Hi! I'm Darla and I'll be waiting on your table today." My cue. "Waiting for it to do what?" Another quizzical stare...she probably being the twin sister of the hostess. Undaunted, her jiggly enthusiasm (and I mean that literally) gives new meaning to the word effervescent, as her every spoken word was punctuated by gyrations of her entire body. When we finally gave her our food order, one would think she had just won the lottery.

If you have seen the commercial with the toddler boy who is sitting at his computer's keyboard and touting how much money he has made trading stock, so much so that he spent some of his profits on renting a clown: "BoBo, there," you would appreciate how I, like him, had "underestimated the creepiness" of the situation. If there are indeed outer space aliens who wish to find a location wherein to easily invade the minds of we human inhabitants, I cannot recommend a better place than this particular Winghouse. If there is a shred of intelligent life in the place, it escaped me.

Come quick, my little space buddies. I can use an extra table for my home. Check Spelling

"Awake Horacio...Awake!!"

This gentleman is Norman H. McColl, Jr., otherwise know fondly as "Buddy" to his many friends and equally impressive list of anxious creditors. Judi and I were privileged to spend an evening and part of a day in Buddy's and his wife's Jeanene's company in Statesville, N.C. as part of our recently completed three week trip to northern climes. Buddy has been my lifelong friend since I was 8 years old...his Mother and Dad - "Mom & Pop McColl" - having kept my younger brother and me after we disembarked from the school bus in front of their home until our Mother could, after her work day was complete, come to pick us up. My beloved Pop McColl has been deceased for a number of years, but Mom McColl is still living in the old home place and is as feisty, as jovial, and as loving as ever.

Buddy is four years my senior. He looks like he is 20 years my junior. I suppose this is somehow God's intended retribution for my having mentally tormented him while I evolved from early childhood to "know-it-all" teenager. Buddy and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on various topics of mutual interest and concern. But his friendship (and his love) is too important to me to allow basically minute differences of ideologies to mar or deflate a friendship that I hold as dear as any earthly treasure. Nonetheless, I still think that God likes Buddy better than me...if one considers that his hair is only now beginning to show the slightest hint of gray. Tell me that God doesn't have a sense of humor.

In the picture Buddy is standing beside the newly erected memorial signage commemorating where Scotts School once stood. Before the days of rapid influx of population to this part of rural North Carolina, Scotts was a school that educated the children of the surrounding community from first through the twelfth grade. Buddy graduated from Scotts. I, on the other hand, was commandeered by my parents, against my vehement protests, to relocate prior to my sophomore year in high school to Winston-Salem, N.C. Our school's adopted mascot was the Panthers. Prior to the turbulent, revolutionary 60's, it was okay to be a "black panther," and we were so proudly. Buddy and I were in the school's marching band. He and I both played the trumpet...I much better than he...and don't let him convince you otherwise.

Buddy assists his beautiful wife in her real estate business. But because - unless you've been living under a rock this past year - it is obvious that real estate is not exactly a booming enterprise, Buddy is also working at a local Statesville radio station selling on air advertising. We talked about the local and national state of the economies, as well as the up-coming Presidential election. We talked for a long time until it was well past good folks to call it a night. Buddy and Jeanene were gracious to permit Judi and I to spend the night in their bed. We considered this offer to be quite the extraordinary act of hospitality until we heard their story regarding their unrelenting quest to find the perfect mattress on which for them to receive a consistent restful sleep.

It seems that in the few short years since they have been married, neither he nor Jeanene could find and agree upon the right mattress. According to them, they have tried and discarded eight different combinations of mattresses. The latest iteration is a composite of two different box springs and mattresses...Buddy's a different combination on his side than one the side occupied by his bride. According to them, the jury is still out as to whether or not this attempt shall be approvingly judged as acceptable over the long haul. Judi and I slept fine. We both prefer a very firm mattress and we determined, as far as we could discern, both sides of the bed measured up to our usual requirements.

Upon waking the following morning, Judi and I decided that Buddy's and Jeanene's mattress plight was just too funny not to add to this growing legend. So, while remaking the bed we decided to add yet one more layer of potential discomfort to their professed misery. Under each side of the mattress we inserted one peanut shell replete with peanuts in tact, and a note hoping that the nights to follow would be of blessed repose. Unless they have heretofore discovered the little mementos of our stay, they, having read this post, will only now find the source of their on-going sleepless discomfort.

Serves you right for looking like a 40 year old. Sleep well our forever fond friends.

Sunday, November 9

"Georgia Peach (?)"

As promised, I couldn't let pass the necessity to correct 95% of the unauthorized comments my blogging buddy "Coffeypot" made in his October 20th post regarding my recent two-day Atlanta visitation in his company. I say 95% because he did nail the undeniable fact that my bride, Judi, is indeed "beautiful" and, if I must be bluntly honest, has been my "long suffering" wife for lo these last 25 years. And, "okay," he did sort of "babysit" me for the better part of a Saturday and Sunday as Judi was engaged in an educational seminar. Thanks John. Had you not accepted my self-invitation to spend time in your company no telling what type of devious mischief I would have subjected myself to being left along for two days in Atlanta.

The good looking fellow on the left in the picture above is yours truly, and the fellow towering above me on my left wearing the Tampa Bay Rays baseball cap (He stole that cap, by the way) is John "Coffeypot" Coffey. We had just descended from the top of Kennesaw Mountain, the site of the first major Civil War battle in the Atlanta Campaign wherein General Joesph E. Johnson's Confederate Army was entrenched in a desperate attempt to prevent the Union Army under the command of Major General William T. Sherman from moving unimpeded to Atlanta to the south. History records that approximately 4,000 causalities were suffered on both sides, the majority being inflicted upon the Union Army. History also records that Sherman's overwhelming numbers allowed him to outflank Johnson's position and continue the relentless pursuit of his goal to capture and decimate the heart of the Confederacy, Atlanta. "Coffeypot" was so caring in his concern for my physical well being, I having just recently recovered from heart surgery, that he constantly inquired as to how I was feeling and assuring me that "If you keel over from a heart attack either going up or coming down from the mountain, I'll be damned if I'm carrying your sorry ass out!" What a guy.

As "Coffeypot" did an admirable job in his blog of detailing all of the other locations and points of historical interest that he was so kind in taking the time to share with me, I'll not again revisit that portion of our travelogue. I was, however, privileged to meet his lovely home where I was introduced to his equally beautiful wife and his two delightful grandchildren, all three of which he rightfully and pridefully adores. I do wish to say that the two days I spent in Coffeypot's company were perhaps the most enjoyable out of the three weeks that Judi and I spent on our extended vacation. John says that we are "like peas in a pod." I couldn't agree more. John is a man who I came to admire from reading his blog and became even more a fan of this person of great character and conviction while in his attentive company. He'll no doubt downplay these accolades, but beneath his gruff and don't give a crap facade beats the heart of true American patriot, whose ideals and values are to be readily admired and emulated. Because I am indeed a "Christian" I suppose John found it necessary to watch his language. He need not have done so. I am not that thin-skinned or easily offended. Neither am I put off that he is a proclaimed agnostic. In times of mortal combat it is said that there are no atheist in a foxhole. Were I to find myself in such a life and death situation, I would be honored and far better assured to have a man such as John Coffey by my side.

So, yes I am grateful for the opportunity I had to meet "Coffeypot" up close and personal, to take full advantage of his self-proclaimed Sitting & Touring Company. It is my ardent hope that John and I will again in the future have additional opportunities to spend time together. Perhaps he'll travel here to St. Petersburg. I have numerous points of interest that I believe John would find most illuminating. An alligator infested pond just around the corner comes to mind.

P.S. I want my baseball cap back!!

"Congratulations. Now Don't Screw Up!"

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." So spoke Sir Winston Churchill as the tide of World War II began to turn in steady favor of the Allied forces. Sir Winton's words, I believe, are prophetic at this monumental crossroads in our nation's history. America has elected to the highest office in the land a man of color to become our nation's 44th President. At base this is an accomplishment for which the nation as a whole should take no small measure of pride, having transversed through generational pangs of lingering racial prejudice to this historic juncture wherein the color of the man's skin was considered a far lesser factor in his electability than was the perceived content of his character.

The nation's media outlets are touting President-elect Obama's margin of victory in the electoral vote as a decisive mandate to underscore his campaign rhetoric of "change." The popular vote would suggest otherwise, Obama collecting in his column of victory just slightly above 52% to Senator McCain's 46%. Hardly to be considered a landslide of over-whelming blanket support for his candidacy.

President-elect Obama would do well to bear in mind as he prepares to lead our nation embroiled in the midst of economic turmoil that the greatest majority of the 56,126,680 Americans who cast their vote for the opposing candidate still hold steadfastly to the unwavering fundamental principles of limited government, a restrained judiciary, fiscal discipline, and traditional values. To quote a recent political pundit who analyzed the exit polling, "The messageto politicians seems quite clear. Voters remain conservative on social issues and strongly support protecting marriage and traditional family." Post election polls revealed more voters identified themselves as being conservative than did they identify themselves as either Democrat or Republican. In other words, regardless of their political party affiliation, far more voters are conservative than liberal.

America is indeed ready of "change," but the undercurrent of hoped for and anticipated change that Barack Obama has been promising reaches little deeper in the average American's mind than the economic recovery and renewed prosperity of their individual pocketbooks. To further weaken the traditional values of our nation's moral fiber will be regarded with disdain and revolt. I wish President-elect Obama much success as he sets forth to right the currently down turned fortunes of our nation. But I, like the 56 million-plus fellow Americans that cast their vote for his opposition candidate, I will be watching very closely that he and his yet to be formulated administration do not drift too far to the left of center. His failing to recognize and pay concerted homage to the well entrenched conservative base of our nation may well find his January 20th inauguration date marked not as the end of his new beginning, but the beginning of his end come 2012.

Friday, November 7

"We're Back..."

After transversing 3,373 miles through nine states in three weeks, where Judi and I visited old and dear friends and distant family and relatives, witnessed two college football games (USF lost both to the universities of Louisville and Cincinnati respectively), watched in different parts of the country our beloved American League home town Rays baseball team come out on the short end of the World Series, Trick & Treated with our 6 and 8 year old granddaughters, were delighted witnesses to our son Christopher's marriage to his new bride Jennifer, sat patiently before the television waiting the final defining results as American at long last finally elected its 44th President-elect, and experienced some of the most breathtaking scenery made so by blankets of rioting fall foliage, we are now safe and sound back in good ole St. Petersburg, Florida. We're glad to be home.

A couple hundred photographs were taken to document our travels and experiences, a small sampling of which I will begin to share to highlight places and folks that have proven to be worthy subject matter for up-coming posts. I wish to pay special homage to my new friend John "Coffeypot" Coffey who, in his misguided description of our two day sight-seeing excursion around historic Atlanta, suggested that he was merely serving as a "baby-sitter" on Judi's behalf as she attended a three day seminar. The man has a great sense of history, but very little regard for the truth. I will also compose a post to honor my oldest and dearest friend, Norman "Buddy" McColl, in whose martial bed we spent one restful night and were regaled with a explanation as to why he and his wife Jeanene have yet, after eight different attempts, to settle on a mattress that they both can tolerate. (There is a special surprise waiting for them that will only be revealed when I compose my post about them). And for sure I want to share a few words about my dear 80 year old Mother, a genteel southern lady who defines the term. Hopefully the stories of these persons will prove entertaining. It is the people who cross our paths whose personal stories seem at first to be ordinary until one begins to peal back the layers of their personalities and histories to reveal a many layered substance that bespeaks of their worthiness to be celebrated.

In the mean time, there's unpacking to be accomplished, photos to be catalogued and stored, and two resident cats that after three weeks of our prolonged absence are not yet convinced that Judi and I aren't interlopers to be very wary of. "Here Kitty, Kitty..."