January 23, 2019
Dear Daddy —
We’ve come to a crossroads. Is that the right turn? Maybe it’s a fork? Anyway, we’ve decisively chosen a path.
The document begins, ” – Witnesseth – That for an in consideration of the sum…”
It continues on to say a lot of other things, including, “Beginning for the same at a nail now set in the center of a thirty-foot-wide right-of-way of the county road known as Simpson Road… “–a description of the landmarks and boundaries that define the 13 acres that you bought 53 years ago, we believe for sum of $18,000.
In short, it says that Renee and I, as of yesterday, own the house on Simpson Road, with Mother as holder of a life estate, meaning that she enjoys the use of the property until her death. Well, sometimes perhaps “enjoy” is too strong a word…Continue reading
January 2nd, 2019
Dear Daddy —
Our first full year without you has come to an end. 2018 was, well, an adventure, I suppose, as every year is. It’s become popular on social media to declare an entire year a “fail,” or an “epic fail,” meaning that that year is somehow cursed, and that either the population of the universe should be given another year to replace it (the logistics of this are not discussed), or that it should be wiped from the history books. Such declarations usually begin on about the 2nd of January. I’m sure, somewhere on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, someone has already deemed 2019 to be a dud which should be cast into the waste bin reserved for products that failed quality control testing.
Facebook, Twitter, Instragram… you probably don’t recognize those terms, although they were invented during your lifetime. You would have had no time for such foolishness. You also, I’m sure, never participated in water cooler conversations in the office. I’ve no doubt you considered water coolers unsanitary, to begin with–sharing water with all of those other people, whose mouths had been Heaven-knows-where doing Heaven-knows-what! I know you didn’t drink beer or whiskey with the rest of the boys on Tinian. Indeed, you gave all your allotment of whiskey to the flight crew–a year’s worth at one time–and they burned down a Quonset hut.Continue reading
December 19, 2018
Dear Daddy —
I was talking about the basement, and the accumulation of STUFF. Most of that stuff is gone now. Here’s how that happened.
You were still alive and mobile, albeit diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, when the cleanup began. After making some inroads in the house (literal inroads–pathways through the mountains of junk), I told Mother I wanted to do something about the basement and the garage. She said something to me like, “I wish you’d do something about the storage place. It’s costing us over $700 a month.”
You were paying more than my first house payment for a garage bay storage unit that was about 10′ by 28′. Yes, that needed to go away.Continue reading
“The Heat is On”
December 12, 2018
It’s officially Winter. Actually, it’s not. Winter comes in nine days, I believe. But the days of below-freezing temperatures, frost on the grass, aching muscles and leaving the water trickling in my kitchen (old pipes near old farmhouse walls tend to freeze) have begun. Mother had her first oil delivery of the year and was astounded at the bill for over $500. I explained to her that I paid $250 every month last year, and over $1900 in August to make up for the rising cost of oil. Her response was, “Yes, but my oil bill was $500.”
The furnace is heating the house nicely, though. No more space heaters. No more blankets and curtains in every doorway. The whole house is warm and usable.
I was explaining to Renee last night why this house always had oil tanks, when the furnace wasn’t active until last year. She had forgotten the Sears Oil Stove in the basement.
It went like this…Continue reading
December 5, 2018
Dear Daddy –
Tonight I’m cleaning up the basement a bit more. Still working in the train room, as I’m calling it now. “We have a train room?” Christian asked me recently. “I’m just so amused that our family has a house with named rooms. Do we have a skinning and tanning room?” (He may not have said “skinning and tanning.” It was something just as absurd. It may have been “taxidermy.”)
In all these weeks, I don’t believe I’ve discussed, in depth, how the basement came to look the way it did when you left us—the way it had looked for decades before that. I believe I mentioned the dreaded trip to the Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland, but I don’t think I told the whole story. So here goes.Continue reading
November 15th, 2018
I once played a squirrel in a school play, in fifth grade. Nutty the Squirrel. I would say that you would recall it, but I don’t think you made that performance. The show was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” an operetta written in 1938. It was released a year after the Disney film, and, as I recall, was trying hard to cash in on Disney’s version without paying them royalties. Hence the inclusion of my role as a furry animal companion not in the Brothers Grimm original.
I remember auditioning for the part, in the same ballroom at Glenelg Country School where Renee and I later held our wedding reception. I don’t know if the gray sweats and bushy tail I wore as Nutty would elicit as much comment today as the white tux I wore to the wedding, but I do recall being asked why I thought I would make a good squirrel. I believe I said I was small and cute like a squirrel.
Yeah. It wasn’t an easy childhood.Continue reading
November 7th, 2018
Dear Daddy –
Well, it’s November. Was it November the last time I wrote? Maybe. It’s been a very hectic week, and I don’t remember.
Last night was election night—the 2018 midterm election, and the one in which Maryland picks its governor and Howard County picks its executive. Our incumbent governor, Larry Hogan, is very popular. His competitor, Ben Jealous, is a Californian who was running on what he said was not a socialist platform, but which his deep-pocketed West Coast backers declared would turn Maryland into a “laboratory of democratic socialism.” Predictions said he had no chance of winning, and predictions were right.
But predictions also said that our County Executive, Allan Kittleman, had a double-digit lead over his opponent. Those predictions were wrong. Allan lost by about 6,000 votes, or about 4%. I’ve spent the last six months or more working Allan’s campaign. He’s an honest man and a solid leader, and I think the County was better for his being here. He was endorsed by the police, the firefighters, the Baltimore Sun and an independent ethics committee, not to mention our very popular governor.
It’s sad, but I guess that’s politics. Politics is a very ugly game right now.Continue reading
November 1st, 2018
Dear Daddy –
This morning I insulated the well. I’ve written about the well before, and how you and your father installed the pump yourselves all those years ago. I believe I also said that the supervisor on the job of replacing it this Spring reflected that he had seen designs like yours many times… in Florida.
The supply line that draws water out of the ground comes up out of the ground, at which point it’s galvanized steel. It makes its connection to the house line (also galvanized steel, I believe, because the Verizon crew was able to find it easily with a metal detector) above ground, and then the whole thing goes underground again to the house.
While writing this, I realized that I had no idea what galvanization actually is (other than a word that is drattedly hard to type correctly on the first try!). I know galvanized metal when I see it, and you taught me the word. I inferred that it was a protective process. So I just looked it up, and I was correct in my assumption. Galavanized pipe is steel pipe dipped in zinc to prevent rust. I learned something else, courtesy of the American Vintage Home website, which seems to specialize in talk about old houses in the Chicago area.Continue reading
October 24th, 2018
Dear Daddy –
I won’t lie, I’m not very happy with you right now.
“He’s been in his grave for 18 months,” my mother says. “You’re not going to hear back from him about it now,” my mother says.
And yet, 18 months in your grave, your idiosyncrasies are still coming back to, pardon the expression, bite me in the ass.
It was a list of simple tasks that I set out to accomplish today. No grout, though the pink bathroom still has need for grout, and no tile-mounting, though it still has one bare wall. No building enclosures or fences, or hanging doors. Just cleaning the chicken coop, putting in fresh pine shavings and straw… the chickens are very impressed by straw–damndest thing… making a list of the kinds of things we have in the garage that need storing, putting the drawers in the computer card cabinets into alphabetical order, according to their computer card labels… and getting the old window air conditioner out of the window in the family room.Continue reading
Once again I remind my kind readers that this entry was written some months ago. It is not a cry for help. I simply believe that, if you’re going to document an experience, it’s important to document all of it. Please don’t worry over me, and, if this account brings you down or tests your patience, please just skip it. I know my problems aren’t of the scope of those being suffered by others, but our problems are our problems. If yours have you in this place, let these words serve you as a reminder that we all land in the low place sometimes. If you’re there, please keep moving forward. You will climb out. Like the theme song of a show the Colonel hated says, “So while you’re here, enjoy the view. Keep on doing what you do. Hold on tight. We’ll muddle through one day at a time.”
October 10th, 2018
Dear Daddy –
It’s hard to know what to write today. Honestly, I’m battling depression. I have been for some time. I’m sure that shows up in my earlier letters, but I’m finding myself needing to admit it out loud, and in writing, for my own benefit.
I don’t think it’s a chemical depression. What did they used to call a breakdown? “Psychosis Situational?” Not that I’m psychotic, either. But a situation is causing my depression, and, dammit, the situation is psychotic. Over the course of the last two days, reading up on the things that I’m dealing with, and reviewing notes and emails, I’ve wondered just how in the hell I’ve coped this long with this much.Continue reading