The Colonel’s Plan – Information, Please

September 24, 2018

Dear Daddy –

Yes, it’s been almost two weeks. Yes, it’s been a bad time. Yes, there’s a lot I’m not saying.

So… It’s been a bad few weeks. Come to that, it’s been a bad summer. Not that it was all bad, not that some good things did not happen. But the stress level has been high—very high. Not everyone has been happy with me. I can get very few specifics about that. I’m a person who likes to know specifics. They don’t have to be hard facts. They can be opinions. But, if someone says to me, “I don’t like what you’re doing,” they had better be prepared to tell me exactly what it is that I’m doing that they don’t like.

A photo of Clarksville Elementary School c. 1973 would be appropriate here. Sadly, I do not have one, and search images on Google for the school mostly brings you photos of ugly McMansions for sale in the school district. So here’s an evening shot of the Star of the Sea Condominium in Rehoboth Beach, the last place you stayed away from home that wasn’t a hospital. During the two weeks covered herein, Renee and I got away for a very nice overnight in Delaware.

I think of an experience I had in 3rd Grade. I had a teacher whom I will not name. Let’s call this teacher Miss Flax. (“Miss.” The term “Ms.” had yet to catch on in Howard County schools in 1973, when I began 3rd grade, even though the magazine by that name had been in publication for a year.) Mother and I were just talking about her last night. Miss Flax did not like me. She made that very clear. Naturally, I wasn’t enamored of someone who threatened to beat me with a tree branch, who called me “Wilson,” when she called my classmates by their first names, and who deliberately embarrassed me in front of the class on numerous occasions.

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The Colonel’s Plan – Askr’s Fall

Two years ago this evening, my father died. He was 94. I began this blog immediately, to mark the changes and passing of days without him. The biggest topic of discussion in my letters to him is the progress I’ve made finishing the house he planned, but left mostly unfinished for fifty years. People ask me now, “Have you finished remodeling your dad’s house yet?” Remodeling. Heh. I’m building from the world’s biggest model kit, with half the pieces missing. No, I won’t be finished for some time. For those concerned about the content herein, written some months ago, no, my mom did not move out. And no, I didn’t find the hinges. And no, I didn’t get back to the pink bathroom. All things in time.  


Dear Daddy –

I didn’t write last week. That is, I didn’t write to you. I did write, trying to work out a problem, as I sometimes do, words not meant for other human beings to read, not even dead ones.

It’s been a bad couple of weeks. Lots of lost sleep. I won’t go into the details, because, again, other people will be reading these words eventually. And my perceptions of what’s been happening in my life are mine alone. Other people have other opinions of who is doing right and who is doing wrong, and I don’t want to touch off a shouting match six months after the fact.

As always, when things are emotionally draining for me, my creativity suffers. It’s hard to put words down–at least words that would mean something to someone else–when in a state of emotional turmoil.

Things are not resolved, but they’re stable. I guess sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.

The chicken run is pretty well complete. The roof is installed, although it needs some shoring up with zip ties, to hold the courses of wire together better. And I still want to run chicken wire around the inside, to keep the girls from sticking their heads out and inviting hawks to run away with them. Run away with their heads, that is. It’s been raining constantly. Hurricane Florence has been ravaging the Carolinas this week and has sent us a lot of rain. It’s rained most of the summer, though. We get a dry day or so every other week. Every time I cut the grass, at your house or mine, I’m cutting off six or eight inches, it’s growing so fast. The rain is also making the doors swell on the chicken coop, so I’ll be having to make some adjustments to them.

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The Colonel’s Plan – Finances and Other Chicken Feed

August 29th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

Your youngest grandson turned 19 this week and spent his first birthday without us. Of course, he was with us the Sunday before; but for his actual birthday he had classes and rehearsal and wasn’t available to even talk to us until after 10 in the evening. It felt odd, just as it feels odd to be living in a house without either of my sons, and to be finishing your house without you here.

The pink bathroom’s plumbing is in. I have to finish its tile. We now have four working bathrooms, though, 50 years and 10 months after we moved into this house.

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Back Porch

June 13, 2018

Dear Daddy –

I’ve been able to do part of my work on the back porch today, when I wasn’t smearing grout all over myself in the master bathroom. The weather has been very nice the past few days, after what seems like weeksof solid rain. We did have rain Sunday and Monday, but yesterday and today have been very nice. 

The back porch hasn’t always been usable. You designed it to be another large room of the house, albeit an outdoor one. It runs from the West end of the house to the breakfast room wall—about 50 feet. One end is narrow—5 feet wide. The other is deeper, leaving a space about 10 feet by 25 feet. You had intended to screen it. It’s in the drawings. You never even finished installing the permanent columns. Its roof has been supported by doubled 2x4s all these years. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Lost and Found

August 22, 2018

Dear Daddy –

I found the missing tile! Ethan took apart my general purpose room, where all the tile had been moved last Spring, in hopes of finding a stray box. I checked the attics, went through every box of tile on the shelves in the basement (they were all labeled “Regency Blue”) and checked the closets and under the beds in the crib room—the tile’s first stop after sitting in the blue bathroom for all those years. 


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The Colonel’s Plan – Tile Shortage

August 15th, 2018

Dear Daddy—

I took this week off to finish the bathrooms so that the plumber can get the sinks, toilets and shower/bath faucets completed in time for the August 20thexpiration of our permit. The plumber assures me that we can get another extension, but I’d rather get it done. There are so many other things to do, both in your house and mine, and I need to move on to them. 

Speaking of other things to do… I have to dig through the attics and general purpose rooms—I’ve already checked the basement—to see if there’s another case of pink tile. I started with six sealed cases of 96 tiles each, plus about 35 loose tiles. Where did the loose tiles come from? There has to be a partial case here somewhere, unless you bought them loose, which doesn’t sound like you. 

Hey, I can check the invoice to see how much you bought! Must do that.

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(Not) The Colonel’s Plan – Deck Dismantling

March 30, 2019

Dear Daddy–

I don’t have time to write much this week. Too much going on, and I’ll tell you about it later. Plus my late model MacBook Pro has become once again an exhibit for your lectures on “Design for Failure,” and requires its second keyboard replacement inside six months.

I’ve written about the deck before, the one at my house. You didn’t have much to do with it, other than laying under it with me at 3:00 in the morning, drilling a hole through the house foundation so we could install an electrical outlet. It’s been there for either 14 or 15 years now. And, as of yesterday, it’s gone. My friends Ren, June and Scott came over, and, with Ethan, we tore off the deck planks I had not yet removed, dismantled the joists and beams, and now all I have left is eleven posts to pull out of the ground. Quite a project for four fifty-somethings and an overworked Millennial. But we did it.

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The Colonel’s Plan – “And That’s Three”

March 22, 2019

Dear Daddy–

The three most brilliant men I ever knew were all taken down by dementia. You were one, Yoji Kondo was the second. We lost you and Yoji within the space of a year. Today, we lost the third. Unlike Yoji, I don’t believe you ever met Jim Heller. Jim was Howard County’s seventh fire chief, and the one who hired me, in 1997, to fill a position blandly titled “Records Management System Administrator.” 

Only Jim didn’t do bland or unimaginative. Like you, he was always looking for better ways to do things. Like you, he knew that ever-improving technology could be employed to do jobs better, faster and simpler. Like you, he could look at a challenge that everyone else was afraid of, role up his sleeves and say, “Let’s start by doing this…” 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Poultry Farming

August 8, 2018

Dear Daddy – 

We have chickens. For the first time since 1971, we have chickens. Christian proposed the idea for my birthday, and the others conspired to keep it from me. On Saturday, the day before my actual birthday, they sprung it on me. Renee had gone out to “run errands” for the day, and I had stayed home to rest, primarily. My head and neck had been hurting for three days—tension, no doubt. I was going to try to do a little work, taking apart the deck, and our shrubs were still in need of some additional trimming. I lamented that the boys rarely came over any more, and I felt stuck with a lot of work by myself. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Walking Toward the Future

Please note that this was written seven months ago. It’s all still true. I have made no decisions. I am still in the same job, and still thinking that it might be interesting enough to keep me in place for a while. There are no deep, dark secrets here; just me thinking out loud. To my co-workers–my work family–be aware that I will not retire without having another job. As of today, I haven’t so much as gone on an interview. Deep breaths. 

July 31, 2018

Dear Daddy –

The green bathroom is ready for the plumbers. Did I say that already? I may have. I’ve started the pink bathroom now. Did I say that already? I may have. It’s very hard to hold anything in your head when your life is controlled by lists. 

Last night, I posted the letter from January which talked about the meeting with the Maryland lawyer. Today I’m setting up a meeting with him to draft the new deed for the house on Simpson Road, and working with the North Carolina lawyer on adding a right of way to one of the deeds down there. The five North Carolina deeds have been condensed down to four deeds—two for Charles, who is getting non-connecting lots, one for Susan, which combines two deeds, and one that they’ll share. But the road to the Chocolate house crosses Susan’s land. Now that they’re owned by two different people, even though they are family members, we need to record a right of way. 

This is not my house, but it’s a pretty accurate reflection of what my childhood was, inside my own head.

I need to meet with a financial planner. Paying my own mortgage and two car payments, paying tuition, and assuming a loan against your house is going to be a challenge. I need advice on that. (And I half suspect that the “advice” may be: seek psychiatric help.)

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