The Colonel’s Plan – Worn Gears

July 18, 2018

Dear Daddy –

I didn’t write to you last week, and I just realized I’ve skipped sharing these letters on my website for two weeks. It’s been a busy and crazy time. 

Mother, Susan and Charles are in North Carolina right now. Mother wanted to see your tombstone, which took quite a few months after your funeral to be placed. Apparently the man who supplied marble to the local tombstone maker was killed in an accident. (Is there a word for a person who makes tombstones? Like farrier or cobbler?) And then the usual slow pace of life in Yancey County probably also kept the gears from turning too fast. Might be for the best. Gears that turn too fast heat up and can be damaged. I think something like that has been happening to my gears lately. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Green Bathroom

July 4th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

The green bathroom is almost ready for the plumber to come. It’s been quite the task to get there. It’s the biggest of the bathrooms. It adjoins the master bedroom on the first floor. It’s actually subdivided into three small rooms, with a 5′ by 6′ entryway for the sink and countertop, a similarly sized space for the bathtub and toilet, and then a 10′ by 4′ dressing room with an additional sink and space for a dressing table and lighted mirror. 

It would have had the most tile. There were seven boxes of standard square tile, seven boxes of the arabesque tile, and then all the trim pieces. I don’t honestly know where you planned for it all to go. I think, based on the fact that you did not finish the walls around the main sink, that you had planned to tile both the bathtub surround and two of the three sink walls. I did not elect to do all that. As I’ve mentioned, I never knew what your plan was for the floor, but I bought porcelain woodgrain for it. 

The Arabesque tile around the tub.

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The Colonel’s Plan-Optimism Goes Negative

The astute reader will note that this post bears yesterday’s date, not one six months in the past. It’s been a rough week. Hell, it’s been a rough year and a piece. It was time to sit down and say some things that, well, maybe I should have said a while ago. . 

January 9, 2019

Dear Daddy—

This time in my life causes me to raise my voice in protest and declare, “I am a positive person. Indeed, I’m the most positive person you’re ever likely to meet.” Why “In protest?” Because, for as long as I can remember, people have told me I was a negative person.

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The Colonel’s Plan – Lists

Sorry for the missed week, everybody. I was out of town for Christmas, and writing and vacations do not mix for me. Even though these blogs are written six months ahead, I didn’t even want to take the time out to edit and post while spending time off. And then we hosted our annual New Years’ party on the day our eldest cat, Oreo, died. So the past two weeks have not been conducive to posting. Thanks for sticking with me through 2018, Happy New Year, and I hope you continue to enjoy! — Steve

June 27th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

The Colonel’s desk, with his DayTimer files visible at bottom left.

As I have time to go through the papers in your library, one of the things I’m finding a lot of is lists. There are a lot of those tan “Things To Do” pads, a lot of Day-Timers in authentic Day-Timer™ file boxes, and various date books. Some of the file boxes contain microfiche instead of Day-Timers, and many of the date books have only a few pages filled out. The 1985 date book sitting in front of me is completed only for February 25th and 26th. I know for fact that there’s another book for that year, more complete. That’s the year Renee and I met, so I saved it for reading, to see what you were up to. I may not have been paying much attention at the time.  Continue reading

The Colonel’s Plan – Back to the Junkyard

June 20th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

The 1982 Impala leaving its yard-mate, the 1981 Chevette.

Last time I talked about the cars you let leave here under their own steam. As your dementia set in, you did let some others leave, on tow trucks presumably. One of them really annoyed me. 

There was “a man” that you “hired” to work on landscaping the property around the house. “A man” is in quotes not because I doubt his gender, but because that’s all he’s ever been called in my presence. I don’t know his name. I know he lived “somewhere in Montgomery County” and that Mother thinks he died, based on the fact that he stopped coming here and you never heard anything else from him. “Hired” is in quotes because you did not actually pay him. 

Mr. Man told you he was cutting down and trimming the many wild and unmaintained trees on the property. He also told you he was hauling them away for firewood and taking the brush to the landfill. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Junkyard

June 4th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

Christian unearths the wreck of the Chevy Malibu

The green bathroom is well underway. I have only the section of wall with the actual shower plumbing on it left to tile. I hope to accomplish most of that today. After that, I still have a list of things to do that are drywall and electrical. And I need to floor the dressing room and get the cabinets put in for the sinks. 

Susan’s bathroom shouldn’t take long. I have to get the floor down, and, honestly, can probably have the plumbing finished before I tile the entire shower. I’ll finish that wall and then ask. 

Fortunately, the inspector who came to look at the air conditioning turned in a positive progress report on the plumbing, despite his concerns when he was here. I suppose being assured that we were making progress by both the plumber and me was enough. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Water, Water Everywhere

May 30th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

Happy Memorial Day! 

Well… not really. I spent most of Memorial Day weekend at Balticon. Balticon is Maryland’s oldest science fiction convention. It is always as old as I am. The first one was held in 1967, months before my second birthday. So the number of the con is always my age when it’s held. This was, then, Balticon 52. I missed Balticon 51 because you had just died. I missed Balticon 50 because, well, it wasn’t well-planned. They only offered me an hour in which to speak. I’m used to having six to twelve hours of programming to participate in, and I wasn’t going to drive to downtown Baltimore and park for one hour of programming time. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Well, Well, Well…

May 23, 2018

Dear Daddy –

As I said above, well, well, well…

I’m talking about the actual well, the one you had dug in 1967. Recently, the faucets began spitting air. The toilets were making awful noises when they filled. I thought it happened once because I’d washed the bed of the truck for about an hour, flushing it out with the hose. (I said “recently,” and I now realize that that was before I turned the outside water off for the Winter—so probably October, 2017 at the latest.) I thought I had just run the well down. But then I remembered that the single toilet you had installed back in 1967 had begun making sounds like a helicopter taking off back while you were still with us. You denied it was happening. 

Mother thought the sediment filters were just needed to be changed, but I told her that, if the filter was letting air into the lines, it had a lot more wrong with it than just needing new cartridges. Continue reading

I Believe

Sunday I saw Superman: The Movie in the theater for the second time. The first time was the year it came out—1978. It was December. I was 13. I was there with my best friend, and we had both been reading about the production of the film for a couple of years in special update pages in the back of every issue of DC Comics. Some lucky kids about our age had won cameo appearances in the film, the result of a much-ballyhooed contest. At that point in my life, I had only seen about a dozen films in the theater. This one was a big deal.

I loved the complexity of Superman’s mythos—the exotic world of his birth, the bottle city of Kandor, a miniaturized piece of his home, the various colors of kryptonite and the various effects they had on him, the kick-ass supporting cast that surrounded him—Ma and Pa Kent, Lana Lang, Pete Ross, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, his cousin Supergirl, his pet Krypto, the Super-Dog. This film was only a small, two-hour slice of comic book life brought to the screen, but it was the biggest, boldest attempt ever to do so. And, unlike other live action super hero fare that had come before it, it did not insult the character by camping him up, and it did not make him more mundane in order to fit into “the real world.” (I’m looking at you, TV’s Incredible Hulk!)

At 13, Superman: The Movie stoked my imagination, which was already in thrall to comic books.

At 53, Superman: The Movie, made me, with tears in my eyes, come to terms with a very simple truth:

I believe.

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The Colonel’s Plan – A Day Off

“Come walk with me on a backwoods road, Where few tracks, if any, are found…” My Aunt Frances Wilson HIggins’s poem seems appropriate as unexplored roads lay ahead.

November 22, 2018

Dear Daddy —

Simply too drained, after these past few stressful, disappointing weeks to think of what to say to you. There are many opportunities on the table. There are certainly life changes coming. I need to process all of that. But, right now, I need to not work. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Love, Steven