The Colonel’s Plan – Well-Covered

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.

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Immortal Window Air Conditioner

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.

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The Colonel’s Plan – A Low Place

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.

This image of the back of our tractor shed has nothing to do with the article, but it certainly makes me think of a low place. Don’t worry–it’s looking better!

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.

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The Colonel’s Plan – Of Triumph, Telephone Poles and Teeth

Hey, everyone, Steve here. Apologies for the unannounced hiatus. I published a non-Colonel’s Plan reflection, and then I had to take a week off to put intense effort into a presentation for Carroll County Libraries this past weekend–a presentation enjoyed only by close friends and family, it turned out! But I’ll be offering that up to conventions in the coming months, so it will yet see the light of day. Anyway, back on track now!

October 3rd, 2018

Dear Daddy –

Tomorrow would have been your 96th birthday. I guess a fitting present, one day early, is that Susan learned she is cancer free. Her surgery removed the tumor, which was categorized as stage 1A, and 12 lymph nodes, which were clear. No chemo, no radiation. One big sigh of relief all around.

Unrelated to the subject Ethan did some decorating today, hanging a B-29 model…
…handmade by you back in the 1940s. It hung over your bed in your parents’ house on Rocky Fork Road until their deaths in 1989. It’s spent the intervening years either in a box or on your dresser.

Not much has gotten done on the house since I wrote to you last. The week was filled with doctor’s appointments for Renee and Christian. Christian had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon to verify that his bone graft had taken. It had healed beautifully, we were told.

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The Colonel’s Plan – Where’s My STUFF?

September 25th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

It’s been a bit since I’ve worked on the pink bathroom. Susan was having surgery, and Dawson was coming to stay, so I wanted to get the green bathroom downstairs in shape to be used. That meant sealing the grout, caulking, and—very important—getting a door up. I believe I’ve talked about that already, missing hinges and all. But all of that is done, and, though there’s still work to do in the green bathroom, the pink one has tile in place that hasn’t been grouted. Without grout, tile stuck to the SimpleMat or the MuscleBound adhesive mats (I use whichever one the store has when I need it) tends to fall. I find the MuscleBound holds the tile better, but the SimpleMat is more broadly available. In any event, they expect you to put the tile up and grout immediately. Not so for me, especially with all the tile that needs to be cut.

The living room, before clean-our. The 2×4 on the left is holding up a section of the ceiling, blown out by a lightning strike c. 2010. The mounted jigsaw is behind it. The table saw, center, is buried.

So today I grouted one wall of the pink bathtub. Rather frustrating work, what with the grout glopping all over the place as you go (wasteful process!), but I got the wall done. I may do the last bits today—the narrow wall on the end, and the trim above the toilet and sink. Then again, I may decide to let some of the dried grout scale off my hands for a while, so I can get them coated again on a later date.

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The Colonel’s Plan – Worth a Thousand Words

May 27th, 2019

Dear Daddy —

The walkup steps to the basement have been pretty neglected lo, these many years. In your honor for Memorial Day–because you always believed in working holidays–Christian and Renee decided to pressure-wash them. There’s something rejuvenating about seeing your masonry look almost new.

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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