The Colonel’s Plan – Going Gray

October 3, 2017

Dear Daddy —

I’m going gray.

I just walked into the office, and, Rick, one of my co-workers grabbed my arm and asked, “Are you all right?”

I asked, “Don’t I look all right?”

My Deputy, Tom, said, “You look dead on your feet.”

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Blue Bathroom – Part 5

September 22, 2017

Dear Daddy –

The bathroom is a big project. Its floor is down. Its outlets are partially wired. I furred out (is that the right spelling?) the opening above the now-installed shower walls, so that backing board for the tile would both fasten to the studs and slip down over the lip at the top of the fiberglass walls. How does one make furring strips—pieces of wood that are used to fill what would otherwise be a gap between a finished surface and the rough wall? You had obviously made a bunch of them. I wound up making more out of scraps of paneling you’d saved for years, left over from finishing your library and our family room. Continue reading

The Colonel’s Plan – The Blue Bathroom – Part 4

September 15, 2017 (Continued)

Dear Daddy,

So the guy at Kendall’s told me that no hardware store could rip tile, and I’d need to spend $25 – $50 to get one tile ripped by a home contractor.

I believed him, but I was headed to Catonsville later anyway, to meet Ethan. You probably never knew that Ethan, Christian and I have, for years, gone to Cosmic Comix in Ellicott City, and later in Catonsville, every Wednesday. That’s the day new comics come out. You never understood my love of comic books. I remember proudly showing you a stack of seven of them that I’d bought with my allowance. “Look at all these great comics,” I said. Or I said something like that.

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Blue Bathroom – Part 3

September 15, 2017 (Continued)

Dear Daddy,

Once Gary had the shower base and the rough plumbing in place, I started on the floor. You had bought and installed beige mosaic tile in the bathroom downstairs, the only one you finished. There was identical tile, in shades of pink, for Susan’s bathroom. I had assumed there was similar blue mosaic tile for this room, but, when I took inventory of the tile, lovingly stored these past 50 years, I didn’t have anything like that. I asked Mike if there were any code issues with Pergo or similar wood laminate. I figured it would be a pretty easy install. I actually have it in my bathroom at home, but we don’t have a shower in that one. He said no code issues, but don’t do that to myself. Ceramic was the way to go, and wood-look plank ceramic is the in thing.

So I bought 50 square feet of the stuff—no more expensive than Pergo. I had done a tile floor before, you might remember, at my old townhouse. It wasn’t horrible. The only downside was the mess the mortar makes, and then the grout. And they still make a mess. After finishing the cement, when I went out in the yard to hose down my tools, I wound up just hosing down myself in my shorts. It was fortunately still very hot outside, even if you would have been running around in a flannel shirt and t-shirt. I never understood how you could stand that, just as you never understood how I could run around without a shirt on. I guess we adjust our bodies to certain temperatures by wearing more or less clothing.

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Life With Lazarus – A New Day

Whatever god there be—or spirit, or entity, or faceless multinational or computer program—or is it Robert Heinlein’s Time Corps that watches over little orange tabby cats?

All I can say is “Thank you.”

This is the day he wasn’t supposed to be here, and he’s sitting on the bed with his feet propped on my leg. His fur is soft again, instead of matted. His eyes are no longer sunken into his head. He runs instead of walking. He jumps instead of waiting to be placed on a chair or bed.

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Life With Lazarus – Three Days

Day 2 – Back to Work

Lazarus woke me up around 5 this morning, wanting to go out. He seemed fine, and I figured he just needed the litter box. Of course he’d already had diarrhea on the rug. No blood, at least. And it means everything is working in his digestive tract, which is huge.

It also means that we now have two aging cats who aren’t always using the litter box. In the other room, Oreo, who had become somewhat incontinent, had urinated on Ethan’s bed.

As we were getting ready to arrive at the 911 Center to begin a week of fairly stressful testing of new technology, Renee settled down onto the bed, shaking her head. “I cannot take another thing.”

She was right. It’s been almost too much. We were both feeling pretty broken.

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Life With Lazarus – Day 1 – Let’s Go Get Our Boy

After a late Saturday night, it was not easy to roll out of bed at 6:30, but Dr. Hutt had told us that one day of hospitalization ended at 8:00. We’d spent about $2,600 so far, and knew we would need more as the days went on; so we wanted to be sure to get Laz discharged by 8:00.

It was not a good morning. I will not go into why, but, frankly, I had no patience. When a family member is ill, possibly dying, even if it’s a four-legged family member, it puts things in perspective. It also drains your emotional resources. I was in no mood to take responsibility for anyone else’s feelings. My own were too much for me.

Anyway, we got to the vet and they brought out Lazarus. He had a Fentanyl patch in a shaved spot on his back. It seemed to make him walk like a drunken man. That worried me, because the patch said it was applied at 11PM, and Dr. Hutt had said it took 12 hours to kick in. Would this get worse?

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Life with Lazarus – Day 0 – You Don’t Look Right

My very brief post two days ago hit the low spots of a couple of very bad days, but, as these days are still going and their events are foremost on my mind, I’ve decided to share them with you. Not a happy story, and I don’t know its ending as I write this. But it’s a story, and the characters in it are special to me. So here goes. 

So I’m sitting in the family room, having just dragged myself out of bed on a Saturday morning. I’d planned to take it easy. I’d been going and going with house renovations and work, and I decided, before my 1PM call to sign autographs at one of our local bookstores, I would just eat breakfast, talk to my wife and get my books ready to sell.

Lazarus shuffled into the room. Lazarus does not shuffle. Lazarus waltzes with grace and purpose, looking up at you only enough to let you know that he has arrived, and he is now in command of the operation. Today he shuffled, and he didn’t look in command of anything. He moved tentatively toward a square of morning sunshine on the floor, but didn’t seem particularly enthused about it.

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When Things Happen Too Fast

When I got up this morning, this was the furthest thing from my mind. Two days ago he was bashing his head into my feet while I was trying to work, and I was saying, “Dammit, Lazarus, knock it off!” Last night he seemed very tired. This morning he wasn’t hungry. Tonight we know he has liver cancer and is bleeding into his abdomen. We don’t know the how, the why, or most of all the when. But he’s leaving us. Fourteen years went by too fast. Hope these last days slow down a little. At least, on his meds tonight, he’s not hurting. Tomorrow he may be able to come home and spend his last days with us. However many there are.

Dammit, Lazarus…


The House Where I Grew Up…

Is 50 years old today, we’ve decided. That’s based on the day we moved in. We narrowed it down based on my brother’s memory of watching the first game of the 1967 World Series at our temporary home at the Valencia Motel, and subsequent games in our new home. (Amazing what the memory retains!) My sister remembered we moved in on a weekend, and that narrowed it down to Sunday, October 5th, 1967. I was but two, so I had nothing to contribute to the discussion.

Correction: We pulled the wrong day out of Google for 10/5/67. 1967’s calendar was actually identical to 2017’s. So the move-in date was probably October 7th. This is an early announcement, then. The house’s birthday is this Saturday. 

The house is pictured here in early 1969. Note the tar-paper-covered hole where a bay window was planned. It’s still not there. 50 years later, this unfinished house is back on the road to completion.

There’s a story in there somewhere, you say? Actually, there are a lot of them…