Monthly Archives: May 2011

Dad checking in…

There just wasn’t a hell of a lot going on last week.  For the most part, the best I could do was really just be a dad checking in.  That was about all the energy I could muster.  I doubt any complaints will be heard from Ellen and Reid.  But from what went down these last few days, today’s letter (which you’ll read next week) will be a far different matter.  There will be a return to events of some real gravity.


May 16, 2011

Ellen/Reid: I came into the office this morning and the people and their things are gone.   Row upon row of cubes sit empty.  The herding of staff occurred last Friday when a mass exodus was made to one of our spiffy new buildings where, if your entry pass doesn’t work, they can double check your retina scan to allow admittance.  I opted not to go that direction, in part because of gas costs ($4.10/gallon) and it would add another 10 minutes to the walk from my open parking space.  Instead, I chose what’s called the My Work program where I can work from home and spend two or three days a week in satellite space on the south edge of town.  The bank buys a phone and printer, a shredder and a chair for my convenience that will go up in the three floor bedroom which is my new home office.  If I needed to come uptown I could but I don’t know of any earthly reason why that should be so unless I wanted to see Betsy or my friends Tom and Mike.  I have no co-workers in the downtown, and only one in the metro area so it’s not like my presence will be missed up this way.

Ellen, I hope the fine china made it in one piece.  My box did not.  It came, crushed, as if thrown off the UPS truck.  The big red “Fragile” sticker must not have been noticed by the caring UPS handlers.  To my dismay, literally everything inside was broken, most notably the glass lid to the roasting pan your grandmother got as a wedding gift in 1948.  I was just crushed.  Of all your grandparent’s possessions, it was one of two or three items that I really wanted.  I thought the packing job was good, but the vases and other assorted stuff were in pieces.  That’s why I need to know if the china is intact.  If it is not, then I took out insurance on your box which, while it won’t nearly be enough to replace everything, will at least be some salve.

My health, knock on wood, has seemed to improve these last few weeks.  No small maddening setbacks which make me second guess the operation (just a little).  My next check up is in just over a month and that will be the real litmus test.  That has in part contributed to my desire to work at home, which will be easier on me physically.  This sitting in a chair for hours on end is for the birds and is one of the cautions they gave me at the doctor’s office.  But I’m feeling one hell of a lot better as of this writing.  Came through a 200+ mile ride with Felicia this weekend in good shape, too.  If an old Harley doesn’t rattle your innards, nothing can.  I need to start some serious cardio workouts to get ready for Wyoming which is now only two months away.  I’m worried about that part of it and don’t want to drag the group down to my level.   I’ve always said we will hike only as fast as the slowest person, and that may well be me.  We head into the back country on Sunday, July 24.  The trip still seems really exciting but there are a ton of loose ends to bring together, notably getting all the gear (the old MSR stove could not be found in DSM) together and packing all the food.  That may wait until Jackson Hole.  Reid, hopefully we won’t be sleeping in the car the night before the trip.  Jeez, what a night that was.

Ellen, thanks for the photo of your barren kitchen.  Nice job by Tim.  There’s no turning back now, but you’ll finally have a kitchen you can really sink your teeth into and be proud of.  In terms of recouping your money, it’s not a bad investment.  I’d love to get up there sometime to see the end results.  The one caution I’d give you is if they say the project will only take three weeks, double that estimate.  Nothing ever seems to wrap up when they say it should wrap up.   It’s going to be an endurance test of patience and dust, dust, dust, especially when that wall comes out.

Well guys, I have to go.  Its ghost town up here right now, but they left the office coffee pot here, and I think I’ll go make me some.


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Road hunting and coffee with Ray…

Back in the day, I hunted birds.  In my early years it was about the killing but as I aged, it became about the seeing.  There was greater reward in watching pheasants and quail scurry through brush and thickets as they rushed to escape me.  (If they knew of my shooting prowess they could’ve taken flight or moseyed at a leisurely pace or simply stayed put.)  My gun, a fine 20 gauge Beretta, was ideal for the ‘sport’ yet it has resided with my son-in-law, Tim, for half a decade.  I won’t need it again.

Many of my hunting sojourns were with my buddy, Ray.  For a long while he was my boss but was more friend than boss.  Invariably, he’d pick me up before dawn in his forest green Ford Explorer, we’d hit the nearest convenience store for donuts and coffee and off we’d go for the morning’s hunt (if you could call it that).  We’d walk the fields when we could but were perfectly content to cruise the roads ever vigilant for the stray bird that might cross our path or poke his head up from a weedy patch.  If we saw the “prey”, great, if not, it was still a good morning.  It was about road hunting with Ray and a cup of coffee.

I hadn’t seen Ray in a while until I returned to Des Moines a few weeks ago.  I followed up with him on my return to North Carolina.


May 12, 2011

Ray: It was incredibly great to see you at Hemminger’s on Friday night.  Ironically, if you’d not been there I was planning to stop by your place sometime on Saturday and take my chances that you’d be home.  No doubt that would have taken the new owners of your old home – and me, too – by complete surprise.  Everyone really looked the same, it’s just me that feels the aging process has taken a toll.

I’m glad we had a chance to catch up and go back to the old days.  Jeez, are we really aging that fast?  It would be wonderful to get in the shotgun seat of your Ford Explorer and cruise the back roads toward Winterset sipping coffee and looking for stray birds along the roadside.  Those were the days, they really were.  Glad to hear that you still get down that way.  It’s been an easy 6-7 years since I’ve hunted pheasants.  My Beretta is in the safe hands of my son-in-law in the Twin Cities and it’s never even crossed my mind to go quail hunting down in these parts.  You really don’t see much of that kind of news item in the paper down here.  It’s either fishing or maybe the stray story about killing the small deer they have down in these parts.  But nothing on birds.

It’s been five years down in Charlotte, and most of it has been fine enough.  The job is what it is and I do like most of it.  I’m ensconced in a 3 BR condo that masquerades as a three story townhome (I am starting to rue the multiple flights of stairs.  Better purchase decisions have been made).  I bought for convenience which means my commute to the downtown area is about 20 minutes vs. the smooth 45-60 minutes it would be elsewhere.  Just this week I’ve started to work at home as something of a telecommuter although it is my option to go to the home office when I am so moved.  The bank has several satellite offices around the outskirts of the city and those are options, too.  We have 15,000 employees here, which is actually down a fair number from even a couple of years ago.  I miss those days at Meredith.  I can’t believe what a job the city has done in the formerly ragged stretch from the airport to the downtown.  It is incredible.  Charlotte could learn from that.  It’s very impressive.

The kids are faring just fine.  Ellen is teaching up in St. Paul, and Reid is toiling at some digital ad agency in Chicago and although he tries to explain precisely what he does, all he sees is the dazed look in my eyes.  He gets it and I don’t.  I don’t know when Ellen and her hubby Tim will join the parenting brigade but my guess is it won’t be too far off.  The peer pressure from her friends with babies must be enormous.  I’m not sure I’m ready to be a grandpa or whatever it is the kids would call me.

Still have the Harley, and last year was the first year I’ve put some serious miles on it.  I have a delightful girlfriend, and she and I put about 8,000 miles on the rig.  Great roads down here.  Great.  County road crews don’t have much practice in paving straight lines.  Everything is a curve.  The paths aren’t as maintained as they are in Iowa but it’s been a lot of fun to hit the different ‘bergs down here.  You haven’t seen the South until you get out in the boonies, and believe me, it doesn’t take much to reach the boonies.  Good for you to head back to Sturgis.  Wish I could go.  I’m playing a little golf but my swing is sooo bad that it’s ceased to be as much fun.

Well, listen buddy, it was great to see you.  Say hi to Jan, keep me posted on the lurid days in Sturgis, and maybe I can borrow that stray gun you mentioned when I come back in October.

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You can’t go home again…

Ellen is about to become acquainted with dust as she and Tim kick off the remodel of their 1920s kitchen in St. Paul, MN.

I don’t know why, but the blog hasn’t been top of mind for me the past couple of weeks and the posts seem more tepid than usual.  I’ll get back in the swing of things here shortly.

Perhaps that’s because it has felt like old home week the past few weekends.  Whoever said ‘you can’t go home again’ was only partly right.  It does not apply if you need to box stuff and get it out the (garage) door to UPS

All the loose ends related to parental goods are now tied up.  Fine china to Ellen, antique cameras (dating back more than a century) are in Reid’s hands with the rest shipped to Charlotte.  It is all resolved and that chapter is closed. 


May 9, 2011

Ellen/Reid: This morning I’m in a bit of a fog after yesterday’s travel.  Went to bed late by my standards (midnight) and was up very early and got to work about 6:30 to wade through a mountain of e-mails and that’s only from being out of the office a couple of days.  I shudder to think what the truly higher-ups have in their e-mail queue when they get back from vacation.  It was tough to get rigged up and out the door.  The coffee was particularly weak so it might necessitate a visit downstairs to Starbucks or Caribou when this letter is done.

All in all it was a pretty good weekend.  Steve’s wedding was appropriately low key and his girls did a fabulous job with their remarks.  Good to see lots of old friends and invariably they ask how you both are and what you’re doing.  I try to fill them in as best I can.

Jane Hemminger just cannot be rivaled as a party hostess.  Clad in her bare feet and a red apron, she and Dave threw a nice bash out on their deck on Friday night.  It was a beautiful evening.  The whole crew was there; Dickinsons, Cornicks, Sculforts, Hestons, John Leonhardt, the Kobes, Fustenaus and Shifflers.  I know I’m leaving some out but it was a very nice affair.  Jane can cook and prepare gourmet foods with the best of them.  And she makes it sound like it’s no big deal when it actually is.  I had a great time but was habitually overserved.  Not to sound like a broken record, but people habitually asked about what you’re both up to.

I stayed with Staci and Bruce all three nights.  Max and Alex are doing college things so they had plenty of spare room in their 5 bedroom abode.  That was nice.  We stayed up all three nights yakking and drinking wine way past my bedtime.  That’s why the mornings were fairly groggy.  My original plans were to stay at the house but am glad that did not happen.  Saw some of the neighbors, and they also ask what you’re up to.  Gave some of the boxed plates and tableware to Mary and Frank’s daughter Gianna who is setting up her first place.  Now she’ll have some dishwasher safe plates and bowls.  Quite a bit of the boxed material is going to Goodwill which is just as well.  Reid, you clearly don’t have the space for items, and Ellen you just don’t need anything but you will get the fine china which I hope arrived intact.  The big prize of the weekend was finding the glass-covered roasting pan which was your great-grandmothers.  That is the one thing I wanted from your grandparents house and I thought it had gone missing.  So that was a coup.  Really, it was hard to wade through everything.  It brought a lot of emotions to the surface.  I know whoever buys their items at whatever thrift shop they’re sold at won’t have the same attachment as we might.  That’s okay.  In reality, it’ll be less stuff for you two to clear out down the road if you know what I mean.  In a morbid way, I thought of carting some of it home to sell on EBay but since I don’t know how that works, let alone what stuff is worth, the boxes went over to the Goodwill pile.

It’s interesting to see Des Moines after all this time.  They have done an incredible job downtown.  Lots of towns, including CLT, would be envious of the restaurants and nighttime haunts from the Capitol on west.  It’s just very nice.  They’re not rolling up the sidewalks at twilight like they used to.  Bruce and John and I ate downtown at some funky little place Thursday night and it was fabulous.  Great to see those two.  The persistent question comes up about moving back to Des Moines and that’s a tough one to answer.  You guys are in that same boat because you get the same repetitive question.  It’s like that old saying: how do you get them back on the farm once they’ve seen gay Parie?


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Job one and job two…

United and U.S. Airways combined to do a nice job of scooting me back to Charlotte on time and intact Sunday night.  Job one of the long weekend was Steve’s joyous wedding, and job two was to sort through what remained of my parent’s household possessions and ship out plates and roasting pans and a menagerie of other items to points north and south; St. Paul and Charlotte.

It really was four days of mixed emotions.  It was great to see friends Jane and Dave, Pam and Greg, Sam and Bryce, Staci and Bruce, and all the others to say nothing of the wedding itself.  The dirty work was somewhat less so.  Deciding what to keep and what to donate was tedious and trying emotionally.  But UPS says the boxes will arrive at the destinations by Thursday.  Ellen will be happy when she unwraps her surprise package.  I’ll open mine, too, but we’ll see if any of the feelings I had in the garage in Clive made the trip along with whatever it was I wrapped in newspaper and bubble wrap.  Right now, I can’t remember what most of it was.


May 2, 2011

Ellen/Reid: I guess I’m looking forward to the trip to Des Moines later this week.  Steve says everything about the wedding is in place.  From the sound of things it appears to be relatively low key; they have instituted a ‘no gift’ policy that I plan on violating with a box of ProV1 golf balls for Steve.  The way he plays efficient golf, a dozen golf balls will last him a couple of years.

Job #1 in Iowa is to pack up items for shipment to Charlotte or to your locales.  Ellen, it sounds as if you have picked up just about everything you need.  Reid, the assumption is that you have neither room nor immediate desire for most of those things so I will preemptively have those items sent to North Carolina where they will remain until such time as you want them.  That’s fine.  You can look through things the next time you come down here.  And, might I ask, when will that be?  (That applies to you, too, EP.)

I get in about 3:30 on Thursday and will head straight to the hardware store for boxes and tape and get cracking on fillin’ the boxes.  That will consume all of Thursday night and into Friday morning.  Bob and I will have coffee at Grounds for Celebration then head to The Wave for a hearty Midwestern breakfast.  We have a lot of catching up to do.  He just had some surgery to overcome the effects of too much text messaging.  He just had one wrist worked on a few months ago, and now it’s the other.  And guess what I keep getting from him on my phone?  Steve has a pre-wedding golf outing set for Friday afternoon, and then I’ll head to Jane and Dave’s party on Friday night.  Rumor has it that there will be more golf Saturday morning, so at least we know where Steve’s second priority is.

I have mixed feelings going back to the house.  That’s where I’ll plan to stay to avoid hotels.  But it is a visit that needs to be made although I don’t know the full extent of what must be packed and UPS’d.  There was a lot of good that went on there for a lot of years.  It might be good to see some of the old neighbors although they might wonder what in the hell is going on.  Your mother has asked me to tend to some fresh sod that was just laid to lessen some of the standing water in the back yard.  I hope it’s in good shape.  As much as I might have groused about mowing and such, there are portions of yard work, especially the gardening aspect of it that I miss the most.  I liked digging in the dirt.

Quite the news this morning about bin Laden.  About time they got the bastard.  Of course, one of the news programs had some right winger on who said it “took a Muslim to catch a Muslim.”  He went on to say the Republicans set up the apparatus to catch him, so already the party that couldn’t catch him is laying claim to it.  What a bunch of crackpot idiots.  I don’t go along with those who say that terrorist bunch is DOA; rather, it’s like cutting the head off the hydra.  There will be someone else to come along and do the dirty work.  So this battle is far from over and done with.  But a big chunk of it is gone.

Watched four little chickadees spring from their nesting box this weekend.  One by one they popped their little heads out and flew to the nearest branch.  They were unsteady, but since then have found their wings and have frequented the bird feeder outside the kitchen window.  It’s good to know that there are now four little birds that might not have otherwise had a good home on the tree out in back.  I’ve really enjoyed the comings and goings in the nest.  I yanked the neatly made nest out in the hopes some other occupants might try the same thing.  At least the nesting box will be in clean and in place for the bluebirds next February.

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On the mend from another surgery…

For the second time in three weeks, my Midwestern road trip continues; today it’s off to Des Moines for my friend Steve’s wedding and to box and ship my side of the family’s items held over from my parent’s home in Omaha.  Most of it will be sent to Ellen and Reid.  Some will be shipped to Charlotte.

I sent a letter – the fifth mailed to him since last July – to my friend Bob to apprise him of the trip details.  He’s on the mend from yet another surgery for a self-inflicted texting injury, his second bout with this over-use malady (de Quervain Syndrome, aka mother’s wrist).  Apparently he can open envelopes but not much else.

Bo strikes a post-surgery woe-is-me pose. At this pace he may have to start texting this his toes.


April 27, 2011

Bob: By this time next week Jane Hemminger will have had her fix, albeit temporarily, of party hosting.  Her invitation was just a scream.  I have to shake my head every time something arrives in the mailbox or the front door that has her name attached to it.  I tried gently to stave off this event, but Dave dissuaded me knowing that it wasn’t a battle worth escalating all the way up to her.  It will be fun to see everyone although I don’t know who those people will be just yet.

I blast into town late Thursday and commence with packing boxes right away.  That will consume more of Thursday night and well into Friday.  I don’t know precisely how much stuff there is to send but no doubt it is a pile.  It is a guarantee that none of it is Harley stuff.  Kathy has whittled down things as she’s prepped the house for sale although she has had some viewings but no takers.

Your Key West vacation with your girls sounded like it was a hell of a lot of fun.  You have this knack for finding just the right travel outlets.  Coincidentally that is the one place Felicia says she would like to go but as of yet I’ve not summoned the effort to search for airfares and lodging.  When I’m in DSM you will have to remind me of just how in the hell you found the place you stayed at.  That sounds like a pretty good gig.  I’ve been grossly negligent in using my timeshare points to rustle up places such as the place you stayed.  This is where your life trumps mine in that you travel around all the time on these little adventures and you use all the Internet sources at your disposal to find deals and doings.  Me, I still look for newspaper coupons.  You’ll have to be my life coach.

So, when is this text-induced surgery (your second) supposed to take place, and how long will you be on the shelf?  You are reminded that this is prime golf season that you will be taking off.  Are you sure this couldn’t wait until the colder months so you could ride the bike and swing the clubs?  I don’t even need surgery to put my clubs away.  My swing continues to deteriorate and the game isn’t as much fun as it used to be.  The problem is completely between my ears.  A friend in my singles golf group says to just let it go and to let it be what it will be.  She’s probably onto something with that.  I need a golf shrink.  But it just kills me to have such anxiety issues.  Ask whoever is doing your slicing if a two-for-one deal might be available.  We could be on adjoining tables, you getting your wrist whacked and me getting a frontal lobotomy.  Maybe that’s the cure I’m looking for.

I’ve wondered how things are progressing on your home front.  Let me know how all that is going.  Your ready supply of $1 bills has been shrinking by the week but hopefully I’ll be able to make a deposit into your account in the relatively near future.  Well, I’d best sign off for now but you’ll get me soon enough next week.  I’ll text you when I land, and let’s hit Grounds and the Wave early Friday morning before I get to boxing in earnest.

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No sunrise service or holiday ham…

It's the small things that count. The nursing home staff in Wood River do mom's hair once or twice a week. Her lucid moments may be few but when they occur, she is the mother I remember.

You’ve seen no letters to my mother in the past few months.  None has been sent.  Part of it is family dissuation, part is her new address and, moreover, a new staff who would have to be instructed to do the reading.  I was in Nebraska for Easter but there was no sunrise service or holiday ham.   Instead, the time was spent alone with her.  She has her moments of clarity and you can see the gleam in her eye when certain topics – her beloved golf (“I was good at it”) for example – are mentioned.

Her situation is a persistent topic among Ellen and Reid.  Last summer remains fresh for them. They don’t want to miss their chances.


April 25, 2011

Ellen/Reid: It seems like the trip to Grand Island, and more importantly, to Wood River, did not happen.  I was hardly on the ground long enough to catch my breath.  It was scarcely 48 hours from start to finish.

Your grandmother is doing okay.  She looked much better than I anticipated, and her mental cognizance was a little bit better than was anticipated, too.  She’s at a spot called Good Samaritan in Wood River, which as a town is nothing more than a wide spot on Highway 30 about 15 miles west of Grand Island.  The Union Pacific’s main East-West line is only about 20 yards from the highway so that gives you the history of Wood River right there.  Time, and the trains, have both passed it by.

But it is a good spot for her.  The staff is very caring, her hair was done nicely and someone had bothered to paint her nails.  It was obvious someone had paid attention to her.  Your uncle and I went straight there from the GI airport and the whole lot of them, about a dozen or 15, had been herded into the TV room although it was hard to see if anyone was really watching the tube.  Your grandmother wasn’t.  Her head was down but she was alert, and after a few seconds, she seemed excited to see the two of us.  She wasn’t quite sure who I was right off but then the light bulb turned on and you could see it in her eyes.

It is very hard to watch her slip away.  When you think about it, not even nine months ago she was ambulatory and much more conversant even if she had a lot of anger.  There is none of that now.  She’s confined to a wheelchair and her walker remains folded up against the wall.  She wears the same pair of shoes she’s worn for more than two years now.  She seems so much more balanced at this point, not because she’s sedated into silence, but her meds are much more attuned to her needs.  Your uncle found a doctor in GI who took the time to review all the dosages, removed some and put her on others and that has made an incredible difference for her.  As you look around the room at the other seniors, it’s not so much a quality of life issue as it is simply making the best of the days you have left.

Money will be an issue for her.  She’s running out of it.  It is incredible what even a little joint stuck in a backwater in the boonies of Nebraska costs month in and month out.  Your uncle, bless his heart, has had to bear the entirety of writing checks, and it appears that she will move yet again, this time to the Vet Center on the north side of Grand Island.  The cost won’t be so high, and her medications will be taken care of.  Honestly, it is really a matter of letting things take their course.  Moving to a high-end, beautifully designed spot wouldn’t amount to much for her because there are so many people at the Vet’s Home and so few staff.  She just won’t get the attention.  As long as she is clean and well fed, that is what matters.  Your uncle sees her every day, and that is about as much human interaction as she can handle.  I saw her three times out there, and on the final time I wondered if this might be the last time.  She perked up when the conversation turned to golf, and she said it always came easy to her.  That’s as conversant as she’d been.  She tries so hard to put two and two together, but being able to have some give and take just doesn’t work very well.  None of us really knows how she processes things.  I just want her to be comfortable and secure.

Felicia picked me up at the airport and it was good to get back to some normalcy.  Your uncle is encouraging me to make another visit sometime in June and I’ll probably do that.  I hope she can last that long.  But she knows we love her and she said the same.  That’s all I needed to hear.

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