Monday, April 30, 2012

Calling All Angels

We are very tired here at the KC bungalow.  I was up at 5 and dressing for school when Hubby rolled over and said, "You'd better call a substitute."  That's always bad news -- it means that some time during the night Hubby got sick -- really, really sick.

On Friday Hubby complained about not being able to climb his ladder. "I used to fly up those steps and only went up three rungs and my knee was absolutely killing me!"  I dismissed the complaint -- he shouldn't be climbing ladders anyway at this stage of his life.  I should have listened -- Hubby has a pain threshold that is sky high - if his knee was "killing him" he was suffering some major pain.

On Saturday Hubby complained that he had "sprained his back."  He was limping -- but he was still making a "go of it" and we even went to a concert at the Kauffman Center.  He did however ask to take a couple of my pain pills and finally even swallowed a muscle relaxer.  That is unheard up in this house -- Hubby doesn't take meds that have NOT been prescribed for him.

On Sunday Hubby got up early and was quite "snarly."  We both get that way sometimes so I went on with life -- fixed him breakfast and he took off for his house and did his "thing" -- whatever that might be.  I read a new novel on my Kindle.   He came back for dinner, played around on the computer, then limped to bed. 

But sometime during the night, when Hubby got out of bed, his left leg gave way.  He could barely walk -- and it was painful to watch.  He was actually moaning out loud.  So at 5:30 this morning we headed out for the ER at Research Hospital.  They ordered a CAT scan of his back.  Nothing out of the ordinary except his spine looked "pretty darned bad -- you've really given your body some hard abuse; the arthritis in your lower spine is incredible!" they reported back.

The left leg was very swollen and was quite a bit bigger than his right.  "Shouldn't be a blood clot -- you've got too much Warfarin in you" and sure enough after an ultra sound, they found a mass behind his left knee.  Touching it sent him over the moon.  "This doesn't look like a tumor or cancer -- the size and shape is all wrong.  We're not sure what it is.  But we are absolutely sure it is not an urgent problem -- you need to see your doctor though.  And we can help with the pain."

Vicodin was the first offer of treatment.  Then "get thee to your physician" came next.  After four hours we were sent back home with scripts and directions to get our doctor on the phone.  Hubby called while we were still in the car going home and go us a 1 p.m. appointment at his clinic. I love that clinic -- they are so pro-active when they hear you've spent all morning in the ER.  They had already downloaded Hubby's medical morning adventures by the time we arrived there this afternoon. 

The current supposition is that Hubby has a Baker's Cyst  caused by a knee injury last week -- and the  blood thinners.  Now we have scripts for Percocet and steroids -- because of the bleeding problems that can be caused by the Warfarin no one wants to drain the cyst but if we can't clear it up, then surgery is the next option. 

Hubby is still in a great deal of pain but we learned the really good news at the hospital that Hubby's A-Fib is still there but in very good control, his thinned blood is exactly where it should be, and his blood pressure is within normal range for him.  His heart is doing just fine, thank you very much.  All the meds are working -- and the Warfarin just a little too much for his knees but perfect for his heart.  

Two weeks ago at this same ER we lost our dear friend Tom.  Over the weekend our friend Debby ended up in the same ER with eye problems -- and then today, Hubby was there getting checked out.  We think Tom must be watching over us all -- he's hovering about, making sure we all come away with good treatment and a prognosis that is just a little scary -- but not dire.  We're glad he's still hanging around, taking care of us all.  It's not the same as having dinner with him, but we feel his presence just the same.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Whoa! Something Happened to Blogger

The whole layout for posting has changed which has left me confused, befuddled, and wondering what will happen when I post.  I'm even concerned IF I can post.  Which speaks to the fact that the older I get the less well I adapt to change.  When I get comfortable with something, understand how to use it, and can make it work pretty much the way I want, I find I don't react well when everything suddenly looks and "acts" differently.

Today was a school holiday.  I spent the day diddling around on the computer, taking a long bath, and cooking Hubby a pork chop (minus the bone) lunch.  Then, thought I, let's post something joyous on the computer, because, let's be honest, the last entry was something of a downer.  And I open blogger to find everything looks and feels different.

Yesterday Hubby and I met the second of the third couples we attend concerts with at Tom's funeral.  It was a Catholic Mass and thankfully it was not a service full of "Tom Memories" -- which I probably could not have sat through.  I'm a crier at funerals -- and even when I have gone to funerals of people I barely know (to support either Hubby who was singing at the funeral or to support a friend who lost a loved one) I cry.  Put me at a funeral with lots of sad music and sad stories about a person I love and I'm a total embarrassment. 

After the service we drove to the cemetery in the funeral procession and stood outside on a beautiful, breezy, spring day.  The clouds were wafting overhead, the birds were singing full voice, and Tom was laid to rest in a virgin plot -- no other graves were around him.  He looked like he would be reigning over his own summer meadow.  He has a lovely resting spot -- I like to think of him there. 

A lunch was being served at Tom's church following the burial, but we elected to go to a favorite "down home" restaurant of Tom's and eat lunch together, telling funny stories about concerts and meals we shared.  The staff at the restaurant knew Tom, and gathered round as Hubby told them that we had just come from his funeral.   We sat for a spell after the meal, just "remembering." 

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye

Hubby and I were sitting in UMKC White Concert Hall chatting with the couple seated one row ahead of us about our just devoured dinner. It was the first time we had met Debby and Lou for dinner and they had introduced us to a new dining experience in the local neighborhood. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves while the couple just to the right of us were trying not to listen in. Finally, though, it became evident that they were also enjoying the conversation. We introduced ourselves. They tentatively suggested that they might also like to have a dining adventure before the next concert. And thus began a long, satisfying, delightful friendship.

We're all not exactly sure of the date -- but it was sometime around ten years ago. I know we were all good friends in 2003 because I have pictures of them attending our 25th wedding anniversary.

Over the years the restaurant dinners expanded into our homes. They attended Hubby's concerts when he was still singing. We also went to movies and plays together when our interests coincided. We began to meet just for dinner -- for the pleasure of breaking bread in each other's company, not just attending an event following the meal.

We shared the sadness of a funeral when Debby's beloved sister died after a long illness. We cried together over the loss of long time pets. During every one of Hubby's illnesses, these two couples were the first I reached out to for prayers and support. When Hubby came home from the hospital in February, 2011, Nancy brought over a heavenly pot roast feast, a week's worth of food so we wouldn't worry about cooking. When Lou had hip replacement surgery, we were all there to lend him support. When Lou's mom was here for an extended bout of recuperation, we all worried about their little family.

At holidays, we met before Christmas to share in Christmas decorations and treats. We met after New Year's to dispose of the all the Christmas goodies in one grand potluck dinner. We met just this past Palm Sunday to share a dinner at a newly re-opened area restaurant.

Each year Tom and Nancy have helped Debby and Lou celebrate Lou's Day -- always around Valentine's Day. When Tom and Nancy's grandchildren were born, we excitedly awaited the new round of photos. When Debby, then, Lou, and finally Tom retired we cheered on their new interests in life. As I prepare for retirement this spring, each couple has been not just interested, but supportive.

We learned each others' foibles and preferences. We found that Tom loved appetizer plates. Nancy didn't much care for dessert. Lou preferred tenderloin sandwiches and spicy food. Debby drank iced coffee when she could get it and always has corned beef if it was on the menu. Everybody loved a good brunch. We shared our joy in experiencing new restaurants and finding good, cheap diner food.

Everyone was a classical music fan but Nancy also enjoyed jazz and the contemporary sound. Tom loved ballet and modern dance. Lou's taste were so eclectic that be it blue grass, rap, or contrapuntal, he loved it all. Debby thought Bach was horrible and would read a book if his music was on the program -- then stick her tongue out at us afterward.

Tom was our resident curmudgeon along with Hubby. He didn't tolerate poor service at dinner. He also had a wicked sense of humor, once he knew you well enough to share it. He could make you laugh until your sides hurt -- not with jokes but with his out-takes on the life around him. He could tell a great story and had just the perfect tone to turn his understatements into a table rolling with laughter.

While the rest of us were so liberal we nearly fell off the left side of the political spectrum, Tom managed a more middle line. His opinions were strongly felt and, though he wasn't shy about expressing them, he always left room for others to disagree. He never made you feel bad because you might hold an opinion he thought was "just this side of irresponsible."

Tom loved his wife. He adored his son. He thought the moon rose and set on his grandchildren. He treated Hubby as a treasure. He also had a welcoming hug to give you before you sat down in his company. He listened to our stories, some interesting, some very boring -- but he made us feel that each one was a lyrical gem. He made guests to his home feel incredibly welcome. He loved to garden. His spirit was generous almost to a fault.

This Sunday Tom left us. We knew he had chronic health problems but he never would share exactly what was wrong with him. He didn't like to dwell on it, we supposed, or have us feel sory for him. He didn't complain much. We knew sometimes he would leave a party early because he didn't feel well. He retired from Children's Mercy just this past fall but he claimed it was "simply time." He wanted to putter, he said.

For me, this has been an incredible shock. I'm stunned and, though it sounds like a an overstatement, heartbroken. Tom was an important part of my life. Without family here in Kansas City, honestly without family other than Wendy anywhere in this world, losing Tom has taken a piece out of my soul.

I know his wife, his son, his grandkids, his brother, his friends, his church will all be bereft without him. But on a personal level for me, no pre-concert meal, no concert will ever be quite the same without his presence. If afterlife is made up of the memories people hold in their heart, Tom will be around us for as long as my memory remains in tack.

Now I must find a way to say goodbye to a dear man and beloved friend. As my sister-in-law has taught me, it's not bloodlines but heartlines that make a difference in your life. Tom Reddig forged a line straight into my heart. I will miss him more than any words can convey.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

He Never Sang Me a Serenade

Someone wrote to me, saying they enjoyed my "39 year story" (see Sunday's entry) and believed that Hubby must have sung me some wonderful songs. Oh, contraire! Here's my response:

Hubby has never really sung for me. The only song he ever sang directly to me was on our 25th wedding anniversary -- and I didn't know in advance what he would choose, just that everyone at the concert expected him to dedicate a song to me.

I had to laugh though -- it was "If Ever I Would Leave You" -- from Camelot. It was the perfect choice, of course, even if NOT very romantic. Throughout our 39 years we both agreed, through hard times (and there were many) and good, we had made a commitment to this relationship and would not walk away. Sometimes that was hard for both of us -- but it was the promise we made when we finally decided (34 years ago) to get married.

For Hubby, a classically trained artist, singing was a job -- and just as I don't attempt to teach him at home, he has not sung to me. He did sing around the house but not songs dedicated to me. He would sing in the car -- but it was always something either religious, funny, or classical. He has, on occasion, sung for me -- at events I've requested where he perform. He has sung songs I've asked for and thought would fit his voice. . . but the love serenade is not part of our romance.

During the late 1980's and early 1990's however, he sang repeatedly and on my request, "You'll Never Walk Alone" for the kids we were helping sue the Kansas School District. This became their theme song (and it was NEVER, EVER a favorite of Hubby's -- partly because of the sappy message and partly because the range is so ridiculous). He once admitted early on in our relationship that this was the song he associated most with me, mostly I think because our agreement with the marriage was that neither of us would walk the hard path alone again -- no matter what it took, neither of us would just up and walk away. Consequently, in his mind, I'm "never going to walk alone" again.

The sad thing now is, that due to his multiple health complications, Hubby can no longer sing at all. We both miss his beautiful voice -- and I once thought when this day would come, he would also lose his identity. Instead, he has adjusted quite well to not being able to make music. He still has some voice students and he's always on the lookout for the next new talent, but his own music making days have been gone for the last two years now. This has brought a huge change in our lives and is one of the reasons why I'm so determined to retire this year. We're both having to face the fact that age is robbing us of some our abilities -- and if we want some time together when we are still able to participate actively in the things we enjoy, we had better do it now.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

It was just yesterday , , ,

It was the fall of 1972. I went with friends to join an amateur choir. The membership was filled many interesting people, most of whom I immediately liked. The purpose of the choir was to provide a place where people of all races could come together and perform music they enjoyed. We performed to other people who wanted to help foster a more accepting racial climate in a city that was being torn apart by racial boundaries and differences. See, even then I was something of a rebel.

The choir was being directed by a short, bald, heavy-set black man with the voice of an angel. He wasn't in any sense handsome. He certainly did NOT represent any man I had ever seen as my prince charming. He did, however, have the most dynamic personality of any person I'd ever met -- before or since. And when he sang, my entire soul vibrated.

He flirted with me. He flirted with every single woman in the choir -- no matter her age, weight, height, race, or looks. I flirted back. He asked if I'd go out with him -- but he never got around to making a date. At Christmas he came to my door at 8:30 at night to get some of the Christmas cookies I told him my mother had baked. Thank God she had already gone to bed. My dad opened the door, saw this huge (but short) very black man on his door steps asking for his daughter and slammed the door in his face. He did call me to come to the door, where upon the man was invited in and ate a cookie and took several home with him.

We continued to flirt all through the winter and into the spring of 1973. The man began to phone me. He claimed he was just too busy to make time to actually go on a date. Finally he set a time to take me bowling. Then he canceled.

Suddenly, it was Holy Week. After choir rehearsal that Wednesday he took a small group of us to a downtown hotel for cocktails and dancing. The funny thing is neither of us drink. He only danced with me. I had eyes only for him. My friends took me aside and warned me, "He's really dangerous, Milly. You can't handle a man with that kind of experience." I laughed and danced closer to him.

My church was sponsoring a beautiful Maundy Thursday service and on the spur of the moment I invited him to come -- never thinking what a sensation my all white church would make of this man. My parents had already left Kansas City for their summer home, so they only heard long distance from a shocked congregation about this date.

He met me at the church. I found him in the foyer, standing all alone, with a gaggle of white folks giving us eyes askance. In the church, as soon as the first hymn was begun, everyone wanted to know who the man with the voice of an angel was. He met nearly the entire congregation following the service and, of course, he was invited back.

That night he took me home and we "made out" on the couch. About 1 a.m. he left for his own home. Two hours later he phoned me, saying he was outside in his van, wanting to see the sun come up with me.

Hubby and I have been together ever since.

At Easter brunch this morning we had a fond reminiscence about our 39 years together. It's not been all strawberries and cream but that Easter 39 years ago changed both our lives for the better. It seems like it was only yesterday . . .

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Friday, April 06, 2012

You've Got to Live It to Understand It

I've been playing around on the net, reading new journals and bookmarking the ones I think I might like to dip into on a more detailed level. I find myself immediately leaving a site that tries to claim that the Trayvon Martin case in Florida has valid points for both the groups: those white folks that claim there may actually be a valid reason (other than racism) why Zimmerman shot the kid and was never arrested.

African Americans understand the unfortunate, unhappy American truth in this crime in a way that no white person ever can. My husband physically snorts whenever NPR comes on during the morning drive to school, when they try to offer an opinion other than the murder of Trayvon Martin was a racially motivated crime, that there may still be two sides to this sad story.

Black mothers understand. Black fathers are terrified of it. Black youth live it daily.

If you are white you may not want to believe it - - but African Americans are still the target of the police and the power structure in America. Daily. Hourly. Every minute of their lives.

You won't understand it on a gut level unless your skin is black. Then you know on every level what it really is like to have a target on your back. You see the averted eyes, the fear on faces, the body language that shies away from a young black man dressed in baggy pants, the staring with the quick turn of the head, the security guard who trails after you in the store, the clerk who won't wait on you, the inferior school you attend, the promotion you can't get on the job (especially if you're an African American woman), and the white person who will adamantly insist they aren't racist because some "of my best friends are black." And you hear it in the silence by those "good white folks" who don't speak up and fight against this type of racism when they see it happening all around them.

I can't claim to truly understand how bad it is. I do know I've lived some of it. I know that I can speed down Ward Parkway, one of our major thoroughfares in town, with expired license plates on an old, beat up car and the cop on the corner ignores that I'm going 10 miles over the speed limit and my plates were due to be renewed last year (this actually happened to me and I breathed a huge sigh of relief). If Hubby is driving we both know that if he's going even slightly over the speed limit, with completely legal plates and all his papers in order, he's going to be stopped. This is true in town and on the highway. In Texas we often have me drive the stretch from Dallas to Houston because I can get away going the regulation speed of 90 (everybody DOES it! when the speed limit is really 70). Hubby stays under 70 to make sure he's not targeted -- and even the trucks will pass him by.

As we've aged, Hubby's no longer searched when he's stopped -- but he used to be. I know he's been asked to prove he owns the car -- even when he wasn't speeding or doing anything illegal. All black men know bout DWB -- Driving While Black -- and that it happens in every major city. Statistics prove that minority drivers are stopped in far greater numbers than white drivers.

I've been in fancy department stores where the clerks have ignored Hubby. In St. Louis one day, we were looking for a sport's jacket for him in a downtown store and though there were three clerks on the floor doing nothing, no one would help us. Hubby finally took to taking coats off the rack, trying them on, and then dropping them on the floor. This brought the security guards to us. Hubby explained and security told us we had to leave the store. Furious, I said I wanted to see a manager and it was only then, when my white middle class voice spoke up, that we received an apology and the manager came and did wait on us. Of course, we refused to purchase anything.

I have been in numerous situations, especially when I worked in the construction industry and for the #3 telephone company, where racist comments were made to me by white people -- because my skin was white, these folks just believed I would relate to their bigotry and would innately agree with them. My own mother never got over her racial prejudice against my own husband.

When I first started teaching again, in the school that I have called wonderful, I took Hubby to a Christmas party at the home of my small learning community's coordinator, and the first thing Hubby said on the way home was: "Lordy, what a bunch of bigots!" The only minority member of the community had elected NOT to attend the party, of course. Hubby watched the way we were viewed as a couple and he, as an individual, and understood quickly that this group of mostly white males felt uncomfortable around him. Of course, nothing ugly was said -- it was body language and looks that conveyed a message of being "uncomfortable" with Hubby in the room.

If you're one of those folks who think Zimmerman may have been threatened by Trayvon, you have a right to your opinion. I would only ask that you think about a law that allowed him to shoot a kid carrying only Skittles and iced tea without any consequences at all. Ask yourself, "Would Trayvon have been allowed to shoot Zimmerman if he had only iced tea and a cell phone in his hands? Would he have walked away with no arrest?" If you say, "Well, probably not" -- then you know you are looking at crime impacted by the race of the teenager. And that in itself should make you furious.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Tearing Down and Starting Over

Hubby has decided to update / restore the outside of our little 60+ year old bungalow (pictured at right in the 1990's) so it will last us 20 more years. I was glad he has been thinking in long-range terms, but I'm horrified at all the work he is having done.

Last week he took his two-man crew downstairs and they tore out the knotty pine paneling on the outside backyard wall, took up all the 1970's basement shag carpeting, tore down the ceiling tiles (which had been falling down on a regular basis anyway) and moved in a dumpster to get rid of the debris.

I've been afraid to go downstairs ever since the work started -- even though we really needed to do several loads of wash over the past weekend. Hubby has been happily throwing out things I'd stored down in the basement (and forgotten) and I didn't want to be reminded of those things that were now trash, just in case a mad desire to repossess them overtook me.

Tomorrow the foundation men arrive -- to jack up the back outside wall which has bowed and cracked. You don't want to know the cost of this little endeavor.

Following that repair, Hubby plans on new siding and new windows. This should make the outside of the house look pretty spiffy. That leaves the inside . . . it's pretty clear what my responsibilities will be once June 1 rolls around.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Oh, my . . .

Hubby is so very unhappy with my decision to retire that, even after all the work we've already done -- and all the planning and budgeting, he wants me to work another two years. He really feels that if I do work until I'm 68, we will be much more secure and will have updated the house to the specs that he would like to carry us through until . . . well, the end of life.

So I've postponed retirement for two years.

Talk about depression . . . I'm so sad. I honestly can't think of another thing to write.