Saturday’s Theme Music

Hello, world. Saturday, April 3, 2021 is or has arrived, depending on where you are when you read this. It could also already be gone by the time this post crosses your path.

The timestamp shows that Sol showed up in Ashland at 6:50 AM Pacific Time. She’s gonna cut out again at 7:39 PM. Meanwhile, she is warming us a bit, so we’re expecting a high temp in the low seventies F.

Today’s music is “Kodachrome”, brought to you by Paul Simon back in 1973. Over on Facebook, Mom shared a series of photos showing four to six young cousins from, the offspring of three different sisters, cuddling and playing in a chair at her house. These would be grandnieces and grandnephews to me. The oldest was ten and the ages dropped off to two. All are caught smiling and laughing. The photos were taken a few years ago.

It reminded me of going home at times. Home was always where mom or my mother-in-law lived. They always asked, “When are you coming home?” I may have left those homes when I was a teenager, establishing homes for me and my wife around the world, but our mothers always asked, “When are you coming home?”

Part of being back home was discovering the old family photos. As older relatives, boxes and envelopes of old photographs arrived. Time was spent studying these things. Sometime notes, dates, or memories established what we were seeing, but many times, we were left with questions of who, when, where?

Thinking of these digital photographs, caught on phones, transferred to computers, displayed on FB, I wondered what it’ll be like in fifty years for these children. Will FB be there to display the photos and remind them of who put it on the net? Or will they be processing through some machine on some night when their mind is restless, put in the right information and stumble across the photos by themselves? Will they remind that date, that chair, those cousins? Will they all still be tight as friends?

Stay positive, test negative, wear a mask, get the vax, and build some memories. Here’s the music, released back when I was a kid. Cheers

Mom’s Call

I’d just been saying to my wife, “Getting hold of Mom is so hard.”

“Why?” She was peering over her glasses, typing on her computer. She’s always doing that – or reading or bathing (much time is spent in the bathtub reading) – so I’m not bothered by bothering her.

“She doesn’t text, or answer emails. I don’t think she checks her email every day or even every other day. She says she’s going to call back, but she doesn’t. She leaves a number but she doesn’t answer it. It doesn’t even go to her email.” I shook my head, dismayed by the recitation. Mom lives a continent away. Visiting her is a challenge. It’s rural on both ends. Rural meaning, no airports within an hour. Rural, meaning the flights to the nearest airport means travel days that begin and end in darkness on either end.

I’d just been saying/thinking these things when the phone rang. Suspicious of telemarketers – they’re focused on car warranties right now (meanwhile, I’m receiving solicitations about being cremated or getting my hearing tested in the mail) – I checked the number. “Mom’s number,” I said, answering the phone.

Hello was exchanged and I began my opening remarks. “How are you? I’ve been calling since you last called but I don’t get any answer.”

“Your father is dead.”

“Really?” Suspicions reared up. “You told me that three times before.”

“Twice. The other time was him.”

“No, he told you that he committed suicide.”

“It was a note.”

“Still, you called me and told me Dad was dead.”

“I thought he was.”

“That he’d killed himself.”

“I thought he had.”

I left the office to wander the house, a nervous habit I had when talking with Mom. “Even though there wasn’t a body.”

“I thought he was being thoughtful and had gone off and killed himself in the woods. He’s really dead this time.”

“Is there a body this time?”

“Yes.”

“I think I need third-party verification.”

“Your sister is here.”

“Which one?”

“Debby.”

“Debby? Really?”

“Yes, she came up to see us. She and the boys drove up. The got here last Thursday. She’s staying in the spare room. Her boys are staying with Jean. I think Jean got the better deal.”

“Probably.”

“Do you want to talk to her? She’ll tell you that your Dad is dead.”

I stopped at the living room back window. A blue jay was screeching in the back yard. Our black cat watched from atop a sunny knoll. “No, I don’t trust Debby any more than you.”

“I understand.”

I changed hands and thought. “What about my other sisters?”

“They’re not here.”

“Have you told them?”

“Yes. Jean is at work. She’s coming over when she gets off, after she picks up the boys. The boys are going to school from home. Rooming.”

“Zooming.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Is anyone there with them?”

“Yes, of course, Dibo.”

“Is he sober?”

“He says he is. Jean doesn’t have any alcohol in the house any longer. Dibo drank it all. She won’t let him buy more.”

“Where there’s a credit card, there’s a way.” I was quoting Mom from her previous calls.

“She took his credit cards away from him.”

“What about Jan?”

“I don’t think Dibo is drinking any more. He quit smoking, too, except for medical marijuana. He lost a lot of weight but now he’s gained most of it back.”

“Did you tell Jan?”

Mom hesitated. “No, I didn’t tell Jan.”

“Why not?”

“She has other things that she’s dealing with.”

“What?”

“Well, she got into an argument over a parking space. Apparently, some words were exchanged. Anyway, some people filmed it with their phones. Now they’re calling her Karen and she’s in jail for assault with a shopping cart.”

I sighed, trying to think of a response. I heard water running on the other end. Talking followed. “What’s going on?”

The talking continued. So did the water sounds. “Mom? Hello, Mom? It’s me, your son. You’re on the phone. Hello?”

Changing hands, I walked the house, listening and thinking.

Mom finally said, “Your father’s up. I need to make him dinner. I’ll call you later, okay? I love you, bye.”

She hung up before I replied. Pressing the phone’s off button, I walked back into the office where my wife continued typing.

“Was that your Mom?”

“Yes.”

“How is everything?”

“Dad is still alive. Debby is visiting, Dibo is straight, and Jan is in jail.”

“Same as last time.”

“Yep.” I sat in my office chair and swiveled it to the front window. A heavy sigh rolled up out of my chest. “Some day she’ll accept that Dad divorced her and the others don’t exist.” I always said that. It never happened. I just went along with it all.

“Phone calls will be a lot shorter.”

I stared out the front window, wistfully watching a man and woman walking a dog. They seemed so normal. But so did Mom. “Yes, they will.”

The Adulting Dream

I felt like the sole adult in this dream, hence the title. I seemed to be visiting Mom’s home, at least, at first. It’s not like any house that she lived in. She was there, however, along with sisters, wife, and many others.

The first act found me looking around Mom’s home with dismay. She always kept a clean and organized house; this place, although big, didn’t fit that description. As others were talking, I stared at something in an upper corner of the room. It appeared to be a giant cobweb. I called that to Mom’s attention. When she went to clean it, she discovered that it was an old Halloween decoration that she’d put up. She thought it so pretty, she left it up there.

The family, including me, dispersed to do other things. I remained dissatisfied about the state of the house, and walked around looking for impressions to vet my conclusion. It seemed like people weren’t paying attention to it. Crossing into the dining room, I discovered the floor was soaking wet. So was the furniture. In fact, water was splashing on the floor through the open window. I gathered that the sprinkler had been turned out with a window left open, and that the sprinkler had been left running.

I fetched Mom to show her what was going on, telling her to walk into the room so that she could see for herself. When she exclaimed about the floor being wet, I showed her the open window and the sprinkler. Then I told her that this was what I meant by people not paying attention to details, not thinking.

That ended act one. The next act began in the same location, but with new features, people, and furniture. Young adults were being prepped for a test. I had an impression that I was a visiting uncle. I barely knew these four young people. They were experiencing trouble with some of the test prep. Every once in a while, though, they’d break out singing the Queen song, “Somebody to Love”. They did a good job of it, too. But singing that song was disrupting their test prep.

Moving in, I stopped the singing and reminded everyone that they were preparing for a test. Then I pulled out one of the books and put it on a table. The table was one of many, a square made for one person. But the four nieces and nephews pulled up chairs and sat around this one table as I explained what the problem was about and how to solve it. They picked it up quickly and then began studying in earnest. I made the suggestion that since the test was open book, they have the book opened to that particular page, ready. That thought that was a great idea.

I then backed away and observed to one of their parents, “They do know that they need to be at separate desks, don’t they, and have separate books?” After he confirmed that was true, I suggested that they go ahead and set up like that. They did that. I walked to the door to leave. As I did, one nephew began singing “Somebody to Love” again. As the others took up the song, I interrupted and reminded them that they needed to get ready for the test. Then I left.

Outside the place, I passed a small, pale yellow school. About a dozen teenage girls were in front of it, complaining that they were bored and had nothing to do. They seemed about the ages of my nieces and nephews, back getting ready for the test. These two groups should come together, I thought. They’d be good for one another.

I returned to the test area, intent on telling them that. As I came in, one nephew began singing, “Somebody to Love”.

Dream end.

On Some Days

  1. On some days, I want to get away by myself to scream at the world. Yesterday was such a day. Stepped into the shower and screamed in silence. Was somewhat cathartic.
  2. I was driving along unlined streets in a residential neighborhood yesterday. Cars were parked along the side but there’s more than enough room for two cars to pass. Yet, so many drivers could not manage that. Driver age, sex, vehicle size…none of it seemed to explain it. People just couldn’t manage it. I thought it was because of the lack of lines. What tended to happen was that folks in one direction would stop so that folks proceeding in the other direction could drive straight down the middle. Young, old, male, female, all exhibited problems with it. “Just move over,” I’d tell them through the windshield. “Just use your side of the street. Honestly, it’s not that hard.” I should be more considerate of others but…on some days…it’s harder.
  3. Contemplating a favorite shirt’s fate. Like everything else, there is a season, turn, turn, etc. Bought this shirt back in 1999. Have photographic evidence of that, for there I am, wearing it in a dated photo. Nothing special, button down collar, long-sleeved, cotton, faded blue stripes on egg shell white. It’s been with me in two states, four houses, five companies, and ten cats (sigh.) (The cats were three to five at a time…) Probably paid about twenty-five dollars for the shirt. Can’t recall that, although I do recall that I bought it on sale at Macy’s. Good jeans shirt. Have gotten some compliments while wearing it, but mostly I like its style and comfort. It’s been gently descending the hill for years, evidenced mostly through armpit stains. I’ve washed those out with a lemon juice and baking soda process a couple times. Now, though…the collar is frayed. It looks like it’s time for the shirt to finally move on. I guess, properly, I’m moving on from the shirt.
  4. I feel like a prisoner sometimes. (Such an exaggeration, right?) I hate throwing things away, but it’s inculcated into my nature and our society. Besides the shirt, there’s now an electric kettle. Probably purchased ten years ago, the spring which helps the lid release and open no longer functions. Can it be fixed? Maybe…if I can find the right spring.
  5. I contemplate the conundrum. Savings are acquired by mass production. Costs are kept down by underpaying people and going to the margin on design and materials. Paying more can gain you more…maybe. You really can’t be sure. But after a few years, when the device or clothing fails, what do you do with it? Where does it goes? The recycling gig seems to be filling up and failing. That’s always been the fallback: recycle or repurpose. I have containers full of used shirts now relegated to being rags out in the garage.
  6. Dad was going to get a new stent this past week. His wife called. He’s eighty-eight. A COPD sufferer, he’d gone into the hospital on Monday to have his meds adjusted for his COPD. Suffering from edema resulting in a swollen left leg and foot, he was kept for observations and a stress test, and given diuretics. The stress test never happened; he was wheezing too much on that day, Wed. He was released on Thursday with plans to have the stress test done in the future. Meanwhile, he and his wife got the COVID-19 vaccination on Friday, which was paramount for them.
  7. I spent an hour on the phone chatting with Dad. He was in a talkative mood and opened up about his youth, something unusual for him. Mom and Dad divorced when I was about ten. He was in the military and oft stationed overseas, so I lived with him for about seven years total, including my final three years of high school. It was just him and me for two of those years. He worked, and I went to school, cleaned, and cooked. We didn’t see much of one another.
  8. Dad revealed that he met Mom in Sioux City, Iowa, when he was stationed there. (She’s from Turin, Iowa, and he’s from Pittsburgh, PA.) This was back in 1952. He was a radioman and she was a seventeen-year-old telephone switchboard operator. Too young to for her to marry in Iowa, they went to Luverne, Minnesota. There he discovered that while she was older enough (fifteen was the age for females there), he wasn’t old enough at twenty; he had to be twenty-one. Naturally, Dad managed to procure a letter with his father’s signature verifying that he was twenty-one. But no, wait. They told him that he had to have his mother’s signature. “Well, Mom is dead,” Dad replied. Then he called his father and said, “Can you tell these people that Mom passed?” That was done but he got grief for it from his parents for years.
  9. Joe Biden has been POTUS for a month and has yet to go golfing. By this point in his term, one month, Con Don had golfed six times. Donald Trump’s aides don’t want to admit the President is golfing – CNN Politics
  10. Enough whining and complaining for now. Got my coffee. Caspa, Uno Dos, and Billy await. They’re just meeting Spag and the recos for the first time. Time to go write like crazy, at least one more time.

A Loaded Dream

This dream held so many elements. They happened in parallel but I broke them out to think about each nugget.

  1. I was preparing to travel and return home. I was visiting Mom and other my sisters in the east. Throughout, I was trying to determine what time I needed to leave. I was driving and flying. As I thought about when I was leaving, I thought in terms of minutes and had a stack of dimes. Each dime represented one minute. Did I have enough dimes? Stacking them, I had more than enough.
  2. My youngest sister (often referred to as my ‘littlest’ century, though she’s been alive for over half a century and have two sons in their teens) and her friend were missing. They’d gone on a walk. A storm was coming in and hours had gone by. As time passed and our worries increased, I tried calling her on her phone and sending her text messages. By the end, the messages were, “Call when you get this. We’re worried.”
  3. I’d bought land on top of cliffs. Located on the coast, growing ocean waves were pummeling it. I was thinking about building a seawall on top of it to protect it. I had a view out my window of the cliffs and the waves, which were about a half mile away.
  4. My car was located in a parking garage with others’ cars. At one point, heavy machinery came by and started tearing the parking structure down. Accosting the foreman, I said with some outrage, “My car is parked in that structure in a lower level, along with others.” The others had come out and were nodding and agreeing. The foreman mocked and laughed us while talking about how strong the structure was, that nothing would happen to our cars on the lower decks, but he stopped further activity and walked off looking concerned.
  5. Mom kept finding clothing and items left behind from other visits, such as a gray leather wallet, a black belt, and a pale gray sports coat. The coat was so pale, it was almost white. As I collected these things, I was trying to fit them into my luggage. Remembering the jacket, I decided that I would wear it on my travels home. The gray wallet was in excellent shape, but was empty. I knew it was mine, however, recalling when I bought it in Korea.
  6. A high school friend was present. He kept making suggestions about things to do. When he came up with something, he wrote it down and dated it so it’d be documented when he’d came up with the ideas, so he’d get credit. One of the ideas he’d come up with was building a sea wall on the cliff. I’d already come up with that idea, I explained to him, but it slide off like soft butter on a hotter knife. I started writing things down, too, backdating some of them, so I had proof that I’d thought of them first.
  7. As I packed, I kept trying to decide where to put things and what I wanted to have on me while traveling. While I did that, I found that I had three wallets. How’d I get three wallets? What should I do with them? Having three amused me but I wasn’t surprised.

A lot to think about with this one.

So the Thoughts

So the thoughts go, ah, another cousin has died. He was seventy-three. Positive for COVID-19, kidney failure was his cause of death.

The thoughts continue, when did I see him last? What happened to him in the interim?

The thoughts drift…did he marry and have children? Who are they and where do they live?

The thoughts roll on to other uncles and aunts and their children, and their children’s children.

Two other cousins passed away in 2020. Hadn’t seen one in two decades. Almost six had passed since I’d seen the other. They and I were small children. Also passing was an aunt, not seen since I was two or three.

In a modern age of connection and travel, it’s startling to recognize how many of my family members I know about, and how little I know about them.

Two related stories are there to be told. One is of a cousin fourteen years younger. He was friends with my sister via FB. (My sister has a different father than me and last name and she’s since married a few times.) He reached out to her: “Hey, how come my mom’s maiden name and your brother’s last name are the same?” He was too young to remember me, and didn’t know about our connection.

Another friend request came in last year. Mom’s older brother had a son who know lives north of me by a few hours. Can we be friends? A few years older, he and I have a lot in common. On one FB exchange today, we discovered that we attended the same Joe Cocker concern a few years ago. From our description of where we were sitting, we were within yards of one another.

It’s a large world and a small world, a world tangled with connections and distance. I began trying to untangle some of it today.

Saturday’s Theme Music

Called Mom yesterday to exchange holiday greetings. She lives in a suburb east of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania where they’re more or less snowed in. Four to six inches were on the ground and the snow was still falling. The roads had been plowed and salted, and appeared outside her window. But snow still fell and temperatures were low. Those are treacherous conditions. If you don’t need to go out, you don’t.

So she and her fiancée spent Christmas at home alone. They seemed fine with that. Stocked with plenty of food, they know how to entertain themselves and one another. She conveyed to me the news that the governor had announced that Allegheny county, where she resides, had received the Pfizer COVID-19. Residents seventy years old plus would be the first vaccinated. Mom is awaiting word on the schedule and details.

Conversation ended up including food — of course (Mom and my sisters love holiday meal planning, and endless discussions, texts, and emails ensue to make it all happen — which it didn’t, this COVID year) — relatives, and then music. Mom relayed to me that her two favorite songs are “Blue Christmas” covered by Elvis Presley (1957) and “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey (1994). “Blue Christmas” has been around a while. In cassette days, one sister always bought her a new cassette for the holiday. Mom would pop it into her Walkman and wear it out as she listened and went about activities.

The Carey song stuck in my head. So, thanks to Mom, your after-Christmas theme music is “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Whenever I think of this song, it’s lifted from the movie, Love Actually (2003). Enjoy the music, stay positive, test negative, wear a mask, and get the vaccine. Happy holiday!

Family Lore

I woke up thinking about Mom and being snowed in. I’d already sent her a quick, kidding message about having enough food on hand. It’s an ongoing joke that Mom always has a great deal of food on hand — especially desserts and treats. Besides, my three sisters and four adult grandchildren live in the area. They’re always checking in on her to ensure she has food. Mom’s boyfriend lives with her. His family also checks in on them. Food won’t be an issue.

Mom enjoys telling stories, and being snowed in reminded me of one. A retired nurse, she was a recurring baby-sitter for my grandniece, Amy. Once, when Amy was six (she’s graduating from college next year), Mom was driving her through a slippery Pittsburgh snowstorm on one of the back roads around Penn Hills and Monroeville. As the car began spinning and swerving, Amy shouted, “Grandma, don’t kill us!”

The car ended up off road, but a young man witnessed it and got her out in short order. However, the sentence, “Grandma, don’t kill us!” is enshrined in family lore.

Let It Snow

Mom was born and raised in a little town called Turin, Iowa. Dad was in the military, stationed not far away when they met. When he went overseas on assignment, Mom took the children and moved in with her in-laws in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Whenever she talks about those times, it’s with delighted and happy wistfulness. Dad and Mom divorced but Mom says she never fell out of love with his family. It must be true; after we’d moved around the country while Dad was in the military, she returned to Pittsburgh and grew her roots over sixty years ago.

I’ve asked her, “Why Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?” Now, her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are all there, and so she’ll remain. But back then, why?

…she loves the people of Pittsburgh, its hills, bridges, and history, the change of seasons, and summer thunderstorms. More than anything, she loves it when it snows there. When big snowstorms strike, she turns on the heat, opens the curtains and watches the snow.

Back when I was a child in her household, I’d charge outside to play in the snow. Hours later, I’d return. Everything would be stripped off in the basement to be hung up to dry or tossed in the dryer. Hot soup with cheese sandwiches or hot chocolate with marshmallows would inevitably follow, depending on the hour.

I’m thinking of this today because she sent me a video via FB. It’s Frank Sinatra singing, “Let It Snow”. I laughed immediately; I’d seen the weather forecast for Pittsburgh and saw the forecasts for snow, and thought, that’ll make Mom happy.

She always claims we have a psychic connection. Here’s the video. I know all the words. Mom played it back when I was growing up in Pittsburgh whenever the snow began to fall. Listening to it and thinking of her, I just need to smile.

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