Easier Said Than Done

The end of the month is putting pressure on me to post so I can keep my readership numbers up. There is nothing like some friendly competition with myself. Actually, the competition is with you the reader. Without your visit to my blog I wouldn’t have numbers to measure against. I almost made writing a daily routine during the COVID lockdown. I recall posting seventy-something days in a row for a personal best. It almost killed me to use my brain that much. My usual routine is to begin the month with lots of posts and then about mid-month I get lazy and forget about writing. As the calendar numbers roll over, and the viewer numbers drop like a rock my ego gets a pumping and I kick writing back into gear.

I related in my last post that in high school and college I found writing stories to be fun. I still write them for fun, but only when they relate personal experiences. When I have to write a post or essay on a specific topic, I freeze. So the moral of my story is this, live an interesting life filled with exciting, joyous, and sad moments so you will have many experiences to write about.

Currently, I’m acting as a counselor for a small immigrant family of two, a grandson and his grandmother. They were a family of three, but the boy’s father was killed in an accident. All of their funeral experience is from a foreign country. The funeral traditions in our country are vastly different. Hence, they haven’t got a clue about how to arrange a funeral. Add to that the fact that they are in shock, and are emotionally distraught, they seek answers for the how-to’s of burying a loved one. One problem is that they pine for the homeland tradition, but it is not here. I try my best to explain our customs, but the homeland customs rule their thoughts. We struggle as a group to reach compromise that fills their homeland needs with our traditions.

Death was not on their minds when they immigrated here. Only the prospect of opportunity and freedom scrolled through their heads. The mother and her son were inseparable for the twenty years they have lived here. The grandson came ten years later, and he too became inseparable. The father maintained a base they all called home. All three of them took jobs caring for people who needed live-in help. They took jobs that required their presence on a 24/7 basis. Many of these jobs were short term because the client died. At any one time there would be one, two, three, or no-one living in their rented house. They did make a point to celebrate birthdays, and holidays together, and when they did it was precious for all of them. No doubt that someday in the future they will also consider this event a precious one.

The grandmother is very traditional European and somewhat superstitious. She likes horoscopes, shaman’s and the religious rites of her childhood. She had decided with the grandson that the body would be cremated. The idea of taking the dead person from the morgue to the crematorium was traumatic. Grandmother held her ground and we were able to talk the mortician into holding the body for one day so we could have a final viewing. Except, he didn’t recommend a viewing of any kind. The accident involved a fire and the body was totally unrecognizable. He provided the body in a large cardboard box on a gurney and covered it with a sheet. Grandma brought some candles which she lit and placed near the gurney. She picked fresh flowers from the garden and placed them on the body. She walked around and around praying and talking to her son for some twenty minutes. She even touched him by touching the sheet, but jerked back if she felt something solid. She had to have those moments with her son for the last time before he went into the flames.

Grandma gets very teary eyed at times but fights off crying. She has to be strong she says, for my grandson. He, on the other hand breaks out into tears at every remembrance of times together with his father. Often he will speak out and say, my mind is overloaded with thoughts of everything. His sudden ascension to the top of the family and the responsibility of maintaining the home front for his grandmother and filling all of his fathers dreams are causing him to overload. I keep telling him to focus only on that which is important to do today. Forgot the future, forget the motorhome, forget the pickup truck, forget your dad’s collections they are not important today. What is important is getting him situated in a place where he can rest peacefully forever. To his grandmother I say that her son’s very sudden death is a gift from God. He could have lived on as a vegetable much like the people you take care of. He would have hated that. Instead, he died instantly. It is your grief that is large, his suffering was very slight if any at all.

Easier said than done.

One Lonely Day = 15 Cigarettes

This summer has been wonderful, and strange at the same time. Weather-wise I couldn’t ask for anything better, but Labor Day weekend was a big disappointment. It felt like Frankfort celebrated a weekend off. For forty years we have had a Fall Festival on Labor Day weekend. This year it was cancelled because of COVID. We will eventually recover from this shock, but it may take a long time, like several years.

Suddenly, fall is sneaking in and the weather is changing. Temperatures are dropping rapidly. It seems like I just got acclimated to living in ninety degrees when all of a sudden today it was sixty. Next week we will have some warm days but in general the temps will swing downward. Fall is in the air, the leaves are dropping from the trees and changing color too. Flowers and plant life are withering from the recent drought. I called it sneaking in, but it seems more like a thud, and its here.

The weather change has me thinking about wintering in a warm climate. I haven’t had that urge for several years, but now I do. I need to get away and shock my life into something new. The one problem I have with this plan is that it is the stress of distancing that has caused me to want to seek out a new life somewhere else, and COVID will be with me anywhere in the world I might want to escape to. I have a lot of thinking and researching to do before I make any reservations.

One scary thought is that my friend base in Phoenix is smaller now than it was six years ago. Being alone will not help to improve my attitude at all. I read a short article published in September, 2020 issue of Departures magazine titled “Happiness” by author Eviana Hartman on how happiness affects people’s lives and one sentence stunned me.

“Happy people are less likely to catch a virus, and loneliness can be as damaging to physical health as smoking fifteen cigarettes per day.”

I quit smoking forty-two years ago, and it scares me to know that I can wipe out the benefits by feeling lonely. Loneliness is one of the biggest problems I encountered after each of my life partners died. It took a long time to be happy again, and I worked hard at changing my life in order to reach a happy state. So far, I haven’t reached happiness after Peg’s passing, but it’s only been fourteen months.

All I can say is that I’m working on it, and that is all I want to say about that.

RUSH

At my age I never thought I would take the time to listen to a rock band, but I did. A few months ago I was in conversation with a friend at a pre-COVID gathering and we discussed road trips. The friend suggested I read a book by Neil Peart. “Who?” I asked. Please spell the name. Being really deaf I couldn’t’ make out the sound. P E A R T he spelled. “Just like it sounds,” I said. “Who is he?” He is the drummer for the rock band RUSH. “Who are they?”

Geddy Lee Neil Peart Alex Lifeson

“They were popular back in the eighties and nineties” was the reply.

“I never heard of them.” I made a note on my phone and several weeks later I ordered the book from the library. Then COVID hit and all things went into hiding including the library. A week ago, I got notice from the library that I had a book waiting. I was surprised when I picked it up that it was by Neil Peart. I had forgotten that I ordered it.

The book is called “Far and Wide, Bring That Horizon To Me,” by Neil Peart. I am now educated on who he is and what RUSH is. I can’t believe that after so many years I am still in the dark about this band. The book is a celebration of the band’s fortieth year together, their last road tour, and Neil’s last big motorcycle trip. The interesting thing about Neil is that he can’t stand spending his life on a tour bus while on tour. To make his life interesting he charts road trips in between concerts and rides the route on his BMW motorcycle. He has one travel companion who rides with him (Safety in Numbers).

To honor their forty years together RUSH did forty concerts on the R40 tour. The rationale was that the members are aging, and afraid that if they didn’t do it now they wouldn’t be capable of doing it later. Aging does have a way of changing minds and joints, and such. There is nothing like a guitarist with arthritic fingers and a drummer with tennis elbow. Then again it might have led to a completely new sound.

As I searched for photos of Neil and RUSH on Google Images I spotted a caption citing Neil’s obituary. What? I just found out about the guy and he died. Yes, he died this January 11, 2020 at age 67, four years after he published the book I just read. He must have learned of his brain cancer shortly after that last road trip. The Glioblastoma took him out of our lives. His goal in life was to be a person that people looked up to. I know I am one of his converts. I want to lead my life as he did, always learning, always seeking new information, always exploring the back ways of the world.

Hangover

Someday’s one wakes up and just drags the rest of the waking hours yawning, and desiring sleep even after eight hours of uninterrupted slumber. It is now four hours since hauling myself out of bed to take on a new day. Finally, it occurred to me that drinking a bottle of wine followed by a vodka chaser may not have been such a good idea last eve. When will I learn that mixing booze is not smart? Or maybe that too much booze is not healthy either.

Sunday, October 15, 1961

Writing should be easy today, but it isn’t. My fingers feel heavy and reluctant to find the keys. My mind seems to be in low gear struggling to climb the hill without any power. I need to downshift and get some torque going or I’ll never get to the peak. A memory pops into mind of my first long car trip in nineteen sixty-two when I drove a Volkswagen Bug across country. It was dark and I was tired, and I was passing through the high Sierras somewhere in northern California. This was before Interstate travel and limited grades. I screamed down hills at full speed headed toward pegging the speedometer at seventy-five. All thirty-nine horses were galloping full speed. Then, the tiny bug reached the vale and began the ascent of the next endless hill that extended into the black sky beyond the reach of the headlights. Passing anybody in the way until the speed dropped to sixty, then fifty, then down shifting into third gear to keep the engine pulling at max effort, then down to second and eventually into first gear and that is where the little bug that could stayed roaring away at full throttle and straining at fifteen mph eventually dropping to five miles per hour toward the apex. It seemed like eternity before reaching the crown, and the process reversed shifting through the gears to pick up speed and then bottoming at max speed before losing velocity up the next hill.

That was a long night driving that road, but I made it through in good shape because I knew how to shift gears and change with the need. Eventually, the little bug that could made it across America and back to Illinois. I learned why I wanted a car with more horsepower on that trip, thirty-nine horses is not enough to pull a lightweight car like the bug up those endless long hills. My gas mileage was great, but I paid for it with time and effort shifting gears. I didn’t learn my lesson too quickly however because I traded my bug for a high powered forty horsepower VW Karmann Ghia.

Hangovers are the body’s way of sending the owner a message about the dangers of pushing life limits too far. Although I am enjoying the solitude of this day my body is screaming at me with a warning to sl-o-o-ow down. My heart pump is working overtime trying to transport oxygen to all the sister components needed to sustain life. No doubt the fluid of life flowing within is also altered with too much alcohol and thus is not as effective as it could be. Brain power is severely limited and response to suggestion is sluggish. Like the little bug that could I feel like I am roaring at max effort to climb an imaginary hill that is seemingly endless. Hopefully, as the day wears on the crest will appear and the effort required to climb will ease a bit.

In the meantime, I don’t think I am going to drink like that again.

The Final Touches

Sunday was a day of rest. I felt lethargic most of the day. Toward evening I garnered enough energy to take a walk. It was hot, humid and somewhat breezy. The bugs kept to themselves to make the walk enjoyable. I came home and showered, plopped onto the couch and fired up an episode of Heartland. Thankfully, the big TV responded and it only took about two minutes for the episode to stream. I am losing faith in streaming from Amazon Prime. Often it takes me twenty to thirty minutes to make it work. The last time I had problems, I fired up my laptop and got the picture immediately. Last night I added Prime Video to my phone and it too fired up immediately. Is there a message here?

On Monday it was time to box the garage sale left overs for a drive to the thrift store. It took about an hour to pack seven boxes with miscellaneous glassware and knick knacks. It filled my trunk and the back seat. I arrived at the charity door at 2:45 pm. and rang the bell for service. The man who opened the door told me I was lucky because they were closing at 3:00. “The website said you were open until six.”

“The store is open until six, we stop taking donations at three.” It took the two of us five minutes to unload and I was on my way.

I looked forward to meeting with my masked friends at the Lions Club meeting that evening. In the afternoon about four o’clock, a huge storm came through and I watched the wind whip my flag pole about twenty degrees from side to side and in a rotation too. Rain fell at an almost horizontal attitude. At 4:30 I shaved and came out to find a message that the Lions meeting was cancelled. The storm passed through Frankfort felling some big trees across power lines. rendering Frankfort powerless and also somewhat treeless. My yard was littered with small branches from the poplar trees behind me. They took the full brunt of the wind while only shedding some leaves and small branches. Later I learned that the entire neighborhood was littered with the detritus of the storm.

Today, Tuesday, I did the same with the remaining pieces left unsold. My eyes teared as I carried the boxes to the trunk of the Death-Star. The relationship between me and my stuff has been long and faithful, but the time has arrived when we must separate and move on. This time I will follow a different rule; there will be no more new stuff, unless it is something I can digest, or it is a fantastic piece of art that I can’t live without.

I have at least one more purge to undertake, i.e. the cleaning and moving of my woodshop. The tears will be alligator sized for that job. Men like physical hobbies and wood working is certainly a hands on activity. Since I have developed an art form that utilizes wood and wood working I really don’t want to part ways just yet. I think perhaps I will down-size the shop to the barest minimum as the next step. What happens will depend on how quickly my number comes up at the place I want to move into. I’ve been on the waiting list for five years now, and have been called twice. Each time I was not ready to move because I was still actively caring for Peggy and there was no possibility of my leaving her. Now that she is gone, I will accept the next offer when it arrives.

In the meantime, I will chase loose women, dodge COVID-19, and drink lots of virus killing alcoholic beverages to stay virus free.

Tracey J Boothe Publishing Blog

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