Lost In Busy-ness

Writing posts for Grumpa Joes Place have taken the back seat to two big projects in my life. The first is a Lions club thing which I will explain below. The second is a personal project inside my house. All other projects like making art, reading, etc have dropped to the bottom of the list.

  • The Lions Club thing. As the Club Service Chair it is my job to come up with ways to serve the community. An active club is one that has many hands-on projects as well as one that writes checks. For too many years my club has languished in stagnation being satisfied with writing checks. The forefathers of forty years ago decided that it was more efficient to organize a once a year fund raiser which would fund all of our service in the community. As time passed the membership dwindled from 130 to fifty, and that became the topic of our board meetings. All of us were in a quandry about how to turn things around. Some of the loss was a normal nationwide trend experienced by all service clubs. People just didn’t join anymore.
  • After ten years in the club, I accepted the presidency. The first thing I did was to set some new goals for myself and the club. We needed to change the culture of the organization from one of check writing to one of activity. I was highly criticized by members young and old that with limited numbers we couldn’t do everything. I analyzed the membership and their participation in activities, I surveyed them with questions like “why did you join a Lions Club?” The number one answer was “I want to give back.” The activity analysis pointed out that the Pareto principle was working well within our organization. Exactly twenty percent of the members were responsible for eighty percent of the activities.
  • I studied Lions Clubs International guides about how to run a club, about how to run a project, about how to determine what the community needs are. I was on the right track with my goals. Thankfully, I had another Lion on my side and between the two of us we began signing up for activities throughout the village. Polar Express, Bunny Breakfast, Rib Fest, Movies on the Green, all of these involved a few members and a short period of time. Yes, the same twenty percent of active members were still active, but more so, and we began to see new faces show up. It was my philosophy that the many members needed many different types of activity to interest them. With variety and short duration the participation began to grow. We still write checks, and we still have a large fund raiser every year, but we also have a lot more, and we are now up to seventy-two members.
  • Currently, as Club Service Chair, I suggested we do some things for the homeless. I suggested a Winter Coat Drive. The board liked it. I jumped at the opportunity, and within a week we had collection-boxes scattered about the village. That stimulated a need for publicity. Wallah, a member stepped up to a post on our Facebook page and our website. Others agreed to empty the boxes. We found a location to store the coats. Then, organized a sorting session to separate them into men’s, women’s, and children’s, and to bag them in counts of ten. With a system in place we could deliver them to the charities easily. We distributed 735 coats throughout the Township. More importantly our members were excited. The question on the table was “what’s next?” I figured that perhaps a clean pair of socks would be appreciated by someone who had nothing. I turned out to be right. Luckily, my Sock Drive committee decided to approach the grammar schools to assist. Fortunately, the Principals and teachers bought in to the idea, and they added to the fun by proposing a competition between classrooms. The Lions promised to award the winners with a pizza party lunch. We wound up collecting 23,000 pairs of socks.
  • A year passed and it was winter again. The schools asked us to partner again. Yes, we would. This time I asked them to choose from a list of possibles. They ignored my suggestions and decided to collect personal hygiene items: tooth paste, tooth brushes, soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc. We agreed, and found a hundred boxes to distribute in the schools, one for every room. Same deal, pizza party to the winners, except we allowed a first and second place this time. Well, this is why I haven’t posted during March. The collection began on March 1st, and we quickly realized we would need a truck to haul the stuff. The kids counted a total of 21,000 items. All of it is heavier than socks. Nevertheless, Lions jumped in, and within fifteen days we sorted, classified, re-boxed everything into manageable sizes, and delivered it all to sixteen separate charities. Whew!
A Small Order Packed and Ready to Deliver
The Order For Hines VA Homeless Vets

Lions Sorting Into Categories
Lion President Rick and His Wife Elaine Prepare an Order for Trinity Services
  • The personal thing. My wife lovely and I invited her only living relative to live with us, her grandson. He currently lives in his deceased father’s house which is a rented place filled with furniture and goodies accumulated over eight years. He reached a point where living with his father’s ghost was too much to handle emotionally. So, we are rearranging our home to accommodate all the stuff he will bring with him. We are in effect marrying two complete homes into one space. For the next two months I’ll be living in interesting times.

Dream On

There are a couple of things on my mind this morning. First, I feel like my computer is punishing me for the essay I posted yesterday about zero-day problems. I normally write directly into my WordPress blog site Grumpajoesplace.com. Today I am forced to write in a word processor because when I opened WordPress it asked me for a password which I could not remember. I am traveling, and left all of my password card files at home. I have tried so many times with failure that I’m sure WordPress has locked me out for my own good. This is why I hate passwords and security features. I, the owner am locked out, but any hacker can bypass those same barriers and get into my site to pillage and steal. I will post this article later today, even if it means cutting my respite short to do so.

The second thing that I need to write about is a dream I had in the wee hours of this morning. In this dream, I found myself wandering around inside the massive manufacturing building of my former employer. The owner was paranoid about security and had all departments compartmentalized and secured with locks. Only those with properly coded pass keys could enter the compartments. If you needed to be in a specific department to do your job you had access. If you didn’t need to know the information generated therein, you were locked out. Information was granted on need-to-know basis. Over the years I told people that the biggest secret we kept inside our company was that we didn’t have any secrets.

I wandered around the shiny floored hall between departments skating along in my stocking feet. I love doing that even when not dreaming, skating that is. I used my pass key to open a door and found the cell empty, I mean completely empty, void of all furniture, people, paper anything, but the lights were on. Strange I thought, and skated to the next cell which I remembered as the cafeteria. There was a steam line with food, and a few people behind the counter serving, but there were no other people there. Something distracted me and I left to go to another cell. I encountered the same strange phenomenon, it was empty. I decided to return to the cafeteria by another entrance and much to my surprise it was empty, whereas a few seconds ago it had a steam table and some staff. I left in a panic and found the entire fifty-acre complex was empty. Then in my sleep I was overcome with sadness. The sadness was real and I felt like the world had abandoned me. I couldn’t shake the sadness by remaining in the dream, so I woke up to go to the bathroom.

The strangest thing about this dream is that I have been gone from this job and this building for over twenty years. The building itself has been removed from the site. The only vestige that remains is the cyclone fence that surrounded the property and the concrete slab floor. Why in heavens name did my brain do this to me? What provoked such a vivid experience in the subconscious mind? I’ll never know. I do know that once I woke up the sadness disappeared thank God. I never felt such a real sadness in my life, conscious or not.

I’ve been thinking about that world which was so integral to me for forty years. The many people I worked with, some who became genuine friends, but more who were acquaintances only. I have lived without them for half the years I lived with them and the building which I watched grow to the size it was. All gone, with only a few tenuous connections remaining to the few I call friends. This might be a good source of a theme for a story about being left alone, the last man on the planet. What would I do, how would I cope, or have I been experiencing those exact emotions all along? At what point have I passed from one life into another? I left the company and lost my life partner almost at the same moment, and I know that life experience forced me to begin anew. Fifteen years later I lost my second life partner and I found myself alone again. Now, I am on a journey to another new life with a third life partner. This time the journey is quite different. My partner is grieving the sudden loss of her only child, and I find myself being drawn into her sadness. That could quite possibly explain my dream. As I experience these new lives I find myself drifting further and further away from a reality that formed me as a person. My life feels like me in the dream skating from room to room, to find them empty, but still I continue to search for a single soul I can call friend. How many more new realities will I be forced to live through before I finally find the one that is God? I am sad again. 

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.

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