DAY 67b-SIP- Give Me A Sign

During my bereavement support group meetings where I met Peg, one of the grieving widows suggested that we should ask our dead partners to send a sign. The sign can be anything a soft wind across your cheek, a butterfly landing near you. It was this lady’s way of dealing with her grief. I liked the idea and often asked Barb for a sign. Anything I’d say, just to let me know you are doing well. Days would pass, or even weeks and months without a single thing I could interpret as a sign. One day, I was walking on the bike path. It was the middle of the day, and sunny. I felt a presence next to me. It was the strangest thing to feel something so close to you yet not hear it. I turned my head ever so slowly to see a full grown deer walking alongside me just behind my head. I walk this path almost daily, I ride my bike on the path almost daily yet I have never seen a deer near the path. That day, not only did was there a deer on the path it was walking side by side with me. I couldn’t take it any longer even though we had only been together for a few seconds, I had to talk to it. As soon as I did, the deer startled and ran on ahead of me for about twenty yards then skittered off into the woods.

What I haven’t said yet is that my wife Barbara loved deer. She collected statues of deer. Her collection consisted of three hundred porcelain, paper mâché, made in Japan, made in China, made in USA collectible deer statues, most about the size of a salt shaker, and some were salt shakers. There is no question in my mind that this was a sign from Barb, I made a connection.

Last month I started asking Peggy to send me a sign. What the heck maybe it’ll work again. Since then there hasn’t been a single event that I would place in the class of being a sign.

Last evening I had just settled down to watch a movie, and found one titled “Brad’s Status” starring Ben Stiller. The story has him thinking that out of all his college clique he is the only one that is not famous, rich, or successful. The story is more than that, however and I liked it.

I clicked on the start button when a sudden every loud noise happened within a few feet from me. Startled I nearly jumped out of my skin with freight when a second loud bang happened within a microsecond of the first. I jumped up to learn the source of this mini explosion. There in front of me just behind the loveseat lay a framed picture with broken glass all over the floor. Th picture is one of Peg’s and my favorites by Ted DiGrazia of running wild horses. I hung it above the bar separating our dining room from the sun room. It was set high and had fallen seven feet, first bouncing off the marble counter immediately below and then to the floor. It took out my orchid plant on the way down. The first thing that popped into my mind was what happened, then the SIGN came to mind. Was this a sign from Peg?

A Sign From Peg, The Horses Galloped Off the Wall
Mustangs Free To Run At Last

I started to think of all the horse possibilities within our family. She has a son, whose wife and daughter are horse owners and horse lovers. I have a daughter-in-law who also has horses. Did something happen to one of these families? I wanted to call them on the spot to learn if all was well with them, but fought off the urge. If they had something happen they will let me know, in the meantime I’ll just categorize this as a sign from Peg, I connected once more.

Day 65-SIP-Decoration Day

For the past few weeks I ‘ve had a compelling desire to visit my wive’s graves. I said it before and I will say it again today, I don’t see any point in visiting graves, but I did today. At least I can say I did something useful at Barb’s grave. I cleaned her gravestone from the grass that is trying to cover it. While I was there I cleaned my stone as well. At the time, I thought there would never be a reason not to be buried next to her, so I bought my gravestone to match hers. I also thought of it as saving the responsibility from my kids. It took me forty five minutes to complete the job. I stuck an American flag between the stones in honor of Memorial Day, said a final prayer and went to the next grave.

The next graves were that of John T, and Minnie Riley, the parents of my second wife Peggy. They are but a stones throw from Barbara in Holy Sepulcher cemetery while Peggy is nearly thirty miles further southwest. When Peg and I discussed our lives together after we decided to marry, we made special requests to be buried with our first spouses. Looking at things pragmatically, we both knew we would never be married to each other as long as we were to our first spouses, therefore, our forever-life on earth belonged to our first.

I did my thing, first saying a prayer for Peg and then speaking to her directly. When finished I encircled her stone to the other side and did the same for her first husband. I told him to look for me at the gate soon.

Memorial Day always evokes memories from my childhood. It was only a few years after WWII had ended and before Korea started. The country was mourning its losses of husbands, sons, lovers, friends killed in the war. My parents referred to the day as decoration day. It was the time when families went to cemeteries to spend time with their loved ones and to decorate their graves with flowers, wreaths, bouquets. My mother insisted we all go. I don’t think Dad could resist, although I never got the idea that he would. Mom always made him stop at the nursery across the road from the entrance to St. Mary’s Cemetery. She selected a floral pattern for my brother Joe’s grave and then bought the plants to make it.

At Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, where Peggy is buried with her veteran husband, American flags adorn the drive on both sides of the drive leading in. It is very picturesque indeed. I was mildly surprised at the number of people that were there. Most days when I visit her grave I am among only handful of people there. A funeral waited for escort to the burial chapel, and many vets on motorcycles sat on their bikes chatting. All throughout the cemetery between the rows of endless white grave stones were wives, daughters, and grandchildren placing floral bouquets and flags to their loved ones.

Getting into the cemetery on Memorial Day was not easy. Al the cemetery roads were parked with cars and the traffic within was bumper to bumper. Veterans in uniform carrying rifles marched throughout from grave to grave of their comrades lost in war. At the gravesite they would have a ceremony with the color-guard and the rifles giving a salute with volleys of smoky, noisy shots aimed into the sky. Saint Mary’s is a Catholic cemetery so there is a mass for the souls of the departed at 10:00 a.m. in the outdoor grotto. It was always well attended and crowded with standing room only. Not a safe COVID-19 assembly.

Normally, we left home about nine o’clock and we didn’t’t return until after three o’clock, all of us exhausted. Mom and Dad felt better that they had a chance to decorate their firstborn’s grave. Dad had a chance to visit a sister, and all of her kids, and they both visited graves of Hungarian friends from the neighborhood. It was a family oriented day, and I learned to despise it.

My wife Barbare was brought up to revere her dead relatives, She was just as paranoid about visiting graves as my mother. Maybe that is why they got along so well. Barb went to the cemetery often to clean graves and visit with her grandparents, aunts and uncles. She knew I disliked the process, so normally she did graves during the week with the kids. She had her own car, so transportation was never an issue. On the other hand, Peggy’s family was the opposite. Once a person was buried that was the end of the road for visitation except for major events. She and I only visited her husband’s grave a few times, and I only took her to see Barb’s gave once or twice. Each time we wound up looking her parent’s graves which she hadn’t visited for years.

I wonder what will happen to my grave once I am gone. Who will revere my grave enough to visit, and to clean, and to place flowers upon the stone?

On the drive home, I thought it is time for me to visit my parent’s, brother, grandfather, aunts, and graves and clean them up. The last time I did that it was because my young grandson Joey asked me to help him with his genealogy by visiting graves. He was about seven when that happened he is twenty-two now, and working. I’ll ask him if he is interested, if not, I’ll ask my brother if he can break out of his long-term-care house to go with me.

Day 54-SIP-Talk To Me

Today, the thought occurred to me what will I title my posts after COVID-19 is dead? Then the opposite thought came to mind, what if COVID-19 is never gone? Will I still be using a day count to express the stay in place era? All of this is me trying to avoid the future. Why do we fear the future? Because we don’t know what it holds. I was trained to list my greatest fear and below that form two columns. In the first list all the things that can happen to me if the fear is realized. In the second column answer what is the worst thing that can happen to you if that fear comes to pass? The idea, is that if we analyze our fears they won’t be as scary as they were when we didn’t know what the outcome could be. In the case of COVID-19 the worst thing I fear is death. What is the worst thing that can happen if I die? What can be worse than dying of COVID-19, dying of old age. Dying is dying and it is something I have to accept whether I like it or not. At my age dying is imminent. I don’t spend my days thinking about dying, so why would I be afraid of dying from COVID-19? As my mother always told me, you have to die from something.

Yesterday, Mother’s Day frittered away in total waste. The only great activity I managed was a Zoom meeting with all of my kids and grandkids. Surprise, surprise all of them appeared before me except one who is in an essential job and had to work. Poor kid, he is a chef in a nursing home and well, we old folks love to eat.

This was the first time I used the Zoom service with my clan. It was nice to gather and all talk at once and try to make something out of the conversation, then everyone realizes that we are just making noise and then we all stop simultaneously, and then there is deathly silence. Eventually, one of us would reinitiate a conversation and the whole thing got cooking once again. In the beginning my second grand daughter was not there, she was sleeping since she works nights at her hospital. Later she joined us as she prepped for work. She is also an essential worker, a nurse. Her mother the same, but she had a day off, her father the same, but he is now working from his house. My oldest son is also considered essential since he is an engineer in a company that makes laboratory equipment to analyze stuff. He has to go into the factory everyday.

One of the funniest parts of the meeting was the show the dogs put on. Once a family sat on a couch they were joined by pets who felt they were being left out. Number three grandson gave us a cello concert and was accompanied by the bellow of his pet beagle. We all laughed. The beagle continued to howl until the concert ended.

We lasted this way for 90 minutes and then I decided it was time to call it quits, but not before getting agreement from all that this will be a good thing to do again on a regular basis. I will set up the meetings and send the notices with the links to join.

My son-in-law sent me a text with a picture of my daughter and grand daughter placing a rose on the grave of my first wife. Nice, I thought, even I don’t do that. Every time I go to the cemetery to visit the girls I ask myself just what do I accomplish by coming here? I visit, I trim the grass around her stone, I pray, and I speak to her as if we were sitting together at home. I have a habit of talking to her every day as if we were side by side. In fact, I do that daily with both wives. Sometimes, we talk individually, and sometimes we are a trio. Weird? I don’t need the cemetery to make that happen. I make it happen where the hell ever I happen to be when the conversation begins. The thing I hate the most about these talks is that I am the only one speaking. In life these ladies were quite loquacious. I had so many years of it that I have become accustomed to hearing a woman speaking to me and now that I am alone the silence often drives me nuts.

I have to end this now because it is time to talk with Barb and Peg.

‘If you can hear me, Larry Gligstein, please send a text to 555-703-7193

Day43- Quarantine-Depression

The word depression puts me into a morose mood. Today, is the complete opposite of yesterday which was up, sunny, bright, warm, and happy. Today, it is raining, dark grey and depressing. It was a good day to spend time in my shop, which is what I did. I am making great progress on my latest piece of art. Soon it will be finished and the chore will be to find a space to hang it. My walls are covered with pictures. This work will most likely be a give away, since the schedule of summer art fairs are cancelled. No sense making it just to store until such a time as the world is ready to live again.

COVID-9 has done much to dampen the spirit of Americans. We are becoming restless with hiding from the virus. My attitude is becoming one of “I’d rather take my chances with the virus latching onto me than to stay in hiding any longer.” I’ve told the story many times about the polio virus which caused a national concern between nineteen sixteen through nineteen fifty-six again (History of Epidemics) Not one president issued a stay in place order. Of course none of them had bureaucracies filled with scientists the could use mathematical models to predict the probable outcomes of said epidemic. Oh the woe that science begets us.

In most of the epidemical events of our country the scourge was conquered by the development of a vaccine and or a treatment using anti-biotics. The Corona virus does not respond to antibiotics therefore we are stuck with a need for the vaccine. In the case of polio the vaccine took a very long time to develop, like forty years. I remember it all too well. I hit the jackpot in 1953 and became one of the 57000 cases. I thank God that I was not one of the 3000 deaths. I did get a benefit from the virus. i.e. anti-bodies. Luckily my paralysis was minimal although it affected my neck, chest, arms, and legs. For the longest time I could not swallow because my throat muscles were affected. Try eating an all fluid diet that gets poured through a tube that is routed through the nose into the stomach. I lived.

The big difference I see between Corona and polio is that the corona kills easier than polio did. Corona affects the lungs which in turn stop feeding needed oxygen to the vital organs which then shut down and die. Polio affected nerves which sent the signals from the brain to the a muscle. Which nerves the virus attacked depended on a lot of things, none of which I remember anymore. Some people lost control of their legs, others their arms, or neck like me, If you were really unlucky it affected your chest muscles and your ability to breath. Back then the medical miracle was called the Iron Lung and you lived in a tank which did the breathing for you. Only your head was exposed to the outside. Corona is more merciful, it kills quicker and more efficiently.

If I recall correctly, Polio hit younger people more often, while Corona strikes old people harder. Maybe I’ll get the chance to beat a second virus in my lifetime. Like I said the weather has affected my thinking and my attitude. I’ll take my chances, but play safe at the same time.

Day 42-Quarantine-Cooking

The old body clock sounded off in my brain at seven this morning, but I resisted the notion of getting up and returned to the covers. Of course I couldn’t sleep any more but I conjured up some dream scenarios. Most times they are sexual in nature. This morning, however, it took the direction of my Lions membership. I wanted my mind to roll off some ideas for how I as a Lion can provide some service to the community. All of them involve getting close to people which would violate the social distancing policy. So much for making my dreams work for me. I rolled out of bed and decided to cook instead.

In times like this (sounds rather cliche) I revert to my mother’s cook book for comfort food, the food I grew up with. Usually the recipes are easy, the ingredients are few, and they are tasty as can be. Today, I have the ingredients for a sheperd’s stew called Szekely Gulyas (pronounced say-kay- goo-losh). The ingredients are: one onion chopped, two table spoons of Crisco, cubed pork, sauerkraut, salt and pepper, then add sour cream at the end.

My desire to eat all the old stuff out of my freezer is working. Yesterday, I found a baggie with two pork chops, then, I found another package in foil which is a pork roast. It was a two pounder when I bought it, and was much too big for me to roast at one time so I cut it in half and wrapped it for later. This is now later. Last week I found a pound of ground beef and I will finish that by making hamburgers until consumed. Right after I found the chops and I removed it to defrost it. Also last week, while scouring for some breakfast meat I uncovered a package of eight Italian sausages. So here I am with all of this meeting defrosting in my fridge when the phone rings. It is my step daughter telling me she is on the way to my house to drop off a pork roast and a large bag of salad greens. She told me she would drop it at the front door and leave because she didn’t want to contaminate me with Covid.

At this point I am overloaded with defrosted meat and have to do something with it, I can’t eat that much food at one time. So, I cook.

Day 23-Quarantine-Group Meetings

This week I had opportunity to participate in three group meetings by phone. All three were different and I learned a lot from each, mostly how to operate an online video meeting. This afternoon was probably the most interesting because it was the most attended with eighteen participants, and because it was a support group for the visually impaired, not everyone had video. The service is called ZOOM. I have to admit it is a far cry better than the one I used when I was still working twenty years ago. I guess there has been some advancement in the past two decades.

Why am I attending a support group for the visually impaired? Several reasons: 1.) I am a Lion and we are Knights of the Blind as commissioned by Helen Keller (blind, deaf, and mute) in nineteen twenty-five. 2.) As a Lion, I want to understand the hardships that visually impaired people encounter.

There are many things that sighted people take for granted. Like being able to get into a car and to drive someplace, read a menu at a restaurant, or social isolation. What I was surprised to learn from this group is that they all sound as frustrated as I am about having the stay in place. One would think that blind people would be stuck at home most of the time, but they are not. Many spoke about not being able to get out to the store, or to church. Vision impaired people have trouble finding transportation, but somehow manage to find rides when they want them or need them. Most have recruited support systems for themselves.

This meeting was semi-formal in that the leader opened with an uplifting prayer and started the conversation. After that it became a friendly banter between people just as any group of friends would have. The group leader announced that they will hold a ZOOM meeting every week at the same time until such time as the COVID-19 is dead.

The second meeting I attended was a Lions Club Board meeting. I recommend we do this on a continuum since we finished a pretty complete agenda in thirty-five minutes. The third meeting was a Lions training session. The leader conducted a Power Point slide show with lecture while the attendees all showed at the side of the screen. During the question answer period attendees clicked on a icon of a raised hand so the moderator could give him the floor. This also worked good because it cut out people talking over one another. This meeting also lasted forty minutes.

One great thing that COVID-19 is doing is forcing us to use the technology that is available to us. This evening, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, parishes all across the country will conduct video services.

I plan on opening a personal ZOOM account for my own use so I can gather all my grandkids together from three states for a face time phone chat on Easter Sunday.

Easter was always a huge celebration for my family. I have fond memories of my mother cooking and baking for the Easter morning breakfast, and the family gathering that followed. My wives Barbara, and Peggy celebrated the holy day similarly even though one was of Polish descent and the other Irish. Only the foods varied. My daughter and daughters-in-law have continued the tradition within our family. Now that we are a thousand miles apart it is difficult if not impossible to carry on the tradition as a combined family. That is why I am hoping the ZOOM service can allow us to gather as a group once again.

 

To Die For

Learning to be single in one’s eighties is really different. Throughout my life I always had some type of support. From birth until college it was my parents, brother and sister. In college it was a room mate. After college it was back to my parents for a short while, then, marriage. That phase lasted forty two years, and I was single again, living alone, then marriage again. The second time it lasted fourteen years, and that brings me up to today, single again. I vowed never to get married again, but never say never. I am determined to stay single.

Life has become a battle between grief and loneliness, but after nine months of it I  can claim I am gaining on the task. To combat loneliness I have developed a daily pattern. Basically, it is get up, make breakfast, clean up, read mail, listen to my radio show, make lunch, go for a long walk, surf the net, work on my art, make supper, cleanup, work on my art some more, watch movies, read, then go to bed. Exciting? Not really, but it takes my mind off my loves and keeps grief away. After seventeen years I still grieve for my first wife Barbara, and now my second wife Peggy, such is life.

I thank God for allowing me to have Xfinity On Demand, and Amazon Prime, both services are keeping me going. I stay away from zombies, terminators, cartoons, satanic, comic characters, and stick with drama. Do you know how many movies are in the genres I just listed? Thousands. I do like action movies involving espionage, and mystery. All of them have to be included with the service, I refuse to spend money on rentals to get recent selections.

Most of the films I watch are family oriented stories. Most of them have plots based on the effect of someone dying. I estimate nine out of ten stories depict the hardship that life brings after a family member dies. Knowing a little bit about life after losing a partner I can attest to the truthfulness of how life gets screwed up. Many stories are about the effect of death on children. I watched one last night called “A Father’s Choice.”  A cowboy falls for a city girl, and they marry. They have two daughters. Their marriage falls apart and the mother raises the girls alone. She meets a man she wants to marry. The happy family to be is returning from a night out at dinner and the movies. As they exit their car and approach the house the new man notices strange things, like the dog is out in the back barking, the front entry light is out, etc. They take two steps toward the door and a man in black jumps out of the dark and begins shooting. He kills the mother on the spot and nearly kills her fiancé, the girls are spared. Think of the impact of this scene on the kids. The rest of the story involves how the kids cope and how their estranged cowboy father learns to be a parent after a long absence. I love this kind of plot, but there are too many off them that rely on death to become a story.

Many of the better films are not produced int he USA, but rather in Canada or Australia. Folks in those countries are not as focused on the weird zombie stories like we are in America. come to think of it, zombie movies are dependent on death also.

I got hooked on a series called Jack Ryan, based on author Tom Clancy’s stories about espionage and intrigue. The remarkable thing about these stories is the unbelievability of the central character to endure enormous punishment and his bullet dodging capability to stay alive while killing untold numbers of bad guys shooting at him with machine guns with single shots from his pistol.

If Hollywood ever decides to quit making this genre I am in trouble.

 

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