It Is Time

This evening I spent some time reading blogs of fellow bloggers. One in particular got my juices flowing. The Blog is NUTSROK. Author Mary Beth a retired nurse who writes amusing stories about her family and friends. What I didn’t realize immediately that the last post I read was from 2020. When I see gaps like that I am puzzled. I tried contacting her but it seems the blog is shut down. My greatest fear is that we have lost her. She amazed me with the stories she told about her family and friends. Each one was genuine and her writing told me that. They were poignant, reminiscent, and humorous, mostly humorous.

Then it occurred to me that I had visited my brother yesterday and I thought to myself how many more times will I be able to say that? Next week I will turn 83 and in two weeks he turns ninety. We can’t both be living much longer. Although neither of us thinks about dying, we are just as busy and active as we can be. He showed us around his facility and pointed out the tower of tomatoes that he planted with a group of ladies he went to the nursery with to shop for tomato plants. He wanted four, and planted twenty-four. Each of them wanted to plant, but he was the only one with a designated plot at the residence. From his room it looked like a six by six plot with a six foot high center point. The plants were all headed for the sky and the contest was to see who had the first fruit, who had the best fruit, etc. Then he walked us past his flower garden. Another small plot hidden behind a fence but he had it blooming in bold colors. What every square inch the maintenance crew spares him he keeps on planting, and successfully too.

On the way home I asked myself why do I not visit him more often? He is the only one I know who knows more about my parents than I do. He is the resident guru of the family history. We share the same stories about our mother and father, except his begin seven years sooner than mine. That means he can teach me a lot about my genealogy. Another thing I thought about today was what did he do for me as a kid growing up? At first, I thought, nothing. Then I began to remember the letters he sent me from Germany while he was stationed there and I was recovering from my polio. They were a Godsend. I wish I had them now to recall how positive he was and how encouraging he was to keep me going forward. I’ve also heard stories about how he was in charge of me in the buggy when Mom needed some time alone. He was charged with watching me and Sis.

Although that was sixty-eight years ago, I think it may be time to say thank you.

Brother Bill and Mom

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. 

210502-Never Mind!

Today I experienced an example of how when I rely on the Internet for information it can lead me into a dead end. A few weeks ago, I married for the third time. The lady I chose for Mrs. Grumpajoe the third(GJ-3)is six years younger than Grumpajoe himself. The first Mrs. Grumpajoe-1 and I were the same age while Mrs. Grumpajoe-2 was five years older than he so the experiment here is to see if the younger Mrs. GJ-3 can out live him. Surely, I don’t want to see her fail and die a miserable death as 1 and 2 did, but I digress. 

Mrs. GJ-3 loves old stuff. With the great COVID close down of 2020 lasting into 2021 she has been shut out of one of her favorite past-times i.e. flea-marketing. Last Thursday she sprung a surprise on me by announcing that we were going to visit her grandson who lives in a town seventy miles from here. She had the days mapped out and this morning we were to go flea marketing. Generally, there are some very large markets that are open on the first weekend of the month. Today was the first weekend. Guess where we were going?

I had to search the internet to locate Gurney, IL which I remember having a huge market. They are also known for their large Outlet market place. My search didn’t find the Gurnee flea-market. Evidently, it was a victim of COVID. The nearest market was shown to be in the town of Grayslake. There was something odd about the way they listed the hours, and dates. Today’s activities were shown in a light blue text, while at the bottom of the listing were two more dates shown in bold-black in November, and December. Hymmm.

Mrs. GJ-3 and I got up early and hurriedly drove to the Lake County Fairgrounds home of said flea market. The parking lot was crowded and people were streaming forward in controlled lines, one-way in and others coming out in another lane. What was really strange was when we entered the building a nice young masked lady asked if we had an appointment. “Appointment for a flea market?” She laughed and said we should proceed and to tell them that we were walk-ins. We passed through the next door into this huge open space, and all I saw were people in orderly lines heading toward tables where other people were asking them to roll up their sleeves.  There were lines of unoccupied wheelchairs parked all around the lines. Then it dawned on me, we were in a COVID Vaccination site.    

We quietly backed out, but not before being given a hard sell to get a free vaccination while we were there. My argument was the CDC doesn’t recommend getting a third shot so soon after the first two. 

The ride home was much longer than the ride out. Our disappointment was showing on our faces and attitudes. Mrs. GJ-3 continued to search the net for information about Gurney only to learn first-hand that there was nothing, she found the same for Grayslake. That seemed to calm her down a little.

Burning gas is one of my least favorite things to do unless it is for a purpose. On the return, we passed through Mundelein and I turned into Grand Dominion a Del Webb development which has haunted me for twenty years. When I wintered in Arizona I stayed in Del Webb communities. Sun City, Sun City West, and Sun City Grand are all magnificently planned to support active life styles for old geezers like me. When I heard they have a community in Illinois north of Chicago I’ve always wanted to see what it was like. This morning I got to realize that idea. I can’t call it a dream, because it is nowhere close to a dream. The impression I got was it reminded me of Gateway an over fifty-five manufactured home community in Frankfort. Except the homes don’t arrive on wheels. They are nice size homes with what looks like PVC siding, and are spaced close to each other. The back yard is a postage stamp. The side facing the street is mostly a concrete drive way. In Arizona the homes are a few feet further apart, but the back yards are much larger to space people away from each other. At this location, the premium lots are on a small lake affording a lake view. In Sun City, the nice lots face an emerald green golf course. 

There is a large clubhouse near the entrance which I didn’t visit. It most likely houses the sales staff, swimming pool, some club rooms and a restaurant. The Old Dominion website lists all the amenities they provide. In the Arizona locations they have several community centers located throughout. These sites have sport and craft-activity rooms to house the more than three hundred hobby clubs that residents can amuse themselves in.  Overall, I was not impressed with the Illinois community. The homes didn’t impress me nor did the community layout. At least I saved a dead-end adventure and satisfied a long-time desire. Mrs. GJ-3 was not impressed at all, and dozed during my tour. Her dream is to live on a five acre lot with a large garden and a small forest separating neighbors.  

 

Defining Who We Are

WASN’T THIS US? 

A little house with three bedrooms,

one bathroom and one car on the street.

A mower that you had to push

to make the grass look neat.

In the kitchen on the wall

we only had one phone,

And no need for recording things,

someone was always home.

We only had a living room

where we would congregate,

unless it was at mealtime

in the kitchen where we ate.

We had no need for family rooms

or extra rooms to dine.

When meeting as a family

those two rooms would work out fine.

We only had one TV set

and channels maybe two,

But always there was one of them

with something worth the view.

For snacks we had potato chips

that tasted like a chip.

And if you wanted flavor

there was Lipton’s onion dip.

Store-bought snacks were rare because

my mother liked to cook

and nothing can compare to snacks

in Betty Crocker’s book.

Weekends were for family trips

or staying home to play.

We all did things together —

even go to church to pray.

When we did our weekend trips

depending on the weather,

no one stayed at home because

we liked to be together.

Sometimes we would separate

to do things on our own,

but we knew where the others were

without our own cell phone.

Then there were the movies

with your favorite movie star,

and nothing can compare

to watching movies in your car.

Then there were the picnics

at the peak of summer season,

pack a lunch and find some trees

and never need a reason.

Get a baseball game together

with all the friends you know,

have real action playing ball —

and no game video.

Remember when the doctor

used to be the family friend,

and didn’t need insurance

or a lawyer to defend?

The way that he took care of you

or what he had to do,

because he took an oath and strived

to do the best for you.

Remember going to the store

and shopping casually,

and when you went to pay for it

you used your own money?

Nothing that you had to swipe

or punch in some amount,

and remember when the cashier person

had to really count?

The milkman used to go

from door to door,

And it was just a few cents more

than going to the store.

There was a time when mailed letters

came right to your door,

without a lot of junk mail ads

sent out by every store.

The mailman knew each house by name

and knew where it was sent;

there were not loads of mail addressed

to “present occupant.”

There was a time when just one glance

was all that it would take,

and you would know the kind of car,

the model and the make.

They didn’t look like turtles

trying to squeeze out every mile;

they were streamlined, white walls, fins

and really had some style.

One time the music that you played

whenever you would jive,

was from a vinyl, big-holed record

called a forty-five.

The record player had a post

to keep them all in line

and then the records would drop down

and play one at a time.

Oh sure, we had our problems then,

just like we do today

and always we were striving,

trying for a better way.

Oh, the simple life we lived

still seems like so much fun,

how can you explain a game,

just kick the can and run?

And why would boys put baseball cards

between bicycle spokes

and for a nickel, red machines

had little bottled Cokes?

This life seemed so much easier

and slower in some ways.

I love the new technology

but I sure do miss those days.

So time moves on and so do we

and nothing stays the same,

but I sure love to reminisce

and walk down memory lane.

With all today’s technology

we grant that it’s a plus!

But it’s fun to look way back and say,

Hey look guys, THAT WAS US!

White Picket Fence

Ever since I was a kid I have dreamed of living on a street in a small town in a white clapboard house surrounded by a white picket fence. It was probably an image I got from watching a wholesome movie like Its A Great Life, or some Mickey Rooney film. The idyllic setting appealed to me and still does. The house I grew up in was not in a small town, but in a small neighborhood in a very big city. We did not have a large enough yard for a picket fence to wrap around the front yard. We did have a picket fence separating us from the neighbors on either side. What ever it was that image has returned regularly throughout my lifetime.

Over the years I have lived in many places. Going away to college counts for many of them. After college and marriage I settled into a small village near the big city, but again the yard was not large enough to sport a white picket fence. House number two was in a tiny town out in the country and away from the big city, but that yard was too large for a picket fence and besides the homeowners association had rules stipulating no fences at all. It didn’t fit my ideal but I loved living there nonetheless. My final house is again in a neighborhood, but it is now part of the little town that house number two was in except the town is no longer small and idyllic.

One summer, I took my kids to see Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. I love that place. I could see myself living there in Colonial times. It conveys an image of a life during peacetime when people had only to concentrate on feeding and clothing their families. Most who lived in Williamsburg raised their own food, or bartered their talents for food. Each resident had a small cottage with a yard large enough to sustain themselves and to keep animals too. Some of those families were rich enough to afford a horse to pull a small wagon. They had everything, but none of it came from China, and most of it was homemade by them or their neighbors. The fences they had were necessary to separate the animals from the vegetables. Animals love fresh vegetables and keeping them side by side is risky for the city farmer.

Why is all this coming to haunt me? As I age, I long for a simple life in a very small community where everyone knows everyone, and the homes have white picket fences. Reading the book Tom Sawyer might have cemented that picture in my mind. Reading about how Tom duped his buddies into painting the white picket fence for him was one of my favorite chapters. Last week I searched the internet for towns in Illinois with small populations. There are many, but most are long distances away from my family. I seem to like towns with about two thousand people. They seem to fit my dream. The houses are mostly small, and old. The yards are large, meaning a lot of maintenance is required. None of them have picket fences probably because of the added cost and because picket fences require regular maintenance. Will I ever realize my dream? Probably not, but it is fun thinking about living in a situation where it would be a lot of fun if I were forty years old and not eighty. Why, I could raise chickens and keep a large organic vegetable garden. Think of all the energy I would expend pulling weeds and killing vegetable eating bugs and butterflies.

A few years ago, I wrote my autobiography and one of the chapters was titled “City Farm.” I described the way my Mom kept a garden that covered every square inch of the available yard. She had chickens, raised vegetables, fruit, and also a myriad of flowers at the same time. The lady never sat still. While she was doing all that garden stuff I was able to get lost on the block and play with my buddies. Ahh for the good old days.

Now it is wine time!

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