730 Days and Counting

Two years ago today, I tied the knot for the third time. After burying two wives, I decided to give it another try. Some one has to out last me. I can’t say that these days have been all bliss, but I can’t complain too much either. Lovely keeps me fed, and gives me company, and God knows she needs a driver. Lucky for her that I can still drive and enjoy doing so. In two months I’ll have to return to the Secretary of State’s office to get retested for my vision and driving ability. My Dad was two years younger than I am now when he gave up the keys. In his case, his knees and hips were so shot he was dangerous to be behind the wheel. We humored him for as long as we could, never telling him he shouldn’t drive. When it was time, he knew what to do. My brother is seven years older than me and the same age as my Dad was when he died, but at 92 he still leaves town to go to his cottage in Michigan a hundred miles away.

Yesterday, I drove Lovely to Pilcher Park to visit the Bird Haven Green House. They have a lovely display of white lilies every spring. We were very disappointed when we found the place locked up. They actually celebrate Easter. Instead we saved the trip by walking a trail into the woods. We were not disappointed as the forest floor was covered in tiny white blossoms. The trees are just beginning to show a hint of green at the tips. I was reminded of all the times I was disappointed in Illinois weather when I finally returned from spending a warm winter in Arizona. The last time was the worst. Peggy and I left on May 5 to return. I wanted to see the saguaro cactus bloom before we left. The temperature finally topped 100 and the cactus showed it’s flowers as we were leaving town. Since these towering cacti grow to be 66 feet tall, all we saw were tiny white dots at their tops. Later, I learned that some desert cacti require intense heat in order to bloom, and the saguaro is one of them.

On the way home I chose to go straight north into Utah to find Interstate 70 where we would head east to see the the Rocky Mountains one more time. It was a great drive until we reached Vail, Colorado. The road was closed with snow and we had to seek a place to stay until they were cleared. We enjoyed touring Vail at a time of year when it is literally a ghost town. We left while the roads were still being plowed but the snow on the road was mostly deep slush. We arrived in Frankfort fully intending to see lush green leaves filling the trees and the spring shrubs in full bloom, but they were still sleeping and it wasn’t until nearly June when I saw what I expected to see in May.

From Bird Haven we drove the back roads west to Morris, IL for lunch-supper at R-Place restaurant at the TA Truck stop. It was open and fully staffed. I like this place because it is decorated with antique toys, and they have a salad bar, and a four pound hamburger, which I take full advantage of. On the return trip we ventured east on route six toward Joliet, and finally Frankfort. Although it is still very cool for us the temperature was enjoyable, and we loved the bright sun filling the car with heat.

Wind In My Face

I sit here wondering what I will write about as Lovely and I just returned from a late morning walk and are tuckered out. The wind is out of the south and very strong. Yahoo weather claims it to be between 19-21 mph. Yes, that is strong. I remember the days when I still rode a bicycle to commute and on the way home from work I faced a south wind that often stopped me dead. Even though I have granny gears to climb steep hills they sometimes aren’t enough to ride head first into a stiff wind. God forbid I have to restart when the wind is that strong. Starting into the wind becomes downright impossible, and many times I turned around to start with the wind at my back and then made a U-turn to return to the direction I needed to go. Balancing a bike when riding into that strong wind is a lot like walking a tight rope, progress is slow and wildly unsteady.

The gusts this morning hit hard enough to stop us from moving forward. I told Lovely to walk behind me so I would break the wind for her. Thank goodness it is only three blocks to the Old Plank Road Trail which is flanked by trees and the wind is cut off. We finished our 1.5 mile walk in thirty-five minutes and were glad to enter into the quiet stillness of our home.

Lovely always complains about the wind. This morning the only conversation she braved was to ask me to move to a place where there is no wind. “It doesn’t exist” I told her. Even in places that are warm during the winter months there is always wind. I remember once coming out of a movie house in Peoria, Arizona during early afternoon, and the sky was beige. It kind of looked like fog, but it was sand. Visibility was limited and there was stinging in our eyes. It wasn’t pretty.

As a ten year old kid, my cousin Joe, who was a lot older than me, and who had kids that were the same age as me, telling us a story of one of his cross country driving trips to California. He described traveling in a desert sand storm so violent that the visibility was only a few feet. There were no places to stop to rest, he had to keep moving. When the storm finally finished the paint on his car was gone and the engine needed an overhaul. I couldn’t imagine such a fury. Dad didn’t drive further than Michigan. That afternoon coming out of the theater I recalled Joe’s story and finally believed every word.

Snow or Summer Which Shall It Be?

The Lord gave me a huge gift this week-end, He routed the predicted snow storm away from Frankfort. We did have snow, cold, and wind but the inches of snow and ice did not get here. I”m sure somewhere north of us the situation is different. As a kid I loved snow, I couldn’t get enough of it. Snow  meant building snow men or snow forts, snowballs, and snowball wars. It meant sledding down hills and rolling off at the bottom. It meant getting so covered in the white stuff that our pants would be frozen stiff from the knees down. It also meant getting sick with sore throats, and fevers. If we were lucky we’d have some frozen ponds and then we could add ice skating to the fun.

As an old man, I love to look at snow, but despise having to go out into it. It means being cold, or getting the car stuck, and of course it means shoveling walks and driveways clear. It means parking a car is harder, and walking through piles of it from the car is a chore. I would much rather be in a warm sunny climate where snow is something that makes the mountain look pretty. One of my not favorite pastimes is shoveling the drive clear after the Village plow comes by cleaning the street and deposits the street snow onto my newly cleared driveway.

I love sitting in my nice warm house looking out at the bird feeder watching the birds as they feed in a frenzy. I also love seeing tracks made by the squirrels, raccoons, and deer. It is rare to see the actual animals but they are there because after a week the back yard looks like a children’s playground with all the tracks they leave.

Photography in the snow is another favorite passion for an old guy. Winter scenes are among the most beautiful on planet Earth, they project peacefulness and purity.

I guess there is a balance between what I like about snow, and what I don’t like about snow, and I am neutral to it, and if I get really tired of it, I’ll pile onto an airplane to fly to a southern climate. The problem with moving to a warmer climate is that my ass is too firmly rooted in Illinois with family and friends. I recall when I spent the winter months in Arizona with Peg experiencing a strange emotion that something was not right in the Valley of the Sun, I missed snow. Now that is crazy isn’t it? I found having endless days of sunshine without dark cloudy, rainy days boring. I did enjoy not having to bundle up to take a walk. I also enjoyed the greenery and the colorful flowers, but deep inside me there was this nagging feeling that I was out of place there.

Then the days began to get warm, I mean hot. By the end of April ninety degree days were the norm and we had an occasional hundred degree day. The greenery began to turn brown, and It was time to come home. In my mind I envisioned greenery, and colorful flowers and warm, not hot, sunny days. We loaded up and drove home, only to find it still cold, still freezing at night, and mountains of snow piled in parking lots. It would be another eight weeks before we hit the hot humid days of an Illinois summer.

All I can say at this point is that living in midwestern USA prepares one for every type of weather experienced on the planet.

I Can’t Get It Out of My Head

Every once in a while life hands you something you can’t let go of. About a month ago I began singing a tune I heard in a movie. The refrain is simply Amen, amen, amen. The song is from Lilies Of the Field a movie I saw in 1963. Somehow, that refrain comes back to me, and when it does I cannot get it out of my head. This time it was so strong I decided it time to re-watch the film. Last week Peg and I found it at our library and we watched it together. I loved it as much on this viewing as I did fifty-one years ago. I’ll take that hymn to my grave., so much so that this morning I told Peg I would like the hymn sung at my funeral. Her response was classic, “Are you dying now?”

I won’t go into the story, but it is beautiful. The characters are simple but powerful. The message is one of faith in God, and the power of positive thinking.

I couldn’t help but think of how this story put two religions on showcase, and showed how beautiful both were living together in harmony. Compare that to today’s scenario of Christians and Muslims living at odds with each other so much so they can be likened to good versus evil.

Here is a video of the song in its entirety from the last scene.

My Heart Is Down

Sad to say I’m on my way,

Won’t be back for many a day.

My heart is down, my head is turning around

I had to leave a little house in Wrinkle Town.