Obama Eve

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This morning I awoke late and feeling good. “Good morning birthday boy,” said Peg, “happy birthday.”

“It is not my birthday,” I replied.

“Well what is it then?”

“It is Obama Eve.”

“Are you crazy?”

“No, I’m just thinking that we call the day before Christ’s birthday Christmas Eve, shouldn’t the day before our first black president’s birthday be named the same? He is, after all, transforming the world as we know it.”

I went on to explain that we are all joyful to celebrate Christ’s birthday. So much so, that we can’t bear the anticipation and begin our celebration the day before. Isn’t it the same before the newly proclaimed messiah of the Western World’s birthday? Not really, but it is the opposite of Christ’s birthday. Christmas is a joyful time with an overwhejlming spirit of giving and good cheer. Regardless of how tough our lives are we forget our pain at Christmas and spread what little we have to our loved ones and forget any animosities between us in the spirit of peace and joy. On Obama Eve people who relish taking engulf us. They love taking, not giving. Instead of love and peace there is racial divide. Instead of being happy about the life we enjoy living with Christ, we see sadness everywhere. It is as if people are at a dead-end. There is no joy in losing liberty, a job, replacing the job with two or three part-time ones. There is sadness in seeing our government deny God, and then attack our right to worship. There is no happiness or joy watching Islam proclaim itself as a religion, yet profess to kill us in the name of God.

Yes, Obama Eve is the complete opposite of Christmas Eve, and the idea of turning seventy-five on Obama Eve does not make me happy.

However, I am thankful for all those years of great health, and the blessings of a wonderful family to cheer me. I am grateful for having the privilege of spending forty-two years with an amazing friend, lover, and wife. I am grateful for the gift of a second beautiful wife for seven plus years, and the family she gave me.

There are so many things I am happy about that even the dark cloud of Obama Eve can not depress me.

Happy Hour At the Nursing Home

As a young father I often lectured my kids on how we must always take care of old people. Most of the time it was during the drive to see grandparents or Aunts. “If we don’t do it, no one else will,”  I told them. They are the people who were young and alive once just like we are today. Just because they have become wrinkled, sick, and can’t get around as much anymore does not mean we give up on them. I tried my best to live by that example all my life. First it was my wife’s mother, then my own parents, then my wife, then her aunt, and now it is someone new. There is always an older person who needs love and attention. If we don’t give it to them, who will? Certainly not Uncle, yet there are laws on the books for taking care of people. One of them has established a department called Public Guardianship.

A Public Guardian is a person who works for the agency. He/she gets the job of taking care of a person’s life. First, the agency must convince the judge that this person can not take care of themselves. Once the judge rules on the matter the guardian takes over, and assesses the person’s estate. The court orders the guardian to  establish a trust for the person’s belongings.  The person must leave his home and live under the care of a new home. Usually, the new home is an assisted living facility or nursing center.  One of the first things a guardian does is to pre-arrange the person’s funeral. The cost of cremation, burial, etc. are pre-paid from the estate if there is one. The law defines what happens when there is no money in the person’s estate for funeral expenses.

It is sad to know someone who is under guardianship. Right now, I happen to know someone who is in pretty good physical condition but who has challenged cognitive ability. The person often forgets things, becomes easily confused, and therefore will not know where they are or how they got there. Yet, the person is totally capable of walking out of the place.

Yesterday, Peggy and I visited this person at the nursing home. I wondered how old I have to get before someone else has to take care of me. The person we visited is only seven years older than I am. Time has become my most precious commodity. Whatever time I have left is too short to carry out what I have in front of me. Time will ultimately lose to health. A loss of health cancels time and that which was once your most precious commodity takes a back seat to living with disease. Those things that drive me will become insignificant and meaningless.

We found our friend in a state of depression. The realization that a guardian has total control over life had set in. The realization that there are strict rules to follow have taken away human dignity. The idea of not being able to wander around at will is atrocious, kind of like being a young child again with a very strict parent controlling your every move.

We planned the visit as a pop-in pop-out, but turned into an afternoon. We even stayed for “happy hour.”

When I think of ‘happy hour” I envision a group of people in a strange place meeting new friends, drinking, and noshing to while away time from home. Happy hour at the nursing home begins with a rush of wheelchairs pushed  into the coffee shop. A staff member distributes plastic soup dishes filled with Cheetos or popcorn to the residents. A staffer wheels a portable bar into place. It has wine and spirits for a price. A juke box plays songs from fifty years ago. The room crowds with residents, family, and staffers chattering about the fun they have at happy hour.

Elaine, an eighty-eight year old joins us with her daughter Katie. Katie related that when she visits her mom, everything is fun and fine, life is good. When Katie leaves, her mom calls Katie’s sister to come and take her out of the “hell hole.”  We laugh. The truth is not funny though. It is evidence that the residents of this beautiful facility with friendly staff, and activities galore are not enough to make up for the loss of dignity felt by the residents who must live out their lives there.

Dear God, please take me suddenly while I am visiting an older person during happy hour at the nursing home.

A New Mind-movie Adventure.

Windbeeches on the Schauinsland in Germany (Bl...

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This is probably the longest spell I’ve had between posts since I began blogging. Something has happened to make my zeal for life, blogging, cartooning, and just plain living wane and fall into the universe. All I know is that it ain’t in my soul anymore. I even contemplated shutting down Grumpa Joe’s Place and disappearing into the sunset.

Winter blahs, maybe, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) perhaps, but most likely it is a severe case of LAD (Light Affective Disorder). I thrive on sunshine and there is none this month.

I keep seeing past events playing a loop over and over in my mind. There are never any new adventures, just some really good old mind-movies that can never be duplicated, relived, nor even remembered exactly the same. Even walking does not pump me with feel good seratonin, only aches and pains that spread throughout the joint network.

There is so much in my life to be thankful for, yet the mind-movies continue to play the scenes of Thanksgiving past with all the old relatives, friends, and close family. Perhaps that is it. This year, will be the first time in fifty that my closest family will not be with me at Thanksgiving. Just writing that last sentence has brought on the melancholy.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life! a new mind-movie adventure.

Nowhere Else to Go

 

    My Lion-Friend Mike sent me one of those-mails that we pass around from person to person.  The Subject of this one is 1938 Austria. Since that is the year I was born, the article got my curiosity. I decided the story is worth spreading around the entire country. Every school from coast to coast must tell the story to our kids over and over until they understand what it is about.  Many times, I spread stuff because I want to believe it is true, and it is not.  Each time someone dupes me, I resolve not to let it happen again.  This is so important that I searched the net and found the author, one Kitty Werthmann. She is an activist living in South Dakota. What is her passion? It is simple. Don’t let our freedoms slip away. Read the account below and let me know what you think. Is it possible that a story such as this one is the reason that educators are eliminating history from school curriculums?

America Truly is the Greatest Country in the World. Don’t Let Freedom Slip Away

By: Kitty Werthmann  

     What I am about to tell you is something you’ve probably never heard or will
ever read in history books.
     I believe that I am an eyewitness to history.  I cannot tell you that Hitler
took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history.  We elected him by
a landslide – 98% of the vote..  I’ve never read that in any American
publications.  Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in with his tanks and
took Austria by force.
     In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression.  Nearly one-third of our workforce
was unemployed.  We had 25% inflation and 25% bank loan interest rates.
     Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily.  Young people
were going from house to house begging for food.  Not that they didn’t want
to work; there simply weren’t any jobs.  My mother was a Christian woman and
believed in helping people in need.  Every day we cooked a big kettle of
soup and baked bread to feed those poor, hungry people – about 30 daily.
     The Communist Party and the National Socialist Party were fighting each
other.  Blocks and blocks of cities like Vienna , Linz , and Graz were
destroyed.  The people became desperate and petitioned the government to let
them decide what kind of government they wanted.
     We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany , where Hitler had been in
power since 1933.  We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or
crime, and they had a high standard of living.  Nothing was ever said about
persecution of any group — Jewish or otherwise.  We were led to believe
that everyone was happy.  We wanted the same way of life in Austria . We
were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and
help for the family.  Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted,
and farmers would get their farms back.  Ninety-eight percent of the
population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.
     We were overjoyed, and for three days we danced in the streets and had
candlelight parades.  The new government opened up big field kitchens and
everyone was fed.
     After the election, German officials were appointed, and like a miracle, we
suddenly had law and order.  Three or four weeks later, everyone was
employed.  The government made sure that a lot of work was created through
the Public Work Service.
     Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women.  Before this, it was a
custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home.  An
able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn’t support his
family.  Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could
retain the jobs they previously had been required to give up for marriage.

Hitler Targets Education – Eliminates Religious Instruction for Children:

     Our education was nationalized.  I attended a very good public school.  The
population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools.
The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to
find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next to a Nazi flag.
Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn’t
pray or have religion anymore.  Instead, we sang “Deutschland, Deutschland,
Uber Alles,” and had physical education.
     Sunday became National Youth Day with compulsory attendance.  Parents were
not pleased about the sudden change in curriculum.  They were told that if
they did not send us, they would receive a stiff letter of warning the first
time.  The second time they would be fined the equivalent of $300, and the
third time they would be subject to jail.  The first two hours consisted of
political indoctrination.  The rest of the day we had sports.  As time went
along, we loved it.  Oh, we had so much fun and got our sports equipment
free.  We would go home and gleefully tell our parents about the wonderful
time we had.  
     My mother was very unhappy.  When the next term started, she took me out of
public school and put me in a convent.  I told her she couldn’t do that and
she told me that someday when I grew up, I would be grateful.  There was a
very good curriculum, but hardly any fun – no sports, and no political
indoctrination.  I hated it at first but felt I could tolerate it.  Every
once in a while, on holidays, I went home.  I would go back to my old
friends and ask what was going on and what they were doing.  Their loose
lifestyle was very alarming to me.  They lived without religion.  By that
time unwed mothers were glorified for having a baby for Hitler.  It seemed
strange to me that our society changed so suddenly.  As time went along, I
realized what a great deed my mother did so that I wasn’t exposed to that
kind of humanistic philosophy.

Equal Rights Hits Home:

     In 1939, the war started and a food bank was established.  All food was
rationed and could only be purchased using food stamps.  At the same time, a
full-employment law was passed which meant if you didn’t work, you didn’t
get a ration card, and if you didn’t have a card, you starved to death.
Women who stayed home to raise their families didn’t have any marketable
skills and often had to take jobs more suited for men.
     Soon after this, the draft was implemented.  It was compulsory for young
people, male and female, to give one year to the labor corps.  During the
day, the girls worked on the farms, and at night they returned to their
barracks for military training just like the boys.  They were trained to be
anti-aircraft gunners and participated in the signal corps.  After the labor
corps, they were not discharged but were used in the front lines.  When I go
back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are
emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors
of combat.  Three months before I turned 18, I was severely injured in an
air raid attack.  I nearly had a leg amputated, so I was spared having to go
into the labor corps and into military service.   

Hitler Restructured the Family Through Daycare:  

     When the mothers had to go out into the work force, the government
immediately established child care centers.  You could take your children
ages 4 weeks to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, 7 days a
week, under the total care of the government.  The state raised a whole
generation of children..  There were no motherly women to take care of the
children, just people highly trained in child psychology.  By this time, no
one talked about equal rights.  We knew we had been had.   

Health Care and Small Business Suffer Under Government Controls:

     Before Hitler, we had very good medical care.  Many American doctors trained
at the University of Vienna .  After Hitler, health care was socialized,
free for everyone.  Doctors were salaried by the government.  The problem
was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything.
When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already
waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full.  If you needed
elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn.  There was no
money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine.  Research at
the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and
emigrated to other countries.
     As for healthcare, our tax rates went up to 80% of our income.  Newlyweds
immediately received a $1,000 loan from the government to establish a
household.  We had big programs for families.  All day care and education
were free.  High schools were taken over by the government and college
tuition was subsidized.  Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such as
food stamps, clothing, and housing.  
     We had another agency designed to monitor business.  My brother-in-law owned
a restaurant that had square tables.  Government officials told him he had
to replace them with round tables because people might bump themselves on
the corners.  Then they said he had to have additional bathroom facilities.
It was just a small dairy business with a snack bar.  He couldn’t meet all
the demands.  Soon, he went out of business.  If the government owned the
large businesses and not many small ones existed, it could be in control.
     We had consumer protection.  We were told how to shop and what to buy.  Free
enterprise was essentially abolished.  We had a planning agency specially
designed for farmers.  The agents would go to the farms, count the
live-stock, then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.   

“Mercy Killing” Redefined:

     In 1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps .  The
villagers were surrounded by mountain passes which, in the winter, were
closed off with snow, causing people to be isolated.  So people intermarried
and offspring were sometimes retarded.  When I arrived, I was told there
were 15 mentally retarded adults, but they were all useful and did good
manual work.  I knew one, named Vincent, very well.  He was a janitor of the
school.  One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent and others getting
into a van.  I asked my superior where they were going.  She said to an
institution where the State Health Department would teach them a trade, and
to read and write.  The families were required to sign papers with a little
clause that they could not visit for 6 months.  They were told visits would
interfere with the program and might cause homesickness.   
     As time passed, letters started to dribble back saying these people died a
natural, merciful death.  The villagers were not fooled.  We suspected what

was happening.  Those people left in excellent physical health and all died
within 6 months.  We called this euthanasia.   

The Final Steps – Gun Laws:  

     Next came gun registration..  People were getting injured by guns.  Hitler
said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by
matching serial numbers on guns.  Most citizens were law abiding and
dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms.  Not
long after-wards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in
their guns.  The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not
to comply voluntarily.   
     No more freedom of speech.  Anyone who said something against the government
was taken away.  We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but
also priests and ministers who spoke up.
     Totalitarianism didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943,
to realize full dictatorship in Austria .  Had it happened overnight, my
countrymen would have fought to the last breath.  Instead, we had creeping
gradualism.  Now, our only weapons were broom handles.  The whole idea
sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our
freedom.
     After World War II, Russian troops occupied Austria .  Women were raped,
preteen to elderly.  The press never wrote about this either.  When the
Soviets left in 1955, they took everything that they could, dismantling
whole factories in the process.  They sawed down whole orchards of fruit,
and what they couldn’t destroy, they burned.  We called it The Burned Earth.
Most of the population barricaded themselves in their houses.  Women hid in
their cellars for 6 weeks as the troops mobilized.  Those who couldn’t, paid
the price.  There is a monument in Vienna today, dedicated to those women
who were massacred by the Russians.  This is an eye witness account.
     “It’s true..those of us who sailed past the Statue of Liberty came to a country of unbelievable freedom and opportunity.  America Truly is the Greatest Country in the World. Don’t Let Freedom Slip Away”

“After America , There is No Place to Go”

Happy Birthday Aunt Marie

Marie at Ninety-fourIt isn’t easy getting to ninety four. Aunt Marie has done it. She is a physical wreck but still a mental whiz. Her sense of humor is great.

Today, we brought a cake to her home and had a party with her co-residents. The staff came by and sang Happy Birthday with us. Everyone ate cake and all were happy.

Marie is slipping and tired. Maybe the arthritis pain is creeping up on the pain scale, but she seems depressed. Maybe it is her lack of social contact because of her incontinence. She refuses to leave to go out anymore.  Whatever the reason, she is not the same Marie as she has been.

Every week, for the last three and a half years, Peggy and I visit with her. Each time we come home we feel better because Marie has a unique ability to see life as a positive thing. She cheers me up. Today, however, was different. I wasn’t cheered. In fact I became depressed.  Her depression transferred to me.

Birthday Cake

Pink Rose Bouquet

Princess Baloon

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