Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day 2007

Uncles Don Morgan and Les Roach - somewhere in France - ca 1944.

These two uncles joined up together and marched off to World War II. They got separated right off the bat. Don had been raising pigeons in the loft of Grandpa's barn. Some of them were homing pigeons. And due to this assumed skill with homing pigeons, Don was snatched up by the U. S. Army Signal Corp. With this start, Don became part of the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy -- while Les was left to muck around in England awaiting the much later invasion of France. I lived with Les from 1952 to 1956, but he never talked about the war. I do know that he was cut off for awhile during the Battle of the Bulge. The two did manage to rejoin each other for a visit while they were both stationed in France. Les's older brother Albert was in the Navy and served in the Pacific Theatre during WW II.

Brother David did two tours of duty in Viet Nam. Brother Eric did one. I sometimes wonder if Dave went the second time to keep an eye out on Eric.
During my high school years, I lived with my great uncle Jim Evans, who served in the trenchs of France during WW I.

Great granddad Thomas fought briefly in the Civil War as part of the Union Kansas Guard that helped turn back Gen. Sterling Price's lunge towards Kansas City near the end of the war. Dozens of 'cousins' fought for the Confederacy .... those parts of the family that remained in South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Missouri. Battle and disease claimed a half dozen or more of these ancestral cousins.

I do pause to remember them and wonder at what they experienced. Don, Dave and Eric are still alive and kicking.

Uncle Albert Roach -- ca 1937

Monday, October 22, 2007

Things I almost forgot about my Dad

The picture above was probably taken about 1921 -- my Dad and his baby brother Donald.

I was thinking about my Dad a couple weeks ago when I suddenly remembered that he could play the harmonica. Then I recalled an evening when a stranger stopped by the house. A stranger with a concertina. He sat in our railroad house living room and played a bunch of tunes. And before he quit, Dad got out his harmonica and accompanied the fellow on a couple.

I remembered that, although Dad didn't seem to be any sort of a singer, he could yodel cowboy style.

I remember that on rare occasions he would travel 'up the line' to the railroad house at Corfu where he would play a mysterious card game named 'Pan' with a group of mostly Greek railroaders. Pan was mysterious to me because of the great stack of cards that occupied the center of the table ... many, many decks of cards shuffled together.

I remembered how my Dad could skate backward and do figure eights.

And I remembered how he once stopped the car after traversing a rain shower, and let my brother Neil and I race away through the sagebrush, chasing a rainbow for its pot of gold. Everyone should get to do that at least once in a lifetime. At least once.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Big C

It's been a while since I've said anything about my Cancer and my Treatment. I've switched oncologists, or rather Bookworm switched my oncologists for me. From Dr. Uncommunicative to Dr. Communicative. I've had one chemo treatment with the new Dr. Kim and I came away from it with a better understanding of what's hopefully going on.

Dr. Kim had a new cat scan generated and showed me the pertinent frames compared to the original cat scan made eight months ago. The 'rind' being formed by the asbestosis growing on the outside of my right lung has visibly thickened over the eight months .... though some of the thickening is scar tissue from the biopsy procedure -- and the liquid that had accumulated in the right lung was no longer in evidence. The node with the tumor was totally unchanged. The original doc had described it as 'shrunken', but it wasn't. Dr. Kim said you don't 'shrink' them, so to speak, you 'arrest' them in their progress. And that is a measure of success.

The current chemo protocol takes about an hour and forty-five minutes, as compared to the original seven plus hours. Afterwards, I was sick for two days, rather than five or six. So that's an improvement! I believe I am running out of breath a little less quickly and have been able to catch up on a lot of little tasks that have been ignored for weeks. And today I am feeling pretty good.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

To Photos .....

There is a link to the right that goes to my photo pages, but if it refuses to work for you, try the site address below. I've posted 32 'vows' pix there ....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Wonders of Short Notice

Sunday afternoon, about 1:15, I was idly watching a football game on the new flatter'n a pancake TV ... not even sure who it was ... nobody I was rooting for anyway, an' I hear this with my left ear - the one pointed at the kitchen telephone.

"We're going to renew our vows at 4:30 and it would be real nice if you could come. Okay. See ya!"

"Who were you talking to?" I inquire as Bookworm crossed the room towards the main phone in the Family Room.

"Chris." And she dials a number and gets someone's answering machine. "Hi, Jim and I are going to renew our vows at 4:30 today and it'd be really great if you could be here. There'll be pumpkin pie and champaigne and you can bring some food if you want. And come as you are!"

My mind begins to absorb the info it's receiving and it comes to me that something real is rolling downhill and picking up speed. RENEWING OUR VOWS! And then my mind flashes to the one small, lonely Safeway pumpkin pie in the freezer ... cooking required.

On and on she rolls, call after call, half answering machines, half actual people. "RENEWING OUR VOWS!" "4:30!" "Come!"

By now it's after 1:30 and I'm thinking this is insane ... there's no planning .... there's no champaigne ... she'll be lucky to get a half dozen people here on three hour's notice.

At this point Rev. Liz rings the bell and presents herself to do her pastoral duty by me - me being the sick person and a legitimate center of attention. But no, the day hath fled in another direction. Rev. Liz is confiscated and incorporated into the ceremonial plan and then set to work helping to clean up the house and make it presentable to the imagined guests.

Are you thinking What ceremonial plan? Well, somehow granddaughter Rachel has fallen in with Bookworm's enthusiasm and is on the computer, running off copies of 'vows'. Except for the living room, the house is a bleeding mess, stacks of boxes full of books and junk, BUT - not to worry - Rachel and Kay rush off to Safeway and return with more pies and numerous bottles of champagne.

Three pies go into the oven together. Rev. Liz glances over the 'vows' and says something to the effect of "we can work with this." There is a great and prolonged swiffing and swaffing with brooms, vacuum cleaners and swifers. Junk begins to vanish ... into the laundry room. Rachel hoses off the deck and 'arranges' the deck furniture to hint at the coming ceremony. By 4:00, everything is spick and span and most partylike and the three of us are pokin' at the pumpkin pies with knives, trying to figure out if they are done yet. I offer the wisdom, "I think it may take longer when you try to bake three pies at once."

4:15 -- we await in great anticipation. What will be the actual effect of those phone calls. Seems like most of them were to machines. What if only a couple people show up .... plenty of pie then, I guess.

4:30 -- counting Rachel and Bookworm and I, there are thirty people wandering thru the house, admiring the new floors, new paint, and new furniture. Fellow bloggers 'Mom' and 'Brown Shoes' are here. Grandson Aleister shows up with his other grandmother. Rev. Liz's husband arrives and pops a loaf of bread into the oven to bake. And friends, friends everywhere.

Around 5:00, we are all assembled on the deck where short speeches are made [Aleister stood forth in turn and announced "You are the best grandma and grandpa in the world!"], poems are read, vows and rings and kisses exchanged .... and then the corks did begin to pop & fly.

Special thanks to Rachel, who did dozens of tasks just as they were needed, prepped the scene, and took 304 photographs. Special thanks to Rev. Liz for adding a slightly formal touch while letting it flow. And a special, special thanks to Bookworm for having such an awesome spontaneous outbreak. And all my love is aimed out there at all you wonderful friends who dropped what you were doing and came a runnin'! I'm glad we had the chance to share that with all of you. I'm still a little stunned!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Surprise Is On Me

Yes, I am surprised to be sitting upright today and with (apparently) a good 75% of my brain working. I had chemo treatment number six yesterday and was expecting to get the full seven hour procedure, but LO!, the doctor decided to skip the last allowable Sisplaten dose because a) of my allergic reaction to it last time and b) he thought I'd achieved all the benefits to be expected of it. So I just got the dose of 'the other thing' .... and it was over in maybe thirty minutes of needlework. In a month I go back, get a chest x-ray, one more dose of the other thing, and then [doc's words] "we'll take a little time off and see where we stand." The Sisplaten is what knocked me down for a week afterwards, so I'm expecting to be in much better shape these next ten days .... can't really tell just now as I'm still on a drug that hypes me up considerable -- and wards off a rash from 'that other thing'.
All very simple, yet convoluted into compexity.

Last week my boyhood friend, Dick Gilbert, and his wife dropped by for a pleasant afternoon on our deck. One of my earliest memories, in the late 1930's, is of Dick's dad coming by our Othello home with his peddler's truck and someone holding me up so I could see the big silver fish packed in ice in a box that ran along an exterior side of the truck. In 1948 the Gilberts moved onto a farm they owned three miles east of Smyrna. I left for high school in Leavenworth that year, but Dick was a fairly constant companion to brother Neil and I for the 1948 through 1951 summers. We had many adventures.

And we spent the afternoon relating these adventures to each other .... telling variant versions of identical events. Strange how memory can wander slightly off like that. We hadn't seen each other for 56 years and it was just like these things had happened a few weeks back. A testament to the power of 'story'.

Mrs. H (granddaughter Rachel) has become Allie's second mother of sorts. She takes him to the bus stop, she makes rules, she enforces Angela's rules, etc.,. This morning his bus stop behavior had a bit of a melt down and she marched him back home, made him sit for fifteen minutes and then drove him to school. She doesn't use question marks much when she addresses Allie (now known as 'Alex') .... she tells him how it is, he appears to mostly listen and mostly obey. Besides which, she exercises considerable power over his video game playing technology. All's well that ends well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Granddaughter Jessica is still deeply wed to the business of becoming a horsewoman (rider) and does a lot of 'barnwork' to help pay for her lessons. Sometime back I remarked that "Grandpa ought to be allowed the honor of buying her her first saddle." That remark caught up with me during their visit last weekend. Seems the place where she's taking her lessons only provides Western saddles .... and she prefers the English saddle that she grew accustomed to at the first place she took lessons. With that information in mind, I concluded that it was time for Grandpa to step up to the tackroom and do the right thing.

Strange as it might seem, Jessica had a tack catalog with her. With certain circled items. A certain circled saddle, etc.,.

Even stranger, the saddle seemed to come a la carte. The stirrups came separately. The straps that attach the stirrups to the saddle, keeping them from falling in the dirt, came separately. Then there was the bridle .... but the bit came separately. Only the saddle blanket came as a stand alone item. It was an education. So I sent her home with a check big enough to cover all the required stuff .... and I was pleased that she would now have some personal control over her style of riding and saddlery. A grandpa's reward.

These are some pix of Jess at the weeklong horse camp she attended this summer. This was the final day when parents were present and the young riders performed their (hopefully) new level of riding skills.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Interlude w/5 Women

It's 3:00 on a semi-fine Sunday afternoon and Bookworm and I are back to being a two-person household. Granddaughter Rachel, who has been with us for the past six weeks, has sallied off to get herself established back up at Ferndale ... where it is her plan to be a starving musician, maybe working part-time in the school system, maybe giving lessons in the percussive arts. It will be a shock to our systems to be suddenly deprived of her presence, her help, her humor, and her occasional cooking. And she painted most of the inside of our house while she was here ... and carried out the garbage ... and made sure the house was properly locked up at night. In her first week here, she slipped seamlessly into the currents of our life and became an operating, embedded family member. It was kind of amazing -- really.

Daughter Erin and granddaughters Michal and Jessica arrived here late Thursday morning and stayed until Saturday morning. So, with Bookworm and Rachel included, I was seriously interluding with five women ... wife, daughter and three granddaughters. Such is the fate of Man (man) ... if he plays his cards right.

The door to our laundry room met a sad end. Too many coats of paint - and the last coat appeared to be 'sliding' down the door to form stacks of paint wrinkles. Last weekend, Angela and Charlie came by and hung a new door on the room. And yesterday, Rachel unmounted it and hauled it out to the back yard where she comandeered her sister Michal's help in applying a few coats of stain. In the photo above, I accidentally caught them in a flicker of syncronized staining.
I held up pretty good (in my opinion). Friday night I even managed to play two games of pinochle, partnered once with Rachel and once with Michal and won both games. Michal was bragging me up, saying "Grandpa always wins, no matter who he plays with. No one seemed to notice that I bid and made only one hand all evening and for the rest of it, rode my granddaughter's shirttails to victory. Earlier in the day we had played a couple games of Apples 'n Apples out on the deck. Grandpa did not win at that.
It does seem like I arise each morning with a specific allotment of energy and when that is used up, no matter what time of day, I crash rather quickly. Bookworm has learned to read the signs of when that is beginning to happen. And takes care of me.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hazards of an Au Pair : III

Sky-diving at Rotoura, NZ. Of course Michal was strapped to the front of an expert. They bailed out at 12,000 feet and were in freefall for 45 seconds before going to the chute.

Happy sky-diving survivors .... granddaughter Michal and Chandra (the mother of Michal's 'family').

The 'going away party' as Michal prepares to return to the U.S. These are her two wards(?) .... Becca and Chris.

.... and a standard party glamour shot of Michal and a friend .....

So down the bubbly, cut the Kiwi cake, kisses all around and get thee on home.
I scanned this series of shots lifted from the three albums of pix she returned home with. And naturally I choose those that hi-lited her 'adventures' while there. Her sister Rachel picked her up at SeaTac Sunday and brought her here. Then she and Rachel both left Wednesday for Bellingham / Ferndale. It's good to have them both back in Washington State and closer to home.

Hazards of an Au Pair : II

Out kayaking with Canadian au pair friend Shawna.

Splashing into the Pacific. Her 'family' owned a rather good sized boat and seemed to spend significant time on it.

Granddaughter Michal being towed behind the powerboat....

One of the hazards of being gone from home for a year is that of having a birthday amongst relative strangers. Michal didn't face that problem as the 'families' of her au pair friends tended to stage substantial celebratory events. This is Michal at her nineteenth birthday party, a costume event, and she is costumed as "Pretty In Pink".

Michal at the wheel of a down-under go-cart.....

White water rafting at Rotoura, New Zealand. Michal is on the left in the second seat back.

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