Splat – Plop

It is not that I never dropped, spilled or caused a storm of crumbs to cross my path when I was a bit more able-bodied, but it was not as constant!  At least it didn’t seem so frequent.  

Almost the first thing my cousin did when she brought me home from the rehab center was to bend down and pick up the dozen or so pills that fell under the edge of the dining room table.  I said I thought I’d just vacuum them up, but by then she deposited them into the trash. 

Today a tiny blob of cottage cheese plopped down into a plastic bag hanging on a knob of the cabinet in front of me as I was filling a bowl.  Sighing, I noticed the little dried puddle of ice cream from yesterday and the very narrow streak of chocolate syrup. 

Carrying the bowl of cottage cheese crowned with grapes into the front  room, one large grape rolled away from me and just out of reach.  I’ll get it when I stand up.  

Yesterday as I sat down with a full bowl of milk soaked cereal, half of it poured down my front and required my setting the bowl down while I went to change clothes.  This experience is exasperating, but not likely to change.  Most often, the caps on bottles of water pop off after I have taken a drink, and replaced the cap.  Now and then I do not bother to retrieve the cap until the bottle is ready for the recycle bin. 

The old saying, “It’s all in the wrists,” does apply.  A couple of visits to hand specialists told me that while there is mild carpal tunnel, the bigger problem has to do with tendon issues in both forearms.  It is not unusual for me to drop a fork and I can no longer mend or, worse, enjoy my life long hobby of crocheting.  Surgery, more physical therapy and cortisone are the options suggested to me.  I did do the physical therapy.


You are NOT cold!

One of my high school classmates commented, looking over her shoulder at my hand, which was open on the desk in front of me, “Your hands (the flesh under my nails) are PURPLE!”  I had been accustomed to that appearance as the building never felt comfortably warm in our Ohio winters.  The two piece gaberdine suits we wore as uniforms, did not help.

When I came home to be a bridesmaid for my sister in an early January, she wanted to be sure I was warm enough in the car. My father said that my blood got thin from living in California.

My reputation for always being cold hung in the air. Once a boy I was dating said, “Touch your skin. It is warm. You are NOT cold.”  Perhaps it was psychological.  I don’t know, but everyone knew I was always cold, so they provided adequate bed coverings if I was staying the night.  

Now in my eighth decade, I notice that my nose is cold while I am sitting at the laptop before bedtime, even though I am warmly clad.

Shortly after Easter this year, my cousin, Liz sent me a greeting card with two pupsters sitting in the snow, with long knitted scarves snuggled about them, and the wish that this holiday found me warm.  

Shopping Around

Two people after me in the checkout line at the grocery store were discussing the on-going increases on all items in the store.  I joined in the conversation saying, “Don’t look at the prices, just put what you want to buy, into the cart.” The man retorted, “Then be surprised at the cash register? “ To which I, from experience, replied, “Otherwise you will push the basket around the store once or more and find that there is nothing in it.”  

After fifteen years in the Bay Area, California, I was accustomed to their pricing. 

 From our screened in patio area, we were upwind of garlic fields and driving distance from some of the local agricultural acreage, so the stores all provided wonderful produce, cheaply. It was normal for me to select a bouquet  size head of red lettuce for ten cents and a cauliflower was forty-nine cents.  Small cantaloupes at road side stands were four for a dollar.  

The first time I went to a little grocery store in Naperville, Illinois, I suffered sticker shock seeing that one cauliflower was $1.49!!  To my surprise, by the time I circled the store, the cart was empty.  

After four years of trying to fit into this community, I finally acknowledged to myself that it was not working. My parents were happy when we packed up and moved back to Ohio, where I was able to purchase a house and found a decent job.  

My first exposure to produce prices this far from California showed me that I would now pay $1.49 per pound of Cauliflower! Could it be that hard to grow? 

The check-out line finally found me piling my choices onto the conveyor belt and on out the door.  As I began to swish bags into the trunk of the car, the man from the line approached and took over that job, which was a great help.  

While I don’t ever expect to see produce prices as they were when I was young, nor to buy gasoline for twenty-seven cents a gallon, no matter how low the barrel cost drops, it would be nice to get a breather from the beast of inflation.

Grandfather, Francis

Mesmerized, I sat on a wooden chair at the foot of a bed in the basement of the home of my late cousin Jim and his now widow, Sandy, staring at a black and white photo  hanging on the wall.  The young couple smiling from the large picture were our grandparents.  They were so young and clearly happy.

 I had never seen this photo before and could not take my eyes away as the story came along that, when Jim and Sandy’s granddaughter saw it for the first time, she asked who that man was because he looked exactly like her older brother, Darrin.

Some minutes later, when Darren came along among those of us sifting through a huge box of things Sandy was planning to get rid of, and I told him that photo should go to him one day and repeated his sister’s words.  I told him that those were his great-great grandparents. 

So many memories surfaced and I said aloud, she called him ”Franu” for Francis, or “Stary” Slovak for old one.  Sandy nodded.  

Still inside my head, I thought about the time, much later when Grandfather was dying of cancer, lying in his bed at their home, when Jerry, Jim’s elder brother, came home on leave from his work as an Ensign on the Aircraft Carrier, The U.S.S. Saratoga, to pay his last respects.  The story was that as Jerry was leaving, Grandfather wailed, “I’ll never see him again!” 

A Celebration of Life

Tomorrow will make three months since I had my 80 year old left knee replaced with a new metal/plastic knee. After the surgery, I remained in the hospital for a few days and then was transported to a rehabilitation facility close to my home, where I remained for a week and a half, or until I was able to get from the bed to the bathroom and back unassisted as well as when my cousin was able to fly in from Colorado to stay with me for a few days.  There were Physical and Occupational therapists and a nurse all stopping to see me twice, then once a week until their programs  finished.  The parish priest visited once and an Ecumenical Minister brought Holy Communion every Sunday when he left Mass.  So I didn’t feel lonely.  

Five days after my surgery, my cousin, Jim passed away  after almost a lifetime of fighting Parkinson’s disease.  He and his wife raised their family in Woodbridge, Virginia and celebrated their fiftieth anniversary there two years ago.  

In recent years, people are celebrating the lives of passing loved ones, rather than focusing on grieving their losses.  

By assorted methods of communication, the faraway family members were advised that a celebration of Jim’s life would take place on Saturday, the 8th of April.  My cousin, Maryann, his remaining sibling, her daughter and I set off to participate in this occasion and to catch up on family news. We hauled the walker along just in case I needed it, but thankfully, it stayed in the car and when Becky parked it back in my house, I rolled it into the coat closet, where I plan to leave it.  

After the memorial service, which was well attended, and where an eloquent and humorous speech was made by son Matthew, better known as ”Bubber,” several others took the stand to share thoughts about their times with Jim.  As his first cousin, only months his elder, I can comfortably suggest that he was likely listening and nodding in approval with a smile at each anecdote.

Three hours after the service, many of us re-convened at a wonderfully authentic Mexican restaurant not far from the family home. There the conviviality continued and the food was enjoyed and the Margaritas lifted spirits.

Don’t Go Home Yet

Sparks and flames were shooting from the wheels of that train as caught on drone video, as it  drove through West Salem, Ohio, where my cousins who have been life long residents were likely winding down an ordinary day on Friday, February 3, 2023 just before 9:00 p.m.  

Then thirty-eighty of 147 cars on that track, ten carrying toxic chemicals derailed, sending plumes of black poison into the air. The authorities were quick to say no one was injured. Well, not yet at least.  Nearby residents were evacuated.  

According to local news coverage about 3,500 small fish in nearby streams as well as salamanders and frogs died, reported by Taylor Holzer, a local resident who rescues animals.  About ten miles away, a backyard flock of chickens died and people reported animals getting sick or dying.  

The Ohio governor, Mike De Wine,  was told that the train was not considered a  highly hazardous train, therefore the railroad was not required to notify  anyone in Ohio what was coming through. To which Mr. DeWine responded, “…this is absurd…”  He has since called on Congress to take action and spoken to people at the White House requesting on the ground assistance for East Palestine.

The representative of the EPA found no contaminants in the water after the derailment and have since assured people that it is safe to return home and to drink the water.  The people aren’t buying it and some are filing law suits. One young couple interviewed for the evening news said that when they returned to their home, they felt burning in their noses and throats.  

Up here, closer to Cleveland a day or two later, the winds were gusting at forty to fifty miles per hour, which led to concern for friends who are ardent walkers. Once the chemicals are spewed into the air, the wind carries them wherever it  goes dropping particulate along the way.   

Guess Who Found Me

After a stop at the post office to drop a couple of bill payments and the last few Christmas cards,   more like Epiphany cards, into the mail collection drawer inside the building, I drove back to the little strip mall on the corner and went inside the store.  

The main purpose of that stop was to get a prescribed bottle of mouth wash I am required to use the night before and morning of my up coming knee replacement. During the pre admission testing last week, I was also issued small bottles of shampoo and body wash. Oh brother!  As a person who went through two C-sections and a hysterectomy, with no such prerequisites, the multitude of demands and requirements for this procedure sounds very much like overkill.  

In the last several stops at this store  there were no packages of rotisserie chicken or chicken parts, so when I saw some, I got one into my cart along with some of their potato salad, and picked up a package of their “flavor bomb” tiny tomatoes, which are almost like home grown.  This is not the traditional New Year’s dinner, of pork and sauerkraut, but my cousin, Ray, who usually hosts New Year’s dinner said his wife did not want company.  When the cart was about half full, I went to stand in a cashier line, they were all long, so I went back to the pharmacy and parked myself on the bench to rest for a few minutes before trying again.  

On the second try and finally getting through the line, a lady from another line said, “Excuse me, but are you…” and saying my name she dropped her mask and said hers.  I was so surprised and tickled to see her.  We worked together at the insurance company downtown, along with a third friend, Winsome.  She has lived here for over four years and this was the first time we bumped into each other.  She helped load the filled bags back into the cart and unloaded the bags into the trunk when we walked back to my car.

Over the decades of my life, I have met many people and while we were friends at work,  that seemed to end when employment changed, which always disappointed me. Somehow the three of us stayed in touch as the years went by, when Winsome’s family moved to North Carolina, then back to southern Ohio and now they are going up to Perry to be more supportive of their elder daughter, the veterinarian.  Happily, a few of those friends are still in touch, one from California, one from the theatre here and one from Ameriprise.  They are gems.  

Coming from a fairly large family, I do have a lot of cousins, but they are all busy with their own families, so if we see each other once a year, we are lucky.  Since we are all aging, I wish we could see each other more often.  Maybe in the next life. 

Christmas Joy

Christmas alone is never a joyous time for me, but this year my cousin invited me to spend the day with her family, so I was looking forward to that, when she called to cancel our plans after her daughter, a nurse at a local drug store, came down with the Covid.  Backup plan, my neighbor, friend of all the years I have lived here, twenty-two, Marilyn, said I was welcome to join her family’s celebration. It wouldn’t be the first time I numbered among the family at her table. 

We knew that an arctic blast was headed our way, as the weather crews were warning for days in advance. I worried that there are no rails along the three steep steps to their front door and she pointed out that through the garage there is just one and both her husband and son would be there to help me up.  We agreed to see just how bad the weather got.  

On the last decent weather evening, Marilyn’s young neighbors behind her, had organized their church friends and their children to gather at various homes to carry on the ancient tradition of singing Christmas carols.  Marilyn called to let me know when they moved on from her house. With my front door open, I sat on a folding chair and sang along and even requested another before  they reconvened at Donna’s house. 

The same evening my cousin, Theresa called to advise that her younger brother, my cousin, Anthony, has passed on, after a terrible battle with cancer, and the consequences of alcohol and drugs on his body.  

Much later the same night while searching the Internet for my son, as I periodically do, I found a long article with more information about him than I have found in many years, ending with a nice, current photo of him.  I was so tickled I forwarded it to his sister and my cousin Theresa to verify my find.  As soon as they both concurred, it was him, I forwarded to many friends and family.  This was my Christmas joy. 

The Weather did take a dive, with gusts said to be up to 75 mph in some areas while the mercury quickly fell from 42 degrees F to 10 and then down to minus 4 degrees F on Christmas Day.  The news reported assorted mishaps including a 50 car pile up on the Ohio Turnpike.  The power outages began to climb, but I was most fortunate and did remain comfortable, and able to watch tv and keep lights on.

My daughter was the first to call and as always, it was a pleasure hearing her voice. She said Christian brought home a nice ham for their dinner and all is well. (Thank You, Lord!) The next call was from Pat, a neighbor down the cul de sac  who said their power went out and right back on again several times (requiring as many resets of clocks and such.) 

At this point I, still donned in flannels and a cap, made breakfast coffee when Marilyn called. Her son was on his way over with a plate for me from their Christmas dinner.  What a blessing for me, and all others who are lucky enough to have her in their lives. 

Christmas Festa

On the first Saturday of each month is a meeting of The St. Padre Pio Prayer Group of Cleveland and is always a source of both spiritual strength, but a source of social enjoyment for me. 

It is difficult for me to haul myself out of bed at least by six a.m. to be ready to roll out the door by seven-thirty a.m. for the thirty minute drive through wild turkey and meandering deer areas safely.  Thankfully there is very little traffic, which makes the drive easier. 

I wore a red shirt since this was to be our Christmas gathering. For all the years that my cousin, Maryann has joined me, I did the driving. She drove to my house and I drove from there.  Now that she lives much farther away, she stepped coming, so I was pleasantly surprised when she called to say she was coming and that she would drive. To her surprise, she made it in only a half hour since the traffic was so light.  

We arrived shortly after the prayer service started and found Diane already seated there, so we joined her. The wind had been very strong for the last couple of days, so I was not surprised when all of the lights went out during the service.  

The group director invited us all to file into the meal room for a grand festa, which included sauerkraut and kielbasa, in honor of her late father.   

Everything was delicious and, as usual, I wandered around taking pictures to remember the event by.  This gives me a chance to say hello to many people and this time there was a lovely lady who reminded me she had been to Poland with us and then I recognized her smiling face, but asked, didn’t she have long hair then and she said yes, but then she had chemo therapy and lost all her hair and this is what grew back.  She asked if I remembered a little man she brought along, a vitamin specialist, and I said, happily yes, I remember him from our one week trip to Italy in 2015.  I remember that in the family style restaurant where we took most of our meals, she and I were the only ones at our table who ate the mussels.  The festa went on until we were ready to take our leave and step out into the blustery day. Looking at the pictures on my computer was almost as much fun as being there.

Thanksgiving Feasting

Like every other calendar day, Thanksgiving passed all too quickly, but for the pictures, the  memoires slip silently into the background.  

My cousin Maryann’s daughter and beau arrived shortly after noon, to pick me up so I would not have to drive home in the dark, for which I was really grateful.  

The other guests were all from Maryann’s ex-husband’s second family, because they have all remained very close in spite of that long ago divorce.  

The healthy, happy two year old kept everyone on their toes as he tore around the main floor of the house, wriggling out of each pair of arms that attempted to restrain him.  

The meal was sumptuous, the aromas enticing and the flavors pleasing all. Shortly after pie and coffee, the hugs and farewells began and when we were down to the small core group of Maryann, Becky, Kevin and I, Becky set up the movie for the evening, which was the new version of “Christmas Story”, originally filmed in Cleveland, Ohio. When that ended Maryann and Becky drove me back home and helped me into the house. The leftovers became two dinners for me.

On the day after Thanksgiving I drove to Columbia Station to join Ray and Elaine and her family for their day 2 of Thanksgiving.  

I haven’t been to their gathering since the onset of Covid19, so it was really good to be with them again. The weather was mild and pleasant all week.