90th Anniversary

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Father Schneider announced from the pulpit that it took him four days to get home from the east coast, where he was stranded due to their big storm, on his way home from Spain.  We were all thankful he made it safely back to our congregation on time for the celebration of the church’s 90th anniversary as a parish.  Being the feast of the Epiphany, the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, all of the lovely flowers and lights of Christmas were still in place adding to the festive occasion.  The knights of Columbus with their regalia added more color and importance as they led the entrance and exit of the priest and servers for the Mass.

After the lovely Mass many of us walked through the parking lot and around to the front door of the activity center to settle in at round tables where we sat, thawed out a bit and went up to get a beverage.  The options included Mimosas, one of which I did take and enjoyed.  There were bits of celery and pickles and shrimp.

It took a while before I found Mary, who invited me to join her and her cousin and some other church friends at their table, which made it a more sociable event for me.  The catered brunch included small pieces of chicken, meatballs and mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and a half slice of French Toast, a spoon of scrambled eggs with sausage or bacon, fruit salad and pastry.  Everything was very tasty and the meal was filling.

Once I was safely back at home, I began to think of how nice it was to participate in the momentous occasion of the 90th anniversary of the parish.  It was also very nice to be back home and warm in comfy clothes.

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Hibernating

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Hibernation in the dark coldest months of winter has always appealed to me.  It seems like an ideal time to catch up on projects, reading, mending and such.  Opportunity to experiment with that level of hunkering down has been with me for the last two very cold weeks.  Each time I manage to stay indoors until an event like an appointment catapults me out into the world, which it did this week.  Walking gingerly from my car to the doctor’s office with a bit of trepidation, I felt thankful when a young man offered me his arm and we got all the way into the hallway where I needed to be.

The doctor injected both of my knees with a gel that replaces the cartilage that has long ago worn away.  Once she was done I was enormously relieved that it was not at a painful process and while I could not go from there to a Zumba class, I did walk back out the door and to my car.  Since her office is on the same street as the place I work, I went on to that office where besides getting some work done, I did enjoy eating Christmas cookies, candy and chatting with the other ladies, thus fulfilling my need for being with people for a spell.

As I was leaving the office building, a sturdy looking older man offered me his arm, which I gratefully accepted and he guided me all the way to my car.  Although I was tempted to stop along the way home, I realized it would be best to get myself directly to my own address.  Two guardian angels were probably more than most people get in one day so there was no reason to push my luck.

The need to venture out again came the next day when the thermometer hit twelve degrees Fahrenheit and I drove to the local drug store to renew the service days on my trac phone, which expired the day after Christmas, then back across the street to re-stock my fresh fruit and other items I ran out of.  While I was there I got a prescription for some topical pain reliever that the doctor had called in for me.  This outing took just over two hours and when I got home and put things away, I was so thankful to be safely back that a good nap was definitely my next priority.

 

Deep Freeze

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Dark grey clouds dot the cold white horizon, the sun a suspended hazy white medallion on soft blue wash.  The final day of December finds us locked in a long cold spell with no end in sight for at least another week.  The last two winters were pretty mild, so we just shrug and bundle up.   The snow keeps getting deeper since there’s been no rise in temperatures to melt any of the accumulation.

The unused Christmas cards have all been repacked into the big plastic container, wrapping paper and gift bags, labels and assorted trim, all but already forgotten until they’re needed again.

Sipping a mug of egg nog and munching a gingerbread cookie, I am regretting that so many of the neighbors have taken down or at least turned off their cheerful Christmas lights.

I expect there is a collective exhaustion in the retail and shipping world, and once the buying public becomes the returning unwanted gifts throngs, they take inventory and try for after Christmas sales before the focus will shift to the next holiday.

My sister called to wish me a Happy New Year and I talked with two cousins yesterday.  The next order of business will be to read all the letters that came in holiday cards bearing a year’s worth of events from folks I only hear from once a year.  Last year I started scanning the more memorable cards and I hope to scan the letters this year, including the ones I saved from previous years, just in case anyone in the future can still read cursive or has any interest in how people lived before high tech took over our lives.

Early revelers shot off firecrackers from ten p.m. on.  While the younger set may be determined to celebrate the change of the year, everyone I’ve talked to is planning to stay home, stay warm and even be asleep by the time the clock announces the New Year.

Studying the Ticker Tape

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After he retired, one of the pleasures my father thoroughly enjoyed was to put on his good clothes, walk to the corner of our street and take a bus downtown where he would go to one or another of the stock brokerage offices.  There he studied the ticker tape with all the stock symbols as it rolled by at near ceiling level for all to see.

For forty years, like his father before him, my father faithfully carried out his work as a pipe fitter, among other positions, at General Electric.  But he always figured there had to be another way to accrue wealth and it was clearly not his part time job of repairing televisions.  He talked with men at work and eventually started studying the stock market and how it worked.

He would share the information he gleaned with anyone in the family who would listen to him and eventually a few would agree that he was on to something, while others accused him of becoming a gambler.  He did funnel some of his earnings from the television repair job into playing with stocks.  While he had some minor gains, enough to send my sister and me to Europe one summer, he also took his share of losses and one which was almost a major disaster.

One of the stories he related from his downtown brokerage visits was meeting a very old man who told him one time, “…the American people have no idea what they are in for.”  That warning stayed with him for the rest of his life and surfaces in my head whenever I get nervous about the financial system in this country and in fact, the world.

Every now and then one of the young advisors I work with in Financial Planning shakes his head and mumbles about his father-in-law and how he can simply not throw anything away.  My response is always about how the great depression of the thirties had such an impact not only on the people who experienced it first hand, but it went on to mark their children and grandchildren.  The last time I said that, he looked up at me and said, “…it’s coming again.”  He was not specific, but my father’s words rang out in my head with a chill.

Some years ago I talked with my cousin, Ed about how one might brace oneself against such an event and his suggestion was “Fill up a box with gold coins.”  Easier said than done, but when I mentioned it, the advisor nodded in agreement with my cousin’s suggestion.

While none of us or at least very few of us may know the hour or the day when such a catastrophe might unleash itself before our very eyes it seems to me that it would be wise prepare in whatever way we can for the inevitable.  It would not hurt to study our grandparents and their ways of life, if we want to be survivors to tell our stories to future generations.

Something’s Amiss

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The weather forecasters had been talking about an “arctic plunge” to hit us starting yesterday, which it did, with temperatures dipping from the low twenties to the teens at night and the first round of snow brought out snow plows, snow blowers and shovels clearing out driveways and sidewalks.  Once the main streets were attended to, the city machines rumbled down the residential streets.

Last weekend I scrambled around getting to the post office for stamps and mailing off a couple of parcels and stopping for another sack of grapefruit and some egg nog.

Wearing a sweat suit and warm socks indoors I was really grateful to be able to stay home and spend some time writing out Christmas cards.  I canceled one appointment and got the okay to skip this week at the office.

Some outdoor Christmas lights offer a bit of color on our snow filled street.  The downfall has ended, but it snowed steadily for about four hours this afternoon and more is expected tomorrow.  Ah a second cup of soup is a good idea.

The message in a Christmas card from my friend, Star, who lives in southern California was frantic about the terrible fires we’ve all seen on the news gobbling up houses and showing no sign of abating, she said one fire was within fifteen minutes of her home.

Another long-time friend sent photos of her cherubic grandchildren as well as of her and one of her three beautiful daughters.  I wept when reading that Georgia had a stroke this last year.

Watching all the devastation from the summer’s hurricanes, fires and earthquakes leaves me feeling drained and sad.  Add to that the terrorist attacks, litany of murders, drug overdoses, and heinous crimes perpetrated by human beings on each other and the great loss of children who commit suicide, weigh down my heart.

Now even Tavis Smiley has been slammed with Sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior accusations.  I shall miss his programs after the noon news, as I shall miss watching Charlie Rose now and then and even Matt Lauer.  These high profile men with their power and their money have toppled over like paper tigers. I think it would be astonishing to know how many others not in their ranks  who were never brought to justice simply because it has been for the last two thousand years, a man’s world.  Twenty-first century males acting like cave-men.

Alas, the world is in a precarious condition, but we are still called upon to pick up the pieces, maintain our individual integrity, look for beauty in small things, and do the next right thing.

It’s Mental

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Horror after horror of mass murders has left many of us shaking our heads in dismay wondering if we’ll come back home from a movie or a trip to the grocery store.  This was not a common concern in the earlier decades of our modern society.

After listening to Patrick Kennedy, younger son of the long-time Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, promoting his book, A Common Struggle, I was remembering experiences of seeing people with mental health issues who were clearly not getting the care or medication they needed as they acted out bizarre behaviors on the city bus that I took to and from work daily.  They were probably harmless individuals but I always felt sad watching them, most of whom seemed to be under 35, which I suspect is young for the kind of deviant behavior they exhibited.

One morning one of these young men climbed into the bus.  The driver must have recognized him and tried to discourage him from entering – but the man was persistent and got loud insisting on his rights as his bus pass was valid.  It was, and he marched to the back of the bus.  He was tall, thin, emaciated looking and had clear blue eyes – his burgundy knit cap close around his head and his camel colored wool coat all buttoned up.  On this ride, he was quiet and rode and got off without causing a stir.

The last time I saw him it was an evening rush hour and on that time he was carrying on a conversation in which he and himself were debating the religious view of some issue.

The first time I saw this man, perhaps two years ago, I noticed that if anyone looked at him, his eyes opened very wide and a broad deep pleased smile crossed his face – the kind that may be reserved for a closer relationship.

Going home the evening before St. Patrick’s day this same young man unshaven for a few days, wearing a different warm looking coat and knit cap pulled snugly over his head boarded the bus.  All was quiet until the Broadview Road stop when his scream cut the otherwise peaceful ride – and he thundered off the bus in pursuit of a young scallywag who had snatched his cap – while the verbiage was basically unclear, obscenities were coherent.  The driver was thoughtful enough to wait for the man to recover his cap and run back onto the bus.  Certainly he is fast and alert even though he is clearly disturbed. It is all the more puzzling.

One less fortunate, but equally afflicted man got on the bus, long curly brown hair, his winter jacket could not have offered him much warmth.   It was worn with tears down the back and sleeves.  That morning a lady who works for the Veterans Administration was sitting and chatting with us – although he sat across from her for a few minutes – he changed seats frequently – she did not look directly at him but she quietly said the man had not taken his medication – that he was schizophrenic – this man was softly talking and laughing a lot, much as one might do in a two-way conversation.  He got off the bus at the public square and I wondered where he was going from there.

The man who touched the deepest chords in my psyche was an aging Oriental man, perhaps fifty or so with grey strands in his dark hair, he was slight, little more than about five feet tall.  He got on the bus and sat down and in a while he got up and began to “pick up” invisible things and put them into his bag.  He picked them up off the floor, the seat, the frame of the seat, and the aisle.  He seemed oblivious to the people around him.  One woman moved to a different seat.  He moved his hand over the frame of the seat again and again.  Then he sat next to a young woman who always gets on at Metro Hospital.  She looked like she could easily protect herself.  When he began the ritual of picking up something that was not there, she could see that he was harmless and she stayed put while he went through his routine.  At some major intersection he walked to the front of the bus and when the driver asked him if he wanted to get off, he did so without saying anything and I wondered if he knew where he was.

There was a lady who got on the bus with an assortment of plastic bags.  From one of them she pulled a tussled looking blondish wig and after shaking the dust out of it, adjusted it onto her head and followed that with an assortment of primping rituals and application of make-up.  By the time she was finished, she did look better and different, but the process was not exactly unnoticed by the other passengers.

While these individuals clearly need help, there are others who are less benign and only after they explode in violent behavior are we aware that somehow our systems have failed them and all of us are impacted.  I do not think there is a one size fits all solution to our societal dilemma.  However, I think Patrick Kennedy has some viable suggestions.

What’s that?

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I hadn’t been in bed very long and was on the edge of dozing off.  There was no one else in the house.  It was dark and quiet.

Something small fell.  Judging by the sound it made when it landed, somewhere not too far from me, but not the sound of landing on the tile in the bathroom, nor the carpet between my bed and closet, but definitely onto a bare floor.  Pearl like I decided, and there is nothing pearl like outside of my room, but I was not motivated to get up and search for the mysterious item.

In the small hours of the night when I got up and went into the bathroom, I remembered to look around the floor, but saw nothing that wasn’t there before the sound was issued.

Much later when I went into the kitchen to make coffee and toast, I noticed a small round button like glass shape with a pink flower glued to the underside and said, Ah ha!  The little trinket had fallen away from the magnet which was still stuck to the refrigerator.