Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Our house was situated on the banks of the Kanawha River. It had a great yard shaded by large fruit trees. Apple, pear, plum, and peach trees delighted the senses as well as the appetite. What's more, a long arbor laden with succulent purple grapes all summer completed the orchard–like feel of the yard.
Ah, but it was very dark at night. Spooky. Not even the brightest moonlight could find its way through the abundant foliage surrounding the house. It was a small town and there were few streetlights – certainly none at the end of the street that led to the river.
As a child, I cared nothing about Halloween. Still don’t. I realize I was then, and still am, among the minority, but the day holds little fascination for me. When my friends said, “What are you gonna be for Halloween?” I crinkled my nose and answered, “I don’t know. Probably nothing.”
Yet, invariably, a few friends came to my house at near-darkness every Halloween night and begged me to go trick-or-treating with them. It didn’t do any good to refuse. They insisted until I went to my mother’s closet and found something to fashion a costume – an old dress, hat and some make-up was enough to do the trick for me and off we’d go hitting every house in the small town, saying the words, trick-or-treat what seemed like a thousand times and coming home with our bags full of goodies. I enjoyed it in spite of myself, but always vowed never to do it again! It was the same every year.
One year stands out in my memory.
My father loved practical jokes. This particular Halloween, he came up with one that still makes me chuckle.
There was a weathered old garage standing at the edge of our property in the front. It seemed to have no purpose. I don’t know who owned it or why it was there.
My dad got the bright idea that, since the dilapidated old garage was already scary looking, especially after dark, and one could imagine all sorts of things going on inside, it might be fun to make it even scarier for the trick-or-treaters and see what happened.
And so… just before dark, he squeezed through the small opening in the garage door, which stood a little ajar at all times but didn’t seem to open fully. The way it creaked when it was moved made it a perfect Halloween prop! The cracks between the vertical boards were just far apart enough so that he could see out without being seen.
I was given the honor of sitting on the front porch swing with a bowl of candy to hand out when the little ghosts and goblins said, “Trick or Treat!”
My dad watched for the kids through the cracks and allowed them to go to the porch and collect their goodies, but when they turned to leave and reached the end of our walk, which was parallel with the side of the old garage, he’d shine a flashlight through the cracks and let out a horrible monster sound that could have awakened the dead!
Each reaction was almost the same: the child stopped, looked surprised, and then screamed a blood-curdling scream before running away as fast as possible. My dad enjoyed himself to the max.
But as more kids came, they had been warned by others and were ready for the trick. We thought the fun was over until one little guy decided he wasn’t gonna let a make-believe garage monster scare him. “I’m gonna open the door and see who this person is that’s scaring my friends!” he announced proudly.
He bravely walked up to the partly open door, stopped and was ready to peek inside when suddenly, with a deafening bellow, my father lurched right in front of the boy. But something was different.
He had no head!
Even I was startled for an instant.
The little boy’s eyes grew as big as half-dollars and, for a few seconds, he seemed paralyzed, but when he finally managed to move, he turned and ran away.
Unbuttoning his jacket and removing it from his head, Dad smiled, winked at me and said, “Let’s go inside. The fun’s over.”
It was the best Halloween I ever had!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Glow of October

Ah, what a glorious October day it is!

With only four days of my favorite month left, there won’t be too many more days like this one. Why does it seem that the things we love most are so short-lived? Perhaps so we appreciate them more.

My house is filled with that orange glow I tell you about every October. Although I have to admit, it’s not quite as vibrant as usual. For some reason, the huge sugar maple in the center of the front yard lost many of its leaves before it had a chance to reach peak orangeness (my word).

At any rate, we didn’t get to see the towering tree in all its orangey splendor because most of it is now covering my front yard in the form of ankle-deep wet leaves. But we get the orange glow nonetheless. And it’s a spirit-lifter! When I open my eyes each morning and am welcomed by that intense glow, I don’t even mind getting up. But my happiness level drops at least ten points on the cheer meter when Mr. H. decides it’s time to rake the leaves.

It takes him two days to get the job done. First, he rakes them into several large piles, eliciting in me an impish kid who yearns to take a running leap and land right in the middle of each pile – but the adult who knows that Mr. H. wouldn’t be too happy about that, bites her lip and refrains from such a frivolous act.

Once there are a half-dozen or more huge heaps around the yard, he’s usually very tired and decides to finish the job the next day. He quits and goes into the house hoping it won’t rain during the night. But I always say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if a huge wind came up and blew them all away before morning?”

He laughingly agrees, but it never happens.

He finishes the job the next day by gathering up the leaves, putting them into trash cans and throwing them into a large ravine not far from our house. He’s happy the job is finished for another year.

But I'll be longing for the glow of October until it comes again!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Autumn Comes Softly

Lately, I’m starting to think of life as a game of Russian Roulette with everyone waiting to see whose number comes up next. Almost every day, I hear of someone else I know having a terminal illness and I can’t help but wonder when the hand of fate will tap me – or someone I love.
One shouldn’t dwell on such things, I know, but how can you not think about death when it’s happening all around you so often?
I’m not alone. I have a friend whose first act every morning is looking at the obituary. She says she checks the ages of the deceased to see how many are her age or younger and how many are older.
“Why does it matter?” I asked.
“It doesn’t,” she said, “but it makes me feel a little better if there are more older ones than there are the same age or younger. Some days I win. Others, I lose. It’s just a game I play.”
“I don’t even look at the obituary unless I’ve already heard about a friend or acquaintance dying,?”  I told her. “Why look for something depressing?”
Life is short, to be sure!
We glide effortlessly from infanthood to childhood, the teen-age years, young adulthood, adulthood and middle-age. And then one day, we are surprised to find ourselves in the autumn of our years. It’s about now that we begin to question whether we have run a good race – enjoyed life to the fullest. It’s when we realize how little time we have left and we finally start to live in the moment – squeezing every drop of goodness from each one. It is also a time to set things straight. No regrets.
It'll soon be winter.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Too Many Changes! - Part Two

What will we do with the old entertainment center?” I had asked Mr. H. when we’d decided to buy a new TV and something to set it on.

“No worries,” he said, “I’ll take it to the den and everything in it will go right back in it."

“What will you do with the one you already have?” I asked. 

“Don’t know yet. Maybe someone else in the family will want it.” 

So, the new TV was delivered and stashed in a spare bedroom to wait until the stand arrived. And we started unloading the entertainment center that would be moved to his den. Oh, my Gosh! How can two people accumulate so much stuff in a few years?  Not just the things you’d expect to be in an entertainment center, like CDs and videos but there were all the instruction booklets that came with every appliance we ever bought – some long gone. There were candles and ash trays and old 33-1/3 RPM records – dozens of them!  I found bud vases, cat toys, calligraphy pens, and old Christmas cards.  

It was unbelievable! 

But even after throwing everything away that we could, there was still too much to put back into the cabinet along with the “stuff” that had to come out of the entertainment center already in the den. What were we going to do with all this stuff? 

To make matters worse, after some measuring, Mr. H. discovered that the entertainment center wouldn’t fit through the doorways, so it had to be disassembled and carried piece by piece. And then reassembled. What fun! 

But before it could go in the den, the one that was already in there also had to be disassembled and taken out of the spot where the first one would go. Hmmm. 

Well, it was just as full as the one we’d just cleaned out. Mr. H. had dozens of computer books, videos, mugs (gifts from the children over the years), pipes and pipe holders, books and book ends, magazines – you name it – it was there. 

And so… with two cabinets in pieces and their contents all over the house, it looked like we were moving. One set of cabinet pieces went to the downstairs playroom to await pickup by a son, who said he’d take it off our hands and the other was in pieces in the den, waiting to be put back together. 

But first, the new one! 

It arrived on Saturday morning. Guess what? It was in pieces, too! It’s a good thing Mr. H. likes working puzzles. 

It took all day to get the job done, along with interruptions and stopping for meals.  About one a.m. we quit and fell into bed, exhausted. The TV was still in the box. It would have to wait until morning. 

By Sunday afternoon, we finally had a new flat screen TV resting on a new stand. But there was just one problem. As much as I needed the storage space, I had opted for a cabinet with an electric fireplace in the center and therefore, very little storage. I have no idea what I’ll do with all the “stuff” that came out of the old entertainment center.  

Am I a glutton for punishment or what? I thought. 

Then it hit me! Mr. H. had said, “Everything that comes out of this cabinet will go right back in it – only it’ll be in the den.”  

But now… he seems to have put most of his stuff into the cabinet and he’s telling me, “Here are all these books or what are you gonna do with these pictures?” And it dawned on me that he wasn’t doing what he’d said. I reminded him. 

“What happened to, ‘everything that comes out will go right back in?’” I asked.  He looked perplexed. 

We’ll be hassling over this for a while, I fear, but in the meantime, I have a new 55” flat screen TV to enjoy. And a flickering fire. 

It’s nice!  I wonder what took me so long.
Picture from Hampton Bay ad. 


Friday, October 11, 2013

Too Many Changes!

I might be the last hold-out on buying a flat screen TV. I don’t care about TV anyway. Rarely watch it. As long as I have music during my every waking hour, I don’t see the need for anything else.

But when the picture on our TV slowly began to do strange things, letting us know it was not long for this world, Mr. H. said, “We’ll have to get a new one soon.” 
“Um-hmm. But not yet,” I said.
One reason I was against it was that there had to be many changes made to accommodate a flat screen TV. We had an entertainment center with shelves for CDs and videos and lots of storage for other things – and it was full – but the shelf designed for the TV was only large enough to hold our 15 year old 27” TV.
We’d not only have to buy the new TV, but also something to set it on, and that meant getting rid of the entertainment center we had, which was a beautiful cabinet!
I hate change! And that was way too much of it for me!
Months went by and each day, the picture was a little worse, but I ignored it and kept listening to music. When our family visited, they complained about the bad picture, and I said, “I suppose we’ll be getting a new TV before long.”
But not too soon, I told myself.
And then, one day, the picture became intermittent – still watchable if you didn’t mind losing a scene here and there. Not long after, the picture started wriggling and slithering all over the screen like brightly colored mercury and it was impossible to watch.
Mr. H. said, “It’s time to go shopping.”
From store to store we went, not finding exactly what I wanted, so we came home empty-handed. But Mr. H. meant business. He went straight to the Internet and searched until he found the TV he liked at a price he liked even better and ordered it. It would be here in two days.
Hmmm, now I had to settle on a cabinet to put it on – hopefully one with lots of storage.
So, following Mr. H’s lead, I went to the Internet. After looking at dozens of cabinets, I was confused and gave up. They were either too large or too small, the color was too light or too dark, or I just didn’t like them. Besides, I didn’t want to do this! It was as if ignoring the problem would make it go away, but down deep in my soul I knew I had to face it squarely and get ‘er done!
Ding! went my computer. Checking my e-mail, I found one from Mr. H. with a picture on it. “Does this one do anything for you?” he’d written.
It was a pretty cabinet. I liked it okay. I wrote back: “Do you like it?”
He answered, “Yes.”
After reading the particulars and looking at it a while longer, I wrote back: “It’s unusual for us to agree on something, so it must be a sign that this is the one. Go ahead and order it.”
I’m sure Mr. H. was relieved when he’d finally managed to round up the two new pieces we needed, but there was still much work to be done. 

Check back tomorrow for Part Two of Too Many Changes. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

I'm Not An Invalid!

When things happen that we don’t understand we wonder why, but sometimes never know the answer.
Mr. H. had bad back pain for about a month. He’s had back problems off and on for years, but the pain usually goes away after a week or two and lots of rest.
This time it didn’t.
He finally gave up and went to the doctor, who gave him a prescription for pain and sent him for an MRI. The very next day, after he'd had it done, the doctor called and told Mr. H. to come to his office to discuss the results. I went with him.
While we waited in the exam room, we wondered what could be so important. It makes you a little nervous when the doctor, himself, phones and tells you to come in that very day.
When he walked in, he stopped in front of Mr. H. and said, “How do you feel?” 
Mr. H. replied, “Not too bad.”
The doctor looked at him skeptically and said, “According to your MRI, you should be paralyzed from the waist down!” Then he went to his computer and showed us a picture of what his spine looks like. It appears that every disc – not one or two – but every disc in his back is compressed!  No wonder he was in so much pain.
I was not surprised. Many years ago, he was in the hospital in traction once and had many tests done. The conclusion of his doctor at that time was that he could end up in a wheelchair someday! I had pushed that to the back of my mind and Mr. H. never acknowledged it at all.
But now, the doctor wanted to set him up with a neurosurgeon to see if surgery was necessary. In the meantime, he was to keep taking the prescription he’d given him. No problem. He cooperated and, although it took a few weeks, we finally met with the neurosurgeon.
After he’d looked at all Mr. H’s records, he said surgery was not necessary at this time, but if he should start having pain that won’t stop again, to call him and we’d reassess the situation. And he suggested Mr. H. walk with a cane so as not to take a chance on falling.
Great! We left there feeling very good about his condition. The pain pills had lessened the pain a great deal and we weren’t looking at surgery in the near future. Maybe never! And the doctor didn't even mention a wheelchair.
It was a wonderful day!
At my insistence, he finally bought a cane, but uses it only occasionally. It doesn’t matter how much I complain about him doing too much, he never stops doing most of the things he’s always done, although he is a little more cautious. When I complain too much, he insists, “I’m not an invalid, and I’m not going to be an invalid!” He simply refuses to accept anything bad.
I wonder…. If everyone were blessed with the kind of determination Mr. H. has//would there be fewer serious illnesses? Are many of them just accepted by us after a test shows unfavorable results?
I had an uncle who was told in his forties that he had a brain tumor.  Surgery was done, but afterward, the doctor sadly informed him that it was impossible to “get it all.” He said, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing more we can do. The tumor will continue to grow. I’ll give you no more than five years.”
My uncle replied, “You don’t give me anything! I’ll have as long as God gives me. You have nothing to do with it!”
The doctor shrugged, shook his hand and wished him well.
My Uncle Dan lived twenty-five years! He and his wife traveled extensively, and  welcomed grandchildren and even one great-grandchild into the world before he died. He enjoyed life more than ever after a doctor “gave” him only five years to live.
These are two special cases, of course. There are numerous times when doctors and tests are right on target and people have to battle life-threatening illnesses. Some lose. Some gain a little more time if they’re lucky.
But why do some, like my uncle and Mr. H. seem to win by just not accepting bad news from doctors?