Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Doing it anyway...

Yesterday, my friend Jayne Kesler shared something on Facebook that ended with the words, "It's not about being unafraid--it's about being afraid and doing it anyway."

Which explains why my sister-in-law and I went parasailing over the Gulf of Mexico. You did know I'm paralyzingly afraid of water, right?

Photo by Chris McGuire
And why, regardless of being terrified of public speaking, I do so occasionally. Voluntarily!

It’s why, although I fear losing people I love more than any other one thing in life, I don't love them any less to protect myself. Why, although being in love is possibly more painful than even childbirth or a toothache, I not only did it when I was 20, I've been doing it over and over ever since. With the same guy, only he's not the same--he changes, and so do I, and what's that all about?

I am afraid, as many of us are, of the horrors of dementia and Alzheimer's, of suffering and making others suffer. Of breaking a hip and falling down stairs and of hitting my head. But I am not going to sit in a chair and wait for it to happen--no matter how hard it is to get out of the chair.

I fear slowness. Writing slow, walking slow, thinking slow, responding slow. But I will still get there—it will just take longer. (My husband fears that I will never drive slow, but that's a different conversation.)

I try to catch the things that happen too fast--grandkids growing up, summertime's swift passage, and lunchtimes with friends. There is sadness in their wake. Wish-I’d-saids, wish-I-hadn’ts, wish I’d gone… But, at the end of the too-short days, there are still the memories of the pleasure.

I recently wrote 152 words in an entire day and I thought of how many days like that it would take to write a 70,000-word book and...oh, holy crap, it would take 461 days. That would be more than a year of the limited number of them I have left, so should I stop because I'm afraid of how many 152-word days are ahead of me? No, I didn’t think so, either.

So far, I don’t have any plans for challenging any particular fears, but I do hope we make some soon—and come out laughing on the other side. I hope you do, too.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

That Damn Hot Rod, Part Two...by Bradly Ferguson

Welcome back, Brad Ferguson, with Part Two of "That Damn Hot Rod." Thanks for visiting the Window!

One Saturday morning around a quarter after eight, Frank and JD pulled up and tooted the horn. He didn't really have to honk the horn―I had heard him way before he got here! Pete said, "See ya later, Dad."
 I saw them loading the lawnmower and hedge clippers in the back of Frank's pickup and Frank drove off with Pete right behind him. I figured Pete had two or three yard jobs that day and needed the help. I also wondered if JD was gonna be worth anything helping them. Ya see, earlier that summer, JD was caught egging cars and stealing hubcaps. He spent a month in the State Juvenile Detention Center. I did notice that JD was now wearing a regular shirt, his hair was cut off and in a flattop, and he was not wearing sunglasses. Maybe he learned his lesson and had straightened up. Time would tell.
    I needed to go to the hardware store around 10:30 that morning to pick up a couple things. I got the wagon out and was heading down South Maple Street. I look up ahead and there was Pete's coupe and Frank's pickup parked right in front of old man Zimmermann's place. The Mansion is what I called it.
    Now old man Zimmermann―that's a story to itself! He had started up the Ford dealership in the city around 1930. Called it Zimmermann Ford. He had built up the business through the years and it was now the second largest Ford dealership in the state. A real accomplishment there. But failing health and a gimpy leg had made him retire earlier than he would have liked to, so he handed down the dealership to his son Bob a couple years back. Some guys have all the luck.
     Old man Zimmermann was kinda eccentric―the only car he owned was a black 1934 Ford Crown Victoria. He could have afforded a brand new top-of-the-line vehicle every year if he had wanted to―he had the money―but he kept the '34 and it was always clean and ran like a top.
     About a year or so back, word had it that he and his son had gotten into a heated argument about the way Bob was making changes at the dealership. It resulted in a falling-out between them and they hadn't spoken to each other since. But old man Zimmermann was still aware of the goings-on at the dealership because of Howard. Howard Tomlinson was the chief mechanic there and had been hired by the old man on day one when the dealership opened. They were old buddies, and Howard would come over to the house and give him the poop as to what was going on down at the dealership. You could sometimes see them on a Sunday afternoon playing checkers on the front porch.
  So, anyhow, old man Zimmermann had become pretty withdrawn after the falling-out with his son. He had let his beard grow and his hair was mostly unkempt. He stayed at the Mansion most of the time and let the yard go. It used to be well-manicured but now the bushes were overgrown, weeds were knee high, and the grass was nearly a foot tall.  He had become sort of a recluse. Talk was that the neighbors in that ritzy neighborhood were pissed off about the unsightliness, but do you think they would lend him a hand to clean it all up? Nope. The self-centered rich bastards just bitched about their property value going down.
       I was nearing the Mansion and I saw old man Zimmermann out on the front porch leaning on his fancy cane. And there in the yard were Pete and Frank and JD trimming the bushes and pulling the weeds. I blew the horn as I drove by, stuck my arm out the window, and waved to the boys. I figured this was a good gig for them. They ought to get paid pretty handsomely for this big job.
     Pete and Frank pulled up to the house around dusk that evening and they took the lawn mower and hedge clippers out of the pickup and Frank and JD left. Pete put the lawnmower and clippers up in the garage and came drag-assin' into the house. I said, "Well, did ya get the place all cleaned up?"
          Pete said, "Yep, it looks really good. I'm tired."
          I said,"Did the old man pay you boys well?"
Pete said, "Well, Dad, he needed the help, so we just volunteered and done it for free."
I clinched down hard on my teeth to keep from blurting out what I was thinking as my blood pressure was rising. 
     Pete continued, "Ya know, Dad, it turns out that old man Zimmermann is pretty cool. When we were about done with his yard, he hobbled out to my hot rod and we started talking about cars and mechanics. Ya know, he really knows a lot about cars and engines."
          I said, "Well, he oughta. He was in the car business for nearly 30 years."
          Pete said, "His wife was real nice too. She made sandwiches and lemonade for us."
    Pete said that the old man knew right away that the flathead wasn't the original engine and had started asking questions about what he had done mechanically to it. "I told him about how I rebuilt the engine at the machine shop and installed it and about the new clutch and new brakes. When I told him that I had taken two years of Auto Mechanics and Repair at Southside, he told me that Zimmermann Ford had brought Mr Yoemans up to speed before he started teaching the classes at school."
Pete went on, " He kept asking me about really technical things, Dad, like bearing clearances, valve lash, and ignition timing and stuff. I knew all the answers but it was almost like he was testing me or something."
   Pete continued, "Dad, all those questions…it felt kinda weird, so I changed the subject to his 1934 Crown Victoria. He called it his 'baby' and told me to go to the garage and take a look if I wanted. So while Frank and JD finished up on the yard, I went to the garage and, Dad, you wouldn't believe it…that car has only 21,000 miles on it and it looks brand new. I told old man Zimmermann that I loved it and it was really impressive."
        Pete said,"Then he asked me what my name was and when I told him, he just said 'Peter, eh? Good name' and turned around and went back into the house. That was kinda weird.”
          I chuckled a little and told Pete not to be so hard on the old-timer; one of these days he would understand. Pete said, "I gotta take a shower and eat something. I'm starved".
    I couldn't sleep too well that night, wondering how the Mansion looked now. You know how it is sometimes; you start thinking about something and ya can't get it out of your head and you just lay there in bed thinking.
          I got up early Sunday morning, jumped in the wagon, and headed down South Maple. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the place. It was a total transformation...front yard looked great…even had blooming flowers planted. The boys had brought the Mansion back to its old glory.
   It was three days later when Pete, and Mamma and I were sitting at the kitchen table and the phone rang. Pete got up and answered it. "Hello?...Yes…yes, sir, that's me....yes. Yes, sir, I'll be right there.” He hung up the phone, ran out the back door, jumped in his hot rod, and was gone before I even had a half a chance to ask him who it was.
          I turned to the wife and said disgustedly, "Probably someone selling him some more damn hot rod parts."
Mamma just shook her head and said, "Now, John.”
    Later that afternoon, Chickie was at the house. She and Mamma were in the kitchen while I was in the TV room trying to get the rabbit ears adjusted so I could watch Beat the Clock. Pete came home and came running into the house yelling, "DAD!  DAD!"
I asked what all the excitement was about. With his arm tightly around Chickie, he said, " Guess what, guys. I got a new job...a full-time job. They hired me as a mechanic down at Zimmermann Ford. I can't believe it!”
I shook his hand and give him a big hug and congratulated him. Mamma joined in on the hug and gave him a kiss and said, "We're proud of you, son.” There we were, all four of us in a big group hug. 
    I ask him when he started work and he said, "Tomorrow morning. Howard, the chief mechanic, interviewed me and then took me for a tour of the shop and I met some of the mechanics there... boy, the shop is big... and they have all the modern equipment too. Then we went into the office and I met Bob Zimmermann and then Bob... I mean Mr. Zimmermann, asked me to go with him for lunch... well... actually, I took him.”
Pete was so excited and was talking a million miles an hour, but I managed to get a word in edgewise. "Wait a minute. You took him to lunch?" 
Pete said that as they were walking outside Bob said that his father and him were talking again and his dad had told him all about Pete and the hot rod. Pete said,"Well, then, Mr. Zimmermann said he was so impressed that he just had to take a ride in it.”
I asked," Well....did he like it?"
Pete replied, "Dad, he had a smile on his face and was acting like a kid all the way!"
   Just then Frank pulled up and Pete said, " Come on, Chickie. I gotta go tell Frank.” Chickie and Pete ran outside hand-in-hand.
          The wife and I walked over to the kitchen window and with my arm around her we stood there watching the three of them. A million thoughts were running through my head, one of which was me being so foolish all these years to be wanting my son to be something he wasn't. He had known all along what his passion was. I leaned over and rested my head on Mamma's head and said, "I think our little boy is turning into a man.” As I watched Pete and Chickie and Frank celebrate, my eyes drifted over to the '32 coupe and a smile crept onto my face and my eyes become a little misty. That "damn hot rod”... today it was quite a pretty sight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

That Damn Hot Rod... by Bradly Ferguson

 Brad Ferguson and I went to the same school from start to finish, although he was...ahem...older than me, so I really only knew him as Cindy's older brother. After I'd graduated and was enjoying being single--maybe a little too much--I met Duane Flaherty and a few of the guys he played music with. One of them was Brad. He was funny, smart, and scary talented. Fifty years later, he's still all that. 
This is a short story he let me read and, when I begged, said I could use in the blog. It's in two parts--the other half will be here next Tuesday. I hope you enjoy it. I sure did.   
      ...from the perspective of John Yorg:
 It was 1958. My son Pete was a sophomore at Southside High School where I had been teaching history for 17 years. Teaching history isn't the most glamorous of jobs, but I enjoy it; it's my passion. I know I'm not gonna get rich teaching; so with a son, a car loan, and a mortgage, the wife had to take a job at Woolworth's to make ends meet more comfortably. 
Mamma―that's my pet name for the wife―would take the station wagon to work and I'd walk to the school, as it was only four blocks from the house. I didn't mind the walk. I would think about teaching the day's classes on the way there and unwind on the way back. Sometimes Pete would walk with me.
    Pete was a good boy―respectful, honest, and a hard worker. Since he was 10 he’d had a paper route and. He’d mowed yards in the summer ever since he was big enough to push the reel lawnmower. And save? Lordy, that boy wouldn't spend a penny…well, unless it was for a hot rod magazine. He would read those magazines from front to back, again and again. He was crazy about them Hot Rods.
    When Pete was around 14, I asked him what he was gonna do with all that money he had been saving. He looked up from the   magazine and replied, "Dad, I'm gonna buy a car when I get out of high school."
      Hmmmm... I thought he would need to be running that paper route and mowing yards every day and night for 10 years to save up enough money for a car.
    I wanted him to be saving for college to get a good education so he could land a decent paying job. That way he wouldn't have to struggle with money like Mamma and I had been doing for years. But college didn't interest Pete in the least. He hated history, hated government, and didn't care for English or economics, either, and those grades reflected that. Math was okay, but his passion at that time in his life was shop; he got straight As in shop. Lester Yoemans, the shop teacher, often told me how impressed he was with Pete's abilities and determination. My son had been practicing on welding in shop class and one day he brought home some of his samples. Now I had heard or read somewhere that a good weld should look like a row of coins and sure enough, Pete's welds looked like a stack of Mercury dimes all laid out.
    That summer, Pete started running around with Frank, who was a new kid in town. Frank was 19 and worked in his uncle's machine shop. He drove a 1940 Ford pickup that was louder’n hell. I swear I could hear him coming from two blocks away even from inside the house. Had those spinner hubcaps and was painted a light grey primer. A hot rod.
     I didn’t think much of Frank at first sight. He had greasy-looking hair combed back in a DA, a tee shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and was wearing sunglasses even though it was a cloudy day. Looked like a hoodlum. But I had second thoughts about him after Pete introduced him to me. Pete says, "Frank, this is my dad, John Yorg. Dad, this is Frank Kirkpatrick.” 
Frank took off his sunglasses, looked me straight in the eyes, shook my hand firmly, and said, "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Yorg.” It was always Yes, Sir or No, Sir with Frank. He showed respect and character and that was good enough in my book.
     Pete had a girlfriend now. Her name was Valerie, but Chickie is what everybody called her. He had taken her to a school sock hop last April and from then on they were going steady. Now, Chickie was a sweetie and she would come over when Pete wasn't busy. But that boy seemed to always have something going on.  That summer he was mowing yards, working a few evening hours at the Piggly Wiggly stocking shelves, and would go with Frank to the machine shop whenever he didn't have a yard to mow. Since he was so busy, he and Chickie agreed that Sunday was "her" day. They always spent it together. My wife just loved Chickie from the get-go; they got along just peachy.
     Now, I'll admit I am not mechanically inclined―I'm a history teacher, remember―so when Pete and Frank would talk about engine stuff and car modifications while going through hot rod magazines, I had no clue what they were talking about. But Pete was obviously learning a lot at the machine shop and from hanging around with Frank. Frank's uncle didn't pay Pete for any of the work that he did, and Pete never asked him to. He just wanted to learn. I think Frank's uncle was happy to be getting free labor. I didn't approve of that too much and told Pete so, but he would just say, "Ah, Dad."
     The school board had voted that summer to try out a couple of new state-approved classes for the next school year. They called them Auto Mechanics and Auto Repair. They had sent Yoemans to the local car dealerships in town to get up to speed with the auto world so he could teach the classes. And guess who was the first one in line to sign up for those new classes! To no surprise, Pete got straight As. 
Midway through the year, he was even helping Yoemans teach the younger students. One day ole Yo Yo and I were in the teachers’ lounge and he says, "Ya know, John, that boy of yours is smart as a whip in my auto class. People are always needing their cars worked on and a good hustling mechanic can make some decent money, ya know."
 I just grunted and said, "I wish he'd put that kind of effort into the rest of his studies," and walked out.
    The summer between his junior and senior year, Pete started giving my station wagon its tuneups, and he did real good, too; the wagon always ran great when he got done with it. It got better gas mileage, too, and with the price of gas at a ridiculous 30 cents a gallon…well, every bit helps. He changed my oil, too. When the brakes started squealing , we went to Western Auto together and bought brake shoes and he installed them on all four wheels. I just stood there and watched in amazement. How in the world he put all those parts back together right, I have no idea, but when he was done there were no extra parts left over and it stopped like it used to when it was new.  Saved me a pretty penny, too. That summer, he tuned up a couple of my friends’ cars and changed oil for them. They paid him fairly and he was happy to do it.
    Then Frank's little brother JD came over one day with Frank. JD was younger than Pete and combed his hair like Frank's and dressed just like Frank too. But JD was a little smartass. I figured JD stood for juvenile delinquent. I caught him in my junior high history class last year flipping rubber bands at a girl. As punishment, I made him write a 500-word essay on the history of rubber bands. After all, heh heh, I am a history teacher! The day he showed up at the house, Frank brought him over and introduced him to me. JD didn't shake my hand. He just said, ”Yeah, I know Mr. Yorg from school.” I had him pegged right: a juvenile delinquent.
    Time was flying by. Pete had his driver's license and I let him drive the wagon here and there and take Chickie out on dates. He was a senior and before I knew it the prom came up and, of course, Chickie was right there on his arm. I could tell she was crazy about him. They were good for each other.
   Then came graduation day. We had a little party for both Pete and Chickie at the house. Her parents and some high school friends came over and even Frank showed up. I was proud that my son graduated but was uneasy as to his future. It's a different world out there when you get out of school. Yes, I was uneasy.
    The very next day I was outside dusting my roses when I heard this car a spittin' and sputterin' and blowing blue smoke out the back. It pulled into the driveway. It was Pete. I pointed at what was left of an old car and said, "What's this?” 
Pete told me it was a 1932 Ford three-window coupe... that it was one of Frank's friends’ hot rods and he had lost patience with it because he couldn't get it running right. And then he dropped the bomb on me. "So I bought it. I'm gonna fix it up."

     I flew off the handle. "Why in the hell are you wasting your hard-earned money on a piece of crap like that? I thought you knew better. The damn thing doesn't even have any fenders or a hood, and it smokes like a locomotive. If you were gonna buy a car, you should have bought Musselman's low-mileage '53 Plym―"
          I might as well have been talking to the wall. Pete didn't hear a word I said. He already had his tools out and was tinkering away on the carburetor. I took in a deep breath and let it out easy. "Well, don't block me in. You can park it on the side of the driveway over there.". I went back to finish dusting my roses to calm down. Within 10 minutes Pete had the piece of crap running smoothly, but it was still billowing out blue smoke. I thought, well, maybe there won't be as many mosquitoes around this summer.
      The little coupe was gone a week later. I figured the boy had finally came to his senses and gotten rid of the damn thing. I never said anything to him about it. I didn't want to come off with the ole  “I told you so” speech. Pete never said anything to me about it, either. Frank would pick up Pete every morning on his way to work and bring him home after 4:00, then Pete would ride his bike to the Piggly Wiggly and get home around 11:00 pm. The boy was burning the candle at both ends.
    About two weeks later I looked out the kitchen window and up pulled Pete in the '32 coupe hot rod. But this time it was a different story. The engine actually sounded great and was not blowing any smoke. Still a little loud for my taste but well, that's what kids like nowadays. The body was now in a black primer. Not only did it sound great; it wasn't an eyesore anymore. Looked pretty decent for a damn hot rod.
    I walked out the back door and said in a questioning tone, "I thought you had gotten rid of it.” Pete proceeded to tell me that he had taken it over to Frank's, taken the original flathead engine out, and put in a 1941 Lincoln flathead that he had rebuilt at the machine shop. Well, that came as no surprise to me―he was just being himself and doing what he loved to do. I had my passion and he had his. I was definitely impressed and I told him so. He looked at me and said "Gee, thanks, Dad."  He came in, cleaned himself up, and off he went to give Chickie her first ride in it.
    Pete and Frank were sitting at the kitchen table one evening. I heard them talking. I came from around the corner and asked them if they were playing cards. Pete looks at Frank and then Pete said," No, Dad,why?"
          I said, "Well, I heard you talking about three deuces and assumed tha―"  
          They both broke out in laughter.  "No, Dad. Three deuces is three carburetors. I'm going to put three deuces on my hot rod."
I just shook my head and let it go. Why anyone would want to put three carburetors on their car when one works perfectly fine is beyond me. Guess I'm just getting old.
To be continued...

Monday, January 21, 2019

Bitter pills by Terri Hall

       My friend Terri Hall joins us today. The story she tells is important because it's so sadly familiar. It ends a little abruptly because the situation is rife with abruptness and non-endings and time spent in limbo--by both people who need care and the ones who love them. The ones who give that care. 
On Saturday, December 22, 2018, my mom called. She was crying hard and in pain. Trust me, that is not at all like her. I knew she was having  terrible pain and had just a few days ago taken her to the doctor. Why he didn't do anything at the time, I have no idea. Anyway, her pain was now much more severe, so I took her to St. Vincent's in Kokomo. They found a compressed fracture in her lumbar area, gave her meds, and sent her home. 
The next evening, I took her back. This time, they had a bed available, so they kept her. (They didn't tell me that was the reason why they sent her home the previous evening.) On Tuesday, they performed surgery. I can't pronounce or spell it, but they squirted an epoxy cement in the disc to stabilize it. It's considered an outpatient surgery; however, because of the lateness of the hour, we were to take her home the following day. Usually, people feel instant relief and can go back to work the next day. Mom had complications and would have to wait till Thursday.
Complications. That is putting it mildly. Apparently, when a person is elderly and especially if they are in the beginning stages of dementia, anesthesia can affect their brain. For several days, my mom was in agony if not dosed with pain meds. The morphine made her hallucinate, so they put her on Advil- and Tylenol-type pills. Finally, the following week, she didn't sleep as much and her pain was tolerable. Her mind was more lucid as well.
At one point, she didn't know any of us. She told my daughter Pamela she looked familiar but didn't know her. Later, she my husband Tom was her own husband. She thought I was her mother, who had been dead for over 43 years. When she first thought I was her mom, I patted her hand and went out the door crying. At the end of the hall, I quietly sobbed. I had a small and bitter taste of what the families of Alzheimer’s patients go through.
Fifteen days after she was admitted, of which I was there for 14 of them, she was taken to a nursing / physical therapy facility to finish recovering. I had already spent several hours at the hospital that day, but had to go back and take her. It was after hours and the place didn't have a vehicle that ran at night; furthermore, the hospital needed the bed.
My sister came up from Tennessee to take turns with me and to visit with mom, but after the first day she was here, she became sick with whatever is going around and has only made it twice for short periods. Pamela and I took turns at the hospital several times, but she couldn't always make it, then she, too, became sick.
Mom is now at a facility in Kokomo. I've watched some of the PT, (mom calls it kindergarten stuff.) I explained it was necessary to gauge her progress and to build her strength. I'm not sure she completely believes me. I’m not sure I completely believe myself.
We are hoping that at the end of two months I'll be able to take her home again. In the meantime, if she transition herself from the bed to the wheelchair and back again can on her own, I'll be able to take her to church and on the occasional joy ride.
I'm praying to that end, but I can't help but wonder if she'll ever be able to come home. She's depressed, hurting, and a little scared. It breaks my heart to see her like this. After doing some of the PT, she's barely able to hold her head up. I can see the despair in her eyes. She believes she'll die there.
We continue to pray for her, visit and encourage her and ourselves. I hate seeing my mom like this. It breaks my heart a little more each day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

If You Woke Up Rich…

From Peru Indiana Today in February, 2018. I don't work at the library anymore, but it was a lovely job and a wonderful place to spend work hours. I miss it, but I'm glad to have the time to put into other places. 

There was this meme on Facebook today that said, basically, if you woke up with 500 million dollars in the bank, how would you quit your job? I've been thinking about it ever since I saw it. And I can't help but wonder about something.

Why would you want 500 million dollars? Why would anyone? I mean, I definitely get wanting or needing more money than you have. We raised a family in fear of emergencies, because we never had that nice cushion in the bank that was recommended. Eating out was a Big Deal because we couldn't afford to do it very often. Paying book rent at the first of the school year for three kids meant robbing Peter to pay Paul until things fell back into place along about November, just in time to shop for Christmas. More money would have been nice.

It still would, I guess. But, if you're not going to give it away or help someone who needs it, what is the point of having a lot of money? Maybe I have been luckier than many in that I've liked my jobs, both the one I retired from and the ones I have in retirement. There's nothing more fun than writing books, not much that's more fun (for me) than working in a library.

If I had 500 million dollars...no, even if I had five million dollars, how would life be any better? I suppose the house would be bigger and have more bathrooms. Maybe I wouldn't compare prices at the grocery store or book the cheapest flights or drive my car until its wheels threaten to fall off. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't clean my own house anymore and I know I've always said if I were rich, I'd sleep on clean sheets every single night. I might spend more on clothes. And closets. I'd give more.

But I'm not sure what I'd do once I was finished...you know...not doing what I do now. I don't think sunrises or sunsets would be any more beautiful, my cats more accepting, or my friends any better. I think relationships might change in crumbling, scratchy ways that would cause pain. I think there are people who would decide they liked me because I was rich, and...really, is that a good enough reason?

So, okay, if I wake up with that 500 million, you can have it (except for a little bit--I'm not entirely stupid) and I'll just keep the life I have. But I'd love to hear your answers to why you'd want that much money in the first place.

Thanks for reading. See you next week.