Weird day. Pain meds definitely NOT working and my sleep pattern is upside down (laid awake all night then slept today from dawn until mid-afternoon.) I want to grumble at getting my plans up-ended, but as hard as I work at it I can’t get perturbed.
It’s just too nice a day, and definitely the kind of Christmas I’ve come to expect in this stage of my life.
I’m spending time with people I love and we’re all safe, warm and most definitely well-fed. For just a little while the curtains are closed and we’re safely walled away from 2020 with all the magic our favorite quilts and Christmas music can muster.
It was a whisper so quiet I almost missed it for the hum of the ceiling fan and the wind in the trees outside our bedroom window.
“Papa, I want to be down here with you and Nana” – followed almost instantly with, “Can I use your tablet?” signaled the arrival of my grandson Jayden. I mumbled the usual assent mixed with admonitions about excess noise then drifted into my never-ending quest for more sleep.
Microseconds later a strident BEEP-BOOP-BEEP-BRRRRRT!! startles me into an (almost) sitting position while simultaneously triggering a semi-intelligible URK!1 The wee little voice with the endearing lisp calls out in the dark, “Torry Papa. I will turn it down,” and instantly dispels my expected growly response and I roll back over to drift off as well as I can with patterns of light from the aforementioned tablet dancing across our ceiling.
I stagger-stumble out of bed, visions of out-of-control vehicles heading for our front porch filling my imagination only to find my grandson with my tablet in hand, transfixed and terrified by his grandfather-turned-grizzly-bear careening around the bedroom floor and bouncing off bedroom walls while his grandmother struggles with the polyethylene clasp of her CPAP mask in an effort to sit up as well.
“Sorry Papa. Sorry Nana”.
At this point the tablet is turned off and put away before I once again embark on my fitful journey to Slumberland, but just as Little Nemo takes my ticket…
“Hey Papa! I can jump reawy high! Watch me!”
My inner Cro-Magnon starts a growl rumbling deep in my chest but chokes it off when I note the time on my phone AND the growing light of dawn through the curtained window. I take comfort in the fact that if nothing else Jayden’s early morning calisthenics do not include PLFs2 off the dresser or a dive, tuck and roll over the bed with the two of us curled up comfortably and still sleeping…but mostly the knowledge that his predawn antics are a small price to pay for sharing this time in his life.
I’ve lived almost ten times as long as Jayden has and in all those years I’ve treasured my steadily evolving caretaking role as elder brother, uncle, father, and grandfather. I was never the type of dad who lived and longed for the day he would become an empty nester and the departure of each child was a little death for me. I suspect it will be the same when Jayden and his parents finally get a place of their own, but for now I will keep my tablet charged up and tuck the covers a little tighter when I turn in at night.
I don’t think I heard any one of these words prior to 1987 – and I didn’t learn the correct definition of any of them until long after that date. You see, unless the context absolutely demands the use of a “ten-dollar term” I prefer using less-ornamental language, which is why I think we did well enough with the alternate phrases like:
steps in solving a problem
contrast between two things
a model or pattern
…but I make an exception to the rule when using ubiquitous instead of “found everywhere” as in “the music of Darryl Hall and John Oates was ubiquitous in the Seventies and Eighties!” because it was the absolute truth at the time that their work and faces were found everywhere. They were on the covers of magazines at newsstands. I couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing “
It should be no surprise that summer is my least favorite season. Despite the years I’ve spent in Tennessee I am still an Alaskan boy at heart with climate preferences like those of a golden retriever – I’m happiest when it’s no warmer than forty degrees and my feet are wet. I’m also one of a very small group of people whose autoimmune disease symptoms became more painful when the weather gets warmer….which means that as summer heats up I feel progressively worse – when July rolls around my days involve a lot of just laying around reading and trying to mentally “will” autumn to appear in August.
Despite my penchant for speculative subject matter in my art my taste in reading material is fairly mundane. Currently on my Kindle you’ll find the following books:
Confederates in the Attic
The Year 1000
The Mound Builder Myth
The Color of Law
Empires of the Sky
Drums Along the Khyber
Most of these books are historical works, but sprinkled among the titles from times past you will find books about spoons, specifically spoon theory – an idea that has very little to do with silverware and everything to do with communicating the challenges and discomfort brought about by the daily battle with autoimmune diseases. It’s a wonderful concept brought about by Christine Miserando and you can read about it at length at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com.
Spoons are markers used in allocating/assessing how much you can get done in a day despite the dramatically reduced energy level and equally elevated pain levels that come with autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or in my case anklysosing spondylitis. You start out the day with a dozen spoons, and every action – and I mean EVERY action will cost you one or more spoons. The allocation of twelve is purely arbitrary but I found I was able to calibrate my spoon expenditures rather quickly. Getting out of bed costs one spoon, getting dressed is another one, climbing stairs takes two spoons and going to church takes three…so it’s not hard to see how you can run out of spoons rather quickly.
I’m barely scratching the surface of this marvelous communications tool and I highly recommend you check out Ms. Miserando’s website and read her ideas first hand.
Living with an autoimmune disease like ankylosing spondylitis has meant living with chronic pain and impaired mobility, but I was surprised, yea alarmed when the muscles in my hand and forearm started to uncontrollably spasm and twist into a claw-like flex. Dark thoughts of tetanus came to mind and at one less-than-lucid moment I wondered if I’d become mind-controlled by the Skeksis from Dark Crystal but good sense returned and I began to research for a solution to my manual woes. It turns out that the flexing and arching and “owwing” is a real thing – it’s known as a carpal spasm and can be brought on by overwork and/or the lack of sufficient calcium or magnesium in my diet. By limiting my time at the drawing board and knocking back an extra yogurt each day I’ve been able to curtail the attacks to a large extent.
…which is just as well.
Since my childhood there has been a dramatic increase in the use of hand gestures as part of human communication far beyond the sign language between cowboy and Commanche that I witnessed each week on television. Simple movements such as an index finger drawn sharply across a larynx (“killed”) or a hand cupped to an ear (“listening”) have been joined by American Sign Language for use by the deaf, gang signs adopted into general street use, and other communicative gestures borrowed from sports and military. The use of nonverbal communication has increased to the point that it is no longer safe to just idly wave your hands. For example while coming to grips with these carpal spasms I have:
Been slapped by a deaf lady for signing an indecent proposal
Accidentally called out a gang member
…and I may have inadvertently flipped off ET
The one time I did try to respond to communicating via hand signals it turned out that the lady in question was just trying to dry her nail polish…which is why despite years of conditioning via the military I now walk about with my hands in my pockets.
(I had to simplify things for the title to this last peek at my upcoming book – I had so many friends, cousins and sons that I had to resort to sketching wiring diagrams before typing up the titles)
It was a commercial made up of clones with Robert Redford’s doppelganger putting his best Sundance moves on Katherine Ross’ twin sister while a sound-alike band sang a jingle set to the tune of Santana’s “Evil Ways”:
“You got a smoke that’s something else Win-chester.
A whole new taste and straight your way.
It’s something else Win-chester”.
Cigarette advertising on television was officially banned as of January 1,1971 but the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company was pushing the issue with Winchester – a small cigarette-sized cigar that used a loophole in the new law to continue their on-air promotion of tobacco products. It was a maneuver that would become more common as we got deeper into the “Me Decade” of the 1970’s, a narcissistic side-step of accepted norms in an effort to increase profits.
Other developments in 1971 included:
Broadcast standards for language and subject matter were pushed further with the premiere of Norman Lear’s groundbreaking comedy/social commentary All In the Family.
Resistance to the Vietnam conflict increased to a 60% disapproval rating and triggered bombings in the US Capitol with the unauthorized release of the Pentagon Papers, a government document that revealed that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied about the conduct and progress of the war.
The Uniform Holiday act put all federal holidays on Monday.
To the delight of young people all over the country the age to both vote AND drink was lowered from 21 to 18.
Events for the state of Alaska likewise ranged from the monumental to the trivial:
In December President Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Actinto law.
Nuclear testing continued at Amchitka Island out at the end of the Aleutian chain.
Public television finally arrived in the state with the establishment of KUTV channel 9 at the University of Alaska campus in Fairbanks.
…and a new shop building was opened at Kenai Central High School located across the parking lot to the south of the main building. In line with the trend at the time toward vocational education the new complex included an auto shop, a carpentry shop, a drafting classroom, and a student supply store.
It was the LIFE magazine retrospective covering the previous decade and the image in question had been taken during the height of craziness surrounding the Democratic National Convention the previous year and in the middle of the crowd it depicted a shirtless young man “flipping off” the photographer/viewer. It was a photo that captured the essence of the times and while it seems a fairly tame image for current standards that conflict between content and reaction was a perfect metaphor for the era as the media had us all convinced that the freight train of societal change was threatening to derail at any time.
It definitely looked like things were changing, with some changes definitely on the plus side:
Earth Day was established on April 22d of that year.
The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.
The federal government put an end to commercial whaling.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was signed into law.
We got Monday Night Football!
…while other changes were not all that great:
Both superpowers continued with above-ground nuclear tests with one of the main sites being (gulp) – the Aleutian Islands.
The space program stumbled with Apollo 13’s near disaster.
Militant groups including the SDS and the Weatherman Bomb were setting off explosions in cities and universities.
The invasion of Cambodia dramatically broadened the scope of the war in Southeast Asia.
At Kent State in Ohio, National Guard troops opened fire on student protestors with fatal results.
As for the Peninsula; without the influx of fire-fighting money like we had the previous summer, 1970 seemed economically stagnant – at least for young people. The school district was able to scrape together enough money for the high school to insure that the cafeteria where we’d been eating sack lunches for the past year was finally going to have a functioning kitchen, but other cost-cutting measures threatening to severely curtail operations and activities.
It was in response to a vote on proposed school appropriations that the four-page broadsheet dubbed “The Peninsula Clarion” started appearing in everyone’s mailbox. No one knew who was publishing it, but it was obvious that whoever they were, they really, really, really did not want the school bond to pass.
“Are you sure you don’t want to add another support on the front:
“You may want to consider adding that support to the front. Conrad is starting to walk, and he may grab onto it and – “
A reply of ultimate snarkiness was on the tip of my tongue but as luck would have it my Beautiful Saxon Princess chose that moment to step in and inform us the coals were just right for barbecue and took her father by the arm to start grilling. I shot a dark look at my father-in-law’s receding form: It was bad enough that in two days I’d be facing a medical board ruling my flight status without getting a critique on every second nail I drove into MY bookshelf…but then he was a civilian paper shuffler and hadn’t a clue about my situation, or ( I suspected) a care.
“David, are you sure you don’t want to go with us?’
“Yes, I’m sure”
“ Did I tell you that we got a new engine for the boat and new upholstery for the seats?
“Did you see the forecast? It’s going to be perfect weather”
“ David are you sure –“ at which point my Beautiful Saxon Princess (well aware of the signs of an impending eruption of Mount David) stepped in with a Bundt cake to distract her father from his efforts to persuade me to join in a water-skiing expedition that afternoon.
I sat back and reached for an unbroken pencil and fresh sheet of paper. He didn’t have a clue – I was hanging on by my fingertips to an MFA program with an open hostility towards middle-aged professionals who also happened to hold reserve commissions in the military. My young family thought of the trip to my in-laws as a vacation but I definitely needed time to work on a research paper on Tlingit raven rattles, a topic that was both politically correct enough to get me through the semester as well as obscure enough to discourage thorough examination.
“David, are you sure you want to measure out the stud lines from that wall”
“David, don’t you think we should measure out from this end”
“No Dad. Measuring from this end puts most of them under floor joists”
“David are you – “ at which point Fate in the shape of My Beautiful Saxon Princess intervened with a tray of sandwiches and drinks prompting me to drop the hammer that I’d been gripping hard enough to emboss fingerprints.
Parley LaMoine Howell passed away a few days ago, joining his wife and sweetheart Velma who’d made her own exit from the earthly stage a little over a year ago. Despite the Huntsville (AL) venue we were able to participate in the funeral via a Facebook Live broadcast (take that mean old Mister Coronavirus) and as we sat in the studio listening to the services several conclusions came to mind:
This guy was the bomb! He started college at Gonzaga University on a basketball scholarship, was a pivotal designer for the Lunar Rover used in Apollo program and in three different states was a major factor in the growth and leadership of our faith.
This guy was good. In the forty-two years I’d been married to his eldest daughter I’d never once seen him lose his temper or speak sharply to anyone in general but to me in particular when I was acting like a fourth-point-of-contact. He was sincerely Christ-like, and I had no doubt that if he was handed a glass of buttermilk it would revert back to grade A whole milk just because of his proximity.
I had sadly misinterpreted his intent those times he had been so insistent. What he’d really been saying in 1980 was “I know your medical grounding is difficult to deal with but you’re still valuable to me”. In 1991 he was saying the same thing about the challenges for graduate school I was facing, and in 1997 he just wanted to make sure our home was snug and well built.
If I was ever going to be serious about weight loss we had to come up with a different way to defuse interpersonal conflict.
I’m a semi-shut-in (if that’s a thing) so I’m used to my horizons being clipped short and using Amazon for shopping…but from where I stand it’s not just the mall, church of my grandson’s school that seems deserted – it’s feels deserted here as well. I can’t speak for all of my other word-crunching friends but for me personally – I’ve never had such low readership figures, looks, likes whatever you call it. I hope it’s just quirk brought on by the virus and that as time goes on we all get back to reading and commenting.
He moved in with his family in the late winter of 1967-68 and despite his best efforts had little effect on the community of Sterling Alaska. His name was Brent and as was the case with many extremely short young men he had an attitude, styling himself as one tough customer destined for a lucrative (but extremely short-lived) career as the premier cat-burglar of that glittering metropolis to our north, namely Anchorage. That was just one of the reasons why we never really clicked as friends, but as fitting for the times we developed a détente of sorts: If there were no other guys around we’d hang around for an afternoon with the unspoken understanding that subsequent references to the day’s actives would include several comments about how the weekend was ruined by “putting up with that douchebag for the afternoon.”
Sadly enough New Year’s is the “Brent” of holidays. Unless you’re in Scotland or any other location with a high proportion of Scottish “lads and lassies” December 31st and January 1st are holidays that are celebrated because nothing better is going on. Oh, there’s a big glittery ball dropped in Times Square and everyone and his brother is conducting some sort of countdown involving events of the past year, but it’s a rare person older than thirty that’s actually awake longer than thirty minutes into the new year.
…and then there are those pesky resolutions. I’ve gone full circle with New Year’s resolutions, starting with vague goals set as a teenager, New Year’s commitments made as a young man (the writing of which resembled an operations order more than a plan for self-improvement), the New Age-y New year aspirations of middle-age and finally back to vague goals made as senior citizen that aren’t that much different than the ones I made as a high school senior. Most of it entails just keeping on with what I’m already doing every other day of the year:
Walking a couple of more steps each day
Showing love for My Beautiful Saxon Princess
…and at least for today wishing everyone a Happy New Brent Day!