Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Three Story Life Farewell

We're burying Dad this week. He died in November, and the ashes have been at home until I passed the urn along to my big brother. In preparation for selling the house on Drummond Island, most of the offspring are on the island clearing out, tidying up. Since most are there along with Dad's ashes, my sister called the county to prepare the site. Feels rushed. The original plan was to coordinate this for later summer, early autumn.

It's always too soon, isn't it? Plans for this week changed abruptly Sunday when I heard the intent to bury Dad on Thursday, and I decided that I couldn't not be there. I don't want to wake up one morning down the road and feel bad. As if. Meanwhile, I have to prepare for making my brother share this long road to good-bye.

Our mother died in 1998. Scott won't get out of the car when we visit her grave. 20 years down the long road, he is mostly uncommunicative. I sometimes think he knows Dad has joined Mom, but there is no way to be sure. I told him Dad died. Dementia prevents him from keeping this knowledge. Some days he says it's over repeatedly. Some days he says back the way it was.

My closest friends think I'm crazy to make this trip at all, albeit with no other family in the car for 750 miles round. I have to pack mounds of incontinence supplies. Scott may or may not find closure, and even if he does, it's momentary. I protected him from the physicality of our parents leaving their bodies. That may not have been a good idea. I'm questioning everything. I pretend I can evaluate his needs. I cannot. I am wandering away from identifying my own needs.

All part of life's rich pageant. All grist for the writer's mill. In a life wherein I start writing again, this trip will be the closing scene. As it happens, the day Dad moves to his final place is the anniversary of us moving from A Three Story Life to A Two Story Life. May 26. It's also his brother and best friend's birthday. His brother died in 1998 also.

In that light on that stage, I imagine the items that might go in the grave with Dad's urn. Like ancient deceased expected to need stuff to negotiate the afterlife. I can't find my medicine bag (the collected donated items to help me kick cancer) that has the saxophone reed Dad gave me.

What I need to do is envision what I need to consign to earth. Leave whatever does not serve me on the Island when we get on the ferry. Use the mantra my lovely friend Carol taught me. All will be well.

I'm taking the golf ball.

Wish us peace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New Orleans Jazz and Blues at Salem-South Lyon District Library

Donna Olson Introduces
"John and I go back 40 years..." RJ Spangler began. Back to Sully's Blues Bar in Dearborn, where Jimmy Lesnau brought in acts from all over the world. Blues legends. Scroll through the pictures - Duke Robillard, Terry Garland. The chance to back up great musicians and songwriters. Johnny Adams. Earl King (Come On, Baby Parts 1&2. More on that later.) Professor "Fess" Longhair, the rollicking piano man.

RJ Spangler and TBone Paxton played Sunday with Matt LoRusso on guitar, Jeff Cuny on bass. Jeff just finished his Master of Music in Jazz at WSU. Bravo!

Storytelling + music + history. Does it get any better than that? RJ is reading a book by Ned Sublette, musicologist that traces the African/Caribbean/Cuban roots of New Orleans music. New Orleans history, back to the Bourbon cousin French/Spanish colonizers.

Go Down to New Orleans. John "TBone" Paxton took the lead on this song to start us swinging. Note on Professor Fess Longhair - there's a bust of him in Tipitina's Bar. Enjoy another cover of Tipitina by Dr. John and Johnny Winter.

The 2nd song in the set Basin Street Blues, written by Spencer Williams in 1928, made famous by Louis Armstrong the same year; this video featuring Jack Teagarden on trombone. RJ mentioned Dr. Michael White, swinging clarinet player. We were treated to an experimental combination, starting as a ballad and switching it up swing. We heard it here first!

Strongly featured in the richness of New Orleans music, and as shared with us by RJ, are producers/players like Dave Bartholomew, who produced Fats Domino. His son Don B. continues the family music dynasty. The Batiste Family. Neville Brothers. Marsalis Family.

Iko Iko is a call and response Mardi Gras Indian tune. Big Chief, Flag Boy - designations of parade positions in a turf war that became a friendly costumed musical rivalry; raising money for charity and to bury the familial departed. Grateful Dead, Dr. John - even Jimmy Fallon and The Roots have covered this fine example of clave rhythm pattern.

Back now to the Come on, Baby, Let The Good Times Roll, Parts 1 and 2. The 1960 recording by Earl King, has Part 1 on the A side, Part 2 on B. Written by Shirley & Lee, their 1956 recording climbed to #20. Jimi Hendrix covered it, as did these others.

Next up was a walking ballad. Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

RJ shared more stories: of Guitar Slim in Florida with a young musician he let run the session. Ray Charles was the man's name. Danny Barker, who played banjo and guitar in Harlem in the 20s and 30s, joined Cab Calloway's band, then went back to New Orleans, where he helped rebirth the New Orleans brass band tradition.

For those of you who need to know where the music is playing when it's out of town, Offbeat Magazine has New Orleans on the Road. April 2018 issue cover feature is the French Quarter Fest Issue.

To close the set RJ, Tbone, Jeff and Matt treated us - and we joined in - with Eh, La Bas, traditional New Orleans song. You can play here with the Creole, French, English lyrics.

Standing room only!

This program is funded in part by Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Life Goes On Minus One

Last post my father died and my brother and I were working on how we continue in an altered reality. My brother has moments of auxiliary reality that freak me. I think Dad is communicating with him, or more accurately, Scott is communicating with his father. He is one moment an afterlife zen master and another the human he is now - enmeshed in Alzheimer's disease. I am consumed with paperwork in my own alternate reality that equates the new terror in the mailbox with scenes from The Raw Shark Texts. We live in a scifi novel that hasn't been written yet. And bloody hell, I'm not writing it.

Meanwhile. I illustrated a remarkable book last year. The author, who is a coach specializing in improving relationships and organizational behavior wrote a book that is extraordinary advice for executives and children.

Look at relationships in nature and understand who you are.

Love yourself and understand that's all you need to have a successful life.

The book is coming soon. The art preview is here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Three Story Life: End Game

So it's come to this. Me, a fifth of Jack Honey and a black hole. I snagged the Jack because I parked in the liquor store parking lot to take my brother to the doctor to pee in a plastic cup because we need to know if he still has an infection, after dropping in the mailbox thank you notes to medical personnel who helped, books in the library pick-up bin I haven't read, after starting at the house wondering if I'd remember how to start a pushbutton car.

I didn't remember. Nor did I remember how to shut it off. Three times.

Still not sure if my brother knows our father is dead.

One piece of business done today: I called DTE to change the auto payment from my father's account to mine because I started opening his mail, which feels intrusive, but the letter was dated the day Dad went into the hospital. Halloween. My mother's birthday, begob. Of course, the letter required a 2 day turnaround in their favor. DTE transferred me to Revenue Compliance. I need to send DTE a death certificate. Who pranks someone by switching their auto billing to their own wallet?

I instigated a breakout from Providence Park Hospital for my father. More on this later, but I haven't been 13 years of my life in his care and for his care to have him die in a hospital. The Attending thwarted for ego. Somewhere in my writing future this is the evildoer.

At the end, my siblings stepped up with love. I hope everyone in the house had a moment in the 24 hours Dad was home in bed where he wanted to be.

I was stroking Dad's hands. Keeping him, in his anxiety, from tearing at his oxygen tubing. When holding his hands away wasn't enough I lay on him, my face in his neck. He calmed. Minutes passed. I'm a pain in the ass he said. Well then, I learned from the best I said.

Scott had no moment. He was in the next room, witnessing the mayhem attached to a death: Dad yelling pee and drink, and when he figured we weren't fast enough, using his strobe flashlight to get attention.

I can't escape wondering what I could have done to make this easier on my brother. He lost his grandmother in 1987. She was his best buddy, finest champion, Yahtzee partner. My mother insisted on her being at their house. Did they handle his grief well?  It took our cousin from England to open my eyes in inquiring whether we'd dealt with Scott's loss. Scott then watched his mother at home in hospice care; objected to the police in his mother's bedroom when she died. And now this. The three most important people in his life died in his presence.

When everyone had left the house, Scott and I had dinner. I didn't know what to say to him, what he'd take in, what what. Then I held his face in my hands and I said, "We lost our Dad today. I am sorry for both of us. I want you to know you are loved, we are loved, and you are not alone. Do you understand? We will be okay."

And he said. Okay.

Tonight there's just me and Jack Honey and a black hole.

In the morning there's our life as it is now. Me looking at him for guidance, him looking at me.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Keep Me Posted

I don't have any art for this, so a 1000 pieces are enough. I've been a live-in caregiver for 13 years.  I've written a blog about Three Story Life for most of that time. The art's cute. Real ain't cute.

Dark Humor.

Tonight my father is in the hospital, next stay in a month, with a partially collapsed lung. He's 90. We're in for the hospital stays until he passes because he has lovely insurance.

My brother who has Alzheimer's has Medicare, and his infection was treated today as well. I set him in the shower tonight and he came back out, said "there's somebody in there." That's a long sentence for him, and I wonder what he saw. And then wondered if I needed to call 911 for me.

My father calls with what I need to bring to the hospital. One of those things is hearing aid batteries, so I can ask when the list starts "did you call FedEx?" because 1) he never listens to me and 2) he has no working hearing aid batteries. These calls can begin as early as 7 because he hasn't slept so everyone else in the known universe is awake.

I'm happy to be joined in this we all die thing by wonderful people like Caitlin Doughty. 

And in the truly fine way to move with much loved Leonard Cohen.

And in the blooming interim there's the true weird and wonderful. This is the intersectionality I live in. Between life and death there's old age, infirmity and diminishing capability for us all.

The Three Story Life posts are going to be a play. I'm using NaNoWriMo to be well on my way, and I hope to be at Ragdale to finish. Or perhaps it won't be finished.

Keep me posted is what my family texts/says. Maybe they all need hearing aid batteries. Maybe I don't know how to ask for help.

Monday, September 25, 2017

WWII Atomic Veteran on His 90th Birthday

Norman Robinson, just before his 17th birthday enlisted in the U.S Navy, August, 1945. He sold his car and waited to be called up, which didn’t happen until October. After basic training at Great Lakes, he and his fellow seamen boarded the train to Camp Parks, Shoemaker, CA for assignment.
He boarded the USS Cobra, LSM 258, its destination Lake Charles, LA to be decommissioned along with 15 other LSMs. The Cobra sailed from Treasure Island, through the Panama Canal (where the guys were jumping off the ramp on the bow into the water while they waited, until the Captain hollered through the speaker to knock it off: ships emptied their bilges before entering the Panama Locks, and the waters were full of snacking sharks). The men were kept busy while they waited in line to enter the Locks by washing the ship down with fresh water.
The LSMs were taken to Lake Charles, LA, and the men entertained themselves along the Calcasieu River, shooting cottonmouths as fast as they could reload. The ship was in dock during Mardi Gras. There was a fight during a Coast Guard decommissioning party in a hotel, and a couple of guys came flying over the edge of the balcony as our 4 sailors walked by. The 3 sailors Dad was with were fighters, and knowing he wasn't, handed off their cigarettes, lighters, wallets to him. Jack Carli was a California Golden Gloves contender; The Greek liked a fight. All ended up in jail for the night. Dad said “you're not taking my buddies without me” so in the brig he went. Shore patrol picked them up in the morning and took them back to the ship where the 3 amigos stood a Captain's Mast.
Back on the Streamliner to Camp Parks in Shoemaker CA for reassignment. Dad bumped into Fred Bauer (brother’s wife’s brother). The war was over, but the Navy wanted 3 more months of active duty out of the enlistees. Fred said he was embarking on a “Magic Carpet Cruise.” Dad doesn’t know where he went.
Dad was assigned to APA38 USS Chilton, a Bayfield-class attack transport, along with four other sailors and a chief. A smallboat took them out into the bay and no Chilton. Back to shore, went through the battery of shots they'd had the day before already, back into the smallboat out to the Chilton, which had been delayed picking up supplies. Dad came aboard in need of a haircut. He immediately got extra duty scraping paint.
First port was Pearl Harbor where 1800 troops were dropped off, and then USS Chilton was its way to participate in Operation Crossroads.
 Eniwetok. Dad said it was bombed out and desolate, the waters laced with sunken ships, half submerged. The crew each got a Short Snorter chit which allowed them 2 warm beers apiece, and 2 hours to run around the sand on shore leave.
Dad had his mates sign the back of his Short Snorter.

Back aboard enroute to Kwajalein, Dad was at his station, turning valves on the lowest deck below the engine room. It was 120 degrees and he couldn't hear anything. Engines, fans, boilers, steam. Sailors served 4 hour shifts only – what the Navy determined a human could stand.
On to Bikini Atoll where the ships (and tethered cows, chickens, sheep) were awaiting the Able bomb in Operation Crossroads. The ship was positioned next to the USS Skate. Dad could see the Nevada (painted orange) the Prinz Eugen in the distance, and the other ships shown below. She was ordered out of the target area, and on to its assignment - move Bikini residents off the atoll to Majuro. The atoll had missed the total destruction some of the other islands had endured and its shore was closed up with vegetation. A smallboat took a shore party to hack out an area to settle the people and their animals ashore.
Steaming from Majuro back to Bikini Atoll, they saw the damage inflicted by the Able bomb. Military personnel were washing down the ships still standing: using radioactive sea water. U.S.S. Chilton continued to Pearl Harbor, then on to San Francisco to unload. The ship was not in the area when Baker was detonated.
From California Dad took the train back to Great Lakes Naval Station, and was discharged 6 August, 1946. Recruiters were thick on the base, encouraging sailors to reenlist. Dad was talked into joining the reserves, which turned out to be fortuitous. Drafting for the Korean War was underway; he could have been shipped out as some of his mates were.
I bought Dad a VHS recording of the first dive in the area. Baker bomb had sunk some of the ships still marginally afloat, and since it was detonated underwater, actually brought back up some of the boats. U.S.S. Tuna had been sunk with Able, resurrected with Baker, and ended her life as target practice near Treasure Island after being towed there. Yay, Tuna! Dad had witnessed the Nagato with the superstructure melted and dripping onto the deck before Baker. The divers in the video reported that the superstructure had been squished because of landing on the ocean floor upside down. Dad saw otherwise. Without eye witnesses, history belongs to the late players
For those who need an ending, here are the final resting places of the vessels.

For Dad on his 90th birthday, with love.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Community Meeting on SSLDL Expansion

17 September, Sunday was the first community meeting to discuss the expansion of the Salem-South Lyon District Library. The next meeting is Tuesday 26 September 7:00 p.m.

The discussions are preliminary; the purpose of the community gathering to assess program needs, gather input from district stakeholders and patrons, and involve the community in moving forward.

SSLDL has added new programs for children. The ongoing mission is to support every child at every level to contribute to their success personally and professionally, from birth to middle school and onward, with program opportunities to meet, study and collaborate. This growth and future planning require space to implement expanding services.

Programs from birth forward are in place at SSLDL. Baby Bounce (0-11 mos. with caregiver), Wonderful Ones (12 mos.-23 mos. with caregiver), Terrific Twos Storytime (24-35 mos. with caregiver). Check the SSLDL events calendar for other storytimes, and literacy programs. http://ssldl.info/calendar

The library currently has one large meeting room (layout at left) with a priority scale for scheduling. Library business is first, other community usage (art shows, children's events) second. The large conference room is then not always available for collaborative children's events. Storage space is limited. Defined needs are for another large collaborative space and more storage at minimum.

This is your opportunity to contribute. What are your dreams, desires, thoughts on programs at the SSLDL? Programs will dictate the physical needs of the building, internally and externally.

On the 17th suggestions and wishes included more window space, seating for grades 3-5, adult seating for parents and grandparents, open study booths, 2 family restrooms, another entrance on the northeast side of the existing building (area shown at left.)

More modular adaptable units, an additional interactive storytelling section, perhaps iPads instead of computers.

What activities would you like your children to have available? Our district is growing, family housing starts are ongoing. SSLDL needs to hear from parents who will make use of services and programs available to our community.

The next meeting is Tuesday, 26 September at 7:00 p.m. If you cannot attend a meeting as scheduled, please do talk to library staff about your thoughts. Send an email. The future of the SSLDL can be guided by your input. Please contribute.

SSLDL Mission/Vision Statement https://ssldl.info/about

SSLDL Contact https://ssldl.info/about/contact-us

Further reading:

1000 Books Before Kindergarten  https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/

Every Child Ready to Read  http://www.everychildreadytoread.org

Library of Michigan Every Child Ready to Read https://tinyurl.com/y9rqlba7