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.

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

SSLDL Contact

Further reading:

1000 Books Before Kindergarten

Every Child Ready to Read

Library of Michigan Every Child Ready to Read

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Patriot

I drew The Patriot on September 12, 2001 weeping. The world experienced one of the most horrific attacks on American citizens the day before. To this hour I have seen no images of that tragedy. The woman I worked for and I listened to the radio all day. We were locked in a building in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. A negligent delivery person had left a large package in the parking garage with no address label, and as the morning's events were seen and heard around the world, a security guard reacted, and local authorities shut down entry and egress from the building for 11 hours. It was a portend of overreach to come. We heard the anguish, shared the pain of that day with our country only on the radio. I talked with a friend on the phone who was counting on me to go to her house and keep her young children from seeing the television. We all cried for victims of that attack, and then we cried for what was to come. What the woman I worked for, my friend and I shared along with the agony was the knowledge that America would respond next day, without accurate intelligence, with political zeal, and for a long time.

I wish we'd been wrong.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Three Story Life Season 13

Been away from the blog so long that Linda Robinson Obituaries now occupies my place in google results.  Been away so long that links to all my articles are no longer available, so now I have to dig through my own files to find witty stuff I wrote about how I stop myself from writing by acquiring accoutrement to not write. Been away from writing so long it was necessary to get a new writing instrument.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Dad's in the hospital again. If I still thought it was important to have original art in all Three Story Life posts, there would be the 3sL standard with a gown drooping and 6 multicolored leads disappearing somewhere around the back of the hospital bed. The mandatory smiley face socks. The urinal so close to the water it's a classic finger wave good-bye for me - don't confuse those two.

Meanwhile back at the now 1-story 3sL HQ, still cracked was the cracked step that was noted on the Spring Walkabout repair list in...the spring. Visiting my father on Weds., my phone rang. It was the contractor letting me know the cement would be fixed tomorrow. I hung up. Cracked up. What's funny? Dad asked. I told him. He said, oh that's not a problem. I can write this script now. He's not going to respond well when I get out of the car after retrieving him, say OK, here's the not a problem, and vault myself and Scott into the house, leaving him to contemplate the not a problem part of the world where all the problems belong to someone else to solve. In this case, it'll probably be the South Lyon Fire Department Egress Team. Again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Life With Art

An art centered night tonight which is appreciated in this time of bizarre politicking and threatening missives. Has social media really become global diplomacy? I hope not, but know it to be true. Mine's bigger than yours used to be a joke. Not so much now. I am focused on what works. Diplomacy at every level. Kindness. Thinking. Thinking. As you know, I live in a house with a 90 year old man and a 52 year old Down's syndrome brother with Alzheimer's. So, basically, Congress.

All of our issues in this house are intensifying (see the play, first go-through at Suzanne Haskew Art Center in November.)

For the last couple of years I've chilled. Don't know how to describe this, except the rage fire is banked. We have government now that is dedicated to bringing back tall black hats and those stupid collars, along with the bows, which were never good fashion. Isn't it interested that we grew up in this country being told that those doofs in wigs came here to bring religious freedom?  And the massacre of the indigenous population that was already here was, well, necessary. And here we are. 200 years later. The same fucking lie.

I digress. We are in a timewarp. 238 years later we're at 438 years ago.

And then there's art. And photography. And nature. Children, joy, the days my brother still is in the world. The days my father, even a little, understands that there are other people in his world.

My appreciation. Gratitude changes the body, ameliorates pain, restructures atoms.

More profoundly, appreciating brings more of the same. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dollhouse Spring

Late spring in Michigan, both in the realm and dollhouse. The forsythia is blooming. The spring door wreath is up. (All the wreaths are from 4hala on etsy.) The roses bloom all year. I made the Climbing Joseph's Coat, and Fair Bianca because I had these in my yard at another house. Bearded iris and blooming hosta were made of masking tape and paint. There is an Easter basket on the bench.

A close-up of the basket, complete with eggs, chocolate bunny and marshmallow chick.

The spring set before installation. I made the White Rabbit, the egg dye cup and the baskets. The other pieces were to go in my garden shed which I haven't yet gotten around to building.

The bag of garden shed supplies. There is a receipt in here from 2004. The components included a printed set of seed packets, which I cut out, crushed seed beads [giggle] and glued together. I sold those a few years ago. As an emerging adult, I'm going to put this bag back where I found it. For now.

Spring cleanup fix-it. Noticed my garden hose was lost in the move. I'll make another. Some day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

RJ Spangler Trio with Larry Smith and George V. Johnson Jr.

You're really sorry if you missed this live jazz music appearance Sunday, 9 April at Salem-South Lyon District Library. RJ Spangler Trio. RJ percussion. Oliver Nevels, guitar. Gregory Cook on bass (5-string on Sunday.) Special guest music legend Larry Smith on alto sax. George V. Johnson Jr. brought the vocals and - wow - we are appreciative he did.

2 p.m. we got our feet tapping to Sundown, a Wes Montgomery composition. Wes Montgomery's a favorite in our house. From blues to bossa nova, we next heard L'estate (Summer) composed by Bruno Martino 1960, with "In Summer" lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Lost love and dreaming sunsets.

Stella (Stella by Starlight) featured in the 1944 movie The Uninvited. One of my top 5 favorite films starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Alan Napier and beautiful tragic Gail Russell.

RJ shared that Oliver Nevels is the group's filmographer. Talking with Oliver after the concert, he said most popular jazz standards came from film. We don't only enjoy the music mastery, the group is a fountain of music history and lore.

George V. Johnson shared with us the vocals for Summertime. For composer Lou Donaldson's 90th birthday party Johnson premiered his lyrics for Gravy Train. From NYC to South Lyon. Bam.

Charlie Parker's 1954 composition Little Suede Shoes was up next, with Mr. Johnson's 1977 lyrics.

St. Thomas, a Sonny Rollins composition with lyrics also by the amazing George V. Johnson Jr. If you have a reverbnation profile, you can come close to the experience of the live performance yesterday. You can listen to Sonny Rollins perform his composition. And for other film nerds, it's the song featured in the wedding scene in the 1989 movie Working Girl.

Find out more about RJ Spangler Trio, Larry Smith and George V. Johnson Jr.

Here you can read a scholarly paper about the blues influence in Wes Montgomery's music, and his use of call and response technique.

Check here for those who missed the October concert with these music masters. You do not want to miss the next performance! Sunday, 7 May at Salem-South Lyon District Library.

The live jazz music concert was made possible by a grant from the Jazz Foundation of America and the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society 2016 James Dance Performance Grant.

Monday, February 13, 2017

RJ Spangler Trio and Tbone Paxton at SSLDL

RJ Spangler Trio with John "Tbone" Paxton played Mardis Gras jazz music Sunday, February 12 at the Salem-South Lyon District Library. New Orleans complete with Mardi Gras beads!

Tbone Paxton (voice/trombone), Jacob Schwandt (guitar), Jeff Cuny (string bass), Jake Matthews (drums), RJ (percussion), and sitting in on drums/percussion for the last tunes, Bob.

RJ knows his music history, so we learned as well as danced in our seats. Opening with Basin Street (Jack Teagarden video) written by Spencer Williams in 1928, recorded by Louis Armstrong same year. Armstrong's band performs in 1964 here. Next the musicians swung into Some of These Days, a Tin Pan Alley writer Shelton Brooke tune, published in 1910, made famous by Sophie Tucker. Hoagy Carmichael's New Orleans was next up. You can hear Art Pepper on alto in this recording.
Chocko Mo Feendo Hay or Joc-a-mo-fee-no-ah-nah-nay or Chaque amoor fi nou wa na né. Is it Creole + West African Yorumba? Johnny Crawford wrote phonetic interpretations of beautifully costumed paraders he heard musically jousting in the 1950s. Danny Barker performed this song with the same chant, without the Iko Iko. Barker spent years in NY before going south, training musicians in the old brass band tradition. Wynton Marsalis came out of this sound school.

Hey Pocky Way (Neville Bros. here), followed by Li'l Liza Jane, also with West African roots. This video is Ms. Nina Simone and her tambourine. You got up and danced, did'in cha?

Eh La Bas (Preservation Jazz Hall band). One of my trips to New Orleans, I went first to the Jazz Hall. On the door was a sign "gone to Detroit, back in 2 wks." !
On that trip I bought a Leo Meiersdorff print (a jazz musician himself.) I put it away and forgot it for a few decades. Last week, on the hunt for another piece of art, I found it, unframed. I dismantled one of my own framed watercolors, and stuck the piano player in it. Love this!

One more song! Going Down to New Orleans, written by New Orleans native Earl King. RJ said you hear this song coming out of car radios, bars, and apartments with windows open. A great article on King's life and legacy is here. Another Detroit connection: King came to Detroit to find a place at Motown, and 3 tracks with King playing can be heard on Motown's Blue Revolution, recorded in 1996.

For those who want more music - Rhythm Rockers (with RJ and Tbone) will be at the Rochester Mills Beer Company on February 28, Fat Tuesday, even if it's not on the pub calendar yet.

For those who can't wait, stream WWOZ - home of New Orleans jazz music.

The concert was made possible with The Metro Detroit Book & Author Society 2016 James Dance Performance Grant. Patrons can enjoy 2 more concerts this year at SSLDL!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dollhouse Beginning 1992

My sister was cutting my hair in her kitchen in Detroit, while my other sister talked about what needed to happen in that house before the arrival of the baby, due in 2 months. Crib assembled, supplies laid on, daycare acquired. Susan quoted some prices, having 2 children of her own in daycare. So much money! I peeked around my hair - for an infant? What do babies do? Sleep, eat, eliminate, sleep some more. I told my pregnant sister - if I don't have a good job by then, I'll watch the baby. A week later, my niece was born prematurely. We started running. Paint the room, assemble crib, lay on supplies, get to library to learn how babies really do work. That tiny girl changed my life. She didn't sleep in a crib for a year. I had to watch her breathe. In out in out. I called her mother to report every new skill - working mothers miss all that great stuff. And when my other sister figured out I wasn't going to abandon this lovely role, she brought her 2 out of daycare. My day started at 5 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. when I dropped the baby off at home. Three years of love and learning and joy. And I banked every nickel I could, because a divorce was in my near future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


The dollhouse began as all stories do. Once upon a time. One time a long time ago a little girl like the first line I write on a blank paper. In 1992 divorce was in my near future. I was blessed to have my sisters' little children in my care then, and having never put away my childlike awe, we played and learned from each other as hearty loving equals. I started the build of this dollhouse and finished the construction in 1994: the year the divorce was final, and I had a new home in my mind if not in real estate. In 1996 I was diagnosed with cancer. I needed a haven, respite and safe harbor from the world of disease. The outfitting of my alternate reality commenced in earnest. Most of the accoutrement in the house is art from life. The wreath in the bedroom stairway is a scaled reproduction of one I still own. The bedroom furniture is modeled on my set which is 120 years old in 2017. The Black Mariah stove is constructed to resemble my great-grandmother's, and there is a coffee grinder with real coffee in it. On the fireplace mantel is a miniature of the hand-tooled clock I bought for myself in 1980 which still keeps time and good company on my desk. As the years went by, I gifted the house. Last year was a plate of artisan-made springerle cookies.This year is the 20th anniversary of being cancer free, and I think this is the year to donate the dollhouse. My lovely friend Carol suggested C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. With that goal, I will chronicle the tale of the dollhouse here. Life is stories. Parents and ill children need good stories. And a place, path and passion to imagine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cancer In A Jar

January 1997.  I no longer remember the exact day. We had to be at Harper Hospital at 5:00 a.m. Another woman was checking in as well, and we "no, please, you first" responded to the call for next. An O.R. was scheduled for 12 hours to get the cancer in my head out. In the room would be my surgeon, a maxillofacial prosthedontist (and his spare parts, including a nose, maxillary bone, eye socket) a back-up plastic surgeon, many other professional medical people. My sister said she couldn't imagine what I was about to live through. I told her it would be her who lives through those hours. I'd be awakened in post-op after it was all over. I awoke in recovery to a guy in surgical gear calling my name. First thing I said was there are duckies on your cap. He said it's in a jar. Do you understand me? It's in a jar.

That January day was preceded by a year of trying to get a surgical referral, of learning at high speed through a traumatic situation how to get what I needed. How to hurdle the gatekeepers, trample the stoppers. That was the year of Flat Alice: anyone who tried to get in my way. The year of Beckie being at my side for each encounter, of her agreement to hold my consciousness until I was ready to take it back, of her getting me to a chair before I passed out when I saw the room of face parts in the MP's office as I hung up my coat. Of sitting in her car in the freezing cold after the MP told me he could replace my eye, but he couldn't make it blink, and Beckie slamming both hands onto the steering wheel, shouting "Damn it! Why can't he make it blink?" Of her being my ears, my guide, as well as continuing to be my Best Friend in the Whole Wide World.

Of children who became my spiritual advisors. Of my mother, unaware she was going to die of cancer soon, trying to find a way to bond with me that did not include disease.

A year of fools and misogynists and incompetent famous doctors and ridiculous healthcare network rules and paperwork. A year of miracle workers, angels on earth, and family, friends, laughter and terrible pain.

There would be another six years of surgeries to repair and replace. Six years of deepening and new friendship and acute self-discovery. Six years descending into personal financial crisis, and ascending to gratitude and awareness. Six years of losing my mother and friends to that awful disease.

Through it all there would always be that day in January when Dr. John Jacobs said it's in a jar.