Saturday, June 30, 2007

Being blind's a bitch

My husband lived in Chicago for about twenty-five years, before I met him in ’84. He was already blind. He lost his sight as a complication of diabetes when he was thirty. I met him when he was thirty-five.

The condition is called retinopathy. Diabetics suffer from cardiovascular issues. In order to feed the body, I am not sure exactly what, but diabetics build more capillaries. Capillaries are blood vessels that carry nutrients to the outlying area of the body. Anyway, these capillaries are very fragile, and so when there are changes in blood pressure, they can burst and internal bleeding occurs. It happened in his eyes. There was bleeding, and the retinas detached. This is how he lost his sight. John had a famous eye doctor in Chicago, the same one that treated a famous boxer for an almost detached retina. The doctor tried to save John’s vision but failed. After that, John said, the doctor never charged him for another visit, and John used to visit every year and send a poinsetta at Christmas.

John’s strokes have resulted for similar reasons, and there isn’t much that can be done, except control his blood pressure and maintain a healthy diet and exercise.

While going blind was very difficult, being blind was an easy adjustment. John sold his beloved corvette, but having a love for cars, bought a Mercedes station wagon in its place. He used to spend every weekend in the summer washing and hand waxing all the cars we had. When Harry was little he would help. As a toddler, Harry would not answer when called, or speak when spoken to, so we would tie bells into his tennis shoe laces so John would know where he was. This is one of my favorite photos of the two of them and I miss John and his energetic, “I can do anything” spirit. He is still a fighter, and is hanging on and will never give up. Neither will I.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Its all about consumption...

We're headed off on our vacation.
Over many years, my sisters have been going down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in July. My brother sometimes joined them, but this year, with his kids getting older and different schedules, they are going a week earlier.
My sisters continue to go, together, every couple of years, and for the second time, my husband, son and I will join them.
The first time we came down, it was a whirlwind of activity. Of course when you have that many people, it seems very busy. Lots of time at the beach, and then out to dinner and the bars.
The kids, all various stages of teen hood, go down and hang out at the pier. My son rode in the trunk for one of these occasions. I mean when all the kids piled in the car, there wasn't enough room, so he volunteered to ride in the trunk. The pier was only about four blocks away. It is something my fearless son would do. I wasn't happy to hear what he had done when he told me about it months later. He was about fifteen. That was the same year he and his friends discovered duck tape and, would duck tape themselves to street lamps late at night, and various other pranks which could have gotten them hurt or worse. Hopefully he won't be that goofy on this trip.

The most memorable thing we did on this vacation was ride on a jet ski. I rode with my son and he was jumping all the waves, doing sharp turns and going at death defying speeds. You have to be 18 to be by yourself. He wasn't so I rode behind him. I think I lost two cavities with all the teeth nashing.
The best part about it though, is I get to spend time with my family...

Friday, June 22, 2007

History lesson...

When we lived in Maryland Harry frequently came home from school with chatter about Tyrone, such as something that happened with Tyrone that day, or something that Tyrone said. For instance, Tyrone was going to have five wives. I had no idea how to respond to this. "Well he better get a good education so that he can get a good job!" I always tried to turn everything into encouragement for Harry to do well in school, since Harry seemed to have an agenda that conflicted with the teacher’s. It was a kind of survival mechanism for me.

Harry and Tyrone came from what must have been opposite backgrounds, and yet they were friends. Tyrone was black, and his family attended a Baptist church; a southern boy from a southern family and after all, Maryland was the south. Harry was white, and at the time, we were going to a Presbyterian church, which struck me as stiff and well, white. Harry was most definitely northern, last stop being Minnesota. In fact, Harry had just started using the regional expression "ufdah" before we left town. He and Tyrone made an interesting pair, both just adorably goofy and non-stop action. I would meet Harry to give him a ride home from school. There would be a boy hopping along next to Harry, and jumping in front of me with mischievous smiles. That's Tyrone, Harry would say. Tyrone reminded me of Harry.

One time I worked as lunch monitor. The kids ate their lunch in 10 minutes and then went outside, always incentive to finish as quickly as possible. The monitors would give some kids special cards to go early. Tyrone got one. That day Tyrone gave his to Harry. During moments of chaos the two boys always seemed to find each other. Coming back in they had to sit on a ledge and wait. Before long the two boys were rocking back and forth and knocking each other in rowdy camaraderie. These kids were six or seven and it looked pretty normal to me.

One day after school Harry and I had the following exchange:

“Mommy, were you alive when the dinosaurs were alive?”

“No Harry, I wasn't alive when there were dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were the first animals and that was millions of years ago...well maybe 20,000 years ago. I am not really sure, but it was way before I was born.” (Do I have that many wrinkles? Harry was so serious, like he'd been struggling with this for days!)

“Well if you weren't around when the dinosaurs were alive, then were you around during the American Revolution? Was anybody in your family alive then?”

“No Harry, I wasn't around during the American Revolution.”
(American Revolution? What does that have to do with the Jurassic period? Damn, he makes me feel like old! Hey, he knows his history though.)

“Well then Mommy, were you or was any of your family around during the civil war?Was dad around? Or was your mom or dad?”

“No I wasn't Harry. My mom's family came over during the Irish Potato Famine. That was in the 1860's. My dad was in the Korean War. My Uncle was in World War II. Your dad’s family came over from Scotland and settled in Canada. Why are you asking Harry? Is there something wrong?”
(Where is this going?)

“Well no, except Tyrone says my family killed Abraham Lincoln. But my family couldn’t have killed Abraham Lincoln because you weren't born yet and your parents weren't born yet and I wasn’t born yet. Tyrone is wrong. I'm going to tell him tomorrow!”
(It was Black History week. The guy who killed Abraham Lincoln was white. Harry is white. I think Tyrone has figured it out. Nice job with the guilt factor.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Well, Chicago was great. My sisters were great. My cousin Kathy, my Aunt Mary and my mom were great. We had a great time (no really it was fun and I love them all). It took about 10 minutes into the hello's for my mom to comment on my hair and its lack of blondness. My sister lost the bet. She figured my mother would comment almost immediately.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


As I child, between my two sisters and my brother, I had the lightest hair in the family. I was the closest thing to blonde my mother would hope to have. In fact, I actually thought I was blonde, until I got my driver’s license at 16. The woman at the counter corrected me, “Honey, your hair is brown.” All through childhood my mom would wash and rinse my hair in lemon or vinegar, and then put me outside to dry in the sun to lighten it. In truth, she used to put me outside a lot, for various things. Like, as a preschooler, when the weather was nice, she would make me a sack lunch and send me outside to eat it. I see myself standing in the driveway feeding my sandwich to our cat who was sitting on top of the car.

My little sister and I are about a year and a half apart. She was always taller than me, and bigger. She was dark haired and I was light. If my grandmother gave us some money for gifts, my mother would buy complimentary outfits for us, but my sister always got the dark vibrant colors because she was a brunette. I would get the dull drab pastel shades. I hated it.

This weekend I am going to Chicago because my Aunt will be there visiting my mom and I want to see her. Its an excuse to get away for the weekend, and my son has agreed to look after his dad. I have alot of grey hair, and I feel a certain amount of pressure, and competitiveness, to look as youthful as is possible for a woman my age, so I usually color my hair before a visit to any of my family. Last night I dyed my hair some shade of auburn brown, and to my horror, it looks pretty unnatural and very red. My younger sister can pull this off marvelously. Her hair is always some unnatural shade of purple or bronze, but me personally, I can't decide whether I made a mistake and if I should "fix" it. I know that when my mother sees me this weekend she'll express some disapointment. "Anne, I think you should be a blonde".

So that being said, I think I'll probably just go with this and see what happens. Ought to be interesting.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Go West

The summer of our move to Minnesota we took a trip with Johnny, Courtney, and Harry to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. It was a driving vacation, literally. We drove nine hours out in two days, took pictures of the family in front of Mt. Rushmore, and then drove home. In between we did the usual stops, the Badlands, Bear Country, Petrified Forest, Wall Drug, on the way there, Sturgis, and the Corn Palace on the way back.

Outside of our stops at all the tourist attractions, hotels, bathroom breaks, and restaurants, we spent alot of time together in the car. We discovered very quickly that Harry, three at the time, and Courtney, fourteen, had to be separated, because they could not get along. I was surprised that a fourteen year old and a three year old could bicker and pick and irritate so successfully. At one point, getting ice cream at some restside stop, Courtney, in a fit of frustration, exclaimed that Harry was the most immature three year old she ever met. We all just looked at each other. Can a three year old be anything else?

The car we were driving was John's mercedes station wagon. It was his baby, painstakingly washed, waxed and and maintained in top condition. He was constantly harping at us about the way we shut the doors too hard. On the way home, he became so annoyed, that he passed an edict that he would be the only one allowed to close doors when anyone got in or out of the car. And so it was that we would stop at a rest stop or a restaurant. Everyone would pile out of the car and into whatever place we ended up. John had to go around to each door and shut it. Then after whatever, lunch, restrooms, we'd pile back in. We would wait for John to walk around to each door and close it. But oops, Johnny forgot something. Out the door he went back into the rest stop. John would have to get back out of the car, make his way around the car (he was blind of course), shut Johnny's door and get back in to his own spot. Then Courtney needed something and out she went. John would repeat the process. Then they were back and John would have to get out and start all over again. This lasted for about a day and a half before John finally gave up, and things were back to normal. Slam, Slam, Slam!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Too many pets

At one point we lived in a western suburb of Chicago. That was where we found George. George would be lurking around the neighborhood, in the bushes and very friendly. With his big wild eyed expression and longish snarley fur, George was a grizzly bear version of a cat. I watched him track an opossum along the fence between the back yards once. George's hair was dirty grey and matted. He could have been mistaken for the opossum in a line up if you just saw their backs. After I saw that I knew George's character was excellent. He had imagination and was fearless. When we took him in permanently, George became very devoted and loyal and he proved an excellent watch cat, making his territory our yard and keeping every dog in the neighborhood at bay, and fearful of walking past our house. We absolutely adored him.

When we moved to Minnesota, we took George. We put him in a huge cage in the back of the Mazda Navajo. And so we left Chicago, dragging a trailer; which had nothing to do with George, but was just really hard for me to maneuver, and I hated it. We landed in the rural backwaters of Minnesota, pretty milktoast as backwaters go and at some point must have realized something was missing. Ah, that was it, a dog! Hello Mudflap, a blue healer/ Australian sheep dog mix, who killed and masticated every free ranging rodent in a 1 acre radius from our house, and would have killed George too, but George steered clear of him. Mudflap didn't last, for shame, tragically lost in a dogs at play incident. Over the course of the next year we adopted an Alaskan husky named Skylar who had a tendency to run long distances (and got hit by a car on the highway), and finally a 2 year old yellow lab, the discard of a messy divorce, from a guy I knew at work. The yellow lab's name was Buster, and Buster was perfect for our family in his own confidant, sloppy, happy, self determined, disobedient way.

When my son was about four he introduced us to Little Black Kitty. I still remember the evening. It was just turning dark, and I remember seeing my son out in the yard in silouette. He was trying to catch hold the cat, who I think was trying to be caught. She was a little black female kitten cat, that eventually came to reside on a shelf in our garage because George wouldn't let her in the house. My son, over the course of a year called her by a lot of different names, but not being able to keep up with his changes we finally just referred to her as Little black kitty and it stuck. We thought Little black kitty was pregnant for at least 6 months, till we moved to Maryland, and the vet told us she'd been spayed, and showed us the scar to prove it. We also had a big furry George like Hamster, can't recall the breed, but it looked like a pale dust mop.

So when we moved to Maryland, we had two cats, a dog, and a hamster, in the Mazda Navajo, and I was trailing another big pain- in -the- ass trailer full of pet supplies among other things. I soon discovered that Buster was my best traveling companion, because he didn't complain, and he didn't need bathroom breaks. I felt like I was traveling in the dryer's lint cage, or that hairy feeling you have after a Veterinary clinic appointment with your pet. You need a shower, and a lint brush for your tongue, if you made the mistake of consulting with the vet in the room, or whatever. I can't imagine what the Vet must feel like after a day at the office.

The great thing about Maryland was that the house was neutral ground. When we landed, George immediately moved to the heating ducts. We knew this about him because he did it the first couple of weeks in Minnesota. We would hear his plaintive calls muffled reverberating through the walls of the house, particularly in the basement. When he finally appeared at the end of a couple of weeks, he really did look like a dust mop. I introduced Little Black Kitty to the house, and she and George eventually, through her female persistence and attention, became fast friends. She was constantly grooming him, and eventually, he was hooked. Trucker 1 became Trucker 2, this time a Golden Hamster, and somehow we acquired a gecko lizard named Lizzy.

When we moved back to Minnesota for a second time, we traded the Mazda Navajo for a Jeep Cherokee something or other in Chicago, but we had Buster, George, Little Black Kitty, Lizzy, and well we lost Trucker 2. While we were packing, actually the day that we were moving, Harry took me into to his room to show me Trucker. Something was terribly wrong. Trucker was curled in a ball and breathing hard. Mommy, what are we going to do? When I looked at the heartbreak in my son's expression, well, I called the Vet. I swear to god the Vet had the biggest Shit eating grin you'll ever see, as he placed the stethoscope on that little hamster's chest and listened, and then explained to me the diagnosis. Trucker had an upper respiratory condition. He was three years old but that equated to 70 years in hamster life. He was an old man hamster. Here was the dilemma. He needed antibiotics. We could drive to Catonsville and get the proper dosage, or the vet could mix something for us. He warned me that an improper dosage could ruin the rodent's kidneys, and that he had never done this before. Since we were moving that day and the truck was loaded, i opted for the vet to mix it there. The vet also advised us that Trucker needed fluids every three hours, and medicine every six. Harry and i nodded. We understood, and i paid the forty dollar bill for a seven dollar hamster. No wonder the Vet could barely contain his mirth. Sadly, Trucker didn't make it very far, barely to Pennsylvania, two hours into our trip. We knew when he died because we smelled this brief foul odor ...a death fart. Even sadder, we had a stop in Ohio, at my mother's, and she wouldn't let me put the corpse in her freezer for the night. We had planned to bury him when we reached our Minnesota destination.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

being human

I am taking this just a little out of context, but somebody famous once said "There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant."

Friday, June 1, 2007


At present this is all about introductions. This is my husband. What you might be able to tell from this photo is that he has a cane. His left eye is a little funny too. The man is blind. He's not been able to see, at all, for as long as I have known him. What I liked about him when we first met, though, was that he would go with me to the art museum and 1) he would go and genuinely seemed to enjoy it, but only the first time 2) i could describe everything i saw from my perspective, utterly, in my opinion, and unchallenged. I realized that I could do this with just about anything and it was like a great power. It was heaven. He also had a lot of imagination, loved to play, and could be very silly. Still is. We've been married for 18 years. He's had a few strokes. What he's lost makes me sad. He isn't the same person that he was when i married him but he's definately there in spirit, he enjoys life, and he is very loyal to me. What more could anyone ask for. Plus he still cleans up really well...when I can convince him that it is a worthwhile effort. We've been invited to a graduation party on Sunday and it will take a special conversation to convince him to go. I am not sure i will succeed but we shall try.

Food is fabulous

I imagined this when I compare my young son and the mudbogging. In retrospect, my young son looks better in this picture than I remember or imagined. He was a blonde as a youngster. My husband called him “chowder head”. My husband also called my son and his first son, “sunshine!” as in the greeting “hello! Sunshine!”. It was always so sweet. Do you know, from a term like “chowder head” what part of the world my husband originated? (ok Massachussets, not really the world, I just tried to give it some mystery.) I think the red tint on the top of my son’s head was sauce.