Sunday, December 30, 2007
When we first met John Pike, he lived in a trailer rented from Virginia, on her property. She lived in the trailer next door and I think the rent was actually companionship, handyman stuff and whatever, like someone to eat meals she cooked or who knows. He was probably fifteen years her junior. She's close to eighty now, and lost some weight recently and she still looks fabulous in a pair of blue jeans. If you ask her she will tell you she is just a tough old farm wife (she lost her husband maybe twenty years ago and her husband was a good friend of John Pike's).
Over the years we would occasionally visit with them on a summer evening. We would sit in chairs in Virginia's front yard and Virginia and John Pike would tell us all about the "dummy" who drove by. Of course, they weren't all "dummies" and we were way out in the country, so there weren't many people who drove by. One time we took John Pike and Virginia over to our neighbors for a party. John Pike drove Virginia's car. The party was just around the corner but my John wouldn't be able to walk and neither would Virginia. On the way over John Pike spied a couple of young people on a bridge near us where young people hang out. This young man owed John some money for a lawn mower and so John Pike stopped the car and got out and proceeded to discuss the kid up. Virginia had her window rolled down and several times encouraged John to push the young man off the bridge. My husband and I were trapped in the back seat, fearing for our lives. I am not sure what I was more concerned about, a fight breaking out between John Pike, this man and Virginia, or somebody associating us with these two, like we were that tough. I am pretty sure she could have people beat up if she wanted.
So John Pike is going to die. He's been diagnosed with an aggressive tumor in his hip, spread from the cancer that was in his bladder. He refused one of the options for treatment that they offered him and tomorrow I will discuss that with his brother.
John now lives in an old farmhouse that he rents from a decent family, and Virginia is in assisted living in a little town called Wanamingo. Virginia has been staying with John to help him. He's on some complicated medication, and heavy duty pain killers. I am home this week so they have been calling me, and I can tell that Virginia is worried about him, wants his family to step up and help, and after spending two days with them I can see that she is not the one to do it. She's getting too old and she knows it. So she has been calling me, and today I spent the morning with them at the Doctor's office and I asked the questions that she could not ask, like social services, and hospice care and the future. The doctor stepped right in. Told John to set his pride aside and let these women help him. It was great. So I called his younger brother, who is made of the same cloth, and told them that we had to have a meeting at John's, with Virginia. I have some health care directive questions, and we will discuss hospice and John's dog. I am so glad that they called me and that I could help them with this. I have so much respect for Virginia and her practical, tough minded approach to this; and her devotion to her friend.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The last time we lived in a suburb, with neighbors at our elbows, was when we lived in Ellicott City, Maryland. We lived in a great place, but our next door neighbor was a big jerk. It was the mid '90s and one winter we had a terrific snow fall which gave us two to three feet of snow overnight. My husband, John, was very active and used to do lots of snow shoveling in the winter. The snow fell over the weekend, and at some point I came out while John and Harry were working on the driveway.
Me: You'll never guess where our neighbor Paul is putting all his snow! Its on the sidewalk between our driveways! Its about four feet high right now. He’s been doing it with his kids all morning!
John: Paul's an idiot. He’s never forgiven us for putting up a fence. It’s just been one thing after another. What a pain! First that letter to the chairwoman for our development, then the dog whistle whistling to make our dog shut up. Now this. Well, he'll have to move the snow. I’d bet this is against city ordinances. What could this guy hope to achieve with such a stupid idea. What a major nuisance he is! What an immature stunt. He’s an idiot.
Me: I know! He’s putting it on the sidewalk right between his driveway and ours! You know that patch of sidewalk. It goes maybe five feet from our driveway to theirs. He’s put it smack dab in the middle.
The snow pile was still there on Sunday and growing. Paul and his kids were adding to it. Monday morning school was back in session and the city was open for business. The snow was piled high everywhere, but streets were plowed and sidewalks clear. It was John's job to take Harry to the bus stop.
Me: Oh John, the snow pile, its ten feet wide. You’ll never get around it. You’ll have to walk down our driveway and out in the street. Its way too deep. And he’s built up the sides around his driveway so you can’t walk around and go over the yard that way either. You and Harry won’t be able to make it to the bus stop."
Sweet little five year old Harry, bundled for school, skipped over to his dad. Harry had a back pack in one hand and took his dad’s hand with the other. I got a long look from John.
John: You wait…
So I did. I watched from the front porch.
John with his white cane, and little Harry, attempted to navigate the huge snow pile. The sidewalk was clear on John's side, as John and Harry had spent Saturday and Sunday shoveling snow. On either side of the snow pile was a wall of snow at least two feet high that bordered Paul's driveway. On the other side of the snow pile, Paul's children were waiting for the bus with Paul. There were some other kids there as well; the boys from down the street. I could see that John was asking Harry about the snow pile.. John was pointing from side to side with his cane. Then Harry led John down into the street and over toward Paul's driveway which was the official bus stop. A few cars drove by, at speeds that must have been more than 40 miles an hour. Just as they came up the apron the bus pulled up. Both Harry and the other children began boarding the bus.
Paul was walking toward his house.
John: Paul, you need to get rid of this snow pile. You are blocking our path to the bus.
Paul: I don’t think so…
John: What? What? Paul….I'm blind and I am walking with a five year old. It’s not safe to have a blind man and a five year old going out on this road to get around that snowpile.
Paul: I'm not doing anything of the sort. I have a sore back.
John: Why'd you put it there in the first place? Sore back my foot. What you’re doing is against the law!
Paul: ( laughter )
John: Are you laughing Paul? You think that this is funny? Why your a menace... your ...your just a big boob!"
John walks back to our house by way of the street.
To me, standing on the porch:
John: This is it. The guys an ass! I 'm calling the police!
John goes in the house. He goes to the kitchen phone and dials the police station in Ellicott City.
John: This is John Moore. Yes. This is not an emergency. Yes, I want to file a complaint against my neighbor. Yes.... Yes.. He's shoveled his snow into a snow pile across the sidewalk between our two houses. The bus stop for school is on our neighbor’s driveway. The only way we can get to the bus stop now is by walking in the street. Here is the reason I have called. We live on a very busy road. I am blind and my son is only 5 years old. This is a dangerous situation for us. There is no way that my son and I can get around this snow. It blocks my son's path to the bus stop! I want to report it! (...silence.......) Thank you.
John: (to me) Well, they will send a policeman out to check on it.
Within the hour a policeman knocked on the door. He carried an expression that conveyed he wasn’t happy about making this call.
Policeman: Good morning Mr. Moore. We received your complaint this morning. I see the snow pile you are referring to. Have you talked to your neighbor about this? Asked him to remove the snow?"
John: Hello officer. Yes. I did speak with him this morning! I asked him to please clear a path, but he said he had a sore back and he laughed at me. You understand that the reason this is an issue is because the school bus stop is on his driveway. My son is only five years old and I am blind. This is a very difficult situation for us. Cars drive very fast on the street here and it creates a dangerous situation for us if the only way we can reach the bus stop is to go out in the street.
Policeman: Well, Mr. Moore, I understand your concern but in situations like this there is not much I can do.... It’s a shame that you and your neighbor cannot work this out amongst yourselves. I will go over and talk to him.
Me: (Policeman is gone) He thinks we're silly John.
John: Maybe so, but I couldn't let that boob get away with this. Somebody’s got to stop him. He needs to pay for being such an idiot!
Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door.
Policeman: Mr. Moore, I spoke with your neighbor Mr. Lyons and unfortunately, there are only two things that we can do in response to this. I can issue him a citation, if that's acceptable to you, and I would be more than happy to do this. The other thing that you can do, is call the school and get the bus stop changed. They would probably agree to that under the circumstances.
John: Yes officer, that’s a great idea. I will call the school. That would solve everything. Thank you.
Policeman: No problem, Mr. Moore, but I will still issue Mr. Lyons a citation. It’s the least I can do.
John: (to me) Holy cow! Paul must have showed his true colors.
I didn't hear the phone call John made to the school because I had to leave for a customer appointment, but the school agreed to change the bus stop for the very next day. John called the neighbors whose kids used the bus stop living the other side of Paul’s house, apologizing for the inconvenience...but they understood. Everybody felt the same about Paul. The neighbor kids made paths around the snow pile. Their paths looked like deer trails. It was a cold winter with no warm spells, and so the snow pile remained till early March.
Monday, December 17, 2007
This is a link to one of the teams and gives information on the tournaments: http://www.chicagocomets.org/
When John was playing baseball we went to most of the tournaments. We went to tournaments throughout the midwest, places like Kalamazoo, Michigan and Marion, Indiana. The biggest tournament was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where teams all over the midwest and west coast participated. The various teams had definate characteristics and personalities. The teams from Oklahoma City and some place in Kansas had huge players with no fear. The team from San Francisco was very diverse and they were small and oddball.
There were times when we would pull up at a motel, and these were the same places where all the various teams were playing and staying, to find a paddywagon and the police and a fight that had broken out. Alot of these blind players had multiple problems, and were on various types of medication; so mix that with alcohol and women and you would have a fight. When we went to the tournament in Minnesota everyone was staying at a very nice hotel in Bloomington. What a riot for the hotel staff. Blind people tend to run in packs. The guy with the cane or some sighted person was out front with a cluster of visually impaired persons clumped behind. Movement was awkward and they knocked stuff down. This hotel had upright ashtrays with sand in them and everyone of these had a pile of sand on either side of it so you know that they were being continually tipped over. My favorite memory was of the mezzanine, where there was a balcony that had a rail at waist height. There were these upright ashtrays with sand in them against the rail at twenty feet intervals. Blind people walk next to walls or use rails. As with everywhere else in the hotel, there were piles of sand on the floor on either side of these ashtrays. I watched this blind person navigate down the mezzanine. He hadn't reached an ashtray yet, but you could just tell that he was going to knock over each and every one of them.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
At the time, my son was about two years old. My husband was as he is today; blind and diabetic and needing help. Back then he was working remotely for a large communications company as a trainer. He was much more independent then than he is now.
I was your typical working mom, an eight to five person; my family was my absolute first priority. If i worked overtime I worked my lunch hour, no exceptions. I told my boss that was the best I could do and that was all I would do. When I got to work , I worked my ass off. At 5:05pm I was out the door. My productivity was through the roof, and I had pretty good results. I was totally stressed and internalized everything, but that's just me and I am working on it because I need to change.
One of my favorite movies is "Twelve Days of Condor" (correction: Three Days of Condor, per anonymous) with Robert Redford. I think it came out in the 80's, and as the story goes, his character worked for the CIA reading fiction to look for information about terrorist plots, whatever. He goes out for Chinese (take out - lunch i mean) and when he returns everybody in his office has been shot / killed. So then he goes on a mission to find out what is going on, and who killed his co-workers. He takes on aliases, gets into offices disguised as a telephone company journeyman, or technicians, and eventually figures it out. I loved this movie because I wanted to be him. I loved that he knew how to be a chameleon and used disguises and blended in. I wanted to do that.
I've worked for my current employer almost 19 years, but before landing here I had lots of jobs. I figured I could use my experiences in all these places for my dream job of Private Investigator. Plus, there are so many shows on TV about Private Investigating I figured I knew what it took to do the job. I learn alot from TV.
So here it is: I worked for the Clerk of Courts office in Cleveland, the Civil Courts, in billing. Among other things, I would look up the divorce records for my friends to tell them whether the guy they were dating was really divorced. There were a few times when I would show someone their files. Many times the individual did not know the status of their case until they got billed. I am not sure that any of what I did was legal, but I found my access to this kind of information very exciting. I worked as a receptionist / secretary for the Great Lakes Shakespeare Theatre Company. I dated just about every guy in the office plus I realized that image was everything and you could create your own persona. Everybody I worked with did. I became the chauffeur for a blind man and learned how to be invisible. I worked at AT&T and did telephone fraud investigation and was pretty good at it. Its surprising how much people will tell you without realizing what they are telling you. I was a DOCUMENTATION SCIENTIST at a Pharmaceutical company. My ability to spot typo's in script as it was running down a screen landed me my a job in PC Support at the company I work at now. (Back then all the configuration files and PC programs were written as batch files (like flat text files) and you could watch them as they executed on the screen.) So I felt that I had done quite a few different things in my life and had a rich background to mine from if I needed some kind of technical pseudo persona, and this would perfectly suit the kind of qualifications and characteristics needed to be a top notch PI.
In retrospect, I think that manager treated me differently after that meeting. I think that is when he became my advocate. Its probably because he realized he couldn't motivate me with threats or fear of losing my job. He even defended me once. He told someone that if they didn't work with me they would end up working without me so the guy better make an effort and work with me. That was nice. And, he asked me if I would consider a management position. Then we moved to Maryland so I had to look for another job. I stayed with the same employer. I have since given up the idea of being a Private Detective. I've decided its too dangerous and I don't want to be in business for myself. I spend most of my energies now checking up on my son, but he's growing up and will be leaving home soon, so who knows.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
My Latest Trip to Minnesota, and Oh What a Thanksgiving It Was
Oh what a great day today has been. The food was amazing and my belly was filled to the limit. Even now, as I was about to fall asleep, I couldn’t eat another bite. On top of that, the day was so much fun. I was still smiling from ear to ear even after all the yelling I had received just to go to bed. Man, am I going to sleep great tonight. Oh, wait, did I jump ahead too far? Then I guess the only thing I can do is go back and tell how this Thanksgiving in Minnesota was the best holiday of my life.
Even though I was only twelve years old, making the trip to Minnesota was nothing. Compared to the twenty hour trips to Florida it was a piece of cake. So, making it there before two o’clock was a walk in the park. When my family and I got to my aunt’s eight acre property, we immediately joined the chaos that was building. I mean we barely had time to put our bags away before we were sent off to work! My mom went into the kitchen and helped out with dinner. My dad went and put the tables out in the garage. My two brothers and I helped put out the chairs. We were all working within the first thirty minutes we got there, (though it would all pay out in the end). Then, in no time dinner was ready and the best part of Thanksgiving was about to start.
The first thing I saw in front of me at my seat was a beautifully cooked Cuban turkey. It looked delicious. The outside was a perfect golden brown and the inside was the dark meat I so longed to try. When I looked to my left I saw the mashed potatoes and the stuffing and immediately took a huge spoonful of both. Then I looked to my right and saw the dinner rolls along with the broccoli. I couldn’t help myself so I took the most I could of each. Every thing looked so good that I even tried the asparagus. After prayers, I quickly dove into to my full course of Thanksgiving dinner. First the turkey, then the asparagus, then the broccoli, then the mashed potatoes, then the rolls, and finally the stuffing. Oh man everything tasted so good. My taste buds felt like they were about to explode from all the richness of flavors. Then to make matters with my taste buds even worse, dessert came; it was my mother’s apple pie. Now this was one thing I couldn’t resist. It is a pie filled with sugared apples and topped with cinnamon and sugar. It is the greatest food ever. The pie was so good I ate two huge pieces. It filled my belly to its limit, and greatttt, just in time for the games.
An annual family tradition of the Rader’s is a doubles ping-pong tournament. We play up to twenty one and each player alternates hits. Each person in the family, including my grandma, participates in it. I really wanted to win, but I was stuck with my Aunt Laura. I didn’t think we had a chance against some of the older guys in the family. But, somehow we kept winning and winning and suddenly we were in the championship game. Now, we were up against my Uncle Jim and my cousin Tommy. They were good. I mean really good. Both could put so much spin on the ball you would whiff if you swung at it. But, the only way we could win it all was through them. We had to win. The game started. They served first. "Bing." "Bing." The ball went back and forth. "Yes," I yelled as we won the first point. "Bing." "Bing." "Yes." We won another point. Then, little by little, we had a comfortable lead. Then… a win. I yelled at the top of my lungs as the final point was won. I hugged my aunt and screamed again. Man was I happy. I ran around the entire house enjoying the twenty minutes of glory I had just had. Then to add on to this moment of happiness we were going to play charades next. Now charades with my dad’s side of the family was a blast. The way we would play is everyone would right down the name of a movie, book, or TV show on a piece of paper. Then we would put all the little pieces of paper into a basket and people would draw the names from this. To add to the fun of the game, half the time, many of the kids had never heard of the movie, book, or show they were doing. This all led to the hilarity that was about to ensue. One of the funniest moments while we were playing was when one of the local neighbors of our relatives came up for his turn. He got the book "Gone with the Wind". He started out with the easy symbol of opening his hands to show a book. Next, he went with another easy part which was the three word symbol. Then he made one of the most hilarious moves I have ever seen. He started to blow air out of his mouth to represent wind. Now, as everyone knows, in charades you are not allowed to speak while you are the one acting out the book, movie, or show. So after someone yelled out, "Gone with the Wind," everyone realized the mistake he had made. And as most people do when a dumb mistake is made, everyone in the room started cracking up. It was one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen. Then, later this same evening, we got another good chuckle when we argued over whether there were four or three mad’s in the movie "It’s a Mad World." Charades and all the games we played this night were great.
So, in the end, Thanksgiving was a blast. The dinner was great, the games were fun, and there were so many good moments. I mean not every year do you win your first ever ping-pong championship. On top of that, I never expected the amount of fun and laughter I would get with charades. So, as I climbed into my bed in the basement and went to bed I thought about all these things. And I thought to myself: How blessed am I? I get great food and fun while thousands of people in America don’t get anything on this wonderful holiday. I also get to thank the pilgrims who first came to this country so that I could have the wonderful time I had today. It is the reason this Thanksgiving has been the best holiday of my life. So, hopefully I have allowed others to catch up on my latest trip to Minnesota; what a Thanksgiving it turned out to be.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
The temperatures are in the teens. It is snowing like crazy. The storm is not supposed to let up till tomorrow. I prefer to wait the storm out. Good thing it is the weekend. I had no plans to go anywhere as I am on pager duty and need to be available for work. My son is watching a friend's house and their furnace stopped working. He is meeting the repairman at their home to let the man in and be there while the furnace gets fixed. It is terrible weather to be out in.
Today is my son's birthday and we will have a quiet night at home (if he makes it back!) and play Risk. I agreed only because it was my son's birthday. I prefer Monopoly. We'll see if there are any neighbors who are snowed in and looking for something to do. I have several cases of beer leftover from Thanksgiving.
I love this picture. It looks like this outside right now. We lived at our first house in Pine Island and Harry was maybe four. He drove this little jeep all winter long. Sometimes he would get his jeep stuck in the ditch, and and my neighbor would laugh, because she would see him kicking it and shouting curses.** Baby swears of course. This particular incident was a big snowfall, and my husband was out shoveling. On the first pass shoveling the drive, Harry followed directly behing my husband as he shoveled, and from the window, I could see my husband turning around periodically to yell at Harry because Harry kept bumping him in the back of his legs. It was fun to watch, even though I could tell my husband was aggravated. I think Harry eventually got the message, after about four reprimands.
**Note: Roads are built high here so the wind will blow the snow off and it has somewhere to go. Being "in the ditch" can happen easily. The ditches are usually quite steep and difficult to get out of without some help.