Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It Seems to Get…

My life seems to get busier and busier as I get older and since I have retired. With my writing and the daily chores, I am always looking ahead with some dread and anxiousness. I have four writers meetings that I attend, every other week.
Today, I have a book signing all afternoon at the Demo Depot parking lot. It is for my first book of Tommy Two Shoes and for the story I have in the anthology of Moon Shadows. Moon Shadows is a collection of spooky or ghost stories. The one that I wrote is a ghost story, but it definitely not a scary one.
Sci-fi and horror stories are something that I have not been interested in writing. I do have a creative mind, but it doesn’t flow in that direction. I have tried and it feels unnatural to me. The one I wrote is almost a Casper-The-Ghost like and cuddly. It is titled, Afraid.
Tomorrow, I am going to an appointment to sign my will. I wanted to take care of it and funeral preparations for my wife and I over twelve years ago, but she would get a look of panic on her face and say no. When she died, I had to handle it all for myself, except doing my will. Now, at least that part will be over and done.
Next Friday and Saturday will be a true fry-day. I will be at the Ohiopyle Fire Department frying sausage for their Buckwheat Festival: all-you-can-eat pancakes or buckwheat cakes with sausage, fried potatoes, applesauce, and pickles. The dates for it is always the second full Friday and Saturday in October. This year it is October 10th and 11th, 2014.
The next week is the preparation and set up for the Mt. Zion Christian School. The items donated are sold at very low prices to support the activities of the students. Most clothing is sold as a dollar-a-bag. It is an outreach to the community and makes clothing available at reasonable costs.
The following week is filled with meetings and a writing seminar as well as a masquerade party. Almost as soon as that’s over; hunting season, Thanksgiving, and Christmas preparations start. I’m already tired just looking ahead.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Becoming Anxious

As the day that my editor set aside for a book signing for me and several other authors/writers draws near, I am experiencing several conflicting emotions. The first is the sense of accomplishment. Because I have published a book, it is an experience that I can remove one item from my “bucket list.”

I have always wanted to write a book. I’m not Hemmingway and I am not as proficient as Louis L’Amour, I have always admired these writers. I try to write in a style that allows readers to join the main characters much as L’Amour does, in the same verbiage that allows all readers to enjoy his surprising turns of phrases and descriptions.
In my mind, the main character, Tommy Two Shoes, isn’t a handsome man, but would be similar to the actor William Bendix, a shuffling, solid-built man. Middle age has come and gone. Like me he wants to write and has waited more than half of his lifetime before launching into that unknown world of writing, editing, and selling the story to a publisher.

Because the signing is taking in the town where I worked for thirty-four years, the second feeling is the anticipation of seeing people that I have met before and am known to them. Also I feel a little anxiety for the same reason. It is a place where I am known to many, because I was a nursing supervisor for twenty-eight years and have had dealings with a great number people, as fellow employees, patients, or with the kin of the patients.
In the Bible, Luke says, “And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.” Luke 4:24 KJV. So I will be a prophet in my own country and I am not how well I will be accepted.

I have had reviews from friends and fellow readers. Some have commented on the use of a muse and how unusual I presented the clues, some have said that it is a page turner, and some have said that it was good or they liked it. One comment came from a secretary who said, “When I read the book, I think of you as Tommy Two Shoes,” and that made me smile.
The one thing that was consistent in the reviews was that the book ended a cliff hanger, “What happened to Tommy’s brother?” I hadn’t meant to leave it that way. I was only thinking of completing one story, but it did leave an interest that has now spilled over into a second Tommy Two Shoes book. That sequel is now being reviewed by my editor. So, to any of my readers, that question will soon be answered.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Reminders of Past Differences

There were a few contentious areas in my parent’s life. One of which was brought to mind at the funeral service of my cousin Phyllis Charlene Beck’s wedding to Donald Hodge. Mom decided in lieu of buying a gift, she wanted to buy a card and give them money.
She had Dad stop so she could find a card that she liked. After she bought it, they drove to the church for the wedding ceremony. Dad said, “You need to address the card, Phyllis.”
Mom said, “Her name is Charlene.” We had always called her Charlene as she grew up.
“The invitation said, Phyllis.”
“She’s Charlene to me.” Mom said.
They gave each other the silent treatment until they started to climb out of the car.
Dad said, “Did you remember the card.”
“Yes, I have it here, but you can write their names on the envelope.”
Of course Dad, in his masculine superiority, wrote Phyllis.

For the rest of my parents’ lives Dad would say something like, “I saw Charlene today,” and Mom would quip, “You mean, Phyllis.”


On other area of irritation centered with a decision by my father and grandfather. When Mom and Dad decided to remodel the house, Mom wanted the door to the living room to one side of their home. If it was centered as my granddad Beck thought that it should be, it would open to the bottom of the steps that led to the upstairs.
All of my Mom’s suggestions fell to the wayside. Granddad convinced my dad that because of the appearance of the house would look off balance, the door needed to be centered and that is where they placed I; smack dab in the center and in front of the steps.
This is where the contention started. Every time they needed to move a large piece of furniture into or out of the house, they would have to struggle, twisting and turning to get around the newel post and if anyone should complain, Mom was quick to remind them to blame my dad and granddad. “If you don’t like it, talk to them.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Goodbye Charlene

Yesterday was the final services and goodbye to my cousin, Phyllis Charlene Beck Hodge. Her initial funeral services were held in her hometown of Watsontown, Pennsylvania, then she was transported back to Indian Head, Pennsylvania, to her mother, Dorothy’s church for final services. The cemetery where she was to be interred was in Donegal, Pennsylvania. The nearby family plot already held her father, Merle, her older brother, Larry, and one of her younger brothers, Edwin.
Her son, David, gave her eulogy. It was a heartwarming and stirring description of her life. I said, “I don’t think I could have been able get up in front of the others to share it without breaking down.”
He said, “I did my crying yesterday,” when he shared his words back home.
Later, Charlene’s son, Phillip sang parts of the 91st Psalm. His beautiful, tenor voice filled the sanctuary. Charlene recited this Psalm for strength and hope as she undertook chemo treatments for Hodgkin’s disease.

The unusual coincidences that occurred were very frequent. The very first was the funeral home in Watertown bore the name of Brooks and there is one with the same name here in our area. The next occurred at the intersection of Routes 711 and 31. That junction is a very busy intersection, but when we drove through the stop sign, there were absolutely no cars in sight during the passage of the whole caravan of vehicles.
At the cemetery, as the pastor was speaking and had to stop. A WW II airplane flew low over the cemetery. The plane looked similar to a B-17 bomber. It flew so low and it was so loud that the speaker had to pause. The coincidence was that her father was in WW II. His duty was in the Army Air Corps. It was almost as if her earthly father was paying tribute to his newly departed daughter.
Coincidences, I’m sure that most people would believe that they were only random happenings, but who arranged them to occur at exactly those times when they were needed to comfort the family.

Once, when Charlene was visiting our grandparents Beck, our grandmother, Anna, pulled Charlene’s son, David, into her lap and called him “her little preacher boy” and it was as though she could see into the future, David is a minister. My grandfather also started a church on the Summit of Route 31. Although he was never ordained as a minister, he was a lay speaker in the Pentecostal church. He and my grandmother prayed “in tongues.”
On the other side of Charlene’s family, there was a female evangelist named Plyler who came with tent services and introduced the Pentecostal religion to our valley in the 1930’s.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Time Passes

I found that my cousin Phyllis Charlene Beck Hodge passed away this past Thursday p.m. She had been battling Hodgkin’s Disease for many years. She was in remission and God allowed her more time with her family, but it came back with a vengeance and finally claimed her.
It’s been hard on the family, but this has hit my aunt Dorothy very hard. Charlene was the third child that she has lost, not counting a miscarriage.
It’s been said that there is a word for a person who loses their parents, an orphan and there is a word for a person who loses a spouse, a widow or widower, but there is no word that can describe the loss of a child. I believe it to be true. It is too painful to describe and can only share what my grandmother said, “No parent should have their child die before them,” at the loss of my uncle Ted.
My mother-in-law, Retha, died the year following the death of my wife Cindy. I think that loss hastened Retha’s passing.
I shared before, that my wife died from ovarian cancer, nearly twelve years ago. My mother –in-law died the next year, and my mother on the third anniversary of Cindy’s death. Those years were three of the roughest times of my life.
Dorothy and Uncle Merle had four children: Larry, the oldest, Phyllis Charlene, Edwin, and Paul. Larry died in a swimming accident not too far from his home, while swimming with friends. Edwin was away at college, when he was found dead, slumped over his desk as he studied. And now Phyllis Charlene.
Phyllis Charlene was only a year older than I am now. Lately, we haven’t been really close because she lived in Watsontown, Pennsylvania, hours away. She was a sweet woman and she will be sorely missed.
Her passing weighs heavily on my mind for several reasons. The first is her age. She was only a year older than me. The second is that cancer has claimed her life, as cancer claimed my wife and mother-in-law. The final reason and the most pressing is the fact that I’ve been asked to be a pall bearer tomorrow.
They are bringing her body back for services at Dorothy’s church before her burial. Charlene will be placed beside her father and two brothers at the family plot in Donegal, Pennsylvania. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. There have been too many death; each one sharpening the memories of the ones that have happened before it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

She Sure Was a Cold One

Winter winds blew, snow flew. The weather was harsh and cold.

Polar vortex, complex, light shortened unfold,

Icy delays, snow lays, blizzard winds gusting strong.

Caught in the storm, not warm, out where I don’t belong.

Deep frost and chill, clouds fill, tossed by a howling wind.

With banshee wail full scale through trees that are bare limbed.

Freezing, lasting, blasting, she sure was a cold one.

In winter’s fist, heat missed, she sure was a cold one.


Days filled with rain, chilblain, the sun hiding its face.

Fewer picnics, mud slicks, streams overflow and race.

Chilly winds blew all through days cloudy and dim.

Blustery bleak each week, dark clouds filled to the brim.

Sun rise to set, all wet, the drops keep falling down,

No warmth at all, damp pall, rivers flood muddy brown.

Warm days were less, wet mess; she sure was a cold one.

Summer is done, no sun, she sure was a cold one.


 She took it all; big, small, the house empty and bare.

Naught left behind to find, no longer does she care.

An empty house, no spouse, she left without warning.

The kids are gone; she’s won, she’d been home that morning.

Harsh and bitter, quitter, taking all we called home.

Taking the dog, that hog, leaving me all alone.

I’m heartbroken, chokin’, she sure was a cold one.

Wicked, cruel, a fool, she sure was a cold one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

           Surprise, Surprise  
           I was a naval corpsman and stationed in Keflavik, Iceland, before I was discharged from the Navy and earned my bachelor’s degree in nursing. The naval station there had a small hospital of two wards, an operating room, and an emergency room. The one ward was divided into private rooms and held obstetric patients and pediatrics and an occasional officer. The other area was an open ward for the enlisted men.
A pregnant woman was admitted again after she had several admissions for her pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition in pregnant women when they had changes in their body that would cause their blood pressure to dangerously rise. It required bed rest to lower the woman’s blood pressure. Each time she came in, we would tease, “You’re going to have twins.” because her abdomen was so large.
She would respond, “No. No. My doctor says there is only one.” At that time, we didn’t have sonograms, etc. It was only by listening with a fetascope to hear the infant’s heartbeat that we could monitor child during the pregnancy.
I was working the daylight shift, after she delivered the day before. She had indeed delivered a set of twins. She had two daughters and I was planning on teasing her about having twins, but when I went into her room, I was stopped in my tracks. She was crying.
I asked. “What’s wrong? Are you having pain?”
She gave a few more sobs before managing to answer, “If I had a little girl, I planned to name her Alice. Now I don’t know what to do. If I name one of them Alice, I know I will love that one more.”
Offhandedly I said, “Well…. Why don’t you name both of them something close, but not Alice?” The names Alicia and Allison popped into my head. So I said, “Why not name them something like Alicia and Allison?”
She stopped crying and said the names softly to herself. That was what she named them. Neither name was Alice, but both were variations of her beloved name.
About a month later, she contacted me and I had the privilege of babysitting the girls while she and her husband had their first date night away from the twins.