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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Can You Dig It, I Did.

As I grew, our basement grew as well. My dad and mom, Carl and Sybil Beck bought a small house along Route 711, between Indian Head and Normalville, Pennsylvania. It had only a partial basement. The rest was a crawl space. The basement was large enough for a coal bin, large coal furnace, and a water heater. Mom found room for a wringer washer as well. The running water for the house came from a spring about 200 yards away.
As my parents needed the space, my dad chiseled and cut an opening in the cinder block wall. I helped my dad dig by hand, the heavy clay dirt. He used an old, iron wheeled wheelbarrow to haul it up and out of the cellar or when he got closer to the outside wall he threw the dirt onto the wood planked bed of an old truck. The house didn’t have an inside bathroom, but a privy instead.
One thing I do remember was the digging. It seemed that digging filled much of my youth. In my preadolescent years my hands were filled with a pick, mattock, and a spade. When Dad decided, at the prodding of my mom as sure, to build an indoor bathroom, I helped to dig the pit for the septic tank and the drainage lines.
My brother, Ken and I had to help dig another water line to bring water from the springhouse into our home. The old water line had been corroding and the water pressure was lessening for about a year. It was a daily chore. Dad would assign a certain amount to be dug out and expected it to be done. One day he came home and was upset to see we hadn’t made his assigned quota. After chewing us out, he went to do what we hadn’t finished. What he found was a huge flat rock. It was almost 18 inches thick and the size of a dining room table top, extending over two feet beyond the sides of the ditch. He tried to break it with a sledge hammer. When he couldn’t break it, his solution was to dig under it and pass the plastic pipe beneath it.
A small stream flowed behind the house and Dad would have us dig out the silt that would fill it in the spring. We would spread it on the one side to prevent it from flooding onto his lawn at the winter thaw. Dad loved to have his lawn mowed and neat.
When Dad added on a garage, we dug the foundation for it, actually, for two garages. One had to be torn down because of flooding from road run off. It was a time when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation sometimes failed to grade the berm and water would travel down the driveway and into the garage.
We had to help spade the garden and weed. That wasn’t the bad part. It was spring and it was cool. I liked it more than using the hoe later in the year to get rid of the weeds in the hot sun of summer.
In the winter, the summer tools were put away and the heavy scoop shovel came out. It was used to throw coal into the furnace, shovel out the ashes, and to remove snow from the walks and the driveways. Removing the snow wasn’t as bad as where I live now. Our parents’ home was partially sheltered in a valley and drifts were rare. What remained to shovel was the depth of the snowfall.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sore Muscles

As I age, I notice that my muscles tire and become more sore when I work outside. I also notice that my muscles stay sore longer. Part of the problem, I am sure, is that I am living a more sedate life than I did before. Writing requires less out and about than it did when I was employed as a nurse, even in the supervisory position.
As a nursing supervisor, I helped others lift and move people, walked a lot, and ate less than I do now. The stress and worry of staffing, patient and visitor complaints, and other problems were always laid at my feet for me to handle. I am writing my memoirs and hope to have it published. I wrote the stories from four years of being a naval corpsman, four years of nursing school, and thirty-five years of working as a nurse.
The stories run the gamut from extreme sadness to the very funny and joyful. I changed the some of the names to protect the innocent, confront the guilty, and to confuse those who don’t recognize the difference between the two.
But, back to the sore muscles, this past week, I got another load of firewood. I stacked wood for two days. The third day, I mowed the grass in my one acre lawn. I have a walk behind mower. According to the app on my cell, I walk almost a mile and a half. It’s been hot in the sun.
I do like to be outside, but not for extended periods of time. I have diabetes and the exercise helps me keep my weight down and my blood sugar and blood pressure under control. The exercise does make my muscles sore and the diabetes causes pain in legs, neuropathy.

I have several meetings this week as well as the rest of the wood to stack. The rain has given me reprieve today, but I have a meeting later today. Tomorrow morning there is a work day at our church and a meeting in the afternoon; Sunday, church, Sunday school, and another meeting in the afternoon. If I am not completely pooped, there is Sunday night service.
Most people hate to see Monday come, but this week, I am looking for a day to just stack wood and write.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bugging Bugosh
There was a roly-poly corpsman whose last name was Bugosh. He wore bib overalls when he was in the barracks in Keflavik, Iceland. Of course the jeans that he wore were the Osh Kosh brand, so his nickname was Osh Kosh B’gosh.
He hailed from the same state as I did and he had just re-upped. (He signed on for another four year hitch in the Navy.) By signing on before the end his enlistment term, he would receive a bonus from the Navy.
He was strutting around like a Bantam rooster with his thumbs hooked in the bib of his jeans. He was trying to get those of us who were near the end of their enlistment to sign on for four more years. I looked at it as, “misery loves company” and ignored him.
When that didn’t work he started by bragging that when I got discharged, I would get a job and be paying taxes and thus paying his salary. He smiled a huge smile and began rocking on his heels, thumbs still hanging in the suspenders of his overalls.
I think I was born to burst other people’s bubbles. His cockiness irritated me. He acted as though he had all the answers. I ignored it for awhile, but he finally got in my face as he twirled the tip of his handle bar moustache.
“You’re from Pennsylvania, right?” I queried.
He admitted, hesitantly, “Yes.” I could tell he wasn’t sure where I was going with my questions.
“You still have to pay Pennsylvania state taxes too, right?” I pressed.
With a puzzled look on his face, he admitted, “Yes.”
Bad person that I am, here’s where I burst his bubble. “Then you have it all wrong. When I am discharged, I plan to go back home and go on welfare again, just like my mom and dad. You’ll be paying my salary.” His face got red and I watched him deflate just like that bubble.

My parents had never been on public assistance and I didn’t plan to go on welfare, but he didn’t need to know that. I was getting out so that I could go to college and pursue a degree in nursing. I wasn’t going to tell him otherwise.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Riding the Rails

I needed a break from retirement; actually just some time away from the routine and to take myself out of the house. A friend and I drove to Elkins, West Virginia to ride the rails. In Elkins, they have several trips that leave the train station. The trips last from four hours to six and one half hours. The ride we made passed through the Monongahela National Forest, a wilderness area. This train ride as several unusual aspects.
   Not too far into our ride, we went into a tunnel. It was a surprise for the passengers in our car; the tour guide was announcing, but for some reason her description hadn’t gone through the address system. The tunnel was very dark, but we could see the walls seemingly close to the sides of the cars. Later we found that the rail cars were a scant five inches from the walls of the tunnel. Another unique aspect of the tunnel under Cheat Mountain is that it has an “S” curve between the entrance and egress portals.
There is one stop at the Cheat River Falls for photographs and shortly afterwards the Salamander Train traverses a sharp curve. It is the sharpest curve east of the Rocky Mountains at 36 degrees. Other train cars can’t maneuver it. The Salamander can because its cars are only sixty feet long, while other cars are eighty feet long and the radius is too tight for them to make the turn.
The High Falls of the Cheat River drops about twenty feet from multiple places along a rock ledge. The multiple streams of water made interesting views to photograph from above and below. The water was clear with a deep pool below.
There were three cars attached to a work diesel engine. One was a pale gray utility car and the other two were passenger cars. The “younger car” was built in 1939 with dark green plush seats. The “older car” which was the one that we rode in was built in 1919. The seats were of short-napped lighter green velvet and the backs of the seats swiveled up and over to change which way the passengers would sit. These seats were more comfortable than the “younger car.”
On the way to the ghost town of Spruce, we saw a bald eagle fly along the river and land in the snag of a dead tree. There was also a short stop at the metal truss Cheat Bridge.
We were served a hearty bag lunch and non-alcoholic drinks were available throughout the six hour trip. It was a relief to be able walk around the site of Spruce. None of the buildings were left, but photographs with descriptions of the hotel, homes, store, and the coal tipple were noted on the photo boards. For some reason, the engineer decided to back the train into the “Big Cut.” Our tour guide shared that we were getting to see something that passengers rarely get to see. “I’ve guided since April and this is only the second time that he’s done this.” A sidebar: the engineer is a registered pharmacist as well as an engineer. He works one week at each job rotating them.
On the trip back to Elkins, the locomotive was on the other end of our car and we were able to stand in the open at the end of the car. The one thing that surprised me was the altitude that we climbed from Elkins to Spruce. The altitude at Elkins is 1930 and I was told by the tour guide that the Big Cut is nearly 4400 feet. It became obvious as we descended along the tracks. It was a remarkable ride hitting thirty miles per hour at some places and much slower through the sharp curves and the tunnel.
The line is called the “Durbin & Greenbriar Valley Railroad.” The tour guide, conductor, and the engineer couldn’t have been more friendly and cordial. I enjoyed the other riders and spoke and teased with some of the others. One gentleman was from Ontario, a couple was from York PA, and two men were from the Johnstown/ Somerset PA area. All in all, it was a pleasurable relaxing get-away.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Retired and Enjoying It

I retired because I chose to retire, but lately I have been getting job offers through a site that I was invited to join by several friends. It’s called Linkedin. It is supposed to increase the outreach of your projects by sharing friends. I’m not computer savvy and fumble with setting up pages, surfing, etc. There is one spot on the site that appears on your page with job offers from all over the country. I don’t know whether the Linkedin site automatically tosses them on my page or whether someone actually reviews and posts, but I just added a summary.

I am retired and enjoying the time to write stories, poetry, Haiku, and memoirs. I am not at this time looking for employment unless it is a minimal, part time job with limited responsibility. After 28 years as a nursing supervisor and all of the conflict and responsibility that I had to handle, I need the freedom and time to enjoy writing for a period of time.
Thank you for offers, but Right now I am not looking for employment.”

I have worked on farms for school clothing, worked during high school as a stock boy and sign painter, given Uncle Sam four years in the Navy as a corpsman, got my bachelor degree in nursing, and worked for thirty-six years as a nurse. Four years as a med/ surg. Nurse on the night shift, five years in the emergency department, and  twenty-eight years as a nursing supervisor.
I have always loved to write, play with words, look at things with my warped view on things, and tried to share what I see. I have trouble writing horror stories, I think working in a hospital over the years; I’ve seen enough horror stories to last me for a lifetime. And thinking of new ways to inflict pain and death is alien to me
Speaking of alien life, that is another genre that I have difficulty diving into. Sci-fi and futuristic stories, I have a problem wrapping my brain around. I guess I am not a future thinking person.
I write, in a creative way, to show realistic ways of a character reacting to the world around him or her. Showing what the character is feeling, seeing, and thinking. I try to explain what I see in my mind, the creative plot and place of the story. I try to make what I write realistic and allow the reader to follow the characters and connect with them.
One of my favorite writers is Louis L’Amour. I know that many will scoff, but the writer was prolific. Much of what he wrote was spawned by places that he had been and things that he had done. He uses very descriptive phrases to share his thoughts with the reader and used down to earth words with which the general reader can readily understand.
The curious turns of phrases are what I like best. The way he used them, shows a skill that many more famous and learned authors cannot touch. His books are an easy read; a relaxing and entertaining read, meant for all to enjoy.