Monday, June 29, 2015

Just a quick story that was loosely based on a single fact. All else that might implicate anyone, living or dead, is purely fiction and a creation from my head.
It Didn’t Take Much

            It didn’t take much to amuse him, but any diversion was more amusing than to be in a house with the loud and obnoxious woman that he called his wife. How he found her or how he found her attractive enough for him to marry her was a question that he asked himself over and over. He never came to a satisfactory answer.
            He had never been a speedy person by nature and his reluctance to return to his home and his magpie wife, caused him to dawdle more and more. Even the most mundane tasks that were considered boring by others were exciting enough to hold his attention.
            He began to create things, to invent things, and to liven up whatever he was doing, Walter Mitty-like. His persona as a jungle explorer emerged as he cut the grass or trimmed the hedges. He became a research scientist when he shoveled the snow from his walks and driveway. Indiana Jones-like, he dug for buried treasure as he spaded the garden. He became kin of the hill as he raked the leaves that fell from the huge Sycamore tree in their back yard. Watering the flowers, he morphed into a fireman battling and inferno as he held the hose in his hands or became part of the pit crew at the Daytona 500 as he washed their white Ford, Crown Victoria.
            Even if he rested from the rigors of his daily adventures on the front porch swing, he became a trapeze artist for the Barnum and Bailey circus; beautiful women relied on his strength and his ability to catch them.
            His trips to run errands caused his imagination to work overtime. With so much free time away for the house and his haranguing spouse, he looked for things to slow his return, not just to draw his attention from the things that waited for him at home. At first, he would find a place to park the car in the shade and relax, but his imagination wouldn’t allow him so much free time without some kind of stimulation. His alter ego felt starved and took over. He took the hair dryer from the bathroom and carried it in the car as he went on his excursions.
            Near the crest of a hill, he parked the Crown Vic at a wide spot on the highway and waited. As he heard another vehicle approach he would stick the hairdryer out of the side window in the direction of the almost always speeding automobile. It never failed to amuse him when he would see the frightened driver immediately hit the brakes to slow down. It was downright funny to him when the big eighteen wheeler, tractor trailer fought to control the big rigs as they slowed. The Walter Mitty inside him made him a state trooper just doing his job.

            The last I heard, he was pretending not to be a jailbird for impersonating an officer, but he looked on the bright side, he only had to put up with other convicts and not his wife.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I was wondering what to write about this morning as I was making my breakfast. I was making a hard cooked egg sandwich. As I sliced the two eggs, I noticed that the center of the egg was slightly undercooked. It was firm, but not the pale yellow instead it was a rich, golden color. My mom, Sybil Miner Beck as a child would have complained. She told us a story of her mom, Rebecca. One day her mom served her some under boiled eggs that were a bit runny. When my mom complained, Becky said that the eggs were overcooked and because of the naiveté of my mom, she believed it. Many years passed before she knew the truth.
Other stories that my mom told my brother, sister, and I about her childhood was about farm animals. As a girl raised on a farm, she was less than knowledgeable of the birds and bees. She thought that the cows were the mommies and horses were the daddies. She thought that cats were the mommies and that dogs were the daddies. Mom said, “Men and women looked different, so I thought that it was the same for animals.”
My mom was very astute with numbers and did taxes for more years than I could count. She started doing taxes with my dad’s dad, Edson Thomas Beck. She helped him with the payrolls and taxes of several multi-million dollar companies. When my granddad became too old to keep books for them, my mom took over.
Gradually, as Alzheimer’s disease robbed her of that ability, it also stole her memories. My mom loved to tell stories from the past of her family and her work experiences. Those memories slowly fled and died. When we gathered as a family, and we started to retell tales that she told us, we would say, “Isn’t that right, Mom?” It would hurt when there was no spark of recognition and she would say, “If you say so.”
She forgot how to read, she forgot how to bathe and to dress, and finally forgot how to eat. She was finally placed in a nursing home after she threatened to stab my dad with a meat fork. That wasn’t like my mom normally. She was feisty, but never mean like that. Dad couldn’t deal with her alone, safely.
It still hurts when I think of her and how her mental health and memory declined.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Whatever Happened

I can remember when automobile manufacturers built vehicles that were quality basic, affordable transportation. Instead, the companies are Hell-bent on inserting everything they can and pushing the prices above the amount many people can afford. Things like heated seats, Wi-Fi, GPS, television screens, cell phones, self-park, all may be nice if they would be considered items that a customer can add, but not already included and sent to the dealer.
I think an automobile manufacturer could clean up, if they built a pickup truck, van, or automobile that was created with high quality, low maintenance, basic transportation. Volkswagen cleaned up doing that very thing, but since then, companies have been including niceties, but unnecessary “luxuries.”
Vehicles that are created to take a person back and forth to work and vehicles that are fuel efficient and reliable could be so much in demand that the flagging automobile industry could again regain the market. Cars would be affordable again. People would be glad to drive a new car again. Young Americans could afford a car, again.

I don’t need to hear about the untruth of “Global Warming” idiocy and the stupidity of “Carbon Footprints.” They are ways the government has concocted to limit our freedoms and intrude into our lives. Many of the people who live outside the urban areas don’t have access to public transportation of buses or trolleys and the distance is too great to walk or ride bicycles. The steep and hilly terrain of southwestern Pennsylvania also limits the types, modes, and ways of transportation that the rural population can reasonably rely on and use.

I remember a time when having a working heater and a radio were considered extras. Manual transmissions were the norm. Paint colors were about the only choices that didn’t cost extra when buying a car or truck. (The original assembly line cars came in only one color, black.)
 I think it time again for auto manufacturers to reevaluate the need and demand for good basic vehicles. I feel the consumer would be ready for them, as long as the vehicles looked stylish and decent looking.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I was told that I should try to write some of my poems in prose. I have tried prose before and find that my mind wanders too much. I am trying to write my prose from an established poem.
The Chair (Prose)

The old man sits in a chair by the door

waiting to hear the scrape of a shoe,

the roar of a engine,

or the ring of a phone.

The body weakens, skin becomes rice paper thin.

The face sags,

wrinkled, drooping,

spotted with age.

The light leaves and the lawn fills with dew.

No headlights appear,

he wearies, shuffles off to bed.

Sun rises, so does the man reclaiming the chair.

his brow furrows

face lined with care’

Muscles twitch.

Awake, reality returns, seen through rheumy eyes.

Youth‘s disappeared,

loneliness aging him.

Amazed how time’s flown.

The chair is now empty, layered in dust.

The door remains closed,

tightly sealed

hinges welded with rust.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Writer’s Treat

            Every first and third Thursday, I join several other writers, want-to-be writers, and those who write for themselves at the Mt. Pleasant library. It isn’t a large group, but it does have some impact on the community. Several times a year, the members are challenged to write a short piece for some of the holidays and put them on display. We have done writing to celebrate Christmas and one to create a story over a photo of our choice. The photographs were donated to the library and were unnamed, unmarked, and the people and places unknown. My choice was a pile of collected objects for a scrap metal collection drive in WW II. The reason this picture caught my eye was the small flag that someone placed there for the photo.

            Our next project will be to write a Halloween story and after that, our annual Christmas story. The outreach into the community has been noticed by the library staff. They told us that they see an increase of traffic when we put out our display.

            In our small group there have been at least five people who were able to get their works published, from historical, bizarre, and science fiction to poetry, cozy mysteries, and children stories. Our group has wide interests. Dr. Fred Adams is our facilitator and gives a short “lesson” at the beginning of each meeting. He will bring something to help our writing, something to introduce us to another genre, or something to sharpen our skills.

            The “dessert” of the writers meeting treat is that we offer those present to go out for a bite to eat afterwards. Last night we ate at McCali Tavern. A chance to eat out and not have to cook is a treat at anytime. I ordered a spring salad and a steak. The steak was grilled and flavored wonderfully. And it wasn’t damaging to my blood sugar which was 112 today.
            Other nights we have eaten at Applebee’s. The food is good there, but since they remodeled, the atmosphere has changed, and they keep it much too cold. If I am cold, it is too cold and several of the people are older than I am. It seems that they have tried to remake it into a sports bar, instead of a family restaurant. That is discouraging. There are enough bars in Mt. Pleasant, without their change.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This post is the result of the posts I shared of the old man and the old woman. It is a post about children who find themselves in the same position at a later time in life.

The Problem

Children caught up in personal affairs

no time for one who sits alone in chairs,

no time to give them, and no time to think

of someone who waits and stands at the sink.

Busy with family everyday

not recognizing how time slips away.

Someday you will be waiting for a call,

wanting affection, no matter how small.


Quickly the children grow and leave the nest,

lifetime spouses die and are laid to rest.

Embers of hope weaken and barely glows

when no one calls and no one shows.

Traveling salesmen are greeted with glee.

The “Witnesses” invited in for tea.

It will happen much sooner than you think,

and be you in the chair or at the sink.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Today’s Post

I am hit with a multitude of thoughts as I try to decide what to say and share. At the forefront of my thoughts are the thoughts of the storm last evening. All around my house there were multiple lightening strikes for an extended period of time. It was a strong storm. The weather reports gave several warnings. There were warnings for flash flooding, warnings for high winds, warnings about severe lightning, and last, but not least, there was a tornado warning for several communities north.
I did a quick survey of my house this morning. My yard got flooded, but my basement stayed dry. Several months ago, a rain like this would have filled my cellar with water from the deluge. My roof and chimney are still intact. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who were in a more direct path of the storm.

Yesterday, I shared my two poems of The Chair and The Sink Window at my Greensburg Writers Group. The meeting was to be over at 4 p.m. and lasted until 4:30. They decided to review my poem at 3:45. That gave us fifteen minutes to review my writings. The critique was intense with members being drawn in with what they liked and disliked. They were telling me the emotions that they felt and with the way it was written, they weren’t sure that young people could connect. Some thought it didn’t connect with people today. Multiple discussions broke out saying why it did and why it did not give a true description of the elderly today.
When most things were shared, I explained the poems were written as a portrait of certain people and not an overview of the entire elderly population.
I draw and paint. My writing often does the same thing. I want to share what I see with others. I want them to see through my eyes, whether it is done with words or by strokes of paint, pen, or pencil. The one complaint was that I was very descriptive and the person who made the review said she wanted more of the emotion that the man and woman in the poem thought, who they were looking to see and more of what they felt.
To me it was obvious that they wanted to see someone that they loved and the emotion that I tried to portray was the deep loneliness and near loss of hope that the old man and woman felt. Yet, daily, they clung to that slight chance that they would see that loved one come up the drive to visit. Desperately, they waited from sunrise to sunset for that visit. That spark of hope lasted until the chair filled with dust and the sink became dry.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Just Being Cocky

My first post today was about being awakened by my neighbor’s rooster crowing at 0430 in the morning. I posted there was a solution for it, chicken and dumplings. I know that my animal loving friends think my suggestion is cruel, but if they buy chicken at a grocery store, someone has to terminate the chicken and package it up for sale.
I have helped my grandparents with chickens since I was small. I have memory after memory revolving around poultry. I remember when they were chicks. We called them pee-pees as kids. Granddad had a small coop where the catalogue ordered babies were ordered. It had a bank of lights covered by a huge metal hood to keep their fuzzy bodies warm until they could grow their feathers. Small slotted and covered troughs of meal mash were interspaced with watering canisters that almost looked like upside-down mushrooms. The chicks would scurry, chase each other, and peep loudly.
When they grew feathers, they were moved to the larger coop with boxes for the hens to lay eggs. It had a stinky, ammonia smell. That coop was a large, double roomed building with boxes along one wall and a roost made of thin tree limbs nailed together like risers. The roost was a place where the chickens would sit and sleep at night.
I can remember going out to the coop in the dark one night to check on the chickens. Something was bothering the chickens. My uncle Ted carried a flashlight in one hand and a .22 rifle in the other as we investigated.
Opening the door, Ted shined the light inside. Under one of the roosts, cowered in the corner, was a large opossum. Its beady eyes glowed in the beam of the flashlight. As we neared the cornered critter, it bared its teeth and hissed at us. In the dark, it was extra scary and even today I can hear it if I think about it.
Other stories revolve about the slaughter of the hens at the end of the egg season. Aunts, Uncles, Nephews, and Nieces gathered for the killing and cleaning of the chickens. Heads and blood flew, then feathers flew. The smells are the memories that are the strongest. Wet feathers and singed hairs of the carcasses are the strongest.
Grandma Miner would cook several hens. Any egg yolks were saved and cooked in the broth or were made into egg noodles. The cooked chicken meat was chopped to make a spread. She added dill pickles, broth, salt, and pepper to flavor it. When it was spread on thick slices of bread, it was heavenly and made the work, sights, and smells worth it.
I wonder if the neighbor’s rooster would rather be chopped into chicken salad or swimming in  a pot with thick dumplings?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

This is the parallel follow-up to the post I placed earlier called the chair.
The Sink Window

The old woman stands and leans at the sink

Staring through windows to look and to think

Her faltering steps on knees filled with pain

Eyes longingly stare down long lonely lane

Wrinkles line her face age spots back her hands

She wearies quickly from daily demands

When no one is seen she turns shakes her head

Closing the curtains she shuffles to bed

The old woman wakes and on the sink leans

Now withered and bent face lined with ravines

Puckered toothless lips sag into a frown

Her youth’s flown away and her clock winds down

The curtains are closed and stray breezes sigh

The windows are dark the sink remains dry.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Empty Chair

            The old man that I sat with a few days ago has passed away. Indeed, his chair is now empty. He had a stroke several months ago and has had bouts of respiratory problems. He has developed pneumonia and episodes when his lungs would fill with fluid. He would retain fluid and his legs would swell and seep serum. His heart and lungs couldn't handle the small amounts of fluids that he took in.
            Visiting nurses changed is catheter and got a diuretic ordered, but the kidneys failed to cooperate and get rid of the fluid backlog. A young friend of the family was watching him when he breathed his last. It must have been difficult for him. We all knew that the end would come eventually, but it would have been hard for it to happen under your watch.

            As a nurse, I rarely cared for it to happen on my shift that a person would die. There were a few exceptions to that. I cared for people who struggled for so long in pain or who had difficulty with breathing. Each breath was a labor.

            The last few days on Earth were like that for my dad. He was unable to communicate and each breath was a struggle. We decided to put him on hospice, to keep him as comfortable as possible and to allow him to pass away when the time came. It was easier to allow him to die than to sit at his side to watch him struggle with each shallow lungful of air.
            His breathing slowed, sometimes I thought it was his last and yet he would take another gasp and stay with us. Finally, the breaths became more and more shallow, until he sighed and passed away. His mortal coil remained for us to grieve over, but his soul was free to join my mom. He had been missing her for so long. He wanted to be with her. It was selfish to have wished him to stay, when he was so ill and wanted to be with mom. Death can be a blessing. Dad was saved and we knew that he was safe and well in Heaven.

Friday, June 5, 2015

If you recall, I sat with an elderly man who had a stroke and couldn't be left alone. I wrote this while I was sitting and watching him, nod off and waken to talk.
The Chair

The old man sits in a chair by the door

Waiting for someone who's been there before

His skin becomes thin like rice paper page

Drooped face now speckled with spots of his age

Tired head nods and bobs with white hair askew

The light leaves the sky the lawn fills with dew

No headlights appear and shaking his head

Weary he rises and shuffles to bed

The old man sits by the door in a chair

His brow is furrowed his face lined with care

Frequently he stirs thoughts surface and rise

His muscles twitching he opens his eyes

Through rheumy lenses and limited view

His youth's disappeared amazed how time flew

The chair's now empty filled only with dust

The door remains closed sealed tightly with rust

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pain, Then and Now

I vaguely remember pains of the past, scrapes, cuts, and bruises. The first that I can really remember was the time I spent in the hospital having my tonsils removed. That was short-lived and faded quickly.
The next was the time I was playing softball in first grade. I was hit in the face by a bat, swung by another kid. The bat popped out the lens of my glasses and the lens made an inch long laceration in my eyebrow. (Yes, I wore glasses in first grade.) The cut caused a flap of skin that drooped over my eye. Blood streamed into my eye. The teacher called my mom. My mom borrowed a car and we drove to Melcroft, Pennsylvania to the family doctor. (Doc Norton delivered me.)
The office overlooked a stream and was a converted house. Inside smelled of antiseptic and stringent cleaning supplies. After I was settled on an examining table, Old Doc Norton injected Novocain into the area surrounding the laceration with fiery, stinging pain. After a short wait, his quick sure hands, stitched the flap back into place.
A myriad of bumps and bruises happened as I grew up. One summer I sprained my ankle three times in a row. The pain from those injuries was minimal considering the pain I felt as a young man sitting idle all summer vacation with nothing to do.
I developed a cellulitis on the inner aspect of my left knee. It sidelined me for a week in a hospital getting injections of Penicillin in my fanny twice a day. I soon got tired of the painful pricks of the needles and the soreness of the injection sites in my muscles.
Now that I am older, the aches and pains are of a longer duration. The recent fall on ice in February, gave me two bleeds in my head. I was grounded for a month to recuperate and still have a five hour memory loss. Recently I am having pain in my right knee and my lower back. Are the pains from the fall? I’m not sure. The one thing that I do know is that the pains are longer in duration and that they slow me down.
This morning, as with several other mornings, I awoke with a stiff and sore neck. I was already diagnosed that I have arthritic bone spurs in my neck. The pains have become more frequent since the fall and I am sure that the fall aggravated the arthritis.

The only good think about chronic pain is that I know that I am still alive.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer Is Here

            Just the other day, I heard a cicada buzzing and knew that summer was here. As a child, I always hated hearing their loud buzzing rise to a crescendo and then fall. Soon, there would be an entire chorus of their humming, grating calls that surrounded me. It always seemed to put my nerves on end and to be truthful, I still don't like that sound.

            My dad's birthday would have been soon. It was the longest day of the year, June 21st. He would have celebrated his 92nd birthday. My sister Kathy's birthday will be coming soon, the last of this month. I almost always buy her some type of flamingo, because she loves them so. (NOT.) But because I am such a sweet and loving brother, I get something anyway.

            My son Andrew's birthday falls on the day after my sister's, July 1st.  I am so bad with birthdays and anniversaries that I have to remind myself to look at a calendar to even come close to knowing the dates.

            It has become even harder to remember to look at the calendar since I have been writing. Too often I get caught up in thought. I concentrate on putting together a plot or finagling the details and making sure that they mesh and that the story makes sense.

            Writers meetings also intrude as well as appointments. Today I have a dental visit for an extraction. It has been a frequent fix since 1988. The dentist has suggested a crown and when I said I was ready to try it, he said that the root system would be too small to support the crown. To be truthful, there was much of the original tooth left to save. So, today out it will come.

            Since it is summer, I may have ice cream for my meals today.