Thursday, April 15, 2021

 

Cousins by the Dozens

It often seemed like were there hundreds of people who gathered at my grandparents Ray and Rebecca Miner’s house during many of the holidays or when it was time to cull the flocks of chickens, to butcher a bull or several hogs. At the holidays, every family brought pot luck dish while Becky baked bread and buns. She also cooked whatever meat Granddad and Gram decided to use: chicken, pork, but most often beef.

A story I’ve shared before was when the family gathered and Gram’s refrigerator couldn’t hold the cold meal offerings. The cold front porch was pressed into service. Gram made her usual presentation, orange Jell-o and sliced bananas. One year it was in a pink enamelware pot. One of the cousins mistook it for her pink potty at home and deposited some small tootsie rolls on it. Needless to say, the meal went on without Gram’s usual contribution.

Another cousin gathering that I recently wrote about happened at Easter. The cousins’ game of hiding real hard cooked and dyed eggs at the Easter egg hunt went afoul. One of the colored eggs fell down into a cinderblock pillar. It was unable to be retrieved. It rotted, rendering that portion of the porch inhabitable for several weeks. We were no longer allowed to hide real Easter eggs.

Like most farmhouses, Gram’s sitting parlor was off limits to children. It was the “good room” for adults only; more specifically for guests. Aunt Rachel investigated the boisterous sounds of children laughing. She found a jumble of kids in the parlor and scolded them, chasing them from the room. She was chagrined to find a sheep-faced Granddad Miner at the bottom of the pile.

Cousins had to walk carefully in the T.V. room. It was Granddad’s favorite spot to relax and at the side of his chair was a tin can spittoon. He chewed Cutty Pipe tobacco, a leftover habit from working in the coal mines. The tobacco juice reminded the miners not to swallow the coal dust. Occasionally a passing child would kick the can and make a mess on themselves and the floor. Gram almost always had a quilting frame set up in the T.V. room. She was able to make a hand stitched quilt wedding gift for each of the nearly 30 grandchildren.

Outside games included rolling down the hills beside the farmhouse. One side had obstacles of a large pine tree, a clump of lilacs, and a bush that had dusty red flowers that smelled like strawberries. The other side had a privet row of peonies at the bottom. Large family gatherings are a rarity these days and too often kids don’t even know their cousins.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

 

Back to Normal If I Ever Was Normal

This will be another busy week, much like weeks before my hospitalization. The major difference is much of the busyness is two doctors’ appointments. One physician will inject my knee with the rooster comb injections. The brand my doctor uses is Euflexxa, a type of hyaluronic acid. She tried injections of steroids with minimal effect. Because I had the steroid injection, it was necessary for me to wait six weeks before she could try the Euflexxa, then my heart problem and the cardiac surgery caused me to push the treatment back two weeks. It allowed me to get my wits about me and start to heal. There will be three injections, one each for three weeks. I’ve had some relief when walking and climbing the stairs with the first. We’ll see what happens after my third injection.

Later in the week I have an appointment with my endocrinologist. While I as in the hospital, they no longer gave me my oral diabetic medications. They only give insulin injections and my blood sugars were high. The reason the hospitals use only insulin is there are so many oral blood sugar medications, the pharmacies and nurses would have difficulty supplying them. The doctor wants to supplement my insulin with a newer med, an insulin enhancer. I’m hoping that he doesn’t, because my morning blood sugars have been much lower. Sometimes it’s below 100 and that scares me.

Tuesday, I visited a few of my high school classmates for lunch. Once per month we get together to eat, gossip, and laugh. We catch up with what is going on in our lives and reminisce about other classmates and things that happened while we were in high school. We talked about Walt’s, a small store halfway between high school buildings, the boys in swimming classes swam au naturale, and a few of our teachers.

I am hoping to do a short visit to the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society, to prove to them that I’m still alive and try to retrieve a few more articles for the next edition of the newsletter. As its editor, I’m not bragging, well maybe just I am a bit, but I think each newsletter is filled with interesting local histories and information. Wednesday evening I plan to attend prayer meeting at our church, and yes, I have been driving locally.

Later this week, I want to attend a school presentation of Cinderella. Two of my granddaughters have roles in the production. What a wonderful way to top off a busy schedule. I just pray I have enough wind in my sails to outlast the week. So far I’ve managed to keep up with my morning walks.

Monday, April 12, 2021

 

Out and About

Up until the past few weeks, I’ve led a rather sedentary life; better said, I was a couch potato. Now with doctor’s orders, I’m walking at least 40 minutes each day. Most days closer to 30 minutes, since my pace has increased, and the distance I walk is taking less time.

One path I take is along a dirt lane. It passes through an old farm, a home, and dead ends at another old farm. The first farm has free range chickens that cackle, scratch in the dirt, and scurry away as I approach. Their shapes and colors are myriad: copper, black, white, and gray. Some hues are flat while others are iridescent. There are roosters with their red combs and wattles, chubby hens, and even a few that wear a topknot of feathers. Several barn cats eye me warily. Farther along, I pass under several tall hemlocks, then pass by a house where a dog often barks at my passing. Closer to the dead end farm house and barn, I’ve seen a roly-poly ground hog. It hustles into the woods as I approach.

 The other route I walk is on a Macadam road. There’s less chance for me to stumble than on the other graveled, stony pathway. I try to walk early before the neighbor’s three dogs are out. The smallest looks like a terrier mix, the middle is a cocoa brown lab, and the third is a huge brindle mastiff. They sound the alarm. Most times the owners have to call out to settle them. I’m safe; the owners say there’s an electric fence keeps them from joining me.

The road has a slightly steeper incline. I take my time. When I mentioned this walkway to my rehabilitation nurse, she said I should stay on the level, but I said, “This is western Pennsylvania. It’s almost impossible to find a straight road let alone a flat one.”

Along this roadway, the blooming wild cherry trees almost form an ivory lace canopy over dark green tangles of mountain laurel and young long needled pines. A movement caught my eye. A deer appears as a gray-brown shadow that silently disappears into the laurel and pine tangle. It was only seen for an instant.

I turn from the road onto another dirt lane that leads past an abandoned saw mill. Small piles of weathered lumber line the path. Just beyond the lumber piles is a long open grassy area beneath power lines. I walk in the lush grass until the slope becomes too steep and I return home. As I return home, I’m serenaded by songs of many birds; robins, sparrows, wrens and even a mocking bird.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Harrisburg Home of Inefficiency

I made a resolution about the time I retired that I wasn’t going to leave my house if I was grumpy, because no one wants to deal with a grumpy old man. Because of my open heart surgery, I have been relegated to living inside my house for nearly four weeks and having to sever my ties of independence. The forced isolation has caused an increase in my grumpiness. I don’t know how much the isolation fuels the grumpiness, but smaller things lately will set me off more than they would have when I was able to gallivant the around countryside when I deemed it necessary.

One example, for many years, I’ve erroneously received jury duty summons from Westmoreland County Courthouse. And for years I’ve written a note explaining that I wasn’t a resident of Westmoreland County. I am living in Fayette County.

This time when I received their request that I join them for a “courtship,” I bristled. What is wrong with these people? Westmoreland Community College can figure it out, why can’t they? I was miffed and filled out the questionnaire listing all the reasons I wasn’t eligible for their draft, but because I was exceedingly GRUMPY I decided to show them I was upset. The outside of the summons said “Do not staple or glue.” I didn’t. I encased the entire form with cellophane tape. It became a paper mummy in a cellophane sarcophagus..

Tuesday I received another letter from Westmoreland County saying, “If I wished to be excused, I needed to produce and submit a note from my physician.” ARGH !!! I planned to call and rip someone up one side and down the other, but I bit my tongue, took a deep breath, and dialed the number. I was connected to a very courteous and helpful lady. I explained my dilemma and my frustration at receiving these unnecessary summonses. I further explained because of my advanced age and the aggravation of my sciatica nerve problem from sitting on the oak benches and chairs at the Fayette County Courthouse, I’ve been permanently excused in Fayette County.

She understood and when I said, “WCCC can tell if I’m a resident of Westmoreland or Fayette, surely the government should be able to do so.” She explained further that the list for jurors emanated from Harrisburg. The light went on. No wonder things were so messed up. Bureaucracy has again  raised its ugly head. The clerk said she would take care of the problem and remove me from the list. It’s strange when I returned my other summons stating that I wasn’t a resident of Westmoreland County that someone wouldn’t have removed my name earlier, but what can we expect from a bureaucracy?

 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

 

It Seems Like a Dream

It has been less than a month since I had my triple bypass open heart surgery and much of it seems like a dream. The time I am faced with the reality is when I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and see the zipper looking scar in the center of my chest. Looking back, I had little to do with the decisions for my open heart surgery. The first indication of the journey that lay ahead was at my primary care physician’s office. I was there for follow up over the Christmas holiday. She’d finished her examination and was on her way out of the room when I nonchalantly asked, “I have one question. Why can I shovel snow for half an hour with no problem, but when I walk the 35 yards to my mailbox do I get chest tightness?” She came back into the room saying, “You haven’t had a stress test since 2016 and I think you should have another one.”

Her office scheduled it and I failed miserably. Three minutes and forty seconds on the treadmill caused me midsternal chest pain. The failed test led t a cardiac catheterization with possible stent insertions. As I lay there on the table, my cardiologist showed me the films and said I needed to make a decision. He could put in six to eight stents, but they would probably re-occlude because of my diabetes or he could recommend open heart surgery. I had a healthy heart and he suggested the latter. As I lay there his warning to me was that I needed to make the decision right then. He couldn’t in all good consciousness allow me to leave the office without making the decision.

Again I chose the latter and was admitted, having surgery on the eighth of March. My family usually shies away from major decisions in March. Nineteen years ago on the twenty-forth of March, my wife Cindy passed away and on the third anniversary of her death, my mom Sybil Miner Beck died.

I didn’t have much of a choice left to me. I capitulated to the idea that I was no longer superman. The surgery and my recovery have gone well. It is hard to believe so much has happened since then. A flurry of visiting nurses, therapists, and doctors’ appointments has sped by in a rapid sequence. I still chafe at the restrictions placed upon me, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t pushed the envelope. I am walking forty minutes each day, dragged baskets of clothes to the basement and washed them, and even drove my car to church Sunday morning and evening. I am still living, so I must be living the dream.