Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So our first Motor Home Rally comes to an end; it was a fun different experience here in Gillette, WY sponsored by Fleetwood Motor Coach. Over 800 from all over the country gathered. We would attend another depending where it would be held. But I will not volunteer again. There is enough to do. We met many fun folks and some not so fun. Here are some of my observations:

People are funny. Today at the feedback session for the Fleetwood owners of Class A's many complained and wanted features that are available. Their problems were that they purchased cheaper models (Bounders) and wanted deluxe features which we enjoy on our Southwind and others do on their Pace Arrows, Revealations, etc.

People who do not drink wine should not be in charge of selecting the wine for cocktail hours. I was horrified to find the cheapest wines being poured from a box. There are many drinkable box wines., but what did these people offer? Chablis and Burgundy by Inglenook! Rot gut! I would not even cook with that. Who has ever heard of Chablis in this day of Chardonnay & Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc?

People cannot read. Though it was clearly advertised as a women's RV driving school for $65, men enrolled too. Some then argued about the cost which was supposed to be prepaid with registration. That was quite an experience for me. Driving a 40' diesel; primarily spending 2 hours backing up through S curve maneuvers again and again. This was my first ever experience behind the wheel and I had to back up! I, who will drive 10 miles out of my way to avoid backing up my SUV! My instructor was a nice gal from Applegate, CA who drives school bus in Rocklin, CA. Small world. I did it though and never hit a cone! The point was to use the side convex mirrors.Not for nothing was this course called Boot Camp! Me, I just want to go forward! That was not the deal (or should I say ordeal). The instructor said if you can back up the rest is easy. Well for perspective, our motor home is not a diesel, so the air brakes were another story; engaging and releasing the parking brake was a challenge in itself. My 91 year old uncle Carl got quite a kick out of hearing about my experience! I had to hear and was expected to absorb a lot about mechanical functions, which glazes my eyes over. Rolls right over me like water off a duck's back! The instructor said, "well it's good to know." I said, "Not for me. That's Jerry's job." She said "He might need help sometime." I assured her it would not be from the likes of me. I explained that I married a man with technical mechanical expertise; it has worked for me for 42 years and I intend to not mess with success. Besides I just don't get it, have 10 thumbs, and think the way to fix anything is with a hammer. BTW she showed us how to check tires with a hammer--that was my favorite part. I inherit hammeritis from my grandpap; use a hammer! Steve and Jerry would shudder when they saw me with a hammer in my hand. Give it a good pound, that's my philosophy! I left with a whole new respect for Jerry and other good RV drivers. It is not something I'll want to take over; leave the driving to him!

We met Norm and Gordy from Vancouver, BC. They were long time friends, traveling together because one's wife had just returned from an Alaskan cruise and didn't want to go on this trip. We learned that Gordy's wife has Alzheimers an his son is battling cancer. He is carrying a heavy load. Norm wanted to get Gordy away for relief and relaxation. Then he asked if I would send Gordy a card later on simply saying something like "Gordy it was good to see you at the rally! Hope you come to another one!" And Norm said, "please don't sign it! It will drive him nuts!" You get the idea they were fun! Gordy had never heard of sloppy Joe's, so that was all new to him. While he educated us about octopus and how they grow very large before they breed.

Jerry was in his element talking to all the technicians and honchos from Fleetwood. Fleetwood has filed Chapter 11 and of course many RV owners are concerned. But we learned the motor home division has been purchased by American Industrial Partners a investment type firm which only buys up companies who mfg. and do business in the USA. They have holdings in firms which mfg. school buses, trucks, etc. Sounds like a good direction for Fleetwood. Remains to be seen where corporate headquarters will be. Good chance it will remain in Dectur, IL. Not a snowball's chance of CA as those attendees from CA hoped. What company in their right mind would venture to CA with heavy taxation and over regulation? Those who remain in CA know nothing else and cannot understand it. Years ago I heard "mediocrity knows nothing above itself." That's CA.

It has been a week where I almost fully escaped from geriatric worries. One series of phone calls regarding my aunt from the hospice care which set me into motion prevailing upon her good neighbors to help out. But otherwise I did get a break. This must be the purpose of vacations. Renew & refresh.

We heard tonight that the Rally is on the web at RVbusiness.com Check it out.

We looked at many (some more some less expensive than ours) motor homes in the exhibits, for sales, and I did not see one that I liked any better than ours. I think our decor inside and out is just perfect. Our layout is better than most. Jerry found nothing to stimulate any upgrade or trade up desires either. So Hooray for contentment with what we have. Here"s to more miles ahead....roll on!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dandelion volunteers

I volunteered us to help out here at the rally when I sent our registrations. It would be kind and a way to meet folks! Yesterday I talked with a retired Army Col. & wife who are from GA but who RV full time. I was working at the "welcome wagon" where packets are given to the arriving RV'ers! He laughed "mam., I know you were not in the Army...else y'all would know not to ever volunteer!" No I wasn't but Jerry was Air Force and said the same thing. So there is another benefit to military service--a lifetime learned lesson to not step forward.

Today Jerry has parking director assignment here on the top of the hill where the motor homes will live for this event. Today it's beautiful clear blue sky & sunny butthe wind is blowing. We know it's WY where the wind seems to blow all the time. At least that's been our experience in our many trips to and through WY.

What a small world it is. He met a former customer from his Newcastle, Ca shop! There are several rigs here from CA and this guy was one of them. Also talked with another man from Marysville, CA.

Yesterday's cool rain translated to a trip to Wal Mart to get a windbreaker or some kind of cheap jacket. Listening to him and others I packed very light this trip! And, well you know what happens whatever I don't bring along I need! I brought only a very light sweat-hoodie. It had been warm in MN and warm here--it's summer. But be prepared is the watchword. I was a bit chilly at times.

Funny how in retirement I have become more acquainted with Wal-mart than I was with Nordstrom's during my career. Well maybe not quite. I did have a personal shopper at Nordstrom's. Traveling in the motor home, Wal Marts have become my store of choice--that's not quite as bad as a woman I talked to yesterday who drools when she spots a Dollar Store! Her husband said, "well she gets so little excitement in life now that I humor here by pulling off!" These men!

But the Wal Mart here in Gillette had nothing--not a single sweatshirt, not a jacket, zippo! Very small clothing section in a 24 hour super center yet! Phooey! But all is not lost, a Kmart is next door. Same thing--tank tops, some jr. clothes, capris, nothing with sleeves and very limited women's clothing. So now I wonder what happens when a woman from Gillette wants clothes? Does she drive to Casper? This will be my question of the trip. Maybe they order everything online. Who knows but I will investigate this curiosity. (BTW I found a great lightweight all purpose jacket at the Fleetwood vendor shop here at the rally. Snatched it up at $35; it's a Columbia which I've seen for $65 retail! And it will remain in the motor home! It matches the color of our rig. How cool is that?)

Today though sunshine abounds and I am ok with the shorts and tops I have. Which brings me to the dandelions. Volunteers were given free t-shirts and asked to wear them when on duty so we could be identified as such. Hysterically not my style--mens' type t-shirts in bright yellow with the WY logo in a black circle on the front left--and 3" black capital letters all across the back--"VOLUNTEER' Standing around with others we look like a field of dandelions! Ahh but let's just go along--ok I'll don it on duty. Then the next bit of humor, our coordinator announces, "please wear your tshirts to the banquet so you can be identified and thanked!" NOT NOT NOT, nyet, nunca, no way. I will tie it around my waist but I am not wearing this thing to two dinners! And Jerry, well he's not a tshirt guy either--short sleeve snap western cotton shirts are his leisure attire of choice.

So we will have to have our pictures taken as blooming dandelions. And I too will adopt the military lesson--don't volunteer!

PS I wrote this yesterday AM and then the wifi connection booted me out!It said, "..the maximum # of subscribers has been reached..." Then off I went! Well, I thought how rude, I WAS HERE FIRST!! Why not just deny access to someone trying to sign it. All's well as the draft was saved! I am glad I do not have to reconstruct these brilliant thoughts!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We are in Gillette, WY at the Fleetwood Rally

If you have followed me on Facebook, you have had the day by hour update of our travels. So here we be with about 800 (by tomorrow) other Fleetwood, motor home owners at the first ever Fleetwod sponsored rally. And we learned that this Fleetwood sponsored event is despite Fleetwood being in bankruptcy. But, an investment company from New York, American Family has bought the motor home operation. And a kind bankruptcy judge agreed to allow
Fleetwood to continue to sponsor this event!

We made our reservations in January and thought, we have never been to one, always wanted to..so. Keeping our fingers crossed that life does not toss in more of those flying monkeys that seem to upset and twist our plans.

We drove through South Dakota and I don't remember it ever being this lovely and green and lush. We have been through this area before, but this trip was notable. Crossing the Missouri River was breathtaking--that is how it must have struck the early pioneers. Yet today wonderful bridges span the crossing enabling us to drive over the clear blue waters. Breathtaking. Why travel across the world when we have such magnificent sites here in this country? How many have seen these wonders?

How in the 1800's with covered wagons did they cross these rivers? Driving through this area restores my sense of wonder about our American western heritage and history. Last night we stayed in a pasture set up for RV's by a local SD rancher, outside Wall, SD. Electric hook ups only but that beats Wal-Mart or the road side rest, and the cost $5! Quiet and we rested before heaving onward to our destination this morning. We were the only RV there despite seeing many on the roads. Maybe they went on to the Black Hills and opted for a more luxurious setting. It worked for us.

Near Ellsworth AFB there is a lot of growth and expansion from when we were last in this area--maybe 5 years ago. And Rapid City, SD has grown tremendously! Lots of new housing.

Gillette, WY is an area of contrasts. Mansions dot the hillsides here and there. And downward, trailer homes, modulars run down. Yet continue along and there are huge developments of what looks like thriving tract homes. Neighborhoods in growth. This is the west at it's best, no mistake. Wide rolling lush green hills, cattle grazing, and horses. Moreover, this is coal country and we noticed many train box cars loaded full of coal headed eastward to produce energy. Many individual solitary oil wells too are pumping that black gold from the ground.

Tomorrow we will be engaged in helping register arrivals and directing traffic of motor homes o appropriate parking spots. Motor homes are packed tightly here at the Camplex, a magnificent area with several RV sites. In addition there are horse barns (hey it's WY!) and rodeo arenas, a horse racing track circles another area and huge buildings where the vendors will exhibit all we would want in the RV world and more. The city of Gillette has all one could want--Wal Mart, gas stations, restaurants of any kind, etc. And it is 5 miles from here.

Today I learned something very exciting! I'm registered to take the women's RV driving school! So this eve at a gathering the women were all a twitter! "Are you taking the driving school?" "Yes I am." "Do you know we are going to drive a Heritage?" " A what?" I ask. "You don't know what a Heritage is?" "No I sure do not, I barely know what we have.." So the talk goes I learn that the Heritage is the TOP of this Fleetwood line. A coach worth about $900,000! So I say, "Well if they teach me well, I'll just drive it on back home!" Imagine me driving a nearly $1 million dollar vehicle! Now Jerry who breathed a heavy sigh of relief that I would not be driving our coach at this school has turned a bit green with envy. He knows what a Heritage is and just looks at me! Maybe he wishes he had signed up for the women's RV driving school!

Now this eve I am off for a lap around the complex. I wish we had brought my trike but I will be on foot! After we take some photos, I'll post.

Friday, June 19, 2009

JUNE 20, 1944 2nd. Lt. Lewis S Ball


That's my dad and mom's wedding photo taken at Maxwell Field AL, June 15, 1943. Little did they suspect it would only be a bit over a year later when they would not meet again this side of the clouds. They had met in PA at some Polish family wedding and after that Lou began to come to the house a lot. Helen dropped out of high school to follow him once he had been commissioned. Their marriage angered Anna Ball, his mother who said, "oldest son supposed to marry first." Little did they suspect he would never live to see his only child, me. Louie, that's what they called him, disappeared with his plane and crew somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on the way back to Charleston, SC. I have read all I can find about the Bermuda triangle.

June 20 is the day before Father's Day this year. Father's Day always tormented me, I always felt strange pangs. I was raised in the home with my mother's 2nd husband, not a nice man, whom she married when I was not 3 years old. I used to fantasize that somewhere my dad was alive and would come back. Likely that fantasy was planted in my head by my grandmother, Anna Ball,my father's mother. She went to her grave believing that her Louie would someday come back home. She told me in her broken Polish accented English, " I never give up hope." I had very limited contact with my father's family though they lived very close. This was because of my mother, I know.

My Father Lewis S Ball was born April 3, 1922 to Frank and Anna Ball in Harwick, PA. I have memorialized him on the American World War II Orphans website. with words from one of his pilot training logs......"he holds the sky..." Without AWON I would not have searched for and known as much as I do today. But then you can read that story elsewhere on this blog. And you can check out my dad's website at AWON, our fathers pages at http://www.awon.org/awball.html

65 years ago, June 20, 1944 at 9:00PM started my mother's nightmare. Pregnant with me, 20 years old, and waiting in a small rented room in Charleston, SC, Helen began to wonder why Lou had not returned. Probably at a briefing--they did that with those flights. And there was always something that held the men up. The flight left Charleston for the Bahamas at 08:30 June 20th. He was a "new" B-24 pilot, appx. 84 hours total flight time through his "quick" pilots training with many others. It was wartime and training was accelerated. They evaluated Lou,"ready to command the B-24. Alert. Aggressive" Aviation was in it's early stages and instruments were rough at best. Today one could not pilot a Cessna with only 84 hours total time!

This would have been their nearly last stateside training flight. Lou and his combat crew 193, 113th group, 400th Bombadier group, 1st Air Force would soon head for Europe. Lou knew it would be England. He feared they would not return. In his gut he knew as did the other B-24 pilots, this was a bad business. Lou shared this fear only with Henry, his baby brother back home, swearing Henry to never tell that "your big brother is finally afraid. But if anything happens, remember that your big brother trusts in Heaven and God and you must too."

I learned this from Uncle Henry in 2002 at his & Aunt Pearl's 50th wedding anniversary in Grass Valley, CA. Uncle Henry was true to his vow to his big brother, he never said a word. That evening at their wonderful celebration my Uncle Henry hugged me and said, "Patty you are my only relative here tonight." I kidded with him and said, "Not so, there's Pearl and Larry and Diane and...." But he said, "no you know what I mean you are the only real Ball." As a present to Pearl and Henry who insisted NO Gifts, I'd copied photos of my dad in uniform with his parents and Henry as a boy when my dad was home on leave. Had these framed and mounted into a nice display which brought tears to Uncle Henry as he looked at his long lost brother. Larry Ball has that display today. Fitting because Larry, Henry's son resembles his Uncle Louie a lot, especially Henry said, in attitude, the kidding around, the love of family. That was my dad according to Uncle Henry. Everyone loved Louie! Just like they all loved Grandpap Frank Ball.

I've wondered how much they briefed the stateside B-24 pilots about D-Day. He surely knew something BIG was up in Europe. But here he was, one more maneuver to the Bahamas in the clunker B-24. Oh how he'd wanted to fly those P-38 fighters. Wasn't that every pilots dream? How did a boy from Harwick get into this mess! By choice, yes he'd volunteered. Oh his mom was so angry with him. After all she already had a son in the war, his older brother, Eddie. That was enough. But not for Louie! A post card which he never mailed to her reads, "don't worry Mom. Everything will be all right. We just have to trust in God." What faith, yes Lou was a devout Catholic boy. He'd been selected for pilot training after basic and his time as radio operator. How thrilled he was then. How happy. He'd made it big time!

Helen never knew of his fear but she knew he would soon ship out so she was in Charleston. She wanted as much time with him as she could get. He didn't have near the time to himself these days that he used to have in pre-pilot days. Back then he even had time to take photos of the other men. Photos I have today. No time for that now. Lou was ever consumed, busy with training, school, flying. I have some of his pilot study notes. They are in his big scrapbook which I pulled together to take with me to AWON conferences. It's a book that keeps growing!

But fate was cruel, that night 20:00 June 20, 1944 they radioed, "low on fuel, heading for Jacksonville...." Combat Crew 193 lost radio contact, they never returned from Morris Field, Bahamas. Were they near Jacksonville? Were they off course? Did the B-24 suddenly run out of fuel? Was it such an old clunker that there was a fuel leak, slow but not noticeable until critical? Or, were they flying low along the coast, as instructed, and did a German U-boat, surface at the same time. It would have sighted the plane and that would have been the instant end. I have several letters of detail about the search. Life rafts were dropped but found empty. But had those rafts been in the right area? How far off couse were they? Too many unanswered questions.

The young wife waited, but the men at the door were not Lou. Search planes and navy boats took off from Charleston. Never a trace found of Combat Crew 193, the 9 men (it was a training flight) and for me, I lost the father I'd never know. I'd enter this world in November, 5 months later. I have missed him all my life.

I watched the news and ceremonies at Normandy this year. I am always overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude for those who defended our freedoms. I have disdain for those today who trade our freedoms for socialism and who have a cowardice attitude while promoting talking, for those who blabber about our use of torture! Just imagine what a county we would have had if so many brave men like my father had not paid with the ultimate sacrifice! Imagine that just as I often imagine how my life might have been so very different if my dad had made it through.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another read only worth mentioning

East of the Mountains by David Guterson

I tortured myself months back trying to read this book which I picked up somewhere, enticed that it was a hardback and even autographed by the author. That's most of the positive in it. It proves that an author who writes one good book may not do so again. I loved his "Snow Falling on Cedars", but this "East of the Mts." does not make the cut.

I struggled through page 230 of its 276 pages before shoving it onto the floor near my night time reading chair months back. I found it yesterday while vacuuming. Maybe it's a man's book written by one for them? The story line sounded interesting. Presented as a narration by Ben Givens, retired heart surgeon, new widower, who learns he has terminal colon cancer. Ben takes off into the Columbia Basin of central Washington state to avoid suffering further from the cancer and end his life. Well it doesn't happen. His trials and encounters on this journey were just bizarre and tortuous. He has flash backs to his military service days as well. I found it boring. Too boring to remember.

Some decent writing in this tale of woe. A reference to the heart...page203, .."in knowing the heart in this cold way, he had lost all innocence about it. It was not that he didn't believe in love, but first he was a scientist, a physician, and a man of reason. He'd manipulated the hearts of human beings and he thought he understood that when we speak of love, we speak of something transitory, something gone when we go. The heart for Ben was tangible, and nothing tangible remains."

This reference to sadness on page 206, "He felt removed from the world. Suffering suffused everything." Well I've felt sadness certainly the past year. But this book was a drag. Disappointment was what I felt reading this first edition, autographed by the author and published in 1999. It will be donated to our library book shelf or sale.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Compare the baby pics



My baby picture


Received an email last month from my cousin Carol who snapped a photo of the photo that hangs in her home of my dad as a baby with his oldest brother, Eddie, who was her dad.

I just love how cherubic they both look.

If my dad is about 1 year old in this the photo must have been taken about 1923. I just posted it onto Facebook and then the thought came, all my life I've been told that I look like my dad. So here I compare a baby picture of mine (Sepia pink) with his. I am not a year old in my photo, only many months or a few, but the face and the eyes. Oh yes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bars in MN

Sometimes I think I am a stranger in a strange land living here in MN. Last night a friend from church called and asked me to make some bars for a funeral service at our church on Friday.

This makes me laugh out loud and she wonders what's funny. Well, I am a great cook and baker, but bars?! I'd never heard of bars until I moved here. When these women, many of whom are tea totalers started taking about bars I could not figure it out. To me "bars" are a place where they serve adult beverages. But no, here it is a type of cookie , baked in a pan, that can be cut and eaten with fingers. I told her that is one thing I have not the slightest clue how to make. I confessed that I never heard of bars anyplace else in my life until arriving here--not in PA and certainly not all my life in CA. I would be happy to make cookies or a cake, but she says no, they requested bars. She being a life long Minnesotan, in her 70's and hardly ever venturing outside the state cannot believe others don't know about bars.

Well, who am I to complain? I got out of a task by explaining I don't know how to make these things. She asks if I never made rice krispy bars and I say, "no, we made those in mounds or balls." I do make lovely scrumptious Vienna Bars, but they have a meringue topping and are not eaten with fingers but are enjoyed on a plate with a fork.

Perhaps I am just totally undomesticated? Throughout my career years I might occasionally bake something, cookies or a cake or even cup cakes, but most often I'd contract through a local bakery. Everyone was just as happy. Especially me when time was more important to me than the minor cost of buying from the bakery.

This causes me to laugh about something else--I don't know when I joined the list of the funeral ladies? That's the women who make things for the funeral lunches at our church. After all, I am hardly part of their in crowd, being a transplant and all. I'm not invited to their ladies long established circle groups and mostly I avoid their coffee cliques after early service. Yet I have been asked to contribute to funerals. I guess one does not have to be lifelong local to do that. Sometimes I haven't a clue who's died. Other times I've not been in town or not reachable when they call to solicit. Since they can't wait to catch up with me to enlist my skills I usually avoid the duty. So once again I have escaped funeral duty. Only this time it's thanks to the bars.

That's a good thing now because I can barely keep up with my gardening, blog, facebook and readings and don't need to master the making of bars. :)

PS: Sunday's paper, June 14 had a page of bar recipes. How coincidental?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Two more reads

Growing Up With Clemente by Richard Peterson. Published by Kent State University Press.
I am not a baseball fan but growing up in PA I was a fan of the Pirates; we went to games occasionally and back then they were not the best team in the league. But when they won the pennant that was a big deal. And everyone knows Roberto Clemente! I had this book with me at the Legion's Blood drive in April and the nurse taking my blood commented, "oh Clemente! Are you a baseball fan?" To which I replied, "no but this book is a memoir of a time and place in Pittsburgh, PA." I was surprised the young man knew Roberto Clemente!

Last year, I read an articles by Richard Peterson in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, nostalgia about the days of 'yore in Da' Burgh! I wrote a follow up letter of my own memories of growing up there and what I try to hold onto. This is a memoir of his boyhood in the south Side of Pittsburgh in the late 50's; then his journey as a gas station boy at Hoders; a big time move up to stock boy at Gimbels Department store; and finally his realization that he would need education. Where he ends up is professor emeritus of English at southern Illinois University. Though New Kensington, PA is outside of 'da Burgh, there are some similarities to the times of the steel mills, the industrial waste, and the ethnic communities. I especially enjoyed his reference to his mother who always wanted him to come back home to Pittsburgh to live; he never did.

Some descriptions of his sandlot days were not really interesting reading to me. But I did enjoy the book over all and recommend it to my PA friends, especially the guys. He tells how he read in literature how one can't go home again but how his father's death brought him an emotional shock that made him realize what he'd left behind. I can relate to what he felt when he did return to Pittsburgh to visit. He quotes Norman Mailer, "To return to an old neighborhood and discover that it has disappeared is a minor woe for some but it is close to a physical catastrophe for others.." So because I share with Peterson fond memories of a better time in the good old days of thriving New Kensington, I enjoyed his memoir.

"The Truth about Hillary" by Edward Klein. I read this last year and did not get it posted to my reads on this blog. This trip to PA I found it still stored under the bed, in our motor home, so I retrieved it and include it here. Well I found this interesting about Hillary Clinton and yet I did not learn anything really new about her. This was something I thought I'd read during the campaigns. Just in case she made it and we know now she did not. A comical passage is the young Hillary about 11years old who punches a boy in the nose and flattens him. Does this mean I have a wild streak? I don't know I just laughed. The author uses that as an early example of how she will not take anything from anyone. This book includes many stories of her as a real bully, cheat and manipulator. Later with Bill's philanderings I wonder if she ever tried to bloody his nose? This book as many others shows that Hillary is usually right in the midst calling the shots and not an innocent blind sided person. The book also speaks repeatedly of her cursing and very less than lady like language. Again not a surprise to anyone who has paid any attention to the Clintons. It is a mystery to me that the Obama camp bested her and Bill last election. This is an interesting take on Hillary. Not a book I'll keep on my shelf even though it was a first edition.

Latest photo of my dad


I love this photo of my dad with the P-38 fighter. Those are the planes that he really wanted to fly but ended up as a B-24 pilot as they needed those in WWII and the Army Air Corp did not offer planes or career of choice. Things were different. My cousin, Carol, retrieved this and some others of nose art from her mother's home in PA and sent them to me so it was like a wonderful Christmas present. I looked through his pilot logs and can surmise that this was taken at Dorr Field, FL, approximately July 1943. You know the story of my dad, flight disappeared en route from Bahamas to Charleston SC, June 20, 1944 about five months before I would enter this planet.

With the recent commemorations about D-Day and the celebrations of 65 years, I think about my dad. Here he was a young pilot and knew from a briefing that soon he and his combat crew 193 would depart Charleston, SC for England. The Air support was needed. I wonder how much they were briefed stateside about the D-Day operations. He knew for sure that something big was up and this is when he began to feel the fear.

Recently on our AWON website I was struck by something a friend shared which her father had written to his parents. How similar to what my dad told his "baby brother." How different it was in WWII with sincere faith, devoutness to country and God and patriotism. I shared with Brenda that my father said nearly the same thing in a post card I have which he'd not mailed to his mother shortly after he had enlisted against her wishes. In 1942 my father wrote to his mother, "Mom, it will all be God's will and we trust for the best no matter what." His faith was that strong.

I have clung onto similar thoughts through out my life at many times when things looked the most dismal. I still hold onto these words today remembering that I had a father with very deep faith. I would not want to disappoint his spirit by losing mine, no matter what!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Resilience

It's been a grey dreary day with a nice drizzling, soaking rain. what made the day warmer was a nice afternoon visit by Jerry's cousin, Don and wife Eileen, from Iowa. They called last week and said they would be in town for a surprise birthday party for a long time friend of Don's. We said, come on over and good to see you. I made some fresh cookies and blueberry muffins and we spent the afternoon sipping wine and just yakking. We enjoyed the visit today and had Jerry's mother here as well. Though she mostly sat there and said little. That's a good thing because what she has to say makes little sense and or is usually out of focus with what's being discussed--at 92 she doesn't hear, has not worn her hearing aids for years and lives in her own little world.

Later after they all left we took Jerry's other cousin and friend out for dinner at a local supper club in the drizzly rain. After a nice dinner and a warm car coming home, blankie in the back seat, I fell asleep until we arrived in the driveway. I felt like a child lulled to sleep.

Just yesterday I was relieved at my annual checkup when the doctor said I was in great shape, all A OK and to keep doing whatever I was doing. Slight arthritis beginning stages in my right knee which is what may bother me some nights when I get to bed. But nothing to worry about he said after taking an x-ray. I told my doctor about our May on the geriatric merry go round in PA and he was amazed too that I am showing no signs of stress. Blood pressure, cholesterol, pulse, etc all good. Never mind the extra wrinkles I have noticed creeping along my jaws! He said, "Your body seems to deal quite well with stress." That is good news and I have to wonder if that is from my 34 year career of conditioning in the state governmental bureaucracy? Somehow I cope better than I think? Or do I really blow it off? I am truly amazed because I did not work out in PA and that is my stress reliever. The most I did was walk and trot mile laps around the RV park campground in the evenings. At times, I think, glug, glug, glug, going under for the 3rd dip (aka drowning) but it seems not so. I am thankful for my resilience. By the way since Dr. Franta said, keep doing whatever you are doing, I said, "I'm going home and having two glasses of wine!" He smiled because he does encourage the use of wine and in fact is a wine producer of limited varietals himself. "Just don't over do it" he says as he leaves the exam room.

My aunt still lingers in the nursing home and at 67 pounds how long can she last? But her heart keeps beating. I hate waiitng for death to come but that is the answer in her case. And no one can predict it, the doctors say only a couple months? Really? And my 91 year old uncle Carl is on a rip at his home.

Yesterday involved a series of phone calls with him, his neighbors, his nephew who is to check in on him. Cell phone minutes are burnign up! My nephew sent a crew to mow his grass so maybe that will suspend his insistence on "I need to buy a new lawn mower." That's his latest fantasy of the past few days. And now he does not recall that I brought his checkbook home with me to MN so that I can pay his bills from here. Reportedly he got a late water bill and claims he wrote a check out for it and gave it to the personal care aide who helps bathe him to mail at the post office. The frustration rises with me as we speak, "Uncle Carl you are supposed to set the bills aside and when Lowell comes over he will mail them to me!" "Uh huh " he replies to me and then goes merrily along to say, "Why pay double postage." To which I raise my voice and reexplain that "Uncle Carl you do not remember things and this was the agreement. This is how you are going to be able to stay in your own home--With help from the nurses and aides and letting me watch your finances." "Uh huh" he replies and then in the next breath, ""I can take care of myself you know, Patty!" "Uncle Carl, you are having trouble remembering things, you are 91 and this is the agreement!" I shout in desperation. This is truly talking to the wall.

Later that evening Lowell says Carl told him he has a checkbook which he has hidden and will not tell anyone where it is. So on Monday I'll be calling the water company to learn if indeed he did write a check or if he merely mailed their bill back to them, which he has done in the past. And I thought I had this system all figured out, stop gaps in place and life would be semi normal! Well I thought too much. We have only been back home a week and the fun continues! Yet I know I have done my utmost and somehow this old guy is not going to get the best of me. I know too that the social workers are correct that I will have to wait for a crisis to get him into a personal care home which he does not want. I only hope that crisis is not too terrible. Lowell says, "You know Uncle Carl always has been very stubborn and hard headed." Oh yes, I know. The entire family--a bunch of hard headed Polacks! But I'm one too and surely I have the edge at being younger and well, more informed. We will see.

I reflect back to what my friend said in Pa, "Choose your battles with him." And Jerry says, "You can only do so much." Ahh those two glasses of wine!

Today I got a great gift in the mail of postcards from and to my father and some air plane photos my cousin had found at her mother's home. all remnants from 1942 and beyond. What treasures to brighten the dreary day. At least I had positive experiences in PA too. I must refocus and look for the best--keeping my eyes toward the sunshine. This too shall pass! (won't it?)