Friday, August 21, 2015


Official autumn is still a month away. But yesterday—except for the lack of bright, multi-colored leaves—could have easily been mistaken for a day in late-September or early-October. 

The sky was high and that same intense fall blue. Temperatures early in the morning began in the mid-50s˚F and never made it above the mid-70s˚F at their afternoon highest. And throughout, a gusty breeze regularly rattled the treetops and caused the occasional phalanx of puffy white clouds to go scudding across the sky at a rapid pace.

I spent the day, as I've spent almost every day for a few weeks now, working on my cottage remodeling. Making hay while the sun shines, as my mother used to say. I'm almost finished with the hallway walls and doors, and next will start on the kitchen. 

But time is running out on my being able to set up the sawhorses to cut, fit, and finish things outdoors. Having no garage, my makeshift workshop is at the mercy of the weather. Too soon I'll have to begin cutting firewood…and after that bad weather will likely quell any major carpentry for another year. 

A young groundhog—likely the same one whose photo I posted with its mother some weeks back—has decided to bivouac under the front deck. Every so often he ventures into an overgrown bed of hostas I've planted under the doorway box elder—sometimes startling me with his piercing alarm whistle. An amazingly loud whistle when heard at close range. There's a good reason that in addition to groundhog, another common name for a woodchuck is whistlepig. 

Finally…yesterday evening, on a uncharacteristic whim, I decided to Google the names of several friends and family members I'd lost touch with over the years. I'd barely begun when the obituary for a first cousin popped up. The eldest of my Uncle Paul's two daughters, and a half-dozen years older than me, she'd passed away only a few days ago. Her funeral had been held that morning.

Though she and her family lived several hundred miles from here, I would have attended…but had no idea she was facing serious health issues. It's probably been ten years since the last time I stopped by her home in Michigan for a visit. 

But the fact such a sorry situation existed was as much my fault as anyone's. Once our parents died, we cousins—offspring of the original five brothers and three sisters—sort of went our separate ways. Not out of any animosity, simply more ennui and location. Those who lived close to one another stayed connected; the rest of us, scattered around the country from here to the West Coast, gradually drifted away from the communication fold. I don't have a single phone number, email address, or street address for anyone…and so far as I know, none of them have anything of mine. So they couldn't have easily contacted me if they'd tried—which they very well may have attempted. 

Alas, it was too late for me to even send flowers… 


Scott said...

Grizz: Oh, to have some your "autumnal temperatures." We're still stuck in the mid- to upper-80 muggies here in the northern Piedmont. We had a toad-strangler thunderstorm right around rush hour on Wednesday evening, and then last night (Thursday), we had two gully-washer torrential downpours (with appropriate thunder and lightning) at midnight and again at 2 a.m. I awoke to water in my basement. (It has to rain a LOT for me to get water in my basement, so I guess we got a lot of rain.) Despite the passage of a cold front, today is very humid and the humidity and warmth are supposed to continue through next week. I'll trade you for your unseasonable temperatures!

It's interesting that you commented about Googling your family. Earlier this week, I Googled a good friend from 30 years ago with whom I had lost contact. He was a gay man in a committed relationship whose partner had died of AIDS. I was wondering how he was doing. Nothing substantive came up on Google, so I paid a nominal sum for an Internet search, but it came up empty, too--just an old address from the time when we knew one another in Pittsburgh but nothing more. And, I know he's no longer living at that address. So, a completely unsatisfying exercise. For all I know, he may have died, too.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz - I, like Scott woukd love some cooler Autumn like days. It ias been thick with humidity here - sultry and quite unpleasant. I stay in the A/C so to avoid a heat related MS set back. I will know next week if the last round of antibiotics worked. The result of which will determine whether I spend our b'day/anniversary celebration on the 29th in the hospital on IV antibiotics or out for a lovely get away and out to dinner. Praying for the latter.

I so enjoy all of your remodeling projects and the diligence you set forth while also preparing for the months ahead and all that is required to hunker down for colder days.

Sorry to hear of your cousin that recently passed. And how such reminded you of those you have lost touch with. I understand so well. Sigh.......

Thank you for your supportive comment on Facebook about the issue with discrimination against those with disabilities. Not sure if you saw my latest post. One of the town officials emailed me and told me he has arranged for large golf carts to transport folks with a disability to and from the town beach and he offered to drive me personally. Skipp and I will be riding in a golf car tomorrow evening to the town beach so I, we, can see my sisters flash mob performance. Our voices were heard!!

Love to you my friend

Grizz………… said...


You can have your hot, muggy weather. Daytime high temps in the mid-70s˚F are plenty warm enough for me—in fact, I'd go for upper-60s˚F. Yesterday and today were both great—sunny, cool, dry. We have had lots of rain this summer, and rain days mean I can't get much carpentry work done. So days like today are what I need. Of course that's not to prevail come September. I'm in a rush to work as long every nice day as possible and get as much done as I can.

Between Google and Facebook, I've tracked down many of my friends from high school onward—guys and gals I'd lost track of, friends from the days when I played piano on the road, or the year I rodeoed, writer friends—just any number of people I once knew, spent time with, fished and hunted with, traveled with, liked, sometimes even loved. But during the last year I've also Googled and suddenly learned one of my best friends ever had died at 62…discovered a lovely lady and the wife of another friend had died unexpectedly at age 54…and, well, a couple of others. All gone. Dead without me knowing a thing until I pulled it up on the internet. Makes you hesitant to go looking, as I have this theory that many of us die when we simply can't endure any more grief and loss. So I hope your friend is still out there, healthy, strong, just a little lost to the digital world.

Moonmuser said...

Good morning, you rodeoing, traveling piano player, etc. etc. --- I'm off to take a photo this morning for the paper and hope that you, too, will get out and get some cool photos like your darling little "whistle pig" I love that name! I can change my screen background at work!

It is sad, I agree, when you can't find people even with all the ways we have now to find them. We had 14 first cousins who drifted apart when our grandmother died years ago. Some of us have connection with one or two each and my cousin Dan and I are trying to get them together right now in September. So far three are dead and five are committed to coming to this little soiree..three can't come as they've too far away and have numerous obligations., so at least we have a few.

Why don't you embark on a new adventure and live under the porch with the whistle pigs for awhile, like some people have tried living with wolf packs and learning their ways?! HAHA!

Grizz………… said...


Alas, my lovely, coolish, almost-autumnal weather must be enjoyed in its place—and its place for the moment (whoopie!) is here. You, on the other hand, have a not-too-distant ocean and its beach, which is some compensation. Would I trade? Uhh-h, probably not…unless my frantic fisherman doppelganger overruled. (Entirely possible.) But change will eventually come your way. Change is always the one thing we can all count on.

Don't know if my remodeling is being driven so much by diligence as desperation. So much to get done and so little time!

Thank you for your comment re. my cousin's passing…loss being another inevitable change.

And, yes, I did see that follow-up post (and commented). I'm so delighted your letter prompted a positive, problem-solving action. At least from the one politician; the other one just expected to be complimented for telling you his discrimination was for your own good, you would enjoy it, and then—being only cowardly and self-serving—shirked all responsibility by saying it would be up to others to do something. Fortunately his counterpart understood your need and her responsibility to serve, and quickly came up with an excellent fix to the situation. And all because of your letter! Way to go, gal!

John said...


Similar to growing out of contact, I find it simply amazing how many friends and family have drifted away since I have entered nursing care. In the little more than four years that I am no longer a self supporting individual, most of the people who were close to me have drained away. Nothing sudden or drastic as far as behavior is concerned, its just that the times between moments of contact have grown longer until finally the last one is whittled away to mere shavings and dust due to nothing more in common is shared. I realize that my surroundings are different from most people's experience. But my feelings, wishes and dreams are much the same as they had been before. No longer able to share trips involving shopping, long drives in the country, working on projects around home, reminiscing about those former times soon looses any binding social value, the sharing of which soon fails to bind people any longer.

It has been sad to experience this forced separateness and isolation. Even though i have a computer and an iPhone, plus great wi-fi available, contact is still very minimal - and I make all of the calls to reach out. My intellect and personality are still intact, but because I cannot stand or walk the general sense is that i am also bereft of other faculties also.

I have to say that because of my nursing home dwelling sojourn, I have met some interesting workers interested in furthering their own educational experiences, and these people have seen something in me that they recognize as wanting to further in their own lives. Often, during slow moments, one nurse aid or another will ask me what a certain word means, or why does something always happen in a particular way. Sometimes the discussions last long enough to cause unease at their being so long from the rest of their assigned duties. And yet the general expectation of the facility is that these new caregivers in my life are not to pay any visits during their own free time. Sometimes I feel as if I were infectious or maybe radioactive.

Either way there is a healing/ bonding component that seems to always be lacking, once one descends into the strange world of being partially alive, in nursing care.


Grizz………… said...


Well, just hie yourself off to take photos! Me, I'm heading to Lowe's to pick up trim material and paint. Then over to see Myladylove who manning her branch's PR booth at a cruise-in by Sam's—where I need to pick up some stuff for a cookout tomorrow. Then back here to work until dark or exhaustion, whichever comes first. Any photos I take will have to come to me.

Wolves and woodchucks are very different creatures. The former is restless, intelligent, complicated in its personality and behavior. The whistlepig is like a suburban couch potato who sits in front of the tube 24/7 watching sports. His only activity comes when he decides to stand up, scratch his backside, then shuffle off to the kitchen to check the fridge for more beer and snacks. I many not know everything about groundhogs, but I know enough—and trust me, they lead lazy, boring lives. As to joining them under the deck (and it is a deck, not a porch) there's about 6 inches of clearance. Do you really think my substantial carcass can slither into such a space? Could you?

Actually, by resorting to basic skip-trace skills, I can generally track down anyone I decided to seriously go looking for—the question anymore is do I really want to find out? Somewhere after about age 40, that knowledge became problematic, and grows increasingly so with every passing year. Too often a search ends in an obituary. I know death is a part of life, a portal through which we all eventually pass. But time is so fleeting, a wisp of smoke on the wind, and reminders of that evanescent nature are everywhere…especially when you decided to track down folks. I want to know, but dread the weight of the knowledge.

Gail said...

Hi again - yes, I saw your comment(s) on facebook and I SO appreciate your wise and passionate support. And FYI? The guy, Willie Fritz that is driving us personally? He is the 'first selectman'. And there you have it. :-)

Love Gail

Grizz………… said...


[Internet was down over weekend…couldn't answer sooner. Sorry. And this comment has to be divided into two parts because Blogger says it too long for a single reply.]

Part 1

John, first off, I'm going to respectfully disagree with you regarding one of your comments—that being you've descended "into the strange world of being partially alive." While others may categorize you thus, even stoop to treat you thus, you, my friend, are not "partially alive." Don't accept such a view from others; rebel, rail, countermand, deny, fight with every ounce of your being for your total and righteously due humanity! You may be disabled, mobility impaired, but that has not one iota to do with your human completeness.

Sadly, what you describe regarding friends, family, and their visits, is so often the case when someone enters such a facility. I've watched it happen time and again and know the pain, sadness, and abject loneliness such gradual desertion causes. And I've tried, all my life, to not be a practitioner of such shoddy, thoughtless, irresponsible, and dishonorable behavior.

It's too long a story to go into in this comment, but I was raised in a family that, as I've grown older, I realize were markedly unusual in their caring and responsibility to one another and those close to them. When someone got sick, or had medical issues, whether they entered a hospital, nursing home, or remained in their own home, they collectively and individually comforted and cared for that person daily—even if all they could do was sit by their bedside day and night. Mom and her three sisters all lived in the area, but only one aunt drove. Nevertheless, all four visited whomever every single day, often having arrived there by taking the bus followed by a long walk. And her three brothers, who lived out of state, 175-300 miles distant, drove up on weekends. My Grandmother Williams had an severely incapacitating stroke when I was six; she died when I was 18. Every day of those 12 years, two, sometimes three or all four of the sisters, plus Grandpa, were there with her, feeding, comforting, taking care of her every need. When she was having a "bad spell" they remained through the night.

During the last few years of Mom's life, in her 90s, she fell several times, broke hips, shoulders, and leg. The first time it was a hip and shoulder. After surgery and a week or so in hospital, she was shuffled out to a nursing home. My Dad had passed away in 1983. All of Mom's sisters and brothers were dead. I'm an only child. So there was one one in the family except me to be there…and I never considered doing otherwise for a moment. I spent every day, all day, 12-14 hours, with her when she was in the hospital. When they moved her to the nursing home, I spent almost that much time at first, though when she grew strong enough for them to begin therapy, I often made two trips—morning and late-afternoon into evening. She was in there four months. During that time I missed only one day visiting—and that because there was nearly six feet of snow piled up by the snowplow against my truck, and though I spent the whole day trying, I couldn't get myself shoveled out before dark. Mom finally convinced me via a phone call to quit trying. To this day I wish I'd kept at it awhile longer.

(continued in pt 2)

Grizz………… said...


(continued Part 2…)

My best friend Frank spent three years in a nursing home 45 minutes from here. We called each other every day, several times, and I visited a couple of times per week. When he first entered the facility, he had several visitors daily. By the time the Parkinson's finally took him, he was luck if one other person per week visited.

Laziness, busy lives, out-of-sight, out-of-mind…all, I think, contribute to such gradual drifting away. I think there's also something more at work—that being how visiting someone in such a place reminds us of own human frailty. You look around and know the inescapable possibility—that such a fate could befall any of us at any time. Sickness, pain, suffering, debilitating disease, aging…death—all are frightening concepts to most folks. Better to deny, ignore, shun, avoid. Hide your eyes and mind and fears from the truth and it won't find you. The devout coward's survival philosophy.

It is wrong on the most basic human level. A vile way to treat someone you care about, and a real roadblock to possible healing, or making the best of a bad situation. People need people. They need that contact and interchange. It is vital to the body, mind, spirit—soul. I hope things change for you John; I hope life provides that needed person to buoy you up, pull you from the depths of despair. You need that, more than all the fancy drugs and therapies and medical devices. And I emphatically reiterate…you are a complete human being! Please don't ever believe otherwise.

Grizz………… said...


First selectman because he understands he's actually there to serve his constituents. Therefore a rare elected political bird—and one worth keeping in office. Hope things went well and you enjoyed seeing your sister's performance.