Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ticket to the Horror Show

The phone rang a little after nine o'clock that Wednesday. Why was I there? Did it rain that morning? Usually I would have been finishing up a hike through one or other of our state parks. The body is made to move; keep moving and you keep things working.

Very few people call me, especially in the morning, except one persistent caller named "Unidentified". Unidentified calls a lot, usually to tell me this is my last warning to take advantage of an Obama bailout that will lower my mortgage interest rate. Unidentified has been telling me this is my LAST warning for many months now and more than once a day. I generally don't answer calls from Unidentified or from his cousin Unknown either.

I thought I better answer this call. It wasn't from Unidentified. It was coming from my parents. My first thought was, "It's THE Call."

My parents (meaning my mother, because dad never calls me) would not phone in the morning unless...unless it's The Call.

The Call, the one that would say, "Your father's dead," was what I expected. I had been anticipating such a call for years, ever since my dad had been rushed to the hospital in the spring of 2009 with his legs the size of an elephant's. We thought he was going to die then and there, but he pulled through. It changed his life. Under doctor's orders his driver's license was taken away. His heart was too weak. He was a danger to others if he was driving and had a seizure.

That must have hurt. My father had driven almost all his life. He had been a long haul truck driver until he was 75. At that time he qualified for driving school buses with a Class B CDL (Commercial Driving License). I guess he decided to give up the rigors of the distant roads for something near home and far less hours. Anyway, if one obtains a Class B CDL, one must give up their Class A. My father didn't have a CDL license of any kind until he was 68, even though he had been driving 18-wheelers since he was 28. Why had he driven 50 years without a CDL? Because that license didn't exist until 1986. Prior to1986 any fool with an ordinary driver's license could drive a big rig, whether they knew how or not.

He drove school buses for the next ten years of his life, until he turned 85.

Now at age 90 they said he couldn't even drive a car anymore. This also meant he had to quit his job. Yeah, at age 90 he was still working as a church sexton, him and my mother both.

In 2009 dad became officially "elderly". It took a while after leaving the hospital before he could walk and then it was with the aid of a walker. He could walk some with just a cane, but gradually the walker became necessary.

He got a pacemaker and a slew of ailments, Atrial Fibrillation, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Hypertension, Macular Degeneration and Skin Cancer.  He is also prone to falls.

And so when the phone rang early that Wednesday morning and the Caller ID was my parent's number, I thought it was "The Call". I was surprised when I was greeted by the gravelly, gruff voice of my father, who never calls me. "Your mother is in the hospital. She had a stroke. I want you to come up here."

My wife had a doctor's appointment at 1:00. It was an exam in order to renew her medication. She only had a couple days left and she does need her medicine. Still, this seemed like an emergency situation. I called the doctor, explained and postponed the appointment. My wife and I left at once for the hour drive to my dad's.

I didn't know yet that my mother had the stroke on Sunday, April 1. This was April 4. He had waited four days to tell me and now it was critical for me to rush there immediately? Things were very under control on that Wednesday. They were to soon slip from control to chaos, but that was still a few days into the future.

I also didn't realize that when dad called me he was about to hand me a ticket to a horror show.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dark House

Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel, "You Can't Go Home Again", and the title became part of our language.

You can go back to that place once called "home", but you can't go back home.

I've been back in that place lately--a lot, and every time I can't wait to flee. I grew up there; now I can't stand visiting.

The house is dark inside, dim and close. It was then, too, but I didn't seem to notice. It was even worse then, actually, because the walls were painted a dark green that absorbed what light they were exposed to. Since those years the walls have been painted a light neutral color. But yet it remains a dark house.

And it is too cluttered.

The top photo is my old bedroom. The bed I bought when I got my first real job after high school is still the centerpiece. A cherry wood single bed with a bookcase headboard. I took the other furniture I had bought when I moved out, but left behind this bed. I bought a new one when I left, because I married out of my parents home and needed a two person bed. It had a bookcase headboard as well because I was a veracious reader.

My old room looks like a scene from "Hoarders: Buried Alive" now. It is the "Cat's Room", but it is also the "catch-all" room from the looks of it.

The whole of the house is cluttered. Some rooms may be arranged and neater than my old bedroom, but they are still too stuffed with furniture. This is one side of the living room. The photograph is deceptive because it looks light and bright. In reality the room is dark and gloomy. I enhanced my picture so things were visible. The big brown chair is my dad's. It is where he spends most his waking hours now. It is a chair with a control panel. You push a button and the chair raises up to help you stand.

Dad doesn't walk well anymore. He uses a walker to shuffle from place to place, which is why it is bad this house is so overstuffed. The passage ways between furnishings are narrow alleys. It is awkward for me to pass through some of the pathways; which must be a virtual obstacle course for him.

To the right of his chair is another large chair and two tables with lamps, lamps almost never on. The narrow alcove behind is the passage to his bedroom to the rear and mother's room to the front.

To get to the bathroom, he must maneuver between a coffee table, that other large chair, a table, a display unit and the TV into another narrow hall. That passageway is barely wider than his walker. And he is a man prone to falling easily and when he falls he can't get up.

This is the view from the very cluttered dining room into the living room toward his chair. I would get rid of much of these obstacles as the path of good sense, but dad would have a cow if I moved something. "Mother wouldn't like it," he'd most likely say.

But mother isn't there right now and chances are high she won't be back to this place. If she should return, these will be obstacles to her as well.

(Again I mention the deception of the photos giving an appearance of light to these rooms that are not light at all.)

So why am I back here in these rooms after so many decades. That's is the tale I am beginning to tell.