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

Monday, July 29, 2013

And He Didn't Kill Her...

I have been rereading Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. I originally read it in the Bantam Paperback in 1964. It was his "memoir" of living in Paris during the 1920s and was published posthumously. Hemingway died in early July 1961 when he blew his head off with a shotgun. That head was fairly blown up inside by then anyway. The Feast recounts when he was still a young man struggling to sell his first stories. His first wife and he lived, by his telling, in near poverty at 113 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs.

(A moveable feast is a term usually given to religious feast days that do not fall on a set date, such as Easter. They move from year to year.)

One of the instances of those early year musings that stands out is found in the chapter, "Hunger Was good Discipline".  Hemingway tells of having his story, "My Old Man" selected by Edward O'Brien's for that years Best Short Stories collection, even though it had never been published anywhere. He then laughs about this being only one of two stories that survived his wife Hadley's (Hadley is pictured right on their wedding day in 1921) great blunder. Ernest tells it this way:

It was one of two stories I had left when everything I had written was stolen in Hadley's suitcase that time at the Gare de Lyon when she was bringing the manuscripts down to me to Lausanne as a surprise, so I could work on them on our holidays in the mountains. She had put in the originals, the typescripts and the carbons, all in manila folders...I had never seen anyone hurt by a thing other than death or unbearable suffering except Hadley when she told me about the things being gone. She had cried and cried and could not tell me. I told her no matter what the dreadful thing was that had happened nothing could be that bad, and whatever it was, it was all right and not to worry. We would work it out. Then, finally, she told me.

And he didn't kill her.

He did however, in the not so distant future, have an affair with their friend Pauline Pfeiffer, who soon there after became his second wife. (In the photo Ernest in beret sits between Hadley on his right and Pauline on his left.) 

If the loss of his work did not result in Hadley's sudden demise, it may have done so to their marriage.

In A Moveable Feast Hemingway passes this loss off as not too big a deal. Whatever brave and gallant front he may have put on, inside he had to be fuming. A writer can withstand the rejection of his manuscripts and the barbs of the critics, but it is devastation to a writer's soul to lose his work, and Hemingway had just lost all of his except two stories. He loss his first novel attempt as well. It is a wonder he waited until he was 61 to stick that shotgun in his mouth.

I have loss few of my scribblings and I mourn over them. I have since I was 12 meticulously kept my writings in duplications of duplications as backup. Even so over the decades I have managed through some moment of carelessness to lose some pages. (Granted there may be those who feel the world of letters would have been better off if I had lost them all.) I grieve for those passages. I think I lost portions of three stories. One was called "My Weekend Trip," which all that remained was the first page. I could not for the life of me remember where that story went. My friend in Florida, Stuart Meisel suggested some possibilities that I used to finish the tale. I credited him as coauthor. It was not what I had intended, but it works as a good yarn, so I am happy.

Two others that suffered this same fate were "Last Cold Spring" and "Beach Boy". Although I had penned these nearly 50 years prior to trying to rewrite them, I did remember enough of the plot to do so.

But there is one story I lost completely. Its title was "Where Are you Going, Little Man, little Man?" I do remember the plot, about an overbearing man who had to catch a train for an important business deal. He is driving to the station and experiences several delays. There was a long paragraph in the middle that consisted on one long rant of cussing and cursing that read like some bizarre poem. I personally do not curse. Yes, I know that is rare and to some even weird, but it is a fact. I do write characters in my fiction that curse, because that is real life, although I keep it to a minimum. Perhaps I overdid it in this story and that is why I lost it. I might try and rewrite it someday, but I know I will never capture the flow of that paragraph again.

Because I may someday rewrite it I will not reveal the ending at this time.

At least with my losses they were my own clumsiness, not another's carelessness. Perhaps if my wife had lost my work I would have been looking for a Pauline of my own. Or a shotgun.

 Young Hemingway in Paris.

 Young me in Philadelphia

 Old Hemingway (he died at age 61)

Old me (Taken at age 71)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

When Your Finger Gives You the Finger

Am I elderly yet? I think I deserve to be. If you aren't considered elderly when but four years short of the life expectancy death year, when can you be? I don't leap up upon my feet anymore or bound out of my car as I did when I was younger, but I do groan a lot when I do those things and that means I'm old, doesn't it? I mean I'm not giving one of those marital arts yells to focus my energy, although it some ways it is kinda the same thing.

Still and all I was cruising along in pretty solid health for a lot of years, until this past April. It was as if the fates yelled, "Hey April Fool, you're a geezer, doncha know. Time to feel your age even if you won't act it."

I suppose it really began in March, as observed in my last posting. An ill wind hit me hard in my left wrist and turned this lion into a lamb going baaa, baaa, baa! It did teach me an appreciation for my left hand, an appendage I basically took for granted before this wreckage to my wrist. I hadn't realized I opened a lot of doors with my left hand or how many things one needed two hands to operate, such as opening a can of cat food or unscrewing the cap off an ice tea jug.

Still and all, the pain was the main thing, it being there with gnawing teeth in constant chew upon my bones. I am not a fan of medication and get by with as little as possible (which is growing less possible each time I pop in upon a doctor, as you will see), but I lose some of my stubbornness if the pain becomes too great. Thus as these two weeks of agony wore on the aspirin bottle became my best friend and therein lies the rest of this sad and degrading tale. The wrist bones connected to the aspirin tablet and the aspirin tablet is apparently connected to the digestive system and eventually you all know where to the digestive system is connected.

The agony of the wrist slowly faded away about a week before Palm Sunday, which fell on March 24 this year. It was upon Maundy Thursday that I nearly fell in the bathroom. I attributed my moment of faintness to the drinks I had with dinner that restaurant's concoctions seemingly being more potent than most. It was this and nothing more, quoting the Raven, and it will pass just like Lenore. (If you're scratching your head going, "Who's this Lenore and what's she doing in his bathroom," then you really need go catch up on your Poe.)

I had noticed a slight pain across my belly this particular week, but am unclear if it was before or after my brief dizzy spell that Thursday eve. I feared the return of the Flu something that had laid me low earlier in the year and had made some similar jabs to my midsection. On Saturday I felt fairly well and the same on Sunday morning. It was in the afternoon that things took a tumble down hill.

I returned home, ate some lunch and felt extremely tired. I lay down on the sofa and next thing I knew (or perhaps didn't know) I was asleep, and I slept most the afternoon. When I awoke and arose and started across the living room I was overcome with that faintness again, only ten times worst and I had to stagger to the nearest seat and sit. I could not that night walk more that three or four paces without this same need to collapse somewhere. I was like Superman surrounded by Kryptonite, powerless.

The flu must have me in her stifling arms again!

The first thing on Monday morning (and here is where our tale gets degrading or disgusting perhaps, for no one cares to dwell on bodily functions although they are universal) I had to run for the bathroom.  Now at my age I have to run to the bathroom every morning, but that is the stand-up situation (for us guys) whereas this was a sit down movement. I had a somewhat urgent diarrhea. Obviously an offshoot (no pun intended) of that cruel mistress Flu. That was my obvious consideration until I stood to flush and stared down to a bowl of black.

No, no, this should not be black, that is not good. Black meant there was blood from somewhere and that could mean there was cancer somewhere and that was definitely not good.

But I'm an optimist with great faith in my rather over active immune system. I stuck to my flu theory and decided to wait and see if this blackness would just go away. I still couldn't walk more than a few feet and I was cold and shaky, but I did nothing much but lie about and worry about the next time nature called.

I am, as it were, a regular guy. My next two visits on the next two days to the throne room were pretty normal actually, although the results were not. The deep, dark blackness remained, so on Wednesday I did what I seldom do, I called my doctor.

My appointment was set for the next day, Thursday. Thursdays were quickly becoming my special day.  I dutifully appeared in her office that fateful morning and filled out the form on the clipboard once again. (Why does one fill out such forms in every doctor visit? There is such a thing as a computer where this repetitive information could be kept and recalled.)

Dr. Sue ordered up a blood test and arranged an emergency colonoscopy for the next Thursday. (You can hear all about my preparation for that adventure on my post, How to Get Ready for Your Colonoscopy or A Night At the Races, by clicking on the underlined title.) The Blood Test was to check the oil level on my hemoglobins. If they were too low the good doctor threatened to put me immediately in the hospital.

Did she? Or was I resurrected for Easter? And was this just one more stepping stone in my deteriorating health, another moan and groan along the path of being elderly? More to come...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Don't Turn Around, There'll Just be Something Else to Do

Rustin' away in Retirementville, ain't that what somebody said once upon a time. Sippin' Margaritas on the patio between golf rounds is how some pictured these golden years of reward and relaxation from the decades of workin' for the man. Or maybe just lazin' your way through the days, no hassles, no schedule, no deadlines, no commitments.

I guess there are people who do one or more of those things, but this seasoned citizen seemed to be passed over in that rustin' in the rockin' chair scenario. I haven't been on a golf course in a couple decades now and I gave up the Margaritas and their alcoholic kin and I sure ain't sittin' and rockin'. Seems lately there is always somethin' and if I turn about there is just somethin' else.

We're tryin' to cobble this old house back together before we're that poor odd couple in the dilapidated
death trap down the road, hoarding old newspapers to the ceiling while surrounded by cats. It ain't easy goin' into old age without money, but you do what you can to keep things goin' when you get a little windfall. Nonetheless it turns your live topsy turvy  when you got all your furniture in the middle of the floor cause you are patchin' and paintin' and you got vendors poppin' in every other hour estimatin' or fixin' or measurein' what comes next.

Of course, I'm tryin' to keep up my relationship with the Little Woman in betwixt all this hubbub, cause you don't just set a marriage aside when the calendar fills up. Plus I got obligations to my church that continue and you don't stick them on a back shelf either. I mean, normal life has to go on even during the abnormal.

Then come the health issues, because you just don't ripen' with age, you begin to spoil a bit and if you don't tend to that you begin to rot. This body part don't work like it use to and that body part is touched with pain and somethin' else got spots on it or is bent wrong or just plain looks weird. Just as the difficulties of last year, with the search for nursing homes and then the death of my parents was winding down, and as this gettin' our life and house cleaned up started, I got clobbered by the bad health stick.

I've been relatively healthy in my life. I had a bad patch back in the 'nineties when my thyroid went a little crazy on me and had to be killed, but since then I've not had much illness. I've had psoriasis since a child and it is pretty extensive, and with it has come psoriatic arthritis, and there in lies the rub. I've had bouts with pain, I mean don't you-dare-even-breath-on-me pain, at times over the last 15 years, but it comes, it hurts and it goes away for a while. You live with it. But since Match this year it hasn't been so livable.

I got up one day in March with the gonna-scream-any-minute pain grippin' my left wrist. I've had this type before, mostly in my feet and ocassionally in the knees, but it was new to my left wrist. I quickly learned just how much I depended on that left hand that I never took note of before. But mostly I was thinkin' about the pain and poppin' those aspirin like crazy. I could bought out Bayer's inventory and it probably wouldn't have helped. There was a chain of thorns dug deep into that wrist and it just kept goin' into a second week before letting up at all. I still get pain there if I bend that wrist too far.

But it did let go and I felt maybe old Mr. Arthor Itis will not knock on my bones for a while. Of course, somethin' else came along, most likely a result of all those aspirin I was chuggin'. Happened like this: I came home from easting out with my wife and I went into the bathroom to (as they say) relieve myself. As I was I felt dizzy, I mean, hurry up and empty blatter because I am goin' faint dizzy. I had to sit down on the bathroom floor before I could go back to the living room.

The next day I had an ache about my middle and figured I was gettin' a touch of the stomach flu. I had heard it was goin' around and I guessed it was my turn. I'd just have to take it easy. Palm Sunday I went to church actually feelin' better,  but when I came home I was very tired and fell asleep on the sofa.

But then this is the stuff of another post, if somethin' else doesn't sneak up upon me before I get to it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

June and Weddings and Us One September

Seems like a lot of people around me are getting married lately. Of course it was June, and June was always called the Month of Marriage. But it's slid over into July now, too, and even my long time friend since third grade got married.

I didn't get married in June or in July. I got married in September and it was the one nearly 52 years ago.

And we are still married.

But that's all right, because I took those vows seriously and they are serious vows. No one should go into marriage without considering what they are promising. Rub those stars of love out of your eyes for a minute and consider that you're promising to go beyond those giddy days of romance and beyond how pretty she looks and handsome he is. You are not just saying you'll be there for the fun and games, you're promising you are going to take care of each other when the merry-go-round stops spinning.

You are saying it doesn't matter if you are down to your last buck and living under the interstate overpass or body parts are falling off right and left you are going to be there by each other's side. You are promising all you have and all you are to each other and not until just next year, but until death do you part.

If you don't mean it, don't do it. If you do it, then mean it.

We got married in a Methodist Church and in the Christian Church marriage is a sacred thing, not just between you and your spouse, but in a covenant with God.

Even if you don't believe in God and even if you get married in a secular service with a judge rather than a minister, you still should honor those vows. What worth are you if you don't hold to your promises and words? It may not always be easy, but that's why you should give real serious thought to what you are about to do when you slip that ring on another's finger. If you don't like those tough vows or think they are too hard to keep, then write your own, like a lot of people do anymore, and make it easy on yourself. It's a lot better to be honestly chicken than to make a vow you end up breaking.

Life has ups and downs and temptations. If there is infidelity, then there may be divorce, but even there the first thoughts should turn to forgiveness and reconciliation. Everyone is inclined to making mistakes in this world, one or two failures don't make it a way of life.

I never cheated on my wife (but then look at her and ask why would I). That's not to say there weren't temptations or opportunities, but there are
always consequences to such actions. I didn't turn away from those opportunities because I feared the consequences. I turned aside because I have a conscience that told me right from wrong.

I figure after 52 years there's a good chance this marriage just might take. We have our infirmities now, and with these come difficulties from time to time, but it is in those times when care is needed and sacrifice is demanded that you fully realize how deep is your love for the other.

At any rate, back in those prehistoric times when we married there were not digital cameras or videos to immortalize such events. Cameras were little boxes you put film in and got 12 to 35 prints in return. There were home movie cameras that produced ten minutes of silent 8mm films and there were bulky reel to reel tape recorders that did only sound. In our case some service provided a recording of our wedding on a 331/3 RPM Vinyl platter. This became obsolete a decade or so ago as record players began to disappear into museums. Our recording just sat unheard for several years.

Recently I bought a turntable that converts vinyl records in digital files on iTunes and one of the first I converted was that recording of our marriage. I have now combined that scratchy old phonograph record with the photographs taken of our big day into a film. So here below is our marriage lo so many years ago.

A couple things of note.

My wife's mother died three years before our wedding, so her grandmother stood in. She is the small lady you see my biggest usher escort up the aisle in one photo.

My wife seems to tower over my father while dancing, probably due to the heels she wore. My father was 5 foot 11 inches tall. My wife is tall, especially so for the generation she was born, but in the picture she looks like 6 foot 3 or something.

On the record you can hear some whispering at one point. This is when the Maid-of-Honor dropped the ring and we, The Pastor, my wife and I, were crawling about looking for it. Here is a lesson to not sweat mistakes. After the service a lady shaking my hand in the reception line made this references to when we were on all fours. "I never saw that in a wedding before, but I thought it was lovely."

I think her comment was lovely.

We had several such hitches. One of my two best friends, Stuart, along with the wedding photographer were almost late to the service because they went to the wrong church. Ronald had been my choice for Best man, but he was in the service and couldn't get a pass. Ironically, at the time of my wedding one of his uncles died and he did get leave for the funeral.

The Maid-of-Honor had a series of slight mishaps as well as the dropping of the ring. She accidentally stepped on my wife's gown and put a heel through it. She also walked down the aisle with her bouquet turned backward. But so what, we still got married.

In the last slides you see my wife attempt to toss the bridal bouquet to the waiting single ladies. On the first try she threw too high, hit the ceiling and the flowers dropped straight down to the floor. She succeeded on her second attempt.

See, life is full of the unexpected, which become the memorable.