Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

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

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, June 17, 2017

From the Crest of the Hill...


My mother was unable to get into Phoenixville Hospital to visit my grandmother all the way through the Fifth of January 1986. A nurse called and said my grandmother was confused and in some pain. My mother was finally able to visit on the sixth. Grandmother looked terrible and my mother felt very bad; she feared she might have to put her in a nursing home.
On Wednesday my dad came home without his truck. he had left it on route.  He had pneumonia. Around 10:00 AM the hospital called and said my grandmother wasn’t good, so mom and dad went in to see her. She died about 10 minutes after they arrived. Mother was grateful the suffering was over. Lois and I gathered up the kids and we drove down to the hospital.
Esther Wilson Brown died at 10:00 Am on January 8, 1986 at the age of 86 years 7 months.
The undertaker came the next morning to pick up her clothes and the viewing was held on the tenth at Grove Methodist Church and the funeral was performed there the next day. She was interred next to my grandfather, Francis Fizz Brown and my infant son, Michael, who had been buried atop his great grandfather in 1967. A luncheon was held back in the church fellowship.
This is the last photograph taken of my grandmother, Christmas 1985, just a day over two-weeks before her passing. Despite over a year of pain and suffering she still looked like the strong farm girl she was. She had been born at the family farm called Marchwood on June 11, 1899, the youngest of six children born to William and Anna Wilson, all of whom she outlived. She married a carpenter, Francis Brown in February 26,1920 (yeah, do the math and you’ll see my mother was born a little less than 4 months later). My grandfather preceded her to the grave on February 6, 1957, leaving her almost 30 years a widow.

My graandmother’s family, 1900. From left to right: standing – Heber, Clare, Evans, Billy and Helen. Seated – William Frederick Wilson and Anna Margaret Dunlap Wilson holding Esther Wilson Brown. Helen and Esther were named for their grandmother Esther Helen Bicking.
The day after the funeral, my father went into Phoenixville Hospital with double pneumonia on the 12th. He was not discharged until the 18th. In the meantime, Lois, the kids and I came up to Bucktown and stayed with my mother. She was having a difficult time coping with all this death and sickness and she missed my grandmother so much.
Four days after dad was released from the hospital he went in for x-rays. They found his one lung was not completely cleared and he was immediately readmitted for another week. This must have been a concerning time for him given his family history. His own father, Benjamin Franklin Meredith (left); his Maternal Grandfather, William Elsworth Townsley and his Grand Uncle, James Hunter Townsley all died within a three-week period in 1937 of pneumonia. (In this photo James is standing on the log wagon to the far left. William Townsley is to the far right on the ground., 1931. Others in the photo are James Ivan Townsley, one of William's children; his son-in-law, James Skiles; and two of William's grandchildren: Charles Richard Johnson, Jr., and Charlotte Jean Johnson [Their mother was William’s first child, Clara Susanna Townsley.]




I headed down to Miami, Florida on January 25 to another of the BAI Productivity Conferences. Perhaps it would be good to escape all the drama and winter for a time. It snowed off and on all week and the temperatures were beginning to drop. Everything was going into the bleak time of winter now that the Christmas lights had come down. The trees were bare and forelorn and the snow along the streets were black with dirt and turned to slush. Miami should be worlds away from all the dreariness…as long as there was no gun fighting in our street this year.
It was a quick trip down the coast line to Florida compared to the 6-hour plus flight and St. Louis layover out to Los Angeles the year before. It felt as soon as we reached cruising altitude we were beginning our decent for landing. Once again I was greeted by the sight of palm trees as I left the airport to catch a taxi, but man, it was cold. The chill was to remain my whole trip.
I felt sorry for the Floridians and other southerners who were there. The temperatures were dipping down into the thirties. I was lucky because I had my winter coat that I had started my trip wearing. The natives of that area were not equipped for this and they were walking about shivering with chattering teeth. This cold snap had hit the whole country and this unusual weather was long before Al Gore could make up scare stories about Global Warming. Up in Pennsylvania and Delaware the thermometers got down into the low teens, dropping to 12 degrees, while the wind increased. With two weeks-worth of snow on the ground it wasn’t likely to warm up quickly.
I was staying in the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, in those boom times Wilmington Trust always booked me into first class lodging. (By the way, if they spell harbor with a u, it is the same as adding extra dollar signs to everything around.) I found Florida exceedingly boring. There wasn’t much to do in Bal Harbor beyond the conference. I tried walking, but you couldn’t go anywhere. There was like a wide highway and it curved off around a bend and disappeared.
Across this wide highway was a mall, the Bar Harbour Shops. I wandered over to it. Although I could enter the Mall proper, nothing was open. It was as dead as everything else in the area. Very few people were out on the beach. There were half-dozen surfers paddling out off a jetty. They wore those rubber scuba outfits. One couple walked the sand hand and hand, but they were dressed more for skiing than swimming.


On Monday the 28th, when we broke for lunch, I took another little hike along the beach. This was just before noon. When I came back into the lobby there was a great deal of activity. Groups of people had formed around some of the TV monitors in the lounge. I saw a lot of downcast faces and asked a man hurrying by me what was going on.
“The space shuttle blew up,” he said and hurried away. This was to be a very historic launch, one of great anticipation and interest. This was the tenth Challenger shuttle flight and for many these count downs and launches had become rather routine. What had drawn so much excitement to this particular one was the inclusion of school teacher Christa McAuliffe as one of the two payload specialists. Fo this reason many school kids were watching the launch in their classroom, including McAuliffe’s students. 73 seconds into the flight there was this snake-like pattern of smoke across the sky and everyone froze in stunned horror. All seven crew on board were killed. It was decided the O-ring seal on the right rocket booster failed due to the unusual cold.
Tragedy and death appeared to be stalking me.

On Wednesday, right after the closing session, I was going back to my room. As I approached the elevator bank I saw only one man waiting by the buttons. As I came near his eyes grew large and he backed up a couple steps, holding his hands out in a stay-away gesture.
He began screaming, “What’d you got! What’d you got! And he ran down the corridor and disappeared.
I felt like running after him and shouting, “I’ve got The Rot and it’s highly contagious.” However I didn’t.
I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was 15 and probably had it long before that, but in all the past years I had never had anyone act in such a way. Very, very few ever even commented on my scales or rash. Those who did usually mistook it for Poison Ivy, especially children. Of course, last summer with a combination of tanning salons and summer sun I had lost most of the signs of the disease. I had ceased going to the tanning salons as the skin cleared up, but now summer was months over and winter is a bad time to have this thing. There is far less exposure to sun and even when it is sunny one is hardly ambling about in shorts. Winter tends to bring physical discomfort. The flare ups are larger and more often. You have periods of annoying itching. The rash hurts, feeling like a bad sunburn at times, the kind where your clothes hurt as the material moves with your movement. Even the bed covers can hurt and make sleep difficult. I knew my condition had worsened. I could see the scales and redness form on the back of my hands. It had never seen that before, showing up on generally sun-exposed areas. Something else to think about when I returned home. It was certain I wasn’t going to get much relief on Miami’s beaches, even in my Speedo
It was also a fact that my psoriasis was going to get worse.
A few days after flying home from Miami, I had to drive back to the Philadelphia Airport with my dad. He was finally over his pneumonia and able to work again, but when he had taken sick he was in Buffalo and it was there he left his truck. He was flying back to pick it up.
Lois and I managed to get a couple days to ourselves during February by dropping the kids off at my parents. Lois was beginning to have what she referred to as panic attacks as well as her depressions. Of course the events at the beginning of this year were not helping with her problems. She was claiming it was inherited, that her mother suffered the same depressions, but would sometimes blame it on her father’s verbal abuse and indifference or on the bullying she had received in school. She was also beginning to complain about Bethel Baptist and claiming Pastor Ryle was her problem. Her resentments against churches would continue to grow.  (In the photo are Lois’s Godparents, John and Leona Gerhart to the left, and her parents, Harry and Dorothy Raab Heaney on the right.)


Misty, my parents Chihuahua, was ill. She was refusing to go to my dad, which was unusual since she liked him best of all. She had done nothing but bark, snarl and nip at me since my mother got her as a pup. One of my dad’s truck driver friends gave the dog to mom after my Chihuahua, Cindy, had died. Misty was nothing like Cindy. Misty was just mean to everyone except mom and dad. I always feared she’d bite the kids. Still, I didn’t want to see anything happen to her on top of my Grandmother’s passing and dad finding his dog, Greta, dead earlier in the year.
Things were rough on everyone. My mom came down for Laurel’s 8th birthday in March, but all she could do was cry. She said she guessed my grandmother’s death finally hit her. 
On April 14, I spent Tax day in Washington. Nothing to do with the taxes, of course. I was there for another three-day seminar given by the AMA, a continuing credits course on Bank Operations Management.

In April, the day before my mom and dad’s 45th wedding anniversary, my Uncle Bill was in a serious auto accident with a pickup just outside of Media. He was taken to Riddle Hospital. On June 22nd my parents were down to our place and Lois made them a large turkey dinner. That evening they went to see Francy (my dad’s youngest brother) at the hospital. Uncle Francy was in a halo brace that ran down his back and screwed into the top of his head. He had fractured his neck and his back and had a concussion. He couldn’t remember anything at all about the accident. It would be a slow recovery.

Immediately after visiting Francy, they went to Coatesville to see my Uncle Ben, dad’s other brother (dad was the oldest). Ben was ailing and would require an operation on July 31. My Aunt Dot (right) had died just before Christmas 1985. Dot and Ben had separated by then and I believe she died of cancer, but both Ben and Dot were alcoholics. Most of their time together had been spent at bars. Even so, Ben was my favorite uncle. He always was in a good mood when we saw him, whether during a visit at the house or more often at the barroom of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Coatesville.


During July and August, we took the kids several places, such as the circus, Dorney Park and the Philadelphia Zoo, plus the annual Wilson Family Reunion in late August. We also took them to the Brandywine Creek State Park for the first time, they explored the creek bank searching for frogs or tadpoles in the water.
Then on September 7, my parents surprised us with a big party at a restaurant called Yonglings between Pottstown and Boyertown. It was our 25th wedding anniversary. We were taken totally by surprise and a little embarrassed by all the fuss. (Photo, me and Lois opening gifts as handed to us by Laurel, Noelle, Darryl and Kelli Ann, my Uncle Francy’s daughter.) But this was a joyous occasion in what had been a year of gloom in the family. Perhaps the drama was ending.
But one thing I have learned as a lifetime hiker is the trails you start out on lead uphill. That
is the draw and the challenge, to conquer the mounts and push through all obstacles, the rivers needing fording, the downed trees to clamber over, the hidden hornet nests that lead to stings upon the ankles; the bruises and scrapes and skinned knees as you force yourself to stand after a trip and fall. Then there is the other lesson learned after you have fought through all of that, endured the itch of poison ivy or the hurts from stinging thistle, and you have climbed the hill to the top; you stand looking from the crest at nothing but going down, and you discover that gravity on the descent is no more a friend that it was on the ascent.

I had conquered a lot of rocky country getting where I was and here I stood on the crest. I stepped out with confidence in my balance then on December First I hired Linda as my Assistant and my balance was thrown off.


No comments: