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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reality Raises Its Head


Christmas 1984 was celebrated at Lois and my house, as it was each year since the children were born. Mom, Dad and my maternal Grandmother had made the hour drive from Bucktown to be there. It had been a mild week as far as weather was concerned, but Christmas Day turned bitter cold and got colder as the day passed. (Pictured my Grandmother watching Laurel open presents.)
In November, right through Thanksgiving my grandmother wasn’t feeling well. On the 4th she wasn’t able to sleep because her leg hurt. On the 7th she felt lightheaded, then on the 26th she suffered a headache and dizziness. Her problems cleared up during early December until two days after Christmas, when she said she felt miserable and sick. She was still feeling bad the next day and on the 29th she simply lay down all day with a soar throat and earaches. She was so sick by New Year's she was put in the hospital in Phoenixville, but by the 3rd was ready to come home.
On January 4th my dad went down to feed Greta and found her dead in her box. He had a series of large outdoor dogs ever since my dog Topper had died. He had Jet (left), which was murdered in her pen by Witches over a Halloween some years back, his throat cut and the blood drained from the body. After Jet he owned a German Shepherd named Lucky (right, playing with Tom Cat), then Greta, also a German Shepherd ( I have no picture of Greta).
It snowed all day on January 20. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President on the 21st, which turned out to the coldest day since 1829. The Wind Chill Factor was 40 below. Perhaps this deep freeze welcoming in 1985 was an omen of the future.
At the First of February I left for the annual BAI Productivity Conference, this time in Los Angeles. Everything in the Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Tristate area was frozen. Ice covered the trees, snow was piled along the roads. My plane was fortunate to be able to take off, although delayed for deicing. The weather was a mess across the country and we were forced to make an unscheduled landing in St. Louis. We lay over into the night. I napped on the chairs in the terminal as did many another weary traveler.
This was the scariest airport I ever flew in and out of.  St Louis was doing some major work to the runways at the time, so there was a shortage of landing strips already and now they had loss some to the snow. They had flights taking off and landing on the same runway. A jetliner would go airborne and right on its tail another would set down, one after another, a takeoff then a landing. I Watched from the terminal and counted the seconds between. A plane would just clear the ground when less than a minute later another was touching down.

But I escaped any air disaster and finally put down in L.A. sometime pass midnight, their time or mine I’m not sure. Despite this I was up at my usual hour, which when I looked at the clock was about 4:00 AM. I was still on Delaware time, so 4 o’clock in L. A. was 7 o’clock back in Wilmington. The three-hour jet lag held on most of my trip. I was always waking up way too early and by mid evening I was dragging. When the time chimed  9:00 PM, my body said Midnight.
I was staying at the 4-Star Westin Bonaventure Hotel on South Figueroa Street, downtown Los Angeles. It was an incredible building consisting of four shiny towers, the largest hotel in the city and a site featured in a number of movies before and after my stay, including “This is Spinal Tap”, “True Lies”, “Hard to Kill”, “Mission Impossible III and several others.
It was another one of those hotels with a revolving restaurant on top and I did eat there one evening. It was Italian, but not your typical pasta and tomato sauce kind of menu. The food was very good, very different and very expensive.


Sunday, my first full day in L.A. was also a free day for me. As usual, I set out early on foot with two objectives. First to find a fast food restaurant for some coffee and then to take a walk. These simple desires proved difficult, although I hadn’t expected them to be any problem. For one I could see the ARCo Headquarters from the street when I left the hotel. This was where I would have been working if I had stayed with Atlantic Richfield. It was located among other business towers on City National Plaza.  Surely there would be fast food restaurants in a business district. I mean, there's got to be some low-level employees who have to eat and can't aford the more chi-chi places.
The street I was on was lower than this business area. I went up a sidewalk that you could call a ramp into rows of offices, but there was not a restaurant among them, chi-chi or otherwise, let alone a McDonalds or some such cheap place to grab a cup. I wandered a bit, then came down the ramp to the hotel entrance again. No coffee, but I could take a walk. The street was very wide, multi-lanes to cross, no traffic lights. I had heard that in California drivers had to stop for pedestrians crossing the street even if not in a crosswalk. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I took a step out into the traffic lanes. There wasn’t a lot of traffic yet on an early Sunday morning, but what did come my way stopped to let me pass. Amazing!
But there was nowhere to walk. It was just wide streets and walls. I crossed back to where the hotel sat and noticed what appeared to be a subway entrance. Far as I knew there were no underground rapid transit lines in L. A. I went down the steps and sure enough I found myself in a narrow concourse. It wasn’t as large as the concourses in Philly, but there were some little hole-in-the-wall eateries here where I could get coffee. What is it? Are L.A. Corporations ashame to share their addresses with a fast food joint? (Remember this was 1985, a lot may have changed since I was there.)
I took my hard found coffee back into the hotel, stopping by the congierge and booked a couple tours. Both were with the good old Gray Lines. There was a trip about the city, including Beverly Hills and then out to Universal in Hollywood for the studio tour. At Universal we were attacked by Jaws, experience an earthquake and a flash flood, saw makeup and wardrobe, flew with E.T., watched a Western gunfight and saw the special effect destruction of a town invaded by the A-Team. We went through the back lots with the New York Streets, suburbia, Tara from “Gone with the Wind” and the dreaded Psycho house, which sat up on a little hill just off the suburbia set. The Bates Motel was located somewhere else. (The “Jaws” set is on the left.)
I enjoyed the tour through L.A. and twisting our way through Belair and Beverly Hills, and thought how I wouldn’t want to live like that, my property behind high fences on narrow twisting streets. There was a regimentation I didn’t like, how all the trash cans had to look the same. I also didn’t care for the waste. A large home was pointed out that had just been purchased. It had once belonged to some big time movie star and the buyer spent multiple millions for it. Now he was tearing the home down in order to build another where it stood. He was willing to pay all that money just to get the lot and cared not a fig for the history or beauty of the existing home. I remember we pulled up behind these huge gates that hid the home of Barbra Streisand from the real world and from us.

We went to Venice Beach, I guess a shore resort is pretty much a shore resort, sand and water and T-shirt shops. There were some roller skaters going along, spinning, showing off. They were male and female, the females in the requisite Bikinis. I stopped in an ice cream parlor and bought a triple dip. I came out of the store and dodged a young guy on a bike who kept cruising in and out the walkers. He would roll up to groups of girls, then take off for another group. You couldn’t miss him. He wore an orange body suit, some kind of skin-tight biking outfit. One part of his anatomy was very prominent; in truth, too prominent and too exaggerated, I thought. I wondered if he had stuck a kielbasa down there; perhaps a cucumber.
The bus brought us back and dropped us at Mann’s Chinese Theater. Here we would connect with other buses that would take us to our hotels. By the time we got there it was dark and I never felt more like a tourist, my camera slung over my arm and carrying some bags from gift shops proudly announcing their points of interest. I might as well have had a neon sign on my forehead saying Hick. There were a number of suspicious gentlemen circulating about the crowd. One guy, like a movie cliché, sidled up to me and asked if I was interested in buying a Rolex watch. He pulled up the sleeve of his jacket and his arm was festooned with watches. He was like a walking cartoon. At least he didn’t follow me down the street trying to hustle me into a purchase. This had happened on one of my three trips to Phoenix. That guy followed on my heels hawking his wares all the way to my hotel. This guy when I shook my head no left me quickly to corner another likely mark.

When I called home that evening I learned my father had gone to the emergency room at Phoenixville Hospital because he couldn’t walk. Turned out he had gout in both feet.  This would be an ailment that continued to plaque him all year and would me in later decades. I never had to go to the hospital for it, though.
The conference went along fine Monday through Wednesday. I had planned to do some more touring on the days after it ended, but on Thursday morning I got a call that ended all that. The phone rang early. It was my wife and she never called me in the morning. She sounded hysterical when I answered. I had to come right home, she told me, she was scared to death and so were the kids. According to her there had been a running gunfight up and down the street late last night. She had run through the house checking window and door locks. I told her I couldn’t just come home. I had been sent out on one of those airliner special tickets and I didn’t have a return flight back until Saturday morning. She began to cry and sounded panicked. No, I had to come home right away, she was so scared.
I promised to see what I could do and immediately after saying goodbye I called the airline. The clerk argued with me at first. I had a discount fare, they couldn’t change that without additional charges and me paying the regular amount. I didn’t think the Bank would look favorably on that. I explained to her this was a dire family emergency, a matter of life and death. I didn't tell her there were marauders in the street. Finally she agreed to book me on a Thursday flight and not charge anything extra.
I checked out and caught the flight to Philly. It is a six-hour trip across country, then I would have to snag a shuttle back to my Delaware home. When I did get home and walk into the house everything seemed pretty calm. Lois expressed how relieved she was I was there and again how frightened she was, but oddly the kids never made any mention of it. I mean, you’d think kids would come running out yelling, “Daddy, there were people shooting at each other last night.” The street outside was quiet. There were no police about and none came calling. Our neighbors seemed unaware of the action on their sidewalks.
It was not the first time Lois had some kind of strange delusions, just this was more dramatic than most. It even beat out that long ago paranoia that the pre-school age children of our General Warren Village neighbors were plotting to damage our car. There weren’t to be anymore late night shootouts, but there would be paranoia and odd behavior ahead.
Meanwhile my dad was unable to work due to still having gout in both feet. His condition didn’t ease up until sometime after February 18.
My grandmother, too, was in an agitated state, but about a case of shingles on her face, not any gunplay. On March 19, however, when she visited her doctor, she was told she didn’t have Shingles. It was herpes – cold sores.  (Right, my grandmother in 1985.)



I was busy back at work with purchasing and installing a third automated lockbox system. Business had been growing in this area and our profit margin had increased. I also was involved in creating check retention for the State of Delaware. We had begun doing check retention as part of the Self-Service Banking Free Checking Accounts; that is, as part of the agreement we would not return the customers cancelled checks with their statements, but store them for a limited period at the bank, then microfiche and destroy the paper checks. Now we were offering this to the State. (Left, 1985, me in my office. Below, in my office after I organized my project binders.)
I disliked government projects. There was always a ton of paperwork you had to fill out, a lot of back and forth and then the chance your project would be underbid by a competitor. Here there was
no competitor. No other institution in the area was providing this kind of service yet. This was one of my new assigned projects and we called it Check Safekeeping. It made sense to me, although again there were the naysayers claiming customers wouldn’t buy into it. People wanted their checks returned in case they needed to prove a payment. My argument for why people would accept it stared me in the face every month as I filled another shoe box with cancelled check. Why would you want to hang on to this nuisance, taking time to sort your old checks and then take up room in a closet or some corner of a room holding on to things you’d probably never need. It was much easier to let your bank store the images of your checks. You need a copy, you call the bank and we send it to you. The State of Delaware was one of our first big commercial accounts to go for it.
Home life had settled into a routine. A few weekends each month we would drop the kids off at my parents while we took little day trips or went out alone. There were the usual celebrations, the birthday parties in March, August and December for Laurel, Darryl and Noelle. The big birthday dinner with my parents in June, the Wilson Family Reunion in August, our Anniversary in September, and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lois and I were both working, doing different shifts, so most week nights I was cooking. It was a busy time with that and looking after three young kids. We took a break on August 17 and spent a day in Gettysburg.
One evening Lois was at work and I was getting the kids ready for bed. Noelle was taking a bath. At four years of age she could handle this on her own and not drown. She would sit in the tub and play with these toys her grandparents had given her, Grow Monsters shaped like jungle animals. These toys were made from a superabsorbent polymer that could expend to 500 times their original size when put in water. They were very soft and seemed harmless enough. I knocked on the bathroom door to warn her it was time to get out of her bath and go to bed. I then went in to dry her off.

Blood, there was blood everywhere. It looked like a scene from “Psycho”. Noelle sat in her now rose-colored bath with blood streaking her lower face. She didn't cry, did not whimper, did not say anything. Hanging from her one nostril were the torn remains of a rhinoceros.

I took her from the tub and began drying her off.
She looked up at me. “I couldn't get it out,” she said.
She had stuck one of the toys up her nose where it expanded and gotten stuck. She obviously first tried pulling it out, but the major part of the body had simply torn away. The blood came from her picking at her nose in an attempt to get the remainder free. All I could think to do was call the pediatrician.
It was nearly nine o’clock in the evening. Fortunately, our pediatrician kept late hours. The receptionist answered. I said I wanted to bring my daughter in right away.
“What is the problem?” she asked.
“She has a rhinoceros’ foot stuck up her nose,” I said.
There was a long pause. I was lucky she didn’t hang up on me. Finally, she asked, “A what?”
I explained the situation and she said bring her right in. I hung up and called my wife at her job. She sounded weary. I told her I was taking Noelle to the pediatrician.
“What’s wrong?” she of course asked.
“She got a rhinoceros’ foot stuck in her nose,” I of course answered.
There were those few seconds of silence again followed by an angry voice. “I’m having a bad day,” she said, “I don’t have time for your jokes.”
Once again I had to explain myself.
Noelle was very good at the Doctor’s. even when he stuck tweezers up her nostril and removed the offending foot. She was stoic, never cried.
That was probably the most direct crisis we suffered at home that year. The gun fight seemed forgotten. Lois did have her spells of depression, but she was also experiencing spells of high energy, whirling through the house doing cleaning and such with a euphoric expression. She began to come home with new curtains and pictures that she happily hung…for a while, then she would show up with replacements for these. Nothing in her décor pleased her for long, but she was happy with her changes and busy work. I was happy she was happy rather than lying in bed with her dark moods. The depressions concerned me because there was no reason for most of them, but somehow the euphoria struck me as perfectly normal and a welcome change.
On December 2 I traveled down to Washington for three days to take an AMA course called, "Project Planning, Scheduling and Control Using Personal Computers.'
An hour away a different drama was playing out, one we were only vaguely aware of. I knew my grandmother had been ailing enough that she spent time in the hospital, but when we were around her she was still rather up in her attitude. My grandmother had kept diaries most of her life after my grandfather died. I inherited these diaries, both her's and my mother's, after my mom died. They have proved a great aid in establishing when events happened in my life, but I never realized the extent of my grandmother’s decline until I read her entries throughout the year 1985.

Left, Grandmother 1902
March:
11 – I slept late, didn’t feel well.
18 –I didn’t feel well.
21 – I am kind of sick, dizzy & worn out.

April:
7 – Easter, everyone was here for day and dinner. I felt sick and tired.
10 – Sick, couldn’t breathe.
11 – I didn’t feel well.
21 I am having pains in my stomach.

May:
1 (Entry made by my mom) – Mother (my grandmother) woke me up at 4:30 AM. She thought she couldn’t breathe. Bill and I took her to Phoenixville Hospital, where she was admitted. Heart problems and a touch of pneumonia.
2 (Entry made by my mom)--Mother in special care unit being given antibiotics and oxygen. Having spells of not getting her breath.
6 (Entry made by my mom) –Moved mother out of special care. She is in a room with a Mrs. Peters.
8 (Back to my grandmother’s entries) – I had pain all day in sides, can’t eat.
9 -- I had a chest and back X-rays, also bone scan.
10 – Nothing showed up in the tests, I have to stay in the hospital longer.
13 – Doctor told me I can’t go home until I can walk the hall. I was down to the heart station.
14 – Moved me to another room in with a Helen Pike, who is 84 and has heart troubles. (Note: my grandmother was 85.)
15 – I was still weak and shaky. The preacher stopped by.
18 – Larry and Lois here for visit. My heart gave me trouble in the night. Nurse had to hit me on the chest. The doctor put a pacemaker in.
21 – They gave me an enama and then I drank some new medicine.
22 – No longer hooked to any machine, but given another enema. I can’t stay awake.
26 Lois and I visited my grandmother in the evening.
28 -- I was angry because I couldn’t go home. I didn’t eat my lunch. Was given another enema.
31 --  got a new roommate, a Mrs. Fries from St. Peters. I’ve been told I can go home tomorrow.
                  
My grandmother, Christmas 1911, age 12.


June:
1 -- Finally came home, tired.
(My mom came down to our place to see Laurel in a Ballet Recital at the YMCA.)
2 – I need help to go to the bathroom.
4 – I got out of bed myself this morning, had to go to the bathroom. No one else was up.
5 – I was in pain all day. Sat out in room till I couldn’t get air, then went to bedroom.
6 – A man brought oxygen for me today.
7 – Couldn’t sleep all night, couldn’t breathe, had to use oxygen.
11 -- It was my 86th birthday. I spent the afternoon at the doctors from 3:30 till 5:30.
14 – I didn’t sleep well, sick in the stomach, terrible headache this morning.
17 – Terribly sick in the morning, minister visited in the PM.
18 I woke up sick in stomach again.
19 -- Sick in stomach all night. Mildred (my mom) called the doctor, he said it might be side effect of medicine.
20 -- Not as sick. Dr. said the pill Lamoxin might do it. Said not to take it until I saw him.
21 -- Still getting sick.
22 Lois and the children and I stayed with GM while my parents went out for dinner.
23 -- Still sick in morning. Once when Mildred was taking me to bathroom my leg shook and we almost fell.
25-- Mildred took me  to doctors. My heart was a little irregular
28 -- Finally had a good night’s sleep Felt good all day until supper time, then all stopped up and hard to breathe.
30 -- Sick all night, didn’t sleep.

Left: My grandmother, 1916, age 17.

July:
3 -- Result of a urine test I took was I had a bladder infection.
10-- I am Miserable. Slept all morning. Had the runs.
11—I didn’t feel too good when I got up, but felt better later.
16 --Didn’t sleep last night. Much pain and bowel problems, spent the morning going to the bathroom.
18 -- Felt miserable when I got up. Tired of going to the bathroom. I did some sewing and sorting books.
19 – I felt miserable. Head nurse from hospital called about my letter about the nurse talking nasty to me.
22 -- Still having same bathroom problems.
24 -- So miserable. Can’t hold my water, always wet.
25 -- I hurt so in the morning.
27 -- Lois and Children here by 9:00 to stay with me until Sunday night. Bill and Milly going to a wedding in Georgia.
30 –I’m still having pains. Dr. Eisner wants me to have tests.
31 Had a lot of belly pain in the morning.

Right, my grandmother in 1918.



August:
1 -- I always feel bad in the morning.
2 -- Was sick again in the morning. Felt like I was going to throw up. Mildred took me for ride in afternoon to flea market then to Yoders, I felt dizzy.
4 -- Didn’t feel as bad this morning
10 -- Didn’t sleep, so sick again.
13 – Went to Dr. Eisner, said I needed a Barran (sic - Barium) enema.
14 -- I started on my liquid diet, had to take a bottle of liquid to move my bowels.
15 -- I spent day on commode. Had to drink 5 glasses of liquid. Up most of night going to bathroom.
16--  At hospital at 8:30 AM. Had signa up rectum, barran(sic) enema, ultrasound of pelvis. Doctor called in PM with bad news, I have a mass on my overy.
19 -- Was so sick again this morning
20 – I’m in lots of pain.
21 -- So sick in the morning.
22 – I was so nauseated in morning
25 – I didn’t feel good when I got up, but went to the Wilson Reunion.
27 -- At doctor’s in afternoon. Have to make decision to have operation or not.
28 – I was so sick in morning, pain in afternoon.
29 -- Was so sick and more pain up my side.
30 -- Still felt miserable; Dr Eisner called in evening.

September:
2 -- So sick in morning, didn’t sleep all night.
3 – I decided I would get the cat scan, called Dr. Eisner.
9 -- All set to go to hospital to get cat scan when hospital called and cancelled.
10 -- Went. to Phoenixville at 11:30 to get cat scan. Had to drink 2 glasses of liquid and wait until 2:00 to get scan. Nervous and played out when it was done.
11 -- Had trouble with bowels
12 – Mildred and I went to church craft shows, had to leave at 3:30, feeling sick.
14  I went up and stayed with Grandmother because mom went out.
18 – I always feel bad in morning, threw up breakfast. Mildred took me for a ride after lunch.
19 – In lot of pain when I got up. After lunch Mildred and I came down to see the Gerbils. (I had bought some gerbils for the kids.)
23 -- I had so much pain today
24 -- Lot of pain.

Left, my grandmother in 1920.


October
1 -- Throwing up most of the day.
2 -- I couldn’t sleep because of the pain
4 -- Pretty sick today
7 I went up and stayed with Granmother.
9 – I was sick when I got up, better later.
11 -- Didn’t sleep much due to pain
12 – Again didn’t sleep much due to pain.
16 -- Pretty sick when I got up, better later
19 My parents went to Poconos, we all came and stayed with my Grandmother.
23 -- Having bowel trouble.
24 -- Still having trouble.
25 I wasn’t feeling good this morning

November
7 – I didn’t feel too bad, so went to the dinner with the gang. I was sick afterward.
10 -- Felt very sick this morning
12 – I had lot of pain early
15 -- Didn’t feel good
17 – I had a lot of pain
18 -- Had a great deal of pain when I got up.
20 – I had terrible pain in morning, but did go to the Morgantown Mall with Mildred.
21 – I had pain and threw up breakfast.
22 -- Lots of pain in morning.
24 -- Very sick when I got up.
25 – I threw up breakfast again.
26 – I had great deal of trouble getting food today, threw up breakfast.
27 -- Had terrible pain in stomach.
28 -- Thanksgiving, Mildred cooked a big dinner, didn’t feel too good.
29 -- Still having lot of pain

Right, 1941, my grandmother holding me.


December:
1 – I felt terrible, so sick and pain, also dizzy.
5 – I was very sick this morning.
6 -- So sick in morning.
10 -- After lunch I had to go to the doctor. He took me right away.
12 – I had a lot of pain in morning.
13 – I was so sick, couldn’t eat much
15 -- Had some pain, not as bad. We all went down to Larry’s for Noelle’s birthday.

(The following entries were made by my mother in my grandmother’s diary.)
19 -- Mother was a mess in morning, didn’t know what she was doing.
21 – Mother was so sick with pain she could hardly walk, had to have a nurse come, she can’t eat.
22 -- Mother was miserable when she got up, had accident in night.
23 -- The nurse was with mother.
25 -- Christmas. Mother so sick she didn’t want to get up. Larry and Lois brought the dinner up here. Mother felt better after the kids came.
27 -- Mother can’t eat, mind is muddled. Too many pain pills. Nurse was there.
28 -- Mother so weak she can’t hold her head up, only got 2 glasses of liquid down.
29 -- Not good, it took Bill and me to get her up. Nurse came here, had to call ambulance to take her to hospital.
30 Mother’s in the hospital. More alert since they got fluids in her. Lois and Larry there.







New Year’s Eve of 1986 has arrived. We are all glad to see 1985 go.

1 comment:

WARPed said...

Another great chapter, Larry.

The "rhinoceros’ foot stuck up her nose" story is a classic!

:-)

-Andy