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, July 26, 2017

Thyroid, Thy have the Soul of a Demon

Back in those long-ago days, our development had its own community pool. It was a very nice one, L-shaped, Olympian-Sized. I had taken a family membership and my kids learned to dive there. It had a separate wading pool for little waddling, toddler kids, a snack bar, changing rooms and a shower.  (Left, Noelle venturing into the community pool.)
When I first joined cost was reasonable, but each year they raised the membership fee until it got too high and I dropped out. It must have been too
high for a lot of people and less went there until after a couple years more they closed it. A few more years passed and then the beautiful pool disappeared. It was totally broken up and hauled away, the hole filled, covered with dirt and turf and some playground equipment. Today it is only a small park and playground (right) and by this year 2017 probably a lot of residents don’t know a swimming pool had ever existed here. There are some people of Indian descent who go to the park in the summer and play cricket where once was sparkling blue water. 
Anyway, in 1989 I had a family membership to the pool and would take the kids down for swimming several times in the summer. (Left, Laurel jumping into the pool.) Lois only went one or two times. Like most situations where other people might be found in clusters, she avoided this one, too. During this summer 1989 I began experiencing a lot of muscle cramps, not just in my legs, but all over my body. There were some real terrible ones that clamped across my chest. Sometimes my face even cramped up. Was it caused by the cold water? I didn’t know, but I didn’t like it.
Beside these cramps, which continued to attack me even after swimming season ended, I experienced double vision that autumn. I would be watching television and there would be two screens, one just above the other. Not only that, but I could hardly stand to keep my eyes open outdoors. The sunlight caused me to suffer pain in my eyes. Even more annoying, it felt like I had sand under my lids.  I went to my ophthalmologist for an exam. He told me there was nothing wrong with my eyes, but double vision could indicate something else was going on in my body. He suggested I see my family physician. The fsmily physician, naturally, sent me to a specialist, this time an endocrinologist, a gland doctor.
Once more I was getting blood tests and also sent off to the hospital for several untrasounds. The results came back and he told me I had hyperthyroidism.

“But I have hypothyroidism,” I told him.
“You had,” he corrected. “You now have hyperthyroidism. It is rare, but sometimes hypo does jump to hyper. I see about 1 case a year.” He also explained to me that the disease usually strikes after the age of 50. I wasn’t there yet. He went on telling me it was way more common in women than men, 5 to 8 times as common. Oh, joy, why do I always beat the odds and get these things. It never seems to work that way on the lottery!
Besides the hyperthyroidism, I had Graves’ Disease. This was why I felt like there was sand in
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my eyes, as well as my sensitivity to light. Graves’ Disease causes an inflammatory reaction in the eye muscles and they swell. This swelling having nowhere to go due to the bone structure around them will begin pushing the eyes from the sockets giving one a protruding eye appearance. My eyes were pushed out enough that my eyelids could not completely close when I was asleep. Your eyelids lubricate the eyes, but with mine being partially open all night, my eyes dried out, thus the feeling of sand. (Left, with Noelle.)
The light sensitivity was gradually growing worse. It got so bad I was driving to work with one eye closed and a hand over my open eye and I was just peeking through the slit between my fingers. Not just the bright sunlight was a problem. Overhead lights, such as we had at work, were a problem. I had to take to wearing a baseball cap indoors and out.
Nothing else helped. Sunglasses did me no good, the light just went over the top. I did have to have that visor of a baseball cap to shade my eyes. Still, my eyes were so sensitive I was in constant pain and having difficulty seeing. I was sent to another lab where I underwent a CTScan of my head. I was pushed into a bulbous contraption that twisted and turned and made a lot of noise. I pretended it was an amusement park ride. It took all these images inside my skull. I told them they wouldn’t find anything in there.
I was going to the Lab for blood work twice a week as the doctor sought what medication
might help me. As to my eyes, he put me on a steroid called prednisone. Now this steroid made the lower half of my face and my neck sell up. My neck was getting larger and my eyes were popping out. I was turning into a frog.
Prednisone was not a very great
thing to be on and I could only take it for six weeks. It changed my personality, as well as turning me into a monster physically. It made me feel angry most of the time. I easily snapped, threw things, even cursed for the first time in my life. I went to the Concord Mall one day and while walking across the parking lot I believed a driver came too close to me. I began running after his car, yelling and screaming. That was certainly not like me.
I couldn’t continue to chase cars because my muscles were getting so week from the Hyperthyroidism it was becoming difficult to stand up let alone run. The doctor decided to take me off the prednisone. The steroid was not having any positive effect on my eyes bulging out anyway. He sent me to another specialist, a radiologist at Christiana Care Hospital.
This doctor had a strong German accent. He told me he was going to have to give me radiation treatment.
“Do not let it vorry you, Mister Meredith. It may cause cataracts…but ve can remove cataracts. It could give you skin cancer…but ve can cure skin cancer. So, Mister Meredith, you have nothing to vorry about. It is perfectly safe.”
I was scheduled for treatment in early February 1990. First I had to go a week ahead for the technicians to do measurements on my face. They laid me on this table under this giant machine and began to map out where I would be zapped. They target dots and drew a grid on my face with orange marker connecting the dots. I was told I couldn’t wash or shower my face until after the procedure, so for the next couple of weeks I had to walk around with this odd mask of lines on my countenance. Maybe today with so many people getting their face tattooed with odd designs it would be shrugged off, but this was 1990, nearly 30 years ago and tattoos had not made a social splash yet. I just looked like some kind of weirdo. Or maybe a Super Hero, Orange-Faced Man!
To compound matters, I was one of the Bank’s representatives to ACES. I believe the acronym stood for “American Commercial Enterprise System”. It was a program for teachers where they could pick up continuing educational credits. The teachers would visit a number of local businesses over several weeks, a different one each week. They would be shown around and the operations would be explained. Wilmington Trust had about five managers from different departments of the company who would lecture about their area. I represented deposit operations.
The teachers loved coming to the Bank more than any other business they visited. Why? It was because Wilmington Trust had this place called the Rodney Square Club. It was very exclusive. People paid an annual membership to belong to what was essentially a restaurant located on the top floor of our headquarters. Actually, the kitchen doubled for the Executive Dining Room, located on the same floor behind a separating wall.  When the teachers came, after the lectures, we took them up to the club for a free meal. That was nice because it meant a free meal for we speakers as well.
I did feel a bit awkward because the week I got the orange grid work across my face was the week we met with a new batch of teachers.
In the beginning of February, I was down to Christiana Care Radiation Department for
treatment every day. I was ushered into a large, sterile room that looked like the scene from some science fiction movie. A table/bed was the only furniture I remember. It was in the center of the space. Above was this large piece of equipment. The technicians got me centered on the table and spent a few minutes lining up the end of the thing with the grid drawn upon me. Finally, I was told everything was perfectly safe, just not to move. Then they all ran out of the room and hid behind a barricade. Boy, didn’t that build confidence.
Have you ever noticed when warned you must not move how quickly you develop the need to scratch your nose or something?
The contraption did the trick as far as the swelling was concerned. The muscles grew smaller and my eyes receded back into the sockets; although, my right eye has always remained protruding a bit further than it should.
Even though I was looking a little more normal I still had the light sensitivity and the pain from that. It was so great that I was in constant misery. I couldn’t even sleep at night. I had to take a medical leave from work. I could not stand any light at all. I couldn’t even look at TV. Finally, all I could do was sit on the living room sofa with a blanket over my head to keep out any light. It hardly mattered. The hyperthyroidism had weakened my muscles to the point it was an effort to stand up or walk.

My parents were down for Laurel’s 12th birthday (Left). I’m sure I was a lot of fun, hiding as I was beneath a blanket.
  I could hardly stand sitting about the house any more. I decided to take a chance on escaping back into the world. Even though I was very weak and wobbly I saw no harm in taking a little ride. Lois had the one car and was at work. I had this old Chevy Corvette I used. I took it and drove down what was called the Washington Street Extension. I turned around in the entrance to Rockwood Museum Park and headed home, except I hadn’t gone far when the car ran out of gas.
What do I do now? In 1990, the cell phone was still not very available on a wide basis. I certainly didn’t have CB radio in the car. I decided my best bet was to walk somewhere and get some gas, if I could manage to walk at all.

Well, I did. I walked out to Philadelphia Pike where there were some gas stations and other stores. I needed something to carry the gas in so I walked until I found an auto parts store and bought a 5-galleon gas can. I then walked back the way I had come to a gas station. It was self-serve at some pumbs, but you had to pay inside. I went in to the office to a counter. There were two women operating the station. I purchased a couple galleons and went out to pump it into the can.
I got the nozzle over the opening in the can, but I had to kind of squat down to do it, since I had to set the can on the ground. My legs had it by this time.  I began to do a knee bend and plop! I fell back onto my rump. I looked around. I figured those women were probably dialing the police about then. “Officer, we got some guy out here we think he’s drunk. He sprawled on the ground and he’s tryin’ to fill a gas can. Looks dangerous to us.”
No cops showed up. I managed to get to my feet with my can and somehow made it back to my car and poured it in the tank. I made it home, but knew I wouldn’t be making any more spur-of-the-moment jaunts for a while.
I felt miserable the entire month of March. On March 30 I was still home from work and suffering.
My parents came down on Easter. We went out to dinner at Schmacker’s Restaurant. My mom said I looked terrible. I certainly felt terrible.
My doctor decided my thyroid was not going to improve. The only alternate was to do it in. I came into his office and his nurse gave me a cup of poison to drink. I gulped it down. This was a radioactive iodine cocktail. Its purpose was to kill that nasty old thyroid that had revolted against me.  It worked and I suffered no side effects from it.
By May 6, I was feeling better and I continued to return to my old self after that. The every few days to the lab to get blood tests gradually phased out as my T levels became balanced. Since I no longer owned a thyroid, those T levels would forever have to be monitored and I was back on that one little pill a day for the rest of my life.
It took time for my face to return from frog to human, almost a couple of years. Due to that
evil thyroid my hair had turned complexly gray and my muscles were left in sad shape. I went back to weight lifting to build myself up again and walking more to lose any excess pounds. In case you are wondering, I am doing arm curls with a 35 pound dumbbell in each hand. (You can certainly see the splotches of my psoriasis in this photo.)
It wasn’t a big deal. I had always walked and also had started weight lifting while in high school as that skinny guy always getting sand kicked in his face at the beach. I was never consistent with it, doing it some years and not on others, but it helped keep me toned. I never looked like the guys on the cover of “Strength & Health”, but that’s okay; those guys were usually short, I was tall. I never reaching my goal of having a six-pack either.
My eyes more or less stayed in their socket where they belong, except my right eye continued to bulge out a bit. My eyesight was never good and it stayed funky after the Graves’ Disease. I
thought the Hyperthyroidism caused the Graves’, but eventually found out it was the opposite. I got hyperthyroidism because I got Graves’ Disease. Graves’, psoriasis and what comes later show my immune system was definitely out of-whack; a rebel against my own body.
The sensitivity to light never completely went away. I had to wear the baseball cap in order to
see whenever I was outside and often inside if there were overhead lights. If I am outdoors without the hat, especially on sunny days, I am basically blind. Without the hat I don’t know where I’m going.

Some may claim I never knew where I was going anyway.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Peaceful Year, except perhaps, the Murder Next Door

Wilmington Trust would regularly do health screenings as a free service to we employees. I don't know if it was because they really cared about our health or to see if we were still alive. Usually these were conducted by the Visiting Nurses Association of Delaware. It was probably through them because John Behringer, a Section Manager and Assistant Vice-President, the man everyone suspected would eventually replace Walt Whittaker as the head o Deposit Services, was on the organization's board. On September 22 they were giving blood pressure screenings
I routinely went to these. It was cheaper than a doctor appointment and in my position I was expected to set an example for the troops. It was no biggie. I knew I had hypertension and was on a medication for it. And the test was simple, no needles involved. The nurse just slapped a cuff about the arm and listened to your pulse while the thing grew tighter around you.
Thus I sat there as the cuff squeezed. I looked at the nurse and her face had turned ashen. She appeared actually about to faint. She told me my blood pressure was somewhere over 200 and my pulse was a mere 20 beats a minute. She also commented my skin was clammy. To see the fright in her eyes I thought maybe I should lie down on the floor; I must be dead.
She told me I needed to see my doctor at once, and Walt my boss, agreed. He told me to call my physician and to go home.
I did both. My doctor told me to come right in. He did a general examination and sent me off for blood work. Now there would be a needle involved. Apparently, I wasn’t going to drop dead right away. I reluctantly obeyed, for I have a phobic fear of needles.  I had studiously avoid as much as possible having any of those things stuck into me.
One night a few days later my doctor called me at home. He had just gotten the results of my blood tests and wanted me to come to his office right away. He sounded as shook up as that Visiting Nurse. Maybe I was getting to such a state myself. It's a scary thing to hear a doctor say drop everything and come see me. So I drove in to see him.
He slapped a copy of my test results in my hand as if those lines and ranges would mean something to me. He pointed to one result.
“See that?” he asked. “It shouldn’t be that high.” He looked at me briefly.” And look at this one.” He pointed down the page to another line with numbers on it. “If that first one is high, this one should be low. But it isn’t. It is too high as well. It doesn’t make sense”
He sat down in his chair behind his desk waving the test results in the air. “None of this make sense,” he said. “I have no idea what’s going on except I can’t make heads or tails of these results.” He calmed down and paused, taking out a card he wrote something down and handed it to me. “I want you to see a kidney specialist,” he said. “Call the number on the card to make an appointment.”
I called the nyber and the next available apointment was in October.

While waiting to see the kidney specialist in October, I went through a seminar at Online
Consulting in Wilmington. This course lasted three days and got me certified on Office Writer Inform. It really fascinates me how many word processing programs I went through until M/S Office’s Word sort of become the standard.

I finally saw the kidney specialist and he did nothing except send me to Christiana Care for further tests, such as un ultra-scan of my kidneys. Oh, and bill me for the visit, of course. The result of these tests was my kidneys were alledgedly loafing on the job; working only 50% of the time. This was scary stuff. I had nightmares I would end up on dialysis spending hours watching my blood going through tubes to be washed.  On October 20 I visited the Kidney Doctor, a Nephrologist, in his office. I went in with a little dread, but he quickly told me my kidneys weren’t the problem. They were fine, but my thyroid wasn’t working, at least, not working hard enough. I had hypothyroidism. The thyroid is like the body’s thermostat. It controls your metabolism among other things. My thyroid was not injecting enough hormone into my system when needed. It was no big deal, he assured me, unless I ignored it. He gave me a prescription. All I need do was take this one little pill every day for the rest of my life.

In the middle of November my dad came down to our house to rake the leaves. He said my mother was driving him crazy and he just had to get away. Both parents came down for Grandparent’s Day at my kids school. We went up to Bucktown for Thanksgiving and this year instead of cooking a big meal, my parents took us all out to the Dinner Bell Restaurant for supper.
On December 3 my mom went out to feed her cat, which lived in the garage/basement, but
she fell down the stone steps hurting her right foot and skinning her leg, arm and head. Dad took her to the Phoenixville Hospital. Her foot wasn’t broken, just badly sprained, but they put a cast on anyway. Of the 15, Misty the dog, fell over her water dish and spilled the water on the floor. My mom slipped on the spillage and fell on her bottom. She was more embarrassed than hurt. The doctor took her cast off on the 19th.
We had Christmas at our place.

I went to my doctor in the middle of January 1989 and my blood pressure was good. The daily thyroid pill was doing the job. I was feeling well, except on February 18 when I came down with the flu. Everybody in our house was sick. I was still in bed on the 23rd. Other than that hiccup both Lois and I were getting along without incident. So it went pacefully and normally through spring.

In June I went to Washington DC for a seminar at the AMA called, “Measuring and Managing Products Profitability. My mom came and stayed with the kids while Lois joined me in Washington.

On July 4 we went to the Fireworks Picnic in Rockford Park. Rockford, not to be confused with Rockwood, is located in Wilmington, not far from Immanuel Highlands where we were still attending church. It was quite an event, including food naturally, and a concert  before the fireworks display that featured the singer Mel Torme, (left) the Velvet Fog as he was called.
We had spread a blanket on the ground like most around us. Pictured are Darryl, myself and Noelle before Hell broke loose. We got a good close up view of
the fireworks. Oh did we ever, too close a view. It was like finding yourself in the middle of an arial war raid. Little fires fell from the sky around us as the bombs burst in air. My kids were terrified, and I was, too. I was very relieved to escape the park in one piece, even though we had the fear of the car overheating as we poked through city street with the rest of the exiting crowd.

Wilmington Trust decided to photograph all their employees for the 1989 Annual Report. We were ordered to report to the Delaware Stadium for the picture taking. (Delaware Stadium did not become Tubby Raymond Field until 2002.) This was scheduled for late afternoon on a sun-blistering mid-July day. The temperature was blazing and they had to line up around 2,000 plus people with no shade or shelter from the sun, which was in our face. The photographer was in the press box on the opposite side of the football field and needed the sun at his back for the light. It took over an hour to get everyone situated. By some miracle no one passed out.
After several takes they got the picture they wanted and we were dismissed. Food had been catered and was being served beneath the stands. It was the usual picnic style dishes, hamburgers and hot dogs, but there was also potato and macaroni salad and other things. Some of these items were not the best to have standing about in 90 plus degree heat for a couple hours. A number of the partakers ended up with food poisoning.
The photograph wrapped around the cover of the annual report. Somehow I ended up on the front not too far left of the logo. I called this my “Where’s Waldo” moment. 
So, where is Larry? Can you find me?

Okay, if you look left of the bottom curve of the logo I am about four people over. I’m the one in gray hair.
My moment of fame!

On August 17, we went to my mom’s and then she drove us all up to the Land of Little
Horses Miniature Horse Farm in Gettysburg. It is an interesting attraction. They have a lot of miniature animals beside the horses. There is a tent show with a parade and different acts, kind of like a circus. There was a sulky race. We all took a carriage ride, then Laurel and Darryl took pony rides. Afterwards, we drove through some of the Battlefield. We had dinner at the Family Time Restaurant in York.
On the 27th we went to the Wilson family Reunion, held now at my cousin Horace’s farm
near Phoenixville instead of Bob Wilson’s place. Bob and his family had moved to Maryland where he started a horse farm. There was no pool at Cousin Horace’s and it was still hot even late in August. Horace was one of my Grand Uncle Heber’s sons; the other was Everett. My cousin Bob had been Heber’s brother Evans' son. We explored the barn and a little museum Horace kept, played the games, but all of us were very wore out and I think we left early. Our weariness shows in the photo. We went home, but Laurel stayed behind and went to her grandparents for a couple days.

Darryl’s birthday was August 24, but like many of our family events, we didn’t celebrate it on the actual day. We were celebrating it on August 30. My mother came down and Lois had baked a cake that was waiting on the dining room table.  Mom and Laurel arrived around 3:30 and I got home from work at 4:30. Darryl searched for his presents, which were hidden about the house and then opened them. I then went back to the bedroom to change from my suit to something cooler. Lois went to the kitchen to prepare our dinner.
It was a little after 5:00 by then. There was a knock on the front door and Noelle answered it. Standing there was a policeman. He asked her if her mother was there, but didn’t wait for an answer. He simply walked in, up the steps to the living area and then down the hall toward the bedrooms. Just then I stepped out of the bedroom and here was this cop standing in my hallway where he had no business being. The only thing he said was, “Sir, I want you to take your family immediately, leave the house and go up to the top of the street.” We hurriedly filed out. My fear was a gas leak. Once outside I asked the officer what was wrong. He said, “We’re having a little trouble with a neighbor.” That was all he told us. We followed orders and went up the block to the next intersection at Wentworth, the street behind our home that intersected with our street where it curved higher up the hill.
There were a number of people milling about the intersection, rousted from their homes along both Olympia and Wentworth. There  were a group of cops huddled about halfway down Wentworth, about opposite where a home there bordered on my backyard. Suddenly a young black man came from where the crowd had gathered and began running down the middle of Wentworth. Police yelled at him to stop, but he ignored them until one cop grabbed him. It took three police to finally halt his progress and they slammed him down to the ground. They handcuffed him and took him away down the street.
“That’s the son,” somebody said and we finally heard what had happened from some of the bystanders. The people who lived behind me were named Newell. They had moved in less than a year ago and had two small children who lived there. The children had sometimes played with my own. The youngBlack the cops had tackled was also a son, but he was in his late teens or early twenties and didn’t live in the same house. Mrs. Newell had a restraining order against her husband. He wasn’t supposed to come anywhere near her, but those restraining orders are only paper and little protection. Newell had showed up at the house and pushed his way in.
The cops weren’t certain of the situation. They knew he and his wife were in the house and they knew he had a gun. They were treating this as a hostage situation and trying to coax Newell out without any harm to anyone. At this point they didn’t realize his wife lay in the garage already dead.
It was getting late in the evening. This may have been a hot August day, but with darkness came a chill. Other people drifted off to stay with relatives or to book a motel room. We were stuck. When the cop told us to leave immediately I did just that. I didn’t grab my wallet, only my keys. My mother had left her pocketbook in the house. Neither of us was being allowed to go down the street and get our cars. We had no transportation nor any money. We were stuck.
It was getting later and colder. I was only dressed in a thin pair of shorts and a T-shirt. The kids were no better dressed. I looked down and saw Darryl had left without his shoes. Then a man I didn’t know came up to us. He identified himself as fire police and said he would take us to the firehouse to spend the night.
Several firemen greeted us when he dropped us at the firehouse in Claymont. They led us
upstairs to their lounge. Some of them went out and came back with pizza and sodas for us. They gave us blankets and we bunked down best we could right there. None of us slept very well. Police and fire calls kept coming in over the radio all night. The fire whistle blew at 3:00 AM.
In the morning the firemen brought us donuts and coffee, milk and juice for the kids. I called into work and told them I wouldn’t be in today. They had heard reports on the news. Afterward, I walked back to our street, going to the lower end. I had hoped I could go up and into my house, pick up my wallet and get Darryl’s shoes. When I got there I found a patrol car blocking the street. I asked the officer if I go to my house, but he said I couldn’t. “It’s right in the line of fire,” he said. Newell was still holed up. He had an automatic weapon and had threatened to blow the house up.
I walked down Glenrock between my street and Wentworth. I could see up to my back yard and there was a swat team on my back porch with rifles aimed toward Newell’s. Wentworth had a barrier across it, but you could see the action up the street. A crowd of people were already there watching. I counted 21 cop cars along the street. Police were up in the trees. A negotiator was on a bullhorn. They had fetched Newell’s mother to the scene and she was pleading with him to come out. He wouldn’t budge.
They whisked his mother away and I heard a couple pops from the backyard and glass breaking. They had begun lobbing teargas into the house. Suddenly there was a pop nearby followed by a loud explosion and I could see a large hole had been blasted through the garage door. Still he wouldn’t come out.
I walked back to the firehouse. The firemen brought us subs for lunch. Newell finally surrendered at 3:00 PM. They rushed in and found his wife’s body in the garage. Their two young children had been away with someone so no harm came to them.
The firemen drove us home at 4:45. There were paw prints from a cat across Darryl’s birthday cake. My mother finally left at 10:30 that night. She took Darryl and Noelle with her, even though Noelle protested about going with her.
Noelle protested all of September 1. On the second my parents took them to Rax for lunch. Darryl’s was free because it was his birthday. Then they took the kids to an antique car museum in Boyertown. My mom made supper, but both kids really wanted to come home by then. Lois, Laurel and I came to dinner and then took them home.

In October we attended the 30th Reunion of Owen J. Roberts Class of 1959. It was here I learned my close high school friend, Richard Ray Miller was dead. He was only 47 when he passed, but when we try and drown our disappointments in alcohol, it sometimes removes us from the scene early.

Richard Ray Miller and Ray Ayres and I had written some little plays for our high school. We were constantly together in those days.

(Right, Richard Ray held over the edge by Ray Ayres. Miller and Ayres were my closest friends at Owen J. Both are deceased.)

We had Thanksgiving dinner at our place and also Christmas. The year sort of quietly ended with a visit to my parents and another dinner on New Year’s Eve. 1989 ended rather peacefully, perhaps a good sign as we entered the 1990s.

Or maybe not.