The other day someone asked about what writing I was involved with. Since the book Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic, (http://amzn.to/2c1iKJl) was released in February 2016 and I publish at least one book a year, it was an understandable question. As some of you who follow the blog know, I was drawn into co-authoring another non-fiction book that I haven’t been at liberty to discuss. There are still a few details to work out and if you are a baseball fan, you’ll be happy. (It’s been quite a stretch for me, but an interesting project.) There has also been activity on the novel side, but I can’t quite explain that yet either. The reason is because it, like Irises to Ashes, or Orchids in the Snow, is a stand-alone book, but is very different from others I have written because it is not in the genre of woman’s fiction. More explanation of that will soon follow as well.
I have returned to Verde Key and Police Detective Bev Henderson and there are a couple of thorny issues to work out. A murder sequence I intended to follow simply wasn’t flowing as I had hoped and I had to adjust the story accordingly. I think it will get me where I want to go now, but I have to play around with it a bit more before I’m certain. In other words, it’s possible I’ll have the non-fiction and one novel out in late spring and the “Shades” book in late summer. As for the cozy – “Small Town” quilting series, there will be a fourth one although perhaps not until early 2018.
So yes, writing definitely is continuing and more news is forthcoming.
I suppose I should have timed a previous post for today, but I’ll elaborate instead on a post I did quite a while back. I happened to be part of the Army during the fairly early transition to what was known as VOLAR, the All Volunteer Army. I’m not about to get into the complexities that went into that decision and very fundamental cultural change. The point is with more than thirty years now of a volunteer force, and admittedly concerns for deployment to dangerous places, there can be a reluctance by parents or other adults of influence to encourage young people to go into the military.
I do understand and there are physical requirements of the military that can’t be overcome – some of which are quite odd. Asthma is an example. Some individuals suffer asthma as children, but for whatever reason, the condition disappears. In other cases, asthma is only induced by very specific irritants that do not usually occur in the military and therefore, asthma is not a disqualifier. However, exercise-induced asthma is a permanent disqualifier. And not everyone is emotionally suited for the military. That, however, is a little trickier because there have been a great many individuals where that initial assessment (whether their personal view or someone else’s) was incorrect.
For the sake of this post, those who are physically and emotionally suited for service, should seriously consider it. As always, there is the option of going in as enlisted or going in through ROTC (or one of the service academies) to be an officer. Yes, the option still exists of enlisting, then applying for Officer Training to become an officer. Each of the services have slightly different programs and requirements for that option. Most initial military commitments are four years, although there are variances, to include a mix of active and reserve time. If four years seems “long”, it’s basically the same amount of time as high school. I’m not going to say the military magically transforms everyone – it doesn’t. There are jerks, bullies, and incompetents just as in any given large group. They, however, are the exception and a small percentage. Structurally, the military is not set up for everyone to stay beyond the initial commitment. However, no matter what service is entered and no matter what skill is pursued, at a minimum, there will be some type of training that in general can translate into later employment. More importantly, I can promise the individual will have probably accomplished things he or she might have thought were not possible. There is, of course an element of irony as I write this that our son chose not to enter the military. As I said, it isn’t for everyone.
Anyone who follows the blog probably knows by now Hurricane Matthew swung a wider path than anticipated and hit well north of us. We of course feel for those who have borne (and may yet bear) the brunt. We do have a lot of residents who arrived in 2006 or later as we have had calm hurricane seasons. They have not seen trees bent over, rain coming down as if from a fire hose, power lines snapped and arcing sparks and flames across the road, phones and electricity out for days. (And that was with only a Cat 1) The idea we took measures that were not in fact required doesn’t mean it was wasted effort. The problem, as always, is if you wait until the last minute to be sure, you wait too long for certain things. Shutters and food/water provisions are the best examples. If you have bolt-on metal shutters or plywood, they are heavy, difficult to maneuver, and time-consuming to put up. What is more difficult, however, is to try and do so when the wind picks up to 30-40 miles an hour, then increases. Waiting to go to the grocery store means, at a minimum, you’ll be in long lines with less choice (sometimes a lot less) than you would have otherwise.
Unlike tornadoes and earthquakes that come with little, if any, warning, hurricanes and blizzards generally approach over a period of time and you have to make decisions. This really is why having basic items on-hand during whatever the “season” is makes sense. That can in fact minimize what you have to do when threatened. Since items like batteries and non-perishable food can be kept for long periods, buy them at the beginning, then plan to use them in the later months. (Okay, we did forget the case of water in the garage that sat for more than two years, but it was useful for watering plants.)
Sure, it’s irritating to wrestle with something like heavy shutters when it turns out to have been not needed, but it’s a great deal less trouble than dealing with the aftermath of even a Cat 1. In actuality, one of the best “preps” is to sit with someone who genuinely knows how to read the detailed discussions of weather reports such as you get from sites like Weather Underground. It may seem confusing, but once you understand the minutia, you are better equipped to make your own decisions.
Emotionally intense content alert. This is not a new theme for this blog, but recent events of people around me caused me to want to say once again that as Baby Boomers, we face two different, yet related issues. First, if your parent/parents or other aged relatives are still living, the time may come when they are simply not the person you knew. Dementia has a heartbreakingly wide range, not all of which is easily categorized. In some cases, dementia can be combined with terrible pain due to an injury or an illness. In either situation, I would strongly urge you to consult with Hospice. If the individual has left a home setting and is in an appropriate care facility, the facility is usually linked in with Hospice. As I explained in Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, there may be multiple hospice organizations in your area. If so, you have a choice as to which one to use. When someone reaches the stage of severe dementia, they may well not be able to make personal choices and the chance of improvement is highly unlikely. Although every individual situation has to be properly diagnosed, everyone over the age of about 60 can be defined as being in a terminal state. Severe dementia is not life-threatening, but most of us have become so accustomed to taking routine medications for conditions such as high blood pressure we don’t even think of that as “artificial means”. (We tend to view “artificial means” as only being hooked to a machine.) Making the decision to cease all medications except for sleep and pain can be heartbreaking and create questions and self-doubt.
This leads me to the second issue which is none of us want to believe this will happen to us. It seems too unfair, too unkind, and surely there will be a treatment/cure before then. There is nothing wrong with hoping for that. It is incredibly important, however, to make your wishes known in the event you do suffer severe dementia. The sentiment of, “I won’t care because I won’t know what’s going on”, can be said cavalierly if you’ve never heard the panicked voice or sobs of a parent/elderly relative who suddenly can’t comprehend where they are or why, “they can’t come home.” It is true that in some cases, severe dementia does not cause distress and an individual can comfortably live in a “time or place” they have mentally created, knowing you less as the person you are and more as someone from their past or simply, “a nice young man/woman”. I urge you to have the courage to address this possibility as clearly as you do the eventuality of an illness or injury that leaves you in a coma. If you can no longer make choices for yourself, be certain whoever is in charge (and legally designate someone) knows what you want done.
Poignant content alert. It’s been a long time since we had a pet in the house other than taking temporary custody of my friend’s cat after she passed away. I travel so often and we have such erratic schedules, we probably won’t be getting one any time soon. A friend is struggling with the decision about his dog and will probably make the difficult choice next week. It’s the usual dilemma of how long do you wait when there is truly no hope of any kind of recovery, limited eyesight, and virtually no mobility.
Several years ago, my former mother-in-law was faced with the situation and she had finally braced herself. She had called the vet to tell her she would bring the dog in on her way to work. She had petted him, kissed him and gone in to get dressed. Oddly enough, she came out, went to pick him up and realized he was no longer breathing. As she sat and wrapped the afghan around him to take him to the vet (teary-eyed of course), she suddenly realized how grateful she was not to have to take that final step. Interestingly, not long ago another friend discovered one of the vets in town actually provides an in-home service. Yes, it does cost extra, but in the same way as hospice for people, it allows the final moments to be in a familiar setting filled with love. It isn’t something I would ever have thought about, but it does make sense.
Serious content alert. Yesterday was a long day as I flew to Louisiana after getting word a few days ago of my stepmother’s passing. The event was not unexpected, although there was thought it could be a bit in the future. The point to this post is something I’ve written about before. Once an individual goes into genuine decline, you don’t know what the timing will be. Without being alarmist, that’s when we should figure out how to make a visit or strengthen contact as a “just in case”. One of the aspects of hospice is to provide that framework since entering into hospice essentially makes the announcement of, “I don’t know when, but I am accepting the approaching stage.” Although I say, “our culture tends to make discussing approaching death an uncomfortable subject”, I’m not certain other cultures do a better job of it.
The concept of “Celebration of Life” does make sense and most people embrace that now, for that is what we hope family and friends can remember of an individual who is departed. I don’t know which culture is responsible for the old questions of, “Did you find joy in life and did you give joy?” as a measure, but it is a good one to keep in mind.
Musing content alert. I make it a point to try and stay away from politics. The intent of this post is to focus on a subject in what I intend as a relatively objective view and I hope it’s taken that way. In general, we in this country have a limited genuine appreciation for history in that we take what’s going on today and often don’t reach back into history for appropriate comparisons. When I say “back”, I mean sometimes centuries back. (I agree, in some cases we only need to go back a few decades to say, hmm, that didn’t work then, don’t think it will this time either. Conversely, hmm, that might have worked if we’d give it a bit more time.) A case in point. “Politics are nastier today than ever before.” I fully agree our politics are nasty and we should all work to be less polarizing and try to bring a reasonable degree of civility to the process. However, name-calling and backroom deals are not new – the language of old simply seems mild now and the capability to spread information at the touch of a button did not exist. Anyway, I am drifting off-course, so let me correct.
I love there is a history channel and lots of history programs. History can be dull when presented incorrectly and all the “re-enactment” helps make it more interesting, plus I can only imagine what a boost it’s been to struggling actors. The term though, “We’re going to tell you what history got wrong”, always causes me to roll my eyes. History is history. Granted, “History is written by the victors” (actual origin of quote unknown) and therefore the phrase, “What you’ve been taught is wrong” certainly can be applicable. Previously undiscovered documentation is brought to light all the time and the amazing world of forensics can support or refute different historical aspects both recorded and taught. But whatever happened is what happened. Mistakes can easily be made in the telling if an individual recording an event had a limited view of that event and indeed, events recorded by someone with a specific agenda were/are commonplace. It’s logical that what we’ve been taught about an event, a person, a time period might be incorrect based on new information available, but that’s different from the idea that history itself is wrong. I’m all for correcting history providing we don’t cross the line into revisionism, but I’ll save that for another post.
Serious content alert. No, I’m not feeling morbid, but with my recent trips focused on aging parents and three friends/acquaintances losing a parent within the past month, it brings reflection. There is an item that comes around periodically on Facebook to the effect of rather than spending money to attend my funeral, reach out to me while I’m still alive. (It’s a fairly long piece and I couldn’t find it on a quick internet search.) For most of us, not showing up to a funeral where we are “expected” causes a feeling of guilt, and in reality, if there is someone who can use you in particular for support, you should go if at all possible. On the other hand, going to visit the older (which is the topic of this post) relative/friend in their waning years is likely to be better for that individual. What to talk about can be the most awkward aspect and if it’s possible, getting the person to reminisce is often the best solution. Let him or her pick the timeframe they want to linger in and it doesn’t matter how often you’ve heard the same story before. And if it should be that the individual wants to express thoughts about their own mortality, don’t dismiss it with something like, “Oh, you don’t want to talk about that – you’re going to live to be 100.” Of course it’s not a comfortable subject and you certainly don’t need to be the one to bring the topic up, but be willing to listen if the conversation goes there.
In other situations, visiting is not financially possible, and telephoning might not work either if someone is losing their hearing or has dementia/memory loss. Cards and letters though – except for severe cases of dementia, they can make a difference. In this day of so much electronic communication, it’s easy to dismiss something as “old-fashioned” as a letter. And if you don’t feel comfortable with saying a lot, a card will be better. There is such a wealth of choices out there, whether you want beautiful or something cute. It doesn’t take long and you might be surprised at what a difference it makes.
The good news, and it is good news, is that my father is continuing to make progress in his recovery, but not as quickly as he believes. The therapy team wants to work with him for another 5-6 days. The “up” side to that is the follow-on treatment can then all be at the Assisted Living Facility. That keeps someone from having to take him into appointments. Everyone in the rehab wing is friendly and certainly seems to be dedicated. The food isn’t bad, so that helps, too.
I’m planning to call my cousin tonight that lives about an hour and a half away and see if they will be in on Saturday. Part of why I scheduled to stay three extra days this time was to help transition my father back into the ALF, but since that isn’t going to happen, that leaves me time to head down for the other visit provided anyone will be around. They tend to have lots of events that take them away and this could be just such a weekend. On a completely different subject, in walking around this morning, I saw a red mulberry tree, although the remaining fruit on it was shriveled. It brought back memories of one place where we lived that had two trees and we used to make a terrible mess in eating the berries. They are delicious and do make quite a purplish-red stain when you squish them. I don’t think anyone cultivates them commercially and if not, I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re prone to disease or something. Peaches and pecans are common orchards in this part of the state – not nearly in the kind of quantity as somewhere like Georgia, yet excellent quality. And pecan trees do grow wonderfully tall with huge spreading limbs.
This other unanticipated trip will hopefully close out the unplanned ones for the year. Most people who follow the post are aware I had an extra visit with my dad because of my concerns for his situation, and may or may not be aware I had my brother go visit him which then precipitated my visit a few weeks ago. On 7 May he suffered a mild stroke, but since I was unable to come back over, my brother returned, then my sister and her husband last weekend, and I arrived yesterday around noon. (Yes, the 6:45 a.m. flight did mean getting up earlier than usual.) He is responding well to therapy and the damage from the stroke was quite mild considering how these things can be.
I hope to meet with the therapy team later this morning. In all probability, he’ll be going back to the assisted living facility on Monday, although he feels he could be allowed to leave sooner. That’s a good sign as well and I doubt he’ll change his mind no matter what the therapists tell him.
I haven’t checked the weather forecast for the next few days, but I did just verify that I have an umbrella in the suitcase and it’s warm of course, so that isn’t an issue. I suppose I shouldn’t say, “of course” since I do have friends in other parts of the country who are still looking at snow.