It’s Father’s Day and I am in northern Mississippi visiting with my stepmother. Last year on Father’s Day, I was on my way home from visiting her.
My father died 11 years ago this summer after a fall and a brief illness, and I began writing a year later.
My stepmother had been living independently in Mississippi since he died. Neither my father nor my stepmother is native to Mississippi, but they decided to relocate here after my father retired in 1998. It’s a beautiful town and they have a lovely home.
However, this past winter that independence came to an end after a fall and brief hospitalization. I am grateful that my brothers and I were successful in moving her into an assisted living facility before the COVID19 lockdown shutdown the country.
But life is full of next steps, our next step is convincing her that living in northern Mississippi 621 miles from me in Illinois, 621 miles from one of my Texas brothers, and 630 miles from my other Texas brother is no longer sustainable, especially in the time of COVID19.
Tough conversations. Much like the conversations my dad and I had years ago.
It is a glorious day. The sun is brightly shining through a cloudless sky.
I’ve been up since six this morning. I have been awake since before five this morning when I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. I gave up trying to sleep after almost an hour of tossing and turning in bed.
Through my bedroom window I could see the faint outline of the trees as earth came back to life early this morning. I remembered reading that three planets: Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars were aligned and visible in the early morning. So, I climbed out of bed, dressed, and started the coffee.
The lake was still, and the lake was shrouded in a deep blue hue in the pre-dawn light. Along the southeastern I could see one planet with the naked eye and could faintly make out the other two. I quickly snapped a shot and then used an iPhone app – Skyview Light – to visualize the early morning sky. What my eye could see, my phone could not – not enough light.
what my phone could see
what the app could see
But the three planets were there – hidden in the light.
“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” Henri Bergson
Last Friday’s sunrise. I was fortunate to see it. I was placed in exactly the right place at the right time, by chance. That’s how life happens. I was on my way into Chicago and I pulled over to the side of the road to take the photo. I missed last Wednesday’s wordless post, but I haven’t missed making the days count since and I won’t stop.
I was asleep this morning when the sun rose, but it rose anyway, and tonight the sun will set and maybe I’ll see it, maybe I won’t. But it will come up and in between those sunrises and sunsets, I’ll be making the days count. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.
What are you doing in between the sun rise and sunset?
It’s been a while since I’ve penned
regular posts. I’ve gotten out of the habit writing weekly or writing at all.
As the new calendar year began, I
made note of some things I wanted to change. I suppose I could have selected
another place on the calendar, but the timing coincides with my return to work (tomorrow)
after five weeks off due to my second knee replacement. I now have matching scars.
The past half year has been busy…..
In June, I had my right knee
replaced at the beginning of summer break and I planned my left knee
replacement to coincide with winter break knowing I would be missing the last
three weeks of ’18 in recovery. Ironically, two of my other school colleagues
were experiencing similar journeys with their knee or a spouse’s knee.
In November, our son graduated from marine boot camp and we traveled to southern California to be with him. Our son left home for boot camp in August and I replaced blogging with letter writing. In all, I wrote seventeen letters. I haven’t written a letter since late October, but it is on my list. Our son is still training but he has his phone and computer and it’s easier for him to communicate electronically – he texted me several times yesterday and it was nice to hear from him. But I’ll resume the old-fashioned way with an envelope and a real stamp. We had a day to unwind after his graduation and I snapped the photo below of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. It was a peaceful end to an exciting couple of days. The day after our son’s graduation from boot camp was my birthday and it also happened to be the USMC birthday.
After our son’s graduation, he was
home for a week before he returned to finish his training.
I was 7 years old when the photo above was taken. Every time I see it, I remember listening to the Apollo 8 astronauts reading the first ten verses of Genesis as their space capsule orbited the moon. I can remember sitting in front of the black and white television in my pajamas with my two brothers. I was in first grade and enamored with the American space program.
50 years later, I am still amazed by what lies beyond Earth. The past few weeks, I have awakened early in the morning to see Venus brightly illuminating the pre-dawn sky. The sun brightly illuminating the sky. This morning, it was a reminder of what lies beyond.
Each time I see the moon, I marvel at the achievements of
America’s space program – despite what a professional basketball player
recently denied, men did reach the moon and return safely.
But today, I marvel at the photo and the possibilities that exist for our world. As Bill Anders, one of the three Apollo 8 astronauts, remarked,
“We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth,”
It’s the last day of summer break, tomorrow is the first day of a new school year. It will be twentieth year as a teacher and it will be my 45th year spent in a classroom as either as a student or a teacher.
This morning, Ivy and I enjoyed one final morning of summer freedom together. I sipped coffee and she guarded the bird feeder from the pesky squirrels. The squirrels chirped at her from high in the tree but Ivy stood her ground.
Yesterday, I took time to visit my classroom and help with the schedule and locker distribution. It was nice to see so many excited faces and help students with locker jams or even simply help with a locker combination. Yes, even 8th graders forget how to work a combination lock. Most locker issues were jammed lockers or the wrong locker combination was given to the student – that happens. This will be my 18th year at this school and the lockers are 18 too which explains why there are jams. 17 years of use can wear on locker.
The past week has been a whirlwind of sorts. We’ve been back from the lake for a couple of weeks but it has been busy at home with W, my son, who’s been preparing for Marine Corps Boot Camp. He reported this past Sunday.
The reporting and shipping out process is complicated. W reported to the recruiter’s office and then was transported to the hotel where he would spend Sunday night before being taken to the processing center before shipping out Monday. Once he had checked into the hotel, he was free until 8:30. We had time for dinner with some time left over.
It’s the 60th day of summer break, the 53rd day of my new knee, and my dad was right.
The other night I was picking up O after band camp and I opened the rear door so she could put away her bass drum. And she said,
“It won’t fit!” O sounded frustrated.
“Turn it on its side.” I responded.
She did and it fit. When she climbed into the passenger seat she asked,
“Dad, why do you have to be right all the time?”
“I’m not right ALL the time.” I smiled gently and replied with a emphasis on ALL.
“I’m just right some of the time,” I continued.
And the conversation shifted to how band camp had gone that day and what she had learned.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. More so than normal. He passed away nine summers ago and I don’t think there has been a day when something about him or something he said or wrote has been far from my thoughts, but lately his wisdom has been in the forefront.
Dad was a marine, or I should write is a marine. W heads off for boot camp in less than two weeks and I think dad’s wisdom about what he learned from being in the Marine Corps has been on my mind, but also dad’s advice about learning and health.
My weekly challenge was to remember my favorite song from five years ago and listen to it. I have no idea what I was listening to five years ago but it certainly was not on the top 100 from July 2013. I had an idea, a better idea, and I went back 40 years to when I was 16; the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. That was the summer of all sorts of memories.
This past Sunday afternoon, we drove north. I had a driver for the first hour and the last hour. My daughter O is working on her driving hours and loves driving. It gave me time to go back in time – 40 years – to the summer of ’78. I checked the top 40 from July ’78. I recognized most of the top 10 but my memory took a jolt when I read #14 – Miss You by the Rolling Stones. That song took me back and brought back all sorts of memories and I found my song…. But first… how I got there.
I turned 16 in November ’77, but I couldn’t get my driver’s license I hadn’t completed the required behind the wheel driving training. Instead of taking driver’s ed during the summer, like all of my peers, I had been visiting by dad in England for five weeks. I took the driver’s training during winter break of my sophomore year and was ready to get my license in January of ‘78. January in Houston, Texas is cold, but not nearly as cold as January where I now live – there is no comparison.
I am the oldest in my family, so I was the first of the kids to get my license and the first child to teach my mom all sorts of lessons she and her sister probably did not teach their parents when they were growing up in the fifties.
When my parents divorced, my dad moved to Saudi Arabia and a year later he and my step-mom moved to London, England. Whatever he had, he took with him or put in storage except for the 1969 blue Volkswagen Beetle. It was stored in the garage. I had my name on it. Or rather, I had put my name on it.
For a 16-year-old boy in 1978, having your driver’s license is cool, having a car a car is even cooler. Once I got my license, I began to drive the ‘blue bug.’ I could drive to work and back and had to ask permission beyond that. The little blue bug had air conditioning, but it didn’t work and the radio had AM only. I had a job and made minimum wage as a busboy and dishwasher at my next-door neighbor’s Italian restaurant. By March, I had scrimped and saved enough money to purchase an in dash 8-track cassette player and FM\AM radio and a couple of speakers for the blue bug. I had barely enough money leftover to buy two 8-track tapes – I picked Van Halen’s debut album and Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. I listened to those constantly.
The blue bug was nothing brag about. Beside the AC not working, there was a hole in the passenger side floorboards caused by battery acid spillage. A friend of my mom’s helped with a fix and the radio and speakers were an improvement. To make up for the lack of AC the blue bug had side windows which could tilt inward and force air into the car. But driving it in the hot Texas spring and summer was pretty uncomfortable and perspiring was the norm. Continue reading Day 29 – Miss You→
It’s the 18th day of summer break and it’s 11 days post-op. I am doing well, very well. I’ve been up walking, with support, since the first day. Hours after the operation, I was up with a walker and an assistant and I made my first steps on my new knee. Those first steps were tentative at best. Each day is better and each day I get a little stronger and more flexible. I am thankful.
Going in to the operation I was excited and anxious – I wasn’t sure what to expect and I tried to envision what it might feel like, but I had no idea what lay ahead. I had talked to folks who had had their knees replaced; each told me that once they had completed the physical therapy, they were surprised how normal their knee felt. Normal meaning pain-free. They encouraged me to do the exercises and do the physical therapy – with integrity.
My surgery over a week ago this past Monday and I was home the next day late int eh afternoon. Before I came home, I had a visit from a physical therapist to see how far I could walk and if I could manage stairs. I passed and got my walking papers. Since, I’ve been up and down stairs – carefully – one step at time and I’ve been faithful in my physical therapy, I listened.
My first physical therapy appointment was Wednesday morning and I’ve had two more sessions on Thursday and Friday. Then the weekend arrived, I did my exercises, moved, and made time to ice my knee. I’ve also been careful with my meds and with managing my pain. I came home with some pretty serious stuff and I’ve been able to forgo the meds (for the most part) and manage the pain with Tylenol for arthritis
I listened. I’ve been doing heel-slides, calf-presses, leg lifts, side leg lifts, marches, standing side leg swings, leg curls, and calf raises to name exercises I can name. All of the exercises are basic, simple, easy to perform, and designed to re-build my right leg’s strength, range of motion, and endurance. Each day gets better. Continue reading Day 18 – trolls→