High school friends — Paul and I met in high school. We met probably in homeroom of our freshman year. My memory is vague on that account. Nevertheless we spent a great deal of time together in class. His surname was one letter off of mine, so often we were seated side by side in the back of class. Occasionally we were seated so that I was behind him in class and in one instance with a teacher whose last name also began with W, we were side by side in the front row. Teachers like alphabetical.
Paul was always nearby. I could touch him if I needed to do that. Sitting behind him in class was a plus. I was tall and grew taller in high school. He was taller than me throughout our high school years. In that one class I could hide if I wanted. It did not last long.
We were not competitive in high school just good friends. It is rare that a friendship develops and remains throughout two lives in which being apart is as though it was not when those friends meet. Their meeting may be often or seldom but when they meet once more it is as though no separation happened. Our friendship is like that.
Through life our worlds separated and re-connected in a celestial mystical dance. We went to different universities. We got married. Magically our wives like each other. Raised families. Followed our own life paths. Attended our kids marriages. And as the families grew and spread out, we met up every few years to vacation together.
Cheryl’s reaction to an adjustment in her Parkinson’s medication destroyed our last attempt to vacation together. The disease is adding an element of confusion, hallucination and dementia as it progresses within her.
In the fall of 2019 we successfully made a trip to Florida by car to visit with family. After the pandemonium of COVID, I hope to make the trip north to visit Paul and Cathy. Cheryl occasionally talks about that and before I get too old, I suppose we should try.
With wonderful friends we had a wonderful, peaceful visit yesterday. We had long conversations about totally random topics that included children, grand children, the stock market, parents, food, diets and onward. Thinking about it now after the fact, I do not recall each individual topic. Our conversation merely flowed from one thing to the next. Occasionally it stopped. We were comfortable with listening to the cicadas. It was a pleasant afternoon and Cheryl had a peaceful sleep filled night afterward.
In St. Bernard, Ohio the little town surrounded by a bigger town in which my wife of fifty-plus years grew up and left at an early age, they had a simple recognition ceremony of those who were killed in the two world wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam war and the current excursions into Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a day of remembrance. Sometimes a day of sadness and grief.
Last year the ceremony was non-existent due to the COVID-19 restrictions. This year it was poorly attended. There were perhaps fifty people and half of those were participants.
A DJ played music before the gathering (including the green beret song), the appropriate marches for each branch of the armed forces (the new Space Corps was not included) as the particular flag was raised and “Hang on Sloopy” before the Ohio pennant was raised. “Hang on Sloopy” is the official rock song of Ohio. The Smooth Transitions, a quartet singing group, did a great job singing “Grand Old Flag”, “God Bless America” and “Our Land St. Bernard”. It had the feel of an outdoor religious service.
Wreathes were place by several civic groups to honor the fallen servicemen. The fire chief of St. Bernard read the names of those who died and as he was doing that a small flag was placed for each man at the foot of the small rise that is topped with flag poles and a monument.
Cheryl was feeling good today so I took her to attend. Afterward we drove around St. Bernard. We drove through St. Mary Cemetery to view her mother and father’s grave sites. Later we drove through Gate of Heaven Cemetery where my parents and Aunt Margaret Dwenger are buried. My mother’s older sister made a career of the Navy and retired as a Lieutenant Commander. She was never married.
It is Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance for us all.
There is a low whirring (whoring?) hum in the air. I had forgotten that part. The birds are excited. I remember that part.
At our old house when we bought it in 1980, there was a huge American elm in the backyard. It was in the center of a square of yard about eighty-five feet on a side. It did not crowd any buildings or other trees so over time it had developed that beautiful umbrella canopy. We moved into the house in February. I remember thinking, wow that is a neat tree. At the time I was unfamiliar with elms and dutch elm disease.
When spring came it leafed out in a fashion similar to the picture below. The tree was dying from the back as viewed from our kitchen window. We got a couple of tree wizards out to look at it and decide what to do. The only solution was removal. It is sad to remove a tree that size. The tree was about sixty years old. The person who planted it was an optimist and we intended to cut down their legacy.
After the tree was removed we had a stump about four feet in diameter and about chair height that for a few years the kids enjoyed by having tee parties and building ramps to jump bicycles off of. The stump was in a level area at the bottom of a long downhill driveway. I watched from the kitchen one day as our son came flying down the driveway on his bicycle, went up the ramp and failed to stick the landing on the other side in the grass. Certainly a learning experience about Newton’s laws.
We planted a cherry tree hybrid graft at the end of the driveway after we removed the elm tree. Fruit seemed like a good alternative. I had started a vegetable garden on the far side of the yard and left the center for the kids to play in. It was a grand space for play.
About six years later the cherry tree was perhaps twelve feet tall and producing enough cherries in a season that I was protecting the cherries from the birds with netting. The cicadas came out that year, looked around and said to each other, “what happened to our tree?”. They made the long trek to the maple in the back and the cherry tree at the foot of the drive. From the perspective of the kitchen window, it was as though the grass in the back became liquid and was flowing away from the stump. It was an incredible sight.
The birds showed up for the cherries but ignored the tree fruit. There was a plethora of protein walking around in the grass hunting for any vertical object. Robins ate so many bugs they needed a runway to take off. It was amazing to watch.
The female cicadas did a good job of pruning the small branches that come out where the tree blooms and then fruits. The year of the cicadas was the first year we harvested enough fruit to make pies and jelly. The following year was better. The tree produced even more fruit than previous years. I attribute it to the pruning done by the lady cicada society.
We moved from that house to our little condo about five years ago. From our screened in back patio area I can hear the whirring sound. It is raining a bit and will do so for a couple hours according to my weather app. The bugs have not whipped themselves into a feverish sexual frenzy yet. They will later.
Over time the moles have herded them into just a small area near our back porch. Some climb into our screened in area. I pick them off the screen one by one throw them out the door. Most are not instinctive fliers. About one in three flaps its wings and buzzes off to the trees in the back when I throw them out the door. I shout encouragement to them as I throw them out the door. I explain Newton’s laws but they do not listen. My wife does not like bugs. For a couple weeks I can have the porch to myself.
One got most of the way to the trees but, sadly was snatched out of the air by a hungry bird. Newton did not matter. Its genes will not be passed on.
They are not good fliers but that is not their intent. They are lovers.
Today is Cheryl’s birth date. She was born on this date many years ago. Many years before we discovered each other in life; God, fate or karma intertwined our existence together in life. It is meant to be.
Yesterday we celebrated. It was a wonderful party. She remarked as we drove home from the park, “That’s the best birthday I’ve ever had. Thank you for putting it all together.” I thank Anna, David and Scott (and Mavis, Eric and Melissa). I had very little to do with it.
Back in March or April when it was starting to warm up and we were both two weeks past our covid vaccinations. Cheryl was anxious to party with the kids and grand-kids. I hopped onto the Hamilton County parks site and reserved a shelter for her birthday celebration. Good time.
She put on her year old Nike walkers. It was one of those sunny spring days that says fresh and new is what we are up to today.
Where should we go? – c;
Let’s go up Troy. I hate to go through the dip.- p;
There is a quick look around and search for keys and other kit.
What’s the weather like? – c;
Warm. Probably no sweater. – p;
Are you sure? I thought it was supposed to rain. – c;
Nope. Sure. Look. – p;
He holds the door to the front porch open.
It does look nice out. – c;
Out the door and off on two miles or so.
Cortelyou (core-tell-you or cortil-you, your choice) avenue is named after John Cortelyou who either developed or owned that part of Pleasant Ridge. On plat maps the area is referred to as the John Cortelyou subdivision. John and his wife Martha are buried in the Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Cemetery on Montgomery. The pavement is narrow and parking is only permitted on the west side of the street. The part of the street that they live on if allowed to connect to it would make an acute angle to Ridge road. Troy avenue which meets Cortelyou just before it drops down a short incline towards Losantiville road makes the base of a right triangle with Ridge and Cortelyou.
Troy avenue meets Ridge road precisely where Ridge curves to the right to head south again after coming up the hill from the little valley that holds Amber creek. The short street meets the thoroughfare with an acute angle to the left and a right angle to the on the other side. There are mostly single family houses on the south side of the street and mostly multifamily buildings on the north side. It is a pleasant street. Narrow along its length but bright and sunny with few large trees along its length to obscure the view towards Ridge road.
Ridge road is poorly named because it never travels along a ridge in the earth but rather perpendicular to several. It would be more aptly named Over the Ridges Road but, no doubt, this name was rejected when the names were being given out or the makers of maps became tired of precision and in their gay manner shortened the name to Ridge rather than ‘Over the Ridges’ or ‘On the Way to Ridge’ or even ‘Up to the Ridge and down Again’ road.
As they walked they spoke of their surroundings and of people they knew. He came with her as he usually did on this day to get to know her better. They were empty nesters now. All three of their children were grown and moved away. He did not often want to simply walk around the neighborhood but she was okay with that she pushed him to get out of the chair and move. It is a nice day. Let’s go.
They took the acute angle at the end of the street and walked north in front of the houses that were originally built, as the story goes, to show off the type of housing available to be built in nearby Norwood. No matter the back story these are beautiful old houses set far back from the west edge of the street. Some well kept. Some developing creeping overgrowth. An earlier majesty and grace left for some later owner to recover and let the homes bloom again.
At the top of the rise where the road dipped back down into the valley, they crossed into the neighborhood on the east side of Ridge. Through a small dip in the topography and up toward Grand Vista. Grand Vista climbs a hill to the left as they walked toward Montgomery road. This road is known as the Pike by the older generation.
At this point the conversation is interrupted to ask, up or not?
I think not -c.
Okay. – p.
Following Grand Vista to the cul de sac and back out will add over a mile to the walk. One can turn a mere walk into a trek in this fashion. They continue to Montgomery Pike.
Turning south on Montgomery they headed back into the business section of the old village of Pleasant Ridge just one of the ridges that over the ridges road went over in its meandering trail south toward the old village of Oakley. Near this turn anchoring one end of the business grouping is the Pleasant Ridge branch of the Hamilton County Public Library. They paused for a moment to allow a young mother to organize children, bicycles and a stroller as the family left the library with their booty.
It is a magnificent day for a walk around the neighborhood and they are enjoying themselves. The temperature is warm. The sky is the shade of pure blue that appears after a spring shower washes the air. The daffodils are near the end of their reign but stubbornly hanging onto their beauty as early tulips attempt to shoulder them out of view.
As they near Kincaid Rd. another key decision point he asks, Kincaid?
Yes, she replies.
They turn north on Kincaid on the west side of the street. During this entire walk p. has moved to her right or left to place himself between her and the street. In his own mind it is proper for the male to position himself between the female and the passing traffic. He is not certain where this ingrained behavior has come from. He merely knows that is what he needs to do. So, he has placed himself on her right side as they walk down the street.
As they walk he notices that occasionally she struggles to keep with him and this causes him to slow a little and look down at her feet. The walk is narrow and he thinks that perhaps he has hogged more of the width than he is entitled to. As he watches she is not lifting her left foot always. She is dragging it in a limping motion.
Being a man, he teases – are you having a stroke, dear?
She replies with – I don’t know. My leg does not seem to work right.
They slowed more and he held her hand as they walked. She seemed to be struggling to maintain any sort of normal gait. When they got to Harvest they turned and headed back home.
I always remember Cheryl’s initial struggles with Parkinson’s this way. She remembers a different story. About this time she was a big deep water aerobics fan and participated in a class at the YMCA about three times a week. Later on we joined the Jewish Community Center and she did deep water aerobics there.
If you ask her she will describe going in circles in her water aerobics class when she wanted to go straight down the pool. She probably did that but what I remember most is this little walk we took one day many years ago.
Almost fifteen years ago this summer is the time that I found out that I was a match to my youngest sister Laura. She had found out earlier in the year that she had Myelodysplastic syndrome. Her body was turning on her. She would die without treatment. Then our whole family was still alive.
Mom and Dad still lived in their home in Madisonville. My elder brother lived in Florida near Orlando with his wife. My younger sister Joyce lived with her spouse in Portland Oregon. Laura and her husband lived in south eastern Indiana and Cheryl and I lived in southwest Ohio in Cincinnati. Now only Joyce and I are still alive.
I think of these things when I donate blood four times each year. I ponder how long I can donate blood. The only answer I get when I search for that information is, as long as you are healthy, you can donate.
This started with Laura but I had donated blood before, just not on a regular basis. When I was in school at the University of Cincinnati in the last millennium an instructor whom many of us liked let slip some personal information about his family. His son had been in an accident and needed blood donations. Several of us went to Hoxworth to donate. I was too young so permission had to be obtained from my parent. Looking back this detail seems odd. I was eighteen at the time.
With Laura’s diagnosis and need for blood stem cells all of us siblings were tested to see if any of us were a match. Only I was a match. I found this out from the nurse who called me as was driving back towards Boston from Cape Cod. We had gone there for a little vacation and to visit with friends. This was convenient for Laura and me as neither of us had to travel far to do this but I had to get home first.
The summer of 2007 was a long one for Laura and me. I cannot speak for Laura because she did not make it out the other side of the treatment process. I am changed forever.
The process takes several days. For me it involved a very thorough physical and several meetings with the medical folks at the end of which I was deemed healthy enough physically and mentally to go through the process. During one meeting with a nurse who also had background as a sociologist, I was made aware of the fact that there was a chance that during the implantation process my stem cells could take over her bone marrow and give rise to my immune system within her body and reject her. Not simply that it might not take and we would have a do over. My immune system would reject her. Seems like a bad thing to happen, to be rejected by your own immune system.
Blood stem cells are removed from the donor in two ways either directly from your hip or by apheresis . In Laura’s case they used apheresis to remove blood stem cells from me and gave them to her after killing off her bone marrow’s ability to produce blood cells. Over a period of several days – my memory tells me four – I was given an injection of some growth hormone that told my body to make way too many blasts (precursors of various blood cells). These leak out into the peripheral circulatory system and can be retrieved by an apheresis machine. It was a miserable four days. Not so much at first but they can give you the injection anywhere and I opted for my arm. I am pretty sure that this started on a Monday so we were ready to do the apheresis on Friday. The had to get the blasts out of me before my body reabsorbed them.
The apheresis process takes a bit of time also. I do not remember talking about the actual process at the beginning. I suspect that if the donors are given all the gruesome details at the start, some will back out. The process was generally described as similar to donating blood except that the stem cells would be removed and the rest of my blood would be given back to me.
In this sketch you can see the general set up. Blood is removed from one arm and the returned processed blood is put into the other arm. Pick your nose, pee and fart before you get started because there is no moving around once the machine is running.
I asked the nurse technician who was monitoring the machine approximately how long it might take and she responded with eight to nine hours for the first session. She said sometimes they do not get enough the first time so they have to do it again to get more stem cells. I intermediately got up to find the men’s room and empty everything out and began to worry about how long my bladder would hold out. In the end it was not a concern. I suspect my kidneys did not understand what was happening so they elected to take a break for a few hours. I helped by not drinking anything of course but there was a bag of saline as a part of the process and some blood thinners to keep my blood from gumming up the pumps. Nine hours is a long time to sit.
Making conversation I asked how many cells they were trying to harvest. Ten to eleven million came the reply. I remember thinking that seems like a lot but I did not have any idea what they might need to do this. I was curious how they would figure out how many they had and she told me they would count them. It is amusing when you think about it. how else would you figure it out. Isolate a certain quantity of serum and under a microscope count the stem cells. Well, huh. Even an engineer can do that.
With all the needles and tubes in the correct position we started. I think the first session was about seven hours or so. There was a clock, one of those battery jobs, hanging on the wall opposite where I was sitting. What a poor place for an ineffective time keeper to hang. After five hours I was certain that it had slowed down. After six hours I was certain it had started running backwards ever so slowly. At the seven hour mark the stem cell bag which I estimated could easily hold a liter had a tiny amount of yellowish life saving liquid in it. The nurse pronounced it good and Cheryl took me home.
Oddly I was incredibly tired. I had not felt this exhausted before. I had not moved all day. But my blood did. It had been in and out of my body about ten times during the day. It was wore out. As I rested in my chair hovering between resting and sleep we got a call from the hospital, I needed to come back again for a second session. How many cells I asked. About four million was the answer. A disappointingly low number, I was certain that they would need two more times. I may have said shit out loud.
On the second day the procedure the was much faster. I spent approximately four hours in the chair with the stopped clock view. Often the donor’s body wakes up and puts more cells out there where the apheresis machine can find them. But that is not really why I am telling this story. There were several times during the next couple of weeks when I was called to go directly to Hoxworth to donate other bloods products to Laura. Platelets mostly as I recall. On a couple occasions I gave Laura platelets. I may have given her red blood cells also but I am unsure of that. She was busy staying alive and I was trying to help. All of these experiences got me used to the activity of donating blood.
I started doing this at the main Hoxworth Blood center near UC Hospital in Clifton and then later discovered that I could do this at another collection center in Blue Ash, Ohio. Once when I was there donating, the nurse technician asked me if I had ever considered giving a double red. After a discussion of what was entailed and other questions, I tried it.
This is Laura’s legacy. Her brother became so comfortable with donating he continues to do it fifteen years later.
I often think about Laura when I am sitting in the chair listening to the apheresis machine do its thing. There is no stupid clock to stare at. I know now how long it takes. It takes thirty to forty minutes. Sometimes it takes longer because the technician is often monitoring other donors. Most often I read a book on my tablet reader. Occasionally I listen to the patter of conversation around me.
Hoxworth is actively soliciting folks who have had SARS CoV2 disease because their blood contains substances that can help those who are recovering from that disease. These folks sit across from where I am donating.
Over the weekend the reward for donating was a free T-shirt. Free t-shirts were the give away today, Easter Monday also. I selected a St. Patrick’s Day themed shirt. It is in the picture.
Laura’s recovery was long and arduous and fraught with disaster. She spent about six weeks in a coma as doctors tried to discover the source of her liver inflammation. Veno-Occlusive disease was the suspected culprit.
Hepatic Veno-Occlusive Disease (VOD) AKA: Sinusoidal Obstruction Syndrome is a well recognized complication and leading cause of mortality in hematopoietic stem cell transplant resulting from severe hepatocellular necrosis and hepatic vascular congestion. — This is from a medical teaching website. Laura and I both read about it in a big white binder that she had gotten at the beginning of her process. I remember her looking at me that first afternoon with her yellowish face telling me that there was about a 3% recovery rate. Pretty crappy odds she said. She was a CPA and the controller of a small successful beverage distributor. She knew about numbers analysis and crappy odds.
It was not that. Eventually the doctors discovered that Laura was having a bad reaction to the antibiotics given to her as a prophylactic to infection while my stem cells were taking over. She did recover but six weeks asleep devastated her body. During a visit at the holidays she told me that my stem cells had populated her bone marrow and was doing fine. A few weeks later she succumbed to pneumonia that could not be treated in the conventional way because of her problems with antibiotics.
Laura died with a part of me in her. Part of me died when she passed out of existence in early 2008. Watching someone whom you worked so hard to save take their last breath is a profoundly life altering experience. I hope to never participate in an experience like that again.
A friend of mine put this on Facebook. I am certain that he put it there as bait and I bit. COVID is of course short for CO(rona) VI(rus) D(isease). The nineteen typically tacked on to the end is to demark 2019 as the year when the virus was first noted in Wuhan, China. The individual who first started the game apparently is displeased with the poor initial discussion of masks, personal hygiene, and vaccines.
This posting on Facebook is intended to rile folks up. I feel the pain myself. Having finished with my second booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine a week ago, I am elated. The previous leader of the free world could have celebrated his and his wife’s vaccination before they left the White House. He did not. The event was so low key that it was only reported after he flew to Miralago to resume the life of the rich and famous guy that he is.
I used to play this game when I was still working full time and some one would use an acronym with out first explaining what the term stood for. The implication being that if you did not understand the term you were not on the inside. I always made me laugh. If it showed up in an email I might ask an innocent question using my made up acronym. My favorite is SMART (Simply Magnificent And Recognizable Talent) goals. I think timely is a cop out. What does timely mean?
Think about it. Try UNSMART. (Uninformed New Sheep Mainly Are Really Trumpublicans) (political division)
It is a Friday in Lent. A favorite throughout our married life, all fifty of them, has been Macaroni and Cheese. Often through the years this recipe was trucked out on Fridays in Lent but it is an enjoyable dish, pretty basic, so we eat it at other times also. The Betty Crocker – Dinner for Two cookbook – has been beat to death over the years so about three years ago it was taken apart and slipped into page protectors and a brand new binder. Hopefully some grand child will appreciate the effort their grandmother spent saving this classic cookbook from the 1970’s.
Over time I have taken over most of the cooking duties. Some of that is driving the car to the restaurant or diner but many times I have selected some favorite of ours that I hope will not give her indigestion. My experimentation with Hello Fresh was all about getting new ideas. The Parkinson’s medications have made her stomach sensitive to some foods and spices. We have discovered some of those as we experiment. She lost her sense of smell long ago. Simply old age has made my stomach sensitive to some things and I suspect Parkinson’s disease has merely complicated matters for her.
In this Lenten season the whole covid thing has stifled the church fish fries somewhat. One can still drive through but it is not the same as going and hanging out with friends in the school cafeteria and socializing for a bit. This year our pizza Tuesdays have morphed into Frisch’s fish sandwiches with mac and cheese. The last couple Fridays I have made the mac and cheese.
This afternoon when I got back from school, she said, I want to make the macaroni and cheese. Okay, I said.
I am staying near to help if need be but I suspect I can be smotheringly helpful. So, I am backing away a bit to see how she does. Carpe the Diem, baby!
She is sewing on the never ending chair arm cover project and working on mac and cheese. I am doing laundry, drinking Miller Lite beer, listening to Flo-Rida (Oh, my lord, the light’s going down and the weekend’s here…) and writing this unimportant blog.
Carpe Diem I suppose also can mean do the laundry and back away from the mac and cheese.
I often find a song or melody that intrigues me at that moment. Kroger has been playing “Low” in some of their commercial advertisements lately here in Cincinnati.
Before that ad I had not heard the song before. It is a rap song. I have very few rap songs in my list of songs that I like. I do not have the same experience that many rap artists have, so, many of the popular songs with spontaneous rhyme and rhythmic lyrics do not connect with my old brain. “Low” does for some reason.
I told Alexa to play rap music. It selected a Hip Hop station that “you might like”. Perhaps I will listen later longer. Rap lyrics remind me of beat poetry. Recently Lawrence Ferlinghetti died. For some reason, in my younger years, his style of poetry interested me. I had his book of poetry – “A Coney Island of the Mind”. I have not seen it for years.
I vaguely recall that I had lent it to someone long in the past. Today I scrambled around to find a copy of a book of poetry that has probably been out of print for maybe sixty years. Amazon is a wonderful thing no matter what Donald Trump thinks.
I switched Alexa from Hip Hop to disco. “Staying Alive” is playing right now.
What do I do to pick myself up? Usually several things at once. Music certainly helps pick me up.
Music is very personal. Long ago I worked for a private company. One of the partners read a book somewhere that convinced him that music played over the PA system would lighten the mood and make everyone happy in their jobs. What a load of crap that book was. The music selected was what ever the office was using as hold music. MUZAK was a special broadcast on a side band of one of the local FM stations. It was perpetual elevator music. It was excruciating to rock fans like me. Christmas holidays brought a five hour loop tape of Christmas carols and other crap over the office PA system. On the second rendition of Mitch Miller’s jingle bells it was time to go home. Some were up-sot!
“Toes” is playing now. I told Alexa to play — life is good today. I need to get my toes in the water and my ass in the sand as soon as I can, pandemonium or not.