Visit with Friends

We had a nice long visit with friends yesterday.

Life long friends.

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.

Purcell High School

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.

There are no cicadas in Minnesota.

Carpe Diem.

On Cicadas

There is a low whirring (whoring?) hum in the air. I had forgotten that part. The birds are excited. I remember that part.

Not our Elm but similar

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.

Summer of a dying elm tree

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.

There are lots of Newton cartoons. I like this one.

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.

Carpe Diem bugs.

A Prescription

Many years ago my family doctor gave me this prescription.  “6 weeks on a sunny beach” — He has since retired from private practice.  Looking back to that year from today, there was a lot going on in my life.  Looking at the date on the prescription, June 28, 2006, it was the first year that Cheryl started noticing symptoms of Parkinson’s. There is still much happening in our life.

None of those things is as peaceful as this rose. Thanks to Edie Kynard’s Art I have this wonderful rose to contemplate.

In a couple weeks I will travel to California to be with my sister and others to celebrate my nephew’s marriage.

In one week Ohio is officially open for mask-less escapades to wherever.

Last evening our stock club met in our favorite bar for the third time this year.  (We talked about death stocks.  See previous post.)  The presenter of SCI did not solidly endorse it as a stock for the club to buy at this time. Perhaps the club is not solidly interested in deathly stocks. Kroger is in our portfolio and it was up for revue (yes it is misspelled on purpose). Part of the discussion settled around how much Joe Biden’s $15 minimum wage proposal would affect Kroger’s bottom line. ( I am not sure why it is Joe’s idea but there are many conservative capitalists in our club.) A quick search of the internet of all knowledge turns up the information that the average folk starts at $11.62 at Kroger. If you can wield a knife in the meat department or can read a pharmacy order you can get more. Last year Kroger had about 465k employees. Assuming 10% of those are new employees which seems high but bear with me, 46.5Kx3.38 = $157170.00 per hour increase in base pay or $314,340,000.00 per year assuming 40 hour week and 50 weeks per year or .24% of sales for that same time. A surprisingly small percentage number when you do the math. If they collected an extra penny on all items they could pay the $15 minimum wage and pocket the extra $1G or so. Nice.

Our society is slowly, steadily climbing out of the darkness of the pandemic shutdown but it still goes on in the world. Donald wanted to make America great again.  It already was great.  Here is the chance to make it greater.

There are many things to fix that would make America greater. Overall though, just merely treating others with kindness, patience and dignity will make America greater.

Why is it important for some folks to control others life experience?  Is it simple jealousy or envy? Maybe changing that attitude in those folks would improve life a bit.

Is there societal value to imposing one’s own personal values on another? Look inside and think about how you would react to unsolicited advice about your particular situation or perhaps unreasonable restrictions on your actions and then answer that question. Of course everyone’s situation is different. Income disparity affects health and healthcare choices. Income disparity affects diet.

Perhaps Andrew Yang has the correct approach. It is at least a different approach.

I did not start this post with the thought of chasing the minimum wage or a universal basic income but Carpe Diem.

Lately I’ve Been Reading

Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights is a collection of diary entries, stories and journal entries that he has written through life. He is not a hero by any means but he pulled himself up and spent a large portion of his life trying to impress and live up to his perceived view of how his father perceived him. He is doing okay.

He did get me thinking about life and where we go from here. What if there is no here?

Neptune Society

I became tired of reading Matthew, so on a particularly morbid Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago I remembered that Cheryl and I had planned to collect information and preplan our funerals. Once in a while Cheryl thinks about this as her PD takes her occasionally down a dark road. She has expressed interest in cremation, so on this Sunday I poked “cremation cost + cincinnati” into Google and the Neptune Society popped up as the first or second hit. So, that sent me down the rabbit hole of death, dying, funeral cost, yada, yada, yada.

I filled out their form thinking I would be buried in email about cemeteries and crematoriums. Not so simple, just like senior living facilities and “aplaceformom” I started getting calls from them. Eventually I mistakenly answered their call and found out some interesting info.

Their parent company is Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI). I am interested in stocks so I used our stock club’s analysis to check them out.

It sounds morbid but death is up. And as Jim Morrison of the Doors once said, “No one here gets out alive!” He may have been drunk at the time but truer words were never spoken.

SCI

Summary: [from Reuters] Service Corporation International is a provider of death-care products and services, with a network of funeral service locations and cemeteries. The Company’s segments include Funeral, Cemetery and Corporate. It conducts both funeral and cemetery operations in the United States and Canada. As of December 31, 2016, it operated 1,502 funeral service locations and 470 cemeteries, including 281 funeral service/cemetery combination locations, which are geographically diversified across 45 states, eight Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It offers various brands, such as Dignity Memorial, Dignity Planning, National Cremation Society, Advantage Funeral and Cremation Services, and Funeraria del Angel. Its funeral service and cemetery operations consist of funeral service locations, cemeteries, funeral service/cemetery combination locations, crematoria, and related businesses. It sells cemetery property, and funeral and cemetery merchandise and services.

Various Opinions: CFRA recommends BUY (5/13/2021); Research Team recommends HOLD; Reliable Research – We do not recommend investors buy SCI; Ford Equity Research – We project that SCI will perform in line with the market over the next 6 to 12 months; Barchart Technical Opinion – Strong BUY; Zacks – Add to Portfolio (2-buy)

Few want to think about it but death seems to be an expanding market. Last year was a good one for sales and 2021 continues to be one. Regardless of the pandemic pandemonium and which side of the mask you are on, a lot of people died last year. From SCI’s first quarter guidance announcement:

UPDATED OUTLOOK FOR 2021 – Today we are reporting earnings per share of $1.33 and net cash provided by operating activities of $298 million for the quarter. The $0.88 growth in earnings per share in the quarter was primarily driven by increased comparable preneed cemetery sales production and continued elevated COVID-19 mortality, which resulted in an increase in both funeral services performed and burials in our cemeteries. Comparable preneed cemetery sales production grew $130 million, or 67%, during the quarter driven by an increase in sales velocity, sales averages, and large sales activity. Net cash provided by operating activities grew approximately $118 million over the prior year quarter, primarily due to increased operating profit.

Based on our first quarter results, we are raising the midpoint of our full year adjusted earnings per share guidance fifteen cents to $2.85 and the midpoint of our adjusted operating cash flow guidance to $687.5 million. Our long-term earnings growth framework remains in place, we will maintain focus on our core strategies of growing revenue by remaining relevant to our client families, leveraging our scale, and maximizing our capital deployment opportunities in a disciplined and balanced manner.

That was probably more business information than you intended to read. The stock club analysis reports SCI as a “buy”. Although it will not be a shining winner like a bunch of tech stocks, it will probably double in value over the next 5-ish years and along the way produce a 1.5% dividend per share.

Death is on the rise in America.

But wait there’s more! (morbid thoughts that is) Cremation is less expensive that other forms of disposal. Urns are available on Amazon for less than $50.

Carpe Diem (or at least the afternoon)

I Love a Good Game of Name That Acronym

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)

Uniformly Nascent Solipsistic Males Actually Remember Transportation (random division)

Let your mind run wild. It is okay to use small articles and the verb to be in any answer. Be mean or generous, politically correct or not so, kind or not. There are no rules.

Cost Obfuscation Violates Individual Destinations (travel division)

Catholic Orthodoxy (has) Victimized Individual Dreams (religious division)

Curmudgeonly Orwellians Voraciously Imbibe Dragon-meat (Game of Thrones division)

Crash Objects Vanquish Indecisive Drivers (automotive division)

Over time some acronyms have become actual words (laser) and some words have become acronyms (smart). Language is fascinating.

Parkinson’s disease sucks but then a friend will send you down a rabbit hole with diversion of some sort for several hours of mental gymnastics. Thanks, friend.

Peace be with you

Some Songs move me Emotionally

I probably should not ask Alexa to play Phil Collins.  Many of his songs get to me deeply.

Come stop your crying
It will be alright
Just take my hand
Hold it tight
I will protect you
From all around you
I will be here
Don’t you cry

For one so small
You seem so strong
My arms will hold you
Keep you safe and warm
This bond between us
Can’t be broken
I will be here don’t you cry

Cause you’ll be in my heart

Yes, you’ll be in my heart
From this day on
Now and forever more

You’ll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You’ll be here in my heart
Always
Always

Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Phil Collins You’ll Be in My Heart lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

Today I was working on material for school and as I often do I ask Alexa to play the first artist’s music that jumps into my head.  Today Phil Collins and his old band Genesis jumped into my head. I asked for Phil Collins by name and found myself listening to a bunch of Disney tunes.  “You’ll be in my heart” (Tarzan) just got to me emotionally and tears came to my eyes.

I suppose it is hard for men to come to grips with how they feel about someone or something if it involves emotion.  Many of us are embarrassed by our emotions.  I know I am.  But I have come to grips with the fact that it is a good idea to let those emotions pour out without embarrassment.  I try to do it in private if I can find privacy.  I have no worries if I cannot.

As the Parkinson’s disease continues, I get a sort of slow motion grief feeling that takes all of my effort to recover from.  This feeling is occasionally overwhelming. Music can bring the emotional response to this feeling spontaneously. I my case, I usually do not recognize that I was feeling this way in the background. Words to song or a melody will bring it to the surface. Earlier this morning I spontaneously began to cry. I waited for a bit and felt better. I suppose it released something in me because I feel better about life today.

Cheryl seems pretty good today also. Let’s have lunch out somewhere after exercise class. Okay, she said.

It is a rainy almost Spring day in Ohio and for now Parkinson’s is in the background.

What do you do to Pick Yourself UP?

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.

Find your music and play it!

It’s the End of the World as we Know it!

A nifty song by REM playing on Pandora or something when I took Cheryl to a physical therapy session with a nice young man from U.C. Health in Cincinnati. I wondered in my head, is it?

It’s the end of the world as we know it (time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine (time I had some time alone)

The lyrics are kind of stream of conscience similar to “We didn’t start the Fire” by Billy Joel. It made me think, is this a new way we are going to operate from now on? Mr. Joel’s song is an earlier history of an earlier century. But then he is about my age.

So, is it the end of the world as we know it? Is it the new normal? What is normal? My normal is probably not your normal and why do I hate that comment about it is the new normal. Simply put, what is IT? For a Parkinson’s patient abnormal physical difficulty is common. The part of the disease that is hidden, mental confusion, memory loss, delusion and sometimes hallucination is also normal.

Today for the first time I thought seriously about quitting the little part time job I have with a local community college because it takes me away from Cheryl. And yet, I need time away from her and the care giving. But I believe I need the time away to be on my own terms.

Perhaps I want to take a walk in the park by myself in which I am not part of her support structure. Perhaps I want to walk at my own speed which is much greater than hers but did not used to be. Perhaps I want to take a walk were I do not have to slow to a pace less than a stroll to allow her to stay with me. There are times when we creep around the circuit and I try to get her to take full steps. Perhaps this Parkinson’s has gotten into my head far enough for me to ignore my own needs.

Cheryl really likes to walk but it is a struggle for her. She really likes to play Scrabble but it is a struggle for her. She likes to think about and organize her support group for Parkinson’s folks but it is really a struggle for her. Lately she has decided to do puzzles, well one puzzle so far, as a hobby but it is a struggle for her.

This is normal. There is nothing new about it. It is not the end of the world as we know it. It simply is the world we have.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

– Max Ehrmann Desiderata

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann has become for me a meditation. I try to not distress myself with dark imaginings but on some days that requires drawing strength from a reserve that is depleted.

Michael is right. Parkinson’s sucks. Stay calm. Keep moving forward.

Things just jump into your Head

We were driving to get Cheryl’s second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine so that we could, half of us anyway, become part of the herd immunity process to tamp down the CoVSARS pandemic pandemonium. I had stopped at a traffic light and looked to the side of the road to notice a road sign post with only the sign at the top. Someone had removed the Ohio Route 561 sign from the post immediately below the JCT sign. It was a naked looking post and my dad’s words. “vandals had removed the sign” jumped into my head. I could actually hear his voice.

Weird, I thought.

When I was first driving, some friends and I were tooling around Fairfax, Ohio heading to the Frisch’s on U. S. route 52 that ran through the sort of village center. We were still traveling on the residential streets. I was still learning that although you may have the right-of-way it is a prudent driver who looks to see if the other driver believes that to also be the case. On this particular day a teaching moment happened.

Another teenage driver, female but that fact is of no consequence, suddenly appeared in front of me in an intersection with which I was familiar and which I knew to be the main street. She had a stop sign which she had ignored. Boom, bam, bang, tinkle tinkle. I hit her hard enough that the car she was driving raised up off the ground, slid a little and slammed back down on the pavement. I was driving Dad’s 1960 Chevrolet Impala. She was driving some littler beige car. Her door was dented. Dad’s bumper was dinged a little and the fender had a scratch in the white paint. I was impressed with how little damage there was to Dad’s car and how poopy her car looked. But cars had bumpers then and frames to mount them onto. I had slammed on the brakes so the car had nosed down and lifted hers up. No one was injured.

Police were called by some neighbors. The policeman gave the girl a ticket. She complained that there was no stop sign for her. He pointed at the post and said it really did not matter for even though vandals had stolen the stop sign, I had the right-of-way.

When Dad helped me to right the accident report to the insurance company and file my version of the event with the State of Ohio, he said I should write that she did not stop because, “vandals had removed the sign.”

Today that jumped into my head. I had not heard Dad’s voice for awhile.

I did today.

Different Interpretations

This cartoon is a double entendre. Double entendre is open for misinterpretation. Usually one interpretation is risque or at least rude in some fashion. One interpretation may be metaphorically a dog whistle. Clear communication uses none of these but as the cartoon below describes how jokes employ all of these techniques. And from Shakespeare, “Jesters do oft prove prophets,” in King Lear.

Language is nuanced. Idioms and usage depend upon the speaker’s and listener’s background and environment. As Parkinson’s disease develops it often robs the brain of the ability to detect the nuance and subtly of language and more succinctly the difference between truth and tease.

When people do not say what they mean, the listener is left with an unwanted task of interpretation and analysis without complete information. In conversation the listener may respond with, “To be clear… (the uncertainty)?” in order to understand the speaker. This is a fair question. It is not a challenge. It is a clarification. Questions left unsaid answered only by the listener may not be the intended thought of the speaker.

Direct speech can be interpreted as rude. Many speakers talk around a thought in hopes the the listener will hear that which was left unsaid and be less offended. Direct speech can be interpreted as confrontational but direct speech cuts through the Parkinson’s fog. Parkinson’s is not subtle.

Parkinson’s sucks.