Senso-ji Temple

Monk at Senso-ji Temple. Tokyo, Japan

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Moving Mom and Dad

Last week was the culmination of moving Mom and Dad into a Senior Living Community. That’s the name they use now for a retirement home. An Assisted Living Facility.

And I’d have to say, it is quite a different choice as far as these types of places go.  They offer a very nice housing facility that feels like a Marriott Home Suite or Resort efficiency type of room with a full kitchen, a living room, a patio or balcony, bathroom and a bedroom.  Some have two bedrooms.  It’s the perfect answer to down-sizing from a big single family home to a much more appropriate home where yard work and maintenance are all taken care of.

Instead of spending all of your time in your new smaller home, everything happens outside your little apartment and becomes  a shared community room. One might even compare it to a cruise ship experience where you have a small but adequate cabin and then all other activities take place throughout the ship.  In this case, there’s a dining room with a wait staff that bring your food as you ordered (not cafeteria style), there’s a Sports Bar, a library with a fireplace, activities rooms, exercise room and even a place to play pool, shoot mini-basketballs and darts, an arts and craft room with a weekly director who leads the activity like painting or seasonal crafts –  or just hang out and visit.  It actually very cool.

Then as far as assisted living, that’s available a la carte. So, if you need help with your medications, a qualified medical person comes by daily to be sure you take your pills.  If you need help bathing or dressing, you can add that service too.  Should the need arise for more care with dementia or Alzheimer’s patients, in this case, there’s also a Memory Center wing attached right to the main building. You don’t have to go to a different facility should one parent need attention and the other doesn’t.  Very loving and very convenient.  All of these options can be added as needed.

That feels good – to have them settled in their new home in Ohio close to my sister and her family.  They’ll get lots of attention and care from them for sure. But this has been the culmination of almost three years of hard, patient work to get them re-located. That’s what feels so good. Finishing the move. Actually getting them settled in their new home.  It feels like we’ve crossed the Finish Line, so to speak.

Although my folks had previously lived in Cleveland (Parma Heights actually), they had moved away long ago after us kids grew up.  After living in New Jersey, Chicago and the San Jose, California area, they finally settled in Henderson, Nevada – a neighboring suburb of Las Vegas.  They loved it there. They always had lots of visitors. They loved the weather, the shows, the restaurants and the direct flights to anywhere in the world. It was a great place to live.  Their house was paid off.  They lived a very simple and comfortable life.

However, as my Dad’s mental health began to slip over these last few years, my mother became more and more stressed out. Her anxiety came from trying to care for my dad and his dementia, along with caring for the house, the yard and her own needs  – it became overwhelming.  Although they didn’t want to return to those cold, dark, freezing winter’s of Cleveland, it became the best option when they finally agreed to downsize, move and receive the help that they both needed to live a better life.  Their social life was quite diminished as they spent more and more time at home.  All this will change now as they’ll have lots of help and lots of social time in their new community.

The final stages of this endeavor was to clear the contents of their home: sell or give away what they could and then dispose of the rest.  Ship the minimal amount of furniture and personal items up to Ohio and then, what became my task, was to drive their car from Las Vegas up to Ohio. And with winter closing in on us in December, that became time-critical so that I would avoid snow and ice on the roads.

This last week, Christmas week of 2017, I completed that drive. They’ve got their car, personal and family effects, pictures, kitchen items, quilts, photo albums and their TV and computer.  I finished the drive just as the first real snow began to fall.  Two days after delivering their car, they got over 4 inches of snow! I just barely made it.

I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and joy having completed this family project.  It was my pleasure to serve my folks by helping relocate them.  I know they appreciated it and it made their adjustment to their new home much easier with all the help that me, my brother and my sister provided. It took all of us, each of us three kids doing what we do best to get them moved.  Another wonderful blessing was that it brought our entire family closer together – closer than we’d been in years. It felt so nice to successfully work through all the issues with all five of us working lovingly together.  My sister made doctor’s appointments for them and coordinated with the Senior Living facility to make their arrival go smoothly.  My brother flew down to Vegas and helped my Mom disperse many items in the house to needy charities, libraries and foundations.  He packed up the rest of the things he chose to keep that my folks gave him, including the second car (a Toyota Prius) and drove it all back to Seattle.

One of the biggest reasons I’m so relieved and so pleased with, is that I did not realize that in order to enter an assisted living facility, my folks had to undergo a medical evaluation before they would be permitted to live in this facility.  I had thought a person could just go and sign up for an apartment there.  Nope. They have to meet a minimum health standard before they are processed in even after being accepted initially.  Had my father’s health deteriorated or my mother, heaven forbid, had suffered a stroke or been disabled, there’s a good possibility that they would not have been admitted in this facility!  So it is without question that God directed this move to go as smoothly as it did and in His perfect timing.

As I said, I feel like I’ve crossed the finish line.  My own anxiety is gone. We’ve done my folks good.  They’re receiving good care and making new friends. My sister and her family are less than four miles away from them.  I can breath easier.  The task is completed.  All is taken care of.  All is safe.  All is calm.

What a wonderful way to close out 2017 and begin the New Year!  Celebrate!!

Danbury Senior Living

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Louisville, Kentucky. 1973. Late February.

Driving up to Ohio last week, I passed through Louisville, Kentucky. Something I hadn’t thought of in a long time suddenly came to mind. It was a memory from my days in the Army. That was way back after spending an aimless year in college not really knowing why I was there or knowing what I was supposed to do with a college degree once I got one.  Here’s what I remember:


Louisville, Kentucky. 1973. Late February.

Me and Mrs Jones by Billy Paul was topping the music charts along with Papa Was A Rolling Stone by the Temptations and the acoustic group America was singing about A Horse With No Name. But I hadn’t listened to the radio for over a month.

I’d enlisted in the U.S. Army and this was the first R&R we’d gotten since Basic Training began in January.  Four weeks of physical training, marching, shooting rifles, learning military protocol and eating all a new recruit could eat in 15 minutes before the Drill Sergeant chased us all out of the Mess Hall and back into formation in the freezing winter temperatures of an eternally overcast sky at Ft. Knox,Kentucky where they store all the gold, which I never saw. Halfway through our training in that frozen hell, we were granted our first pass to leave the base and do as we pleased for a whole 48 hours.

The recent pay hike for military personnel had raised the entry level pay to $280 per month, probably more money than I’d ever earned from any of the part time jobs I’d had as a kid in any given month.  During the Draft years, pay was $87 per month. But the new Volunteer Army needed to attract young men to enlist and so the pay was increased.  I had a Draft Number of 3 so I knew that I would be drafted once I dropped out of college.  I enlisted and signed up for three years to avoid being put in an infantry group as a draftee.  In an unexpected announcement that the United States was pulling out of Viet Nam beginning in December, two months earlier, Nixon had cancelled the draft. I could have been excused from my enlistment.  But I chose to go anyway, hoping to make a career of the advanced aviation training that I was guaranteed to receive by signing up on my own. Now, at the end of February, we lined up at the payroll window where the officer paid each soldier his money, counting the 20’s, 10’s and dollar bills out loud. He then turned his ledger so you could sign your name and had you show your military ID to verify you were who you said you were.

I had money. And what would a 19 year old, red-blooded American military recruit like me, with a pocket full of money, wish for with 2 full days to do it in? I wanted to sleep!  I wanted a soft bed and a carpeted floor and a place where a deranged Puerto Rican Drill Seargent didn’t come banging on your bunk bed and yell, “Godth Dammit! Get the fowk outta youz godth damn beds and fall out! Formation! All I wanna see is assholes and elbows, godth dammit!”. I didn’t want to wake up at five o’clock in the morning and do an hour of jumping jacks and push ups.  I didn’t want to stand in single file outside the mess hall in silence while icy snow crystals hit the back of my neck and melted.  I just wanted to sleep.

So me and three other fellas in my barracks with the same wish made a quick alliance, agreed to share a hotel room and do just that. Sleep. Heavenly, peaceful, never-ending sleep.  Having passed inspection wearing our formal, green Army Dress Uniforms, we boarded a Greyhound bus headed for the closest city outside of Fort Knox. That turned out to be Louisiville, Kentucky.

A block away from the downtown bus station, past the greasy diner with the french fries and grilled onion smells floating out into the frozen afternoon air, right next to a freeway overpass, in that dark, cloudy, dingy and nameless city that Louisville is, the four of us rented a single room with two double beds on the second floor of the Holiday Inn motel.  Green shag carpet. Thin, white towels. A 20 inch color TV. And two beautiful beds. We couldn’t have been happier.

We each picked a partner and then chose our bed.  No touching allowed and you had to sleep facing away from each other.  You touch and you sleep on the floor.  There – we said it.

Four unlikely guys sharing a room and a bed and some rest. Me, from the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, from a white, middle class neighborhood of 3 bedroom homes and basements and a garage for two cars.  Sharing the bed with my African American bunkmate from back in the barracks, who had a 6th pinky finger on each hand, was from Detroit and who had joined the Army so he could have those 6th fingers removed by the medical corp some day soon. The other bed would be occupied by a short, stocky Korean guy who was several years older than any of us and barely spoke a word of English. Joining him would be a kid from some town down in Tennessee who probably knew his way around bars and pool tables and how to shotgun a beer long before he was legally allowed to do so.  The four of us, buzz-cut military hair cuts and not an ounce of fat left on our muscular bodies, together in a Holiday Inn, to sleep.  We were in heaven.

We probably hadn’t been in the room longer than five or ten minutes, not even long enough to locate the ash trays and light up, when someone knocked really hard on our door.  Tennessee opened it up and before he knew what was happening, two large, black painted ladies pushed into the room and shoved the door shut. They flashed big white toothy smiles, pulled open their  winter coats to expose their mostly unbuttoned blouses with lots of clanking jewelry around their necks and wrists,  and announced in a much louder voice than was necessary, “You boys looking for a good time?”

Being the finest trained military men in the nation, we of course, froze.

For me, it took me a minute to understand exactly what was happening here. I mean, I hadn’t seen many Black women, let alone hardly any Black people at all, in my whole life.  I lived in the Heights.  We had Italians, Pollocks, Greeks, Germans, Scandinavians, Jews and Russians where I lived- all white people.  I’d been downtown Cleveland where Black kids sat on the corners beating on bongos for money but I’d never really been around Black people socially until I got in the Army.  Now I stood there staring at two big, Black, scary hookers – one who could probably beat up two or three of us single handedly and the other, who seemed like she might be the younger one of the two, kept peeking through the venetian blinds looking down into the parking lot where who knows who was probably waiting for a signal to come up and threaten to shoot us or beat the snot out of us and steal our money.  We all froze.

So, the big one, the one with the bigger white teeth, tried to let us in on what she was peddling.  She asked Korea if he wanted to take a trip ‘downtown’ with her as she gestured to the bathroom. He didn’t know what she said.  Black Detroit didn’t say a word and just stood his ground. She looked at me and saw Lutheran Church all over my face. She left me alone. But Tennessee, he let a grin spread across his face and let his shoulders drop. He figured it out real quick.  He took the lead while we still stood there like deer caught staring into the headlights.  Tennessee would show us how to handle these prostitutes and get them politely out the door. But that didn’t happen exactly as I thought it might.  Instead, Tennessee wanted to know, “Well, how abouts you showing us what y’all gots before we go and make decision here?”

“Well I ain’t showin’ ever-body what’n I got! Come on”, and she grabbed his hand and led him to the bathroom.

My eyebrows went up. I looked at Korea who was looking at the other whore who was taking another look through the blinds.  Black Detroit sat down on the bed.  I turned and looked at the light and the shadows under the bathroom door. In way too short of a time for anything to have happened other than maybe she had flashed him her boobs or grabbed his crotch for a tease of things to come, the door opened again to laughs and out they both walked.

“Come on”, she said to her sidekick at the window, “there ain’t nothin’ gonna happen here. Lets book.”  And out they went. The door slammed shut.

Korea hurried over to slide the chain on the door latch and then locked the door too. He took a quick look out through the blinds to see if their pimp was headed up to the room next, but he wasn’t, and he let go of the bent blind slat.  They were gone.  We were safe. Frightening as it was, it was over as quickly as it started.

Like schoolboys describing the first time they copped a feel from their new girlfriend, we slapped our legs and pounded on the walls while we told our stories, laughing and giggling nervously about what just happened.  Another peek out the window just to be sure nobody was coming up and we all sat and retold what we each of us had experienced as the first prostitutes that at least three of us had ever seen, had entered the room.  Korea still didn’t really get what had happened. Tennessee boasted about his many conquests and me and Detroit just kind of sat there, dumbfounded and relieved.

I wondered how that whole thing worked.  Do you just stand in the bathroom and she gets naked and then you somehow have sex?  Not that I was totally innocent or naive but I had always assumed love making happened in the back seat of a car or in a grassy field of tall grass or a borrowed bed.  I never thought you could do it in the bathroom.  And do you kiss them?  Do you sit and smoke a cigarette afterwards?  Do you hope to ever see her again?

I wondered about that as each of us retold our story another time or two, took turns at the sink washing our faces and brushing out teeth and climbed into bed to finally get some sleep.  I wondered that and wondered about my own girlfriend and wondered about what it would be like to get past the kissing stage with her and feel her up and finally go all the way with her.

I thought about how long it would be before I saw her again and slowly, slowly, slowly…I fell sound asleep.

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Merry Christmas

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Self Portrait

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Born A Crime

I’ve read or listened to so many great books this year.

I just finished this audio book, written and narrated by comedian and talk show host Trevor Noah. Its about his life growing up in Apartheid South Africa. Its well deserving of it’s 5 star rating from readers.

There’s so much to learn about here – from cultural differences, to abuse and injustice, to God’s hand in healing a man and a nation as well as many little gems that I wrote down in my own journal. Like this one as Trevor discusses lack of education to the segregated and oppressed people in his country.

“Why show a child the WORLD when he’ll never leave the ghetto? Why? Because the child will know that the ghetto is NOT the world!”

Click here for the book

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The Girl in the Amichi Window

Seville, Spain. 2017

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