The Coffin

I’m in my coffin with the lid open. It’s quite comfy actually. I just would like to pull that silk sheet over my shoulders. I’ve got my business suit on. They, whoever they are, must have looked deep in my closet to find it. I haven’t worn this suit in seven years. I know it’s been at least seven years because I’ve been retired that long and have not worn a suit since. Until today apparently.

I can’t see above the rim of this coffin but I feel (I can still feel?) like I’m in a real quite place as their seems to be a fair amount of movement around me but I can not heard anything. But above me are four people, two on each side, that I recognize. Mom and Dad on one side and my sister and wife on the other. They have sad faces as they look down upon me. What happened I wonder?

My mother: “He pulled the plug on me. I could have survived.”

Her lips are not moving but I can read her thoughts. Mom, you had so many surgeries the doctors would not perform anymore. Your body would not have survived the onslaught of another operation.  You were 84 mom and you had a very good life with lots of friends and caring family. Yes, it was my decision to let you go

My sister: “He pulled the plug on me too. I know I was not responsive and had been a vegetable for months but I still could feel emotions.”

But Sis, you were born with one kidney, the other failed after a few years, you were on dialysis for years, your body was exhausted and worn out. You were only 56 years old but most of those years you suffered. You had friends, family, and neighbors to help you, but you mainly suffered on your own. Yes, it was my decision to let you go.

My father: “He pulled the plug on me too, the little weasel.”

Dad, you fell off the toilet and suffered severe brain damage that was irreversible. The doctors told me you would never regain consciousness ever again. Yes, it was my decision to let you go.

My wife: “Yes, I am the one who pulled the plug on you.”

I Remember: Clarinet

I remember, as a boy growing up, wanting to play the clarinet. I was in awe of Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and his Orchestra, and Artie Shaw.

After much nagging, my parents finally said I could have one if I practiced every day. I did. I even had a little report card that my dad had to sign off on to testify I had played for at least an hour that day. One slight problem is that my dad practiced as much as I did.

I found out later in life that my parents had to take out a loan to pay for the clarinet. It was a large expense at the time. I never was any good. I was always “second chair”; I think everyone after the “first chair” was a second chair. The first chair was my next door neighbor Ginger. Not only was she good at playing the clarinet but she played the damn piano as well. Her parents even bought her a piano.

NaBloPOMo #11

Left Behind

Why did his wife have to leave her with him, he wondered? It was only a couple of days she explained. You know my cell phone in case of an emergency she reminded him. But he had a football game to watch for Pete’s sake. Skins and Cowboys; doesn’t get much better than this. And Sunday NASCAR (Go Jimmy)!

They had agreed that her adoption would be just like having one of their own. They would be a real mom and dad. A mom and dad to replace the original mom and dad that had abandoned her. Share the duties of raising a little one was something they both looked forward to with great expectations. After all they didn’t have any of their own to raise. They had furnished personal references, and provided Doctor’s name and numbers that the agency required. They agency had even interviewed their references and made calls to the Doctor’s office.

She was a little angel that they both cherished for the first couple of years. But then, almost overnight, she began to grow up in front of their eyes.

She was beginning to take on the less than pretty characteristics of his wife’s already. Both had gained weight and both could be annoying with their constant need for affection. Sometimes he felt needed by both of them and then it would be total rejected of him the next.

After his wife left, he asked her directly, “Why do I have to take care of you.”



NaBloPoMo No. 7

Driving Ms. Daisy

He backs his car out of the garage at exactly 2:45 p.m. He’s a stickler for punctuality. He plugs the address into his GPS. Estimated Arrival Time is 3:15 p.m. Perfect! He puts a Madonna CD into his player. His favorite two songs are “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl”. I mean who could forget her performance at the MTV Video Awards show when she preformed the “Like a Virgin” act. Wow!

His wife will have dinner started when he gets back so he can go to one of his meetings.

As he pulls into her driveway he sees her looking out the living room window.

She gets into his car and he asks, “What is it today Ms. Daisy. Radiation or Chemo?”

DNA Analysis

“Right Brained” – intuitive, thoughtful and subjective
“Left Brained” – logical, analytical and objective
DNA Double Helix

“Wow, you speak/act exactly like your mom/dad!” Sound familiar? Genes play a big part in shaping our physical characteristics, traits we inherit from our parents are not limited to our looks, body types, and balding patterns. My dad was 6 foot 1 inch; I’m 5 foot 8 inches. My dad was going bald at my age and I have a full head of hair. My mother had kinky hair and I have long wavy hair. My dad weighed close to 185 pounds; I weigh around 145. I share almost no physical characteristics (except perhaps my large ears).

But there are certain personality traits my parents have passed along to me. The classic Nature vs. Nurture debate that says the difference is being that traits like wealth, education, and social privilege can be passes to a genetic offspring but these traits are not part of the biological system and can’t be DIRECTLY attributed to genetics.

The bits and pieces that make up me.

Temperament — My parents were typically calm and collected and so am I. I have a close friend whose parents were hot-tempered individuals and so is he. I tend to internalize negative feelings and ideas and hold on to them for one terrific explosion. This has only happened twice. You don’t want to be around!

Control — Our need or refusal of control may also be a habit learned from our parents. My parents were nonchalant and detached and I don’t have a problem relinquishing control. Ask my wife! Fight or Flight? I’m a big Flight fan.

Social and Communication Skills — I am very quiet and reserved. I do however have a social life, sense of humor (dry some would say), and listening skills. All a mirror of my parents. I hate public speaking. At one time is was a requirement of a position I held. I would be well prepared but had the “dry heaves” just before the presentation. I have a degree in Psychology so I am well-trained in saying “and what makes you feel that way.” 🙂 I need to work on this skill. In my flight mode I say “things can only get worse” if we discuss this. This has been paraphrased back to me as “go ahead and dig that hole a little deeper.”

Way of Life — My childhood fantasies were shaped by my parents way of life. Both worked hard to provide my well-being. I am accustomed to the life my parents provided me, and often strive the same for my family. My parents led a simple life, and I am content with that also. No burning desire for a life of luxury. However, I do love to travel; especially international travel. My whole family, except me, lives within 30 miles of where they were born.

Outlook on Life — Is the cup half-full or half-empty? Depends if you ask the question of the bar tender or the customer. Even though I had encouraging parents who continuously looked on the bright side, their own outlook of life shaped my behavior more than their words. I’m a very optimistic person (even though the government has shut down). Even at my age my investments objectives are long-term.

Weekly writing Challenge:DNA Analysis

The Trip to Tucson

Leaving (Part 1)

Gloria told her parents she would be leaving home in exactly one year. They didn’t believe her. She had said this many times before but both sensed that she may actually leave this time.

She was an only child, now 35 years old. She was a graduate of Montana State University with an undergraduate degree in Sociology, with a major in Women’s and Gender Studies. A hell of a lot that did for her here in Deer Lodge. She did a Google search and found out their were 48 job openings within 25 miles of Deer Lodge. Most of the jobs were on ranches, restaurant’s, or the largest employer, the Montana State Prison. Working there would be a nightmare.

She hated her job as an Office Manager with a local law firm. Ok, she had started out as an administrative assistant and then “promoted” after a year to Office Manager. It was the same old shit with a different title. She knew they did not want to lose her because they knew they could not get anyone else as efficient and dependable for what she was being paid. But what could she do to improve her life. She did not want to spend the rest of her life in this desolate place.

Her best friend Holly had been accepted at the University of Arizona. She would be working toward her Masters degree in the Drama Department.

At dinner a few months ago Holly had floated the idea of them both moving to Arizona and sharing an apartment together. For sure this would be better than living in her little run down trailer which was parked on her Aunt’s property. The rent was reasonable, but she always felt that her Aunt was keeping an eye on her.

Gloria had thought about this for a couple of months before making her final decision. She would go with Holly.  Her decision was hastened by the fact she did a “Johnny Paycheck” with her boss and told him “to shove it”. And then to add insult she added that if he were twice as smart he would still be an idiot. She knew where the door was but he showed it to her anyway.

According to Google Maps it was 1,219 miles, almost a straight shot south from Deer Lodge to Tucson. They figured a 3 to 4 day trip would get them there.

Since Gloria rented her trailer and Holly had a small unfurnished apartment, they were able to get all of their worldly possessions into one 4 by 6 U-Haul. Gloria had the better car, a 1977 Buick regal. Holly had a 1963 Ford Ranchero that her brother gave her. He was a carpenter and had build a wood top for the back of the Ranchero. Looked like hell but it still ran and she did not think she would need a car in Tucson anyway.

They had a small going away party, which her parents never attended, the night before. They had planned to leave around 10 the next morning. But they did a through cleaning of all the liquor containers, beer cans, and roaches that were the result of their little party. It was almost noon when they finally departed. Holly led the little convoy. As they left an empty beer can fell off the back bumper of the U-Haul.

Their adventure had begun.

Pistol Packing Mama

Betty finished packing her purse; keys, cell phone, wallet with her credit cards and her Ruger LCR .38 Special Revolver. Her husband, Roger, had purchased if for her with a laser sight since she was not used to firing guns and it would help her during gun safety classes at the local indoor range. It was light weight and compact and fit her hand perfectly. It was also very user-friendly for her and simple for her to clean. The only down side was that it was extremely loud to shoot and made her flinch every time she fired it.

Living in this remote part of North Carolina, Roger had insisted she learn how to use it for self defense. “You never know who lurks in the woods around her. You remember that guy that went missing for over two years and in that time he lived around here and killed two innocent women. They finally caught him behind the dumpster at the Roy Rob store in the early morning scarfing up some garbage that had been thrown out.”

She regretted the marriage from the start. They were married in Atlanta. He was a skilled computer software engineer and she had a good paying job as an administrative assistant for a local drug manufacture. After 3 kids, with Nelson being he youngest, he wanted to go back to “nature”. They bought a small cabin in the remote area in Yadkin county. Her life now consisted of getting Roger up in the morning, feeding him breakfast, taking him to work at the local lumber mill (he couldn’t drive because of two DWI’s). She did all the chores at home including going to the store for supplies; which she was now getting ready to do. She would then pick him up from work; he was already half drunk by then, and take him home so she could prepare dinner. He would have dinner, drink 4 or 5 beers, and then go to bed. It was the same day after day. Their weekends consisted of going to the local bar on Friday and Saturday nights and drinking beer and  watching sports on Sunday. She had no girl friends except for the two druggies next door.

She hated her life. She hated Roger. She would love to move back to Atlanta and be near her family. Her sister and mother could help take care of the kids while she looked for employment. Then she would get an apartment and make lots of new girlfriends. Leave Roger here in the boonies by himself and his drinking buddies. But she knew Roger would find her and her life would be even more depressing than it already was.

She loaded her 2 year old son, Nelson, and headed for the local Super Wal-Mart. She needed to buy groceries for the week, some personal items, and of course a couple of cases of beer for Roger.

She put Nelson in front of the cart with her purse and headed down the beer isle. She had just put the first case of beer in the cart when she noticed her son reaching into her purse where she was carrying the gun and it went off with a roar.

When the police arrived she explained that when she noticed her son had his hands in her purse, she reached in to get hold of the gun and it fired one shot, hitting her in the right hand. Luckily, Nelson was not injured.

She fully expected the police to charge her with failure to secure a firearm from a minor, a misdemeanor. But after consulting with the local District Attorney’s office decided  not to charge her because she had a legal concealed-carry permit for the gun and was not in violation of the law. The District Attorney said the incident would be similar to a person wearing a holstered gun and a person running up and putting their hands on the weapon, causing it to fire.

Now, if she could just get Roger to put his hands in her purse….Hello Atlanta.

Daily Prompt:Fifteen Credits

Another school semester will soon begin. If you’re in school, are you looking forward to starting classes? If you’re out of school, what do you miss about it — or are you glad those days are over?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us LEARNING.

Rankin Elementary School
Rankin Elementary School

I always enjoyed school. The picture above is from around 1956. Our school at that time consisted of three grades: 4th, 5th, and 6th. Facing the teacher the 4th grade was seated on the right, 5th grade in the middle, and 6th grade on the far left. Same teacher for all three grades. I walked to this school. I only lived about a half mile away. Our neighborhood consisted of about  8 houses within a square mile. I only had  four close friends  I attended  school with. Leon,  who lived just  down the road. Sara, who lived across the road (a gravel road  at that) and down one house, and Ginger and Sandra who lived directly across the road. I had crush on Ginger for a  long time. On the next road lived Joanna, Kent, and Jim. Oh, and Junior Childs, who used to bully me  relentlessly. When we played baseball and Junior pitched for the opposing team he would always  tell his fielders to move in because “batter can’t hit” in reference to me. When I did get a hit past the infield I felt like had hit a home run in the World Series. This same Junior Childs that called me out of my house and accused me of taking his baseball bat (I was innocent). He stood there looking like it was HIS yard. We started to fight and I ran back into the house and told my dad I was fighting with Junior but he would not hold still so I could hit him. I don’t know where those  other  kids  in the picture  came from. Anyone living more than two miles away was  a curiosity.

I have always loved books. My wife kids me  my that my mother was in labor  so long because I had not finished my latest book. I remember my very first day at school; my mother meeting with the teacher and going  over the required forms. Me sitting beside  her and looking at all  these new faces that my mother told me would become  my  friends. After my mom left and I was directed to my seat I  just sat there frozen. I didn’t understand any thing the teacher was saying. I remember walking home  around  10 and when my mother saw me a few minutes later she said “Why are you home  so early?” I told her school must be over because everyone got up  and started to leave. She  said “That’s recess silly”, now go back to school. That afternoon I raised my hand  to indicated I had to  go to the bathroom. And yes, raising one finger indicated  you  only had to pee and would be right back; two fingers meant it may be some  time before I return; and raising three fingers meant…well you really don’t want to know. The bathroom was also a hat and coat room. As I began to seat myself on the  toilet I  looked down….and down…and down. It must have been 60 feet before any turd  you released finally made waterfall.

All through school I was considered a “book-worm.” I liked just about every subject that our school taught  except physics. I ended up taking wood shop instead! No real outside activities, although I was considered a fair basketball player but I was too short at 5′ 8″. Which hurt me because  behind our house was  the  new elementary with  an outside  basketball court. I would spend hours shooting free throws. I could make  75 or 80 out of 100. One  time I caught my ring in the net (they  were lower than the pros and were made out of wire mesh  and not nylon), and just about  severed my index finger.

In Junior College I found out that it required two  semesters of math to be able to transfer to the  four year university. I found  out  that I could  instead  take  two years of a foreign language  and that would satisfy the  requirement. So I took two years of German. Today I can proudly say “Hello”, “Good By”, “How are you”, and “bring me the newspaper” in German. All of this comes in real handy today 🙂 I went on to a four year university and received my degree.

I had planned on continuing my learning experience but something called Viet Nam came up that prevented that. I never served but they took away the student deferments.

My learning continued in my professional  career as many positions required certain certifications.

This is the school today.

Rankin Elementary School today 2013, 57 years later.
Rankin Elementary School today 2013, 57 years later.

The Daily Prompt

Not Any Balcony

The Bal
The Balcony in Verona

I, Friar Laurence, almost knew, even then, that this balcony would become famous after the story of the two star-crossed lovers became widely known. The families were reconciled by their children’s death and had agreed to end their violent feud but at a tremendous human cost.

The Montague and Capulet families had a long history of despising each other. But the turning point was that damn ball at the Capulet house. Romeo, in an effort to cure his depression over Rosaline, one of Capulet’s nieces, crashes the party. A relationship between a Montague’s son and a Capulet niece does not bode well. But Romeo compounds this shaky ground by meeting and immediately falling in love with Juliet.

I told Romeo there could be dire consequences from a meeting like this. Why stir the pot? Let the families work out their differences without you adding fuel to this toxic environment. But did he listen to me? No! Bastard fool that he is. Then he slinks into the Capulet’s orchard and guess what he finds there? You guessed it–Juliet! In spite of her family’s hatred for the Montagues she is wailing like a little girl from that balcony about how she loves him! The fool can’t just hide in the bushes in the orchard and watch from afar, no he has to jump out and proposes marriage to her. And she agrees!

Both Romeo and Juliet appear at my doorstep and ask me to marry them. I had only hoped to reconcile the two families through their union and I did secretly marry them the next day.

In just a couple of weeks Juliet comes to me for help after relating what has happened since I married her to Romeo. After hearing her story I was in a different community within this providence of Verona. After all, as a Frier I have been called to live the evangelical counsels (vows of poverty, chastity and obedience) in service to a community and after hearing Juliet’s story I wish I had not got involved in this mess.

She tells a story of Romeo being challenged to a duel, refusing to fight, someone accepting the duel on Romeo’s behalf, Romeo killing Tybalt, who is Juliet’s cousin. Romeo being exiled from Verona, with the threat of execution upon his return. Romeo consummating their marriage. Her father Capulet ordering her to marry someone else. When she refuses her mother rejects her.

Lord in your mercy, here my prayer! What advice can I, a lowly Frier, give her? Ah…I have a solution. I will give her a drug that will put her into a deathlike coma for just under two days and I will send a messenger to inform Romeo of the plan and then he can rejoin her when she awakens. We agree on the plan.

That’s the last time I saw Juliet.

I have since learned that not everything went according to our plan. The damn messenger does not reach Romeo to inform him of the plan. Instead Romeo learns of Juliet’s apparent death from his servant. Then Romeo does a very stupid thing, not the first stupid thing but the most damning. The fool goes to the drug store and buys some poison. And this is where (if not before) it gets really weird. Romeo drinks the poison (silly fool) and then Juliet awakens and, finding Romeo dead, stabs herself with his dagger.

This will be my last look at that balcony before I head to my new providence in Milan. Hopefully a much quieter one. Rest in peace Romeo and Juliet.

Untold Stories

The Horton Clan
The Horton Clan

One of my favorite songs from days past was Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story.” I think the above photo has quite a few stories it could tell. The gentleman top row third from the left is my Grandfather Herman Horton. surrounding him are his brothers and sisters. Those were hard times but their appearance betrays that fact. To me they look almost prosperous. Most of the Horton Clan had moved north to Michigan from Missouri to take advantage of the jobs in the automotive industry. From farmers to labors. My Grandmother told me stories of how she would throw food through the windows of the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan. In 1937 the workers went on a “Sit Down Strike.” In a sit-down strike, the workers physically occupy the plant, keeping management and others out. By remaining inside the factory rather than picketing outside of it, striking workers prevented owners from hiring strike breakers to take their jobs and resume production.

That was one of the few stories I remember. I did some research and found out that one of my relatives committed suicide, and I found a birth certificate of an Uncle I never knew I had. These were some of the stories that no one would talk about. I remember asking my dad some family related questions that I knew the answer was not pretty or even legal. His response….”We don’t talk about those things.”

I wish all these people were alive today as I would have a thousand questions for them. Growing up I was not interested in the past only in the present and future. Stupid me.

My father passed away a few years ago and I found a box of letters, hundreds of letters, that he wrote to my mom while he was in the service during WWII. I asked him about his experiences in France and Germany and true to form his response was, as expected, “We don’t talk about those things.”

If you want to know some more of my family’s untold stories I would like to help but “I don’t talk about those things.”


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