Special Women in my Life

Recently a friend, Bill, posted on his blog the story of the women in his life, which included his mother, sisters, wife and daughter, and let’s not forget the men along with them. He described his live from early childhood to retirement. Retirement for many of us is still as busy or busier than before we retired. At the end of his blog he asked for comments, here are my comments.

I too grew up in a world where women were expected to stay at home while the man went out to make a living. I was born in January 1949, the first of four children, all born in the Pacific Northwest, as far as I can remember my father worked at three different areas of labor (that’s not to say he worked for only three employers). My first recollection of where he worked was at an ice and cold storage facility, I have vague memories of going with him on a Saturday and running around the ice plant. Next he worked for the railroad, I don’t remember him working there very long, less than a couple of years, since it was shift work there were weeks we did not see him for days at a time. After the railroad he started a series of jobs that spanned the next thirty plus years, he became a salesman. He sold home freezer plans, then furniture and appliances, home delivery of dairy products and back to furniture and appliances. I have met people who knew my dad when he was working and they told me that he could sell ice cubes to native Alaskans in the middle of winter.

Eva Harmon 1986 (2)

All this time my mother stayed at home and did what she was expected to do. Mom did the laundry, cleaned the house, cooked meals and listened to the soap operas on the radio, and later on TV, while ironing. Mom was bored. She didn’t drive for it was not expected of her to drive. If she needed to go somewhere there was the bus or a male friend of the family who would take us if Dad wasn’t available or wait for the weekend or dad’s day off.

It was in my freshman year of high school that mom decided that it was time for her to learn to drive. She had tried several times before with my dad and my uncle, but it always ended up a disaster, of course it was always with a stick shift. Now she asked me to teach her, there was a large parking lot very close to where we lived and it was always empty on the weekend. That is where we would go for her to practice her driving. Later, dad took her out on the roads and highway for her to practice. She passed her drivers exam the first time surprising my dad. It was not long after she took me to get my license.

Now that mom had her driver’s license she no longer wanted to stay home during the day, now she wanted to go shopping without dad, she wanted a Car. Well, dad bought her a used car and on the way home he stopped along the way to have a couple, three, four, you get the picture, drinks. Finally back in the car he proceeds to hit a utility pole and crumpled the right front fender. Mom was so mad she could have spit nails. We got a fender from the salvage yard and mom drove that car with the odd colored fender for several years, she never let my dad get behind the wheel of her car again.

A couple of years later, mom got the itch to work. She went out and got herself a job and quickly rose up to become the lead on the production line. The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school I went to work at the same place. At work mom was my boss and at home I was her son. During this time mom became pregnant with my sister, I was seventeen and entering my senior year when she was born. Things sure changed at home after the birth, as soon as mom was able and willing to go back to work, she did. It was expected that my brothers and I would do our chores and step up and take care of the baby.

Mom worked at menial jobs, not they weren’t important (at least to her), the rest of her life until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. We lost her in April 1989 at the age of 59. There are things that happen in my life today that reminds me of mom. They are not big things, just small things that cause me to pause and smile.

Kathy 3-18-2010

I married my wife, Kathleen, about four years after high school. We had dated our senior year and after, even when I went into the military we stayed in contact and dated when I came home on leave. After my tour in Viet Nam and now stationed in Germany we got married. I knew when we married that Kathy had a mental illness and a lot of it stemmed from her family life. We made it through the first three years with Kathy in and out of the hospital. We were being reassigned from Oakland, California to Boston, Massachusetts when we found that Kathy was pregnant, after our daughter was born Kathy came off all the meds she was taking. She stayed off the meds for many years taking care of us.

There were times she wanted to go out and work. I encouraged her to go out and find something she would like to do. Kathy was resourceful, she found a job at a day care center as a cook and later as a teacher’s helper working with children with mental and physical disabilities. She did this off and on for several years while going to school and getting her AA degree in Social Work. She did all this until I retired from the Army and we moved back to Oregon. Again she tried to find work, but without luck.

I went through the Carpenters Apprentice program, becoming a journeyman carpenter where I made good money and it came to a point where we felt that Kathy did not need to work outside the home. Shortly thereafter Kathy was back in the hospital and where she was correctly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Has this life of the military, hospital admissions, becoming a carpenter, 9/11, unemployment, working for a health insurance company and retirement, along with a diagnosis for Kathy of Parkinson’s disease been a strain or a hardship on us or our marriage? Well the short answer is yes and no.

After all these years, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our faith has been one our greatest strengths. Yes we are retired and we have one or two illnesses but we stay busy, doing some things together and others apart. She would go crazy with me hanging around every day. She took care of me all those years, now it is my turn to support and take care of her.

We know so many women who work outside the home. Some work in offices, some work in sales, others with advanced degrees work as teachers or in the software industry or are professionals, a couple are in the trades and even one who is an airline pilot. Looking at all these women you will find some that are married, some who are in relationships, some single and others who choose a different lifestyle. Some have children and others do not. What do all of these women have in common? They are happy, well-adjusted and productive assets to our community, our city, state, country and our world.

When was the last time?

I posted this article in July 2015, with the the situation today I decided to republish this post.

When was the last time you were pulled over by the police? At times it can be very scary, but not as scary as it is to someone of color. The last time I was stopped, I remember that I was taking my daughter to an appointment with her orthodontist . I do not remember the circumstances of the stop other than the officer was friendly, he took my license, registration and insurance card, ran it through his checks. Afterward he calmly and politely told me to be careful and let me go. This was late 1988 in Beaverton, I had just retired from the Army, was working as a carpenter and I was 40 years old. Oh yes, I am white.

Let us change things just a little bit. It is still 1988 and I am 40 years old, just retired from the Army, working as a laborer and I am black. How would that police officer react to me then? I do not know, but I do know one thing, that if I had said just one word out-of-place I could have found myself at the police station and Lord only knows what they would have done with my daughter. My wife was at home and we had only one car.

That is only one example of white privilege. I know that I can drive down the street a few miles an hour faster than the limit, and get away with it. I have changed lanes without signaling properly. I can walk down the street of my neighborhood at 10:30 or 11 o’clock at night without being challenged. How many of our brothers and sisters of color can say that? They do not need to be black, they can be Hispanic, Asian, or even Native American.

When I went into the Army in 1968, there was racial discrimination going on. As I learned later it was not like it had been just a few years earlier. The Army was coming out of its own era of race riots and discrimination and they realized that something needed to be done. It was not until 1972 that I attended my first race relations class. Growing up in Portland where I had attended a school that was 90% black for a couple of years I thought I was ahead of the game. In that first class I started to learn what was meant by white privilege.

I watched my peers get promoted before me which only made me work harder to gain that promotion to remain with my peers. When I reached the higher levels of rank I found that I had a lot of friends within that rank structure. We did not just associate only with members of our own race but mixed comfortably together.

Retiring and returning to civilian life was a big jolt. Going into construction was an even bigger jolt. I was use to the sheltered life of the military. The racial separation that I now encountered was a strange world that I had entered. Construction has its own discriminatory structure and it is not just race, if you do not have connections you will find the going tough. The phrase FBI does not refer to that federal agency but to Friends, Brothers and In-laws, and when they say brothers they definitely do not mean the women within their own family. They want it to remain a man’s world. My wife’s step-father was a retired carpenter and even with that I had to find my own way in the industry.

Americans have a way of pushing things they do not want to think about under the surface and out of sight. These past 6 ½ years has bought the subject of race back out in the open again. Calling our President names, mocking him with pictures and trying to hamstring him and thwart all his endeavors to lead this country and try to deny him his place in history. When I was growing up I was taught to respect the office and the man (or woman) who holds that office no matter what your opinion of them was.

I hear people from the south talk about the confederate flag and the heritage it symbolizes in their lives. Really? That piece of cloth that symbolizes racism, slavery and bigotry, but more importantly treason. Is that the heritage that you want to hold on too? Is that the heritage you want to pass down to your children? Most of those I hear speak about this so-called heritage would not have had the money to buy one slave but cling to that worn out idea of what the southern way of life was. They are so afraid that someone will take away their perceived privileges.

The flag of treason is finally down and may its symbol be placed in the same place in the annuals of history as that of all other oppressive parts of our world’s history.

When? When did it happen?

For close to eight (8) years the Republicans have been telling us how bad the Affordable Care Act (ACA or also known as Obamacare) is and how it is exploding and going under.  Really!  Well tell that to the millions of Americans that did not have healthcare before the ACA and do now.  Tell that to those who because of Pre-existing conditions were denied coverage, even for having acne as a teenager, or to the women who gave birth and were then denied coverage because of pregnancies.  How about those who were not denied but because of the amount the insurance companies charged effectively denied them coverage.

Insurance companies really do not want to provide anyone coverage unless they are young and healthy and have never been sick or injured in their life, other than minor ailments.  That effectively eliminates a lot of folks.  There are a few ways to get around this – 1) is to be covered under an employer’s healthcare plan, 2) join the military (they have great coverage), 3) (this goes with #2) go to war, get injured and be covered by the VA (great benefit and care, but not everybody qualifies and this is probably the least desirable way to become eligible).  Now what are Health Insurance Companies, really?  They do not see patients, nor do they prescribe medications, do surgery or any other form of medical procedure.  They are bankers, they move money around, they collect your premium, pay themselves an incredibly high salary, then they nickle and dime the doctors and hospitals to accept lower payments for a procedure.  Even worse are those (especially doctors) who are not in NETWORK, boy do they get the shaft.

Now the Republicans in the Senate (and later in the House) plan to vote on a Repeal and Replace bill before the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2017).  So what does this new bill do?  It will allow insurance companies complete control over who will or will not be covered.  Over the next several years it will eliminate Federal Medicaid, coverage that millions of our citizens (especially children) need and turn it over to the state who will decide what to use the funds for.  It will change how states will receive Medicaid funds by changing them into block grants.  It also changes the formulation that affects distribution of funds to the states.  Under the ACA states were encouraged to expand Medicaid, the federal government would pay 100% the first three years and 90% thereafter.  Some so called blue states including California, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington, to name a few, will be penalized for following the rules and expanding their Medicaid programs.  So called red states such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and others will benefit because they decided not to expand Medicaid.  Because California and New York are such large states and they had the audacity to expand Medicaid and they will not be allowed to go to a single payer health care system.

This bill, which has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), will eliminate millions of our citizens from being able to afford, let alone qualify, for health insurance.  What does this really mean?  It means that people are going to DIE.  Die because they could not afford to see a doctor or if they do see a doctor it will be at an emergency room where we, who are insured, will eventually pay the costs.

Now to answer the question “When did it happen?”  I believe that we really started this downhill slide to this point of our country’s history in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan told us “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  I have always found this statement to be absolutely absurd.  Why you might ask, because under our form of government WE are the government.  We ask people, that we think that we can trust, to represent us, therefore a representative type of government.  The more you ridicule and distrust those who are elected only means that you ridicule and distrust yourself.  If they pass laws that are contrary to what you want, it only means that you were not paying attention and keeping your elected officials in check.

How do we stop this madness?  How do we regain control over our government?  It is by taking charge and stop being so cynical.  Step up and declare yourself to be a candidate for an office.  It does not matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican as long as you do the job with honesty and integrity.  Run for office be it for dog catcher, for a position on the school board, or any number of offices that can use a fresh face and new ideas that help rather than hurt our fellow citizens.  After a couple of years at this level try running for the city or county council, from here and at high levels of office, you have an impact on state and federal legislation and regulatory decisions.  If you are young enough, and age is not necessarily an obstacle,  step up to state offices, positions in the State legislature, House and Senate (most are part-time positions and in some states your regular job, by law, must be held for you), are just as powerful and rewarding as on the Federal level.

On the Federal level positions in the US House of Representatives and the Senate are not as plentiful, but this is prestige and strut time.  This is where you make a name for yourself, by being a leader or a follower.  It is what some people want, they like the cheers, the music, the glad-handing, and the speeches.  This is where the big boys and girls live, work and play, many will not have the stomach for such high power living and others seek even more.

Okay, are you in – as a voter or as a candidate?  But most importantly be an active, charged up citizen that is ready to take on the idea that – if you are from the government and you are ready help – it is not used in a negative way.  We are Americans, we stand up and take charge and do what is right.  Let us stop sitting on our hands and continue to gripe about how the government is no good and they do not listen to the people.  You and your fellow citizens can and must join together to change this country to again be caring and compassionate.

Will He or Won’t He

The most important question every Senior needs to ask

Well here we are stuck in limbo not knowing if Mr. Trump will protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as he promised.  All through the campaign he said that these programs would not be changed but should be made stronger. 

Then came the transition and he nominated Tom Price, a Congressman from Georgia and a Physician to be the secretary of Health and Human Services, he also nominated Mick Mulvaney, a Congressman from South Carolina to head the Office of Management and Budget.  Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney are outspoken critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They do not think that the government should have anything to do with these programs and calls them “Entitlements” which we all know is shorthand for “Welfare”. 

I don’t know about you but after working over 50 years I think that I am entitled to the “Earned Benefits” that I paid into for all those years.  Ok, I know the story, I paid for those who were already retired and the next generation would pay for mine, but wait they say there are not enough in that generation to keep Social Security afloat.  That was true until the early 1980’s when President Reagan and the Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal came up with the idea that the Baby Boomers would pay double the payroll tax.  That way they not only paid for those who had already retired, but would also pay for their own retirement, and then the tax would revert to its previous level.  That way the working generation would take care of those who had gone before as the law was originally intended.  Now the story is Social Security and Medicare is going broke, They have been saying that ever since I can remember in the 1950’s.  How can a program that people are still paying into go broke?  I remember an old quote my father use to say that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.  When it comes to a politician I don’t trust them doing the figuring.

As if Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney were not bad enough, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wants to privatize Social Security have you seen the fluctuations in the stock market since 2008?  Mr. Ryan, Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney want to change Medicare to a voucher system.  This is where the government gives you a voucher for a set amount of money and you go out and purchase your own insurance and if the voucher does not cover the amount of the insurance then tough luck.  I do not know many seniors that have extra money lying around to cover the extra cost of health insurance.

Ok, so Mr. Ryan, Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney want to privatize Social Security, change Medicare to a voucher system and make Medicaid into a block grant.  What in the devil is a block grant you ask?  Well a block grant is a set amount of money the federal government gives to the states and the states decide how much of that money is used for health care for the poor, or if it is to be used for other projects.

I just turned 68 and have been retired for four years.  I am enjoying retirement with my wife, even with the major surprise that occurred with her health.  A year and half ago my wife was diagnoses with Parkinson’s disease.  For her it has been a major change in her life, she no longer drives, nor does she go for the long walks she used to do, her energy level depletes rapidly, and one of the side effects of the Parkinson’s is that she falls asleep very easily.  Parkinson’s is a very strange disease, no two people have the same symptoms or severity.  It has also changed my life, I am now responsible for taking care of her, walking the dog, and chauffeuring my wife to and from appointments.  My biking has come to a sudden halt and my golf game has also suffered a major hit. 

Now back to the question at hand “Will He or Won’t He”?  I am quite concerned with what will happen to Social Security and Medicare.  My military retirement supplements my Social Security.  Kathy and I could not live on what we get from Social Security alone.  The military retiree medical program is my supplement to Medicare. 

If Social Security is privatized will my benefits be reduced or increased, will the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) still be applied?  What about Medicare?  Will the military retiree supplement still be available (retirees were promised medical care for life) relocation to be closer to a military base is not an option, on top of that will the military facilities be able to handle the increase of retirees?  Besides it will be telling military retirees where they must live when they retire, my wife and I have returned to where our families lived when we retired.  Will the insurance that we buy with the voucher accept the retiree supplement?  How about pre-existing conditions, Parkinson’s definitely is a pre-existing condition and like most conditions such as these are very expensive to treat, will the insurance cover that?

Too many questions and not enough answers.  The main reason that answers are slow in coming or even non-existent, in my humble opinion, because those who want to change all of this don’t know the answers themselves.  Playing it by ear is not good enough.

 

 

Whoa, Hold on, Wait a minute!!!!

New Year Celebration Anywhere
New Year Celebration, this is like celebrations held all over the world.

What do you mean this is the last day of the year? The year has only started, correct? It only seems like we just started 2015 and now we are on the verge of starting 2016. How quickly time passes and many of us are so busy that we barely notice the changes as they occur.

Looking back over the last year many significant events occurred. We, like most, started January off sleeping in late, not because we were out partying though we did stay up later than usual. After that quiet beginning everything was off to the races.

I had good intentions about getting onto my bike and start riding and getting back into shape. It did not go as I had planned, do they ever? I let myself be my own worst enemy, I did not want to get up, I had too many errands to run, I needed to help Kathy with whatever (she usually did not need my help). We did notice that when she walked Scamp, she was taking longer and the distance was getting shorter.

In March two significant events occurred, the first event was that we made arrangements to start visits with my 12-year-old grandniece, Diamond. She is in Foster Care and likes the visits she has with family. The second event involved Kathy taking a series of tests. The results were somewhat surprising but not overly so. In October 2014, after a couple of near accidents, we decided that Kathy should not drive for a while until she was more aware of her surroundings. The test indicated that we had been wise to in our decision. Shortly thereafter Kathy decided that because she was walking so slowly, because of the pain, and Scamp was not getting the walk he needed and was use too I would take over walking him.

Because of these and many other changes I decided that I should give up being the Building Manager for my lodge. I enjoyed the interaction with the many groups who share the building and the work to maintain the building, but spending more and more time taking Kathy to appointments, I was not devoting the time I thought needed to be spent at the lodge.

In late June Kathy had a visit with a Neurologist. He ordered a mass of tests and procedures and in August told her she had Secondary Parkinson’s Disease. This threw both of us for a loop, even now 6 months later we still have times when it does not seem real.

Towards the end of August was a difficult time for both of us. I had gotten up early and walked Scamp, met with a friend to play a round Scamp with haircut 2002-11-02_0034of golf, drove out to Forest Grove where I picked up Diamond, we took her shopping for school clothes and out to dinner, back out to Forest Grove and then returned home. I took Scamp for our usual walk before going to bed.  During our walk Scamp was playing, running and having a good time. Near the end of our walk Scamp jumped over a curb, gave a yelp and fell over. I picked him up and was holding him when he decided he wanted down. When I put him down he fell and had a Grand Mal seizure. After the seizure he had a hard time standing and walking. Kathy and I took him to the Emergency Vet Clinic and after evaluation we decided to let Scamp go. I did not want to prolong his suffering.
IMG_0038
October began with Kathy and me spending a few days at the Oregon Gardens near Silverton, Oregon to celebrate our anniversary. It was good to get Kathy away from home and even though she had started using a walker most of the time, I had borrowed a wheelchair which we used while in the gardens. Adjacent to the Gardens is the Gordon House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which was moved to its present location to save it from being demolished. It is an interesting place to visit, but it is not a place that I would like to live in.

A few weeks later Kathy was referred to the Parkinson’s Clinic for evaluation. Since it only meets once a month we had to wait until December for an appointment. Here she was evaluated by another Neurologist, a Social Worker, a Physical Therapist and a Speech Therapist. The diagnosis was changed from Secondary to Primary Parkinson’s.

Over the past year our lives have changed in ways we could have never imagined. Becoming a care giver has changed my life in so many ways. Sometimes I think that Kathy feels that she may be a burden on me. In all the years we have been together and all the events we have shared, nothing could be further from the truth. We have taken care of each other all these years and many times I have felt that she has taken care of me more than I have her. Caring for her is a privilege for me to give back all that she has done for me.

New Year Celebration in Munich, Germany
New Year Celebration in Munich, Germany

Happy New Year – 2016

In Memorial

Who me?
Who me?

Scamp

January 1, 2002 – August 22, 2015

I got into bed at 3:30 this morning. I usually do not go to bed so late, but today was a celebratory day, but it was not a day of excitement or merry celebration. At 2:30 am I held Scamp, my miniature schnauzer, in my arms as the veterinarian administered the drugs that put him to sleep. It was a very painful decision that I had made and I had the full support of my wife who was by my side.

We got Scamp as a 9 month old puppy at the local county animal shelter. They had found him running around loose in a neighborhood some distance away and we were the first to see him and place our name on the list. When we first saw him he was brown and gray and that was how the shelter had listed him also. We were told that since he did not have an ID chip or any tags that we had to wait three days before we would be allowed to adopt him. Three days later we went to see if he had been claimed by anyone and found that he was at the vets for a little procedure, and we would be able to pick him up the following day.

We left church about 12:30 pm and got to the shelter about 1:00. This little ball of hair was ready to see someone, anyone, he was ready to go. As we walked out he did not yet have a name. A lady was passing by and said “You are such a Scamp”. It was decided there that we would call him Scamp.

When we arrived home, and as it was my wife’s custom, he got a bath. The brown started to roll down the drain. The grey got lighter and the brown became white, talk about a surprise. His eyebrows, mustache, belly and leggings were the prettiest white which was offset by the silver-gray.

 You got to be Kidding?
You got to be Kidding?

Being a nine month old pup he was curious about everything. We had not had a puppy in the house for so many years (our last two dogs were older dogs when we got them) we had forgotten what it was like to have one this young. He looked everywhere, chewed on everything, and if we were not fast enough he did his business anywhere he wanted.

As a carpenter it was not unusual for me to be laid off for varying lengths of time, but this time was not the usual. The nation had suffered the blow of September 11, 2001 and now a year later construction had dried up. Money was not being lent, projects on the books were being cancelled, and those projects that did move forward were manned by employees who had been with the company for years. I went back to the companies I had work for in years past, but they had their crews and were not hiring. I was out of work for two years.

Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.
Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.

During this time I picked up small jobs to keep busy and to make some extra money, I took Scamp with me everywhere. Scamp was a traveler from day one. He was ready to go at a moment’s notice. No matter how close or how far, he wanted to go. When I was ready to go, so was Scamp. He would run out and be ready for me to open the door of the truck. Even though he was small, his legs would propel him up on the seat. I had rigged up a short leash for his safety and he would lay down next to me. We became inseparable.

After that two years I returned to work, but not in construction, but in the claims department of a health insurance company. My wife told me that Scamp would pout and be depressed all day until I got home. It was quite a while before he accepted the fact that I was no longer at home with him during day.

When I was a child my parents would not allow dogs to sleep on our bed or even in the same room. I now had a small dog, I wanted him to sleep on my bed. After a while he ended up sleeping down by my feet under the blankets between me and my wife. This became the norm through the years.

After an incident at work that caused me to retire, Scamp was happy to have me home again full-time. My wife was still his

I like the Oregon Gardens.
I like the Oregon Gardens.

main caregiver and took him for a walk every morning.   She walked him every morning until a few months ago when she was diagnosed with a progressive disease that started to interfere with her walking. I took over walking Scamp in the morning and then in the evening before going to bed. Scamp and I could now go off and do things together again. When I went somewhere and it was too hot for him to stay in the car while I did business he had to stay home. He was not pleased and would let you know about it.

In the past year we changed churches, and now Scamp would go with us. He sat in the pew with us and he wanted his own cushion to sit/lay on. I don’t think he liked the cold, hard wood of the pew. We allowed him to go to church only once a month, but he loved going and visiting with the people. Last week was the last time he went to church. At the end of the service everyone joins hands forming a circle and we sing our closing song. Normally he just laid there and listened, but this time he sat up and joined us.

Friday morning I got up at 4:30, showered, dressed and took Scamp for a walk before I headed out to meet a friend and play a round of golf. After that I went to Forest Grove, where I picked up my niece, and brought her back to our home for a Bar-B-Que and to do some shopping for school clothes and then back out to Forest Grove.

Even though it had been a long day and I had to get up early the next morning I still needed to give Scamp his evening walk. Our walk started out uneventful, we walked our normal route and when we turned around to go home, Scamp’s excitement increased. As we were walking home he would stop and smell areas along the way as I would continue to walk. He could sense when the end of the retractable leash was near and he would run past me and find a new spot to smell ahead of me.

This happened 3 or 4 times before he stopped to smell a hedge. When he was through he needed to jump a curb. As he jumped the curb he gave a sharp yip and fell onto the asphalt driveway. I rushed back and picked him up because he was not able to stand and started to carry him home. A few minutes later he wanted down. I knelt and when I placed him on the sidewalk he fell onto his side and went into a major seizure. I petted his head with one hand and with the other stroked his chest and belly. I kept saying “Oh Scampie, Oh Scampie” over and over again. After a couple of minutes he laid quiet on the sidewalk. At first I thought I had lost him there on the sidewalk.

It has been a hard day.
It has been a hard day.

I again picked him up and headed for home. I stopped and called my wife and told her what had happened and that I was taking him to the Emergency Vet Hospital. When I got home, we gathered some things and drove to the hospital. After checking in, they took Scamp to the back for examination. It wasn’t long before the Doctor came out and talked to us about our options. First we could leave him overnight for observation or we could take him home. We discussed the merits and drawbacks of these options and discussed if we should continue with more tests.

After a long discussion we turned to the idea of euthanasia. I knew that he was having a hard time standing and an even worse time trying to walk. I thought about the life he had with us and what his life would be from this point forward. The doctor left us to discuss it alone. Instead I went outside and took some time to think and collect my thoughts. When I returned the receptionist offered us a room that was quiet and we could talk easier. It was better than sitting in this great big empty lobby.

After a short while the doctor came in and we gave her our decision. She went back to Scamp and prepared him. We were shown to another room that was much nicer and comfortable. The technicians brought Scamp in and laid him in my arms. We sat there talking to Scamp and as he laid there with his chin in the crook of my elbow he relaxed. He later moved to where his front paws were crossed on my arm and he laid his chin on them as if he were praying and saying I’m ready. That is where he was when he went to sleep for the last time.

I missed seeing him first thing in morning. I miss his running up and down the hallway. I miss his slapping the floor in his playing manner. I miss fixing his meals. I miss him sitting in my chair or lying next to me in bed. He was my little buddy. I will miss him more than I can imagine. Bye for now my friend, sleep well.

Decisions at the Crossroads

Yesterday while driving and listening to the radio I heard a conversation about a singer from the early part of the last century who sang the blues and many of them contained a reference to crossroads.  It got me to thinking about the many times I have had crossroads in my life.

The first major crossroad that I really remember was after my first year of college, for up until then the choices in my crossroads were pretty minor. I had not been a good student, I would rather play around and have a good time than study. This was the era of Vietnam and since my grades were not good I realized that my student deferment would not last very long.

Looking at this crossroad I figured that I had a couple of choices: 1) Find work in a field where I could get some training or 2) go into the military. Going into the military was not an option that appealed to me very much, so I tried option 1. I went looking for a job as a carpenter and hoping I could get into the apprenticeship program. Every place I went the superintendent wanted to know my draft status. If I had known that getting into the apprenticeship program would have extended my student deferment I could have told them that I had a student deferment. This meant that I was looking at the other side of the crossroad.

This branch of the crossroad involved the military or going to Canada and avoiding the draft. Many men were taking this option, some came to regret their choice and others survived the experience and return home after many years. I was talking to a friend, who was a few years older, and we were discussing my situation, he suggested that I go down to the recruiting office and see what they had to offer. Without telling anyone I went down to the recruiting offices. First I went to the Coast Guard, then the Air Force and the Navy, they all had the same message; “Sorry, but we are filled up and it will be some time before we have any openings”.

This presented a new crossroad, the third in as many months, go back across the hall and talk with the Army and see what they had to say and if I did not like what they had to say or just leave and pack up and go to Canada. Those were my only to options now, because I was not about to climb the stairs to the second floor and see the Marines. Mind you I have nothing against the Marines other than many I have known are just plain out and out crazy.

I ended up talking with the Army Sergeant and decided that joining would definitely be better than getting drafted. Going to Canada was still in the back of my mind and I had not signed any papers, yet.

I went home and for the next couple days pondered what I should do. I ended up going into the Army. After the physicals, waiting around to be sworn in, going to the airport and waiting for a flight to Fort Ord, CA, I paused and said to myself “What the hell did I just do”?

After Basic and Advanced Training, I found that I was becoming to like the military and its way of life. After a year and a half of living a pretty easy life, reality jumped out in front of me, I got orders for Vietnam. Since I worked in personnel, I like everyone else tried to find any way feasible to get the orders changed, to no avail. So the next year was spent sitting behind a desk on the Army side of beautiful, downtown Cam Ranh Bay, though the Air Force side of the peninsula was not much better except they had the beaches on the South China Sea. I did not see any combat during my stay, for that I am grateful.

Upon my return to the US in May, which was a short stop over on my way to Germany, I proposed to Kathy, the girl I had been seeing and writing to for over four years, she said yes and we planned to be wed in October. This meant that I would go to Germany and arrange for a place to bring my wife, go back to the US, get married and return with my bride to Germany.

Not long after moving into our apartment my wife became ill and was sent to the hospital in Nurnberg. They were unable to treat her and she was sent to the Army hospital in Landstuhl to continue her treatment. She spent six long months at Landstuhl before they decided that she needed to be treated in a hospital closer to home. We were sent to California, she to the Presidio of San Francisco and me to Oakland. We were in California for two years and she got progressively better.

From California we traveled to Massachusetts where our daughter was born and off we went again to Germany, this time to Munich. We spent three years in Munich, going to the Oktoberfest, Volksmarching and learning about the culture. Now came the first of two major crossroads we would encounter during our years in the military, all of them concerning either to stay in or get out. Towards the end of our three years in Germany we needed to decide if we wanted to reenlist or move back to Portland, Oregon. Many letters went back and forth across the seas and we finally decided that with ten years already served it would be foolish to throw them away and return to an uncertain job market.

Our next move was to Fort Huachuca, AZ, a post out in the middle of the high desert of Southern Arizona, not far from Tombstone. We liked our new home, we bought a house and began to think we would retire there. During the ten years we called Arizona home I went back to Germany again, by myself, and was fortunate enough to return to Fort Huachuca until we decided to retire.

Our second crossroad occurred in January of my nineteenth year, we learned that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. After visiting my parents and returning to Arizona we decided we needed to retire and return home and be with our families while we still had time to spend with them.

Returning to Portland I was unable to find work that corresponded with what I did in the Army. Now after twenty years and thousands of miles traveled I finally became a carpenter. The work was challenging and rewarding. As a carpenter you work in many different areas, I worked with concrete and finally worked in clean rooms for a major computer chip maker.

September 11th had a major impact on our industry, one year later work came to a grinding halt. Many were laid off and work was hard to obtain. I was out of work for two years when I looked at another crossroad this being whether to continue waiting for work to pick up or step out of this field and go back to my army training of administration. The decision was not all that hard since my unemployment had been exhausted and we did not want to dip any farther into our savings.

Working for a temporary agency has its ups and downs, one day you get called for a job that will last one day or one that will last a week. Finally I was called to a long term job, it lasted six months when I was then eligible to be hired full time. I was there for eight years before I lost my job and had to again decide which path of the crossroad I would take. For social security I was right between early retirement of 62 and full retirement of 66. The economy still had not picked up from the 2008 recession and being a senior did not make for a good job prospect, opportunities were slim. Kathy and I decided to pull the pin and fully retire.

Retirement has had its benefits and its challenges. I know that I am enjoying my retirement. Now that spring is here I am looking forward to getting back onto my bike and do some traveling in the area. Kathy’s retirement has not been as easy as we had hoped, her illness has not allowed her to fully experience the joy of her retirement.

Crossroads are intersections where we must decide whether to go straight ahead or to turn left or right. I have experienced that I was able to choose the right course for me and my family with a fair amount of confidence. Whether it be luck or the hand of God (which is what I believe), it is with the knowledge you are not alone, and that choosing the right path is a matter of believing in yourself, and hopefully when you look back it is with the confidence that the right choice was made.