That was my mother. She never once came right out and told me she loved me, and when I'd try to "cue" her (like in the title line above), she'd come out with that answer.
"What's this 'we' shit?" I used to think to myself, but I took what I could get. Bless her heart, she was bipolar as hell, and my brother and I were just grateful when she'd have one of her "good days".
My mother was also my patient and died with me taking care of her on a ventilator. There was no one else to work for me, and what the heck, I'd be there anyway, so why not be there for her as well as my other patients. Same for my Dad, who died a couple of years before her. He was my patient, too. Yeah, it was hard seeing them both die right in front of me like that, but I think they were both proud of me as well, so I really don't have too much to bitch about, do I?
Am I bipolar? I don't know -- never been diagnosed and now I'm on so many meds, that even if I were, it might not even show up. In short, all things considered, I'm a "Happy Boy!"
So now that I'm 65, (yup, my birthday's today, thank you!) I've given a lot of consideration to dying. If I stay physically healthy, maybe I'll have 10 more good years, but (again) all things considered, it hasn't been such a bad life for "The German Boy". Looking back, I've done a lot of good for some folks and a lot of animals. Loved a lot of women (more than I should have, probably; especially that last one. I'll probably see her in Hell - HAHA!), played a lot of music, helped some folks feel better, skydived (bucket list) and remarried my first love, Dondra. All in all, not so bad a life.
And to think, I used to be afraid of dying. Now I think I know what that's all about: You just come to terms with what you've done, not done; whom you may have hurt and loved and then you say to yourself, "Well, ol' boy, you did the best you could", and close those baby blues for the last time.
And no, I'm not going to hurt myself or take my own life. Just not afraid of dying anymore. Well, let me amend that just a bit: I'd rather die easy rather than suddenly and/or painfully. What's that old song, "Live fast, die young and leave a good-lookin' corpse"?
Before I forget, let's go back to the "I love you, Mom/Dad/Brother/Sister, etc. etc". Paul McCartney says if you love someone tell them now; don't wait till they're vegged out or dead already. It's not a matter of being too "macho" to say it. If you feel it honestly, then let them know and look them in the eye when you do say it. Don't do like my Dad, and say something like, "I told you 50 years ago I loved you. If anything changes, I'll let you know!" That said, I know he loved my mother, my brother and me, but other than when he was drunk I never heard him say it to me.
I wish you all a great 2015 and what the hell ---- I love you ----- even though I don't know so many of you and one or two of you actually hate my German ass, but we'll discuss that another time. Take care of yourselves, try not to hurt anybody, don't worry so much about things you can't help, forget about New Year's Resolutions and be good to the four-footed ones. Especially them and you can do that by clicking on the icon I'm leaving for you at the bottom of the page.
You don't need me to tell you that, do you? I mean: in 2014 the bad outweighed the good by at least 75% in my humble opinion. That's both in my life and the world in general.
Being that we're all human and have this strong desire to live and the wish and will to survive, we'll keep on "fighting the good fight" and try to help others as best we can. And I think that is just fine. Sometimes we get wrapped up in our own problems so much that we forget our neighbor down the road facing a much worse fate than you or I.
But don't ever say or think, "Well, things can't get worse!" You say that or think it, you'll be surprised how quick things can go down the drain. Not telling you what to do, of course - just telling you to think healthy thoughts, not impossible ones.
Myself, I'm neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I am a REALIST!
Y'all know the definition of an optimist, don't ya?
An optimist is someone who thinks you can pick up a turd by the clean end!
Before I close out the year of my blog, I wanted to give you some good news.
You know the "Feed The Animals" icon at the bottom of the page I ask you to click whenever you visit me here? Every time you did, you helped some shelter pet get 1.5 bowls of food and so far in 2014 the total is 36.0 metric tons or 79,389 pounds. Thanks for clicking and please try to do it daily.
One of the nicer things about my trip was the "Scavenger Hunt" my good friend Hans-Peter had me do.
Rothenburg on der Tauber is one of the few medieval towns in Europe totally surrounded by a wall.
It was on that wall, that Hans-Peter hid something for me to find and here it is:
Hans-Peter has been a friend for quite a number of years and although we've never met, we've formed a bond in that we're both very proud of our German Heritage. My friend took his family on vacation and was in Rothenburg a couple of weeks before me. We thought we would have some fun and I asked him how he felt about hiding something for me somewhere in the town, and he chose the picture of his first grandchild Nicholas. What a cute kiddo, huh?
Before I end this little "travelogue", I have to comment on how I was treated by Germans other than my friends and family: shabbily.
I went into a bakery to purchase some "Brötchen" (breakfast and dinner rolls) pretzels and pastries and the young lady waiting on me really had a chip on her shoulder to the point where she just about threw my change at me. No idea what she has against Americans or maybe she was just having a bad day, but when I brought it up to my friend Peter, he told me that lately just about all the hired help had "attitude" problems.
All in all, it made it very easy for me to choose never to go back. Yes, I'll miss my friends and what family remains, but unless they come to America to visit, that's it.
In other "news", I took a look at my "visitors" (people who have actually signedup to read the blog)and coincidentally those whose blogs I too read, and I noticed that some have either stopped writing or......have passed on. I really hope the latter isn't true. People do get tired of writing, but one last entry was in 2012.
But we sometimes lose touch, don't we, so I hope that is all it is.
I'm glad to say I was still able to function enough to help some folks with the voting process last Tuesday as Dondra and I are volunteers to help at the polls. It is something that we both look forward to, because it gets us both out of the house and we get to see some old acquaintances and catch up.
Last but not least, I have an appointment with my counselor this Thursday morning which is when we will reassess my status and maybe change some meds around or discontinue some others. I'll write a short synopsis when it's all said and done
This one's for Nicky and his Opa. Maybe they'll sit and sing along together?
Please remember to click and feed the animals. Winter's already almost here and the shelters could use a little help. Thanks and see ya next time!
So.... to continue.....
One thing that didn't suck were my Airlines, United and Air Berlin. Even though they lost my luggage, I have to give them points for the way I was cared for.
From Atlanta to Nuremberg there was someone at every gate to greet me and accompany to my next leg of my trip and I am so happy they were there, because without them, I would never have made it to Germany and back on time. The only thing I hated was having to ride in a wheelchair. There's nothing at all wrong with me physically and my legs were in good enough shape to run a 10k with no problems, but they insisted. This caused some stares and mean looks, but as I said long ago, I don't know what time is left to me and I sure don't want to spend it worrying about what people think.
Three days after my arrival, my son called and left a message with my friend Peter: Dondra had fallen here at home and had broken her arm. This relates back to the cellulitis she is dealing with since someone ran over her right foot at the grocery store with one of those electric shopping carts. At the same time as the broken arm, the fall also caused her to lose two of her crowns.
Should I cut my trip short and come home? My son assured me all was being taken care of and I should stay and enjoy my trip.
Right. "Enjoy your trip, Dad."
How could I do that now? I did my best every day I was there. Did some shopping, mostly for Dondra and our son Jason as well as my grandson Julian and the grandkids of my brother.
For myself I bought only one thing: cotton swabs. Before you think I've totally lost it, in Germany they make cotton swabs that are just a little bit less rounded with cotton than they are here in the US. That means I can stick them into my ears (being careful not to go too far in) and clear out the wax of which I have more than the "Average Bear". Don't lecture me, okay? I stick the swab in and twirl it, I do not shove it in and go back and forth.
There was something different about this trip as well, and I don't mean the aforementioned trials and tribulations. It just didn't feel right. Was it my age, I wondered. Had my friends and family changed in their feelings towards me? I couldn't put my finger on it then and I still can't today.
Back to the three cousins for a moment. That was a time I can't get out of my mind. Instead of speaking in a normal tone of voice, they yelled at each other. There were three cousins, their husbands and children and one next door neighbor who came over for coffee, cake and beer. As the beer settled in, the voices got louder and louder and it didn't help that the kids (3 toddlers) began their caterwauling.
I tried to make conversation, I really did, but as the afternoon wore on, I knew only one thing: I had to get out of there!. So about 2 hours into the visit I told the husband of the cousin whose house it was that I had a prior commitment and needed to get going. So he gets pissed off and a couple of the kids of the cousins (2nd cousins?) took me back to Rothenburg and my hotel.
With two more days to go, I'll save telling you about those for part III.
Thanks for helping to feed the animals! See you next time! ----- Bill
Ever had someone ask you that after you returned? What do you tell them? Here are some answers you may have heard before or maybe you have used them yourself:
1. It was great! Thanks for asking.
2. Fine. Just not long enough.
3. Great, but I hated to come back to work.
How about this one?:
That's right: I was in my beloved Germany for 12 days and I don't know if it was me being older (3 years since my last visit), or if friends and family were getting tired of seeing me, but it totally sucked.
I have written before that Dondra couldn't go because of her knees and just not being able to handle all the walking necessary in airports and the places we would have visited together. That should have been my "wake-up" call that the "vacation" wasn't going to go well, but well, I mean damn..... you do your best to make it work, right? Sure didn't want to let on that I wasn't having a good time thereby making the folks I was visiting feel bad.
Airline lost my luggage --- Omen #2 ------ one of my suitcases had half my meds in it, and, it turned out, all the medicine for pain. Solution: see a German physician, show him the documents which showed the meds I was on and have him write a new prescription. Total cost: $103.00 USD. Luggage arrived two days later.
Before I go on, I need to let you all know that a large part of visiting my German family was to gather some family history from my uncle and I was looking forward to seeing him, but he stood me up and had me meet and have a late afternoon "tea" with my three cousins, who of course didn't know shit about the family, said as much and related that my Uncle Bernd didn't want to tell me anything anyway. Apparently, there are/were some skeletons in the Kuehn family closet and I am not supposed to know about them. What they didn't know, however, was that I already knew about that, but the information was so sketchy I needed someone to fill in the gaps.
This was also my last time to visit my home country. That was it. If my wife can't go, then no one will go. The only reason I even went this time was because it was a non-refundable ticket.
So this is part one, my friends. There's more to come about my trip to and from Hell. It is a bit lengthy, but I promise you it won't be boring or without humor. Stay tuned.
The animals still need our help. Please click the icon to help feed the unwanted ones, thank you.
The title refers to a request made four times a day by an Army Captain I once knew, respected and yup ---- loved. If he's reading this from Heaven or Hell (probably the latter) he's probably making puking noises right about now.
After high school and before college, my Dad thought it was time for me to learn some humility, so he got me a job at Pine Knoll Nursing Home here in Carrollton. The reason my father thought I needed taking down a notch or two was because, in his opinion, I had gotten full of myself playing drums in a rock group, so he got me this job to supplement my income from the weekend gigs. I was 17 at the time.
Captain Williams had both legs shot off in WWII, and after being discharged to the VA hospital in Atlanta, finally wound up in the Nursing Home in Carrollton. He served in a paratrooper regiment - don't remember which one, but it could have been the 82nd Airborne. In addition to bathing him and helping with other bodily functions, it was also my job to light his cigarettes. He got 4 a day. They and a shot of Jack Daniels at bedtime were pretty much his only enjoyment. He had no family that I knew of. No one ever came to visit him except some old Army buddies. They meant well, I know that, but I wish they would have come more often; it was one of the few times I saw him smile with sparkling eyes.
During my breaks, I would head straight to his room, sit down and listen to some of his war stories. I wish I had written them down and/or taped them, but I was 17 and full of myself, remember?
He and I had a great relationship as far as it went. I got him extra cigarettes and helped him hoard his booze and one night after I got off (at 11) he and I got plastered together. I don't know how I managed to make it home to Villa Rica, because I was as drunk as Cooter Jones when I finally left.
One of the night shift nurses was a pretty cool chick and turned a blind eye to what was going on in room 15, and made sure the Captain looked bright-eyed and bushy tailed the next morning. He always wore a dour expression, so it wasn't noticeable to anyone who didn't know that he was hung over.
And so it went. Every time I was on duty and not working with other patients, everyone knew where I could be found. On my off-days a date and I would stop and say a quick hello. At those times he was an "Officer and A Gentleman". Until the next day, when he'd critique the poor girl.
One day we learned that Captain Williams had been diagnosed with lung cancer. A lifetime of smoking had finally taken its toll and he was dying.
I have to say he took it pretty well. May even have been relieved - it was hard to tell, but here is what I could never understand: Why in the HELL did they continue to limit his smoking to 4 a day???? He was dying and the smokes gave him some pleasure, so WTF???
Later on, in my forties and working as a respiratory therapist, I thought back on those days and Captain Williams and one day decided to stop my "preaching" to adults about not smoking. "They're adults," I reasoned, "and they made their choice. If it's to continue smoking, who am I to stand in their way?" So from there on out unless someone came to me to ask about quitting, I stayed silent.
So hell, I bought him smokes and smuggled them in. If any of the nurses or other orderlies were any the wiser, they kept their mouths shut. I'll always be grateful for that, because they felt the same way I did about this sadistic sonofabitch doctor who would not lift the smoking "regulation".
One day I came to work late, got a quick report and went to see my friend, but his room was empty. I didn't need to be told, he went downhill quickly after the diagnosis and with "Sister Morphine" on board, he was beginning his journey to the Elysian Fields.
So I sat down on his bed, cried and imagined him hovering over me shouting for me to shut my "goddam" mouth and get to work. He cussed like a sailor, did Army Captain Williams, but his heart was pure gold. Many was the time he gave me gas money or helped with buying a new tire. It was against policy, of course, but he always found a way around that particular protocol.
I have a lifetime (his lifetime) of history in my head because of our talks. Mostly about the war; Glen Miller's music (the Captain played clarinet); being sitting ducks trying to land in a war zone as the Germans shot them out of the sky like the hunters many of them were. He even taught this German Boy a little bit about how to please a woman in bed.
He taught me a lot, my friend the Captain, and without meaning to (or maybe he meant to all along) he taught me what I needed to learn: Humility.
September 4th, actually, and I don't know for sure, but it may be my last time to visit my friends and family. Not only because of my illness, but also because of the state of affairs our world is in right now.
Israel and Palestine have taken their war so far as to kill children and neither one wants to back down, both saying "Well, HE started it!", which is such a childish attitude it makes me want to vomit.
As of today, Egypt has brokered yet another Cease-Fire, but who knows how long that will last? have you figured out yet who the "good guys" are? In this instance, there aren't any. Oh, there are some good men maybe, but they are silent. If they'd speak, I believe they would say something like this as they took their fingers off the buttons and triggers: "Screw this! I'm not killing old folks, women or children anymore!" ---- If enough of them did that on both sides, what do you think would happen?
"Okay enough, Bill!" I hear can almost hear you saying.
Almost done. Bear with me for another sentence or two, please?
Okay, do I want to go home badly enough to risk being shot out of the sky with a missile shot by....... who......? Well, it could be anyone representing whatever cause, couldn't it? But yes, I do want to go home that badly. Besides, that missile could have been launched at anytime from anywhere, so what does it matter? Yes, I worry it might happen, but it might happen that I slip in the tub and bust my ass too, so it's an acceptable risk.
What isn't an acceptable risk is the Ebola Virus. While it is relatively hard to catch (it isn't airborne as yet), people in Africa are dying and except for an experimental serum, there's no cure. And it is fast. It incubates for 21 days during which time the number of people which could contract the disease would multiply exponentially.
I won't bother explaining the symptomology to you - you'll know all of that soon enough, if not already and hopefully not personally. Meanwhile, stay away from other peoples' pee and poop, and for God's sake wash your nasty hands! Here's a little tip to teach you how long to wash them: As you wash, sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself and scrub the hell out of those hands as you do. Do it a bunch of times a day every day of the year and then guess what ? Chances are good that one day you'll be singing that little song and really mean it!
So yeah. That one scares me. It scares me a lot. It scares me more than the damn disease I already have. Dementia can be measured to a certain degree. Not by time, of course, but visually and by testing cognitive functions. Ebola, though is a sneaky bitch and you won't even know she's riding you until it's too late. I plan to avoid her like the, uh..... plague. So to speak.
So one way I plan to minimize my risks is to watch where I am and where I go. This time I fly into Düsseldorf, not Frankfurt. Frankfurt is a hub for so many countries, so many cultures. So many people who may not even know the meaning of the word "hygiene", let alone how to practice it. Maybe "Aunt Rosa" has a present for the folks in Stuttgart. Only she doesn't know she has a present for them. It'll be a ....... SURPRISE!!!
Another thing I want is to learn how to straddle a toilet the way ladies do...without letting my butt touch any part of the seat. Paper napkin at a restaurant in a dispenser? Pull out the first one and throw it away. Hell, pull out the first 50 and throw those away! Better yet, bring your own.
Oh, you can bet your ass people are going to get a crash course in how to avoid dying. Maybe this time they will actually listen and learn. They may even keep the rest of us from dying. Wouldn't that be something, friends and neighbors? We'll be able to Rock'n Roll a while longer!
Ah yes. The vacation. This time my pretty wife Dondra won't be able to go. So far this year there have already been three hospitalizations, her knees are shot and she won't be able to handle the walking.
We did plan for contingencies, however:
1. If she gets sick by the time I leave, I'm not leaving.
2. If the world's problems get worse, I'm not leaving. That part will be out of my hands
3. Finally, if I'm home in Germany and she gets sick, I'm on the next plane home anyway.
"So why go then, ya selfish Bastard?", you ask as you throttle me by the neck.
She wants me to, for one thing. For another, she feels fine right now. If she gets to not feeling fine, see #1.
Another reason is my Uncle Bernd. He too is in ill health and has the same precariously balanced life that Dondra does. He's my last living relative. The last part of my Mother's life. Yeah, it could happen to him at any time too, so this might be my last opportunity to see him. Both he and I realize this and have discussed it. He helped make the rules of the trip.
So all is understood. Whether you, dear friend understand them is immaterial. The reason I even brought it up is because you are a part of my life. Because I invited you in, you get to know all the stuff that's going on.
I will be spending my entire time in my beloved Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I had plans to travel elsewhere using Rothenburg as "home base", but my aunt, uncle and cousins will be coming there and I will spend as much time with them as possible. I will also be seeing my best friend Peter Holstein and his family.
So there it is, my friends: You are all up to date. As much as is possible, anyway, without you sitting on my shoulders 24-7. Thanks for reading as always, and please remember to help me feed the animals by clicking on the link at the end.
Bye for now and take care of yourselves!
In 1962, I had been in America (and in Villa Rica, Georgia) for two years and boys my age back then were expected to go out for sports and I was no exception even though I was still struggling with the language and the academics. What English I knew was picked up from my American dad and out of a dictionary, and the syntax wasn't always correct.
In school, I was okay for Germany but not okay for America. Math, for instance. Here they began by teaching fractions, in Germany I had just learned decimals; I knew my German history, but not much American. Reading, not too bad. I loved to read and there was the aforementioned dictionary to help with the words. I aced all my spelling tests and even once won a county spelling bee. Guess what - the dictionary again. I had seen those words so many times I knew what they looked like.
But back to sports ----- it wasn't that I wasn't any good at baseball and basketball, I was just not given much of an opportunity to play. I played at home a lot, a lot, and I was good with all my fielding and I could do all my basketball shots just fine, no problem.
But..... in practice and in real games, I was ignored and/or rode the bench. I rode the bench so much that people began to wonder out loud why the "German Boy" never got to play?
You know what the coaches' answers were? "We can't understand him, and if we can't understand him, how's he gonna understand us???" Deep South thinking at the time.
But no one asked the German boy who spoke English with a guttural accent and appeared to be so arrogant no one wanted anything to do with him. The accent I understood, but the "arrogance" was misunderstood as a reluctance to get involved socially because of ----- the accent. A "Catch 22" before it was cool to say it!
So I chose music, something I could do on my own and be as good as I wanted to be. I played my drum in the high school band and in 1964, here came The Beatles and my starting to play drums in what was to be so many rock groups I can't remember them all. Thank God for The Beatles.
Music also did wonders for my popularity. By then I had lost most of my accent and put the "y'alls" and "ain'ts" in all the right places and I even had a girlfriend. I believe that's called "peer pressure". I called it getting one's ass kicked for being different.
So no sports, but drama (the theatre kind - not the teenage angst variety) and music - lots of music.
So am I bitter?
I was for many years, but I'm a damn good drummer, a fair guitarist and I've even done some community theatre.
I wrote this because my story isn't really all that unique when you think about it. Except for the name and the country, this could be any young immigrant kid.
If you know a kid or family with these problems, maybe you'll remember this and give them some encouragement, because things do have a way of working themselves out.
A good friend and band mate passed away suddenly yesterday. Here's the story from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution .
Herb and I were News Directors back in our "radio days", the 1970's. He at Douglasville Georgia's WDGL, and me at Carrollton Georgia's WLBB. We would call each other every morning to see if one of us had a story that the other could use. We used to joke about our use of the word "nearby" to localize the story: "In nearby Douglasville this morning........". Douglasville was about 22 miles away from Carrollton, so it was okay to use the story.
On slow news days, we had a running private joke: "In nearby Nome, Alaska this morning........" which meant neither of us had anything the other could use.
He and I also worked as "stringers" for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. If a story was news-worthy for the print media, we'd call the paper and dictate it after having rewritten it for print. We'd make $20.00 per story which supplemented our meager broadcast income.
After finally meeting, we decided we both liked the same music, and as he played guitar and sang and I played drums and sometimes rhythm guitar, we had the nucleus of a country band. We called ourselves The Sweetwater Creek Boys, and as you might guess, we played the "Outlaw" brand of country music. He especially loved the music of Waylon Jennings and it became his specialty.
On another sad note, I had scheduled Herb to speak to our Alzheimer's Association support group, due to the fact he had first-hand knowledge taking care of a family member himself. We were both looking forward to a reunion at his speech and afterward doing some "pickin' and grinnin' " here at the house.
I don't have that many real-time friends and Herb sure was a great one.
There are many tributes to Captain Herb, but one I read sticks in my mind: "He was not only an Atlanta icon, but a Georgia icon as well."
Rest in peace, dear friend and thank you for the many good times we had together. I will miss you.