Thursday, May 9, 2024

My friend and classmate Karen, our school marriage, aging and the realities of everything

This is my friend Karen Huffman, one of her senior class photos from high school.  She gave it to me along with a handwritten note that I somehow managed to hold on to after all these years.

We didn’t date in high school but were very close, and some in our class assumed we were a thing as did a couple of our teachers.  In our senior year we signed up for a class about marriage titled “On Our Own” where we took part in a mock wedding ceremony and were husband and wife for the year.

Karen has a quick, raspy voice and bossed me to no end—but I never minded, she was so funny and kind hearted.  One time Bob Stockdale (a classmate) said “If I was Doug I’d be filing for divorce” and everyone laughed, and when I said Karen’s words were music to my ears, our teacher Mrs. Kline told Karen “This is the man you want to marry!” 

By the way, if you’re wondering how I can recall something from 45 years ago, Karen wrote this was one of her favorite senior memories in my high school scrapbook.

Here’s Karen & myself in the center of our mock wedding ceremony, between the flags overhead.  Our friend Diana is 2 to the right of us, and that’s Mrs. Kline on the far leftBesides being good friends (and wedding partners), Karen & I were also selected by our senior class as “Most Likely to Succeed” for the Senior Personalities in our yearbook.  That’s us at the bottom on the first pageWe fell out of touch after graduating in 1979, but I got updates through the years.  She went on to college and become an elementary teacher, got married and had a son, moved to Virginia. 

We didn’t speak again for 30 years, until 2009 when Facebook came along.  Then we picked up where we left off like no time had passed at all.

In 2015 when I announced on Facebook I was sick of the rat race and taking an early retirement, Karen wrote me and said “Douglas you inspired me!  I’m sick of the race and retiring early too!” 

(For as long as I’ve known Karen, since the age of 12-13, she only called me Douglas.)  Anyway, true to her word she DID retire shortly after I did.

In 2017, when I wrote Karen and said I left Pittsburgh to move back to our hometown and was regretting my decision, she told me that every year she drove up to Pa to spend the holidays with her mom—but this year she was coming a couple days earlier to spend time with me.  We met up the first day for a 4 hour lunch, and the day after I went with Karen to visit her mom and see some old sights. 

She was just as funny, bossy and raspy in person as I remembered from all those years ago.  I am so glad we were able to get together again.

A recent photo of Karen (left) with our mutual friend and classmate Diana

I’m sharing all of this now, because last April Karen complained she was having trouble remembering things, and a couple months later pretty much went silent.  Diana reached out for answers, but only heard from Karen’s pastor that she was not well. 

And then a few days ago, Karen’s son posted this on Facebook:

Sorry to keep everyone uninformed for so long, but we did not have enough information on what was happening with my mother until recently.  She has been diagnosed with Coritcobasal Degeneration, a rare and aggressive form of dementia that resembles Parkinsons disease.  She has limited mobility using a walker at this time and is unable to care for herself in any way.  She is unable to comprehend what is happening and no longer uses her cell phone or social media accounts.  I have moved back in to help care for her until we can get some assistance with a long term plan.  We do appreciate all of the concern and support her friends have given in this time and I will try to update when I am able.

There is no treatment or cure, and life expectancy is short.  She is 62, same as me. 

I remember when we got together a few years ago, I asked Karen how she kept in such terrific shape.  She said “From doing the things I love, Douglas!  I swim at the Y nearly everyday and I have my friends & church family, they keep me very busy!”

Karen, you are and shall remain in my most heartfelt prayers.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Sometimes I feel like one, but I’m not a ghost just yet

A couple days ago (Saturday, to be exact) my face woke me around 6am, with it’s customary “post covid” pinching, soreness & burning.  I jumped out of bed to use the bathroom and splash some cold water on it, saw my reflection in the bathroom mirror and felt angry, afraid, defeated.

My damn face looked just like it did in mid-February at the height of this long covid affliction, swollen and ugly.  This has officially become a long-term condition.

I spent the morning doing the customary things I’ve been doing—applying hot and cold compresses, making coffee, making my bed, turning on the news, turning off the news, watching people on the street below my livingroom window.

I have every intention of joining those people outside again.  I just wish I knew when.

This past week, I was folding my laundry and my head & face were pretty hot (any type of exertion gets the flames going), but I just got so fed up with living like a shut-in that I decided I’d walk up to the Senior Center.  I haven’t been there since February 21, I missed everyone.  So I shaved and got dressed and left my building (it’s a little over a half-mile walk) and when I got about halfway there, knew this was a bad idea but hey, too late now. 

When I arrived, I was almost relieved to see Dennis (the three-pack-a-day smoker) in the same spot outside I’d seen him last, smoking a cigarette.  I asked how he was, he whispered “Do you remember me losing my voice a couple months back?”  I said yes.  He said “I still haven’t found it.  Now my prostate isn’t looking good.  How are you?”  I said I’ve been better, was sorry for his problems but happy to see him.  Then I went inside.

Right away I heard “There’s Doug!” and “Doug’s back!”  and I can’t tell you how much I wanted everything to be normal again; but I was dizzy from the walk and the inflammation was so severe I only stayed 15 minutes.  I’m still glad I went though, it was wonderful seeing friends Mary, Debbie, Evvie, Geri, Bridget and Courtney. 

Geri, a petite 80 year old Italian woman who can easily outwalk me, said “We thought you divorced us!”  She is so dear and too funny.  I said I loved them and hoped to see everyone again real soon.

Later that night, I reached out to a couple of people I’ve met in an online Reddit group called “Covid Long Haulers” with symptoms similar to mine.  I said I was at my wit’s end, every time I think I’m starting to get better, I go to bed and wake up the next morning back to square one. 

Miss Lightfoot (one of the members who recovered but still visits to give moral support) said the same happened with her.  There’s no getting better and staying better, it just repeats the same cycle until it finally goes away for good.  Hers took a year.  You know what?  At least I’m getting some good hours here and there. 

On a more upbeat note, I wanted to give a shout-out and thank you to my friend David Hofstede over at the blog Comfort TV.  You really should check his site out sometime, it’s a wonderful tribute to classic television.  Not only does David write a blog, he’s published several books on television as well.

He reached out to me last week and said he’s been following my ongoing ailment, and asked if I’d like one of his books.  He told me not to feel obligated to say yes. 

I said yes I would, thanks very much and this is what he sent.

The book covers many, many tv shows from the 1950s-1970s (and I like how he gives plot synopses of the best episodes from every series). 

But what I’ve enjoyed so far is his look back at “appointment television” (if you’re 60 or older, you probably remember The Carol Burnett Show aired Saturday nights on CBS). 

And then we had those annual shows like the Miss America Pageant or the MDA Telethons hosted by Jerry Lewis for 45 years.

Reading David’s take on those telethons, with the cuts to local tv stations, “big stars” like Norm Crosby or Charo and some of Jerry’s hammier moments really made me laugh.  I’d forgotten so much of that!

It’s a warm, nostalgic read and David delivers so much more than what you’ll find on Wikipedia, trust me.  Thanks again David.

And thanks to everyone out there who continues reading my humdrum posts.  Your feedback has meant a lot, and I cannot wait for the day I can get on here and say I’ve fully recovered and I’m my old self again.  Take care.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

There’s a sucker born every minute—and I wish more than anything I was one of ‘em

Can I climb on my soapbox for a few minutes?  I saw something on Sunday television this weekend that threw my usual tranquil Sunday-state-of-mind into a bit of upheaval.  More on that in a minute.

When my Grandpap Morris died in 1982, I felt sad for my Grandma Morris and my dad and my aunts & uncles but that was the extent of it.  Pap and I were never close.  He left Grandma in the early 1960s, and when they got back together around 1974, made no real effort to know his grandkids.  When I cried at his funeral, my dad was both touched and surprised.  Dad, I was crying for your loss—not mine.

When my Grandma Barnhart (my mom’s mother) died in 1988, I felt bad her last years were difficult ones, but little else.  She was an unkind person who never liked me and was abusive to my mom when she was a child.  I felt sad for my mom though, who maintained a loud, funny love/hate relationship with her mother for as long as I could remember. 

(I didn’t know my maternal grandfather, he died when Mom was only 5 years old.  Her only possession of him, a 5x7 framed photo now sits on my bedroom dresser.)

When Grandma Morris (my dad’s mom) died in 1997, I was 35 years old and felt the loss of a loved one for the first time in my life.  We were very close and the best of buddies from the time I was 4-5.  She was the best grandma, ever.

Grandma Morris & me, October 1996—my 35th birthday.  Sadly she’d be gone 6 months later

When Dad passed in 2001, I cried pretty hard at his funeral, and then never wept again.  I always wanted us to be closer, and now I knew we never would be.

When my mom died in 2004, I was devastated.  Her passing wrecked me, it was a struggle to get out of bed in the mornings for a good year.  My sister Shawn’s daughter, my niece Sophia kept me going though.  She was a newborn, only 2 months old and with no grandparents on either side to call her own, she would need all the family she could get.  I know I sure did.

Right after Mom died, I was almost desperate to know if there was the smallest chance she was still “out there” in some way, and would we see her again.  I’d scour the internet for articles from so called experts on the afterlife and interviews with mediums who assured us they were in constant contact with the dead.

And then I read Harry Houdini’s story, which saddened me greatly but was the wakeup call I needed.  When his own mother died, he was inconsolable; he often laid on her grave and wept.  But he was a world famous celebrity, and used his wealth to search the globe for one medium—JUST ONE—who could help him contact his mother.  He was unsuccessful. 

Houdini spent the rest of his days giving sold-out lectures on the fraudulent practice of speaking to the dead, that it was all a hoax and every medium was a fake, a charlatan.

I’m sharing all of this now because earlier today, on a respected news program, they did a report on Tyler Henry, a 28 year old “Hollywood medium”. 

He has a waiting list of 600,000 people willing to travel far & wide to meet with him, but when Jim Parsons (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) requests to speak to his real-life mee-maw, Tyler Henry will make house calls. 

Tyler Henry; yes this young man is smiling, all the way to the bank!

On CBS Sunday Morning, we see him on the stage in front of a large group of people, asking if anyone knows this random name and does it connect to this random month; yes, yes shouts someone from the audience!

C’mon people, his act is so old school it’s straight out of vaudeville!  Are you that desperate to believe?  It’s okay, I get it.  For a long time, I wanted to believe too.

But Tyler insists he’s real, and tells CBS that he believes half of the so-called mediums out there are phony.  Really Tyler?  Half?  THEY ALL ARE, TYLER.  JUST ASK HARRY HOUDINI.  

You can contact him, can’t you? 

Anyway, if you made it this far—thanks for listening and I’d be very curious to know what others think.  Apparently Tyler has a show on Netflix, but I don’t subscribe to that service so I’ve never seen it.  Am I being too harsh?  Have you seen it?  Does he seem legitimate to you?

I asked my friend Diana (who happens to be a pretty devout Christian) what she thought about contacting the dead.  She said she very much believed in an afterlife, but there was no bridge between their world and ours.  That made good sense to me.