Friday, September 24, 2021

Coffee and Sympathy, the September 2021 Edition

I am close to starting a regular obituary column on my blog. 

A week ago today, I learned my (former) boss’ wife Cindy passed away.  I don’t know if she had a lingering illness, but her death sounded sudden.  She was only 58 years old.  Her husband Len was my IT manager from 2000 to 2015 and was a very private fellow, but I managed to meet Cindy a couple times at holiday gatherings.  She was attractive, pleasant, a nice person.

I can’t imagine how Len is feeling right now.  Their daughter Mollie is supposed to be married in October, making it seem more unfair.  Anyway, Cindy’s obituary is here.

Three days later (this past Monday) I received an email from my dear friend Suzie Zapko.  It said “Doug, I can’t reach you.  Please call me.”  I felt my chest tighten. 

Suzie & I have been very good friends for 30+ years, talk (almost) weekly on the phone and in all that time she has only emailed me twice.  (The first is from 12/31/99, this was the second one.)  

I called her and apologized for forgetting to let her know I got rid of my landline (home phone) after giving up cable tv a month ago.  Suzie said “Doug, David is dead.”   David was Suzie’s husband of 49 years, he was 69 years old.  A few weeks ago, a mass was detected in his bladder.  They learned it was malignant, and David wound up having his entire bladder removed, only to develop sepsis.  He died a little over a week ago.

Suzie said she didn’t have it in her to go thru with a funeral.  Neither of them were religious or had many friends, and aside from their daughter Kim they have no family.  His body went directly to the crematorium (a block up the street from my apartment) and she’d just been notified his ashes were ready. 

I wasn’t planning on sharing either of those deaths here, these are people I may have known for years, but only indirectly.  And then on Wednesday there was a fuss going on downstairs, with an ambulance parked in front of my apartment building.  Several people were downstairs watching, and I went down and asked a woman what was going on.  She said there’d been a death on the second floor, the paramedics were unable to get their stretcher on the elevator, and were assembling a makeshift carrier.

When I asked if she knew who died, she said a tall older man named Winston, who apparently had been dead several days.  His sister (who lives in England) had been unable to reach him and called the police here.  Did I know him?

I sure did, I even wrote a blog about him once here.  (He was British and always wore a silk scarf around his neck.)  And it just occurred to me that I hadn’t seen him downstairs for several weeks.  I’ll miss him, I hope his death was a quiet one.

I pray I don’t learn of anymore deaths anytime soon, but I know those wishes will fall on deaf ears.  The older I get, the more common a thing this becomes.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Bachelor Man Sunday dinner: It turns out 2018 was a very good year for pork chops

Do you have a hang-up about not wasting or tossing out food?  I do, and Saturday night when I was straightening out my freezer I came across a couple of pork chops wrapped in foil that was speckled with little holes (is there such a thing as freezer moths?) and written in a smear of blue, CHOPS 3/7/18.

Earlier I’d come across a bag of brussel sprouts that were shrunk to the look & size of black-eyed peas; I had no problem tossing those out, but meat?  I had to see if these were still edible!

Overnight Pork Chop Marinade

  • 1 TBL Soy Sauce
  • 1 TBL Worchester Sauce
  • 2 TBL Vegetable (Canola) Oil
  • 1 TSP Lemon Juice
  • 2 TBL Brown sugar
  • 2 TBL Ketchup

I figured as long as they need to defrost overnight in the refrigerator, why not let them thaw in a tasty marinade?  I peeled off that speckled foil, rinsed them in cold water, then poured the marinade on top and covered the dish with plastic wrap.

(By the way, I am a huge fan of that Heinz ‘Simply Ketchup’.  It turns out it’s their 1950’s ketchup recipe, using a little more vinegar and cane sugar, versus today’s recipe made with TWO corn syrups.  It’s a bit more tangy and just right.)

After spending overnight in the fridge, I preheated the oven to 375F and transferred the 2 chops to a 9 x 9 pyrex bakiing dish.  I poured HALF of the sauce over the top.  Baked 25 minutes, turned the chops over and poured in remaining sauce, then baked another 20 minutes.   (Don’t bake them any longer, that sauce begins to smoke!)

Half the sauce, ready to go into the oven

Finally, I guess you can see in the picture my box of instant potatoes and canned green beans.  I never claimed to be a Julia Child or Gigi Hawaii!

But here’s a couple good hacks; for the mashed potatoes (where I make 2 servings), the box says to use 2/3 cup water & 1/3 cup milk.

Use 2/3 cup milk and 1/3 cup water instead; I also stir in 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.  They’ll taste more homemade.

For the canned green beans, don’t just heat them up; drain the water and saute them in a teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 chunk of one slice of bacon for 5 minutes.  It makes all the difference.  By the way, that sauce is PERFECT over the mashed potatoes!


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Dena, Mike & Terry: Two aunts and an uncle


Yesterday (well, the day before yesterday by the time you read this) my sister Shawn sent me this recent photo of our Aunt Dena, Uncle Mike & Aunt Terry.  Our dad’s two sisters and brother.

I have no real reason for sharing it here, other than I like looking at it.  It’s the first photo I’ve seen of the three together since my niece Sophia’s first birthday party 16 years ago.

Aunt Dena (on the left) is the oldest, in her upper eighties, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her.  She’s always been trim, fit, a very health conscious person.   I remember at my dad’s 30th birthday party, held in our large backyard and attended by over a hundred people, I was charged with the dirty task of emptying all the ashtrays.  (It was 1967, so I’m sure you can imagine.)  Anyway, I noticed Aunt Dena was the only adult not smoking, and when I brought it up to my mom, she said “Your Aunt Dena’s always been a health nut—she’s going to outlive all of us!” 

I never forgot that, and the older I get the more I believe it.  You know, other than exchanging Christmas letters with Aunt Dena my adult life, we never really talked.  And then in January 2017, I ran into her back home at a Giant Eagle, and we sat on a bench inside the store and chatted for an hour.  I learned more in that hour then I’d known my whole life.

Aunt Dena, Uncle Mike (bottom) and Aunt Terry, 1942.  That’s my dad on the far right    

My Uncle Mike & I have always had some sort of implied understanding.  He would look at me, nod his head and not say a word, I’d do the same.   But even though we’ve never sat down and had a real chat, I’ve never felt distance between us.

At my dad’s funeral in February 2001, I think I cried harder there than I ever did before or since.  I don’t understand it, I was much closer to my mom but at her services I didn’t shed a tear.  (I bawled at night instead, for weeks.) 

But standing in front of my dad’s casket, I couldn’t stop myself and wept for a long time.  The entire time, my Uncle Mike stood behind me, his hands on my shoulders.  The entire time.  I hope he knows how much that meant to me.   He & my dad were very close.

And finally, my fun, ornery Aunt Terry.  For years she would greet us kids—“Hi Duke, hi Dougie, hi Shawnie, hi Stevie…”  and then give me these long hugs.  One time, we were at some family event and I said to my mom “I know Aunt Terry loves all of us the same, but have you ever noticed how she hugs me compared to the other kids?  I always get a maternal feeling from her that I can’t explain.”

Mom said “When you were around a year old, you were a holy terror.  I’m not kidding Doug, there were times I was ready to kill you.  But we were still living with your Grandma & Pap Morris then, and your Aunt Terry was still living at home, so you pretty much became hers until we moved out when your sister Shawn came along.  Still think I’m Mother of the Year?”  Haha!  Yes Mom, I do.

Aunt Dena with my brother Duke, and me with Aunt Terry, Sept 1962


Friday, September 10, 2021

Top 9 reasons I know I’m getting old, Special Homecoming 2021 Edition

My sister Shawn recently took her 16 year old daughter Sophia shopping for her 2021 Homecoming dress.  As my niece tried on several of them, my sister emailed these pics to me.

Eye rolling smile                   Surprised smile                    Crying face

I may not be in touch with the times, but she looks like she’s been invited to a wing-ding at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion! 

Just for the heck of it, here’s a photo of some girls in their fomal dresses from 1979, the year I graduated high school. 

I miss the styles then, but are any of these girls the second smartest in their class?  Sophia is!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Remember that movie, ‘My Left Foot’? Here’s my take on it

So a few days ago, I developed a club foot.  I think it’s fairly obvious, but if you can’t tell it’s my left one.  Actually, it’s my ankle & calf too.  My left foot feels twice as heavy as my right one.

It doesn’t seem fair.  I’m certainly no workout fanatic, but I don’t let a SINGLE day go by without doing my share of walking.

I called my PCP (rather, my PCP’s replacement) at Mercy Hospital in uptown Pittsburgh.  I talked to one of her nurses who wanted to know what was going on before she had the doctor return my call.  “She’s covering for Dr. Marvi you know.”

I said yes, once upon a time Dr. Marvi was my PCP.  But then she went on maternity leave, then the pandemic hit, and now she’s on maternity leave again.  And for someone’s who’s been my PCP since January 2018, I’ve only met her twice.  I met with Dr. Nevratiti on August 17, she put me on another hypertension med called Amlodipine, and now one of my feet are swollen and looks like an asp bit it.

An hour or so later, Dr. Nevratiti returned my call, asked how I’ve been doing since she last saw me and in case I was wondering, got my “asp” reference.  (An asp is an Egyptian cobra, and when we first met I told her she reminded me of Queen Nefertiti.)  She asked me to send her a picture of my foot so I sent her a couple, including the one above with my other foot for comparison.

She said “I can see your foot and ankle are swollen, what makes you think this is a result of the Amlodipine?”  I said “Well, after I saw you a couple weeks ago, I told a few people about the new blood pressure med, and my friend Gigi said she’d once been prescribed amlodipine for her hypertension—but it made her foot swell up, so she was switched to something else.” 

The doctor said Well, it is true that a potential side effect of this drug is fluid retention, but if this was the case it would cause swelling in both legs.  Your right one looks normal.” 

I said “Doctor with all due respect, don’t you think the timing is a little too much to be a coincidence?  I just started this second drug a couple weeks ago.”  She said “Douglas when do you take the amlodipine?”  I said between 10 and 11am daily.  She asked “And you’re still taking the Coreg, correct?  When do you take that?”  I told her right before I go to bed.  She said “What!  Why??”

I said “According to Reader’s Digest, studies have shown it’s 50% more effective if taken before you go to sleep, and reduces heart attacks & strokes 60% more effectively when compared to morning pill poppers.”

(It’s true, you can read about it right here.)

Dr. Nevratiti said “Alright, I’m going to ask you to do a couple things.  First, I want you to stop reading Reader’s Digest.” 

WHAT!  If I hadn’t just swallowed my drink, I would’ve sprayed it all over my phone.  I said “That’s the most un-American thing I’ve ever heard!”  For some reason she thought this was amusing, and said “Douglas you’re giving me the hiccups.  Fine, but I don’t want you referring to Reader’s Digest for medical purposes anymore.”  

I said “Okay, but you make it sound like I’m checking the Farmer’s Almanac for the next full moon or something before I take my medicine.  It’s Reader’s Digest.”

She said “I also want you to start wearing some compression legwear to improve circulation and reduce swelling.  Do you know what I’m talking about?”  I said “Nope.  Do you mean like a truss?  I don’t know what that is either, but I see ads for them in the back of Reader’s Di—certain magazines.  Doctor, what about my foot?”

She said “What do you think we’re talking about?  I don’t want to take you off the amlodipine, you may need longer to adjust to it.  In the meantime, I’m going to have Gina send you some compression leggings that can help reduce swollen feet and ankles.  Do you think you’d be more comfortable in an over-the-knee or under?”

I kind of went silent as this wasn’t going as I expected.  I thought I’d be switched to another BP drug.  She said “Nevermind, let me know if they help or you experience any discomfort.  Many people enjoy wearing them daily, I think you will too.”

I got a manilla envelope on Saturday with 9 “knee-highs”, along with a brief note:  DOUGLAS TO BE WORN DAILY ALL DAY.  REMOVE BEFORE BATHING AND BEDTIME.

They’re snug alright, but not uncomfortable.  This is my third day though, and I see no improvement.  I’ll have to see what Reader’s Digest has to say…  Eye rolling smile


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

An old woman, an OCD woman & an odd woman: it’s curtains for Apachedug

Around noon Saturday after cleaning my apartment, I had some leftover pasta for lunch then went down to the lobby to see if the mail had arrived. 

I was pleased to see my 4th floor neighbor and friend Opal sitting outside in her folding chair on the front landing.  She had her mug of tea in one hand and a giant word-puzzle book in her lap.  I opened the door and murmured hello, she looked up and said hello back and asked if I was coming out.  I said yes for a couple minutes, let me grab a chair.  Opal went back to her giant puzzle book. 

I asked “New puzzle book?”  and without looking up she said “Yep.”  I asked what the deadline was on completing it, she said November. 

(Opal says if she didn’t give herself deadlines, nothing would ever get done.  Opal has some OCD issues.)  There was a highback chair beside hers, white cane with green satin cushions.  I asked “What’s this?” and tapped one of the chair’s legs with my foot.  Without looking up, Opal said “What do you think it is?”  I said “Well… it looks like a chair from the Ladies Tea Room on the Titanic.”   Opal looked up at me and laughed.  “Haha! Be nice, it belongs to Flora.  She was out here having tea with me earlier.”

I asked “How old do you suppose she is?”  Opal said “Oh, late 80s… 90.”  I said “Did she ever tell you how she and her sister used to ride their horse Listerine and gather wildflowers and look for wood faeries or something?  Then the Spanish Flu came along and ended all that.”  Opal said “She’s old alright!” 

I said “But if you do the math… the Spanish Flu was 1918.  And she’s running around before then?  That would make her like… 110?  115?  We’re being conned!”  Opal gestured at the glass behind me, and I turned to see Flora tap-tap-tapping on the pane.  I got up and opened the door for her, and Opal asked her if she was coming back outside.  She said no, she was going to lie down for awhile.  Opal said “Flora, Douglas here was telling me about your horse Listerine!  Is that true?” 

Flora lowered her head and shook it back and forth and cleared her throat.  She said “ I think Douglas is having some fun with you, sweetheart.”  Opal said “Oh really!”  Flora said “My horse’s name was Libertine.”

After Flora went back inside and I set her Titanic chair in the lobby, Opal asked what else was new.  I said “Well… I hung some new curtains in my bedroom last night.  New to me that is.  I bought ‘em 4 years ago from Wayfair but forgot I had them.  I found them in the back of my closet after I hurt myself and was looking for a first-aid kit.”

Opal said “How’d you hurt yourself?”  I said “Oh it was little.  Around 11pm I was hungry, so I thought I’d boil an egg.  After it was cooked, I tried to carry the egg from the stove to my sink with a spoon, and dropped it on my big toe.” 

Opal said “Ouch!  Did you find your first-aid kit?”  I said no, but after I found those curtains, I wasted no time washing that giant window and it’s large dusty blind.  And in the windowsill was a small aloe vera succulent, and I remembered my friend Kay’s mom using a piece of aloe vera plant on a burn, so I tried that and some ice and it helped.

Opal said “Who’s Kay?  Does she live here?”  I said “No, she lives in Hawaii.”  She said “How do you know someone who lives in Hawaii?”  I said “Um… thru the internet.”  She said “Why do I get the feeling you’re hiding something?” 

Ulp!  I didn’t want to tell Opal about Kay’s blog or mine, she has no idea I have one and I want to keep it that way.  If she saw how many times her name’s been mentioned here… I said “You’re silly, why are you so paranoid?”  Opal said “I know!  My daughter tells me the same thing!” 

We talked about her daughter’s recent move to Ohio and some other things, when Opal said “Look who’s coming” and motioned to the sidewalk in front of our building.  I looked out and saw a smaller woman headed in our direction.  I’ve seen her from a distance once or twice before, and truth be told, liked what I saw. 

She looked about sixty, give or take a year and had a pretty nice figure.  Her hair was white and clipped short, and she sported lavender framed glasses.  I said “Ah.  I’ve seen her before.  Didn’t she move into that unit down the hall from yours?  411?  When was that, a week ago?” 

Opal said “It was two weeks ago and it’s 410.  And let me tell you, she is one odd lady!  You should live on my side of the floor, she was doing her wash the other day and was singing in there!”

I said “What’s wrong with that?  I sing in the shower all the time.  I do John Denver, Eric Burdon, Bob Dylan—“   Opal stopped me.  “She SINGS.  High falsetto.  Not an entire opera, but it was pretty loud!”

Hmm.  I didn’t say anything, just watched as she got closer to the building.  I saw two plastic grocery bags hanging from her one hand, one bag from the other. 

Opal said “Well, I’m going to take my stuff upstairs and get something to eat.  Are you coming?”   I said “You go ahead, I think I’m going to wait on our new neighbor and get the door for her.”  Opal rolled her eyes and headed inside.

When our new neighbor got closer to the entrance, I said “Hi, how are you?”  She said “Fine…”  I said “My name’s Doug, I live on the fourth floor.  My friend Opal said you’re the new tenant in 410?  I—I just thought I’d say hi and get the door for you.”  

She tilted her head slightly and said “Well thank you.”  I offered to take her bags and she handed me one.  She said “My name is Meira.  My family and friends call me Mishie.”

Wha?  I said “Well, it’s nice to meet you… Meersha—Meerie.  Meira.”

As we walked thru the inner lobby doors and turned left towards the elevator (where Opal was still waiting for it to arrive), Meira sort of fell in step behind me.  And then suddenly, without warning—she broke into song.  I swear to God Almighty, I am not making this up.

Ah! Sweet mystery of life
At last I've found thee…
Ah! I know at last the secret of it all…

My head and shoulders jerked so suddenly I think I gave myself whiplash.  Her notes weren’t as high as Jeanette MacDonald, but they were high enough—and pitch perfect.  I looked ahead at Opal, who would not look in our direction.  She just stood there, staring hard at the elevator doors and willing them to open before we got there.

The elevator doors opened just as we approached, and we all stepped inside.  I turned to Meira and said “Bravissimo”.  She tilted her head and said “Thank you, sir.”

I don’t know why, but my face felt hot enough to fry an egg on! 

The three of us rode in silence to the fourth floor.  When the doors opened, Opal looked at me, shook her head and stepped off without saying a word.  I said “Have a nice day Opal” and she waved goodbye without turning around.  Meira got off next and I handed her her bag, and said “It was nice meeting you.”  She said “As it was you.”

I admit it, I’m intrigued.