Monday, May 27, 2024

A tasty outing at Red Lobster, and a surprise or two along the way

A couple days ago, the Senior Center had a lunch outing planned for Red Lobster.  I had a couple good reasons for going, no matter how my noggin was handling the long covid:

1. I haven’t seen Elaine, Claire, Rose or Margie (they don’t frequent the center, only go on restaurant outings) since my last outing on February 9.

2. I’ve never been to Red Lobster, and with their recent bankruptcy, I may not get another chance!

That’s Rose in the yellow & blue striped nautical sweater, more on this special person shortly

After we piled into the Access shuttle, I began feeling that familiar pressure building up in my head & sinuses. 

I muttered “Do whatever you want, I’m still going” and Margie turned around in her seat and said “Are you behaving back there?  I hear you talking to yourself!”   It was funny, but when you’ve been living like a hermit for 4 months and only talking to 1-2 persons on the phone, you tend to get a little eccentric.

Anyway, this was one of my favorite lunch outings ever.  The restaurant seated us at a humongous round table, so I got to enjoy the company of everyone, with Evvie by my side.  The food was delicious (they kept bringing out baskets of hot Cheddar Bay biscuits) and no lie, I ordered a Pepsi (my first one in years) and it tasted like the best one I’ve ever had.

I was a little surprised at all the drinking—Dennis and Paul polished off 6 Alabama Slammers and red wines, Rose had a draft beer in a glass that was 12” high and Evvie had a pretty potent Seven Seas margarita; these people don’t mess around!

I only managed to get a couple usable photos, my Motorola smartphone doesn’t do too well in the dark (but a new phone and camera are coming soon).

Dennis (left) and Paul.  Dennis (a 3 pack a day smoker for 45 years) lost his voice in February so he recently quit smoking and has gone one week without a cigarette.  I’m really impressed!

My Sailors Platter:  shrimp in a garlic butter wine sauce, breaded shrimp, crispy curled flounder and baked potato.  I usually eat half my lunch and take the other half home for dinner, but I scarfed this whole thing down!

My friend Evvie’s platter, similar to mine but with grilled shrimp instead.  I thought her cocktail looked refreshing.

After our meal, while we waited outside for our ride home, I complimented Rose (in the yellow and navy striped sweater at the top) on her pretty necklace.  It had an open heart pendant displaying a small color portrait of a handsome man.

I said “May I ask who the gentleman is?  Your husband?”  Rose said “Yes, a wonderful man.”  I said “Is he no longer with us?”  She said “He died was 60.”  I said “So he passed at age 60?  That’s very young.”  She said “No, he died in 1960.”

What?  That honestly startled me.  I know Rose has two children who talked her into moving back to Pennsylvania from Florida some years back.  But she was married, had a family and lost her husband, all before I was even born?  

She must’ve sensed my puzzlement, she said “I’m 93, you know.”  No I didn’t know that—but I just watched this woman eat a hearty sesame-soy salmon bowl and drink an entire foot tall draft.  I would’ve guessed her age at 75, tops. 

We were the last two riders on the Access shuttle and had a friendly chat. 

I don’t know what I’m trying to say here, I was just amazed at her energy and vitality.  I don’t have a death wish, but in the last 6-7 years I’ve dealt with so many medical issues I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m going to make it to 70, let alone 20 plus years after that.  Rose manages to make it look both doable and something to enjoy while you’re at it.  Thanks Rose.

Happy Memorial Day, Everyone

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Revisiting the past with Evvie and Mary, and Andy & Don too

Last week I emailed the Senior Center and said I’d been doing better with this long covid stuff, and could they put me down for lunch the following Monday and for the next restaurant outing too?  Courtney (the director of the center) couldn’t have been nicer, responded and said she was so glad, and they had just been talking about me, and were looking forward to seeing me on the 20th.

I then forwarded the email exchange to my sister Shawn, to let her know I was on the up & up.  She replied she was relieved and glad, thanks for letting her know.

The very next day, I awoke with the left side of my face swollen and burning.  It stayed that way too, for 4 consecutive days.  This long covid is a persistent, stubborn critter.  When someone asks “Hey, feeling better?”  I nod and say I think so, and I do believe it, but the setbacks (or flare ups as my friend Erin calls them) keep a-comin’.

Anyway, I DID make it back to the center for lunch this Monday, as pictured above, my first lunch there since February.  That sandwich was a tasty pulled pork, by the way.  And I snuck a cake lollipop on my tray when no one was looking.  I was able to hang out for a couple hours before things got too much (for some reason, I get a lot of cranial inflammation when I’m talking to more than one person) but I was still glad to get out of the house and see my friends. 

Even if Cranky Connie did grumble “He’s a Chatty Cathy” to someone at her table, and I was just answering Geri’s questions!

As for the restaurant outing I’m scheduled to go on, right now I’m not sure if I’ll be up for that, just have to wait and see.  Fingers crossed.

The other day, I was skimming thru my personal library of e-books on my tablet for something new to read, and was surprised to see this: 

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.  Why did I buy this?  I’ve never considered myself a big Andy Griffith fan, I bet I’ve only seen a couple seasons worth of The Andy Griffith Show which ran for 8 years (and I’ve never seen a single episode of his legal drama Matlock, which ran for 9).  

I looked up some reviews of this book, all were positively glowing—4.5 out of 5 stars.  I also learned I got it on Black Friday in 2020 for only $2.99.  Ah, okay!

Listen—this book DOES NOT DISAPPOINT.  It’s a huge, terrific read.  It was difficult for me to put down after I started.  I wound up rationing myself to 30 pages daily, I only do that with books I want to make last.

It covers both Andy Griffith & Don Knott’s lives, from their childhoods to the day both died.  Andy grew up a pampered child with an overprotective mother in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  Don was born in a poor, abusive home in Morgantown West Virginia, 30 minutes from where I grew up.

They first worked together in a hit Broadway play “No Time for Sergeants” and quickly became friends as both admired the other’s talents and Southern roots.  In 1959, when Andy was offered a television pilot as a “good ol’ country boy sheriff” as a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show, he was eager for work and accepted—but lamented to his wife it was a two dimensional character and doomed to failure.  When Don learned of the upcoming series in the trades, he was desperate for work as well and called Andy and said “Doesn’t a sheriff need a deputy?”  and soon, magic was born.

This book goes into elaborate detail, even pointing out various episodes in the first season where you can see Andy laughing in the background at Don’s theatrics.  Normally such scenes would get reshot, but the producers saw how much Andy adored Don and trusted the viewers at home would pick up on that—they were right, we did.

I could go on & on here about a thousand things, some of which weren’t exactly rosy.  Both drank to excess, and married 3 times.  Andy smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day.  He also had a terrible temper and admitted as much to reporters and magazines like TV Guide.

He also did not forgive or forget being slighted, ever.  Remember Elinor Donahue from Father Knows Best, who played the new druggist in Mayberry?  She asked to be released from her 3 year contract after that first season.  When she saw Andy at a celebrity function in 2005, 45 years later, she apologized and explained why she left, but Andy curtly told her she hadn’t been right for the show anyway and walked away.

But after The Andy Griffith Show ended, whenever Andy was interviewed about current or upcoming projects, he always spoke of missing his days with Don, and how very much he hoped they would work together again.  He told everyone until his own dying day Don was his best friend.

When Don Knotts died in 2006, Andy (knowing Don wasn’t a religious man like himself) pleaded with his own pastor for confirmation he’d see Don in the afterlife; then Andy delivered a eulogy at his best friend’s funeral declaring he’d be seeing Don again in Paradise.

I sure would like to think they’re together again.

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.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Soon, this insanely lonnnnng covid will be a thing of the past

This past Saturday, I woke up feeling pretty okay—an hour later, a “spray” of pain washed across my face, stayed there for around 2 hours before going away.

But as the day wore on and it didn’t return, I began to feel elated and wrote that goofy post about my 30 year old vacuum cleaner.  Things were looking up, it seemed.

Sunday morning, I awoke and the left side of my head felt like it had been crushed by a giant’s boot.  I got up, paced for an hour or so and waited for it to fade away.  It didn’t and traveled into my face instead, and I spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon indoors, laying on my bed feeling angry and depressed.

Monday I awoke, and other than a very sore face felt pretty good.  I did my laundry, went for a walk, and later that night I spent a couple hours on the phone chatting with my friend Diana, and for the first time in weeks this post covid crap never came up once.

(Instead we talked about Diana’s upcoming trip to Utah to attend her son’s wedding, and her plans of organizing our high school class’ 45th year reunion.  I applaud her efforts, but have little desire to attend.  But that’s another story.)

Tuesday was a very bad day and I spent the day laying on my back on my bed again.  This seems to be becoming an “every other day” thing, but I hope that’s a sign I’ll soon have more good days than not and finally get to leave this long covid beast in the past where it belongs.

This was my face last May, and here it is last month; it’s gotten better, but still looks like the second photo in the mornings when I get out of bed. 

When I leave my apartment before noon—to get my mail, take out the trash or do my laundry and other residents see me, I always hear “What happened to you?  Were you in an accident?  Did you get beat up?”  I just tell ‘em it’s allergies.

Recently, I watched a couple of videos from the Center for Post-Covid Care at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, where they have around 500 long covid patients both remote & in-house (and a couple thousand on a waiting list) and the doctor leading the efforts said a couple things that really stood out to me: 
  • The more often you contract covid, the greater your chances you’ll get long covid (this past December was my third time getting the virus since 2020)
  • Even though studies say long covid cases last on average 4-6 months, the center hasn’t seen anyone fully recover before 6 months
  • They’ve also never seen a patient “spontaneously recover”; recovery is very, very slow

Well, I got covid the first week of December and these post-covid symptoms began emerging the first of January, so I’ve now been living with this 4 months.  (As of May 1, I’m in my 5th month.)  Why does it seem so much longer?   Anyway, I am seeing some improvements here and there, even if they’re small. 

I’ve said it before, but I don’t know how I would’ve made it through these past few months without my friend Diana, who has been on the receiving end of some pretty long phone calls.  I can’t believe what a patient, caring person she’s been.  I’m very fortunate to have such a friend.

Also, this blog where you kind people have hung in there while I pound out my 10th post about this.  Thanks as always for letting me share.