Friday, January 25, 2013

Trouble with the Old Navy

 Last  weekend, we had the pleasure of gathering the family together with a few friends down at the local pool hall for a little Trouble. Trouble, that starts with T which rhymes with P and that stands for Pool!

It was Dad's 89th birthday. And since the young man like to shoot a little pool, it was decided we head into town Sunday afternoon and play a few games of snooker. Since it's cold outside, Dad doesn't get out much other than for the occasional doctor visit. So, I made reservations for fifteen or so and sent out the invitations. Everyone was excited to be a part of such a celebration. Even the great-grand kids wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Everyone wanted a chance to play against the pool shark.  He took great pride in defeating us all one by one.

It was great to see him smiling so much showing off all of his teeth.

Sometimes as we get older and our friends and loved ones depart from this word, it's difficult to remember why we need to go on. It's good to get out every now and then and remind yourself that there is still plenty of life left to live and plenty of people that love you. We may not understand why Mom had to die or why Dad is left to go on without her. But he's still here and there must be a reason for it. So we're going to enjoy every moment that we can with the man that gave us and continues to give us life.

Here's my Daddy showing off the new sweatshirt he got for his birthday from his caregiver. She wears an Old Navy shirt often and he always jokes that "That's him..... Old Navy" You see when he was eighteen, he was young and joined the US Navy during World War 2. Now, he's ..... Old Navy.

Still lots of life in that old Navy boy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I awoke this morning to reports of it being -1f outside. No matter how you look at that, it measures up to be pretty darn cold. I was delighted with the fact that I had no funeral services booked for today. I was looking forward to spending the day indoors and staying warm. Just then, my phone chimed its little door bell chime, indicating to me that I had received a text message. I begrudgingly pried myself from my comfy chair and made my way the five feet across the room to where I had left my phone sitting on top of the fireplace. When I looked at the screen, suddenly I knew it was going to be one of those days that you just shouldn't get out of bed. Yes, even I have those days.
I read the message from my sister, who is staying at my Dad's new house. It read "Good morning, we have no water :)"
 The house is on a crawl space and requires a heat tape on the pipes to keep them from freezing. I knew what had happened right away. I dragged myself down the hall and found myself a few layers of clothing to put on. Since the house is rented, I called the landlord, who informed me there was about a hundred others in front of me and they would get to it as soon as they can. So out to the shed I went to look for some jugs to put some water in to take over there.
I stuck my head under the house to see how bad things were and to see if I could possibly just plug the heat tape in. That's when I noticed that the wire had been cut. This was definitely something the landlord would have to handle.
So since I was out and about with layers of clothing on, I thought I'd swing by my garage to do some maintenance on the hearses. I went in, figured out what parts I would need from the auto parts store and went shopping. When I returned to the garage, I pulled up to the computer controlled gate, waved my magic pass in front of it and it began to beep as it slid open. I drove my car through and pulled up to the garage door as the gate started to close. When the gate got to the fully closed position, the beep became a loud squeal. I thought to myself, "that's not normal", and didn't think much more about it. I did my repairs and was feeling proud of myself for taking care of things on such a cold day. I hopped back into my little car and pulled up to the gate that is supposed to open when you pull up to it. It just sat there squealing at me still.

Silly me never put the landlords phone number into my contacts and had to sit and go through all my recent calls for the last two months to see if I could find a number that I thought might be his. I finally found where he had called me from his personal phone back on our last big snow day. I dialed, hoping that it was the right number. It was. He answered and I explained that I was trapped inside and would like to go home. He told me that he can't go outside on cold days and didn't know what he could do for me! He had me climb the fence and try my pass at the outside controller. No luck. He then told me he'd call me back and hung up on me. I now had to climb back over the fence to get back to my warm car. I turned on the radio and waited listening to today's top hits. It was a half hour later when he called back with instructions for me.

I had to find the hidden box that had a combination lock to it. The box contained a key. That key opened the control panel that worked the gate. The loud squealing was coming from the control panel. So I'm talking to him on the phone with this squealing a foot away from my head. I then had to flip two switches in a particular order. Then find the hidden lever that releases the mechanical parts from the computerized parts. Once that was done, I could push the 400 pound gate open and free my car from it's prison. Leaving the gate in the open position, I returned all the parts and key to their original positions, climbed back into my warm car and made my way back to Dad's house. Still no water.

So what did I learn from all of this? I learned that with the landlords permission at the garage, I should keep that combination so I could get out if it ever happens again. And I'm still working on the water situation. I'm sure there's some big life lesson that I need to learn there. I just need to figure out what that is.

A couple hours later..... We finally have water! More than 12 hours later and service has been restored. Perhaps we'll keep some on hand in jugs in case something like this happens again. Or maybe we'll get it fixed so it won't happen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Betta Change

Matt arrived home after attending an early movie with his best friend, flipped on his computer and fed Wanda, his bright blue betta fish. Matt loved Wanda very much. OK, so Matt didn't know that bettas sold in the stores were usually male. However, he loved the name Wanda for a fish. And who's to say Wanda wasn't a transgender fish? Matt imagined that Wanda loved him, because when she saw him, she always came to the top of the water. Matt knew Wanda was only after food, but it felt nice to think she was happy to see him.

"You lonely, Wanda? I know how you feel. However you don't have much choice; you're just too mean to have a roommate. Who would be stupid enough to put up with you? I guess we're both destined to be alone."
Matt went on to find himself something to eat then sat down to his computer with Wanda staring over his shoulder.

How many people do you know like this? Are you like this yourself? We build walls around us and box ourselves into our little world with our routines to carry us through. We push people away, not even realizing that we are doing it.

If we really want to share our lives with someone, we need to open up and let someone in. Even for those of you that are coupled already, have you become closed to new things in your life? Are you too comfortable with the walls that you have built around you?

It's really stepping outside my comfort zone but if there is one resolution that I have made this year, it is to try at least one new thing each week. Something that I've never done before or maybe something that I tried at a younger age and didn't like. Once a week, I'll step outside my box and look around. I may share these things with you along the way or I may chose to keep them for myself. This week, I tried my hand at a little short fiction. I hope you liked it. Hopefully, I will spark something new in each of you as the year progresses.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Solo Cup

Big things are happening here on the brighter side. And with those big things, I am in need of help. So, I've been teaching new people to do what I already do best. Organize a nice straight line of cars to process out to the cemetery.

It was my newest employee's first day on the job. Since he's been a friend for some years, he'd had the pleasure of attending my brother-in-laws funeral recently. So he knew that sometimes funerals are more of a life celebration than a sad affair. But since I had no contact with the family that we were serving this day previous to the funeral, I had no idea what we were in for on this cool winter morning.

We arrived on scene and I proceeded to instruct him on the prep work that goes into making sure that we get everything right. We set up cones and signs in the parking lot to help direct the traffic and went inside to see what kind of car list we were working with this day. That's when I saw that the list was nothing more than a dozen names scribbled on a piece of paper so tiny that you could barely read them. There was little more description of the vehicles involved than "blue car" or "bike". Yes, it's winter. Yes, I just said bike. The deceased was a biker. These are always fun funerals.

As people started to arrive, we tried to sort out if they were on the list for the first line or if we needed to put them in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th lines. More and more people showed up. We still didn't have the family that was to go in the first line that follows behind the hearse. We couldn't fill up the second line because we needed to be able to squeeze the first line in  when and if they arrived. Finally, the last car in the first row arrived but still no sign of the others. About 15 minutes before the service started, the parking lot is reaching maximum capacity and some of the first row finally arrived. Some are on motorcycles and others in cars. They wanted all the bikes behind the hearse with the cars to follow. We did our best to accommodate them. Still more cars arrived even past the start time of the service. We were out of space and still missing some of the first row. We had people parked in lots across the street and next door, flagged and ready to go, with instructions to fall in behind as we processed down the road.

We were finally able to go inside to warm up. We got inside just in time for the mans theme song to be played. As the director pressed play on the cd player, she laughed and we soon realized why. She played Red Solo Cup by Toby Kieth.  And the party began. I'll let your mind wrap around that and jump ahead to our trip to the cemetery.

It is not the law, but is customary in our small town to pull over to the side of the road to let a funeral procession pass by. Out-of-towners may not know our customs and also sometimes when approaching from the opposite direction, it is difficult to tell what is coming at you. We've had this problem before and I've written about it. This time, it was the motorcycles behind my hearse that were riding in on-coming traffic, forcing them off the road. The director signaled to them to stay in the line but they didn't seem to want to listen. At one point there was a motorcycle riding next to the hearse in the on-coming lane. Fed up with this dangerous problem, the director called the state police. We were hoping for them to pull the offenders out of line. Instead, the police followed us to the cemetery and before we carried the casket to the grave site, scolded the bikers. No one got a ticket for reckless driving. But it didn't look so cool in front of all their friends. I don't think it did much good though. Just after the police left, they lit up the marijuana.

It was a great first day on the job for my newest employee. But if he can handle a day like this, he can do anything.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Don't you know who I think I am

I'll tell you about the night we stopped at the local pub for a bite to eat while planning the whole shim-dig that we had for my brother-in-law. It was a Saturday night and every restaurant in town was packed. It's winter in Michigan so there's football on the televisions and people having a grand time cheering for their favorite team. We pulled in to the parking lot and based on how many cars were there, we assumed there might be a wait for a table. We must have got there at just the right time because it wasn't more than 5 minutes, if that. I overheard the owner reminding her staff that there was a reservation for fifteen people expected in about 10 minutes. Others were pouring in the front door and we'd just taken the last table. Suddenly a loud mouthed dweeb of a man walks in with his arm around a busty brunette, proclaiming his presence. He wanted a table for him and his friends. He was told that it might be as much as 25 to 30 minutes before they could accommodate him and his obnoxious friends. He then proclaimed "Don't you know who I am!" He was only a few feet away from our table. I smiled at his stupidity, sat back, ordered a cocktail and dinner and watched as he paced the floor, bothering the bar-keeps. I enjoyed my dinner and my conversation with my husband. It had been a while since we'd relaxed a bit. We watched as others that came before him were seated and the large party filtered in as well. As we settled our bill, I noticed the man still did not have a table. We let him have ours as we left to go home.
Disclaimer: This is not that man.

The energy that he gave off right from his entry into the pub was very negative. I think everyone there took great pride in making him wait. And I still don't know who he was.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Fitting Tribute

Pugsley wondering what happened to all the snow
Green, green grass of home. At least for a couple of days. The January thaw has come and now gone, just as fast. It provided time enough to run outside and take down the Christmas lights. And Pugsley certainly enjoyed a roll in the grass. All the snow melted almost as fast as it fell not so long ago.

A fitting cover for Ricks service folder
It's been a wild week here. Being that I work at the funeral home where we had my brother-in-laws funeral, I was on both sides of the planning. And since it was a service like no other (the only way he'd have it) the directors let me do anything that I wanted. He was cremated ahead of time and we had his ashes present for the visitation and service. It was fully catered and we had live music. A half hour of story telling came before the actual service began. Stories of the many pranks that he pulled and trouble that he got himself into were a hit. But also shared was his loving nature and care for all things living and of course, trains. My favorite reverend (Max) had so much fun with the memorial service. Afterward, we were approached  by many attendees and told of how much they enjoyed what we had done for such an incredibly unique man.

Rick would be one to remind you that the kind of energy that you give, is the kind of energy that you'll receive. Also that time and space, the stars at night, the earth under your feet, the lakes, the rivers and everything that the universe offers, is yours. Yes, it's all yours. Take care of it and share it with everyone that you meet and even more will be given to you.

Edward took great care in sorting through many of Ricks things in the days after his departure. Surrounding Rick's ashes contained in the wooden box in the center of the table is only a sampling of the items that he collected. Things that brought him great joy.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More than a Man

Let me tell you a story.
A story of a man that lived life on his own terms.
He never quite fit in to common life.
After suffering a small brain injury as a child,
he never recovered fully and thus lived his life a little different than most.

He never finished school.
There was no way to even get him to stay in the building.
He was always looking for a way to get out of doing 
"what he was supposed to do"
and choosing to  take the more adventurous route.

He took to his little brother right away.
Despite the ten years that separated them,
he always found ways to include him in the fun.

Here's a shining example.
Despite his brother's fear of horses as   a child,
he helped him to overcome his fears and concur this beast of a pony.
Note, the brother is holding on to him, not the pony.

That little brother is my husband, Edward. This man that I'm telling you about, is his brother. 
Eric, or Rick as we knew him, hitched a ride on the frieght train to heaven on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. 
Just 25 days shy of his 60th birthday.

I took this shot of him last summer. It captures so much of his loving personality. He possessed a great love for nature, animals, music and, all things trains.

He could play a piano or guitar by ear after hearing a song only once. Always by his side was one of his trusty canine side-kicks and many friends.

He would make friends anywhere he went, with the most unlikely of people.
One might see him as a bit odd at first, but once you let yourself know him, you would love him.
He belonged to that elite group of Port Huron's eccentrics and everyone seemed to know who he was.

 He chose a life a bit different than most.
At a young age, he ran away from home
To be found living in a shack roughly constructed of waste material at
the train yard.
It wasn't until his father bought a house across from the switching station, that Rick decided to move "home".
Home as he knew it, started with a tent in the wooded acreage
behind the house. Eventually moving into an old milk truck and then a discarded camper. Time would reveal to him an old mobile home or two and then more campers. As each residence filled with things that made him happy, he'd move on to something else.

A few years ago, he had a health scare and I volunteered to clean his place up to help make his life a little easier and nicer. The doctors told us then that he would not live more than a month or so. So, we wanted it to be nice. A few months later, he'd totally trashed what I had done and made it more comfortable in his eyes. His home was open to anyone and anything that happened into it. On any given day, you could find mice or even rats sharing in the dogs food. He would feed the birds of all kinds. And it was nothing for him to lay down in the woods and fall asleep.

 It must have been what he needed because he managed to squeeze 6 more years out of life.

Each time that doctors told him to do something, he'd do just the opposite. He'd rather live one month his way than years, their way.

While I could never live the way he chose, I've learned so much from this man. I've grown to respect him and his ways. With that, I've grown to accept and respect everyone that I meet. We are all doing the best we can with what we have to work with. And who are we to tell someone how to live their life?

If there was ever a shining example of Godliness, it was Rick Borowski.
I hope that I can implement into my life, the lessons that I've learned from this incredible man.
He will truly be missed.