Home Alone

John was enjoying train-steeped days in Tennessee, leaving me (by choice) home alone. I’m not counting the day son John $ was here. He treated me to lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and we chatted, watched documentaries on TV, and laughed without restraint. After that I had four days, four whole days and nights, hugging an unmarked calendar.

You wouldn’t think a retiree would generate much excitement, but I had more than I bargained for.

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I was taking one item out of the refrigerator, and I swear the little containers of barbecue sauce jumped out at me. I’m sure I didn’t touch them. Four big splotches of sticky sauce were plastered on my black jeans. The spots didn’t really show, but I reeked of hot, red sauce until I went to bed.

There was implied excitement at the firehouse. On my daily walk to the creek, I saw one empty bay through the mist. Two vehicles were parked in spaces reserved for first responders. Someone was dealing with a situation he would not have chosen, helped by two volunteers.

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There is no video of me almost falling near the creek, not once, but twice! I stepped off the concrete parking lot right onto a fallen walnut. The ground was coming up to meet me. In only a second or so, I thought to myself, “I’m going to fall. Can I catch myself on the guard rail? No. This is bad. John isn’t here to rescue me. Golly Pete! My old knees moved enough to catch me! Glory be!”

The very next day I was watching out for those lethal walnuts, but I stepped on one, anyway, maybe just for the fun of it. A video would have shown me with one knee lowered, doing a wobbly curtsy. That wasn’t as heart-stopping as the first roll.

One creepy thing happened. I was trying to move MP3 files using a computer and a tablet at my desk. There was a funny little sound that came every once in a while, and I thought it was generated by one of the devices under my fingertips. I woke around 3 am and heard it again. Something or someone was trying to get my attention. The four-toned sound was tiny, like a mere whisper of a steam engine whistle in the far distance. Surely John wasn’t trying to reach me from another world! I got up and walked into his office. Oh! There it was again! With that, his old flip phone screen began to glow in the dark. It wasn’t John, after all. I was being haunted by young Logan. One of the days he was here, I saw him pick up that phone and open it. John told him to put it down, which he did. I’m guessing the phone was turned on and losing power from that moment on. What I heard in the middle of the night must have been the last gasp of the dying phone.

I responded to an inquiry about my vacation doings to SIL Barbara. I wrote, “I went out with neighbor Connie for coffee this afternoon. We shortened it this time. Instead of staying at the coffee place 6 hours, we stayed only 4. We went to the Lake Junaluska conference center and sipped iced coffee on the porch in comfortable rocking chairs. This is the place that Rus and Elizabeth go to once a year. Next time we hope Shawn is mobile and can go with us. The day is gone! I finished looking at blogging emails before we went out, and I hope to get a few music files transferred before bedtime. This was the big project I wanted to do while John was gone. I began last night and could not get the systems to talk to each other. It worked well two nights, but last night nothing worked. My brain is not the sharpest now, either. I could use another day or so of vacation! Hmmm. I’m hearing shots being fired. The sound seems to be coming over the next hill. It’s too rapid to be hunters and not fast enough to be target practice. The sun is going down, so maybe they will stop soon.”

Two things surprised me. I made my bed every day and twice a day if I took a nap. Normally my genie of the kitchen (John) does clean-up in the kitchen. What would I do on my own? Dishes were loaded in the dishwasher and pans washed and put away after every meal. I can’t stand starting a meal with the remains of the previous one staring me in the face., and I made sure that didn’t happen.

My final vacation breakfast was a surprise. I’d left half a bagel on the counter for a day or so and found mold had grown on it. If John had been here, we would probably have had cereal as a substitute. That wouldn’t do for a vacation meal! I had a Southern breakfast with a TexMex twist. What might have been cheese grits with eggs and sausage turned into corn tortilla tacos. The extra special ingredient was gift eggs from Logan’s chickens.

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What might you do with four days all on your own?

Tree ID

With John away, I drove to Waynesville and took the walk that we thought we would take when we moved to this area. Strolling beside a stream near the rec center seemed ideal. We didn’t know that we’d be close enough to walk to a creek from our home. We haven’t walked in Waynesville often, and usually when we did, the light was dim. A number of trees and shrubs have signs labeled with the name of the plant. I took time to read a few. Some proved I knew what I was looking at, and others were new to me. Carolina Silverbell was one I hadn’t noticed before. I correctly identified the flowering dogwood, then I came to one that said Barney. I never heard of a Barney tree before, have you?. The sign looked like all the others in that area. Walking closer, I read it. The words were something like, “Barney was my faithful companion. We walked here regularly. I miss you, Barney. I’ll see you again in heaven.”

Is Toilet Paper Worth It?

I thought I was losing my mind, and it was all the fault of four rolls of toilet paper.

We found out as soon as we moved to this house that toilet paper from Costco was way too fat for the holders in our bathrooms. We slimmed down to Dollar General size. Of course, the result was that the tiny rolls had to be replaced with alarming frequency. Consider that we are moving into the forgetful stage of our lives, and you can see the problem. The bathroom I restock has a tower that holds four rolls, which is not overly generous. John replenishes the guest bath, stashing rolls under the sinks and in the linen closet.

John left for several days to play with big model trains that you ride on. I knew toilet paper was my sole responsibility, that if I were stuck, no one would respond to my frantic SOS. Truth to tell, his is the only help I would have wanted. I used the final roll in my bathroom and made a mental note to fetch more from the laundry room ,way on the other side of the house. I don’t know how many days one final roll would last, but I suspect it should have been measured in hours. I forget how many times I forgot, but I did finally get four rolls from the laundry room and put them on the kitchen counter. That would be safe. I’d see the little white columns and tote them to the bathroom. There would be no need for mental reminders, since they were out in the open.

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Recreated scene

A few hours later I looked at the empty counter. I didn’t remember taking anything from there to the bathroom. I’m quite sure I didn’t. Meanwhile, son John $ was packing his gear. He had come here after a hike in the mountains and made several trips out to his car. When he came in again, I asked, “Did you see any toilet paper on the counter? or am I losing my mind?”

My loving son reassured me, “You ARE losing your mind.”

I thought he might have taken them, thinking I was giving them away for the fun of it. That’s the kind of thing I would do if I thought he needed something we had.

“No, Mom,” he said. “I knew there were no extras in the guest bathroom and thought you’d left them out for me to restock.”

Taking no further chances, I took another four rolls and made a direct run to the far bathroom.

I ask you, is toilet paper the signature item you’d use to measure your brain health?

Heartstrings

Here is a story to tug at your heartstrings.

Logan (6) stayed with us two nights while his parents were in the hospital for Shawn’s knee replacement. I woke up at 5, and as usual when waking in the night, turned on a lamp and opened the devotional booklet. There was a slight noise which sounded quite close. Maybe I was hearing a cow in the pasture, but when I turned, I saw a small body in the recliner.

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My first instinct was to scoop him up and put him in bed with me, but I knew I couldn’t lift him. I covered him with a down throw and went to consult with John. We decided to leave him there, thinking he needed the sleep. I went back to bed and don’t remember sleeping. At 6:20 there was a thump. By the time I sat up, Logan was talking cheerfully with John in the next room. He claimed he wasn’t asleep when I covered him and proved it by saying I went to the bathroom. My question is, did he sleep between 5 and 6:20? Surely he did. For his teacher’s sake, I hope he did.

As for the photo, the little toy camera lives on the bedside table at night, where my pockets are unloaded. I never expected to need a camera in the middle of the night, but it was eager to be involved.

Homework

Who knew first grade homework could be such a challenge? John was going to oversee the reading.

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I thought I could figure out what to do with a printed sheet. We failed. I wrote the following explanation in Logan’s notebook for the teacher to read:

We’re the neighbors and definitely feeling like subs. Logan read silently, so we don’t know how many pages he covered. He said he did a chapter. It has been 68 and 69 years since we were in first grade, and we didn’t know what to do with the paper. Logan said, *sigh* “I have to do the parent’s homework for you.” *sigh* He cut up the pictures, arranged them perfectly under the three columns by “o” sound, and put them in the plastic bag. Hope we do a better job next time. Teachers have our utmost admiration.

The next day started off early. Logan got up at 6:15 and found John in front of his computer.

“I thought you’d be out walking,” Logan said.

John reassured him, “No, we would never leave you alone in the house.”

“Don’t you always go walking early?” Logan asked.

John replied, “When you aren’t here, we do. We’ll walk later after you’ve gone to school.”

He must have been a bit worried about being here with us. We think it remarkable that this was the first instance of his showing it. He is only six years old!

After school, Logan’s notebook was open on the kitchen table. Guess what! WE GOT A STICKER!!! “Well done,” it said.

The teacher wrote, “A sticker for all your help and support for Logan and his parents. We all appreciate you.”

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Grandparent subbing doesn’t get much better than that.

The Presidents’ Ladies

We went walking with Abigail Adams and Dolly Madison this morning. Yes, for real! They let us call them Abbie and Dolly. There wasn’t a hitch, although there were two leashes involved.

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Neighbor Shawn had her second knee replaced this morning. Bob brought Logan over as they left for the hospital, and we had about an hour before taking the boy to the school bus. It was a lively hour. We had breakfast with son $, who was using our place as his base for a camping trip near Purchase Knob. That is one of the mountains we see from our house. After breakfast we did a half-morning walk with the dogs, almost to the stop sign.

We knew years ago that the way to meet people in the neighborhood was to have a dog or children. Today we had the dogs, and we met a neighbor while we were out on the road. The red van stopped, and the people inside said they didn’t know we had dogs, having never seen us with any.

“They aren’t ours,” I explained. “They belong to the neighbors across the street.”

At that point, my Southern manners failed. I knew who the passenger was, but I failed to introduce us. Rats! Undoubtedly, Angie knows our names from the good old Southern grapevine, just as we knew hers. When she heard why we were walking the dogs, she said, “Please tell Shawn that Angie hopes everything goes well for her.”

As soon as the car stopped this afternoon, Logan jumped out and streaked home to let the dogs out. He went right to their food, put some in each bowl, and added just the right amount of water. He walked the dishes carefully back to the crate without spilling a drop.

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Logan said he got pink at school, meaning he was well-behaved. I was relieved. The other day he was over here asking for a snack, and he said he would love a cupcake with chocolate icing. We never have cupcakes on hand, but I made a dozen today. They were up high where he couldn’t see them, along with the square cake from the leftover batter. If he had been naughty, he wouldn’t have gotten one.

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75 Plus One Day

The day after John’s 75th birthday, there was a knock on the front door. You could almost feel the excitement before John opened the door. Neighbor Logan came dancing in ahead of the still-warm cake Shawn had baked. What a surprise! They set the cake on the counter, put the candles on it, and lit them while I raced to the other room to get the toy camera. Normally it would have been in my pocket. There was no time to compose a shot. I was lucky to get everyone in it, even if their faces didn’t show.091616 Bob Shawn John Logan.jpg

 

Shawn cut generous pieces, which we enjoyed at a leisurely pace on the back porch. The dish was called “Do Nothing Cake”. I thought it was a misnomer, because it tasted like Shawn had done lots of special things to it. However, we did nothing but sit there and gobble it up. Delicious! We loved having a chance to visit with them after the busy summer we had in both households.

The story of the evening that I remembered best was Bob’s rescue. They lived in Florida at the time, and Bob and a friend were near a canal. It was a deep thing, complete with alligators and snakes. A woman driving a large car was not paying attention and drove into the canal! The men jumped in the water and tried to pull her out. It seemed to take forever for her to get the seat belt undone. She was not a small woman, and they were pulling her through the window. Her foot got caught in the steering wheel. Bob kept pulling up as his friend twisted the foot free. As soon as they pulled her out, the car went glug! glug! and sank out of sight. What drama! Isn’t it special that we live across the street from a real hero?

When John said he smelled smoke, we all thought we might need a hero on site. No, the candles had not set anything on fire. I suggested he go to the front door and sniff. The smell was there, too, and Bob remembered their next door neighbor was having a party. Maybe they had a cake with lots more candles than ours. We sat back in our chairs and watched white clouds glow behind the mountain, lit by the full moon rising. What a lovely end to John’s birthday celebration!