Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Post for Dad

 I wrote the post below about a week ago. I never posted it, because I really wrote it for myself to help me work some things out in my head. Sometimes writing can help a person do that, sometimes not.
 It's a moot point now. My Dad passed away about 4 hours ago at the age of 95 years, 2 months, and 2 days. That's a pretty good run and he was more active than most folks would believe up until about 2 months ago. My Dad was always a bit tough on us kids, but not tough in a mean way, he had high expectations for us, and sometimes, when we wanted to take the easy choice he would challenge us to do better. He never drove us like some parents do, but he expected us to hold some high standards in the important areas like knowing right from wrong, helping your neighbor, and doing the right thing when nobody was watching. My Dad passed from this world the way he wanted to, at home, with family. We never expected it would be tonight until about 10 minutes before it happened. I will always take great solace in the fact that I was with him when he drew his final breath. It is also a wonderful comfort that my son was there with me at that time. I know it was as tough, or even tougher for him to cope with, but I took strength and support from his presence, he has turned into quite a good man. I have seen a lot of death in recent years, and it is never easy, but it is so different when it is someone you love, no matter how prepared you think you are. Goodbye Dad. I know you knew it, and I know I showed it, but I rarely said it, because in our family that's the way it is, I Love you Dad. Your kind will never be seen again on this earth. Thanks for what you taught me.
Here's the post from last week....

It's been over a month since I've written anything here, sorry. I do see that there are those who check the page out from time to time and folks just finding it. The fact is, I have been tied up with important stuff that doesn't allow me time, energy, or desire to write for what I consider a pleasure. I haven't much felt like I deserved to take the luxury of having any pleasure for a while now. Sometimes things happen in your life that makes everything you thought was important fall right off your map and disappear.  I am writing this now only to help me parse things out in my head and hopefully let me make some good choices going forward.
 Ever since I was old enough to get out of bed in the morning and find my way to the kitchen, I knew my Dad would be sitting in his chair and thinking when I got there, It didn't matter if it was 6am, or 7am, or even 5am, he would already be in the kitchen. Just sitting and thinking, and perhaps making notes on a pad or sketching something. I never got out out bed and headed to the kitchen that he was not already there, drinking his black coffee and quietly thinking. Not ever, not one day that I lived in my parents home was he not already up and at the table. I think I first noticed it when I was around 10 or 12. I knew that we didn't really talk or make conversation, this was his thinking time. We might exchange some words, but always brief. Until I got older, then he might offer some unsolicited suggestions about the latest poor decision he mysteriously knew I was about to make. He never spoke directly and never told me what to do, he would just tell me a story about when he was young and in a similar situation and how his choice turned out (usually poorly and most times he would laugh at how silly his thinking was). He left it to me to figure out which way to go. (I would usually do what I wanted to do in the first place, and he would be there to help me fix it, when it inevitably needed fixing. To his unending credit, he never said "I told you so", but he would ask if I had figured out where I went wrong, which to me was a very different question.)
 When I entered my late teens and learned to drink my own black coffee, it was much the same. Quiet time for both of us to think. If I had something weighing on my mind, this was a good time to ask. This was when we would be able to communicate without outside interference or comment. There were no rules, just keep your voice down, don't get excited, and have a discussion. A real discussion.
 When I got married and had my own home and kitchen table, I came to enjoy getting up early and sitting there in the quiet to think. I still do that everyday, but now it's at this desk, instead of the kitchen. (This house has no kitchen table.)
 Tonight I was thinking of how much I learned from my Dad without him consciously  teaching or telling me anything. The lesson was implied 'You need to think your day through before you enter it' and 'sometimes you just need some quiet time to figure out what to do.'
 Well I have been so busy of late that my time in the morning is wasted on catching up on emails and facebook. I have slid downhill a ways, I guess, and lost focus. So here I am tonight, sitting and thinking. The house is quiet, I'm the only one awake, and I have much on my mind and no idea what to do. Dad is the big thing on my mind now. In fact he is pretty much the only thing on my mind now. He is 95 and not well. We (my sister and I) are trying to figure out how to proceed from here. We are trying to figure out what is best for him, and our Mom. This is tough, really tough. If I didn't have my wife, my sister, our kids, and our brother (who is fifteen hundred miles away) for emotional support, the daily requirements, and sharing the load. this would be even harder. We do have them and are thankful of course, but my sis and I are the ones who really need to deal with this in the end.
 And we don't know what to do. Apparently we were naive' to think that people who had worked all their lives, paid into the 'system' without question, would in turn, be able to get a little assistance when they needed it.  Turns out that even if your income is below the poverty level, there is little or no help available unless you are on medicaid. Of course, the insurance doesn't cover what's needed because they have rules written on paper which don't really care about the people that paid for that paper in the first place.
 So tonight, I let my brain free-float. Somehow I started thinking about all those mornings when there was my Dad and I, sitting in the kitchen, in the near dark, with the sun just threatening on the horizon with a glow. Totally quiet and the two of us sitting there, staring into space and thinking. He might say something, I would answer with a thought, and then another 10 minutes of silence until one of us had another thought. I realize now, this is how I learned to think, and more importantly, how I learned that thinking is a required skill. It's also how I learned that you need to take time to consider what has been said before you conceive, then offer your own thoughts. In short, it is where I learned to analyze and examine EVERYTHING, for myself, with the information I knew to be correct, rather than what someone else (such as the media or hearsay) chose to feed to me. This has proven itself to be one of my strongest skills in life, but also a curse because I tend to make short work of folks who come to fight a mental battle completely unarmed with facts or a solid thought process.
 All this from sitting at the kitchen table every morning. I find it ironic now, that I am trying to resurrect those moments to help us make some decisions about my Dad's future.
 This is so very hard because my Dad can't really tell us accurately what he wants and it now becomes our job to do what he would want. I guess it comes down to how he and my Mom raised us. I know there is no single correct choice. Life is just not that simple. I have offered advice and basic guidance to dozens of families that have aging parents nearing the end of their run and I suppose that is why I find the choices in front of us so difficult. I know how it should go, I just don't know how to get there. On the one hand I feel like getting through each day is a victory, and on the other hand, I am mad at myself for not having a plan that covers the next month or two. Which is right?
 I guess I have to think about this some more.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Sorry I haven't put anything up here in quite a while. Family first, and right now, my family requires all my time when I am not at work. Yet I am staying up a little later tonight to share a small snippet of joy and humor, and learning that forced itself on me last night, and for which I am grateful.
 I have many blessings which I take too often for granted. Especially now, when I feel overloaded. This one took 24 hours to settle into my head before I could grasp the significance.
 So there I was last night, at a sawmill concert. No, it wasn't a club called "The Sawmill', it was, well, a sawmill. You know the type of place where they take trees and make it into lumber? Big saw table, tools, lumber and trees in various states of milling. The hosts had done a neat job of making some room and accommodations in a place normally dedicated to hard work and nothing but. Some might find it surreal, but I found it.. comfortable. Having spent most of my life in and around shops where things are created, refined, fabricated, repaired, or built, it seemed like a comfortable and safe place. Still, there we were in the woods in a sawmill and it was raining, dark, and a bit chilly.
 Winter died slowly this year and the ice only left the Reservoir 24 hours earlier, the latest date in memory. It was warmer than it has been at night anytime this year so far, but not what you might call 'warm', on a rainy night. Pretty much everyone there was used to the miserable temperatures we've had for the past 4 months and were sporting light attire of just 2 or 3 layers. Everybody wanted spring to move in NOW and we were all looking forward to those nights of sitting around fires while talking, or singing, or making music, or just thinking. You could pick out the outdoor working folks who were just wearing a sweatshirt in spite of the rain. Most of us could get under the cover of the shed roof on the mill which was clearly built to protect the equipment and not the folks running it or working around it. The machinery stayed dry, while we got a bit damp. I sat on a stool that put my right arm  in the drip-line of the roof and so my right arm and leg got a bit wet. There was an appropriate amount of light mud on the bedrock that was predominant of this piece of earth, just about a mile through the woods from my house.
 We were a small group due to the size of the venue and it was a private invitation only type of thing. I felt honored to be there and was just as anxious as everyone else to begin the season of enjoying weekends with outdoor activity in the evenings.
 So this was all set up by Mike Merenda for his buddy Robert Sarazin Blake. Robert stopped at Mike & Ruthy's home as he often does before starting a northeastern tour and he had an evening free, so Mike put together a sawmill concert. In reality, it was a bunch of friends that came together to encourage the approach of spring, listen to some very well crafted music, and enjoy each others company. It was a good way for Robert to get a relaxed kick-off to the 25 gig tour he was beginning the next evening.
 So the evening kicked off. Mike played a set of some very enjoyable stuff. We took a little break, then Robert played a set with Mike backing him, there was some group singing and we had a fantastic time. Frankly I am surprised the these two played as long as they did because the temp, although not really cold, was a bit rough on the fingers.
 It was my first experience with Robert and I found him to be wonderful. He has his own take on music, he is a true singer/songwriter, and his style is unique to me. Very interesting, very thoughtful and thought provoking. I like his material, his presentation, and his presence very much.
 I took the opportunity to speak with Robert after the gig and enjoyed the conversation immensely. He is a very nice guy and easy to talk to. I suggested that sometime down the road when he comes for a visit he might want to check out some of the local 'activities' that we have available. He confessed that he had been in our town perhaps 20 or more times over the years, but never gone out and about. I mentioned the Thursday night gig at the Harmony cafe' and how you never know who might walk into the club on any given Thursday. Mark Black was there a few weeks ago, Tom Pacheco had dropped by just the night before, John Sebastion, Maria Muldaur, and other folks like that. You never know who might walk in. I said something about how I have been in the habit of going every Thursday I can because I love to hear the guys play and Bill Keith is a favorite of mine, as well as a friend. I started to explain that Bill has not been playing there lately because of a left hand issue and Eric Wiessberg has been filling in for him when Robert reached out and grabbed my elbow and said " Wait, What?, BILL KEITH plays in the HOUSE BAND?" I explained that they do a regular Thursday night gig and it wasn't a 'house band' per se'. He threw his head back and just said "Oh man, next time I come around we are going to have to get out a little." The rest of the conversation followed a natural course and we parted as new friends. I very much enjoyed Roberts music and will look for opportunities to see him again.
 So this evening I finally got a chance to sit back and listen to some of Roberts music on his CD's and as I was listening, that little snippet of our conversation came into my head and I realized that Robert had immediately recognized the value of what I may have taken for granted. People all over the world have payed decent ticket prices to go and see Bill Keith play. Many have forked out lots of money and time to be able to spend a few days studying with him. So many professionals have learned key things from Bill that have furthered their music, as well as their careers. I get to see him every Thursday for the price of a beer and whatever I put in the tip jar. Sometimes, perhaps too many times, I take what I have for granted. Last night, it took a traveling musician who came all the way from Washington state to point out how lucky I am.
 I hope to have time to write in detail about Roberts latest CD a least, but will nee some time to study and digest it. My last review of the Kripplkrunk album was premature. I have been listening to it for about 2 months now and have discovered some many levels that I did not hear prior to writing the review. I don't want to make that mistake again.
 Keep The Beat,