If you promise to paint …

“During spring break we will paint your room,” Sharon and Jacob promised their daughter Caroline. Brother Eli asked to have his room done as well. The little sisters’ bedroom was painted last fall.

They shopped for paint and found a dark gray “mistint” paint return that Eli wanted in a five gallon can that cost $35 instead of the usual $200. Caroline had picked out a lighter shade of gray. They bought white paint to mix with it.

Spring break began early as schools closed for social isolation. “I knew we would be home at least two weeks. I went to the store and got a bunch of stuff for painting,” Sharon said. At the store, she met a friend who mentioned how easy it was to scrape ceiling texture. Originally my daughter was just going to paint over the popcorn texture on the ceiling because “scraping it off, would be a lot of work.

“Oh, it is easy to scrape a ceiling,” her friend said. “Just use my steamer, scrape and it falls right off.”

Sharon borrowed the steamer and tested it on a corner of the ceiling. It did not just fall off. “You can’t test it without scraping the ceiling some, so I had to do all the rest of the ceiling,” Sharon said. She finished the ceiling, cleaned the mess and proudly posted a picture on Facebook.

A friend noticed and warned “some popcorn texture has asbestos in it.” That scared Sharon. She took a sample to be tested. If it had asbestos, the carpet would need to be cleaned.

It had two percent asbestos which is high enough to be concerned.

“We are getting new carpet,” Sharon told Jacob. Good-bye to the worn carpet that came with the house eight years ago.

“If we get new carpet, we are done,” he said.

“We ordered carpet on Thursday. They said it would be at least a week and a half to two weeks before they could lay the carpet. In the meantime, I painted Caroline’s ceiling, repainted Eli’s ceiling and the walls. We mixed white paint into the gray for Caroline’s room.”

On Monday, the carpet company called, “are you ready for carpet today?” They had had a cancellation.

No. But Tuesday would do. Sharon realized, “If we are putting new carpet in our bedroom we need to paint ceiling in there first. Plus, since I want a different wall color, we need to paint the walls before the carpet arrived.”

Eli helped her move furniture. She painted the bedroom ceiling. Jacob bought the new wall paint. After work on Monday, Jacob said, “If we are getting carpet on the stairs, we should go ahead and paint the stairwell ceiling and walls.”

They mixed more white paint with the five gallon bucket of grey and painted the walls in the hall and stairway.

“I may as well do the bathrooms ceilings,” Sharon decided. The old paint crumbled as she painted.

At 9:30 p.m. Monday night, Jacob said, “I guess we better scrape these ceilings before we get the new carpet.”

They worked past midnight scraping and thoroughly cleaning the bathrooms.

“It all had to be done before the carpet came to avoid long-term exposure to asbestos,” she said.

Painting the ceilings exposed broken fixtures. They installed new light fixtures.

Tuesday the carpet men installed new carpet in four upstairs bedrooms, hall and stairwell.

Once all the furniture was replaced, Sharon walked into her room, looked at the old comforter and said, “We need a new comforter that matches the walls.”

That’s what happens if you promise your daughter you will paint her room.

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Sew many ideas

Sewing items from yard sales overwhelm my sewing room. Occasionally I acknowledge I must get rid of something. That’s how I recently met two lovely ladies.

First I met a local seamstress who alters and sews clothing. For her, I opened the door to my sewing room excess when she wanted two large spools of cording that I no longer needed. She came, she saw, and she cleared off nearly a shelf of fabric while we talked stitchery.

I could make dresses for the little girls,” she said holding up fancy fabric.

Please do take all of it. I don’t know how to work with that type of fabric.”

I pointed out yards of muslin I purchased years ago thinking I needed it for quilting. I never used it. “Some people use it to make dresses before they make a dress. Do you need it?”

She lifted it off the shelf, “Yes, let’s make this the total,” she said as she heaped it on her pile.

I might be getting rid of that thread holder and thread later,” I said. “First, I need to sort what I do want and need.”

A week later, I sorted and sent her a message. Yes, she wanted to buy it. I said I would bring it to her shop. I wanted to see her machines and stash. She put the thread holder beside another thread holder I sold her earlier and proudly pointed out her industrial machines, sergers and store of all the sewing notions, fabric and project ideas that any shop needs to have on hand. She had back-ups for her back-ups. Which makes sense when she is sewing late at night while the repair man is sleeping.

And this saves my back when I have to pin up the hems of slacks,” she said pointing to a heavy wooden platform. “The men set it up when they come.”

I left her shop, inspired to get into my sewing room – as soon as we checked out a “Picker’s Sale” on the other side of town. We arrived too late for the best choices. Still my stitching eye zeroed in on a few items, including a package of old fashioned cloth diapers in the original package. It brought to mind all the baby showers with cute burb cloths made using pre-folded cloth diapers with a colorful strip of fabric added for fun. I could do that. I tossed them in my pile.

At home, I picked them up, looked at the dozen projects on my shelves and decided to list them on eBay. “Vintage, still in package BirdsEye diapers.” A lady in Virginia bought them and wrote, “A great find for my vintage collection!”

I responded, “I found them at a picker’s estate sale. I never heard of collecting cloth diapers. How many varieties do you have?

“I have many vintage baby items. I found a lot at antique shops, flea markets, and yard sales. I really never knew so many different varieties and styles of cloth diapers existed until I got to looking on Ebay. The ones I purchased from you are the only ones of that style I have ever come across. I have at least twelve different varieties so far. It just makes me smile and feel calm. I used cloth diapers on my children when they were babies. … collecting just takes me back to a more peaceful, less hectic state of mind.”

So I didn’t make the projects planned. I did make a couple women happy and caught a glimpse of a few of their favorite things.

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Pain changes perspective and prayer

Struggling through the daily routine of physical exercises to regain full use of my body after an emergency partial hip replacement, I understand the veracity of “to truly empathize with another’s pain or joy, you have to have gone through the same pain.”

As my body knits back together and accepts the bionic part, I keep Ibuprofen handy for the pain. That simple action often triggers a prayer for the countries with little or no access to pain killers let alone immediate hospitalization and surgery.

After recently reading a biography set in an impoverished country, I wince at the suffering of injured country folks who have to be carried for day to a clinic. Just the pot holes around here leave me cringing at all the ups and downs of a trip over rough dirt roads. As I laid on the ground waiting for the ambulance, I knew one would come. I knew I would see a doctor. I knew relief would come. So I pray that more individuals in those countries get the training to meet the needs.

Waiting through the days until I can again tie my own shoes, I reflect that if I had suffered this same injury before World War II, no doctor would have considered a partial hip replacement. The hip would have been stabilized in traction for a lengthy period. In 2020, however, the day after surgery the staff urges patients to stand and walk.

My foot stayed glued to the floor. “Move, foot,” I said. It lifted a fraction of an inch forward in a baby step. Before, this experience, I would have quietly thought, “Quit your bellyaching.”

Now, I understand and urge people to keep trying.

I thank God for the development of physical therapy – a fancy name for issue directed exercise. I am not fond of exercise, but I don’t want to be incapacitated and encourage myself and others, “I know it hurts, it will get better.”

For some reason, during this recovery process, I find myself suddenly “hangry” (hungry and angry). I want food now. I do not want to wait. With all the local fast food places, I don’t have to wait. Plus, as my daughter said recently, “I don’t remember you ever rushing into town to buy bread and milk before a storm.” True, I do keep a well stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Still something about this recovery process and I hit empty with a fury.

Often with that urgency comes with the realization that in drought and famine ridden countries around the world, whole cities of people lack food. Children cry and die for it. My faint hint of hunger reminds me to pray for the countries where folks live on short rations for weeks, months and years. I pray for the rain, the end of conflict and the opening of opportunities to work. I pray for the parents who work hard to provide and still can not.

I recently read “Hope Runs” about a family in Kenya where three children ended up on the street. An orphanage eventually accepted the brothers. Repeatedly through the book the question comes, “how can we help this one or two and leave all the others without?” One time it was simply handing out donated running shoes to some of the children when there were not enough shoes for all.

Better to help a few than do nothing because not all will receive shoes.

My activities may be limited during this recovery, but through reading and empathy, I can reach out to about others and pray for them confident that prayer is the beginning point for change.

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A knock at the door

It starts with an unexpected knock on the door. “Are we expecting anyone?” the residents ask.

Probably not if it is Charles McClelland with a smile on his face and a bouquet in his hands. He works part time delivering flowers for a local shop.

“Every once in a while they are shocked. You can see by the expression on their face that they are surprised. A lot of people don’t get flowers, so it is a big deal when the flowers arrive.”

McClelland has delivered flowers 10 years and has delivered to some folks many times. “If I know them well enough, I will sing happy birthday or serenade them,” he said.

“I never thought delivering flowers would be exciting, but it is. It is all about making a good day for someone. It is a pick-me-upper. It is someone saying, ‘I thought about you and want you to have a good day.’ It is like what God tells us to do, ‘love your neighbor.’ We give people gratification through flowers.”

One of his most surprised recipients was a woman in her mid-80s.

“It was a single flower. A single daisy in a small vase. I went to the door and knocked. She came to the door. She opened it, saw the flower and had a beautiful smile on her face. ‘Is this for me?’”

“Yes ma’am. It’s your lucky day.”

She stopped and looked at him doubtfully. “Am I getting ready to die?”

“Ohh, no ma’am,” he started to protest. When she said, “’It must be this group I am in that sends flowers sometimes.’”

“She had me open the card. It was the group. She had tears in her eyes and was happy to see me.

“It was an eye opener and gratifying to to get to know her. I had to deliver flowers to her a couple times after that. She always wanted to give me a tip. I would say, ‘No ma’am.’”

Special events during the year keep semi-retired McClelland hopping: Prom season, Secretary’s Day, Mother’s Day and especially Valentine’s Day. “That is the busiest time of the year,” he said.

Preparation for Valentine’s Day begins weeks ahead of time with the florist ordering the estimated number of flowers and vases needed based on the previous year’s demand. A map is drawn for the three to four part-time drivers who will carry flowers through the county.

“We started delivering on Thursday. The deliveries are sorted out so we are not going back and forth. We work late. They ask the customer, ‘Do you want this in the morning, afternoon or evening?’ They try to get all morning deliveries before noon. We start loading up around 7 in the morning and begin delivering around 8:30 and deliver until 5 or 5:30.”

“We delivered Thursday and Friday. I am sure we had some orders that had to be done on Saturday. It depends on when the order came. If we get them out on Friday, or people call in, or it went to wrong address it will be corrected.”

“Very seldom do people say, ‘I don’t want this.’ Sometimes, I can see by the expression on their face. I don’t say anything. I just make sure the flowers are delivered and hopefully who ever gets it is happy.”

“Sometimes the person is not satisfied with the arrangement they ordered. Then I go back and they fix it up and try again.”

Still, 95 percent of the time McClelland’s knock is welcomed and the flowers he delivers bring a spot of happiness to folks and a smile to his day as well. Of course he smiles! He gets to surprise people with flowers.

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Dr. Mildred Jefferson

“To do no harm” meant any life in Jefferson’s world. Simply stated Jefferson said, “I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.”

She did not have a popular message which may be why she is rarely mentioned during Black History month. The pro-choice/abortion movement has deafened many ears in the black community, for according to the Center for Disease Control, “more African-American babies are aborted than any other race in the United States.”

The 2018 Charlotte Lozier Institute reports, “In Arkansas, abortion has a disproportionate impact on African American women. CLI estimates that the abortion rate among black women in Arkansas in 2018 was 12.2 abortions per 1,000 black women of childbearing age – almost 3.7 times the white rate of 3.3 abortions per 1,000 white women of childbearing age.”

“Black women are more than five times as likely as white women to have an abortion,” according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.

One national leader did hear what Jefferson had to say and changed his stance on abortion. In a letter to Dr. Jefferson, Ronald Reagan wrote, “No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching. I wish I could have heard your views before our (state – California where he was governor) legislation passed. You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you.”

From those early days of following the local doctor on his rounds in the city, Jefferson determined to become “a physician in order to save lives, not to destroy them. I will not accept the proposition that the doctor should relinquish the role of healer to become the new social executioner,” she said in a 1978 interview.

The American Medical Association’s decision to support liberalization of the abortion laws triggered Jefferson’s plunge into the pro-life movement. She signed a petition opposing that decision. An eloquent, outspoken person, Jefferson went on to establish and support various pro-life movements. In 1970, she helped found the Massachusetts Citizens for Life. Her influence spread. She served three terms as president of the National Right to Life Committee, wrote columns for their publication, testified for the prosecution against an abortionist, helped establish a political action committee to elect pro-life candidates and served on more than 30 pro-life boards.

Jefferson died in 2010 and is buried in Carthage, Texas, but the impact of this petite surgeon in the years following Roe v. Wade remains.

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Tribute to Jim Robinson

Facebook tributes lauded the late Jim Robinson, submariner and founder of Labella, for his love, helpfulness and friendship.

Author Kimberly Woodhouse and her young family once lived in El Dorado. She wrote, “More than two decades ago, Jim was a huge factor in getting help for our daughter when she was a baby and the doctors were trying to figure out her rare condition. Not only did he do an abundant amount of research, but he contacted people and helped get her very first cooling vest which was a life-saver for our toddler. He was her champion from then on.”

“Joshua and Kayla both loved to go to LaBella’s. He would cool it down so we could go in and Jim would make them cheese toast and cut up tomatoes and black olives (because that was what they wanted). He would give them fudge and love on them. Every. Single. Time. He would tell Josh the funniest stories and show him the coolest toys. And when we moved away, every time we returned, he welcomed us like family. Thanks in good part to him and all his relentless pursuit of help for a little baby all those years ago.”

Laurie Lala Russell recalled, “he’d get teary eyed sharing military stories with me. I can’t count the times he’d slip something extra into my bags when I’d shop at La Bella’s and wouldn’t let me pay for it. He spoiled my son when he was little by giving him candy, fudge, or some kind of treat after I’d tell Brandon he couldn’t have it!”

Jim would put his finger to his mouth and say “Ssshhhhh, don’t tell Mama!” very loudly, I should add, so I’d know what he was doing. He was like a mischievous Santa.”

Others spoke fondly of him as a former submariner. He attended the reunions and at least once provided the means for another to attend. Lance Alderman wrote of “Robbie,” Jim Robinson’s nickname from his Navy days, “Robbie was an EM (Electrician’s Mate) who served on one of my submarines – the USS Darter (SS-576). He was significant enough to the boat’s reunions that the Facebook page for the boat changed their cover photo to one of him at a reunion. Robbie served while the boat was deployed in the Western Pacific and Vietnam during the War.

“While I did not serve with Robbie at the same time on the Darter, he was a fellow Darter ‘shipmate’ that befriended me over the years at reunions. We held more recent reunions at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum … on the Arkansas River. Robbie had a delicatessen and catering service so he would load up his equipment, food, do the cooking, stock the bar, etc., for reunions and he made them memorable.

“Last year he was battling cancer but insisted on still catering the reunion which for him was a labor of love for his brother submariners. His old captain said ‘Robbie is the heart of Darter’ while another of Robbie’s old shipmate perhaps summed it up best: ‘A man only has so many shipmates and when one passes, there just are not any replacements.’

In those years when the storm clouds of war were brewing on the horizon of history, this Shipmate stood the watch … so that we, our families and our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety each and every night knowing that a sailor stood the watch.

Today we are here to say ‘Shipmate the watch stands relieved, Robbie’ – you can now rest since your shipmates have the watch and we wish you fair winds and following seas on the final voyage.”

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Not as planned

Recently there was a county wide sew day. I invited my sister to fly in for it and to visit a couple sewing groups. Add tourism and I promised her a busy week. Instead we learned that “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Two weeks before her departure I texted, “I was helping in the yard. I slipped on some mud. My right leg snapped. I will have hip replacement tomorrow.”

“My plan was to visit you. So whether visiting and exercising alongside you, I will see you in 10 days. Maybe I will be of some help,” she responded.

Instead of sewing, we sorted fabric to give or set aside for projects. She picked up one. fabric panel and smiled, “Oh, I would like to make this doll.”

She cut the doll. I took a healing nap.

In the morning, she had lots of fabric time. I exercised and slept followed with more fabric petting – a real activity for folks who collect and use fabric.

Day two, Sharon went into physical therapy (PT) with me. I struggled to lift my leg higher than a mouse. She sat, watched and took notes to remind me what to do on days without PT. Back home, I collapsed into a refreshing nap, she went to the sewing room and had a sewing vacation at my house. She edited the PT notes, gathered equipment and prepared to remind me to do 22 different exercises.

I could not stay long at the Thursday afternoon sewing, but she needed big tables for pinning together two baby quilt tops and backs that we found in my unfinished projects.

Jean Tedford helped her pin. I sat in a borrowed wheel chair and watched. We left soon after the 3 o’clock coffee break. I needed a nap.

Day three. We designed a quilt for an upcoming Harry Potter birthday. First though, I exercised, and she checked, ticking off completed exercises and reminded me of the next. Some exercises left me grimacing. It astounds me that exercises I did regularly at Champagnolle Landing now challenge me. Lifting my knee high to march in place used to be so easy and now is painful..

“How about a low, barely off the ground march?” my leg protests.

Pulling a chair over, she sat beside my lounge chair, and we explored quilting ideas. “This would be a good one for wizards’ robes for the quilt,” I said. “Except they need a pointed hat.”

The pointed hat led to a slimmer gown rather than the original wide skirt and my sister created her first quilt block. I helped pick out fabric. She ironed, cut and sewed. I approved her work.

“What time will therapy be tomorrow?” she asked as we prepared for bed.

“What? Oh, right, let’s do it early, say 9?” I suggested.

At 9 a.m. she smiled and told me what to do. I squeezed, stretched, moved and counted pain pills needed.

I slept. She developed a sample block of wizards, adjusted it and made another sample.

“With all the traveling in the car and no lounge chairs or beds at the All Day Sewing, I better stay home and sew.” I regretfully decided.

My friends got together to sew, chat and eat. I stayed home and exercised while Sharon counted and checked off leg lifts.

Se sewed. I sorted fabrics for her to take home.

Exhausted, I took a nap. She stitched together four wizard blocks in the four wizard school colors. Thus we spent our week together with her sewing and me mending. It wasn’t exactly the vacation my sister and I had originally planned, but I am thankful for her presence, help with physical therapy and expert sewing skills.


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Prince Charming revisited

Prince Charming knelt before Cinderella, pulled out the glass slipper and slipped it smoothly onto her foot. It fit. Birds sang, flowers floated through the air. For he had found his One True Love. They married and lived happily ever after.

I was reminded of that last week as my 80 year-old Prince Charming with white hair and heart problems bent his arthritic knees before me, positioned my decrepit sneaker over the white compression stocking on my foot and slid the sneaker smoothly into place.

Bells did not ring in the background. Colorful little birdies did not chirp and flutter around with bits of ribbons, hearts and flowers in their beaks.

Still the story of true love held. Deep into our years of retirement, we define Love in the manner of the “Fiddler on the Roof” parents singing to each other, “Do you love me?”

What a question! “I’ve lived with him, fought with, starved with him, washed his clothes, cooked his meals, borne his children … if that isn’t love what is?”

We found another verse this year. After slipping in mud and breaking my hip I have needed many, menial acts of love. The fairy tale characters have shown up in slightly altered appearances beginning with the morning’s foot scene between Cinderella and Prince Charming.

After my first day of physical therapy, I left the building bone tired, shaking with pain, stomach growling, and shivering from chilly weather. I just wanted to go home, cover up, lie on Sleeping Beauty’s bier and sleep. Instead, the wicked queen of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves appeared. She spouted angrily at anyone challenging her words or daring to trespass her mirror’s picture of perfection.

The good huntsman went down the hall, jacked the thermostat setting to overheat the house. He raided the refrigerator, fed the wicked queen, hauled out blankets and foot warmers and presented her with a magic potion for erasing pain.

The snarling one slept. A couple hours later she emerged from a cocoon, all toasty warm and smiling like the Good Fairy of the North in the Wizard of Oz.

Sometimes I feel like Goldilocks, “Too hot,” “too cold” and sometimes “just right.” The Prince rushes around finding pillows, blankets, food and drinks in search of “just right.”

And then there are days when my husband puts on his little red riding hood to take flowers and goodies to Grandma. He trips the latch, approaches the bed and is startled at what he sees, “What big eyes you have. What big ears you have. What big teeth you have!” only to have the sweet grandma emerge from the blanket in her night shirt and declare, “The better to eat you with my dear.”

The Good Woodsman rushes in with a sense of humor and chops through the irritations of life setting the real grandma free from the closet.

In one tale, on a dark and stormy night, a bedraggled princess woke the prince seeking shelter from a storm of discomfort. She tossed and turned feeling an invisible lump in her back. Surely, only a true princess could feel a pea hidden under the layers of pillows, blankets and cushions around me.

It takes the ability of one’s True Love to look beyond appearances as Beauty does with Beast and returns to help him. My Prince Charming did the same. Even knowing all the basic nursing care he would have to provide, he took on the tasks as only a True Love would do. Because he is a Prince Charming, my one True Love who married to live happily ever after – for better or for worse.

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And your birthdate is …?

My hubby and I just had our birthdays last week. Despite the our latest turn around the sun, we stay active and independent. Case in point: remember how they moved those giant blocks to build pyramids in the 1950s film, “The Ten Commandments”? 1. Place a few sturdy rods under a bulky object. 2. Attach a rope to pull while someone pushes. 3. Pick-up used rods to move to the front.

Hubby chose that technique to move an over-sized stump in our backyard. He swapped forward boards and rollers, moving the stump toward the burning pile. He worked alone until his 80 year old body protested against bending. He hinted he needed help.

I moved a couple rollers, a board or two and tugged on the rope to angle the stump to the muddy pile of ashes. I tugged and stepped sideways into mud. My legs slid into an impossible sideways split. The impossible became possible when my right hip bone snapped. I sank to the earth in pain.

“Can I help you up?” hubby asked.

“No!” I barked.

He wisely declared, “I’ll call the ambulance.”

We waited. I lay on the cold dirt staring at the blue sky dappled with white clouds. The pain decreased a bit. My head cleared, and I wondered if we really needed an ambulance.

No time to second guess, the men in blue walked around the corner of the house to assess the situation.

I have a high pain threshold, so I do not feel pain as quickly as most. “It’s a blessing …. and a curse,” as they say.

With my high pain threshold, when the EMT asked, “What is your pain level?” I answered “About two.” Then he had to ask, “What is your birth date? Are you allergic to anything, do you take any prescription medicine?” Just last week, thank you, and not much.

“We are going to tie your legs together before we lift you,” he pulled out a length of gauze, loosely tied my bent knees together and my ankles. He lifted my torso and the other EMT hoisted my legs. They eased me onto the stretcher. As we rolled across the lumps and valleys in our mole infested yard, the EMT man said, “I’m glad you are not a heavy woman.” I’ll take that as a compliment; a bright spot on a dark day.

Inside the ambulance, he put stickers on my shoulders and ankles to do an EKG. “It’s all part of the ambulance package deal,” he explained. After thumping the veins on the inside of my arm he inserted a needle, “in case we need an IV.”

Inside the hospital, I answered the same questions from Emergency Room doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians and anyone else entering my room.

Folks transferring me from ground to gurney, gurney to x-ray table and back again asked my birth date and my name. Before each transfer I always heard, “I’m so sorry.” and my hip pain soared to at least five with each move.

X-rays revealed a broken hip. “You need surgery, but before surgery you need a chest x-ray What is your name and date of birth?” Back to radiology to verify my health.

“Surgery will be in the morning,” the doctor said and prescribed pain killers.

The nurse put my leg in traction for the night with one more “what is your date of birth?”

Mid-morning, after 14 hours of fasting, I took a bumper car ride to the surgical suite. The pre-op nurse asked my name and birth date and shot my IV port with sleepy medicine. That’s all I remember until I woke up with a wedge of foam holding my legs apart and another clinician asking me my birth date and name. I do believe my birthday has been acknowledged plenty this year.

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Turning 80 was not fun

Good thing we celebrated my husband’s 80th birthday a week early. He did not get a party on the actual date.

I woke up with an elbow so swollen with arthritis that I could not comb my hair, let alone applaud his eighth decade of life. He left me to exercise while he finally heeded our car’s warning light about air pressure and took the car to the shop for new tires. He waited and waited before he heard, “Mr. Hershberger, your car is ready.”

It wasn’t his car. The clerk sorted out the confused tickets, and then the tires were changed.

For his birthday lunch, he chose his favorite chicken place, “Aren’t you glad chicken is my favorite meat rather than steak?” he asked. Yes, he is a cheap date. So cheap that he chose the daily special, ate it all and concluded, “I won’t be ordering that again.” His stomach protested for hours.

Back home, I awkwardly used my stiff elbow, pulled out eight candles and stuck them in cake leftover from his early birthday celebration. Just striking the match hurt. Still I lit those candles and he blew them out. All eight of them. One for each decade.

For his birthday present, I gave him a plumbing emergency. As I washed my hands in the bathroom, I could hear the washing machine spinning a load of laundry. Then I heard, and saw, the toilet bubbling vigorously.

“You better come check this out,” I called.

He came, he saw, he declared, “It is the vent. Maybe that is what has been the problem with the drains.”

He pulled out the ladder, climbed on the roof and looked. Nothing blocked the vent’s airflow. He went to the ground, pulled out the long plumber’s snake and sent it into the bowels of our sewer system.

I think I found and fixed the problem. It’s dung.” (We don’t talk X-rated around here.)

From my leisurely position in the lounge chair, I instructed the birthday boy, “well, if you want to be sure, switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer and put in that load of your blue jeans.”

“Good idea.” He want to the laundry room and called, “Oh, no. Come here.”

I went. A definite problem: the jug of liquid detergent had fallen to the floor. Its lid lay in the middle of a pool of blue liquid detergent puddling in front of the washer, the dryer and the back door.

“Just sweep it out the door.” I said.

“It can’t just be swept out the door.” He grabbed a little broom and dustpan to gather the fluid and pour it back into the jug.

He couldn’t do it. He has a benign tremor so his hands shake. The detergent went everywhere except into the jug.

“I will clean it up, my way.” I grabbed towels, sopped up blue slime and rinsed the towels in the tub. I grabbed more towels to wash the floor several times and tossed everything in the washing machine.

When I finished, I found him at the computer. “I’m still burping that chicken,” he commented.

I decided he needed a huge hamburger for supper.

He ate all of it and said it did not taste right.

So, he never did get the perfect birthday meal and instead of a day of fun events, he risked his 80 year old bones on the roof and undertook the nastiest of plumbing jobs.

On the upside: the laundry floor shines, we have new tires, the plumbing works, and he is officially an octogenarian. Not bad for man who never thought he would see past his 70s.


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