Monday, July 02, 2007

Did I Die, or Just Stop Posting?

It's been about 6 months since my last post. It was simply becoming too hard to get ideas, search through what now passes for my brain for words to express them, and to post them. The prospect of this effort, on a continuing basis, combined with questionable reader interest, began to sap my motivation.

But then, I reminded myself, that's not why I started the blog. I had simply wanted to record a little of the life I lived, the things I did, the people I met, and the ideas and events that molded and moved me. If no one wanted to join me in this endeavor, so be it.

As to the difficulties I've experienced due to my condition (PD), I was reminded of the biblical story of Job and the hardships he endured to prove his devotion to God. Having recently faced some tough times myself, I feel a certain degree of empathy for Job.

On the other hand, I do not share Job's apparent belief that we humans should accept suffering without question or complaint, even if arbitrary, unjust or undeserved. Instead of becoming angry about hardships inflicted on innocent people, we are urged to admire and emulate the patience of Job. Frankly, this idea stinks.

We are told that God is loving, all powerful and just. But when we encounter hardship and misfortune, we are apparently expected to refrain from asking why. Do we defy or embarrass God when we search for reason, logic and meaning in our lives.? I think not. If God is truly loving, all powerful, and just, He should able to take care of Himself.

Indeed, a more interesting and controversial question is: why does God, being all powerful, loving and just, tolerate the spectacle of widespread human suffering? In other words, if God can't eliminate the suffering experienced by millions every day, is He truly omnipotent? But if God could alleviate that suffering, but doesn't, is He truly just or loving?

A larger question is how does one deal logically with a mind numbing day to day experience like Parkinson's? We could blame God, of course. Or we could rail incessantly about the injustice of it all. But unless we want to waste the rest of our lives with a senseless rant against fate, that's not much of a plan.

This would appear to be an appropriate time to inquire about the physical, mental and spiritual health of a blogger who hasn't posted anything to his blog for several months. Sounds like this person could use a good stiff upper lip, or a kick in the butt or both.

Having said all that, I don't feel much better, but then nothing ventured, nothing gained. Now, if I can just stay away from all those floods, pestilence and famines that gave Job such a hard time!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Marriage # 2 - Vicki and David give it a try.

My earlier post entitled "Marriage # 1 -The Texan and the New Yorker " generated a myriad of requests (3 people, as I recall) for similar stories on Marriages 2 and 3.

The song "Breaking up is hard to do" pretty well describes the time between the end of marriage #1 and the beginning of Marriage #2.

During this time, The Fairfax Unitarian Church was a godsend (no pun intended). I had many friends there and my work on the Board of Trustees kept me busy and provided a great support group. It was in this setting that I met Vicki.

As with earlier posts, I issue this disclaimer: Although I'll try to keep the chronology straight and the facts accurate, let the reader beware. Or as Kurt Vonnegut would say, "So it goes".

My first memory of Vicki was at a church Pot Luck dinner. We arrived with other people, but quickly decided we were more interested in each other. Everyone was very civilized about it, and by the time dinner was over, we had realigned ourselves and the rest is history. I'd like to report that the other couple also got married, and they did. But not to each other.

A lot of early memories are too sketchy to record, but I recall vividly the night I met Vicki's children. When I arrived at her apartment, she went into their bedroom to retrieve them. I can still see, in my mind's eye, Vicki surrounded by her four beautiful children. They looked like a giant amorphous creature - five heads, ten arms (eight of them holding their mother very tightly) and ten feet taking tiny steps toward me. As this mass of humanity untangled, I was introduced to John, Laura, Carey and Melisa (they will henceforth be referred to as the kids), none of whom looked like any of the others. In later years, it was fun to show their picture to people have them guess which ones were twins. You can play the game,too! Click here to see the kids "all growed up". Could you pick out the twins? See answer at end of post.

Many people have asked, then and since, how I could have taken on such a large responsibility. I honestly never thought about it in those terms. I've had regrets in my life, but this wasn't one of them. At the same time, I must acknowledge the support of their father David, step-mother Kitty, and all the grandparents. Every one involved always made me feel welcome (Nan, do you still make those wonderful coconut cakes? hint, hint!)

Life was pretty hectic at times. There were sporting events to attend, participate in, and coach. Vicki got her Masters degree (mostly at night) while holding down a job and parenting. I logged about a million miles of chauffeuring, and became coach of a girl softball team for seven years. My co-coach Bill and I took full advantage of the rule which allowed coaches to pick all their own children first when team rosters were drafted. Several years our kids made up half of our roster, and they were all good players. The other coaches hated us.

Swimming was also a major activity in our lives. We were all involved in one way or another, even a landlubber like me (I tried avoid the water). Vicki and I were timers, ribbon dispensers, record keepers, and other roles too numerous to mention.

Another important aspect of our lives in those days was the activities of the Fairfax Unitarian Church. We especially enjoyed the concept of "extended family". Each family was composed of around 30 - 40 men, women and children, ranging from babies to grandparents. We had lots of social activities, including a week at the beach each summer. Each extended family rented their own beach house(s), divided up the cooking, housekeeping and laundry work. As I recall, these trips were pretty peaceful (except for a couple murders resulting from dish washing disputes).

As the kids grew older, Vicki and I seemed to grow apart. We tried the usual things: counseling, separations, reconciliations, etc. I'm not sure either of us could explain, with any degree of certainty, why our marriage failed. On the other hand, Vicki is a smart person, and perhaps she has figured it out during a few spare moments in the last 20 or so years. So, Vicki, on the off chance you are reading this and wish to say a few words to our vast listening audience, feel free to use the comments feature at the bottom of this post.

Note: It's very important that I acknowledge the support for my son Claude exhibited by Vicki and the kids. This was always true no matter what the state of our marriage. I'd like to think I provided similar help for John, Laura, Carey and Melisa. I love you all.

Note2: A later post will fill some of the gaps in this one. Space limitations often prohibit the full exposure a topic deserves (this one could use a lot more), but I'm 75 and have PD, remember?

Answer to the photo quiz, above: top row - John and Carey; bottom row - Laura and Melisa. The twins are .... Carey and Melisa!!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Night to Remember (ugh!)

Nancy and I decided to see the musical, 'Meet John Doe", at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D. C. to celebrate the mid-point of Nancy's Spring Break. The tickets were purchased on a beautiful spring day during Cherry Blossom Festival time. Unfortunately, as the day to see the musical approached, so did a frigid mass of cold air from Canada.

Undaunted by this news, and lacking even a modicum of common sense, I chose fashion over warmth in my attire for the evening. It was as if, by the power of will alone, I could force the weather to be nice because I so much wanted it to be. As usual, there was a price to pay for such stupidity. Another curious notion I hold is that I can look at a map and instantly commit it to memory. The fallacy of this notion was exposed when I parked the car and started walking toward the theater in a direction off by precisely 180 degrees.

Well, let's summarize the situation. We are cold. We are lost. We are racing the clock. One of us has Parkinson's Disease and shouldn't be outside freezing in the middle of the night. Nancy, correctly sensing that I would die before asking for directions, got them from a stranger and we resumed our quest. We arrived at exactly 8 O'Clock Unfortunately, the play had started at 7:30.

This news was delivered by a woman in the box office in a tone usually reserved for addressing those of extremely low intelligence. I wanted very much to smack her. Instead, I grabbed our tickets and entered the theater. We rushed up the circular staircase to the balcony area (Puff, puff!). Oh, look! The show had indeed started and looked like fun.

Unfortunately, it was very dark and there was no usher to show us to our seats. I studied the ticket stubs by the light of a small lamp at the back of the theater and decided to go for broke. I started very slowly down the pitch dark aisle toward the front of the balcony. This is exactly the kind of dangerous situation that we of the Parkinson persuasion are told to avoid like the plague. Miraculously, arms appeared from the darkness to lend support (who says there's no God?). We finally reached our seats, noting that they would have been great except for the post which stood between us and the stage. But by leaning away from each other, we were each able to see one half of the stage.

For some reason, I was finding it difficult to get in the mood. Not only was I exhausted, it was time for my medications. Using the Braille system, I managed to find the appropriate pills in my pill box and swallowed them. During the intermission, I realized I would be unable to make it through the entire play without a trip to the men's room. My heart sank as I remembered it was on the first floor. As I looked down that quaint little circular staircase, it appeared to be about the same height as the Grand Canyon. I looked at Nancy and said, desperately, "Please let me go home".

We found our car and started home. I began to have visions of climbing into my nice warm bed and sleeping forever (or until time for my next pill, whichever came first). Unfortunately, some local traffic official had decided it would be a great time to close the portion of roadway which I normally use to cross the Potomac river into Virginia. The detour provided was confusing to me and most of the other drivers trying to get to Virginia. We all ended up following each other in circles until we finally got back on track. When we finally got home, I thought to myself, "the guy who first said, "Home, Sweet Home" really knew what he was talking about. Indeed, I have vowed never to leave home again (except maybe to see the part of the play we missed).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

KING TUT - Up Close and Personal

Our intrepid travelers were last seen straggling back from the White House Tour (see last post). As you may recall, the tour was fantastic but very tiring, especially for a certain 75 year old who shall remain nameless to protect the infirmed.

Never ones to let moss grow under our feet, we decided to visit Philadelphia the following day; the better to see Tutankhamun, otherwise known as King Tut. The Texas contingent of our group decided to skip the exhibit when they learned that King Tut was dead. Instead, they planned to spend a full day sight seeing in the historical area.

But first we had to get there. We began hearing ominous news of an impending snow storm, but since we had spent a king's ransom on tickets, we decided to try, anyway. The usual three hour trip took almost eight hours. The aforementioned 75 year old, an obstinate control freak, insisted on being the designated driver, and refused all appeals to turn back. As the snow continued to fall and driving conditions worsened, he appeared to spent most of his time looking for "potty break" opportunities.

Our plan was to have dinner with Claude's family in Philadelphia. We were a little embarrassed when we missed our arrival time by 3 hours and even more embarrassed when we learned that 10-15 of Monica's relatives were among those waiting for us to arrive. Mindful that we still had to reach our downtown hotel, we finished dinner, said our goodbyes and departed. The stress of driving through the snow, combined with the weariness engendered by the White House tour a day earlier, left me exhausted. We finally made it to the hotel, registered, and fell into bed, wondering if we would be able to climb out again the next morning.

As the new day dawned, our spirits brightened. Nancy, Asher and I took a taxi to the Franklin Museum to check out King Tut while Bob, Sue and Luke did their own thing. The museum steps were very interesting (only the front of the steps were painted, revealing King Tut's image there). I then made what can only be described as a brilliant move; I asked for, and received, a motorized wheelchair. The combination of riding instead of walking and standing around, and Asher's skillful navigating saved the day. I was especially impressed with his assured and confident manner as he maneuvered the wheelchair from one great vantage point to the next. I saw all the exhibits, up close and personal. Later, we had lunch and spent more time in the museum

Thrilled to have accomplished our goals without a heart attack or a stroke, I again sought the comfort and security of the hotel bed for a nice long nap. I left orders to be notified when food was available. We had dinner in a fine tavern and retired for the evening.

The next morning featured breakfast in bed, ordered by that quintessential gourmet, Asher Thomson-Jones. I don't remember him picking up the tab, but I'm sure he did. We spent a little more time with Bob, Sue and Luke before they left for the Airport. Nancy, Asher and I had a much easier trip home than expected. All in all, a very pleasant ending to an memorable week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The White House is "our house."

My brother Bob, his wife Sue, and grandson Luke are visiting us from Texas. As part of their trip, Bob had arranged for my wife Nancy, grandson Asher and me to join them for a tour of the White House. I had little in the way of expectations, except a vague feeling of apprehension. Truth be told, I expected to be herded, along with 20 or 30 other people, through a few nondescript rooms, and shown the door. The reality was quite different.

The day had started with me depositing Bob, Sue and Luke to the local Metro Station where they were wisped away for a day of sightseeing in our nation's capital. Nancy, a 6th grade teacher, continued her relentless attack on ignorance in the public schools. I remained at home, hoping to justify my self proclaimed title of trip coordinator. Surprisingly, I managed to get myself, Nancy and Asher to the parking lot of the agreed upon meeting place (ESPN Zone), without a single accident. We turned out attention to the tour.

Mindful of my condition (75 year old PWP -Person with Parkinson's), we took a taxi to the NW gate of the White House. Not so fast, Tourist. I should have said we told the driver to take us to the NW gate. We soon discovered he had dropped us off at the opposite side of the White House, instead. We walked, and walked and walked. I began wishing I was somewhere else. Eventually, we found the proper gate, met our guide and entered the White House Grounds. Although very happy to have made it, I noticed that my backside was dragging.

Thus began one of the most wonderful and, at the same time, draining experiences of my life. Our group consisted of the tour guide and the 6 of us. He was extremely knowledgeable with respect to the White House and the Presidents, as well. He was very personable and made us feel right at home. Indeed, we were constantly telling our two grandsons not to touch anything, and he simply reminded us that this was "our house". And despite the current environment of heightened cynicism and sarcasm, we found ourselves actually believing it.

My only regret was centered around the limitations imposed on me by Parkinson's, and to a lesser extent, my age. Although I wouldn't have missed the tour for the world, the walking and standing required made the tour extremely difficult. I should have brought or rented a wheel chair, and will do so when taking other tours. Another low point was when the batteries in my camera died and I hadn't remembered to bring spares. I like to think that wouldn't have happened a few short years ago. But all things considered, and after a day of rest, I'm ready for my next challenge. Tomorrow we go to Philadelphia to see the King Tut Exhibit at the Franklin Museum.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Parkinson's support group

The only good thing about having PD is that it allows me to belong to the Upper Montgomery County Parkinson's Disease Support Group and attend their meetings. The group, which meets each Wednesday, is led by, facilitated by, and sometimes even pampered by Donna Dorros. If it ever became necessary, I'm sure she could even do a little badgering, as well. More about Donna, later.

The meetings are held at a local church, start at 10:30AM and end around noon. The first 45 minutes are dedicated to exercises selected by Gerri Carpenter, a fitness trainer, with an emphasis toward the needs of Parkinson patients. Unfortunately, I can't take advantage of these excellent sessions, usually offering some lame excuse about lower back pains. Truth be told, many of the exercises do exacerbate the injuries I've sustained over a lifetime of alternately playing sports and imitating a sloth. Instead, I ride my stationary bike for 30 minutes every other day (to keep the heart doctor away). Of course, water exercise would be perfect for me, except I hate getting wet, other than an occasional shower. But, I digress ....

The last 45 minutes are spent on discussion. Donna brings articles of interest gleaned from the internet, newspapers, magazines or journals and shares them with with the group. The last portion of each meeting provides an opportunity for questions, answers and sharing of concerns.

Attendance varies week to week, depending on the weather, holidays, vacations, illnesses, and occasionally, the phase of the moon. Average attendance is perhaps 15, a mixture of Parkinson patients and Care-givers. I seldom miss a meeting, others rarely show up. And that's OK! The group also has a wide spectrum in terms of severity of the disease and symptoms exhibited.

Donna and her late husband Sidney started the group and she has continued it since his death (from PD). Their experiences with respect to this disease would fill a blog or two. Suffice to say, her experience, knowledge and empathy make her a most valuable asset for the group. Some of us believe she is at least as knowledgeable about PD medications as most General Practitioners. Donna has a sympathetic ear, a database-like brain, a ready smile, a shoulder to the wheel, and her nose to the grindstone (now there's a weird mental image). There's a rumor going around that she is an angel in disguise. We all appreciate her very much.

Note to support group members: I want to thank you for making me feel welcome. I've especially enjoyed meeting Frank, Virginia, Lester, Rae, Lucy, Ronnie, Margaret, and of course, Donna. I look forward to future meetings and, ultimately, to the day when we become part of the final eradication of our common enemy, Parkinson's Disease.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Friend, Sylvan.

Sylvan was the last in a series of cats who have owned me during my lifetime. When he died, a decade or so ago, at the grand old age of nineteen, I didn't have the heart to look for another cat who'd have me. It simply became too hard to keep saying, "Goodbye, old friend!" Of course, it's entirely possible that I might have preceded the new cat into the great unknown, but let's not dwell on that.

Sylvan, as you can see in this photo, is dead serious with respect to his duties as watchcat.

This story first appeared in the Montgomery Journal, Rockville, Md., and later on the Trumbull and Core radio show, WMAL-TV, Washington, D.C.

Note to readers: I realize most of you will be unable to read the small print. If you click on the picture, it's likely you'll be rewarded with print that is readable to the naked eye. If this doesn't work for you, let me know (leave a comment or email me). Otherwise, enjoy!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Radio Daze and Knights - T&C and Me.

To be honest, I'm just sitting here wondering how I can justify the use of this title, clever as it might be, without having a clue as to what it means. If I figure it out, I'll let you know. Until then .....

Gather around, boys and girls, and I'll tell you a story. Once upon a time, in the last half of the 20th century, there was a radio program called The Trumbull and Core Show (T&C). It graced the airways of WNAL-AM in the Washington, D. C. area for more than 20 years. I began listening to Bill and Chris in the early 1980's. If memory serves, their format then was "Weather, News and Music", but they seemed to be encouraging greater listener participation.

I became a small cog in this juggernaut when I submitted a few short "bits", on the off chance that Bill and Chris could be duped into using the material on their show. I reasoned that my prodigious output as a Letter to the Editor writer (see earlier posts) would serve me well in this new venture. At least, it showed that I could produce quantity, and occasionally, on a good day, quality. Besides, I felt I was at least as funny as some of the people who were already getting on the show. So, during the 1980's and 1990's, I submitted hundreds of bits to T&C. They didn't use everything I sent; I suppose they thought they needed a little time for their own material. This is the first of a disturbing number of instances where they exhibited a real selfish streak.

On the other hand, they seemed to be giving away an enormous amount of free tickets to movies, plays, concerts, and meals at local eateries. I was incredibly successful at reaching T&C quickly when they'd say, for example, "The next five callers will receive two free meals from Red Lobster." In fact, it wasn't long before I became known as "David from Gaithersburg" because of this uncanny knack. So, between sending them bits and winning prizes, I spent an awful lot of time communicating with Bill and Chris. Indeed, Chris seemed to feel I sometimes called just for the hell of it.

Suffice to say this is the first in a series of posts describing my adventures in T&C-land. In addition to excerpts from "The Best of Trumbull and Core and Siltman" album, I'll tell you about the "Gross National Parade", Trumbull and Core University" and other highlights from this very special time in our nation's history.

Your faithful blogger will attempt to bring audio clips into future posts on this and other topics. In other words, if I can generate the required brainpower to incorporate sound into my blog , we'll have sound. Take it from me, the bits are much more enjoyable with Chris and Bill reading them.

Oh, yes! The title. Well, the post is about radio, the show was presented by two wild and crazy guys on weekdaze and T&C were like the Knights of the round table, except their desks were rectangular. OK! If you think of anything better, leave a comment or get your own blog.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mr. Stiltman scores again

More often than one might think, my last name gets mangled when people try to pronounce or spell it. It's amazing how many variations I've encountered for a basically simple name, i.e., Silt - man. Once a guy looked at my name and spelled it out, "S i l t m a n - Stiltman, right?"

It's especially disheartening to get an article published, only to have it ruined because my name was misspelled. Some decades ago I mentioned this problem to an acquaintance who was an editor for the Washington Star and handled the letters they received. He suggested I write a piece about my propensity for writing letters to the editor because he had an idea for an inside joke.

My copy of the letter published in the Washington Star is so old that it is almost illegible (see link). I will reproduce it here and reveal the inside joke at the end. I have left out perhaps 25% of the letter for the sake of brevity and to minimize boredom.

Mr. Stiltman scores again.

At last count, over a hundred of my letters to the editor have been published in the communities in which I've lived. This seems a good time to reflect on some of the highlights of this unusual (some might say dubious) achievement, and perhaps even to ponder why a person would pursue such an endeavor.
There was, at least initially, a lot of righteous indignation, coupled with a conspicuous lack of courage. My first published letter, for example, appeared in the El Paso Times in the early 1950's above a pseudonym. While living in Montgomery, Alabama in the late 1950's, I finally mustered the nerve to use my own name.
Years later, in the Washington, D.C. area, the element of apprehension (which nut is going to call me this time?) was largely replaced by other feelings. As each letter appeared in print, I experienced a kind of instant ego-gratification (there's bit of a kick in seeing one's letter next to, say, Henry Kissinger's) as well as a feeling of participation in the political and social issues of the day.
There was even an occasional congratulatory call. Ironically, this often tended to make me drop my guard and get badly zinged. A case in point was the fellow who began, "It's wonderful we live in a country where everyone is free to express their opinions..." But he added, "No matter how perverted." It took a while to recover from that one.
In those days,I attempted to make my point, not in a deadly serious way, but with humor (although I sometimes slipped, none to subtly, into sarcasm). Being somewhat enamored of the better political cartoonists, I suppose I saw myself doing for the Letters to the Editor column what those guys were doing with their cartoons. My intent was, I'm sure, to slay the dragons of intolerance and ignorance, not with the heavy sword of preachments, but rather with the sharp rapier of humor and wit.
Shedding the more extravagant of my illusions of grandeur, I then introduced new wrinkles into what had become a hobby or diversion as much as anything else. For example, I had the same letter published in two and then three papers on the same day. Near the end of this orgy of self-indulgence, two of my letters appeared in the same paper on the same day.
Looking back, I feel I was motivated by several things: idealism, vanity, anger and perhaps just a desire to communicate. At least I'd like to think I've risen above the childish motive of simply wanting to get my name into print.
By the way, if you print this, be sure to spell my name correctly.

David Siltman

Note to reader: I find it amusing to look at the last sentence and then back at the headline. Even funnier is that the editor took pains to insure that the misspelling actually made the final version. Unfortunately,someone kept trying to correct it, but they finally got it wrong.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Marriage # 1: the Texan and the New Yorker

While in the army, I attended an eight week course in Fort Slocum, N.Y. My army buddy Howie, native New Yorker and lawyer in real life, took leave to coincide with my arrival in the Big Apple. He and his wife invited me to stay with them and gave me a tour of the city shorty before I reported for duty. For one born and raised in a small town, this was heady stuff, indeed.

Since the course only met on weekdays, I vowed to spend the rest of my time in the City. This was made possible by the Times Square USO, which provided inexpensive hotel rooms and free entertainment to servicemen. Ever the sophisticate, my first Friday night's choice was a movie.

The next day I was back at the USO hoping to land another free movie. This time, however, a young lady volunteer named Claudette responded to my request by asking if I liked plays. Since I had never even seen a play, I muttered, "Oh, they're OK." or something equally dumb. She persuaded me to see my first Broadway Musical, gratis. I was mightily impressed and decided this was how I was going spend the rest of my time in NYC.

The next weekend I was back at the USO, hoping to enjoy another play and perhaps another chat with Claudette. Well, she was there and had a plan. If I was agreeable, she would slip me an extra ticket. I would hang around until she could leave, we'd grab a bite to eat, and see a play. I remember thinking, "These New Yorkers really know how to get things done!"

The next day we did the "get two tickets, grab a bite and see a play" thing again. This time I added a new wrinkle. I asked where she lived. New Jersey, she replied. Mr. Cool offhandedly inquired, "How far is New Jersey from here?" She replied, "Oh, about 12 minutes on the bus." I could hardly contain my glee at learning I would not have to spend hours taking her home, in case we ever had a real date. So we did the "get two tickets, grab a bite and see a play" thing, with the "Then I'll take you home" thing thrown in for good measure.

Weekend followed weekend as I racked up ten (yes, 10) Broadway plays in eight weeks. I also met Claudette's folks. I remember they were amazed at how much milk I could put away at one setting. I, in turn, was fascinated by the way they enhanced their communication by varying the volume of their voices and using their hands for emphasis.

By the time I returned to Texas, we were planning a future together. Claudette and her mom flew down to meet my folks. This was a bit of culture shock for all concerned. As you may have guessed, this small town was not exactly a hotbed of modern ideas and current fashion. So when Claudette appeared in town one day wearing short shorts, it caused a minor uproar (did I mention the shorts were short?) But overall, the trip went well and included a drive to a Florida beach. I remember thinking that our little group represented quite a diversity of mores and manners. The highlight of the trip was the marriage proposal and the presentation of the ring which my old army buddy Bill had helped me pick it out at the PX.

Our wedding was scheduled for the following February, a few weeks after my scheduled discharge. Unfortunately, I ended up in the hospital with an ailment (never diagnosed) and the wedding was postponed. Howie the lawyer not only sprung me from the hospital and the army, he was my Best Man. The honeymoon, if memory serves, consisted of a seeing a few plays and looking for a job (Claudette already had one).

We ended up with jobs we weren't thrilled with, so when a position involving a series of moves around the country presented itself, we were ready to go. I remember telling Claudette I'd be working with computers. "What's that?" she asked. "I think they're some kinda big, smart, fast adding machines," I opined.

It was a fun job in many ways. Although we were transferred every year or so, we always had friends because we moved as a team. We lived in Massachusetts, New Jersey (Claude was born there), Michigan and Alabama. But this lifestyle got old and I ended up with IBM in the Virginia suburbs. Claudette began a career in retailing, and managed a number of shops in the Washington area.

But somehow, someway, our marriage developed serious problems. It's hard to pinpoint what went wrong; unmet expectations, growing apart, who knows? The last few years were especially rough, leaving scars on us all. We tried hard, and we probably broke the record for reconciliation attempts. But although no one should end a marriage frivolously, it's imperative to know when to fold. We started strong but couldn't finish. We came close, but no cigar.

PD: Coming to grips with my condition

This is an update to my 12/10/06 post. Unable to get a recommendation from my doctors for the chronic pain in my lower back and right knee, I did the following: Since at least part of the problem is non-parkinsonian, I made an appointment for an MRI of my back and XRAYs of my knee. The MRI should enable the surgeon to determine if surgery would likely improve the situation. The Xrays will provide the same information concerning my knee. The rotator cuffs remain in limbo, awaiting their turn. I feel at ease with this plan, so we'll shuffle the cards and see what falls out (a rather poor analogy, under the circumstances).

My current PD medications are working as well as could be expected. The theory is that if I take the proper amount of Sinemet (augmented by Comtan) at more or less equal intervals during the day, the effects (more dopamine produced) should last until the next dose. Otherwise, a period of OFF time occurs until the next dose takes effect.The good time before and after OFF periods is called ON time.

Early on, I asked my doctor if he thought I experienced OFF times. He replied, "If you have to ask, you probably haven't experienced it." Like most aspects of PD, people experience OFF time in different ways. I usually feel anxious, a little confused and begin sweating (even stranger, I often get a chill, as well). This is an excellent hint from my body to my brain that I need more medication. I don't know about you, but all this OFF and ON stuff is making me feel like a light switch. Suffice to say, if I take each and every one of my 16 daily PD pills at the exact times specified, my condition should remain fairly stable. If this sounds a little grim, well, everything is relative.

Surprisingly,I now appreciate life as much or more than ever. As I told Nancy today, "I can endure a lot during the day if I'm getting a reasonable amount of sleep at night. For example, for a week or so, I've slept very well, getting 8 or more hours a night. I can't tell you how wonderful that is. But I try not to get too optimistic, especially when I notice that I'm writing this at approximately 3AM.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Velasco, Texas - My Home Town

When I arrived on the scene, July 30, 1931, the population of Velasco, Texas stood at 499. I made it an even 500. OK, that's probably not true in terms of verifiable fact. On the other hand, I've found that a slavish adherence to absolute truth has ruined many a good story.
Indeed, much of this account will rely on the memory of a 75 year old who often has trouble remembering what happened yesterday. So, cut me (and yourself) a little slack. I'll try to stay in the same ballpark as The Truth, and you enjoy yourself. If the spirit moves you, leave a comment. On the off chance someone reads this who has actually lived in, or even heard of, Velasco, I'd especially like to hear from you (and yes, I do tend to use a lot of commas and parenthesis).

As it turns out, Velasco was founded in 1831 on the Texas Gulf Coast, some 35 miles southwest of Galveston. click on map. In 1836, it became the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas. WOW! The Treaty of Velasco was signed there the same year, with General Santa Anna representing Mexico. Rumor has it the Texans got the best of that deal. At this point, pause, take a deep breath, and plow ahead for even more thrills.

During the next half century, Velasco's fortunes rose and fell. The Hurricane of 1875 destroyed most of the town. Indeed, by 1884, there was only a general store and a boat builder's shop left; its residents numbered only fifty. But by 1892, it had 136 business establishments and 137 residences, an electric light plant and a planing mill. By the end of the century, it had added a deep water port, railway service, schools, a bank, several churches, and two weekly newspapers. The population had risen to 3000. Go, Velascans? Velascoites? Velastonians!

At this point, stuff really started hitting hitting the fan. The 1900 hurricane destroyed the town. But Velasco slowly rebuilt itself and experienced economic peaks and valleys during the next four decades. Its population had grown to 5000 by 1950 and it was incorporated into that thriving metropolis Freeport in 1957. By that time I had finished college and my military obligation. No one consulted me about the incorporation, and I'm not sure how I would have voted if they had.

Last night as I was finishing this post, I googled a map of the part of Freeport which used to be Velasco. Although the satellite pictures were impressive, I was unable to positively identify the house I grew up in. A real downer! Especially since it was still there several years ago when I attended my 50th high school graduation celebration. Perhaps it is smaller than I remember or my eyes weaker than I will admit. In any event, I have this almost irresistible urge to go back one last time and walk the streets of my old home town. Hopefully, I won't have graduated to a wheelchair by that time.

Coming soon: My Home Town, Part 2 (growing up there)