Monday, October 11, 2021

Caregiver Update


Bill with his hospice nurse last week

Regular followers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I haven't been posting on a regular basis. 

I've been blogging since 2005, right before we moved to Delaware. 

For long stretches I've blogged almost daily, sometimes even twice a day. 

These days, since I assumed full-time caregiving for Bill in February of this year, my blogging pattern hasn't been the same, to say the least. 

I've felt guilty about it, because I feel a responsibility to keep my regular blog followers up to date with my sometimes chaotic life. 

Why should I feel guilty? 

That's the way I was brought up folks. To feel guilt for anything that veers from the expected pattern of what others expect of my life. 

Granted I've come a long way from those days (Day One to late teens) feeling guilt just for existing and taking up space on this earth. This the result of a constant barrage of verbal and metal abuse by my father who didn't want children. 

He was a very selfish man. It wasn't until I left home at age eighteen and joined the Army that I began to experience a different view of the world and myself. That I actually had value as a human being and I didn't have to feel guilt for taking up space on this earth. 

Then I met Bill and for the past fifty-seven years he has been my biggest support in life. I have been one of the lucky human beings in having this loving and lasting relationship. Big movie star sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe haven't been as lucky as I have and continue to be. 

At this time of my life my waking hours and sometimes my resting hours are consumed with caregiving for Bill, my loving relationship of the past fifty-seven years. 

I do not regret that responsibility and am thankful that I have the opportunity to take care of my love at this time of his life. However, it is exhausting and does take up my life now. I am literally on call 24/7, ready for the latest emergency.

Bill is fading. He is getting weaker every day. His cognitive abilities are worsening. He is wearing Depends full-time now. This after a very messy accident last week.  Yes, Bill is now completing the full cycle of his life, starting out with diapers and ending his life in a diaper. He has accepted that fact, after initially resisting but after several "explosions" and then cleanup by me, he has acquiesced. He has also acquiesced into letting me have a respite from caregiving.

The hospice center can take him for a week every three months (ninety days) under their caregiver respite protocol. Initially Bill was totally against anyone but me taking care of him. Now he realizes that perhaps I can use a break. And I can folks. I am exhausted. 

I don't know when I'll take advantage of this "respite care" break but it's good to know that I have that option. I may never use it but I get some relief knowing that I could.

Every morning, when I treat Bill's edema on his lower legs, Bill tells me he tired of living. I can understand how he feels. He can't see, he's weak and getting weaker. He can't read. He can't do his projects. But he says he doesn't want to leave me. 

We're caught in a quandary folks. Sure, I know I'm to the first caregiver to be in this position. And my position could be a lot worse and for that I am thankful it is not. I keep reminding myself Bill knows who I am and he's not in pain. He can move around albeit shaking and slow but he can move. 

With all this said folks, while I'm in this situation I won't be posting as much as I did before Bill's two stroke in January. 

I am Bill's full-time caregiver now. I am a nurse/companion/live in EMT support.

With what time I do have off I have to engage in activities like playing online Scrabble, talking with my friends on Zoom and Facebook and reading to balance my life. 

For those of you who have been with me on this long journey since I began my blog in 2005, my    apologies.  Yes, I do still feel guilty.

Now I have some Scrabble games to update.

Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Happy Birthday Bill

 Today is Bill's 93rd birthday. He's surprised that he's reached this age. 

Bill continues to do well after having two strokes this past January. He's gradually getting weaker but still manages to walk without help, go to the bathroom by himself, and knows who I am and not in pain. 

We treasure each day we're together. 

The photo above was taken on our wedding day in July 2013 in Georgetown, Delaware. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Army Worm Update

 This morning our local twice weekly newspaper, the Cape Gazette, featured an article about the army worms that decimated our back yard. 

Yes, that's me pouring soapy water on a patch of my grass to bring out the army worms to show the reporter who wrote this article.

The army worms have finally stopped eating my lawn but the damage remains and probably will the rest of the year. There is a slight (very slight) green haze (if you look at it with the right angle of sunlight) where you can see the grass trying to make a comeback. It is my understanding that the cold weather of the fall will kill off any remaining army worms. However, my grass probably won't recover back to its former glory this season. Oh well, I'll look at the bright side, less lawn mowing for me. Not really though, I do like to mow the lawn. So relaxing.

During my morning walk this morning through our development I see where the army worms have chomped through one of my neighbor's front lawns. These army worms are very selective, just chooses certain lawns to lay waste. 

One of my neighbor's lawn laid to waste this morning by the marching army works. Total destruction.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Army Worm Lawn Treatment

Late today my lawn service company came over today to treat our backyard for the army worm infestation. 

The owner of the lawn service company came with his employee (the employee speaks very little English) to check out the damage. He said they're still trying to "figure out" how to deal with this latest parasitic invasion. He said the Army worms are acting differently on different lawns, sometimes stopping at the border line between neighboring lawns. He said the worm appears to like wire (Bermuda) grass. Hey now, that worm can eat ALL OF MY WIRE GRASS that I've been trying to get rid of for years. Wire grass, also known as "rope grass" is very invasive and takes over a lawn. I've tried, unsuccessfully, over the past years to get rid of my wire grass only to see it come back like Jason in "Halloween." 

I told the owner of my lawn service company to do whatever possible to rid with parasite from my lawn. I used to have such a beautiful lawn which was a wonderful source of serenity for me at this time of my life which I'm home all the time as full-time caregiver of Bill. To have my lawn die almost over night (less than a week my lawn went from a lush green to a desolate brown), only adds to my sense of despair and isolation. But as Pat always reminds me "This is only a first world problem" and indeed it is. At least I wasn't one of those poor Afghan souls seeking to escape their country from brutal religious extremists who only goal seems to be brutal to anyone who doesn't subscribe to their interpretation of religion. 

Hopefully after this application my beautiful lawn will return to it's proper place in my little corner of the world here in southern Delaware.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Army Worm Infestation

Here's proof, I have an Army worm infestation. 

I'm sick about it. It gives me little solace that others here in southern Delaware are victims of this parasitic infestation.

I called my lawn service company this morning to request a treatment. 

These worms in my backyard are not long for this earth. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Lawn Fungus Infection August 2021

Here at Casa Tipton-Kelly we have a disaster this summer. All the money I spend in lawn care went down the drain with the continuous, excessive heat and humidity. Basically the grass in my whole backyard is dead, succumbing to a fungus attack caused by the excessive heat and humidity of this summer. Right now the temperature here is 92 degrees and with the humidity the heat index is 108 degrees. And I said I would never move to Palm Springs California full-time because of the heat? What about southern coastal Delaware which is where we live now?

Now of course my situation is small potatoes (one of Pat's phrases) in the big picture of what is going on in the whole world today. If it were not for the luck of my birth, I could of have been one of those Afghans at the Kabul airport attempting to flee their country that were victims of a suicide bomber yesterday. I always have to temper my situation with "it could have been worse" situation.

What am I going to do about my lawn? I could do what my brother John did (he lives in Greenville, South Carolina). He cemented over most of his backyard and made it a parking lot for his church functions when he has company. No more Slave To The Lawn for John.

This is what I'm going to do, I'll sign up for the special fungus prevention program ($335 for three applications) and see if that gives me a nice green lawn. Already I'm spending over $1,000 a year for weed control and fertilization.  Those of you who are good at math know that I'm getting up to $2,000 a year now for lawn care. I spend NOTHING for lawn care when we lived on our almost seven acres of land in Pennsylvania. Yes, we mowed the weeds but the lawn was always green. Weeds are hardy that way. If this fungus control program doesn't work, I may just go back to a weed lawn. There are other neighbors here in our neighborhood who don't get lawn treatment like I do.  Right now their lawns are nice and green. Not this stinky, straw smelling, fungus infected lawn that is afflicting me now. 

One thing when I moved into this neighborhood and I saw the difference between those who had "nice" lawns and the "others." I didn't want to be "one of those others." I wanted a nice lawn. I'm telling you folks, it's hard work and expensive. I may not have a choice though. If Bill passes before I do, there won't be enough household income to support such a luxurious treatment of our/my lawn. 

Challenges folks, challenges.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Ron Medical Update

Today was the day for my health checkups.

This morning I had an appointment with my cardiologist. This is an annual appointment that I began ten years ago.  What prompted the first appointment (checkup) was the indication I had an extra heartbeat. I'm on medication for that condition. Once a year my cardiologist checks me. I'm stable. Good news!

This afternoon I had my annual appointment with my urologist. Just a coincidence that I had both appointments the same day but just as well. Get them both out of the way. As regular readers of this blog know I'm a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late summer of 2013, right after I met Pat. He thought "Here I met Ron and he's going to die!" Well, I didn't die (obviously) but I did have surgery for my prostate cancer. Seed implants. So far they seem to be working. My PSA score is creeping up albeit slowly. This year it is .6. Last year it was .5. And the year before it was .4. As my urologist says "That cancer is looking for a place to land. Fortunately for you it's going slowly." That was the same year I had a series of kidney stone attacks which resulted in several surgeries. So far my kidney stones haven't returned. Maybe it's because I drink a LOT of water now. A LOT.

One of my biggest fears is that I will die before Bill. He's stable now but slowly fading. I see it every day.

I ended the day with good news. My John Deere Zero Degree Riding Mower conked out on my the other day. I've been trying to get in touch with my repair guy. He's so busy like all good service people, that he was having problems getting back to me. He was supposed to be here yesterday to look at my mower but he said he got "hung up" on another job. I understand that but I did lose my afternoon nap yesterday which throws me back at the end of the day. I wind down like an old wind up clock if I don't have my two hour afternoon nap. Well, the good news is today he showed up on time and checked out my tractor. Turns out all I need is a new battery. I asked him to haul it away and do annual maintenance on the tractor now. Of course that leaves me with our almost one acre of "football field" lawn/backyard to mow.  I called Jose Sierra, our local Mexican landscaper. He'll be over tomorrow to do the job for only fifty dollars! That's a good price. Of course I couldn't afford to have him mow our lawn all summer and besides I like to mow our lawn myself. I find it relaxing. As long as I'm riding the mower and not pushing it.

I've been upset lately with the developments in Afghanistan. We're leaving all those Afghans who helped us. I am very disappointed in my summer neighbor and president, Joe Biden. He better get on the ball and have a Berlin Airlift type moment and get all those Afghans who helped us out of the way the murderous Taliban.

I know I just went way off subject here in this blog posting, something which I try to avoid doing as a good blog posting protocol but I had to get that off my chest. 

A good day here folks, a good day.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Update On Bill


Bill with his hospice nurse this afternoon

This afternoon we had a visit from a representative from Delaware Hospice. She certified Bill continuance in the home hospice care program Bill has been in Since February. 

Bill has been in home hospice for over six months now. His blood pressure is consistently below what he recommended. When he was on home health care, his low blood pressure always triggered the home health care weekly visitors to advise him to go to the emergency room. We did that once and it solved nothing other than exhaust us from waiting around the emergency room all day and increasing both of our blood pressures. We couldn't continue that routine that's why we opted for home hospice care instead of home health care.

The goal of home health care is to keep the patient alive. The goal of home hospice care is to keep the patient comfortable.

This is what I explained to Bill again yesterday as we returned from our biweekly trip to BJ's Wholesale Club (always a big "event" for both of us here in Lower Slower Delaware). I pointed out the vehicles that were passing us and told Bill "We're all going to die. Everyone in those cars is going to die. No one gets out of this life alive. Fortunately for you you're probably going to die in the comfort of your home." 

Bill and I often have this life and death conversation although he doesn't to have it. He says his biggest fear about dying is leaving me. I've told him over and over again that I'll be just fine. Actually I won't, at least for a while but eventually I'll manage. After you've lived with someone for fifty-seven years, then one dies, that is difficult. But of course I won't be the first person who experiences this loss. 

I try to comfort Bill by telling him that when he dies he will have earned a well deserved rest. I remind him that death is probably like when he went under anesthesia, he doesn't remember going under and doesn't remember that blankness. If there is an afterlife it will be like that scene in the Robin Williams movie where he dies and wakes up in a field of flowers and realizes he's in Heaven when he hears his long departed dog romping through the flowered meadow to him. Wouldn't that be wonderful if that's what happened if we die?  Of course none of us knows what happens but it's nice to think of that scenario. But that was just a movie.

Neither Bill or I believe in the conventional Christian scare stories about Heaven and Hell. That to us is just man made threats for those in power to keep others subjugated. It is not my intention to disrespect those who have conventional religious beliefs. I've always said that is your religious beliefs gives you comfort, I'm happy for you. My only problem with some religious people is that evangelism, seeking to convert others to their beliefs. What really offends me is when a friend tells me they're "concerned about my soul" and that's why they're trying to convert me to their religious beliefs. Their arrogance is breathtaking. I tell them in the nicest way possible "You take care of your own life and I'll take care of mine." I'm slipping into a religious discussion which I don't want to get into here so I'll get back on the main track of this posting.

Bill and I have settled into a routine here. He still needs help dressing, bathing, eating and taking his medications. His blindness is a big part of the problem. But he's not in pain and knows who I am. And that folks is how we are so fortunate. 

Saturday, August 07, 2021


 Here at Casa Tipton-Kelly, we live on not quite an acre lot (.98 acres). 

When we moved to our development which contains fifty-seven homes, I noticed immediately some lots had "nice grass" and some had, well, just weeds. I decided that we weren't going to have one of those lot that was "just weeds" cut short. Yes, I would pay for a lawn service to have that green carpet of grass. Yes, I would be a slave to my lawn.

And what an interesting journey it has been these past fifteen years since we took up residence. 

Bill seeded our lot with Kentucky fescue blue grass. That was a big job.  Bill did a lot of big jobs like that when he was in his prime. 

The first couple of years I employed a well know local lawn service company.  They were also the most expensive but they were good. The grass was so thick and green, our lawn mower would often jam up when mowing. 

Later on, to save money, I discontinued that lawn service company and hired another. One my neighbor was using. I noticed his grass was "just about as good" as mine and he was paying less than half of the $233 an application (five applications during the season) that I was paying. For the next thirteen years I used that company until I had a falling out with them over a disastrous wire grass removal application that almost ruined my whole lawn. I went back to my original lawn service company. Yes, I would be paying over thousand a year "just for the lawn" but having a nice green lawn is one of my few pleasures in life. It was worth it.

Then last month, when I was mowing our lawn I noticed huge swaths of brown patches. What happened to my nice green thick carpet of a lawn? My lawn service company told me it was "Brown Patch Disease". Oh wonderful. Below was the explanation he left on the back of the $233 invoice:

Today I noticed Brown Patch Disease, which is a disfiguring fungal disease. Disease an develop rapidly when daytime temperatures are warm (85 to 90 degrees F) and humid, nighttime temperatures are above 65 degrees F, and there is an extended period of left wetness. Thunderstorms, high relative humidity and poor air circulation are ideal conditions for brown patch Tass fescue, the preferred turf species used in Delmarva lawns is highly susceptible to brown patch and can be expected to develop the disease most summers. In many cases affected areas are able to recover but tall fester lawns less than a year old can be completely killed. In tall fescue lawns the disease appear as circular patches of brown and blighted leaves. During early morning hours a smoke ring of fungal mycelium may be seen on the outer edge of patches. In lawns mixed with tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, the disease is more diffuse and does not usually appear to discrete circular patches since Kentucky bluegrass if more resistant to this disease. To diagnose the disease it is best to inspect leaves for lesions. On close inspection you will find variously shipped, chocolate-brown lesions. Where the lesion meets green tissue there will be a brown band. We offer a preventive fungicide program to manage Brown Patch Disease.

Well, we certainly have had very hot and humid weather here on the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia; the peninsular we live on) this past summer. This summer perhaps the worst since we moved her in 2006. Our beautiful lawn looked terrible. Ah, I remember our "lawn" at our home in Pennsylvania in the middle of our wooded 6.875 acres on the side of a hill in Chester County, East Brandywine Township. No expensive lawn service, just au natural grass which looked just fine. But of course an "au natural" lawn won't do here in our fou fou development.  

The decision was easy.  As I looked on with envy at some of my neighbor's lawns during my morning walks who obviously have availed themselves of the fungicide treatment and those who haven't, I decided to take the plunge so to speak. I called my lawn service company to sign up for the treatment next year. I was gobsmacked when she told me the cost:

$335 for three applications

After a few minutes of weighing my options I signed up. So now I'll be paying almost $2,000 a year for my nice green lawn. I'm reminded of what my good friend Pat (who lives in a penthouse condo in a converted fou fou hotel in downtown Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) tells me whenever I whine about my lawn expense:

"What has your lawn ever done for you?"

Well, actually my lawn does a lot for me. To relax I often walk around our back yard, checking out the progress of the flowers and other fauna that I planted this year. Our backyard is my palette, always a work in progress. I just wish it didn't cost so much.

Note: The "boom boom" music that you hear in the short video I took of our backyard late yesterday afternoon was not added by me. That was in real time. Across the road (Route One, Coastal Highway) from our lot is Hudson Fields. They were doing a sound check for an outdoor concert today which is going on right now. Yes, the  "boom boom" is going on right now, vibrating the very foundation of our house here at Casa Tipton-Kelly. This is a subject for a future blog post. Little loud don't you think?

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Dame Edna In The Royal Box

Whenever I get a little down there are a few videos that I turn to to uplift my spirits. Here is one I recently discovered that never fails to cause me to smile so hard my face hurts. By the way, did you ever see Prince Charles smile so genuinely as he does here when he discovers that Dame Edna has entered his Royal Box?

Friday, July 30, 2021

Moment of Zen

A few seconds of Zen in our backyard this late afternoon. 

We're rolling through the dog days of summer here at our home in southern Delaware, also known as Casa Tipton-Kelly.

Bill is not the same person he was last year but he's here and we're together. 

We have our routine.

He's not in pain.

He knows who I am.

We value each day together. 

We know how fortunate we are to be together at this time of our lives. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

"It's Hot!"

Bill eating his hot oatmeal

 "It's hot!" That's what I say twice a day when I serve Bill his twice daily meal of oatmeal. 

Originally I said "It's hot!" to give him a warning that the bowl of oatmeal was micro wave oven hot. Bill began repeating "It's hot!" as I placed the bowl of hot oatmeal in his lap. I repeat "It's hot!" and Bill repeats "It's hot!" We both know this is a little bit of levity at this time of our life when we both know Bill is fading. 

Bill doesn't want to leave me. He's tired and wants to die but he doesn't want to leave me. It's a conundrum. 

I keep telling myself "He's not in pain and he knows who I am." And those two facts are so important at this time of our life, watching Bill slowly die. 

We're all going to die of course, but Bill is nearer to death now. 

Bill sleeps most of the day. Any activity exhausts him. 

His blood pressure is constantly low. 

He is losing weight.

His speech is almost unintelligible. 

His vision is almost totally gone. He only sees me as a shadow. 

Bill is still able to walk up the stairs from his basement bedroom and bathroom. However, it is getting harder and harder for him to climb those thirteen steps. He so loves his bedroom and privacy. 

Our hospice service says they will provide a hospital bed for him upstairs but Bill would rather stay in his basement bedroom. We will do that as long as he can climb those stairs. I'm not sure what I'll do if he can't climb those stairs anymore. Stay downstairs and never see the light of day again? I don't think so. I think that hospice supplied hospital bed might me in our future. 

We both agree that if he peacefully passes away in his sleep, that is the best solution.  

We all have to go sometime and yes, passing away peacefully in our sleep is the best exit. That's my wish for me. I would not want to go the way Bill is going now. Eyesight failing, profound hearing loss, (although his near hearing aids help), and exhaustion. 

Again and I can't repeat this enough, he knows who I am and is not in pain. That's what we'll go with now and for which I am so thankful.

Bill at one of his rare times of getting out of our car. Yesterday at Ace Hardware, but he was so exhausted me had to sop and rest on that grill.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Palm Springs February 12, 2020

One of my favorite places in the whole wide world is Palm Springs, California. 

I discovered Palm Springs by a casual suggestion from Pat's friend Nadege a few years ago when Pat and I were in West Hollywood for our annual wintertime California holiday. She knew Pat was interested in Mid Century Modernism design and told Pat that Palm Springs had an annual two week event celebrating that very Mid Century Modernism.

With that suggestion Pat and I took a one day flyer to Palm Springs out of our two week Los Angeles (West Hollywood) stay. That's all it took folks. 

As we entered Palm Springs through the highway lined with hundreds of solar powered windmills, we sensed we were entering some place very special. Thus began an annual tradition, one week in West Hollywood and one week in Palm Springs.

However, that still wasn't enough. For the last two years we've been spending TWO WEEKS in Palm Springs. And that folks, still isn't enough but for now it will have to do.

This video was taken just as COVID was beginning its deathly march across the United States and the world. Little did we know at this time we wouldn't  be back to Palm Springs in 2021. 

I'm hoping that we can return to Palm Springs in 2022. But that may not be possible either now that I am a full-time caregiver. Bill needs me for everything. Feeding, showering, dressing, pill taking, and monitoring that he doesn't fall. Everything. I cannot leave him at all. 

Looking at this video brings back fond memories of our last time in that paradise right here on earth that is called Palm Springs, California. 

I shall return (I hope).

Friday, July 09, 2021

Tornado Alert!


Last night we had yet another tornado watch here where we live in southern coastal Delaware. I'm losing count of these tornado watches. What? We live in Tornado Alley? 

The latest tornado watch was last night or early this morning from twelve midnight until 12:30 AM this morning. My iPhone was beeping with the warning "GO TO THE BASEMENT!"  Oh yes, I'm going to run down to the basement right now and cower in the corner amount those crates of things I have yet to unpack from our move from Pennsylvania fifteen years ago.  Yes, FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. 

A couple of years ago we did have a "tornado" or a water sprout whirlwind travel through out backyard that took out a two of the major branches of one of my favorite river birch trees. That tree is still trying to recover. 

After that water sprout left our back yard it took out my neighbor's apple tree and a portion of the next neighbor's PVC fence. A few feet closer and that force of nature would have ripped right through my bedroom. Lucked out that time. 

Washington state and Oregon are sweltering under previously unheard of triple degree temperatures. A town in Canada burned down from the extreme heat. Ninety degree heat seems to be the norm these days.

I managed to mow the grass this morning before the heat of high noon but my T-shirt was still soaked with my sweat just from riding around on our John Deere zero degree turn tractor. I hate peeling of a sweat soaked T-shirt to take a shower. But oh that shower feels so good. 

Right now I'm waiting for the late afternoon temperature to get below eighty degrees so I can rake up the dead grass. I like that exercise of raking up grass but not in that heat. 

Global warming folks, global warming. Not a hoax.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Thoughts On A Hot Summer Day


Here we are, sweltering in another summer heat wave. 

After doing some yard work this morning I couldn't take anymore. I had to come in before I passed out. I just can't work in this heat and humidity. 

I had to take a shower when I came in from the open oven door that is our outside now. 

Two days ago we almost had a medical emergency with Bill. He takes a walk or two every day.  He took his walk in the 92 degree heat and almost didn't make it back. I took his blood pressure when he came in the cool climes of our air conditioned love nest. His blood pressure was very low, very low. 88 over 50. Needless to say, no more walks on very hot and humid days.

These days, at the end of the day I'm exhausted. Bill is still working on his "projects" (he can't help himself). His latest is security our deck canopy against gusts of wind. This is very hard for Bill to do because of his eyesight. He just can't see. But he insists he's doing this "for me." I'm resigned to the fact that Bill will always have his projects until the day he dies. That's just him. In the evening when Bill goes to bed at dark, I have a few hours to myself. Only problem now is I just can't stay awake. Last night I feel asleep again while watching one of my previously recorded "Dateline" murder mysteries. I'll have to watch it again during the day when I don't fall asleep.

Yesterday I made a batch of my personal potato salad recipe. I've developed this recipe over the years from trial and error. I LOVE this cold potato salad on these brutally hot and humid summer days. 

My eating habits have changed since caring for Bill. I did lose about fifteen pounds. Pounds which I've been trying to lose for years but now I've accomplished that. Still have my little pot belly though. I'll have that with me until I check out of this life. I've resigned myself to that fact. 

Now what I eat is Beyond Burger. I LOVE that "hamburger." I load it down with condiments like lettuce and tomato, a slice of red onion, three dill pickles, two melted slices of sharp cheddar cheese and a swirl (or two) or French's mustard all served on a Hawaiian sweet hamburger roll. Veggie of choice is local white corn sliced off the cob (I don't like to munch corn on the cob, did when I was a kid but not now). That's my meal at night, occasionally alternated with Royal Farm spicy chicken tenders with their fries and biscuits. Veggie for that meal is a Greek salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato, feta cheese and Wishbone Greek dressing. That's it folks, I'm just like Anderson Cooper and many others, I eat the same food all time. Bill has really downsized his eating. He eats oatmeal in the morning and oatmeal at dinner. Lately I've been making watermelon puree juice for him. He also likes Belgian waffle anise cookies. That's what these two old men eat these days. 

Weekly Bill's hospice nurse visits and checks on Bill. Tomorrow is her visiting day. We have our routine now. Now if we can just get a break from his heat.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Ron and Bill's 57th Anniversary


Bill and me 1964 at his Pennsauken apartment

Yes, today is our 57th anniversary. Fifty-seven years ago this evening I walked over to thank the anonymous gentleman who was sending me drinks across the bar for the previous three months. 

The location was the corner of 15th and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia, PA. The place was the Westbury Bar, my gay bar of choice in those furtive days of 1964, way before Stonewall liberation. 

I've recounted this story many times before on this sixteen year old blog so I'll try and make it a little different this time, and shorten it. 

The previous year I had got out of the Army after a three year enlistment. I would have made the Army a career for twenty and possibly thirty years but because I was a HOMOSEXUAL, that was not allowed. I barely got out of the Army with an honorable discharge anyway because I was station at Ft. Meade, Maryland and the National Security Agency. I didn't ask for that job but that was the job that was assigned to me after I finished six month of Army Security Agency training at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts. To work at NSA one had to have a top secret clearance and being a HOMOSEXUAL would definitely disqualify me from serving HONORABLY. By the way, this whole thing about not having gays in the military (we weren't called "gay" back then by the way, HOMOSEXUAL was about the nicest term. I don't have to recite the other terms but we all know what they were - and still are to this day.

Anyway, to make a long story short (and not get caught up on that injustice), I departed the Army in January of 1963 and came out totally three moths later in April when my Mother caught me with my boyfriend of the moment in my apartment during a surprise Saturday morning visit.

From April 1963 to July 1964 I would make almost weekly treks to Philadelphia with friends to the Westbury Bar, in search of Mr. Wonderful, Prince Charming, The Love of My Life, etc.

I lived in a furnished one bedroom apartment in Coatesville, Pennsylvania; a steel town suburb forty-three miles west of downtown Philadelphia. 

I was poor. I barely had enough month to "go into town." At that time drinks at the bar were .75 cents. I always gave a dollar, a twenty-five cent tip. That was understood. 

I always took three one dollar bills in with me to the bar when I visited The Westbury with my friends Ron (yes, another "Ron" and Ed. Both of whom have since departed this earth). 

I didn't have a car but both Ron and Ed had cars. They would take turns hauling me in with them. I guess I was good company (I hope).

One Saturday evening while Ron, Ed and I were engaged in some gossipy conversation (as was our wont) at our usual corner of the bar, Jerry the Bartender tapped me on the back of my hand that was on the bar to get my attention. He had a fresh glass of gin and tonic (my poison of choice at that tender age) and indicated by nodding his head in the opposite direction to a smiling black haired older man on the other side of the bar, near the skeet ball machine. He said that gentleman was sending me a complimentary drink. "Oh no" I thought. I had seen that "gentleman" often in the bar playing skeet ball with his friends, they were quite boisterous at times. Oh sure, he was good-looking and popular but not really "my type" (I prefer slight, nerdy guys with glasses). This gentleman was athletic, classically handsome and popular and older. NOT what I was looking for in Prince Charming. I nodded my head in acknowledgment towards his direction and resumed my conversation with my friends Ron and Ed. I said something like "Can you believe that? He thinks all he has to do is buy me a drink and I'll go home with him! NOT GOING TO HAPPEN." 

Of course I took the drink, it was free and I was poor. And if this person wanted to send me a drink that was just fine with me but there was no way I was going to be just another notch on his gun (no pun intended).

Thus began a regular ritual that every time he was in the bar he would send me a drink. I would acknowledge his generosity then resume my air headed conversations with my friends Ron and Ed. And yes, those conversations were of no substance believe me. This was when I was very young (twenty-two) and all caught up in the new freedom of Gaydom and a Place Of Our Own To Be Ourselves. 

My friends would often say "Why don't you go home with him? I would! He's good-looking!" But no, I had absolutely no intention of EVER going home with THAT GUY. Harumph! He thinks he can "buy my" with a drink? Besides, he wasn't "my type." 

Then can July 3rd, 1964. Again, I was driven to Philadelphia by Ron and Ed (I forget whose car, probably Ed's). They had someplace else to go and left me at the bar. It was early Saturday evening, maybe about ten o'clock. Well, maybe that doesn't sound "early" but for gay bars at that time the real action didn't start until eleven or later. That's when everyone made their entrances, all carefully dressed to attract the most attention from the same sex in the bar that night.

I was standing at our usual spot, the far corner of the bar, deep in my thoughts. By this time I had gotten to know Jerry The Bartender pretty well. In fact I had a crush on him (who doesn't get crushes on the bartender?) but Jerry, while always pleasant, never gave me any indication of a mutual interest in me. Then came The Drink. Jerry pushed the glass of gin and tonic in front of me as he had so often the past three of so months.  He didn't even have to say anything. He just smiled. I knew who sent the drink. 

I looked across the bar towards the skeet ball machine where The Gentleman Who Sends Me The Drinks usually was stationed with his friends playing skeet ball. There was no one there. Jerry saw me looking and he nodded his head to the gentleman sitting at one of the tables to the left of the jukebox. 

Tables you say? Yes, back then there was a smattering of low, round tables with one of those cheap netted glass bowls that held a flickering candle. 

I looked towards the direction to where Jerry nodded. There HE WAS. Sitting by himself. I never saw him sitting by himself before. He was always with his posse of friends. 

There weren't too many people in the bar. I nodded to him in acknowledgment of the drink he sent to me. He must have send me a couple dozen drinks over the previous three months. 

So there we were. Him sitting by himself at that low table with the candle flickering in that cheap Italian restaurant candle holder. I'm standing at the corner of the bar, BY MYSELF.

I thought to myself, because I was feeling a little bit guilty of accepting ALL THOSE DRINKS, I would at least thank him. And that's what I decided to do.

I left my coveted spot on the corner of the bar (one had to stake out coveted spots in gay bars in those days) and walked over to his table. I wanted to thank him for the drinks and nothing else. I swear NOTHING ELSE. I certainly had no intention of going home with him THAT night. I just wanted to be decent and thank him for all the drinks he had sent over to me the previous three or so months. 

Now, I was fully prepared to an exit. I expected him to put a LOT OF PRESSURE on me to go home with him because he had bought me all those drinks. I had an exit plan. I was going to thank him and walk out of the bar to the gay bar across the street, The Allegro (no longer there by the day, now it's the Kimmel Music Center). 

I walk over to him sitting at the table; and still standing I looked down at him and said "Thank you for the drinks and all the other drinks you have sent to me." He looked up at me, smiled and said "You're welcome." And that was it. No jumping on me with heavy, desperate, aggressive behavior as I expected. I had often experience that behavior from other men who tried to pick me up, sometimes with a complimentary drink (they think they own you then) or just trapping me in the corner of the bar (which happened a few times too, I literally had to get rude and bust out of being physically blocked from walking around the bar). Yes Virginia, this was what it was like back in the Bad Old Days when gay bars were routinely raided around election time. When one feared being "outed" by having one's name in the paper for being arrested during one of those raids. This was even before disco came to gay bars and straights found out gay bars were a cool place to dance. These were serious, cruising days folks. 

Well, I was a bit surprised by his gentleness and lack of aggressiveness. And to be quite frank about it, he wasn't at all as I expected. Oh sure, he still wasn't "my type" but he was handsome and masculine. Not a feminine bone in his body, which I found immediately attractive. In fact he had a deep masculine voice. I liked that. And his body, which of course I did a quick visual check, was ......nice. Hmmmm. 

Anyway, I decided to sit and talk awhile. He seemed like a nice guy and I found out he was a nice guy. And of course I went home with him that evening after he asked me if I "would like to stop over at his place for a drink." (standard operating line in a gay bar pickup folks, sorry I couldn't relate a more original pickup line). 

He lived in the opposite direction of Philadelphia, to the East. He lived in Pennsauken New Jersey which was across the Ben Franklin Bridge.Twelve miles to the east of Philadelphia. 

When he asked me over to his place I told him that I didn't have a ride home (I had been stranded before and wasn't about to be stranded again). He said he would take me home the next day. My apartment in Coatesville was fifty-six miles from his apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey. That impressed me. And I trusted him. By the way, I did finally "score" with Jerry the Bartender (before I met Bill) and HE STRANDED ME after we had our intimate encounter. I was left wandering the streets of center city Philly in the early morning hours of Sunday morning until I could catch the first train to Coatesville, and this after I had to wait until Jerry closed up the bar at 3:00 AM or so. I didn't like Jerry so much after then. HE was the scorekeeper and here I thought I was in love with him. Just goes to show you. Anyway, back to Bill.

I stayed that night with Bill at his two bedroom, garden apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey. And yes, I did have a drink. In his refrigerator he had just about every kind of juice drink you could imagine. No food, lots of juice drinks. Apparently I wasn't the first guy Bill took back to his apartment. Oh well.

Thus began my relationship with Bill. 

Over the next seven months Bill would pick me up at my apartment in Coatesville, which remember was FIFTY-SIX miles from his apartment in Pennsauken, New Jersey, and take me back to his apartment for the weekend. We did that almost every weekend. Bill always had something planned for us to do. I liked him and he liked me. 

Then came a time he wanted me to move in with him. Initially I turned him down. I told him that he wasn't the person I was looking for.  I liked him but I didn't love him.  I told him it wouldn't be fair to him or me because if I moved in with him I would still be "going out", looking for Mr. Right. Without hesitation he said, "If you moved in with me you can still go out, just be discreet about it." He said "A caged bird never sings." And he would never want to "hold me back." He also said he traveled a lot (he worked for RCA then General Electric as an electronics technician) and would be gone for months at a time and I would have that time to myself to do whatever I wanted. 

I still hesitated because that wasn't my idea of a relationship. I had pictured meeting Prince Charming and living happily ever after, monogamous to one another. Not still hanging out at the bars looking for Mr. Perfect. 

Bill got angry. The first time in our relationship that I saw his anger. He said if I didn't move in with he I would never see him again. 

Now I had a real dilemma. I liked Bill, really did but I was just afraid of being trapped.  He insisted that I wouldn't be "trapped." He said "Do whatever you want to do just be with me."

And that my friends was the beginning of my life long love affair with Bill. 

During our fifty-seven years together I can remember at least a half a dozen times I was going to leave him for someone else (thank God I didn't do that). We've had our share of battles, all verbal. Nothing physical. If there was anything physical I would have been one the first times.

During our fifty-seven years together we've lived in two apartment, purchased one townhouse in center city Philly (all so I could walk to work and the gay bars, yes I continued to go to the gay bars on the weekends). We built two houses. One in Pennsylvania near my parents where we lived for twenty-five years until the high Pennsylvania school property tax forced us to me to the more tax friendly state of Delaware fifteen years ago, where we live now and where both of us will finish out our lives.

Bill worked until he was fifty-five years old at which time he took early retirement because his company wanted to send him to Africa for a year. At that time I was making enough money at the bank to support both of us so I urged him to take early retirement (which he got a lump sum payment) and stay at home with our Pomeranian dogs. Of course the best laid plans often go awry and a few years after that I lost my job at the bank (bank mergers) but I managed to keep us afloat with other jobs. Nimble Ron here. 

We have had an extraordinary life folks. I will always be so grateful that Bill send me those drinks and persisted until I finally gave in. By the way, he told me later "I knew I would always get you!"  I told him "If I knew that was your attitude I never would have come over and thank you for those drinks." 


Bill and me on our wedding Day July 3, 2013

But fate has been good to me folks. Even now as Bill is fading here from the after effects of his two strokes in January (he's on home hospice care). Bill may not be the strapping endless energy driven man that he was fifty-seven years ago when I first met him on that rainy Saturday night in July, but he still loves me in spite of all the aggravation I've caused him over the years. All the drama that I've had with affairs and my jobs, and through it all Bill has stuck with me. That's true love folks. 

I never thought I truly loved Bill until one of those times I was going to leave him for Another Man ("Harold" was his name, God I'm glad I didn't do that). When I informed Bill I was leaving our home and getting an apartment for me and "Harold" (God, I'm so glad I didn't), there were no histrionics from Bill. Just after I told him, he looked to the ground then up at me and said "Please don't leave me." This was after one of our big fights again folks. Every time I was going to leave him was after a fight. 

At that moment he looked up at me from his lowered eyes and said "Please don't leave me" in his lowered voice I realized at that time I LOVE THIS MAN. What was I thinking? How could I ever LEAVE him? If I did I would spend the rest of my life wondering about what happened to him. 

Over the years Bill had become so dependent on me. For one thing I couldn't imagine him living on his own. But more important I couldn't imagine my life without him in it. 

And that my friends is where we are today. I doubt this time next year we will together to celebrate fifty-eight years together. 

Bill is getting weaker every day. He needs me to feed, bath and dress him. His eyesight is gone, he can't read or do any of his projects of things that give him pleasure. He has profound hearing loss and has to wear a hearing aid which he can't even put in his ears now, I have to do it. His cognitive abilities are slipping, which is so said. It frustrates him that he doesn't know how to control the volume on his hearing aids, the heat control on his heating pad or even how to use the remote control for the over head fan. But he knows who I am and is not in physical pain. And that's what I keep telling myself. He knows who I am and he's not in physical pain.

I lavish him with attention every day. Even though his speech is slurred and I have a hard time understanding him, I sometimes have conversation with him about The Old Days. We can't talk about our dogs (total of five Pomeranians), too sad. 

These days Bill like to sit under the awning of our back deck. He goes out for a walk once or twice a day down to the cul de sac in our development. I take him out for a daily ride.

We've had a good life folks. He still have some time life. One day this will end and I will be sad beyond my comprehension. I had a preview of that feeling when I thought I had lost him after they had air lifted him by helicopter to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia for a week's stay in their ICU unit.  I thought I lost him and felt so devastated because I didn't even have a change to say "goodbye." But I've been given a reprieve. After a week's stay in Philadelphia and a two week stay in a rehab hospital, Bill has been at home with me. And now we are living the final chapter of our wonderful lives together. 

Oh how many times have I thank the Gods above that I went over to him that Saturday night fifty-seven years ago and said "Thank you for the drinks."

Bill and me this morning on our 57th Anniversary

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Ron Typing

Many years ago, in the Fifties, when I was a high school student I had extra class time.  I elected to take Study Hall class which was actually a waste of time, kids who took Study Hall just goofed around shooting spitballs and such. When my Mother found out I was taking Study Hall class for five periods a week she went ballistic. She said "You're not wasting your time taking Study Hall! You're going to learn a skill, you're taking Typing Class!" 

I didn't want to take Typing Class because back in the bad old straight-laced boring Eisenhower presidency days only girls and sissies took Typing. And I certainly wasn't a girl or a sissy even though I couldn't play ball (football or baseball) because I DID throw a ball like a girl. 

I resisted my Mother's demands, after all I had an image to protect (in my silly teenaged 16 year told head) and I JUST couldn't take Typing, what would my classmates think? I had a bad enough time keeping my eyes off of the boys and hiding my burgeoning homosexuality hormones, taking Typing class WITH THE GIRLS would only cement some of my classmate's suspicions that I was QUEER, a fate almost worst than death in the Fifties High School Days. 

However, after much pressure from my Mother I signed up for TWO years of Typing, which was really bold because NO GUY EVER TOOK TWO YEARS OF TYPING. What was next? Shorthand?

Thus I said "goodbye" to my Study Hall classes and signed up for Typing. Funny thing happened though, there were some other guys in the class. Butch guys, albeit just the first year of Typing. No one made fun of me. After awhile I forget about my apprehension about being one of the few guys in Typing class.

My first year of Typing I struggled. A few D's, then C's and I ended with a couple B's. Second year typing was altogether different. I ended up the Best Typist in my class, which was confirmed by a gold key chain award from Underwood Typing company.
I still have that award, my one claim to fame in this world in addition to being name Best Guest Service Representative (front desk clerk) for the Hampton Inn and winning a trip to Disney World in 2000. 

Over the years I have thank my late Mother many times for insisting that I not waste my time in a goofball Study Hall class and take "something you can use in future jobs." And indeed I have. Almost every job I've had since I graduated from high school I've typed. Much to my advantage because almost all of the other guys I've worked with use a one finger peck to type. They never learned the Home Keys typing. 

Thank you Mom for just one more thing you did to raise me that made me a better and self sufficient person.

Me and Mom 1941

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Bill Falls And Can't Get Up


Bill sitting out back under our shade tree late this afternoon, recovering from last night.

Last night, just as I was falling asleep at my normal time of 12:30 AM to 1 AM, Bill's medical alarm rang. He was having an emergency.

I rushed downstairs to his basement bedroom and sure enough, he was shaking all over. He didn't know how to stop and I didn't know what to do either. 

I called the 24/7 hospice nurse line which is what I was told to do if Bill had a medical emergency. No more calling 911 and a trip to the Emergency Room which just results in generating more bills and no resolution to Bill's medical problem which is just old age and he's wearing out. 

"Debbie", the sainted person on the other side of the line (who takes jobs like this anyway? I can't imagine) asked the routine questions which I won't go into here except "is he in pain?" (he wasn't). Then Bill had to go to the bathroom, immediately! We didn't quite make it, his pee was going down his leg then I heard the poop. Yep, he was pooping (shitting) his pants. What a mess.

I managed to get him to the bathroom and on the toilet, just. He had the biggest dump I've ever seen. Of course part of it was on the floor, toilet seat, down the right leg of his pants but most of it was in the toilet. I took a picture of it just to prove to his hospice nurse. Apparently Bill was constipated. We didn't know that. Maybe that's why he had the uncontrollable shakes. 

As I was getting him up off the toilet and into the nearby shower to wash him off (after pulling off his pants and underwear, couldn't get his shirt or T-shirt off so that went into the shower), Bill fell. He just missed the seat in the shower/tub enclosure. No pictures here but this is one of those cheap, one piece plastic builder grade showers. Thank goodness no tiles to clean after the poop mess. My brother was faced with that problem when he was taking care of our mother at the end of her life. It was messy too.

Bill fell in a crumpled corner on the floor of the shower. I couldn't get him up as much as I tried. When I thought I got him part way up (he was very weak) he slipped and fell again and this time part of him was wedged in between the base of the shower and his toilet with the metal grab bars. He hit is head (the bruise shows). I couldn't get him up. Tried for at least forty-five minutes. Then I called his hospice nurse again. I told her of the problem. She told me to call 911 and have some EMT's come out and pick him up and put him in his chair where he sleeps at night.

They were at our house within ten minutes (seemed less). Two burly guys who had no trouble extracting Bill from being wedged in between the base of his toilet and the shower base. They held him up while I washed off the now dried encrusted feces (shit) from his right leg and his butt. Then they took him into his bedroom. They were very gentle and spoke soothing words to him, which greatly impressed me. Two big burly guys so gentle. They held him while I put on a Depends underwear, which is what Bill is going to wear from now on. I also put on his jogging pants that I bought initially for him when he returned home from the rehab after his hospital stay in January. No more regular underwear for Bill nor his usual Levi jeans, too much trouble to clean. They settled him in his chair while I gathered up all the soiled garments. I rinsed out his underwear in the toilet (something I quickly learned to do from previous "accidents"). One thing that I learned is true what my friend Glenn told me (he was his partner/husband's longtime caregiver), you quickly get over the "shit" part of caregiving. Not so squeamish anymore, just do what you have to do.

After rinsing off his underwear, I put all into the washing machine and turned on the extra rinse cycle. Been there, done this before too. 

By  the time the EMT guys left, daylight was dawning. I had been up all night as was Bill. That's right, no sleep all night. Last time I did that was when I was a night auditor at the Hampton Inn in Exton, Pennsylvania in t he year 2000. I was alert but felt out of body at time. I've been running on fumes all day.

My big fear was that Bill wouldn't be able to walk. What would I do now? His hospice care worker was coming over today at 8:00 AM to check on him, special trip after last night's call. I had about an hour to sleep. I also had a weekly Zoom call scheduled at 10:00 AM with my friends Stuart, Lar, Pat and myself. Today was Lar's birthday so we didn't want to miss that. Lar is my friend who has ALS (diagnosed four years ago). And yes, he has his bathroom issues too and his fall down issues (his family has had to call the EMT's to get him up off the floor on occasion). 

I laid down on my bed and quickly fell asleep. I had asked Alexa to wake me up at fifteen minutes to eight. When she did I heard movement in the kitchen. I rounded the corner from my bedroom (which is right next to our kitchen) and there was Bill, walking albeit slowly and unsteady. He refuses to use a cane for walker (which the EMT guys told me he should use). Thank goodness he was walking! I can't tell you how relieved I was.

"Abby", the hospice care worker arrived about 8:30 AM. She took Bill's blood pressure and it was normal. I told her what happened and she surmised that Bill suffered an anxiety attack, which makes sense. Bill is so worried about leaving me (dying) but he is tired and because he can no longer read or do his projects because of his eyesight and his other problems, he's in a quandary. I told him so often that I can take care of myself but after fifty-seven years it's hard for him to leave his responsibility to "take care of me." She advised him to try and think of nice things and not dwell on the negative, which Bill tends to do. 

Abby left after about an hour's visit. 

The rest of the day here was surreal, as it is when one doesn't sleep the previous night. And today was the day I had my landscaper Ferdinand trim my nineteen holly trees (at $700), which I don't know house much longer I'll have that job done. I'm tempted to just let those holly trees grown out. If I'm left here by myself I have to cut out expenses like this. Let our backyard go natural. 

After I finish this post I'm going to bed. Bill is sleeping peacefully now in his Archie Bunker chair. Hopefully we can both get through the night without any more emergencies. Neither one of us can endure many more nights like we had last night.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Ear Cancer Surgery Complete


Early this morning I arrived at my dermatologist's office to have my sutures removed. 

Looks like I have to seriously trim my ear hairs
Last week at this time my dermatologist cut out a part of the top my left ear and replaced it with a skin graft from my left jaw line. Sounds painful? It was.

All this week I had to be very careful with treating the wounds (the skin graft area plus the "donor" area). That was an especially challenging task given that I have to wash my hair (what's left of it anyway) with a tar based shampoo because I have seborrheic dermatitis my scalp. If I don't white scales (dandruff) produces quickly and my head is itching like crazy. Since I found a solution to my condition when I was in my early twenties, I haven't had dandruff since or an itchy head. I don't want to go back there. So it was quit a challenge to cover up my operated on ear with plastic so it wouldn't get wet when I shampooed my hair with my coal tar based shampoo (I smell like a railroad tie after I shampoo). 

I was eagerly looking forward to today because those stitches were starting to itch.

I thought this procedure this morning would be a quick nip and tuck to pull out those stitches. That didn't happen.

Seems where I had the skin graft the skin had grown over the sutures. The sutures still had to come out, and out she (the dermatologist's assistant) took them.

The whole procedure took about fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of torture. 

The dermatologist's assistant was very apologetic but it still hurt.  Finally, she got them all out. 

How would you like to have her job?

I'm home now, recovering. Whining and complaining but ready to start a new day.

By the way, Bill's doing fine. Weak but still with me.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Father's Day 2021


Pop making his favorite vegetable soup from veggies grown from his own garden - 1978 two years before his death. My father never had a gray hair on his head. White beard, yes but not one gray hair nor did any of his ten brothers.

My father ("Pop") died August 22, 2000. He was born April 18, 1920. 

He died of lung cancer. He was a life long smoker. On my birthday (November 9th), 1999 he had quadruple bypass heart surgery. That's when the doctor's discovered his lung cancer. They sewed him back up and sent him home.

The cancer had spread so much that they gave him six months to a year to live. He lived another eight months.

My father loved my Mother, even though he did cheat on her early in their marriage. But he knew he had a good thing with her and he corrected his bad habits. It was hard for him because he was very attractive to the ladies. They liked him and he liked them. All his life he continued to flirt to receptive women but I don't think anything ever came of it (consummated) after my Mother had a showdown with him early on in their marriage.

He had three children by my Mother. I am the oldest. My two younger brothers were born in 1943 and 1944 respectively. I was born in 1941. 

During the World War II my father failed his draft physical because he had brain damage from an accidental hatchet wound to his head when he was only ten years old. At that time his and his family of eight brothers (no sisters) lived in Hillbilly Heaven in Pigeon Roost, North Carolina. Someone was chopping wood and the hatchet handle came off and landed in my father's head. They rushed him by a horse pulled cart to nearby Johnson City, Tennessee hospital to try and save his life, which they did. Coincidentally some years later, when I was one year old I crawled out of a second floor window of the rental house we lived in and rolled down the front porch roof and landed on my head on the concrete sidewalk below. My Mother rushed my unconscious little baby body to the hospital, fearing the worst. Initially the doctor's were not hopeful but eventually I regained consciousness and here I am today to tell that tale. That was the first of my Nine Lives. Another coincidence, my good friend Pat also has a very noticeable scar on his head where he was also hit with an ax when he worked on a relative's farm in Canada when he was a teenager. And just one more coincidence, Bill (Kelly), my partner/husband of fifty-seven years has a dent in his skull where he was hit with rife butt during Army maneuvers when He was stationed in Germany in 1947. He said that's why he wore a toupee all his adult years, to hide that big dent. He doesn't wear a toupee now but the dent is very noticeable as is Pat's circular scar. So we all got a second chance at life. But I have veered off again from the main subject haven't I? I tend to do that.

Back to "Pop." My father didn't want children. He made that very clear during my lifetime. He especially didn't like me. Perhaps because I was closer to my Mother or perhaps because I was too "sissy" for him. But then he didn't like my brothers either. Although he did seem to favor the youngest ("the baby"). He showed more love to his dogs during his lifetime that he did to me and my brothers. I'll never forget that one Thanksgiving dinner, he put down is turkey laden fork, looked around the family dinner table and said "I have the dumbest bunch of kids."  Gee, thanks Pop. No surprise for us though, that was Pop. Nothing we did would please him. We all gave up a long time before that Thanksgiving dinner proclamation. 

Thus it  comes at no surprise that Father's Day was no big deal around our house. He was our father. Up until he was fifty-two years old he helped to support our family.  Initially in the marriage, (they were married in 1940), because he was rejected at his physical, he was required to be a cross country truck driver. He would be gone for weeks at a time. My Mother was left to fend for us kids (feed us). She lived in a small, no electricity, no running water, out door toilet, shack in the country.

My parents first home, a shack (no running water or electricity) in the country. Mineral Springs, PA. That's my Mother pregnant with me. 

She often told me the story that one day she was walking down the country road cradling my youngest brother (who was just a baby at that time), and hold me and my other brother's hand while she walked and walked as we were crying because we were hungry. She didn't know what to do. Of course welfare was out of the questions, "Nice people didn't do that" she said. he was too embarrassed to apply for welfare. Her Quaker family influence (grandparents on her Mother's side) no doubt. While she was walking that dirt road her father happened to drive by (he was a tomcat (married three times and like the ladies) and stopped. He saw she was distraught and gave her five dollars to buy some milk. That five dollars lasted her a while, five dollars back in 1944 was a lot of money.

Pop with his guitar in front of his early marriage hillbilly home in the Pennsylvania countryside. He LOVED his Packard!

When my father returned from his latest cross country trip delivered war vitals to their destinations, again was short on the money. My Mother found out later he was spending most of his money on other women during his travels. She gave him an ultimatum, she would take over the finances or she would leave him. My father wasn't the sharpest knife int he drawer but he did know he had a good thing with my Mother. He loved her and would never find anyone else who cared for him the way she did but she was willing to leave him. Thus he reformed his wastrel, irresponsible ways. But I've often thought, do I have any half sisters or brothers across the continental United States.  Might have, several of his brothers had children out of wedlock during their wander lust days. 

My Mother took over the full family financial when Pop "retired" at fifty-two (too "stressful" he said, his welding job).  She was the sole breadwinner in our family working at Pepperridge Farms frozen foods division for over twenty-five years. Pop just hung around with his friend Harry down the road from where we lived in our 1,100 square foot rancher (moved there in 1959, the year I graduated from high school). He occasionally did some house finishing work along with his buddy Harry (hanging doors and windows). He mainly liked to hunt, garden, smoke and eat fried, greasy foods while Mom ran the household. 

My father LOVED gardening. A trait I Inherited from him, I too love to garden. 

Early on in the marriage he used to beat me and my brothers but no more than the usual beatings that kids got in the late Forties and early Fifties from their father with a belt for misbehaving. At least he never beat us with the buckle and no serious damage was ever done.  Me and my brothers learned early on that if he hollered a lot when he was flaying his belt at us (I'll always remember him pulling his belt off in preparation for a beating) around at the three of us. Yes, we usually got beat together but I'm sure we got individual beatings too, I just don't remember that. When I would complain about the beatings, my Mother would refer us to the scars on my father's back from beatings he got as a kid from his father. And I guess she was right, it could have been a lot worse. It wasn't. And the beatings stopped as we entered our teenage years. The only incidence of his violence towards me was when I asked to borrow the family car for my Senior Prom and he refused.  I said something insulting to him (I don't remember but I was being disrespectful) and he punched me across the jaw, knocking me off balance and into the bathtub I was cleaning at the time. Yes, I was the house cleaner of our family, which I thought in my naive way would qualify me at least to borrow the family car for my prom date, which by the way I stood up for which I am to this day ashamed of. She (Vivian) took it was well as would could expect but I DIDN'T show up and she was waiting for me. What was I THINKING? Dumb kid. 

When my father punched me a good one across the jaw, it was in front of his brother. He was incensed because I disrespected him in front of his brother. I can understand that. But at the same time I made a vow to myself never to ask him for anything again and to leave home as soon as I could, which I did when I joined the Army after I graduated from high school. There was a six month delay there because I too failed my first Army physical (I was born with a hernia). I had to have an operation to remove the hernia before the Army would accept me. During my operation I developed a deadly case of staph infection which kept me in and out of the hospital for the next six months. But eventually the infection was cleared up after several surgeries and I joined the Army and broke the parental bind that I was under for the fist eighteen years of my life.

Except for one day when I returned home from Pittsburgh, where I had moved after I got out of the Army, I never lived at home again. That one day was a Friday through a Saturday. When I returned home by bus (he picked me up), I had no money and no job. I had a job in Pittsburgh but I was very lonely in Pittsburgh and was discouraged about the gay scene, which wasn't what I thought it was. I was looking for Prince Charming and all I was meeting was guys who wanted to get in my pants. I may be a lot of things but I'm no slut. Frankly, I didn't even know what the gay scene was about. This was the early Sixties after all. I wasn't a drag queen or a "queer" who hung around men's bathrooms. I knew I was different and I knew I liked men but I didn't know where to go from there. But this is just another branch of my sordid early life that I might get into in a future blog post should I live that long. Regular readers of my blog for all these years (since 2005) already know something to my Fantasy Ride Early Years Of Gayness For Ron.

Back to returning "home" from my doomed foray into Pittsburgh, that Friday night I went out with an old school chum, strictly straight and platonic. The next morning over his greasy fried eggs, bacon, scrapple and biscuits he asked "Where were you last night? I told him it was none of his business. He replied "As long as you live here it's my business." I immediately though "He's right! It is his business." That's when I decided then and there to move. As I said before I had no money so I called one of my brothers and borrowed money (I think $250) from him. Then I looked at the classified ads for a small efficiency furnished apartment. I found one ($65 a month) which I rented that day and the next day I was out of his house. I never lived there again in that small, stuccoed wall, eight foot high ceilings, one bathroom, ranch house of his again. I lived in that shabby, one bedroom furnished apartment for two and a half years (until I met Bill and moved in with him). He never visited me once. NOT.ONE.TIME.

Wherever you are Pop, happy Father's Day. I am who I am because of you, f-cked up and all, because of you. I even look like you now. And this year I will be the age (80) that you died. 

My father was twenty-one years old when I was born. My father has been dead twenty-one years. 

I saw him last time one day before he died on a Saturday night. He was in the hospital hooked up on morphine pain killers. No one else was in his room. They had left earlier in the late afternoon. The time I saw him was about eight o'clock in the evening. 

When he saw me come around the curtain (he was sharing his room with another patient, he was near the window, I could see the cars in the parking lot and the parking lot lights from his window). He asked me help him up so he could pee in his jug. Like me he can't pee lying down in a hospital bed. As I helped him back in his bed I said to his back "I love you Pop."  I don't know if I loved him but it seemed the appropriate thing to say. He said nothing to me. At least he wasn't angry at me. I think he was too preoccupied with is weakness and out of it from the morphine. 

My Mother hand feeding my father during his last days in the hospital suffering from terminal lung cancer

Monday morning as I unlocked the door to the small town bank where I worked at that time, I heard the phone ringing.  I knew what it was. I knew it. I quickly unlocked the door and rushed over to pick up the phone. It was Barbara, my sister-in-law (my youngest brother's wife).  She said "Ronnie, Pop died last night. Can you come home to be with Mom?"

I had the strangest reaction to this news. News that wasn't unexpected but still it was a shock to hear, that his man who had been so much a part of my life was no longer alive. I felt like someone gut punched me in the stomach. I didn't feel sadness, for which I was ashamed. Nor a sense of loss, just relief. I felt bad for my Mother though. All the years I knew them I never once heard him raise his voice to her or even argue with her.  He loved her. 

Yep, he loved her and she him

At his funeral, still no sense of loss. Not happy either, perhaps relieved, just different. 

My brothers and I say our final "Goodbye" to the man who produced up and was such a force in our lives. Yes, I am the smallest even though I'm the oldest. My second brother (the Middle One) is in the middle and named after my father (Isaac, Jr.) and my youngest brother John.

One thing my father did like about me, I attended as many of the funerals for his ten brothers as I could with him. That was one of the few times I saw him smile at me, when I would accompany him in my best dark suit. I remember one funeral for his brother Bruce, one of his cousins (Fred Byrd), who I had never met before in my life, came across the room and said "You must be Ike Tipton's son, you look just like him." I have to admit I was taken aback (I "look just like him?" What? I've turned into my father? I'm afraid I did.) Then I felt a tinge of pride, to be recognized by a cousin he grew up with (back in his hillbilly North Carolina mountain days) who would recognize me across a crowded room of family relatives and friends who had come to mourn another Tipton brother, who coincidentally was babysitting me when I fell off that roof and almost died. Bruce was just a teenager at that time. 

Well, that's enough of my Father's Day tribute to Isaac Walter Tipton, Sr. (we have the same middle name by the way). Hope you enjoyed reading this cathartic tome of mine. I tend to do that you know.

One of the few pictures I have of my with my father (my youngest brother John to my right). Photo taken about 1960 when I was home on leave from my three year Army stone.   Pop was holding's stomach in and I think I detect a faint smile. See it?

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