Thursday, April 22, 2021

Mulch Delivery

Hi folks! I'm back. Time flies when you're (me) having fun doesn't it?

Of course my whole life now is devoted and spent taking care of Bill. He is stabilized now but he needs almost constant observation and care. 

Once a week his hospice nurse calls (yesterday) and on alternate weeks she visits to check on Bill. She's very good, she cares. She checks Bill's blood pressure and asks all the right questions. She also makes sure we have all the medications and medical equipment we need, usually the same day. 

Spring has sprung around here and my daily must do activities are ramping up. Right now I am awaiting a call for the delivery of thirty bags of cedar mulch. Me and the mulch company have been playing telephone tag for the last week trying to arrange a delivery date. Ironic since they're right up the road. I can almost walk there but I can't pick up thirty bags of heavy mulch. 

Before spring has spring I has quite busy around Casa Tipton-Kelly with regular household maintenance. In years past I had Bill's help, he mowed the lawn, took care of all the handyman work, was able to shower himself (I have to help him shower every three days like this morning, he can't undress or dress himself or wash himself down). Now I'm doing everything he did, plus my regular chores and cooking for Bill, administering his medication, taking him for his daily ride, repeating myself at least three times when I try to communicate with him because of his profound hearing loss and cognitive decline.  My good friend Pat who lives in a thirteenth floor luxury penthouse in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada asked me last week "What are you doing today?"  He has no idea. Living in a thirteen floor penthouse in downtown Hamilton, he's not concerned with mulch deliveries, fixing that oil leak in the John Deere EZTrack riding mower, trying to start the leaf blower, cleaning the bird baths, mowing almost an acre of lawn every five days, etc., etc., etc. No idea bless his heart. 

Every now and them I can grab a few minutes for myself like I am now and update my blog while I await the call from the mulch delivery guy. After the mulch delivery then we're off to BJ's Wholesale to get some more of those delicious anise flavored Belgian waffles that Bill has developed a fondness for. 

As we transition into summer here at Casa Tipton-Kelly, I am thankful that I have been able to resume my daily afternoon naps. I need to naps to recharge myself. In a few sort months I'll be eighty years old. By this time in my life my father had a quadruple heart surgery in which they discovered me had lung cancer and he died eight months later at age eighty of that lung cancer. Approaching my eightieth year, my heart is still ticking and there are no signs of cancer since my prostate cancer diagnoses and treatment in 2013. 

I'm also thankful that Bill is a home and not warehoused in some impersonal, expensive facility slowing wasting away. I thankful that I am able to be with him and take care of him. I count my blessings every day. 

Now where is that mulch guy?

Just got the call!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Bill's Favorite Pastime

Yesterday, I posted what I do in my spare time. Today I'm posting one of Bill's favorite activities, sitting on our back deck with the sun in his face.

These days, with much of Bill's activity restricted because of his poor eyesight and reduced physical stamina, he loves the peacefulness of just sitting in the sun in the cool weather, listening to nature abound around him. 

I am so thankful that I have Bill at home here at this time of his life in the comfort of his own home surrounded by everything he loves.

Think of all those families during this COVID pandemic who don't have that choice. All those families who don't have the option of having their loved one at the end of their life, at their home.  Bill and I are indeed very lucky.

Monday, April 12, 2021

How I Pass My Time These Days

Now that I'm not working my part-time job at the hotel, what you may ask do I do with my spare time? Not that I have a lot of spare time but I am able to secure some Ron Time when Bill goes to bed which is usually around 7 PM at night. These days he does stay in bed all night and is waiting for me in the morning when I go down to his basement bedroom and prepare him for the day. 

Usually in the evenings like this I play online Scrabble with Pat while my TV is on in background (wallpaper), almost always on MSNBC (Joy, Chris, Rachel and Lawrence). Sometimes I update my blog like I'm doing now. I also take care of business like tonight I ordered spring bulbs from Breck's to arrive in the fall. I'm always enthused in the spring to order bulbs but when they arrive in the fall, I am so tired from yard work and ready to take my winter break, I have to force myself to plant those bulbs. But when spring rolls around, like this year, I'm glad I made the effort. Thus hundreds of my bulbs will be shipped to Casa Tipton-Kelly for their forever home this fall.

On the weekends, in this the COVID area, I FaceTime with my friends Pat, Glen, Don, Larry and Stuart, all of whom are located across the country from Delaware, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Canada. Lately I've been Zooming my friends, although I'm still having trouble arranging those Zoom calls. I recorded our Zoom call yesterday.  I was going to post it to this blog but decided not to because it is twenty minutes long and perhaps the other participants would not want me to do so. By the way, any of my blog readers want to Zoom call, let me know and we'll give it a try. I usually add Pat to the mix. Nice way to meet people personally. Let me know.

The other thing I do on the weekends is attend the Tipton Cinema which is my home movie theater in my bedroom. I have an older 60 inch Samsung flat screen TV and I play my Netflix rented DVDs on a CD player (only get 489 pixels) but I do get surround sound and I don't have to share my movie theater with someone talking and I can pause my movie anything to take a bathroom break or a refreshment call. I LOVE my home theater. Last night I watched "Before Night Falls". A biopic about a gay Cuban poet during the Castro regime. Movie wasn't great but I'm including a clip that shows the wide ranging talents of Johnny Depp.  Yes, he is "Bon Bon", the glamours drag queen of the Cuban prison. Damn he's good. I didn't know who "Bon Bon" was until I read the credit to the movie. Johnny had all the moves down didn't he? I love watching actors who have talent like that. By the way, can you imagine Brad Pitt as "Bon Bon"? I can't.  Which reminds me, I have to watch "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" again.

I need the diversion.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

My Way

 Oh I sure did do it my way. 

Yes, I'm still playing with this lip synch Wombo app that Pat sent to me a few weeks ago.

On this latest version I'm lip synching Frank Sinatra's "I Did It My Way."  God, I wish I had this kind of talent. Not just the singing voice but the physical expressions. Looking at this short video I see how stilted I am but that there was always the possibility that I could do more. It's too late in my life now to change. I am one of those old men who is absolutely set in his ways. 

My new "way" is staying home all day caring for Bill. He's improving but will never get back to where he was before his strokes in January. With medication he could live another six months to a year and even eighteen months. Of course one never knows but I am heartened that he is able to get around on his own now. He can go to the bathroom by himself but he still needs me to help him shower, which tomorrow is shower day (he hates "shower day"). 

First thing in the morning when I get up I check on him via the baby/elder camera I installed in his room. He's usually there waiting for me. I wash his edema swollen legs and feet which seems to be helping his condition. Then we go upstairs for breakfast. I always make him the same thing, oatmeal with a heaping tablespoon of sugar. Half and half is his preferred addition to his porridge/oatmeal. Before his oatmeal I give him is daily morning medications. In the evening he receives more medications. 

Once a week his hospice nurse visits. The past two weeks she's had a helper with her. They're both very good. They'e helped us a lot, unlike the health care workers who were more disruptive and didn't really help us. 

After breakfast I tell Bill I'm going "into my office", which is where I go to check my e-mails, blogs, pay bills, etc. Always something to do there. 

Later on in the morning we take our Daily Ride. Bill do so love his rides. I also look forward to the rides, they are not a chore for me. Now that I'm to going to work at the hotel twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays), I need to go out. Where we usually go for our daily rides is Food Lion or the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store. Tomorrow is special because we're making the long trip to BJ's Wholesale Club in Millsboro. Always a nice long ride. At BJ's I can buy a rotisserie chicken for $4.99 which is bargain. Bill doesn't eat meat any more nor do I eat brown meat. I used the breast meat on the chicken to make my favorite chicken salad with apples and cranberries. I put the brown meat and the rest of the chicken carcass out back on our lawn for the local vultures to dispose of. Bill likes sitting in his chair in the sun room and watching the vulture pecking order to see who gets to take off with that chicken carcass.

Doesn't this sound exciting folks? Works for us. Just the way this Wombo app works for me. I've played it numerous times, and it always makes me smile. I hope it brings a smile to your face too.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Phases Of My Life

Taking a break from my now life's a caregiver, this is what some of my life was previously until today. 

In order of appearance, this is a description of each photo:

  • "Dessie", my first crush/love - 1962 - at a friend's cottage Chesapeake, City, Maryland during my Army days

  • Peggy Fisher, bowling banquet, me president giving address during my work employment at Girard Bank, Philadelphia, PA

  • My and my school friends Jack and Larry at a class reunion at another classmate's farm in Mainheim, PA

  • Me and my two younger brothers John and Isaac and our dog "Sam" (Chesapeak Bay Retriever) at "The Old Swimming Hole", Boot Road, Downingtown, PA circa 1954

  • A very tired me after my night auditor gig at The Hampton Inn, Exton, PA - I had to sleep in my windowless basement room during the day to get my sleep cycle back on track - obviously not so successful

  • Me and my longtime friend and co-worker Don McKenzie at my friend Bob McCamley's single wide trailer home outside Georgetown, DE circa 1978

  • Me and my longtime friend Bob McCamley at my home in Downingtown, PA 

  • Me and my brother John's family and my Mother at John's home in Windsor, PA circa 1979

  • Me and my first boyfriend after I got out of the Army in January of 1963 - his name was Joe Labriola and he was an ice skater in the Ice Capades - this is the only picture of him that he gave to me - it was taken in Mexico City during one of his tours 

  • Me and a later boyfriend Harold Harnish, a quiet, bearded man from a Mennonite family circa 1982 - he gave me this picture, all I know is that it was taken on a boat on some body of water

  • Me when I worked at First Financial Bank. Coincidentally I could look out my office window and see the apartment building where I grew up in the late 40's and early 50's. This picture was taken around 2001, a good fifty years since I left that address. Interestingly I had gone a long way from that address only to return to it much later in my life. The apartment building looked the same and still housed white trash, just like when me and my family lived there for $22.50 a month (cockroaches included) from 1947 to 1954.

  • A collage of images from Palm Springs, California, a destination I discovered much later in my life. This picture was taken about 2017. I may end my days in that Garden of Eden for old gay guys, that is Palm Springs, California.

  • Me in front of the White House during my Army days stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland 1961.

  • Hopefully an angel awaits me when I depart this earthly existence.

  • Tom and Antonio from "Philadelphia" - Tom's knowing look perfectly exemplifies my extraordinary life.  I worked at Girard Bank which was right next to Philadelphia City Hall where filming was done for this movie. I went by the sets every day, never saw Tom or Antonio once. Everything was ensconced in trailers and covered tunnels to City Hall. This picture reminds me of the first gay bar I went into in a small town near Pittsburgh, PA. It was a speakeasy type bar that you had to get to by a fire escape out back of the regular neighborhood bar. The year was 1963 and that was how one went to gay bars in those days. First thing I saw when I entered the darkened bar was two men slow dancing. This was way before disco. A feeling of warm comfort immediately sweated over me. I had found my home. The rest is history which I may (or may not) continue to share on this blog. All depends if I have enough time left.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Bill Looking At Fifty Year Old 8mm Film Of Our Dogs

Bill is doing well folks. He's still very weak and will never be the Bill he was before his two strokes in January but we're managing. 

He no longer has open, weeping wounds in his lower legs from his edema. He still has that edema but his condition has improved and not gotten worse, which is what we feared.

His hospice nurse visits us in person every other week and by phone on alternating weeks. She is very helpful unlike the health aid workers who, although they meant well, were more disruptive than helpful.

I think Bill's edema leg condition has been helped by his daily walking and me cleaning his legs and feet every morning with anti-bacterial soap. 

Bill still needs help showering and with his bathroom needs. He gets confused with the dressing and undressing but has improved. A lot of his problem has to do with this cognitive ability, which is noticeably deteriorated since his strokes, but he tries which I have to give him a lot of credit. God bless him. 

Because of his swallowing problem, I have to feed him pureed food. Yesterday it was pureed carrot ginger soup (very good my the way). Most days his diet consists of oatmeal twice a day, which he loves. He snacks on cheese balls, which I know isn't the best for him but he does enjoy them. He also loves chocolate milk which I make from chocolate syrup rather than buy the store bought chocolate milk. A treat at the end of the day is usually one of those pudding cups. 

Both of us have lost weight. I'm finally down to the 160 range (162 yesterday). For the longest time I was hovering about 175, which I'm not comfortable with. Most of my life, since I graduated from high school, I've weighed 160 lbs. I've gone as low as 145 lbs (which is much too low) and my highest weight was 204 (not good either). Funny thing about losing weight though, even though I have lost those extra pounds my body isn't looking any better. The weight that's left has shifted around. Not a good look. That's why you won't be seeing any current photos of me in a Speedo (God, can you imagine THAT photo?).

But enough about me. I shower Bill with love and attention all day which also seems to help stabilize his health. I am so glad he is home and not in some facility, where surely he wouldn't survive for very long. They would have him so drugged up that he would be in a zombie like state most of the time. Now I know why when I have visited friends and relatives in those facilities, why most of them were sitting in their chairs with heads drooped down on their chests. That's how the people who run those facilities control their patients who are agitated.

One problem though that is cropping up is Bill's speech. He's starting to slur a lot and at times I can't understand what he's saying. He doesn't realize he's slurring his speech. And I don't want to make him feel bad. A few years back, when we were visiting our friend Bob McC. at the assisted care facility where he was warehoused, Bill couldn't understand Bob. Bill told me he couldn't go back anymore and visit Bob because it was too upsetting for him to see Bob like that. Unfortunately, it seems that Bill is going down that same path. We'll manage though. Could be a lot worse. I always say to myself, at least Bill's not in pain.

Note on the video at the beginning of this blog. I recently digitized fifty year old 8mm films of our time when we lived in Center City Philadelphia and moved to the country in Downingtown, PA (a suburb of Philadelphia). I'm showing these videos to Bill while he's still here to enjoy them. Sad watching them but more proof that we've had a very good and long life. Hard to imagine these videos are fifty years old. I'll be posting more of them. 

Friday, April 02, 2021

Death Of First Love

Young Dessie around the time I met him (I've always had a "thing for cute nerdy guys in glasses)

 "Do you play pinochle?" I looked up from where I was lying in my bunk, while reading a book in the Army barracks at Fort George G. Meade circa 1991 to see the spectacled cute face of fellow soldier.

From 1960 to 1963 I was stationed at Ft. Meade in Laurel Maryland working at the National Security Agency. My questioner had recently arrived from a one year tour of duty at Shemya,, Alaska; the closest United States location to Russia. His name was Dessie. We both were in the Army Security Agency whose purpose was communication intercept of foreign powers. 

I told him that I didn't play pinochle but I was willing to learn. He asked me to join him as a partner for a pinochle game with two other of our Army comrades who were in the barracks that evening. Thus began a regular occurrence, playing pinochle several times a week to pass the time by. 

We were both eighteen years old. He was from Georgia, I from Pennsylvania. 

After several evenings of playing pinochle, Dessie would indicate by leaning his bare Bermuda clad leg against mine when he had a good hand.  It was our personal signal. However, whenever he leaned his leg against mine, I got a little more from his "signal" than what he intended that he had a good pinochle hand. In fact, I began to look forward to our pinochle games more than just winning games. I enjoyed being with him. I enjoyed watching his mischievous smile. 

Eventually I asked him to return home with me on some weekends.  I only lived two and a half hours away from Ft. Meade and could go home on weekends. Dessie was from Georgia and lived too far away to go to his home on the weekend. 

Dessie an me (bottom row from left to right) - 1962 at Chesapeake City, MD

Now I have to make clear, I had a crush on Dessie, he didn't have one on me. He was totally straight. But being on Shemya for a year, without the option of dating women for a year, he found other outlets for his sexual needs (use your imagination).  I must have given myself away by my attraction to him, because he expected me to comply. Well, at that time of my life, even though I knew I was gay, I didn't know what the hell two men did together.  I had heard but I knew I didn't do THOSE things. But I did "explore" a bit, which was my very FIRST time. Up until that time all my sexual fantasies were just that, fantasies. You see I was from a small town and back in the late Forties and Fifties there was no Internet, and only Willie the Worm puppet on TV, what did I know about sex and THAT thing? But I did enjoy his company. In fact I practically lived for his companionship. He was funny, smart, intelligent and kind. However, eventually, he tired of my friendship after about a year and distanced himself from me. I developed new crushes but never got to the "exploratory" stages like I did with Dessie.  My remaining tour of duty with the Army (three years), my sex life was all fantasy and wishful thinking. 

I remember how hurt I was when he cut me off from his friendship. I thought I would never get over it but as is the case with all first loves, one does survive and I did. But I never forgot him. Over the years I've often wondered what happened to him and what kind of life he had. A few times I even sent him a Christmas card but never got a response. 

Then today, I casually put his name in my iPhone and I found his obituary. Dessie died January 11th of this year, the day before I found Bill collapsed on the floor of our kitchen. Ironically Bill is also originally from Georgia. What a coincidence, I lost my first love from Georgia but I found my lifetime love from Georgia.

I read Dessie's obituary and found that he was married for fifty-four years. He and his wife had two sons and he has one grandchild. From the video of photos of his life posted on his funeral home site, it appears that he had a successful happy, and straight life in Georgia. I'm happy for him and the family that he has left behind as his legacy. I was saddened to read one comment on his memorial page that said he is no longer suffering pain. Thank God Bill, as his health declines, is not in pain. 

So many of my friends, former co-workers, relatives, and Army buddies have passed on. I try not to dwell on how many have passed, many of whom were no longer in my life for years anyway. I am thankful for my new friends like Pat, and Glenn and my old friends like Larry and Don who continue to live as I do. But the day will come when I am no longer here. As my brother John says "Ronnie, we all get our turn" and indeed we do.  

Than you Dessie for your friendship during that very formative time in my life. I will always remember you for your kindness and generosity and humor. .

Rest in peace Dessie.

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 ba...