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


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.  Y...