Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rain and Smiles

All of California is still in drought but finally some gentle rains blessed us yesterday and all the parched flowers in my back yard

started to smile. Soon the doorbell rang and it was my two old friends, Shirley and Dolores. They brought lunch as well as a bucketful of memories and smiles. Old? Yes, We have been friends for 66 years and are all cuddling 84. We take turns with our infirmities now. My lungs are acting up and I am once more on portable oxygen for a while, hence the gathering at my place instead of a fancy restaurant. Shirley drove from San Jose navigating with walker and cane having just had half a knee replaced. We think we are pretty incredible. Hope you agree.

Dolores, left, who was a Home Ec major in earlier days, munched on  the pumpkin and carrot cupcakes while Shirley, right, who was a nurse, educated us about ebola and communicative diseases. I didn't do much except tell funny stories and rejoice at the rain. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Shake Rattle and Roar.

Where were you twenty five years ago at almost this moment? I was sitting in my therapy office on Franklin St. in San Francisco. a two story brick building erected in 1903, awaiting my next client. I had just heard the rumble of the Loma Prieta but thought my five o'clocker would show up. I was the only one in the building and had no idea what was happening, other than we had an earthquake. I waited about ten minutes and then decided to go downstairs and walk around the block. To my horror as I walked the block to Van Ness I saw devastation everywhere. Glass was all over the place as well as hunks of concrete and bricks. It was growing dark. "Oh my," I sighed. "Guess I'd better get home".
So I hopped in my '64 bug and headed for the Bay bridge. Within a block the car radio reported the Bay bridge was down. So I debated. "Should I return to my office and sleep on the floor, or should I head for the Golden Gate Bridge, then the San Raphael bridge and through Berkeley to Oakland?" I decided on the latter. The San Francisco streets were pretty empty of moving cars. At a few intersections residents had gone out to direct traffic, as there were no signals or lights.
The toll booths were empty, and I was perhaps one of two or three cars on the bridge. It was eerie, but I said to myself, "If this bridge collapses on me, what a glorious way to go." No kidding, I really did.
Arriving finally safe in Berkeley I stopped at my office there and called Lee at home, where she was mighty glad to hear from me.  Folks in Berkeley were out and about, looking pretty normal.
That is only part of the story, though. The next day when I went back to my Berkeley office for scheduled appointments I found the front door crashed in as well as all the inner doors in the converted home which served five therapists. We were about five blocks from UC. From my office the telephone answering machine was stolen and papers scattered around. I learned later that day when the police came that the Berkeley druggies were terrified they could not get to San Francisco for their drug buys, and so raided many offices where they thought doctors might have drugs.
So much for how the Loma Prieta affected me.
When I got the call that afternoon to volunteer at the Berkley free clinic because so many druggies were upset, I declined. I'm sure you understand why.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Moving Into Flu Season

Tuesday as I got my flu shot at the local Safeway (ahem, the higher dose for those old enough to be at higher risk) I could't help but reflect on the great flu epidemic of 1918-19, which killed 20-40 million people world wide. My arm is only slightly tender now, very slightly, and I can't decide if the lethargy I feel this week is my imagination or not. Ever since I visited a genuine replication of a WW1 trench in Belgium with Jac on a French Escapade trip a few years ago I've been obsessed with what it must have been like for those soldiers thus housed, sometimes for over a year. No wonder we had a pandemic.
Yesterday was session 5 of my Lifelong Learning Class on the Great War and next week we are to bring personal mementos of it, if we have any. I'm bringing for display Aunt Celia's journal of her year in France as an army nurse. Although I've had it in my possession for many years I didn't sit down to read the entries until yesterday afternoon.
The family story goes that she fell in love with a soldier patient who died, and therefore never married. I'm not sure if it is true or a myth. She lived to 97. I should have asked her before she died which wasn't that long ago, but we always had a bit of a strained relationship, partly my fault, for I resented that her baby brother, my father, died so young, and that I was left with a dependent and
critical old aunt instead of a beloved father.
But back to the flu. My mother was 13 when the flu hit Canada. My grandfather having fought with the Princess Pat regiment and been wounded and hit with mustard gas, was still in a hospital in France. I remember her stories, which were frequently exaggerated, of course. Apparently the only hospital in Moosejaw, Sask., was overflowing, like hospitals everywhere. I think her mother ran a kind of rooming house. She told of coming home from school and finding the hall lined with cots of flu patients.  My mother said that everyone in town with a little space was expected to do this. Hard to imagine. The horse-drawn hearse which would collect bodies daily had a hard time keeping up with the task. Most of the victims were between 20-40 years of age, and death came very quickly.
So here we are this week frantic to stop the spread of another virus, the ebola, a virus far more lethal.
Lets hope we have better luck this time around.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Tree. Anyone?

My creative writing group here is getting hard up for topics. Last night we wrote about "If I were a tree, what tree would I be?" Here's my contribution.

 If I were a tree---

This is a ridiculous stretch of the imagination. Because I am unpredictable, I could never be a tree. Sometimes I am a liquidamber, sporting my fall colors in all their glory. At times I am cranky, like a prickly pear. Other times I am a shy dogwood, exposing just a little spring color. Unlike me, a tree has genes that predict its behavior. It may be sturdy, or graceful, or decorative. It may even be edible. I, on the other hand, have a thick torso but skinny foliage on top. No tree species, native or domesticated, would have me. 
I am neither decorative nor edible though in childhood I vigorously chewed my fingernails. I shed no leaves nor produce any seeds. For the record, I seldom sweat and produce hardly any ear wax. A tree, on the other hand, is a vital living thing, with sap generously flowing in all its arteries. 
Perhaps someday I will be reincarnated as a tree, and then look out. I will shelter baby owls and ladybugs, invite dogs to pee on my roots, and support anyone’s hammock that comes along. But I will be the funniest looking tree in the whole universe. 
And, since I can rarely keep my mouth shut, I will be a talking tree as well.  Want advice on budgeting, child-rearing, addictions or neuroses? Just cuddle up to the nearest tree and listen attentively. It may be me spouting off once again.  

So, what tree would you be? 
Driving around Hope Valley last week, my friend Joyce and I thought this tree made a statement all its own.  It looks like it could defend itself against the most severe winter storm.