EPILOGUE – THE FALL

rainbow and roses

Just a few days before my fall, we had celebrated our 57th Wedding Anniversary. I was a few months from turning 80. But, you know, I never really felt old.

I had subjected my body to a lot of things over the years: bucked off horses, bruised up in sports, battered around jumping out of airplanes. A lot of hard work before I found my life’s occupation, stagehanding, and then when I settled on it, it was 24/7. long hours, little sleep, working part of it outside in the heat and the freezing cold.

I was fortunate to work as a stagehand, work that had great diversity, getting paid to work things that people paid big bucks to attend. Working big time names, acts, events. And while I missed so much of my sons growing up, I made up for my loss when they got old enough to work next to me. Sons, nephews, daughter-in-law all worked beside me. What a thrill! Something most people never experience. As the years went by I became one of the old-timers in the business, but I never really thought of myself as old.

Because of all that ‘fun’when I was younger I ended up with knees that creak and hurt, among other aches and pains. Heck, if I raced a tortoise it would be the damn turtle that would have to fall asleep in order for me to win. But you know I really never thought of myself as old.

I saw my our sons grow into adulthood and raise families. I saw our grandkids graduate from high schools and colleges. So proud of the family that my wife and I were blessed with. And even at our family get togethers and found myself looking up to talk to many of the family, I still really never thought of myself as old.

I saw the gray strands of hair that my wife tried to hide with black touch-ups. I looked in the mirror and for several years the face that stared back at me from the looking glass was not mine; but rather the face of my father in his later years. But still I never really thought of myself as old.

And then one night I fell, and from that night on I felt old, realized my dancing days were behind me. I must be content to watch baseball on TV, rather than climb stadium steps to watch in person or heaven forbid, actually play softball at a family picnic. I’m old…but happy.

As the grandkids grew older they saw less of their grandma and their poppa. What really hurt was the fact I had no more children to sit on my lap, to read to, to tell my stories to. The prospect of great grandkids are far in the future. And then we were blessed again.

Our youngest son, Dirk, married late and now we have three little girls to watch grow into young ladies, which they are doing much too fast. Already they are too big for Poppa’s lap; but not too old to overlook their grandparents’s need to be a part of their lives.

Dirk brought the three darlings to the hospital to see me, to help me recuperate faster, to cheer me up in a way no cards or flowers ever could.

I sat up in bed anticipating hugs and kisses. But the three of them stayed back from the bed.

The youngest, Jaycee, age 8, explained that ‘Daddy said we can’t hug or kiss you, Poppa, or even get close to you because we might give you some germs and get you infected.’

‘But don’t mean we don’t love you, Grandpa’, interjected Jenna, age 10.

‘Right!’ said Jayda, age 11.

What a wonderful get-well gift. A gift an old man can enjoy long after flowers fade and cards are thrown in a drawer.

FAMILY…mi familia…the family that raised me…the family that raised my wife…the family my wife and I raised and now their families.

I beg your forgiveness in my writing this account of my medical experiences due to the fall. I know that old people converse a great deal about their aches and pains and medical experiences like I have been doing. It can grow boring fast. In this case, I wrote it more as a catharsis for myself than for the entertainment of the reader. It is a shock to admit that you too have grown old, and a joy to be given a chance to grow older.

In THE FALL I used music as a prop. Laying flat on my face, hearing in my mind, Sinatra’s THAT’S LIFE, that song clearly was the Present.

The Past was represented by a song, C’EST LA VIE, bringing to mind my growing up in the French/Dakotah town of Mendota and a saying the old- timers said with a shrug of their shoulders.

And the fear of the unknown after brain surgery, QUE SERA, SERA, the Future.

And while all three are some of my favorites, the one song I start out my day is Louis Armstrong singing:

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people goin’ by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’
“How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’,
“I love you.”

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know

And I think to myself

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLDAll Star Night 14

MLB All Star Game 2014

Minnesota Twins Field

VFW: NOW AND THEN

vfw

    The VFW National Convention is being held in North Carolina and that old Draft Dodging Donald Trump was a main speaker. Brings back a lot of memories, some good, some bad, some funny, some sad.

    Most of my military service was spent at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, so it doesn’t surprise me that you need your birth certificate if want to use a public restroom in that state. During my time down South, there was restrooms for WHITES and restrooms for COLOREDS, even though there was no segregation on military posts, which was the biggest industry in the south.  But no such signs  in downtown Fayetteville either. The city was divided in two sections, the upper section for WHITES, the lower for COLOREDS. Being in the wrong section of town could result in severe bodily harm, especially if caught by the town police. No need for stinking signs.

    And as far as the VFW and it’s companion, the American Legion, is concerned, well, I never got over how they treated the Korean War Vets when the first tried to join. These Vets weren’t allowed because the action in Korea was not a war but a”conflict”. Granted later on they changed their attitude and today I guess you don’t have to be a Vet or even a relative of a Vet to join. You pay your dues in cash, not in actually having anything  to do with the military.

    In November of 2014, they changed their national charter and recognized the fact that some of the vets are women and every post must accept them as full members, not just auxiliary members. Real progressives. And this year they welcomed a proud draft dodger, Donald Trump, who has often bragged on how he avoided going to Viet Nam like the suckers of his generation.

    Mr. Trump rode the college deferments and finally his dad’s money found a doctor who claimed young Donald to be 4F because of bone spurs on his feet, a fact never brought up while riding the student deferment and which never stopped young Donald from playing athletics or marching around in a military prep school.

    He’s on record stating John McClain was no war hero because McClain was captured. And he also said that during the Viet Nam War, he was fighting his own war, trying to get as much sex as possible but avoiding STD’s. Big mouth Chicken Hawk.

    And  then there is the man Trump choose as a running mate, Mike Pence. Pence’s voting record shows he voted against every bill that came before him that would help our military personnel, those who are serving and those who served.

    So much for the VFW working to improve the lot of those who are serving and those who served.

    And so much for my rant. Here’s my memories of a VFW National Convention I worked. 

 

In the late 60’s, early 70’s, the Secret Service was hard pressed because of the decade of assassinations, remnants of the Civil Rights Movements, and the division of the country over the Viet Nam War. In 1972, the VFW held their national convention at the Minneapolis Auditorium. The first day, the main speaker was the strongest voice against the war, and the Democratic nominee for the presidency, Senator George McGovern, who got a lot of boos.. The second day, the main speaker was the Vice President Spiro Agnew, who got standing ovations. Both men were highly decorated WWII veterans which was favorable to the VFW; but both men were lighting rods to protestors, a fact that was not appreciated by the VFW. The security was as tight as it could possibly be, both inside and outside the Auditorium. The Republicans were so paranoid about the safety of Spiro Agnew, they even enlisted volunteers from CREEP, which didn’t go well with the professionals like the Secret Service.

And I got the gig of being the sound man for the convention!

Like I said, it was the 70’s, and men’s hair was longer than usual and real facial hair was common, not these 5 o’clock shadows that is in style today. I had a beard and stash for a short time, and it during this time that I worked the VFW Convention. When one of the officers of the VFW saw that I was going to be the sound man, he went to Mark, the head stagehand of the Auditorium and a veteran of the Korean conflict, and demanded that that damn ‘hippie draft dodger’ be sent home and another man found to be the sound operator. Mark assured him that I was a vet, a paratrooper, with an honorable discharge, and not a ‘hippie draft dodger’.

The sound board was set up in a vomatorium about center of the house. When I went out to the board the first day, there were two Minneapolis policemen and two young men, in expensive suits and red, white, and blue ties, CREEP volunteers, standing in the audience entrance of the vom,. The CREEP boys tried to keep me out; but I was wearing a pass, and the policemen told them I could enter. I had no more than sat down at the board when a well dressed man came into the vom. He introduced himself as a Secret Service agent. His first order was to tell the two CREEP’s to take a position at the door outside of the hall. He then asked if one policeman could stand outside the door and the other inside the door. He looked at my badge, smiled, and asked kiddingly if I had a dangerous weapon hidden in my beard.

There were many speeches before the day’s main speaker, Senator McGovern. All the speeches were welcomed with a lot of loud applause, except the Senator’s. At the end was soft, polite response, in spite of the fact that this man had volunteered for WWII, flew 35 missions over German occupied Europe and had many medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. They didn’t like his political stance.  He was led down the center aisle while the band was playing, INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER. The party took a left and eventually came into the vom where I was stationed. By now there were many others in the vom, some with mics, some with cameras.

As the Senator passed by, I stood and held out my hand. He shook it and smiled when I told him I liked his speech. He went out the doors and I turned to sit back at the sound console. A man with a camera was standing on my chair. I gave him a slap on his leg and told him to get off my chair. As he got off, his legs got tangled and he ended up laying on his back on the floor. I looked down at him and asked if he was allowed to stand on the furniture at home. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Secret Service Agent looking at me. After the show, when I went to check out in the stagehands’ room, I kind expected that something would be said about the incident. But nobody said a word about it.

The next day was like the first, except that the main speaker, Spiro Agnew, was received with great applause. I had a terrible time trying to get him heard. He was speaking very low, and I had the volume cranked up as much as I could without causing feedback. Suddenly a man, shouting he was Agnew’s press agent, came running at me. He accused me of deliberately sabotaging the speech. I told him to back off and watch. I turned the volume knob up just a hair and feedback went through the house. I backed it off and shouted at the man, “See! Tell your boy to speak up if he wants to be heard! Now get the hell out of here!” He took the hint and left.

The Secret Service agent laid his hand on my shoulder. I turned my head expecting something bad to happened. But he just stood there and shook his head. “Well,” he said, “At least you didn’t knock that guy on his ass like you did to that guy yesterday.”

Believe me, I was very happy this agent was one with a sense of humor.

Ah yes! Those were the days when the VFW disliked draft dodgers as much as I do, then and now.

 

P.S.: If my experience working the VFW Convention in 1972 seems familiar, it’s because I told the same story, along with others dealing with working with the Secret Service in my post, ON HER SECRET SERVICE. The times just seem ripe for a retelling.

 

SAY WHAT?

        

            In the early days of bumper sticker ‘humor’, one of the best sellers read: I’M NOT HARD OF HEARING. I’M JUST IGNORING YOU. If ever I was so inclined to have a bumper sticker, mine would read: I’M NOT IGNORING YOU. I AM HARD OF HEARING. I can see humor in the first reading; but to me, there’s nothing funny about the second reading.

            Most of the times, when a person wearing a hearing aid, asks the speaker to repeat what was said, it has nothing to do with volume. It is really a plea for slower and clearer speech. And the saddest is when you can’t understand what your little grandchildren are trying to tell you. And you ask them to repeat what they said. And you still don’t understand. So you either smile and not yes, or turn to your wife and see if she could tell you what they said.

            It is said some things are genetic. I guess I inherited my bad eyesight from my mother, bad hearing from my father.

            Dad was never much to listen to small talk. It took a lot of persuasion to finally convince him to get a hearing aid. He expected that if people had anything really important to tell him, they would holler. Other things  he needed to know could be found in the newspaper, and the only thing he really watched on TV was baseball, which he could follow without having to listen to the announcers. (On that point I totally agree with him. When I am watching sports on TV, I usually hit the mute. With the new hearing aids, the clarity is less of a problem than the inane statements of the announcers.) When Dad finally got a hearing aid, he didn’t like it. For one thing, the bad clarity made things more confusing than helping.

            Dad finally reached a point where he wore his hearing aid, but…. Mom would be talking to him. He’d nod and answer ‘yes’. She’d go on and on, and he would just nod and answer ‘yes’. And then she would say something where ‘yes’ was not the right thing to say.

hard of hearing ‘Dick’, she’d scream, ‘You got your damn hearing aid turned off again! Haven’t you?’ Like I said, he was never one for small talk.

The Old Hand :

It has been several years since my wife and I began to talk two, three times as much to each other as we had done in the past. It isn’t that we have that much more to say to each other; it’s that we have to keep repeating everything to be understood.

Now the concept of a hearing aid may sound good on paper; but in reality, it is often a pain in the ear. You can’t understand what the person talking to you is saying, but you sure as heck can hear the noise of a fan in the next room. And when a vacuum is turned on, you know why dogs hate them.

Now, one aid for the hard-of-hearing that I found that really helps is close- captioning on the TV. On taped shows, it affirms that what was said is as silly as what you thought you heard. And on live shows, the accuracy and spelling often suffers, but what comes across the screen is often more entertaining then what was actually said.

I remember when I first started using it, and two of the grandsons were over. Alex came running through the room, glanced at the TV, and stopped.

“Avery, Avery,” he shouted to his brother, “Come here and look. Grandpa’s TV is so smart, it can even spell.” I am glad he said it loud enough for me to enjoy it.

Published SPPP, 8/2, 2006

       And there are occupations that cause damage to your hearing. Stagehanding is one of the worst. You can’t wear earplugs and hear cues at the same time. If you are on headset chances the cue caller has his/hers mic open, which amplifies the noise. And rock and roll concerts!!! The PA fader is set at 11. (See SPINAL TAP)  

       Pyro explosions are becoming more plentiful as more spectacle is needed to cover up the lack of talent. And, of course, the audiences of today tend to confuse concert going with playing an interactive video game, they think they have to make more noise than the entertainers on the stage. 

The Old Hand :

For a great many years my brother Ray has had a lot of trouble hearing but never had much success with hearing aids. The problem with all the various hearing aids he had bought over the years was they all amplified the sounds, but  the heat and noise made them unpractical to wear at work, driving a blacktop dump truck, and the lack of clarity made them frustrating to wear anytime. Ray reached a point where if anybody wanted to say something to him, they better just talk loud because the hearing aids were in the dresser drawer.

Recently, having retired from his noisy job, he gave the hearing aid route another try and finally got one that worked for him. Not only did he wear it, he even kept it turned on.

The first time he wore it to the weekly card tournament, he announced to everything that they would no longer have to holler at him. He had a good hearing aid and he could hear them, and even understand what they are saying. He went on to tell them how it is different from the ones he had before, how much clearer it sounds, and how being able to hear makes a big change in a person’s life.

One of the card players, who had been considering getting a hearing aid himself, asked Ray, “What kind is it?”

Ray looked at his watch and said, “Ten to nine.”

Published SPPP, Bulletin Board 9/27/11

           

260px-Dave_Letterman    A month or so after this story was published, David Letterman used it in his monologue with two differences. He said it was his mother who got the new hearing aid, and it was his son who asked her what kind she bought.

            Come on, David! My story was true. Yours was probably bought from someone who sent your writers a copy of the published story. Okay! But do you really think anyone would believe that your son, age 8 at the time, would really care what brand of hearing aid his grandmother bought?

 

            We can officially add two more certainties to Ben Franklin’s death and taxes.

           First: With the depletion of the ozone layer, cataract surgery will be as common as tonsillectomies were in the 40’s and 50’s.

            Second: With the volume of things like IPods and rock concerts  cranked up to destruction levels, hearing aids will be as common as eye glasses were before contacts and lasik.

            So please, on behalf of all of us with bad hearing, speak slowly and don’t mumble. WHAT SAY?