Archive for the ‘Up Close and Personal’ Category

Couldn’t Understand a Word!

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Israel Nebeker in Concert

The last time I had my hearing checked (which wasn’t all that long ago), I still scored in the ’normal’ range.  In a way, I was disappointed about that.  After all, if it’s not my hearing that’s gone wonky, it is probably my brain and that possibility sounds like (ahem!) a much worse option.

I think I hear most things okay – as well as I want to, anyway.  But there are two areas of my auditory life that have become bothersome in recent years.  The first has to do with the telephone.  Most especially with calls or messages from young people.  Not all of them, mind you, but a disproportionate number speak so rapidly that I have no idea what they’ve said.

I get this a lot because I’m the one who brides call to arrange the rental of the Oysterville Church.  More often than not I have to ask them to repeat themselves more slowly or, if it’s a message, I just have to hope that they’ll call again when I’m home so I can say, “Slow down, please!”  It’s gotten so I much prefer communications by email from these rapid-speaker types.

Sergey Antonov and Ilya Kazantsev

The other impossible situation is any kind of concert involving vocalists born in recent years – say, after 1980.  Last night, for instance, my failure to comprehend occurred at the Liberty Theater at the Astoria Music Festival.  I was so looking forward to “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” with Israel Nebeker but, as it turned out, I couldn’t understand a word he sang and only about one in ten or twenty of the words he spoke.  According to the program, musical selections would be announced from the stage.  As much as I strained, it was mostly a mumble.

Ditto for Nyel, even with hearing aids turned up.  Ditto for our hosts Paul and Lana Jane Brent, both of whom have excellent hearing.  The instrumental parts of the program with cellist Sergey Antonov and pianist Ilya Kazantsev came through loud and clear.  Ditto the accompaniment of the other ‘Young Virtuosi musicians.  However, the vocal parts… zip.  As I looked around the audience, it definitely seemed to be an age thing.  The theater was quite full and about evenly divided between the gray hairs (who clapped warmly) and the New Gen folks who whistled, cheered, stomped and laughed, presumably in all the right places.

Say what?

I was disappointed.  I liked the music and was prepared to be enthusiastic about the songs.  The last time (and only other time) we saw Israel was when he was being filmed for a music video over at the church.  We couldn’t hear him then, either.  They were filming an action sequence which, apparently, would be married to the music through the magic of technology.  All we saw were musicians and singer Israel miming something-or-other for take after take after take.  Soundlessly.

So, actually, last night was a step up.  There was sound.  Lots of it.  I’m thinking of having another hearing test… just in case.  If it’s a choice between my auditory acuity and my brain’s ability to discriminate between noise and sound, I hope it’s hearing aids that are in my future.  It seems the best alternative.

The Hard Reality of Mobility

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Special Delivery to Oysterville!

Every once in a while, we say to ourselves: “Selves,” (we say) “maybe it’s time to stop driving.”  And we discuss alternatives like any right-thinking, totally responsible adults-of-a-certain-age should do.  As you might imagine, that conversation took a very serious turn at the time of our recent TooP (Totaling of our Prius).  But the reality of our lives always seems to get in the way of the inevitable.

For instance… Our disaster occurred on Tuesday, May 30th.  Since then, we have purchased (and minutes ago received!) a new car and have had two rental cars and a loaner from the dealership where said purchase was made.   In the meantime, our rental/loaner wheels have taken us to Portland and back five times (doctor’s appts.), to Seattle and back once (for fun) and to Astoria and back three times (a combination of reasons we’ll call “errands”).  That’s a lot of traveling in 24 days.  2,842 miles by my count.  And that’s not considering any of the usual ‘local’ driving.  Nor did I factor in the two round trips to Longview on our car-buying mission…

The Perfect Bumper Reflection!

Part of the problem – probably a good part – is living in Oysterville.  Groceries and entertainment, medications and doctors, family and most friends are more than walking distance away.  Much more than.  Dial-a-ride only goes so far.  Pride goes much farther – as in how many people can you bother to take you how far and how often?


Our discussion usually stops at that point.  We do not talk about relocating.  That’s not an option.  Not financially and not emotionally.  We get all sorts of ‘good’ advice from (usually much younger) friends.  Our children make noises (welcome ones) about being here more often and helping out.  We appreciate all of the above.  But…

The Old and The New

Our rich fantasy life probably doesn’t help.  Like… couldn’t we win the lottery and hire a chauffeur?  What happened to the days where there were old and trusted family retainers who lived in and took care of you ‘when the time came’?  Such great ideas, but not even remotely related to reality – not in our family no matter how far back you look.  Damn!

Our new Forester, being documented by Neighbor Tucker as we speak, is red.  I think we’ll call her Scarlett.  As in… Oh I can’t think about this now!  I’ll go crazy if I do!  I’ll think about it tomorrow.

No, No, Nannette!

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

If you have been following the saga of our totaled Prius, you may remember that the police officer at the site of the accident was Chief Workman of the Warrenton Police Department.  As I ‘reported’ in my May 31st blog, he was “especially” lovely to us – a really nice man.  I did not comment on his stenographic competencies, however.

Or perhaps, it was a “clerical error” back at the office that resulted in the accident report (which finally arrived yesterday) stating that Nyel L. Stevens is married to Nannette Lou Stevens, born February 1, 1944.  Come again???  All I can say is, if you’re out there, Nannette – you are one lucky gal!  We are really curious as to how Chief Workman (or his clerical staff) got this confused, he having copied, as he did, directly from my drivers’ license.  Granted, there are two similarities – our last names (which, in my case anyway, is actually Nyel’s last name) and the month of our birthdays (February).

Otherwise… not so much.  Nannette (with three n’s) Lou doesn’t bear much resemblance to Sydney Medora – in fact not even a whispery similarity.  Her 1st of February is an entire month away (usually) from my February 28th and 1944 makes her eight years younger than I.  I’m not at all sure how such a glitch can happen.  Some sort of weird computer error?

Nyel doesn’t seem too concerned about it.  Nor am I, really.  It’s just that Chief Workman did emphasize that our part of the paperwork needed to be submitted to the State of Oregon within 72 hours of the accident – or as soon thereafter as possible – or we risked Oregon notifying our non-compliance to Washington State which  could then result in Nyel’s driver’s license being rescinded.  A little simple math tells me it’s been ten days already – more like 240 hours than the requisite 72 – and straightening out this “little glitch” could take a while if the stories about identity theft and proving who you are and all of that stuff come into play.  Just sayin’…

I did check out “Nannette Lou Stevens” on Facebook and found a very attractive “Nannette Stevens” in Bend, Oregon.  She appears to already have a handsome husband and appears much younger than that 1944 date would indicate, so I’m not bothering to share this information with her.  No, no, Nannette!

Say what you mean – Mean what you say

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

It often comes as a surprise to me that someone I know ‘only in passing’ reads my blog now and then.  Take the technician at my eye doctor’s across the river.  Susan.  When I was there the other day, we talked about my latest trauma – our totaled Prius.  “You must have a story that goes with that,” she said.  “You are a great story-teller; I read what you write.”

On reflection, I do have a ‘sort of story’ about that car crash.  Before the dust had settled and the fluids had stopped leaking, an EMT showed up at the driver’s window.  “Are you hurt?” he asked Nyel.  “No, but I think my wife might be,” was the answer.

The uniformed young man (maybe in his 20s – I can’t really tell anymore) came around to my side, asked for me to open the door and then knelt to talk to me.  He asked me some questions about what happened and how I was doing.  My answers were “I’m not sure, I had dozed off” and “I’m sore in the seatbelt area.”

“May I see your chest?” he asked.  And, being a literalist as I am, I pulled up my sweater and exposed by lacy 34-D bra in all its glory.  I wish you could have seen his face.  Not horror exactly – but on the dismayed side of surprise.  “No, no, no,” he said quickly.  “I just meant that I would…”  I think he was going for “…like to feel…” but thought better of it.

I pulled down my sweater, he gently pushed around on what I would call “the upper sternum (bony) area” of my (now) well-covered front, as he repeatedly asked, “Does this hurt?”  “Just a little,” I kept saying, all the time thinking “so now you know what your grandmother’s underwear might look like…”  Wisely, though, I said nothing.  Only asked how he got to the accident scene so fast.  “I just got off duty,” he said, “and I was on my way home.  I thought I might be able to help.”

 I think we were still chatting when all the emergency vehicles and personnel began to arrive – the Warrenton Chief of Police, the fire department, the ambulance, the EMTs.  Lots of young men being solicitous and helpful.  I didn’t flash any of them, though.  Probably they didn’t ask exactly the right question.

Susan loved my ‘story.’  So, I offer it to my readers for their reading pleasure and with profuse apologies to the wonderfully sincere and helpful young EMT who stopped, on his own time, to help.  I hope he chalked up my behavior to an old lady’s addled and literal response to his solicitous inquiry.

Problem Solving Our Shifting Priorities

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

BAM!… Damn!

An automobile accident, a sudden illness, a friend in need – it’s amazing how rapidly a single event can change the course of your day… or your life.

I can’t help but think of those sorts of catastrophes as unbidden tests of character or other life traits. Where am I on the flexibility meter?  Able to jump into problem-solving mode or stuck in some sort of unalterable rut?  And how graciously can I deal with all the well-meaning advice of family and friends?   And is my primary partner in life on the same page as I am?

Sad RemainsWith regard to current events transportation-wise… so far so good.  We’ve never had a car totaled before and we’ve been ‘problem-solving’ to beat the band!  The research opportunities available through the internet have been wonderfully helpful.  Too, we are genuinely grateful for all the commiseration and suggestions of loved ones and friends/acquaintances.

A big plus is that Nyel and I are in perfect harmony!  For now, my greatest challenge is waiting patiently for the insurance company to provide us with bottom lines, for the vehicle we want to be located, for the paperwork drudgery to get accomplished.  Patience doesn’t come naturally to me.  Nyel, on the other hand is patient to a fault!  Together, we balance perfectly.

Coming Our Way

Around the edges, we try not to lose sight of what we had on our plates BTA – Before The Accident.  For me, a writing deadline coming up.  “Stay focused,” I remind myself.  For Nyel it’s “follow doctor’s orders” – which involve routines and regimens, easily disrupted by our after-accident chaos.

In third grade, when my classmates and I were introduced to story problems in arithmetic, I remember that our teacher, Miss Hamilton, said, “Life is a series of problem solving events.”  I didn’t really get the point back then.  Now, however, I’m grateful that I loved the challenge of those story problems.  I think they’ve stood me in good stead over the years. (Although I don’t remember any of those dollar amounts being quite so high.)

Well… damn!

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Prius, – 2:30 p.m. May 30, 2017

There we were on our way to CostCo yesterday, on 101 headed south, just opposite Young’s Bay Plaza and approaching the traffic light at Neptune Street… BAM!   I don’t know when I had dozed off – maybe on the bridge.  We were listening to a book on tape… soothing voice, story not too gripping.  It was a lousy way to wake up!

Nyel isn’t sure what happened – did his foot slip from brake to accelerator?  Or did his attention drift?  Whatever occurred, he was fine; I hurt from the seatbelt but otherwise seemed okay. And where were those airbags Toyota touts? Nothing. Nada. Zip.  They simply did not deploy.  Should I be complaining to someone?  And would they care?

Airbags – Undeployed

The driver of the SUV in front of us called 911.  She said she was fine and it looked as though her car wasn’t much damaged (although there is always more than meets the eye.)  An off-duty EMT was there almost immediately.  And then Warrenton Fire Department.  And Warrenton Police Chief Workman.  They were all lovely, especially Chief Workman (even though he gave us a citation — following too close.)  Had us get out of the car because it was leaking everything… No, I didn’t want to go to the hospital.  “I’m sore but I think I’m fine.”

Some of the men (there were at least six or eight) thought the car was probably totaled.  Someone else said that it probably looked worse than it was.  Nyel put in calls to our insurance company and to Triple A and to Hill’s Auto Body in Ocean Park. Cars whizzed by in both directions while we signed releases and provided information to everyone who needed it.


All I could think was… isn’t it ironic that just last week our insurance company notified us that they were lowering our rate because of our excellent driving record?  And what’s with those non-functioning airbags?  And, we’ve never liked this car anyway.  None of which was helpful.

“It’s odd that nobody we know has gone by,” I said (also unhelpfully) at one point to Nyel.  And right then, here came Mike Carmel. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”  He was headed home to the Peninsula but said to call and he’d come back to get us.  That was the first time I felt teary…  As it turned out, we had the tow truck guy take us to Lum’s where we rented a larger sized Prius to see if we like it better.  (So far… no.)  More paperwork.  More phone calls.  And then… to CostCo as intended.

Today… talk to George Hill.  Find out for sure if the car is totaled…  Not the way we wanted to end the merry month of May.  Damn!

“Look around! Look around!”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Bear in the Tall Grass, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2014)

Ever since I’ve arrived at the forgetful stage of life, I rely on Nyel to answer all those where-did-I-leave-my-coffee-cup questions.  He has the amazing ability (or so think I) to know exactly what is where in this big house of ours.  Actually, he knows that about our tool shed and our garden, all of the visible parts of Oysterville, and the Peninsula, too.  It’s a gift!

Fortunately, he doesn’t become annoyed with my constant questions beginning with “Have you seen my…”  The closest he comes to a disparaging remark is to say, “Look around!  Look around!”  But I’m here to tell you that my visual memory is no better or worse than it has been over the last thirty years of our marriage.  And, I’ve come to believe that it’s not just a memory problem.  I’ve decided it’s related to dyslexia of a spatially challenged nature.  In fact, I was cheered recently to learn that educators are beginning to consider adding “spatial literacy” to the elementary school curriculum.

Eagles in the Monterey Cypress, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2002)

It’s hard to believe, but as many times as I’ve traveled on the front road – one or two round trips a day for forty years, you do the math – I cannot say with any assurance that Tides West is north or south of Loomis Lake State Park.  Or if the little mall with is north or south of Snap Fitness (in our household just called “the gym.)  If I need to be somewhere and am in a time crunch, I usually ask Nyel for very specific landmarks so as not to waste time hunting.  Thankfully, he is patient.  No eye-rolling or mentions that I was there only a week ago.

Yesterday, we went to CostCo (does it come before or after the turn to Lum’s?) and came across our once-upon-a-time next door neighbors Dobby and Lila Wiegardt.  We clotted up the mayonnaise aisle for a while talking about life along the bay.  They said their newly-mown meadow has been a gathering place lately for the North End Elk Herd – between 20 and 40 of the huge animals enjoying the tender, regenerating grass just beyond their windows.

Elk in the Meadow, Oysterville – Photo by Sydney (2012)

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had missed the herd’s trek along the mudflats as they traveled from Leadbetter Point to Dobby and Lila’s place.  I’ve certainly been out in the garden enough… but it’s probably one of those look-around-look-around things.  I wish I’d thought to ask the Wiegardts for a heads-up call next time they see the herd on the move to the north.  They truly are a sight to see!  And when it’s happening right in front of the house, I don’t have a bit of trouble remembering the where of it!

The Passing Parade

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Sitting around the hospital waiting for medicines to work is a lot like watching grass grow.  Fortunately, Nyel is a patient man and is happy doing crosswords, reading his book or looking at the magazine we snagged from a waiting room on one of our walks.

Yes, walks.  Though the halls are a bit limited in this section of Emanuel – a ‘round trip’ is 488 steps, total, according to the pedometer on my cell phone – we have been taking four or five strolls a day.  First we go to the left; next time to the right.  As much as we’d like to take the elevator to a lower floor, that’s off limits.  Nyel is wearing a heart monitor and its range doesn’t allow him to get very far from the nurse’s station where his heart is under constant surveillance.  If he strays too far, an annoying electronic beep urges him back within his boundaries.

We aren’t the only pedestrians in these halls.  In fact, at various times, there is quite a bit of traffic.  Other patients are walking – sometimes with a nurse or with a dutiful (ahem!) spouse; sometimes alone or, perhaps, in tandem with their metal-poles-on-wheels sporting IV bags and other essentials.  Some patients even go for ‘walks’ in their wheelchairs.

But, by far and away, most of the activity in the hall is by the men and women who might be termed “support personnel.’  I’m not talking nurses or doctors or therapists here.  Not even nutritionists or dieticians or rehab specialists.  Although all of the above are constantly on the move, sometimes while talking on cell phones or pushing heavy equipment like portable X-ray machines.  No… I’m talking about those who keep the hospital running smoothly – the electricians, the plumbers, the painters.  Even the delivery men, the laundry workers, the custodial staff.

When we aren’t actually sharing the hallways with them on our walks, we watch them through the open door of Nyel’s room.  It is an ongoing parade – minute-by-minute proof that the hospital is not a place to get any rest.  Not for patients and certainly not for the wonderful cadre of personnel who keep everything running smoothly!

Feeling Naked in Oysterville

Thursday, December 1st, 2016
Sydney, 1938

Sydney, 1938

It’s been a bunch of years – maybe 78 or 79 – since I’ve run around the house and the yard in my birthday suit.  Nevertheless, I’ve felt naked (and in varying degrees) for the last several weeks.  If, indeed, there can be varying degrees of nakedness.

First, there’s the matter of our gate.  Actually, it’s the matter of our missing gate.  I had no idea when I said “Sure, take it” to the painter that its absence would make me feel so exposed.  I did realize, though, that without a gate, our porch might look a little too inviting to the tourists.  That has proved true and we have had people wander through the non-gate looking hopeful about a house tour.  So far, no one has actually rung the bell and asked, though.  They seem to realize their mistake in time to save the mutual embarrassment.

The other day when I heard the UPS truck pull up, I opened the door just as the driver was reaching for the gate latch that wasn’t there – an automatic action by a long term delivery guy.  “Where’s your gate?” he asked.  And we both laughed.

Something Missing

Something Missing

Meanwhile… one of the prongs around the diamond on my wedding ring was catching on things.  To be on the safe side, I took it to our jeweler in Astoria for a look-see with the loupe.  Sure enough, the tip of the prong had broken off and, though there was no sign of imminent danger, I left it to be repaired.  “Two weeks,” she said.  I tell you, I don’t even recognize that left hand anymore!  And now I feel naked in a totally personal way!

So far, no one has mentioned the ring.  I don’t know if its absence has been noted or not.  Or, perhaps, there are still a few polite parameters left in this world.  A missing gate is up for commentary but a missing wedding ring, not so much?  More likely, it’s just one of those things that is more noticeable to me than to anyone else.  The best kind of ‘naked’ I say.


Sunday, November 20th, 2016
Oysterville Church by Bob Duke

Oysterville Church by Bob Duke

Three words with full stops after each.  Words to live by when you get to a certain age.  I thought of them yesterday as I lay sprawled on the porch of the Oysterville Church.  I had made a three point landing – both knees and my right hand hurt like hell.

It had happened in a blink, the way those things usually do. The street was empty and I had the fleeting thought that I could be there quite a while before Nyel missed me or anyone noticed.  It was starting to rain – an unlikely afternoon for hordes of tourists to arrive and come to my rescue.  Simultaneously, I realized that my undignified butt-in-air landing meant that the cell phone in my back pocket was reachable and that, if worse came to worse, I could call for help.

By then, though, I had determined that I was probably all right and that, at worst, I’d have a few bruises.  I hauled myself up and continued into the church being more cautious about lifting my feet as I crossed the threshold.  It had been a clumsy mis-step up the single stair onto the porch that had caused my sudden plunge downward, and I proceeded with all due caution.


Sydney with Scabby Knees – Front Row, Far Right

All my life, I’ve been one to fall up rather than down stairs.  Thank goodness.  Not that I fall all that much, even now in old age.  Again, thank goodness.  And, I often land on my knees.  That was true even in childhood.  In more than one of my old grade school pictures, I have a bandage on one knee or the other – or at the very least, a scab or two.

In recent years – well, the last twenty or so – I’ve been extra careful about falling.  It was in the early 1990s that I was diagnosed with “severe” osteoporosis and no amount of shot-taking, infusions, pill-injections or partaking of clinical studies has changed that.  On the other hand, I have never in my life broken a bone.  I’d like to keep it that way.

My doctors always say, “Do. Not. Fall.”  Great advice and, Lord knows, I don’t do it on purpose.  Certainly not on a soggy Saturday afternoon in deserted downtown Oysterville!