Posts Tagged ‘Nyel’

One man’s junk…

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

L to R – Plant Stand, Table, Creeper, Geezer

There’s nothing that makes Nyel happier than poking around in junk stores.  That’s not so easy these days from his wheelchair vantage point.  But, now that we are “downsizing” (read getting rid of the “extraneous and unwanted”) he’s almost in seventh heaven once again — even though he’s at the giving rather than the getting end of things.

I’ve lost track of the “stuff” we have hauled to Good Will or to some of the Thrift Shops across the river.  Most of it has come from the garage and the big storage room that has collected the extras and maybe-somedays for three generations.  We work on that room together, deciding what can be pitched, shredded, re-gifted or offered to the museum.  The garage is Nyel’s bailiwick.

Fixer-Upper Rocker

I have been astounded at what has come out of the corners and down from the rafters.  Amazingly, Nyel knows not only where each “treasure” can be found, but where it came from and where it should most logically be re-homed.  His blacksmithing equipment — forge, anvil, tools, how-to books went to a friend who “might” actually get going on a project.  Or, maybe someday another potential smithy will be the beneficiary.  And several items have been set aside for Tucker (but don’t tell Carol.)

If there’s no emotional attachment to whatever-it-is and if I can lift it into the car, it is ultimately headed across the river to Good Will.  And then there are the things I’ve come to call “Road Kill” — stuff someone else has pitched onto the side of the road and Nyel has rescued, either with a project in mind or just because…  There were also several things that even he couldn’t identify, but he had a “project” in mind for them… Someday. They went out in front of the garage door with a “Free” sign on them and disappeared in the night.

Today, he’s still fussing around out there and keeping an eye on several treasures with “For Sale” signs on them — mostly $5.00 per item.  While I spelled him for a while, a woman came and paid me for an old rotary phone of my mother’s.  A few minutes later a young man came by and expressed disappointment that “the cell phone” had already sold.  I knew what he meant but when I said we might have another rotary phone around someplace, he didn’t seem interested… Oh my.

That damned walrus!

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Farmers’ Bulletin No. 2130
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1959

For some time now in this household, a periodic topic of discussion has been “downsizing.”  Not for traditional reasons as in we are considering a move to smaller quarters.  No.   And not even for reasons of kindness as in whoever comes next shouldn’t have to deal with all this — although that is part of it.  No.  The real “reason” has something to do with Lewis Carroll and Alice Through The Looking Glass and that pesky walrus of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” fame.  In a nutshell (or in this case, perhaps, an oyster shell):  “The time has come…”

We are beginning ever-so-slowly to purge the back storage area where several shelves of vases and partial sets of dishes and extra waffle irons that might-be-useful-someday reside.  And then there are boxes of my folks’ photographs — so many people we wouldn’t know even if names were on the back.  Which, of course, they aren’t.  And all those boxes labeled “Sydney’s School Stuff” that I sure was going to go through for book-writing fodder.  And on and on.  There are also a lot of books — mostly paperbacks or thrift store finds belonging to Nyel — that there wasn’t room for in the house.  He hasn’t looked at them in twenty years which, of course, is neither here nor there when it comes to getting rid of them.

Edited by the Staff of Yanke Magazine, Dublin New Hampshire, 1971

Even I am having trouble relegating some of those titles to the Friends of the Library box.  So many of them conjure up memories of something incredible Nyel has been able to jerry rig or build or repair — a tool he’s made for singular purpose or a formula he’s applied to solve a particular problem.  The time he found a way to repair my grandmother’s old Oriental carpet.  Or the deer hide he tanned using cow brains he ordered from the butcher at Jack’s…  The memories are endless and just seeing the book titles conjures up a story or two.

It’s not so much that he’ll never need to build that stone wall.  Or even want to.  And it’s certainly not that we couldn’t find most of the information on line.  No.  It’s just that the walrus was right.  It’s time.  I wonder if either Nyel or I will ever be totally convinced.

It was “one of them variable days.”

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Chef Nyel works on tomato pie.

“Old Bob,” Oysterville’s handyman in the ’60s and ’70s. used a lot of expressions that have stuck with us over the years.  He often would remark on “one of them arty fellas” when he saw someone working at an easel near the church.  And, when asked, he usually concluded that it was going to be “one of them variable days” weather-wise.  Like yesterday.

Mostly it was sunny, so Nyel wore his old Panama hat.  But it was also chilly, so he wore his vest.  It was drippy around the edges — early morning and later in the evening.  Not enough to notice, really, unless you were wearing only your “variable” outfit.

Ms. Geranium — ready for The Season after Nyel’s TLC.

For us it was clean up the hanging baskets and the potted geraniums on the porch.  I fetched and carried while Nyel did the real work.  I do believe those plants know his touch.  They seemed to perk up as soon as he began snipping away the old bits and scratching up the soil around the plants.  Everyone–twelve  fuschias and nine geraniums — except for three, wintered over just fine.  Definitely no thanks to me, their Assistant Caregiver.

Coals in the Firepit

While we worked, we could hear the chain saw across the way where Tucker, Carol, and Chris were still cleaning up the aftermath of the fallen alder tree.  And all afternoon and evening we could smell the delicious fragerance of alder smoke from T&C’s firepit where they were burning the bits and pieces.  All my senses reported that it was a perfect Spring day in the village.

It wasn’t until Nyel was almost ready to pop that tomato pie in the oven that I noticed he was still wearing his vest and his Panama hat, though he had been inside at his kitchen duties for almost an hour.  Yep!  One of them variable days!

Behind Those Cupboard Doors

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

As often as I sing Nyel’s praises in the cooking department, I’m not sure I say enough about his penchant for cooking from scratch.  Prepared foods don’t have much place the great scheme of things in our kitchen, as a glance inside our cupboards reveals.

Tostados for dinner?  Only if he has a supply of beans he has previously cooked in the slow cooker for a day  Then he’ll add them to the onions he has sautéed in one of the cast iron frying pans, add chili powder and cumin and we’re in business.  He doesn’t (usually) make the tortillas or salsa or (ever) the sour cream. The lettuce used to come from his garden but, alas, not now.

We aren’t big on casseroles but we do have stir fry and kabobs fairly often and, the old stand-by dinners we both grew up with — meat, vegetable, potatoes (or rice or maybe egg noodles.)  Now that Nyel can no longer keep a garden (and I am worthless as a helpmate in that arena) our produce all comes from the market — almost always fresh, occasionally frozen, never, as in not ever, canned.

Soups and salads — all from scratch, except if tomato sauce is required.  Then Nyel will make concessions to one particular brand that has a no salt added choice.   Spaghetti sauce… also from scratch.  Salad dressings… ditto

Breads and simple desserts are home made when Nyel has time or, perhaps, is in the mood.  Pastas and noodles are store-bought but, again, we are picky about brands.  Condiments are mostly store-bought, except when we luck out from some of our homemaker friends and relatives.

Even Nyel’s granola is made from scratch — rolled oats, wheat germ, almonds (chopped in food processor), raisins sunfower seeds, honey, olive oil — all mixed and slow-baked,  The Best!

We do make a few concessions to prepared foods — Costco’s Meat Lasagna for one and ready-to-bake pie shells are another.  We love Ekone Smoked Oysters (do they even count as a “prepared” food?) and every now and then I have a craving for California rolls from Safeway’s sushi bar.

None of which detracts one iota from the day-in, day-out presentations Nyel offers here at home.  He might have missed his calling, vocation-wise.  But I am ever grateful that I get the benefit of any missed opportunity he might have had along those lines!  Lucky me!

PGD may have come and gone…

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Nyel with “Boy Cat”-1975

Somehow, amid the discussions about the Personal Grooming Day possibility and other adventures made necessary by our compliance to sheltering… Nyel opted out of the haircut and beard-trimming part.  At least for the nonce.

I do believe his decision was prompted through a journey back in time.  Somehow, he broke out a big packet of pictures — photos of family and friends and people he now has no memory of.  Most, of course, aren’t labeled and if he didn’t recognize the people or places, he put them in the discard pile.  That, as might be expected, made me (“the- hoarder” he said — “the historian” I insisted) a bit crazy.

Nyel and Sylvia, 1975

So far the “discussion” is unresolved and the photos are re-stuffed into the envelope awaiting resolution.  Meanwhile, I was introduced to old girlfriends, a former wife, his father’s wayward brothers and much much more.  After 36 years of togetherness, even the exes had lost their intrigue — at least to me.  Still… it doesn’t seem right to just pitch them.

The pictures of Nyel in the 70s, however, were worth the journey!  Finally, I can see exactly what shade of red he’s been trying (unsuccessfully) to describe all these years. And I think I’m detecting a strong glimmer of nostalgia attached to that decision not to trim his hair.  Or beard.  I’ve tried to gently explain that forgoing the haircut in the here and now won’t exactly get us back to those good ol’ days…

Stay tuned!


Hunkering Down and Planning Ahead

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

At the Tom Crellin House here in Oysterville, we are under a “Self-imposed-Semi-Shut-in-Status” which we are calling a “4-S-Alert.”

For Nyel, the timing sorta sucks — he was just getting ready to graduate from wheelchair to crutches in his physical therapy sessions but they (not we) called a halt to his appointments until virus concerns clarify.  For me, though, our 4-S Alert could be the gift of time that I’m forever seeking — time to write, time to read, time to catch up to myself for once.

Inside “The Renegade Rooster”

And, for us both — it’s a time to set a few goals for the future. High on our list of priorities is to resume our summer “field trips” to interesting places fairly close to home.  We’ve been hearing about a wonderful little private history museum in Winlock and today (on Day Two of 4-S Alert!) it just happened that Cousin Cheryl sent us some specific information about it!  And pictures!

The museum is called “The Renegade Rooster” which, right away, says it’s our kind of place!  And the photos — WOW!!!  We might have to figure out how to spend more than a day on this field trip — like how Nyel can negotiate overnight accommodations in addition to negotiating the jam-packed display areas in the little museum.

Roy Richards outside his Renegade Rooster Museum — Photo by Bill Wagner

Managing those crutches has suddenly begun to loom large in the great scheme of things.  If his forays back and forth in the house with his walker and his balancing exercises as he works in the kitchen are the path forward, then Nyel-the-Intrepid is already on the road to the Renegade Rooster!  Woot! Woot! and Cock-A-Doodle-Do!


What’s in a name?

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Randal’s New Album – 2020

Nyel and I were both blessed with difficult names.  Difficult to remember and, apparently, in Nyel’s case, difficult to pronounce.  And then, of course is the spelling thing.  Sydney, Sidney, Cydnee, Cidne — more variations than you can sharpen a pencil for.  Nyel is often Neil or (go figure!) Niel, or Nyal or Niles or Nils.

So when Randal Bays sent us his newly released CD, Up The West, listing the twelfth track as starting with “Nyel the Cannoneer,” I for one was pleased.  It’s a jig and Randal had debuted it at Vespers a couple of years ago — and here it is, published!  And even spelled correctly!  Yay!

Which, of course, brings us to our last name, “Stevens with a v” as I often say, even before the question.  It really had never occurred to me before I accepted Nyel, name and all, that people would wonder — ph or v?

When we opened the CD wrapper and read the notes, however, I was surprised to find that our last name might have still another interpretation:
    #12 Nyel the Cannoneer/  My friend Nyel Stevenson lives on the edge of the world down on the coast of Washington state.  He has a cannon that he fires off on special occasions…

Randal Bays, July 2018

Never mind.  I’m pretty sure there’s only one Nyel who has a cannon and lives on the edge of the world.  And there’s only one dear friend named Randal who could compose a jig especially for Nyel.  Randal, we love you no matter what you call us!  And I’d be hard pressed to say that about anybody else!


Be still my heart! It’s only the deer people!

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

It was sorta like this only pouring and foggy….

Yesterday was long and hard.  We left Oysterville at 9:00 a.m. and got home at ten to ten p.m.  Me driving up and back to the U.W. Medical Center where Nyel had a couple of appointments — sorta routine, sorta not, good reports for both.

It was gray and rainy and, for part of the way up and back, so foggy that our cruise control stopped working.  No biggie, but rather disconcerting to be traveling along at 65 mph in heavy traffic and to suddenly realize that your car is slowing to a gradual crawl.  Thank goodness the drivers behind me weren’t the road rage types.

By the time we got Nyel and his wheelchair home and into the house, I was more than ready to go-directly-to-bed-without-any-supper.  But, Nyel was hungry and offered to make burgers.  And then he mentioned softly “and maybe you could check on the chickens.”

You had to be there…

“Please God, no!” I thought.  It was pitchy black, wetter than wet, and even the good flashlight that Tucker gave us last winter hardly made a dent in the dark.  The night was just plain thick.  I shrugged my coat back on, turned on the east porch light, and stepped out into the yard.  Two steps and I knew I wasn’t alone!  I shone the flashlight’s beam a bit to the right and there was a HUGE shape, motionless, looking at me with big eyes.  And a big rack.  No!  Not just ONE huge shape!  TWO huge shapes and ONE smaller shape!

Was I actually backing up the porch steps?  “It’s only a deer family,” I told myself.  “Having a lie-down and chewing their cuds,” I told myself.  I stopped at the door just long enough to take a picture.  It didn’t phase the family and didn’t register noticeably on my camera — just a couple of reflections from a couple of eyes.  Damn!

Even though I knew it was silly, I did not go out to check on the chickens.  After all, if Bambi and his parents are out there, who else might be lurking nearby?  And maybe not so disinterested in me and my yellow rain hat as were the gentle deer people?  I said a silent “Sorry!” to the girls and hoped that Rocky Raccoon wasn’t reconnoitering.  Ditto the coyotes.

Nest Box This Morning

Nyel didn’t chide me and the chickens were fine.  They even had an egg ready for me early this morning.  As for the deer people — only a calling card or two left behind.  Proof enough that I wasn’t hallucinating…

On Being a Commuter… and a Regular!

Monday, May 27th, 2019
SRO for Bayside Singers at Memorial Day Program

The Bayside Singers Perform for SRO Crowd in Oysterville

Day 31 — In our Sunday Night “conference call” last night, Charlie and Marta both remarked that I was almost “commuting” between Portland and Oysterville these days.  Well, not quite.  But it is true that this morning I made the 135 mile trip from St. Vincent’s to Oysterville for the third time in the last eight days.  Still… not quite commuting or at least so I thought until I made my usual pit stop at Safeway in Seaside.

After a dash to use the facilities I went to the Starbuck’s window and, before I could utter a word, the barista said, “Do you want your usual — a tall decaf mocha, double shot, no whipped cream?”  “Yes!” I said in amazement!  “How did you know?”

“Well,” he said.  “I wouldn’t remember your name even if you had told me, “but I’m usually pretty good at remembering what our regulars order.”  Wow!  So, maybe I am a commuter after all!

Sydney Reading “In Flanders Fields”

On this particular morning I headed right for the Oysterville Church where I had promised to take Nyel’s place in reciting (in my case, reading not reciting) “In Flanders Fields” as part of the Ninth Annual Memorial Day Program.

Afterwards, I again substituted for “General” Nyel, explaining to the crowd how we happened to form The Honorary Oysterville Militia and get the cannon in preparation for Oysterville’s Sesquicentennial in 2004    Pvt. Tucker Wachsmuth was the one who took charge of the cannon firing with the special help and  support of Capt. Ron Biggs, Lt. Pat McKibbin, Chaplain, Lt. Phil Coffin and neighbor Mark Seifried.  Nyel called shortly afterwards and swore that the bang could be heard clear off in Portland!  (No doubt it was the meds talking… but never mind.)

General Nyel and The Cannon in Plummier Days

Patient Nyel also reported that they are gradually shifting from IVs to oral meds in preparation for his move to a rehab or swing bed facility.  Fingers and toes crossed — it may happen later this week!

“They told me to take off my wedding ring…”

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Wedding Ring Amongst The Miscellany

Day 26 — During the time that I was in Oysterville, “they” adjusted Nyel’s pain meds once again.  He had been in misery on Day 24 mostly, we think, because the the nurses are SO inconsistent about giving him his meds on time.  If they are late and he experiences break-through pain, it takes several (on-time) dosages to get him normalized.  Some nurses are timely.  Some are not.

The ones that are not always have excuses — “I was busy with another patient” is the most common and hard to argue with.  My personal favorite (NOT!) is the “He didn’t ask for it so I didn’t think he needed it.”  I think I might have raised my voice just a tad:  “He’s on a scheduled dosage!!!”


In response to that particular go-round, “they” added yet another pain med.  Sometimes the two were being given together.  “No, no, no” said yesterday’s nurse.  You have to wait at least a half hour.  Those drugs are not good together.  Why is he on THAT schedule?”  I think her question was rhetoricaL… but it’s hard to tell with these Providence nurses.

When I walked in this morning Nyel said, “Those people are talking to me again.”  The “people” come to him when he is dozing.  He knows they are not real but, apparently, that doesn’t help matters.  “They told me to take off my wedding ring.”  And so he did.  “It’s right here on the table by my glasses.”  After I retrieved it and put it safely in my purse I asked, “And if they asked you to pull out your IVs, would you??”  “Probably,” was the answer.  YIKES!

Nyel’s White Board

So I ratted him out to Jon, his new nurse-of-the-day.  “He shouldn’t be given these pain two meds together — not even if they are given a half hour or hour separately.  One or the other.  Not both!” and Jon has crossed off one of the pain meds completely.  I didn’t know he could do that without a doctor’s order.  But I actually know very little…

The Tall and The Short Of It

The last time Nyel hallucinated it was in the ICU after his big “clean out the hardware” surgery early this month.  On that occasion he was an amoeba with millions of other amoebae.  They were racing for their lives in a game for which there were no rules.  Nyel said he lost and was then going down a ramp to the next game, also with no rules.  When he told the ICU nurse about it, she said, “Oh yes!  That’s called an ICU delirium and often happens after you’ve had anesthesia.  There have been a lot of studies about them.”  I looked online…  Wish I hadn’t.

As usual, my every instinct is to bust him outta here… where are Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman when we need them?