The wonder of it all

Blue Ridge Mountains, late afternoon

January, so far, has been one of those periods of time when it seems life runs its own course and we just have to sit back and wonder at it all.

Such was the case when, earlier this month, The Redhead’s father passed after a lengthy illness. No matter when it comes, the passing of a parent stirs emotions that cannot be expressed but is understood by everyone that has gone through it. During it all, our family and friends in Connecticut, Florida, here in Staunton and elsewhere, brought us much comfort, support and love.

Death, for those that believe in its finality, can be devastating. Yet, if death is understood more as a passing or moving from one reality to another, it can bring comfort and even joy. To experience contrition, forgiveness and love at any time is wonderful, but at the end it is beautiful. Truly, God’s Hand in all matters is a wondrous thing.

Before her dad passed, The Redhead had us facetime. We spoke about several things, one of them being the building of our house here in Staunton, VA and his happiness that his daughter would be living in such a beautiful home and area. He reminded me of our walks and talks along his beloved Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine and I told him that I would also remember his tips about planting a flower garden – “always add a pop of white, it brings out the other colors”! I’ll do my best, but Augusta County clay soil is a far cry from the soil found in coastal Maine. Thanks for the tips, Norman. And, thank you for The Redhead.

So, now things are starting to really come together at the house. The framing is nearly complete and the rooms, while still only 2×4’s, are now clearly defined. A few tweaks here and there remain: a repositioning of the vanity in the Master Bath, the addition of an entry hall closet and a little tweak in the dining room to accommodate a hutch – little things that will mean a lot to us now and later. Our Builders, Eric and Amy Argenbright, have been very understanding of what we are trying to accomplish: a beautiful home that will suit us now and for a long time to come. We appreciate their ideas and especially their attention to quality and craftsmanship.

Following are a few photos of the work that has taken place in just these past few weeks:

Building the front porch
Setting the Trusses
Eric Argenbright selecting the correct roof truss for the crane
Risky Business
Man and Machine
Getting There
Back view, it looks bigger than it is! The sun room is in center.
Our soon-to-be new home in Staunton, VA

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to our very special friends that are our family.

Everything is going to be o.k.

Every year ends the same: We are bombarded with lists of “Best Of” and “Worst Of” the previous year, reviews of what actually occurred from last year’s list of predictions and, of course, new lists of what will happen this coming year.

I’ve got this figured out now!

Sages and pundits will have a prediction for everything: what  the “hottest” colors and fashion trends will be, what will happen to the stock / housing market, what will happen with foreign friends and foes, etc., etc. I’ll bet there will even be a few soothsayers that will predict who the next president will be! Ya’ think?

Oy, Vey, what will happen??

I’m thinking, though, that like this past year, when events do unfold most of us will simply scratch our heads and think, “Well, ain’t that something”. Is this the result of apathy or disinterest? No, not at all. It’s more a belief in that everything is going to be o.k. and some of us have been “around the block” a few times. There are, believe it or not (to coin a phrase), people that actually make a living trying to scare the bejeepers out of us. Oh, yeah!

Are ya’ scared yet?

So, because everything is going to be o.k., here is what we plan to do this coming year:

Plan our “Housewarming Party” for this coming Spring.

Plan which trees and shrubs we’ll plant on our property because, despite an abundance of clay soil, it’s going to be o.k. – something will grow.

Plan on a layout for my new basement workshop because, yes, I’m getting back to work.

No more working in “The Dungeon”! No wonder I lost my hair!

Plan to find some porch rockers because, despite being new-comers here in Staunton, VA it will be o.k. Friends and new neighbors will come by and set awhile on our front porch. And, vice-versa!

Entertainin’, Gibby style!

But, mostly, I plan to be happy and thankful. Because everything is going to be o.k. Believe it!

Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, that have become or have remained such an important part of our lives. And, I am truly thankful to God, His Holy Mother and St. Joseph and St. Padre Pio for the gift of healing my beautiful Redhead this past year.

Below are some pics of an unexpected Christmas / New Year gift from our builders: our framing has started!

Front of house, library will be second window from left!
Some views!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.  Everything will be o.k.

Bill

Charlie

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Tough day today, huh, Charlie?

“Yeah, it sure is. It seems a lot more days are getting tougher and tougher, for me at least”.

We’re in the break room, cooling off after driving our machines in the sun for an hour and a half on a day when the thermometer reads 103 degrees in the shade. Add another 10-15 degrees inside the cabs and today, like the past 10 or so, is indeed a Tough One.

He slips a “cooling bandana” from around his forehead. It is drenched in sweat as are his shorts and shirt. A mini cooler is pulled from the fridge and Charlie slumps into a chair while retrieving a half-eaten sandwich and a juice carton from the thermal bag. At 67, 140 pounds overweight, diabetic and with open sores visible on his lower legs, Charlie looks like he is losing the battle – with the heat, with the job and with himself.

“I wasn’t always like this”, he says. Was I staring or was he reading my mind? He had been a small-town policeman up north somewhere, I knew. Other than that, all I knew about him was that he was always polite, always soft-spoken and always the butt of jokes from the straw bosses up front that sat all day in an air-conditioned room criticizing Charlie for usually being a few minutes behind schedule on his tours. Miss your times and you, too, became a “Charlie”.

“My wife and I came down here after we retired. We had a small house. We’d go fishin’ and cook on the grill and drive around seeing the sights. We were happy. Then she got sick. Cancer. I took a job as a security guard to help with the bills. One day I was beat up and fell to the ground and hit my head. Never been the same. My wife died soon after”.

I’m sorry to hear this, Charlie.

“It’s o.k., it’s been a while. I live up the street, you know. At the motel. The one with the sign that says, ‘American Owned’ out front. Not many of those left. They treat me nice. No kitchen, though. I usually eat at Hungry Howie’s”.

Charlie is telling me this in a very matter of fact way. But, I’m not sure why. Is it because he knows that I, too, was “on the job” up north? Kind of like comrades?  I don’t know. All I know is that my eyes are stinging from sweat – or maybe it is something else.

Train’s in!

I’ve got to go, Charlie. See you later. Drink lots of water before you go out again.

He looks up and says, “Oh, yeah”.  And then, “You know, I used to be a somebody, once”.

Before I open the doors to go back into the blast furnace of St. Augustine in August I look around the office. It has changed. I will never again see it as I did just one hour before. Maybe I’ll be a few minutes late beyond the allotted 90 minutes of my next scheduled tour. Just so Charlie isn’t alone today.

Does every love affair have to end?

Does every love affair have to end?

She gave me the news a few days ago and nothing is the same. If she didn’t bring out the best in me, at least she let me share what was.

She is a free spirit. She was the sun on cloudy days and yet so cool when everyone was sweating. Being with her at night was best. She sparkled. And moved to music that was hers alone.

In five days we will say goodbye. Forever. It is so final that the words ,”please, don’t” can’t even be thought. It is over.

Because of a landlord’s desire for more, so many lives will have less. Much less.

My beloved Lillie’s is closing.

lillies

Lillies 1

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Goodbye, Katy. Goodbye, Debbie. And Alyssa and all the others.

Does every love affair have to end?

Call me Killa’

I call you killer

Alice: “I’ll be right back, Killer. And, I call you, Killer, because you slaaay me.
Ralph: “And I’m calling Bellevue because you’re nuts”! Link to TV clip

Last week was my “face your fears time”. It began early one morning with our friend and neighbor, Lydia, knocking on our front door. The Redhead went to the door, as did our two friends visiting from Connecticut, Sue and Mary Ellen. There was a brief conversation, three sentences of which can be recalled: Lydia – “There’s a snake by my backdoor, a bad one. I don’t know what to do”. The Redhead – “I’ll get, Bill”.

Tell me there is a lion in your backyard. No problem. Tell me there is a leak in your faucet. No problem. Tell me there is someone walking down the street, wearing a mask, and carrying your neighbor’s TV.  Absolutely, no problemo. But, tell me something is crawling in your backyard and it’s not wearing a diaper. That’s a problem. For me. That this bit of news was delivered by Lydia to The Redhead and Sue and Mary Ellen made this a stomach-churning, knee buckling, cold sweat type of problem. At least for someone still believing in chivalry. And, as Don Quixote found out, chivalry and common sense don’t always go hand in hand. No sir. And timing. Timing is very important. Oh, yeah. Ya’ have to think some things through, very carefully. And, that takes time.

But, on this beautiful sunny morning, time and common sense were two gifts denied me. Thanks in part to dear friend, Sue, blurting out, “I’ll go over”, I needed to DO SOMETHING. Fast! Because, as well intentioned as she was, Sue, from Queens, NY, knows about as much about snakes as Donald Trump knows about hair style and humility.

Trump

So, no contemplating a plan. No assembling of an appropriate arsenal of weapons. Just time to grab a shovel, slip on a pair of moccasins (oh, the irony!) and hot foot over to Lydia’s backyard to see, The Bad One.

There he was, curled up just outside her back door. Just a Black Racer napping, I hoped. Now, if someone really hates snakes, as do I, the best hope is for a snake to be (1) a tool used by a plumber, (2) a Black Racer. Both are useful and won’t hurt you. Usually.

shovel snake

So, let me just give this little bugger a nudge and send it on its way somewhere else. What a hero I’ll be – without breaking a sweat! So, tickle, tickle, my little pal. Up goes its head, open goes his mouth, rubbery go my knees. The open white mouth tells the tale: it’s a water moccasin or “cotton mouth”. The books say it all – Avoid, venomous, dangerous, and nasty. Lydia was right, it’s a bad one.

The next five or so minutes must have been like watching the Wallenda Acrobats walking a tight-rope wearing clown shoes. It’s a dangerous act, but it brings out laughter. Lydia has out her camera phone. Sue is saying, “oooh, oooh”! Both are laughing. The snake is not laughing. He looks straight at me as I bring down the sharp edge of my Ames spade shovel. Whack, whack, miss, whack. Another look at the snowy inside of his mouth as he wiggles a little closer. Whacko. This SOB won’t die, I blurt out. More laughing. Oh, ladies, it seems I was born to amuse you. Yikes! This thing is still moving. Whacko, chop. Take that!

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snake3 (2) (576x1024)

20151005 snakey1At last. Finito! What might have made a fine pair of boots for a midget is now a nearly tri-sected length of nasty. It must be three feet long. Hmm, with a little effort I could stretch this to being an 8 foot menace to humanity. No, we’ll leave well enough alone. A quick catapult into the nearby woods and it’s sayonara for this critter.

Let’s hope the next knock on the door brings with it a friend with a piece of apple pie, maybe a bit of pumpkin bread or a ”I’m just here to visit, put on the coffee”. But, if not, now I’m ready for anything!