Sunday, April 29, 2012
Within this confession, first, I believe God gave me this permission. We spent some quiet times together last summer as I was preparing to return to school.
Also, not to boast, as a veteran teacher who still has her wits, my B Game is a good one. I can follow the curriculum and lead my students through the material, even at half mast. Some of the stress producing, A Game Activities include chasing and catching cheaters....something that I believe ultimately helps my students; volunteering for extra curriculars; involving myself with various hallway dramas; entertaining opinions about education issues outside my immediate assignment; and field trips.
For the last 20 years -- I had lost track but several former students reminded me -- I have organized field trips for my juniors. My favorite trip for them is to go down to Indianapolis, to the Indiana Repertory Theater so that they can experience live, professional theater. When that doesn't work, my alternative trip is to Conner Prairie Farm in Fishers. There, you can step back into Indiana's past -- 1720, 1834, 1880 -- where characters play real citizens, living out their lives. Many of my students took the trip there when they were in 4th grade (studying Indiana history) so their first response is to think this is a joke. However, once they get there and watch the blacksmith, the potter, the women scrubbing dishes with corn cobs, they see with new eyes.
Field trips take students away from the classroom. My trips are timed that the kids miss all day but get back by the end of classes. We include a lunch stop. Field trips are a blast and they are the stuff of school memories. You can't measure such enrichment but I have to believe in it.
However, field trips are a lot of work -- planning, organizing, collecting the money, obtaining chaperones --- plus there's that always, back-of-the-mind worry that something will go wrong. Some student might...well...the list is long.
I had given myself permission to skip the field trips this year.
THEN, I got the mailer from IRT: They were producing William Gibson's very American play, The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan.
I looked out at my students. Just as in other years, I'm spending my days with great kids, mostly 17-year-olds. Some will go to college. Many will not spend the money and time to experience live theater unless someone tempts them.
That somebody is me. They guilted me into it. The A Game teacher whispered in my ear, "You've got to take them."
So tomorrow, at 8 AM, 60 high schoolers and 4 chaperones will climb on the bright yellow buses and head to Indianapolis. The plan runs from 10 to about 12:30. Except for intermission, my students cannot (and will not) have their phones out so they'll have to curb their obsessive texting. It will be tough. In preparation, we reviewed the deaf alphabet. Spelling is ok.
Also in preparation, we watched the very fine film starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Even though it's in black and white, a great film is a great film. The kiddies were spell bound. I know that this trip will be a great experience for them.
And for their teacher.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
There are three verses. And she, too young to understand all of it, would play along with certain passages.
Hold now thy cross before my closing eye
“Look Mommy. My eyes are closed!”
Oh thou who changest NOT with great emphasis on NOT
It was our routine. And, as she was quite the precocious wordsmith, by the time she was three, she had memorized all the verses. On a family trip, she began singing the whole thing. My mom was quiet. Later Mom said to me, “You know that’s a funeral song.”
Well, no I didn’t know that. I liked the nighttime images and the theology. (There’s a lot of great theology in what some called The Hymns of the Faith)
Mom was the third child of a Lutheran minister. In that capacity, she had memorized the hymn by attending many funerals in her father’s church.
Interesting how context can alter most things.
There’s my childhood bedtime prayer:
Pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
In Jesus’ name Amen
Just about every night in my childhood, this was the next to last thing we did at bedtime. If Dad was tucking us in, the last thing was the drink of water. From the kitchen. Tasted better.
Now look at THAT: although I like that correct “lay” and the subjunctive “if I should die” but die? Every night? Well, yes. We at the least gave it lip service.
And so we bowed at meals:
God is good. God is great.
And we thank Him for our food.
By his grace we all are fed.
Give us Lord our daily bread.
And while it’s a good thing to teach children (and remind all of us) the truth that everything we have comes through God’s gracious gifts, I’m pretty sure I did not ‘get’ this one. From my perch, WE were fed by my mom who cooked (and cleaned, and laundered, and drank coffee with Ann Johnson), and it was rare that BREAD was the entrée. Mac and Cheese in the lean years. Roast Beef with gravy in the gravy years.
Besides, children don’t get metaphor.
I know, of course, that Daily Bread represents our needs. And God in His graciousness supplies all of our needs. So often, He lets us see that we’ve gotten WAY beyond what we perceive our needs to be.
So with today’s doctor’s appointment. I took a day off from school so I could hold the hub’s hand as he especially expected grim news.
Our need today? “Scans look good. No change since December.” Following this we had some discussion of blood work and other indications.
Our need today is NO BAD NEWS. Our blessing beyond is hope for another summer.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above you heavenly hosts
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost!
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Those gusts just blew the gray away. We are lazing by the shore, snuggled in ancient Adirondack chairs.
For our praying friends: Mike had another CAT scan last Wednesday. We meet with his doctor Monday (8:30 AM EST) for the results. As always, we thank you for your prayer support.
Back to the lazing: Mike had had a rocky night so after breakfast, he headed back to bed. With an Oldies station blaring in his ears, he grabbed 2 good hours of sleep. We showered and, all fresh and such, donned our latest 'lake gear' for a walk around the area. We put Ivy on a leash...the neighbor won't complain but THEY use leashes....and took a stroll.
Gorgeous day, breezes at a good clip, temperature approaching 70. One of the many great things about the lake is the dress code. As in "None." Ah. Nobody goes naked, that's not what I mean. But colors don't clash here, patterns all match.
I slipped into my favorite lake shorts. I purchased them at Land's End about 6 years and 100 pounds ago. As they have a generous elastic waist and roomy legs, they have fit through 12 sizes. What a find. They are khaki (blend with any color, although really it doesn't matter) and currently they fit more like a dirndl skirt but anyway.....I have on my RED Kokomo Wildkat T-shirt, the same one I was wearing a year ago when one of my American Literature scholars used a cream pie-eating contest to buss his teacher in the face. Good memories.
And on my feet are my current 'great find' lake shoes, slip-ons that can get wet and muddy, get rinsed off and when they dry, look pretty good. I've had several of these kinds of shoes. This year, it's Easy Spirit, that manufacturer of Senior Foot Ware. I've noticed that as we Boomers get older (and need 'sensible shoes'), manufacturers are ramping up the attempt to be 'cool.' These are called Treasures. Another pair I considered were dubbed Princess. Still in the closet are my favorite shoes, a 3" red and polka dot espadrille. Alas, I sense that my days in such shoes are numbered. (Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes)
Then, there's the hub: a shapeless light blue T shirt with a peach-colored (not kidding) Winona Lake hoodie over it. HIS shorts are also khaki (what is that about old people dressing alike?) and then the piece de resistance (dictionary AP says this spelling is OK): brown boat shoes with white socks, neatly turned at the ankle. No photo available but I believe the description will suffice.
We are such a cute pair, sitting side by side, the breeze from the lake messing up our shiny clean hair. Holding hands. Ivy sitting guard.
Excuse me for lapsing into the mundane. We have a big week ahead of us so today, sun shining, breeze blowing and the Bolingers in Lake Mode: all is good with our world.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
My dad flew in the Naval Reserve on weekends out of Glenview Naval Air Station, which is on the shore of Lake Michigan north of Chicago, about 20 miles from the Loop. At the time Dad, call sign “Bo,” was the executive officer of squadron VF 727, the Sky Giants, which was assigned to fly the F8F Bearcat. The squadron CO was Eugene Smith, call sign “Smudge.” (Name changed to protect the curious.)
For those readers unfamiliar with naval aircraft, let me simply say that the Grumman Bearcat was and is the fastest, most powerful piston engine fighter ever built. It’s the Ugly Duckling of aircraft with its short and stubby frame and with a wide landing gear. Frankly, it will never be mistaken for a P51 Mustang or a Spitfire IX. However, it makes up for its homeliness with a 3200 hp motor. Even when flown by an amateur, the Bearcat can eat a Mustang or Spitfire flown by a pro. The Bearcat will outturn, out climb and outrun either of those famous dogfighters. The Bearcat is an animal of an airplane, yet it’s very basic and easy to fly. Also, it forgives a lot of pilot error.
The Bearcat has only one treacherous quality. It produces so much torque from the engine and the huge propeller that it you take off with full throttle, the plane would snap roll as soon as it got off the ground. This killed a few pilots at first.
It had that much power. Consequently, you never took off with full power and all climb outs mandated a healthy boot full of left rudder. Ignoring that rule could cost you your life. Naval aviators figured out early that if you were at altitude cruising, feeding in a healthy amount of throttle without the use of left rudder would result in a very nice, lazy slow roll. Hence, the plane developed a reputation for being able to do a “torque roll” any time the fighter jock requested it. As you will soon see, if you read on, this trait was not left unexplored by our intrepid naval aviators.
Since it was Dad’s weekend to fly, he called the operations officer after work on Friday to make sure he was on the schedule for a “hop.” The ops officer said that Smudge had already checked in and scheduled a flight for him and Dad, but he did not know the destination. Dad asked the ops officer to put Smudge on the line. After a slight hesitation, the ops officer advised Dad that the CO was “off base.” Under the regulations, the squadron CO has to leave word with the ops officer where he will be. He also has to supply a means to contact him at all times he is in command and on duty.
Knowing Smudge’s history, Dad asked for the phone number of the motel or bar Smudge would be patronizing. Then he called and got connected to the target motel room, Dad discovered that Smudge was drinking and entertaining a lady friend; and tomorrow’s hop would be “Wheels up at 0630” for Cherry Point, South Carolina, where, upon arrival, the real Naval aviators would show those pesky, impertinent Marine pilots how real fighter pilots can fly. Dad anticipated that Smudge had something interesting in mind for the next day’s hop.
Dad walked out onto the flight line at 0600 Saturday morning and began to preflight his Bearcat. When he finished, he signed the sheet saying that he accepted the condition of the aircraft as being airworthy. Since Smudge had not yet appeared, Dad began to preflight Smudge’s plane. At about 0620 Smudge appeared, walking with a definite “list to port.” Dad advised he had finished the second preflight and Smudge signed off and started to climb aboard the aircraft. He slipped and fell. Dad helped him up and inquired whether Smudge was drunk.
“No I am not drunk but I was last night and now I am just hung over and I can fly better drunk than you can sober and help me get into the cockpit so I can breathe some oxygen so I can sober up.”
Dad began helping him get up on the wing and said, “Are you sure you want to make this hop? You don’t look too good, Smudge.”
“Bo, you are not half the pilot I am when you are sober, and I can fly better than you even when I am drunk.”
Dad said, “Well, you sure have had a lot of practice flying drunk, so that may be.”
Somehow they managed a good formation takeoff, took up a proper heading to Cherry Point and leveled off at their assigned cruise altitude. Dad took up his wingman position about ten feet off of and slightly behind the starboard wing of Smudge’s Bearcat. Whereupon, Smudge performed a perfect torque roll to the left which Dad followed in position. Then Smudge did another slow roll which Dad mimicked in formation. And another. And another. And another… all the way to Cherry Point. They never stopped rolling the entire hop and did one last roll at low altitude on final approach to land.
They refueled and headed to the Officers’ Club. Smudge closed it down, as usual. They spent the night and flew back to Glenview the next morning. This time the hop was straight and level.
With this story in mind, fast forward about forty years. Dad wanted to get his beloved Cessna 310Q repainted. As anyone familiar with private airplanes knows, the place to get anything done to your personal bird is Mena, Arkansas. Mena is smaller than Kokomo and has a smaller airport. Yet, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Mena’s airport has attracted the finest aircraft repair specialists in the country.
Want your engine rebuilt or replaced? Go to Mena. Want a custom interior? Mena. Want a repaint? Again, Mena. Want bigger motors or new radio gear? Mena. Want your plane modified, legal or not? Mena is Mecca for airplane hot rodders.
Dad decided that we would fly there and back on Saturday. I was detailed to fly a Piper Lance and would leave an hour and a half before Dad, since the Cessna was much faster than the Lance. I had not flown the Lance before. If I had, I might have refused the hop. It took me about ten minutes to develop a deep and intense hatred for that plane. First, it was slow. 150 knots. Second, it was loud. I mean deafeningly loud. Awful! Third, it flew like a log wagon in the snow. It wouldn’t roll worth spit. It turned, kind of, but only if you worked at it. It was designed to be a stable cross-country machine for someone who had no flying talent, who was going to take off, climb to cruise altitude and turn on the autopilot. Boring! That plane was a pig!
But, off I went. The weather was good and the trip uneventful until I lined up on final approach for the landing.
Me: “Mena Unicom, there seems to be a dog lying on the runway.”
Unicom: “Roger. That’s Ol’ Red. He’ll move by the time you set down.”
Sure enough, I touched down and Ol’ Red slowly got up, ambled off the runway and flopped back down in the dirt at the side. Definitely my kind of place. As Dad had passed me 30 minutes earlier, I taxied over to the gas pumps to refuel, while Dad took care of last minute painting instructions.
As the line guy was pumping the gas, I noticed a Grumman Goose over by the engine builder’s shop. (A Goose is an old, high winged, twin engine airplane designed to take off and land on land or water carrying a large cargo. It is an unusual, rare and seldom seen antique airplane.)
Me: “What is being done to the Goose?”
Me: “Unusual modifications. What is it going to be used for?”
Line Guy: “Well, think about it. It’s going to fly long distances without refueling, over the water, with a large load where there is no land radio stations to use for navigation. You figure it out.”
Me: “I got it.” It is a long flight from Columbia to Florida.
Like I said, you can get anything you want done to your airplane, legal or not, for any purpose, legal or not, in Mena, providing your checkbook can handle it. I suspect the Goose’s owner paid in cash, if you catch my meaning.
Dad and I loaded up and headed back to Kokomo.
After take-off and reaching a cruise altitude of 9500 feet, Dad said he needed a nap. He crawled out of the front right seat into the back seat, folded the rear seatback down and stretched out. He promptly began to snore. (By the way, I regard his statement and action the greatest complement on my flying ability I have ever received. He trusted me.) On I went in that obnoxiously loud, pitifully slow excuse for an airplane.
I was starting to get a headache from the engine noise when I saw the Mississippi River in the distance. I decided to go “play in the weeds.” (All pilots love to go low and fast. It is just so very dangerous, but I did not care.) I throttled back and dropped like a rock out of the cruise altitude until I crossed the river bank about 200 feet off the river. I threw the plane into a hard left turn and flew up the river at 150 knots.
Alone in the pilot’s seat, suddenly I was not flying a Lance anymore. I was now Mike Mitty and was piloting a Grumman A-4 Skyhawk with the guns armed. The Mississippi vanished and in its place I surveyed the Mekong Delta. Aha! Up ahead was the target! A enemy sampan cleverly disguised as a Mississippi tugboat pushing about 20 coal barges up river. Just as I was about to strafe the tug, I veered sharply right and flew along side. The tug boat captain had to have heard me, as he turned and waved. I waggled my wings, waved back and pulled off the target in a climbing right turn headed back to cruise altitude.
Dad woke up as I was climbing. He slid back into the right seat. “Where are we?” he asked. I pointed on the map to a little town in Illinois.
“Are you sure that is where we are?”
I told Dad we had plenty of fuel to get home and asked why we were stopping. “Because my old wingman runs an air charter business out of that town’s airport. Let’s see if he is working today.” So I landed.
As I rolled up to the fueling station (Golden Flying Rule Number Two: never pass up an opportunity to fill the tanks, because you never know when you might need the extra gas.), Dad got out as a Dad-clone walked out of a nearby hanger. Same height, same weight, former jock, no glasses, and you could tell he had a self-confidant I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude.
Dad yelled, “Slick, is that you?” The man looked toward Dad without recognition for a split second.
“Bo Bolinger, it’s been years! How have you been?” There was much handshaking, backslapping, mild cussing (on Slick’s part, only) and copious reminiscences for ten minutes or so. Slick said his small company was flying printing plates all over the Midwest for a company which printed Time and Life magazines, as well as the Sears catalog. Most of the flights were at night and almost every night.
Dad asked, “I heard Smudge was working for you. True?” Slick was startled at the question. He glanced down and then back up.
“Smudge isn’t with us any more, Bo. He got killed a couple of weeks ago.”
“I didn’t know that,” Dad said. “What happened?”
“I don’t care what the FAA says. Smudge wasn’t drunk when he went down. Well, they did find a pint of Jim Bean between his knees, but that doesn’t mean he was drunk. I mean I know the seal was broken on the bottle and he could have taken a few sips, but that doesn’t mean he was drunk, does it?”
“No, I guess not,” said Dad. And then the inevitable aviation tradition began: the post mortem of Smudge’s death and the minute examination of the mistakes that led up to it.
Slick turned and pointed to a distant hill that had an aerial on top of it. “See that hill with the aerial? We do not have a regular instrument approach here. So we home in on a radio station in a town about twenty miles away. When you fly over the radio station's antenna, you take up a heading of 290 and fly for 4 minutes on that heading. If the wind is not strong, you pass right over the blinking red light on the aerial on that hill over there. When you pass over the red light you turn on final to 270 and hold it for 2 minutes. It will bring you right to the end of the runway. Then land.”
“I’ll bet the FAA loves that. Your own secret ILS approach.”
“They don’t know anything about it. It’s none of their business,” said Slick.
“Did he make the approach? Bad weather? Equipment problems?” Dad asked.
“No one is sure. The airplane flew the approach like normal. The weather was good. It belly-landed in a field about a mile off the end of the runway. The throttle was back and the flaps were half down. He was set up to drop the gear and land. But he didn’t. He landed pretty as you please in the field, wheels up in a perfectly trimmed airplane. He would have walked away, too, if it hadn’t been for that damn ditch. He was almost stopped when the nose of the plane hit the ditch. It flipped the plane upside down and broke Smudge’s neck. I think he had a heart attack. No way he was drunk.”
“That’s too bad,” said Dad. “Smudge was a great pilot. One of the best I ever flew with.”
“Bo, there is something I have always wanted to ask you.” said Slick.
“Sure, Slick, what’s on your mind?”
“Well, I was talking with some of our old Navy buddies at Smudge’s funeral and I told them that two guys made a hop in Bearcats to Cherry Point doing torque rolls all the way. None of them believed me. I told them I knew Smudge was one of the guys. Do you know who the other pilot was?”
“Sure,” my dad smiled. “It was me.”
“Then the story is true,” smirked Slick. “That’s good to know. A legend.”
“I don’t know if it is a legend, or not, but we did it. It was quite a hop.”
Dad and I loaded up. We took off and flew back uneventfully to Kokomo.
P.S. Golden Flying Rule Number One (which Smudge broke) is: the ground never loses.
P.S.S. I often wonder where our country gets guys like Slick, Smudge and Bo. They saved the world once. Most of us have forgotten that. I am not sure such men exist anymore. I would like to think they do.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
There are messes and there are MESSES.
When we received reports from Winona Lake, that the cottage foundation had fallen into the crawl space, that ‘everything’ inside was moving (???)!, that the kitchen cabinets fell off the wall and could be removed with one hand….well, we each cruised into our individual crisis mode.
Mike started calculating, questioning insurance people and handy people, scribbling on still-useful yellow legal tablets. He ran to our local library and grabbed books on home structure and repair. He quizzed our multi-talented nephew, the man who had uncovered 12 inches of steaming water between the ‘floor’ and the ‘earth,’ on our property. Mostly, he sat and sagged. His cottage, his place of refuge, was literally underwater. What would be the cost to repair it? Might it just be time to admit defeat and level the place? That would mean that with each board and brick, a little piece of heart would tear away.
My way of coping: blanket-over-the-head. Go away: I’m not coming out. YOU decide. YOU figure it out. I’ll vote yes. I promise. Really, this kind of retreat works for me when the task is just too gigantic for my little brain to handle.
So, when the prices for this and that started to crystalize, I voted “Whatever you say.” And he said, “Maybe it’s time to tear it down.” Mike is never one to waste money. Always in his head is that he’s leaving me to fend for myself. He wants to make double, triple, quadruple sure that I will be OK.
By the way, I KNOW that I will be OK, financially as well as in many other ways because of the man to whom I am married. He takes good care of me. He has taken steps to take good care of me for the rest of my life.
Should our life progress as we expect, I will spend some of the rest of my life alone. I will be thrust into a position where I have to make decisions without his input. I’ve read that the first year of widow hood can be fraught with stresses from the need to make these moves. I can certainly understand that stress can mess with your mind.
When Mike was first diagnosed, he had been in the hospital for a week, recuperating from the surgery that we had hoped would give good news. It did not. But it was time to pack up and drive back to Kokomo. I made a trip to my car with stuff. I went back to his room for more stuff. I returned to find all four doors and the hatch open to my Caliber. I remember standing there, staring at my car. It sunk in, with a thud, that I had left those doors open but that I had no recollection of doing so. The drive home was also a challenge as my brain would begin to drift and all of a sudden, I was looking at some flashing tail lights in front of me.
Lesson: be extra careful when under heavy stress.
And how can you be careful when you are under a time constraint to do something? No wonder widows get shaky.
Well, MY careful husband (with me) has put in place 4 champions, men who we trust to give good advice. Whatever I must do in the future, I can reach out to any of these guys, ask his advice, and follow it without question.
What a gift to me! No need for my blanket approach.
Back to the cottage. We got the call from Mr. Insurance. We got the call from the contractor. We did the math. We would have to pay for some of the repairs. Again, the hub became all blue and concerned that this was a waste of money.
But here’s the thing: back (again) when we first dealt with end-of-life, one of my coping mechanisms was to plan for Mike to enjoy some of the money he had worked so hard to earn. I was planning elaborate trips to faraway places so he could see the sights…The Coliseum, Louvre, Parthenon, Michelangelo’s David. It was a futile game: he was still weak from the surgery. Also, as he kept telling me, and keeps telling me, those places have lost their appeal. I mean, he’s headed for Heaven. And suddenly, snuggling, short walks, visits with friends replaced any desire to travel.
So when we sat down with the financial realities, I saw that THIS was a chance for Mike to get some enjoyment out of the years of hard work. We signed what needed to be signed and the work commenced.
How does one ‘fix’ the foundation of an old cottage when all the floor joists are rotten? I have no idea. How does one scrub away mildew and mold, clean up all the furniture, bedding and clothes hanging in closets? No clue. How does one attack a kitchen with custom-made cabinet fronts (Mike’s project in December 2009) where the main cabinets are now lying in wet earth? Oh sweet mysteries of life!
We heard that there had been a flurry of activity: scrubbers, construction crews, painters, plumbers, dumpsters and trucks descended on our quiet corner on the island. We waited until they were done. We arrived last Saturday.
Mike got right out of the truck and ran inside. Me? I needed a few moments, deep breaths and all, before I took it in.
What can I say? WOW. WOW OH WOW!
If I were sentimental, I might miss some of the quaint things that we had gotten used to: that funky dip in the floor by the kitchen; the kitchen drawers that got stuck until they were unusable; the creaking cabinets in the laundry room with the sagging shelves; the growing tally of windows that no longer ‘worked well.’
No nostalgia: we’re settling in to a place where all the kitchen drawers open and close and open again. We replaced that crummy laundry cabinet with some neato stainless steel shelves. New carpet; new tile; same gorgeous view.
This is spring break for me so we’ll be here most of the week. And then, we’ll look forward to another summer in our little place of peace.