Transitions

Hi, All. This is Jackie, the Holenews webservant. Lloyd has asked me to relay a few things. First, he was in hospital recently for a couple days but is back home now & feeling better.

2nd, he feels it’s time for him to make a transition from his beloved Woodland Gardens to an assisted living facility. Where he lives now, he’s not allowed to use a wheelchair, & his balance is making that a necessity.

He’s shutting down his computer till after the move. He’s also decided to quit Facebook, as he’s found himself the victim of multiple hacks & scams.

Please join me in wishing Lloyd well & in praying for him during what has to be a very difficult time.

We both wish to thank you for your loyal readership & support in so many wonderful ways.

And She Wasn’t Laughing

And She Wasn’t Laughing

It was a raw February morning. I was on my way to the Social Security office to tend to matters related to wife Elsie’s death. I leaned into the wind as I hurried along. Suddenly I was falling, tripped up by an errant brick. I landed hard and lay stunned: nothing was broken but I could not get to my feet, and there was not a soul in sight–winter pedestrians use Duluth’s extensive skyways.

As I scrunched toward the building hoping for a handhold, a man rounded the corner. He picked up my hat and glasses and helped me to my feet. “You look familiar,” he said. I gave him my name.  “Oh, you just lost your wife! So sorry.” Then he added, “I sure enjoy your books.”  I have no idea who he was. I call him the Angel of Second Avenue West.

This was the first of a string of remarkable experiences that led me to Woodland Garden and the epilogue of my life.

Elsie died on February 13, 2009 after suffering six years of constant leg pain caused by a fall.  . Arthritis prevented surgical repair of her damaged spine. We kept her home five years with creeping dementia adding its problems. I shared the converted family room as our bedroom. She lived her last 16 months under hospice at Chris Jensen Health Care Center. I was with her from mid-morning to bedtime each day.

Six months after Elsie’s injury son Kevin and wife Tena came to help with Elsie’s care. They lived in the lower level of our home and I set about to make the house handicap friendly.

Following Elsie’s mid-February death, son Joel and wife Sue invited me to Tucson to live out the winter in their park model in a large resort. I returned the following winter. Then in late 2011, I had rectal cancer surgery that left me with a colostomy. After four hospital days, I was moved to North Shore Rehab though I felt less than perky. No appetite. A zealous nurse, insisting I eat to gain strength, spooned warm soup in my mouth. My belly exploded, spewing black gunk all over. “Feces!” said the nurse and summoned an ambulance.

The crew laid a warm blanket over me and placed me in the cold ambulance while they completed paperwork. The blanket soon lost its warmth. I grew colder and more miserable than I had ever been in my life and lost. I cried out, “Lord, I quit!” From somewhere came “Quit what? You never started anything. I’ll tell you when to quit.” The ambulance soon rattled over icy streets to the hospital where they poked a tube down my nose into my belly and hooked to a pump. I slept to a sweet lullaby: “I’ll tell you when to quit.”

In late October 2012, I returned to Tucson and began weighing my future. I had never lived alone and decided to give it a try with Duluth as my city of choice. An online search brought sticker shock.  I could not afford the cheapest apartment! I had no assets beyond Social Security and a modest preacher’s pension. A reverse mortgage to pay for remodeling ate my home equity.

Joel told me about HUD Section 8, rent subsidy for low income people. I refocused my online search and found an efficiency apartment at Lakeland Shores in my old boyhood community. It would put most of my basic needs within walking distance. I no longer drove. I immediately phoned for an application and filed it, many pages of government gobbledygook.

The reply brought another shock: I was rejected! My income after deductibles was $196 a year over the HUD ceiling! Knowing little about deductibles, I phoned Lakeland Shores and left a message on the answer machine.  Two weeks passed. No reply. I fired off an email and special delivery letter. Weeks passed. No reply. June arrived and Joel was closing down for the season. I grumbled to God and all who would listen, including my daughter Sally, my go-to person in Duluth. She shared my plight with a group of friends. One of them suggested Woodland Garden Apartments, a HUD facility my search had not uncovered. I later learned they did not advertise; they were always full with a long waiting list.

Sally checked it out and talked with Manager Jill, who gave her an application. When it reached me, I found it to be identical to the Lakeland Shores ap. I phoned Jill, reminding her of my rejection. She replied, “Leave it to me. Your next address will be Woodland Garden. But expect to wait six months to a year.”

Within days, Jill phoned. A resident had died and she wanted to fill the apartment in early July. Could I come?

I emailed the news to Kevin and he and Tena decided to check out their old father’s future home. They found the entrance locked but a resident chanced to be in the lobby. She determined their interest and to guide a tour. Finding my apartment locked, she showed them hers, which was configured like mine. Kevin emailed, “We met the nicest lady! She gave us the tour. Her name was Norma.” I moved into apartment 301 on July 7 and saga began.

 

Woodland Garden seemed more like a college dorm than a seniors’ residence. There were 56 women and nine men. None of the men socialized much, but each evening several clusters of women gathered to play cards or chat. I sat in on the second floor cluster and got acquainted with Norma from 313. I learned she was the volunteer librarian and being a book guy, we visited often.

While visiting, we discovered several coincidences in our family histories. Our ancestors lived in the same part of Finland and when they emigrated to America in the late 1800s, they settled in adjoining townships in Northwest Wisconsin. Norma met some of my kin when she was a child. I grew increasingly fond of Norma, but romance never entered my mind–she was 17 years younger.

Our friendship continued about a year then hip replacement surgery took me away for a time. . The surgery went well and I again sent to Lake Shore Health Center for rehab. There, something went terribly haywire. Internal infection and disorientation set in. I have no memory of the ambulance to the hospital or of a solid week in bed tethered to machines and tubes. They were fighting pneumonia and a variety of troubles.

I vividly remember the strange world I lived in. I later learned that each episode of the week reflected my bed care. Once, desperately thirsty, I begged for a sip of water.  An austere woman told me I was on a liquid-controlled regimen. I spotted an old aluminum communion tray across a dark-paneled room. I felt my way to it, hoping a dreg remained. Another time, I coughed up in a Kleenex. I asked a woman standing by, what does this mean.

I moved from scene to scene with no sense of passing time. Then I heard hospice, palliative care; and Dad, you have to fight. Whoa! I was dying! Exhilaration gripped me. At that point I began a slow return to reality.

I lay propped up in a hospital bed with a garden, rustic dock and flower garden just off the head of my bed. Friends filed by, some crying. They retreated to the imaginary garden. But the story wasn’t over. Not content with information Kevin was getting, he negotiated a second doctor. He scanned my chart and affirmed the death diagnosis. With nothing to lose, he halted all treatment. Inexplicably, I immediately began to recover.

Then I heard Kevin discussing insurance with a hospital official. Mine would cover hospital care but not rehab. Since I was no longer dying, I had three days to relocate. Three days!

I handled daytime I managed fairly well, but nights were agony. I watched every hour tick by. I begged for sleep help but nothing worked. On night three, a new nurse came on. Assuming pain caused my sleeplessness, she squirted evil-tasting fluid in my mouth. Morphine, she said. Will I sleep? Oh, you will sleep!

But instead of sleep, I sank into unimaginable terror. A vortex was trying to suck me down. Old men in dark suits were heaping furniture made of rough-cast cement on a pile. A voice taunted me: there are theological issues here, and you are responsible, but you can do nothing about it. I remember shouting, I don’t care the consequence; I will do what’s right! In that instant, terror fled. I lay in my bed fully alert, at peace. Do with that what you will.

On the Fourth of July weekend, a van transported me to Chris Jensen Health Center to begin six grueling weeks of rehab. I returned home just in time to celebrate my 90th birthday. Woodland Garden welcomed me.

But the morphine experience left its mark. My emotional responses deepened. I cried more easily.  I grew increasingly reflective and friends grew increasingly dear. And I realized how much I had missed Norma. But falling in love? That was for kids.

We resumed our evening chats and I took every opportunity to be with her.  One morning, we joined the daily wait for the mailman, Spirits ran unusually high with banter and laughter. Finally the mailman arrived and the group moved toward the mailboxes on the wall. Norma collected her mail and befitting the jovial mood, pecked me with a kiss then sought the elevator.

Something overpowering walloped me. I longed to hold Norma and tell her I loved her. I elbowed my way to the mailbox, my fingers struggling with the small key. I finally collected my mail and hurried to the elevator. It finally came and I punched floor three. It opened onto the library. Of course Norma was gone. I didn’t dare knock on her door. Hoping Norma might appear to check returned books, I grabbed a chair and pretended to read. Around one o’clock I sought my apartment, but lunch held no interest. I puttered in the library until supper time but no Norma.

I returned to my apartment and dabbled at supper. As early winter darkness fell, I fired up the computer and began a love letter, fully intending to delete it. Cliches worthy of a lovesick teen poured I wrote and rewrote, always with the same lead:  Dearest Norma, please don’t laugh, but I’ve fallen in love with you.

Writing brought some relief. I read my work one last time and reached for delete. But with foolhardy abandon, I hit print. I found an envelope and padded down the hall to 313. I slid the letter under Norma’s door. I returned to my apartment in near panic. What kind of fool was I?  Surely she would laugh.

It was a long, sleepless night. I was making morning coffee when I heard a knock on my door.  Norma stood there, love letter in hand. And she wasn’t laughing.

 

 

 

Goodness: It’s Still out there

Meet my favorite outdoor writer, Sam Cook. He recently retired as outdoor writer for the Duluth News Tribune. This is his weekly piece for August 19. It’s long, but in this day of wearisome negativity, we need such stuff:

Former Duluth resident Willie Portilla told me the story over lunch at Sir Benedict’s Tavern the other day. Portilla, 67, now lives in Fort Collins, Colo. We were catching up not long after Portilla had made the trip from Fort Collins to Duluth — 1,040 miles — by bicycle. His wife, Margie, chose to drive. Portilla wanted to tell me about some of the things that happened during his ride — like the night he spent in tiny (pop. 1,325) Wood River, Neb.

As was his custom on the ride, he would throw out his sleeping bag at city parks in small towns for the night. He had been tucked in his sleeping bag for a couple of hours on this July evening when he heard the voices. “It was dark,” Portilla recalled. “I could hear three teenagers, maybe 15, 16 years old. One had a flashlight. I overheard one of them say, ‘I see his bike over there, but I don’t see him.’”

Portilla, unsure about what might be about to happen, sat up. “I’m over here,” he called out. “That’s my bike.” The three boys walked over to Portilla. One of them handed him a bag. “We came by here a while ago,” one said. “We went home and got you some food.” They handed Portilla a bag containing bottled water, a sandwich, some chips and apples. “And we scrounged up five bucks for you,” one of the boys said, handing Portilla a wrinkled $5 bill.

That’s why Portilla had wanted to tell me about his trip, he said, because his encounter with the boys in Wood River was typical of what he discovered throughout his 14-day ride to Duluth. “The goodness that I found along the way — it was a daily thing,” he said. “There were multiple examples of people being nice, people offering their assistance.” He declined the boys’ money that night in Wood River but graciously accepted the food they offered.

In another small town, fellow diners at a cafe pulled Portilla aside to warn him about road construction along his intended route and suggested an alternative. In Oakland, Neb., Portilla borrowed golf clubs and played nine holes at the local golf course. Having a beer at the clubhouse afterward, he met a local man who asked where he was staying. When Portilla told him he planned to sleep at the city park, the man said, “No, you’re coming to my house.” And Portilla spent the night there, had dinner and breakfast, listened to music. The man was a barber, and gave Portilla a free trim before he hit the road again. “We live in a time with a lot of negativity,” Portilla said, “but there was not a single episode of negativity or ill will that I saw on my trip.”

Many other travelers have told me similar stories about the kindness of people on the road. Ely polar explorer Will Steger has discovered it in far northern villages on his various rambles across North America. Duluth’s Jared Munch found the same kind of benevolence on his solo trip around Lake Superior by stand-up paddleboard.

Traveling solo enhances the prospects for interaction with strangers, Portilla believes. “I think that’s a huge advantage,” he said. “When you travel with a group, you tend to interact with the group. People are less likely to approach you. When you’re a solo traveler and you go sit at a bar, you’re much more likely to strike up a conversation. It’s when you put yourself out there that you’ll have your richest experiences.”

And here’s something else that I think is true: When you reach out to someone on the long trail, you in some small way become a part of that journey. You know in your heart you are doing a good thing. Your gesture of kindness gets carried along with someone like Portilla, and you sense that you have made the world a better place.

Thanks, Sam

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

Rich Little Poor Boy

Thanks for many kind responses to the Edge post. I’ll continue the Hole News and Facebook posts as long as my brain and fingers keep working.  Keeps me in touch.

Email is a more secure means of contact, allowing more extended exchanges: mattson dot lloyd1@gmail.com. You know what to do with mattson dot.

My sons will visit one by one with a minor gathering at home on the big day. We watch sadly as firstborn daughter drifts deeper into dementia.

How did my kids get so old? Elsie and I married young, ignorant, and poor. The war in Europe looked grim in 1942–I’ve told the story. Our plan didn’t work, but the Lord’s plan did. We remained cash poor all our 66 years, but we grew rich in family and experience and touched a few lives along the way. The fruit of those years continues to enrich me as friends who were kids when we met connect on Facebook.

The way was often hard; would I do it again? In a heartbeat. And now look at me! I live in a mansion with 62 bathrooms and have to clean only one.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

On the Edge

In ten days I turn 96. Let’s review what’s with me:

Balance is gone, keeping me close to home. I move leaning on Old Red, my four-wheeled horse. Falling is the foe. If I wind up in a wheelchair, they will boot me out of Woodland Garden.

I seldom leave the building save, for an occasional social event and medical/dental appointment. Friends and STRIDE, our public handicap service, get me about. Love their power ramp. Getting in and out of a car is a pain, and car riding exasperates problems we need not discuss.

In a restaurant I pull Old Red to the table, never really comfortable, ever mindful of the two-hour rule. I pray a dawdler doesn’t occupy the geezer cell.

County-funded health aid and laundry/cleaning persons keep me afloat. Son-in-law Dale Rogers does chores I can’t handle. The building maintenance crew stands ready.

I can no longer attend church. Friends from near and far visit with me in my apartment, with sorties to 313 for refreshments, where Norma lives. She is my go-to person. She does the shopping. Her kind presence keeps me at Woodland Garden.  WE meet each night for two hours of TV and supper, the highlight of my day. Read And She Wasn’t Laughing to learn our story. www.lloydsstortreecom.

Though nights are long, my spirits remain high. I realize I sit on the edge of eligibility to live at Woodland Garden. I hope to sit here a long time.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Playing the Back Nine

I’m reading Doug Manning’s Back Nine, a small book Joe Grove put me onto. The subtitle:  Life Beyond Retirement. The book likens life to golf. I take his word—golf wasn’t my thing. Manning wrote with a sharp pen. He was a life-long golfer, pastor-counselor, and writer. He specialized in on retirement and end-of-life issues.

Manning wrote Back Nine in his 80s as he lived out the counsel he had given to thousands. His life paralleled mine in many ways, past and present. My four sons are visiting during August, my birthday month. Ninety-six is generally considered old. No dramatic clan conflab–they are coming separately. Keith left last week; Dave comes next week, then Joel.

We talk easily about my move to assisted living someday then to great beyond and whatever comes between. We waste time on estate division—a few harmonicas and books.

I highly recommend The Back Nine to all who caring for aging parents or grandparents. Too many face related issue with little or no forethought. Manning’s book provides a common sense approach to the inevitable. Geezers should read it too. After all, we are part of the act. Manning points out ways we can make life easier for our caring kids.

Thanks, Joe, for the heads up.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Thin As Onion Skin

Loser’s dilemma and apology: my copy/paste lost the source of this good piece, then I lost the original! But  I’ll break the rules and share this slightly-tightened slightly version anyhow. He/she wrote:

This week I took a three-day writing retreat at the beach here in NC. The ocean is medicinal for me. It helps to quiet the noises in my head, the swirling worries, fears, obligations and bad news. I waited to head down until late in the day when most people had headed to their houses and hotel rooms. This usually allows me much of the beach to myself.

I stepped through the dunes with a backpack and canvas chair, fully expecting to see an expanse of open sand—and instead was greeted by a forty or fifty people stretched in a line from the dunes to the shoreline. I had stumbled upon a sea turtle hatching.

I found my place and knelt shoulder to shoulder with strangers, my head inches from the narrow trench volunteers had carved out. For nearly two hours there was no  movement. Suddenly, an infinitesimal shift in the sand, then another; dozens of tiny black shapes lit by the moon broke through and made their first awkward journey toward the ocean. Fifty strangers cheered until the last exhausted straggler reached the water. There were tears and hugs, high fives and applause.

I didn’t get much writing done; I didn’t get much alone time. This was better.

Religious people have often talked about thin places, moments when the wall between humanity and divinity is like onion-skin. This small patch of sand and water and moonlight was that transparent: a holy moment, sacred, a clearing in the cloudy.

Without a hymn, prayer, pew or minister, God was present and close. It was a “religious” experience. I hope you get surprised by beauty this week, have your plans changed enough to get what you need. I hope you see something that clears the cloudy.

Thanks, whoever wrote this.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Kick the Can!

Susan Kline is one of my favorite devotional writers. Read her August 12 Fresh Start piece and you’ll know why:

Isaiah 61:1 (NIV): “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners. “

Hidden deep within the waist-high grass, I watched as the captor passed nearby. Everyone else had already been captured and put “in jail.” I was the only one remaining who could set them free. Timing was crucial. I had to wait for the captor to get far enough away from the can so I could sneak from my concealed position and rush to kick it over before getting captured myself. The moment arose. Heart beating wildly, I sprang up from hiding and ran with all my might, arriving just in the nick of time to kick the can and free the captives!

If you’ve ever played “kick the can,” you know how exhilarating it can be! It requires a certain skill set of bravery, speed and strategic timing. The goal of not being captured rivals only the ultimate goal of setting the captives free.

The prophet Isaiah prophesies in the above verse to his people about the One who will come to set the captives free. I have to believe it was rather exhilarating for him to be the designated messenger. Imagine getting to be “the person” chosen to deliver the news to people in captivity that there was Someone coming who would release them from their bondage, bind up their broken hearts, and set them free!

Have you ever experienced that kind of exhilaration? Have you ever been the kicker of the can, the messenger to someone of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Do you consider yourself to be chosen for such a task? It may take some similar skills of bravery and strategic timing, but not to worry. If Jesus is your Savior, you carry the power of His Holy Spirit within you. If you are willing and available, He will empower you at the right time with the right words. And when He does, be prepared for elation like none other!

Thanks, Susan.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

Just Walking

Last Hole News looked at the translator-turned-interpreter problem. Today I’ll tell you why I think the King James translator was dead wrong when he change life to soul in Matthew 16.

Jesus was talking about becoming his follower. Here are his words, unaltered by the interpreter: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their life? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their life?

That young rich guy who came to Jesus asking what was needed to be perfect is a case in point (Matthew 19:16-22): If you want to be perfect, Jesus said, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me. When the young man heard this, he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth. The poor guy couldn’t bring himself to part with his goodies.

Some of us can’t part from our religion. Following Jesus has nothing to do with being religious. Religions are man made, all of them. Jesus didn’t found a religion. Jesus came to set people right with one another. That’s the gospel—good news. By reason of old age, I rarely go to church anymore, or anywhere else. Getting in and out of a car is comedy on wheels; riding in a car can be miserable. At a restaurant, I must sit on Old Red, my four-wheeled horse; I can’t get up from a regular chair.

But I still do Jesus work–near and far and have never sensed his presence more, not even when I was wearing myself out with gospel busywork. The arena has changed; the battle goes on; I want for nothing.

Jesus’ words to Peter there at Caesarea Philippi freed me simply to walk with the Master. When you walk with God, you get where he’s going.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

Trouble in Bible City

 

We have a problem with the Bible, a problem that lies in how our blessed book came to us.

About one third of Earth’s population identifies with Christianity—taking thousands of forms. How come such diversity? Well, most forms claim to follow Christ. But his name was Joshua! Jesus is an Anglicization. Other languages do the same. Of necessity, translators must be interpreters, and interpretation lies in the mind, not the text.

Let me give you an example: In Matthew 16: 24-26 Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

In Greek, the same word is used for life and soul, depending on the context. So who decided to change life to soul in the closing verse of this passage? The text hints nothing of change. The translator became interpreter, and I think he was dead wrong.

I’ll tell you why next time.

Old Grandpa Lloyd