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For nearly eight years, Mrs. Perils’ mother has lived with us.  Back in 2002, my father-in-law, who had suffered some pretty severe dementia for several years and for whom my MIL was the sole care-giver, had just died.  In the weeks that followed, we came to realize that his severe dementia had masked a slight but burgeoning case of her own.  I remember the moment when I got my first inkling.

My in-laws lived in the Ohio town where Mrs. Perils and I grew up, and I would swing through there on business trips to visit my own parents.  I usually tried to set aside an hour or so to pop in on my in-laws.  On a trip shortly after my FIL died, I visited with my MIL, and we had a pleasant chat, as always.  As I recall, during the course of this conversation we dwelt a bit on Charlie and his memory issues, and at some point my MIL was talking and hit an air pocket, something trivial, but more serious than simply trying to find the right word or remembering the name of an author.  For an instant, we exchanged a glance of realization; then we laughed a bit and moved on, and I flew back to Seattle as I always had.

During a later visit by Mrs. Perils’ sister, however, we discovered that things had worsened: my MIL’s mental state had been exacerbated by depression, she’d been eating sporadically and housekeeping had deteriorated to a state where we felt it was dangerous.  Mrs. Perils and her sibs proposed a grand tour, prolonged visits with each of them in Tennessee, Idaho and Seattle, with the unstated intention that she would not be returning to her house.  The wheel stopped in Seattle.  We had the best situation - empty-nesters with no household strife, and Mrs. Perils with enough spare time to tend to the (at that time) minimal care-giving.

Our original intention had been to move her to an assisted living facility whenever we found one to our liking, and we toured a couple.  My MIL has always been a cheery and positive person with a good sense of humor, however, and we were enjoying having her around as a sort of extended holiday.  We tabled the move to assisted living, and life began to take its course.  At one time in the ensuing years, we had 3 generations of us in the house, as our son, then later his girlfriend, bunked out here.

My MIL’s physical and mental state has undergone a gradual, but predictable and manageable, decline over the years (those of you observing me may say the same), until the last 2 - 3 weeks, when things started to lurch and plummet.  We had discussed in the past that there would be a limit to what we would undertake, but really had no idea what that boundary would look like.  We very definitely found it last week, when I was out of town and Mrs. Perils was getting only an hour or two of sleep at night.

Acting on a recommendation of a friend, we viewed an adult living center on Monday, and liked what we saw.  We are fortunate that they had a couple of slots available.  A nurse came to the house to conduct an evaluation Tuesday morning, and we moved my MIL to the facility after dinner that evening.

Mrs. Perils had explained to her several times what we were doing and why, and each time she had accepted the explanation; but then, an hour or so later, she would ask, “where am I going?” or “am I going somewhere”, and the words “we’re taking you to your new home” formed with difficulty, and shimmered in their strangeness.

The afternoon was a stew of emotions as we made preparations.  One was guilt: on my end, for the paltry number of times I actually sat down in the living room and engaged her in conversation, as opposed to flashing through with a quick “hi” or mugging for a cheap laugh; Mrs. Perils, I believe, wondering if she were being too quick to pull this trigger in case the week’s weirdnesses were something temporary.

Another was sadness, especially as we prepared to leave the house: there was her blue duffel bag, which I hadn’t seen since we’d taken her with us to the Oregon coast 4 years ago, packed and by the door; there was our cat, Rico Suave, her almost constant companion at her perch on the living room sofa, whom she was likely seeing for the last time; and there was the slow trip down the stairs off the porch to the sidewalk, which she and Mrs. Perils had taken twice a day for 8 years on their ever-shorter strolls around the neighborhood, also probably for the last time.

And, I have to admit, there was also exhilaration, at freeing Mrs. Perils of the despair of the past week, and of the sudden and unlooked-for prospect of a new stage in our lives.

I look back on the past 8 years and try to assess what we (well, mostly, Mrs. Perils) accomplished.  As Mrs. P has said, elder-care is not like raising a child; instead of a tremulous gift to the future, it is a managed degeneration with only one possible ending.  I like to think we afforded my MIL a quality of life that she would not have had in a long-term care institution: a cavalcade of normal life swirling around her as our friends, our neighbors, our son and his friends came and went.  I’ll count that as an accomplishment. (Click to enlarge)

Slack Tide

Wow, it’s musty in here, like a summer cabin just opened for the season.  Let’s throw the windows open and let some of these soft August zephyrs waft through.  I’ve been busy working, of course, and playing music.  Also screwing around with Facebook’s empty calories instead of attempting more substantial fare here.  Let’s press the “reset” button.

It’s August already, and I’m starting to get that panicky sense again that summer is leaking away like air from a punctured beach ball and I’m rummaging through drawers trying to find an old bicycle patch kit, or at least some duct tape.

I was in Milwaukee week before last and was dismayed reading accounts from my paddling network of expeditions to the San Juan Islands and Canada’s Broken Group, so I sent out a plea for an overnight trip when I got back to town.  Several folks responded, and five of us ended up launching from the town of Shelton, near Olympia, and paddling to Hope Island State Park to camp for a night.

My employment is kind of curious in that I usually don’t get a ton of pressure from a single source, as a corporate employee might, but, because I am working with multiple clients at any point in time, a confluence of relatively minor problems can creep up on me like a sneaker wave, and I’m surprised to find myself stressed when there’s no huge problem.  And each client is thinking, “WTF?  I’m not asking for anything that complicated!”

So it was exhilarating to glide into the placid waters of Hammersley Inlet and let my cares slake away with each rhythmic slap of water against my hull.  By the time we completed our 7-mile ride and beached on the island, I was so relaxed.  Here’s a slideshow from the trip.

We harvested oysters and had them for dinner, assisted each other in sharpening rescue and rolling skills, watched seals showing off and basked in balmy August sunshine.

As we paddled back up Hammersley Inlet to our launch point in Shelton, we dawdled along the southern shore, waiting for the flood tide to give us a little push against the headwind.  To our amazement, we encountered a galaxy of starfish festooned along miles of the shore.  I have a waterproof case for one of my cameras, and I pushed it underwater a couple times to capture spider crabs, sea anemones and starfish cohabiting on logs and rocks:

If you see a guy giving CPR to a beachball here in Seattle, you’ll know that it’s me trying to salvage some more remarkable experiences from this 61st summer of my life.  If I bat it in your direction, as I did with my paddling buddies last weekend, take a second and bat it back.  You might just find yourself enjoying yourself.

Lip Service

So I continue to play in a concert band.  We’re busily rehearsing for a holiday concert on Sunday, 12/20, and the trumpets just have a ton of playing to do.  Stamina could definitely be an issue, so I’ve been practicing at home a little bit longer, and working to extend my comfortable range a bit higher.  The basement spiders should be hibernating now, so I don’t think I’m disturbing their ecosystem.

Another amusing director quote: Anita, the associate director, was rehearsing a piece we’re playing called Three Klezmer Miniatures.  In places there are intricate rhythms that need to be traded back and forth between sections, and the other night we started out a little out of sync.  She stopped the band and said, “If anyone were dancing to you guys, they’d be hurting themselves.”

To get you in the mood, here’s the piece we’ll be starting our concert with (again, not our band):

Just Checking

Ducking in here to see if any pipes have burst during this cold wave.  Since the door was frozen shut, I’m thinking the property manager has neglected it (as have I).

I just looked up my last post.  I’d completely forgotten what I wrote about last.  In retrospect, it looks like my Macbook battery died and never recovered.  Well, it’s still sick, but I’ve been mostly plugged in, so it’s on life support.  Federal death panels may soon intervene, as I’m traveling again Friday.

We had a nice, relaxing time in South Carolina, aided greatly by the Buckeyes’  continued dominance over Michigan.  It’s been so long since they’ve beaten us that I wonder if we should invite counselors to the oyster roast in mufti, to cosset us in the event that we ever lose to them again.

The weather was cool, but mostly sunny.  On Friday, we embarked on a cruise out to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began when the Union garrison there was forced to surrender it.  It seems the fort’s significance was more symbolic than strategic, though it did help guard the mouth of Charleston harbor.  It seems to have spent most of its existence as rubble.  What you see in the pics below is brickwork in interesting patterns, mostly the result of a rebuild after the Civil War (click to enlarge):

On Saturday, the game was watched, some fish were caught in my brother’s pond, and oysters were finally roasted.  Another pleasant November weekend in the Low Country.

Just Because I Can

I just have to do this.  I’m using the internet for the first time in flight -Delta is offering wifi service on some of its planes, and has a free promotion going.  I’m impressed with  the speed/bandwidth - I really wasn’t expecting much more than dial-up speed.

I’m on my way from Seattle to Atlanta, and then on to Charleston for our annual oyster roast and Ohio State-Michigan gamewatch at my brother’s place, so this is pretty much the All-Buckeye Blog for the rest of the weekend.  The weather in Charleston looks to be high 60s/low 70s, maybe a little rain on Saturday.  Sounds good compared to the conditions we were walking around in last night - high winds and chilly rain driving horizontally at us.

While paging through some photos of my OSU marching band reunion game on the band’s website, I came across this one of me as my row enters the stadium.  I’m the one with sunglasses and the fanny pack laden with my camera.  I’m chagrined to be leaning forward a little too much (click to enlarge):

I’ve got my horn along on this trip, and my youngest brother and I just might find ourselves playing fight songs in our middle brother’s back forty.

OK, my dang Macbook battery is dying after only an hour.  It’s the only thing I dislike about this thing.  Better post this.  More from the Low Country.

Affluence Gives Way To Effluents

“I think we’re on the cusp of a plumbing disaster.”

The voice on the phone wasn’t FEMA (they wouldn’t have been in on the front end); nor was it the Corps of Engineers warning about imminent flooding in the Green River valley;  it was my son and anchor tenant, calling last Sunday morning from my new rental house

Turned out that sewage had backed up into the downstairs shower and was recalcitrant about leaving.  I went right over, and we used a plunger and discussed various middling measures involving Drano and a rented snake, but I knew that the real solution was going to involve more sweeping action.

That this was happening on the very day that our last tenant was moving in was particularly inauspicious; that it was happening on a Sunday seemed downright mean. Amid a small army of people moving enough stuff in that I wondered if our new tenant was downsizing from something the size of the Biltmore estate, I was dialing around unsuccessfully trying to find a plumber who worked on Sunday.  This was also the day I’d selected to bring everyone’s leases over to be signed.  My mention of a “plumbing surcharge” did not immediately elicit chuckles.

Finally, one of the three companies that had promised to get back to me called and said he’d be there within the hour.   Upfront, he said the weekend rate was $225 for the first hour,  $185 for each hour thereafter.  I was thinking that we were in for 4 hours at a minimum, and I was indeed regretting that I hadn’t squeezed every last dollar out of the monthly rents.

Our savior arrived as promised.  We located the main cleanout to the side sewer (since we’d only owned the place for a month, I only had a vague idea where it was), and he went to work, lowering an infrared camera into the murk to try to disclose the problem.  As I had suspected, the culprit was roots pushing into the seams between pipe segments in the side sewer.  I helped our guy heave a 300-lb piece of equipment down the narrow stairs, and he started hacking his way  through the side sewer towards the street.

Upstairs, meanwhile, the moving party had finished unloading the several vehicles they’d arrived in, and begun to actually party, procuring beer and pizza.  This, as it turns out, is a circumstance that is inherently incompatible with plumbing that cannot be used.

Happily, our friend finished his task in an hour and a half, and left me with a thrilling VHS tape of a trip down my side sewer and a bill for $350.  I felt fortunate, both for the size of the bill and that the facilities became operational just as the revelers were reaching their various capacities.  It shot the day, but it gave me an opportunity to show that I was going to be a responsive landlord.

Morning in Port Townsend

click to enlarge

Totally Rocks!

Our kid has a cameo in an article about climbing at Index, WA in the October issue of Climbing Magazine.  He gets his abs from his mom.  But not the chest hair, so much:

Teaser Elucidated

So the “other” bit of personal business that I mentioned in my previous post is, we bought a rental house.  I’d been thinking about it ever since house prices started to decline, thinking that we’re due for some heavy inflation, and rising interest rates, and the stock market looked like a particularly hostile environment for any extra cash.

I’d been looking at listings online, but hadn’t really started pounding the pavement going to open houses, etc.  Then this property a couple of blocks from our house came on the market, and everything just sort of fell into place.  The price was a little higher than the range I’d been considering, but it was a good value, and I was feeling that the market was starting to bottom out.

The weird thing is, a friend of ours used to own this place back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and we’ve been there for many social occasions.  It was really weird to walk through the place after some 25+ years.  Our friend was single when he lived there and, while not a wild & crazy wastrel, was still a single man in the 7os.  So, since I just finished The Widows of Eastwick, and was reminded of their ringleader in The Witches of Eastwick, Darryl Van Horne, we’ve been telling ourselves that we’ve purchased the Van Horne mansion.

It’s been an interesting and educational experience.  I’ve never before been through the whole real estate purchase cycle: offer, counter, accept, financing, inspection, contingencies, closing, escrow.  We bought our residence from our landlady in 1975 on a land contract.  Meaning, we didn’t deal with realtors, lenders, appraisers, etc.  We just kept paying our landlady every month, only it was principal & interest, not rent.

One of the highlights was having the Van Horne mansion inspected.  The inspector was a woman recommended by a realtor friend of ours, and turned out to be something of a character.  She was real energetic and talked to herself as much as she talked to us.  A refrain she repeated several times as she moved about the place was “I’m a raindrop.  I’m a raindrop.  Where am I going?” to figure out if we’d have flooding problems.  (It’s only rained a couple of times since we made our offer, so the jury’s still out on how the place handles water).

You expect a cold shower from a real estate inspection, but there weren’t that many deficiencies that our inspector called out.  A few things need to be fixed, but nothing that needs to be done before tenants move in.  We couldn’t really get our seller to fund anything, because he had received several offers higher than ours, so we’ll chip away at these things as we are able.

Also, the financing was a little bit of an adventure, since I’m self-employed.  Well, I’m an employee, but of a corporation that I own.  So, I had to educate the lending underwriters about how I couldn’t really say I earned $xx per month, because I only write myself a paycheck when I collect my receivables.  And that it’s actually safer to lend to me, because a client can fire me and I still have multiple sources of income, where if an employee’s employer fires him, he’s got bupkis.

So part of this process is a little social engineering.  Our son will be our anchor tenant, meaning that he no longer resides in our house.  This was another little angle - he was going to move out and rent somewhere this fall anyway.  Since I was considering a rental investment, why should he be paying rent to someone else?  Plus, we’ll now have an extra bedroom here.  And it gives me an opportunity to collaborate with him on any projects there, which resonates with me on many levels.

It’s a bit of a culture shock for us, since we’ve never really had a mortgage payment in our lives besides our 70s-era payments to our old landlady.  Rental cash flow will cover most of the payment, but it’s still gonna feel weird, opening my Quicken and seeing that lozenge of debt sitting there.

Oddly, as we’ve been over tweaking things, I’ve felt a couple times that I might like that place better than our current residence, that maybe we should move there and rent or sell our current residence.  Hafta see how it plays out.

Mac-ed, Finally

Quickly, for a busy Monday…

I found a solid citizen on Craigslist selling a Macbook, and I bought it last Wednesday. Required a couple more Benjamins than the first guy, but this one had his receipt, a licensed copy of Windows Vista, the Mac OS disks, etc, and two years left on the Applecare warranty.  Needless to say, I’ve spent too many hours over the ensuing days porting programs & data over to the Macbook.

I got rid of the previous guy’s Windows partition and bought VMWare Fusion in order to create a Windows virtual machine and have the entire hard disk available to either operating system, rather than arbitrarily allocating the disk.  The home run was supposed to be this gambit where I could create an image of my entire Windows XP installation from my Dell, copy it back to the Mac and run it under VMWare.  Yes, that would have brought with it all the junk that has accumulated in my old installation, but it also would have obviated the grinding task of re-installing all my Windows programs.

Alas, that wasn’t to be.  Turns out that the XP license on the Dell can only be activated on the Dell.  I actually own an XP license that I bought at retail that’s not being used, but the onscreen activation wouldn’t accept it, and calling Microsoft for help got me nowhere (although it was an interesting update on the state of outsourced software support).

I took a run at iPhoto, since my Photoshop installation file from 2004 died in the sands of a hard disk 2 laptops back, and I’d have to purchase it again.  I think it might be ok, but damned if I can figure out how to do the simplest things that were second nature in Photoshop.  Might have to bite the bullet and buy it.

Momentous as the laptop purchase was, it was by no means the biggest bit of personal business I transacted last Wednesday.  More on that as events progress.

Tell you what, though.  The two-finger scrolling on the Mac trackpad is worth the purchase price in itself.