A Colder October

I don’t remember a colder October.

Nature’s real lessons – love and loss and longing – echoing yearly. Simple trees and simple leaves. Temporary slumbers; predictable, patterned, withdraw with a promise of likelihood. Coming back, coming back stronger, maybe reaching a little higher.

Occasionally, that’s not the case. Of course, majestics don’t worry about that. Perhaps affording optimism in squirrels and birds and other creatures. Although seeing fit to plan, return rote expecting rejuvenation. Coming from another season’s slumber, they lumber; sometimes dumbfounded when the memory is bare or barely there.

Much like those times you thought you were growing straight, turned twisted in time, searching for the sun. Vital pieces falls away, hacked, splintered, struck by lightning. How it happens; endless possibilities, all still no less of a shock.  

So, I welcome the colors, and I welcome the lack. It’s part of the process.

Lightly suffering through another falling season. It only seems ok because I’ve been here before. Somehow now it’s easier to see. There are no perfect trees.

I don’t remember a colder October, or colors that faded so fast.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 16 there are no perfect trees a colder october jakorte

 

Sunblock-Clocked

When Jeff was ready to continue, we set out slow walking. It was obvious to everyone who scooted around us, that there was a problem. It really got him down. We made it into the stands and stood for a while at the bottom looking up. The trudging climbers didn’t seem to bothered by the pace.

“C’mon,” I tugged his hand. “Let’s go…” He was dubious, but shuffled forward.

When the upward surging mass stalled, Jeff held on tightly to the rail. “My legs are shaking,” he told me. “That’s ok!” I replied. “You’ll be stompin’ in your seat shortly.” He gave me a little head shake smile, as the crowd crept along. We plodded on, keeping time with the slow bobbing waves of heads. “One foot in front of the other…” I sang off key. He chuckled.

When we’d made it, we both collapsed in our seats. “We made it!” I cheered. “I feel like Rocky…” Jeff huffed. “… after a few rounds.”

Not sure how we lucked out, but we had two seats on the end of the row, which meant Jeff could stand up and sit down easily. Eventually, we both caught our breath, and set about the business of setting up in the stands.

Jeff divvied up the headsets, which sadly were really only brought along for ear comfort. They’d previously hooked up to a radio, set to track channels. We’d listen to pit crews, his favorite drivers and even announcer chatter.

He handed me the binoculars and kept the camera, slung around his neck. Jeff surveyed the situation and sighed. “I hope I don’t gotta go….”

I was looking down re-stashing the sunblock we’d just slathered on the back of our necks, when a shadow came over us. I looked up and caught the tail end of a fighter jet just as it soared out of view.  Jeff’s hat came off, smacking me in the face. I reflexively reached up, opening my hand to catch the cap. The sunblock sailed forward and beaned the gentleman in front of me.

In those few seconds of mayhem, the clocked by sunblock fellow turned around. Jeff stepped closer to me, raising his eyebrows and hands in apology. I involuntarily shrieked in surprise as the sonic boom hit. I slapped both hands over my ears as they painfully popped. I’d just experienced my first fly over directly in the path of a fly over. Frozen in place, I stared at Jeff.

He surveyed me quizzically, quickly surmised my shock and threw out his own boom. Jeff’s contagious laugh caught on, as usual. Those around us grinned, chortled, chuckled, and very nicely returned our strewn belongings.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 09 There nothing quite like the camaraderie of like jakorte

Food: Hit and MIS

The stubborn, problem solver in me, decided it was time to take charge. Something had to be done. 

“Wait here,” I instructed Jeff. “Where are you going?” he asked. “I’ll be right back,” I answered, and took off.

My first wait was in the beverage line. I returned with two sugared soft drinks in two different, super-sized, commemorative collectible cups. I’d asked the kid behind the counter to be sure they were different, which seemed to stump him. I found it hard to believe no one else had made that request, but once he figured out what I was after, he happily grabbed a cup from the nearest server’s pile.

I wound my way back through the crowd to the little table, and wasn’t completely surprised to find Jeff talking and laughing with a couple a little older than us.  The woman  told me they’d stopped to check on Jeff because he was sitting by himself and didn’t look well.

Jeff, of course, insisted he was fine; just waiting for his wife to come back. I thanked them for stopping, and Jeff pulled out a Michigan Hot Sauce Club card. “You come by any time,” he told the fellow, “and I’ll give you a free bottle of hot sauce.” “Oh,” he continued, “and some of that crab salsa, too.” It turned out they weren’t from our area, but their son was, and they would tell him about the shop. Jeff always found a friendly way to promote our business. He always beamed with pride when talking about it. So he was a little more perky than when I’d left him.

After they’d gone, I showed Jeff the cups. He cheered up a little more at the thought of taking them home as souvenirs, along with a half-tire made into a picture frame featuring Dale Earnhardt Sr. Jeff loved it, but decided it would be too bulky to lug around. I offered to carry it, not realizing that half-tires could be so heavy. Yeah, it was a bit of a lug-around for me, but it was super cool, and looked great in our home office. 

I told Jeff to stay put, again, and moved back into the crowd. After another wait, I had our lunch. Two hot dogs. One, with every available condiment and jalapenos, the other with every available condiment, minus jalapenos. To make up for that, I included those stinky, raw chopped onions Jeff loved. I like a little bit of fresh raw onion now and then, but I fully stinkied up mine, too. In case, I couldn’t finish it; knowing, Jeff would be happy to help me out.

Clutching the hot dog tray, I stood in line one more time,  to secure an overflowing cone of greasy French-fries and a chocolate chip cookie as big as my two hands. Not the most appropriate fare for a struggling diabetic. Admittedly, Jeff and I shared a diet-dangerous, double-trouble, fix-it-with-food mentality.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 02 We tend to base our love on jakorte

 

Quote for the Week:

Rough Track

We went to the race track in 2006. It had been a few years since Jeff had been to a race. When he expressed the desire to go, I said, “Yes.” I worried about how we’d get around. Jeff refused to take his wheelchair. “Nah. You’ll see,” he said. “It’ll be fine.” We brought his cane along, but he was sure he wouldn’t need it, so he left it in the car.

Jeff’s standard outfit was fashion-backward, hot as hell (in a sweltering, not sexy way), but necessary. Cargo shorts, because pockets. A well-soft, well-worn Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Dale Earnhardt Jr. t-shirt for comfort, and loyalty. Suspenders to counter-act his heavy pockets.  One of many, many ball-caps to keep the heat off and absorb forehead sweat. Suspenders; because without them, Jeff would tell you, “I’d lose my shorts!”  

He used to laugh at the kids with the saggy pants below their butts, saying, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to keep my pants up!” None of them ever back-talked to Jeff. The tone of his voice made it obvious he was having fun, and they’d just joke along with him.

From the bottom up, like an oddly layered beige clothing trifle: Light brown man-sandals (think Birks), flesh-colored no-show compression socks, which obviously, were showing. From the ankle up, two ace-bandages (four in all) covered each of his tree-trunk legs to his knees, holding gauze against his ulcers. They somewhat helped keep swelling reduced, but not as well as the lederhosen-like compression hose he constantly wore at home. 

One of the wraps came undone as we walked through the merchandise trailer corridors. As soon as we found a seat, we replaced the gauze and rewound the fabric. It wasn’t easy for either of us. It’s hard to ignore the side-mouth talkers, the stares and the looks of disgust. It wasn’t pleasant to watch Jeff remove the goopy bandages and patches. It wasn’t pleasant for me to replace them, either. In those moments, Jeff hated being at the track in his condition, and sadly commented, “I guess I’m pretty gross, huh?”

The experience was hard for him. It simultaneously brought back great memories and evoked longing – of other times that were shared with family and friends, of other times when everything (especially walking) was easier, of other times it was effortlessly more fun. For Jeff, this pilgrimage came with a hefty dose of reality. It was the marker that made him see himself in a way he hadn’t before. Staring defeatedly at the ground, he mumbled, “I guess we should just go home.” Jeff’s heart was breaking, and that shattered mine.

Quote for the Week:

2018 09 25 life is made of so many layers jakorte

 

Car Stories

Our next two MIS trips, we joined the ranks of day-trippers.

For the first one, we still had my little Dodge Neon. The car hadn’t yet been through a damaging hail storm, a ride through a ditch on a water-covered road home and one full-on accident.

The hailstorm repair left it with a leaky sunroof, a tail light that had not properly been reinstalled, and back seat floorboards flooded with water. Lesson learned: Pop-up, post storm, windshield replacement and dimple remover outfits that camp out in parking lots, aren’t the best way to go.

Jeff was driving for our low-car off-road experience. We were coming up on a corner, and as we rounded, we noticed the truck in front of us weave. It ran off the road, into a ditch and drove right up over the drain pipe to land on someone’s driveway.

When that water-ballet ended, I realized there were two other cars stalled in the water that the truck had been trying to avoid. Headed for a collision, I shouted at Jeff, “Ditch! Ditch! Ditch!” Jeff swung the car to the right. I’m not sure how our little car didn’t roll. It really should have, since Jeff was on the up side of the down-slope. Jeff kept hold of the wheel, veered back to the left, gunned the engine and tried for a similar path to the driveway that truck was, thankfully, no longer in.

To Jeff’s credit, he didn’t even try to clear the pipe. He just jammed on the gas and barreled us up one of the graveled sides. The underside scraped along the rocks, but we made it to level ground. Without stopping, Jeff maneuvered us out of the driveway. We skidded along a white picket fence that I am still amazed we did not crash through or damage in the slightest. We shot around the standing water, completely avoiding the stalled cars.

Neither one of us said a word. Finally, at the first stop light we came to, Jeff sort of chuckled. “That was some pretty fancy drivin’,don’t ya think?” I agreed and remarked how I just could not believe we came through that unharmed, with no damage to the car.

Jeff tapped the side of his head with a curved pointer finger. “I was thinkin’ like a race-car driver,” he grinned , proudly. “Good thing, I’ve seen a lot of races!”

Our amazement ended about a half-hour after that, when just a few miles from home, the Neon began to smoke under the hood. We’d busted the radiator. Later, I noticed a raw, red spot on Jeff’s left temple where he’d scraped against the window frame and roof. That wasn’t that much of a surprise, considering he normally drove the car with a height-adjusting, slight-head tilt, anyway.

The third strike against my mini, really too-small-for-Jeff, but great gas mileage commuter car, was pretty much a head-to-side collision. That time, I was driving the same ditched road. A little farther on down the stretch, I approached a green traffic light, that quickly turned yellow. I considered hitting the brakes, but when it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to stop in time or behind the line, I hit the gas.

It was Jeff’s turn to shout. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” A large white truck had decided to beat the light on his side and cut directly in front of me. Even standing on the brakes, I hit their right front tire, head-on.  Jeff ended up with deep bruising and a seat-belt rub across his chest. The crazy left-turner ended up with a broken front axel on his brand-new truck, and a ticket.

I didn’t end up with a ticket, but we did have to have the car towed from Saline to Tecumseh. Our insurance paid for a rental car, since the police report had shown the other driver to be at fault. The Dodge dealer inspected the damage, and estimated repairs.   Before we had a chance to get back there, it occurred to us all of our purchased Christmas presents were still in the Neon’s trunk. We didn’t have any real storage space in our apartment, so we figured the best place to store it all was in the car.

When we did finally get to the car shop to discuss the repairs, it became clear that it might be time for a new car, anyway. So, we traded the Silver Pea (as Jeff referred to it) for a much larger, used, gold Buick Century. Not long after, we began to see a lot of gold Buick Century’s driven by a much older crowd. So much so, that it was actually a little difficult to locate ours in parking lots, sometimes.

Quote for the Week:2018 09 18 It doesnt matter who you have beside you jakorte

MIS: Souvenier

Some things are super clear. Other things… yeah, no.

I do know I wobbled a third of the way across the infield to the bathroom at least twice on my own.  I sipped on water and MT Dew, ate some peanut butter crackers and dozed off a lot.

On my ventures out, I would notice people sitting nearby, but never thought much of it. I’d get a wave and be asked how I was doing. I was doing great, because I wasn’t in pain. I’d come back exhausted and crawl back into the van.

I later learned that Jeff’s friends next to us and some a few rows away had taken shifts to make sure I didn’t need help. One of the women had even followed me to the bathroom. I had no clue.

I remember sitting in the front seat. I don’t remember Jeff packing up the van, or leaving. We stayed put until most of the crowd had rolled out to conserve gas. I remember lying down on the not very grassy spot next to the van because sitting up was just too hard. I don’t know how long it took us to get home. I don’t remember how we got the van back to his Mom’s house, or how I ended up in bed at ours.

I do remember waking up around 9 PM and wondering what had happened. I was very, very sore all over. Monday, I made an appointment with my doctor for Tuesday. By Tuesday, I thought the whole thing was silly and that whatever it was had worked itself out. Jeff convinced me to keep the appointment. I’d run out of pain pills by this time. I felt ok, but had a fever and what felt like a bladder infection.

Sent home with antibiotics and more Vicodin, I was told to take a few days off. On Wednesday, Jeff had gone to work and I was on the phone with my Dad. I was telling him this story, when I realized I actually felt like I might want to full-fledged pee, instead of the pitiful dribble I’d experienced. So, I toddled off to the small half bath under the stairs in our townhouse and kept talking.

When I was finished, I check the collection “hat” I’d been provided with to “catch the grains of sand” that they hopefully believed I would pass, at some point. I was dumbfounded to see an orangey, odd-shaped rock. “Dad,” I said. “I don’t understand. I haven’t been outside today and Jeff isn’t home and I’m not wearing sneakers, but somehow a rock got into the bathroom thingy.”

He asked me to describe it. It was ‘L’ shaped. Each branch was about 1/4 inch and covered with spiky bumps. It didn’t look like any of the stones we had in our gravel drive or flower bed.  I briefly wondered if Jeff had decided to play  joke on me.

“Congratulations,” my father announced. “You’ve passed a kidney stone!”

“I peed that?” I sqwalked, incredulously. “Really?” After a beat, I enthusiastically added, “Vicodin, maaaannnnn. That’s some good shit!”

I’d been told to drop off whatever tiny grains and sediment was captured by the sieve at the lab. So, I dutifully put the pebble in the provided bottle, and waited for Jeff to get home. Jeff was astounded and enamored. “OOOhh,” he peered into the open container. “Let’s keep it…” He suggested, “as a souvenier…” 

I informed him I was supposed to bring it in for analysis. “Well,” he pondered, “Can we wait a few days? Maybe you can pass another one… and then, we could keep this one!”

Quote for the Week:  2018 09 04 beware of underestimation and biologically narrow jakorte

MIS: Second to Last (MIS-adventure)

While they were vampiring me for a suitable hydration vein, Jeff was happily wandering around looking at stuff.

By now, race start was only two hours away. I told Jeff he didn’t have to stay with me. “You should go watch the race,” I said sincerely. “Just come back and get me later.”

“You won’t be here that long,” the needle wiggler commented. “You’ll be outta here way before the race starts.”

I was starting to feel a little fuzzy, and wondering how that was gonna work, when Jeff found another staffer and pulled him aside.

These are the things I heard him say, before the vicodin fully kicked in.

“This is so cool!” he exclaimed to the other one.

“NONE of my friends have ever been in here. I’m the only one!” He sounded pretty pleased about my predicament.

“Hey! Is that blood?” referring to a spot on the floor. “Which driver is that from?”

It wasn’t from a driver. It wasn’t even blood; just a permanently stained splatter spot of some other sort.

Jeff was actually disappointed. “Awww,” he said. After a beat, and with some thought, he added, “Guess it’s kinda a good thing you don’t see too many drivers…”

“I was hoping you had a good story to tell me…” he continued. “Got any good stories?”

 “What else is here? Do you have an operating room? Can I take a tour, see everything else?”

Before I slipped into lala-land, I barked at Jeff. “Hey! Over here! I got a problem and you’re taking a tour!? Get over here and hold my hand!”

“Ok,” he agreed, “but, this really is cool!”

They sent me back to the infield (in a cart, I’m told) with a paper RX for Vicodin for when we got out and wishes for good luck.

I said I’d be fine, as Jeff headed off into the stands, ticket in hand. I mostly slept in the van with the cargo door splayed. I remember being happy about blankets, but, honestly, I’m not sure why. Not only are MIS race weekends usually hot, most times muggy, being in the middle of all that tire/tarmac and exhaust generated heat made it even hotter.

Some things are super clear. Other things… yeah, no.

I do know I wobbled a third of the way across the infield to the bathrooms twice on my own.  

Occasionally, I would notice people sitting nearby, but never thought much of it.

I later learned that Jeff’s friends next to us and some a few rows away had taken shifts to make sure I didn’t need help. One of the women had even followed me to the bathroom. I had no clue.

I don’t remember packing up the van, or leaving. I don’t remember how we got the van back to his Mom’s house, or how I ended up in bed at ours.

I do remember waking up around 9 PM and wondering what had happened.

Quote for the Week:

2018 08 28 it doesn_t take much for some people bad situation jakorte