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5/1/02-Wed.-Flies on my donut and cold coffee blues.

It's been unseasonably hot lately, with temperatures in the high nineties yesterday and today.

Pepper was excited when we got back from the morning walk, as two mockingbirds, nesting in our largest maple, were screaming at and diving on a pair of squirrels, just yards away.

Our garage attic area now also echoes, as usual each spring, to the sound of baby sparrows chirping hungrily and nesting there.

Today the annual Texas Writers' Month commences with celebrations in major Texas cities. This year's featured works are Lonesome Dove and Old Yeller, good selections.

We seem finally to be winning the war of the viruses. In addition to our previewing and screening our e-mails at AT&T, we're doing daily scans using HouseCall; and Fran will soon be installing a Panda Titanium anti-virus program. A lot of our files are kept apart and/or duplicated on separate computer drives. And most of our e-mail addresses are now stored in a way inaccessible to potential contamination. Finally, we now have backup disks for the majority of our programs and files. If, despite all this, infection does occur, Frances has become quite efficient at purging it from our system and reinstalling what's been lost or damaged.

Once again, good relations have been restored with both Leila and Mary, my sometimes troublesome sisters-in-law. I have found I do better with my relations by spreading honey, while pretending great distress and apology for "my" mistakes, than by taking the self-righteous offensive in our skirmishes, and so pouring salt and vinegar onto the wounds.

5/4/02-Sat.-Another workweek has passed for Fran. Given that things are winding down even more quickly than anticipated in the schools where she teaches, what with field trips and group testing of which she'd not been earlier informed, she now has just three full days of music teaching left. Wednesday is her very last shift. She's been hoping for this finale for quite a number of years.

My recently broken tooth will not get treatment until, at the earliest, mid-June, when I have the first appointment with our new dentist. (Fran, with her dental problem, will be seen by him about a week earlier, just after getting back from her trip up north to visit her Wisconsin relatives.) It's unlikely that he'll fix the chipped place at the first visit. Indeed, he might (against all expectation, since there must be few remaining professionals who, when given the opportunity, will not perform expensive services) advise that a sophisticated procedure is unwarranted, perhaps that only a minor sanding, buffing, and polishing is in order, to remove the sharp or rough edges that have been troubling in the last several weeks. More likely, a new crown, perhaps with a root canal as well, will be recommended.

In any case, I'm thinking now that I may keep the present situation, as an ongoing reminder that, like this tooth, I am myself vulnerable, subject to the whims of fate, and one day shall cease. The broken place does no harm and yet, because the surface feels strange, and is often being "checked" by my tongue, it is like a meditation focus, each time reconfirming again my finitude.

Losses and their implications for a mortal existence are also prominent now in my relations, or lack thereof, with my erstwhile colleagues, Larry, Sandy, and Maria. Though they had been kind enough to accede for awhile to my suggestions that we maintain an ongoing friendship, with occasional get-togethers for vittles, or with phone conversations, or at least e-mails, all of this came to a halt last month. By the latter part of April, none of them were responding to my overtures.

Perhaps they saw no future in the involvement and so felt nil need to keep up a polite, but not very convenient, relationship. Maybe they just did not any longer feel much in common with me, as I am fully retired and they feel the need to work on for several more years, not to mention that they are younger and/or more involved with their families, though we have no kids and are unlikely ever to be parents. Or it could be I have said something or behaved in a way that each found in some way unworthy, so they have all decided to "dis" me.

I do not know what it could have been, but when one has been dropped, however understandably in view of our now different circumstances, by one's former friendly acquaintances, all kinds of things go through one's head.

It may be just my imagination; but I feel as though my former work associates all see me as like a ghost, still wanting to hang around among the folks in the realm it had just left, when it is time to get on with its new existence, whatever that may be.

We have reached the point that sooner or later seems to come, after a few final communications from me, when if they do not call or e-mail, then clearly the interactions are at an end. With each of them I have offered more rather than less (or the same) level of getting together, only to find that, when it comes right down to it, they'd just as soon not have any at all. Well, I'm quite the introvert (INFJ), while they are all clearly extroverts. It was just not to be!

So, as one does in such situations, I'll not bug them about it further, but just resign myself to the lost friendships, though they will be missed. It's a painful, sad thing. Willy-nilly, as with those ghosts, I must adjust to the new conditions and move on.

At such times, it may be wise to remember the Lifestream Way counsel, that only our relationship with the infinite is of real importance. These temporal associations are to be given their due, but without emotional entanglements. We may "live in the world, but not of it." It should rather be for us as with a couple pieces of driftwood (brought together by chance currents), which for awhile are floating in each other's company but do not cling to one another or become upset when again later they find themselves separated.

Good news came in the mail this week: my blood check results, from last month's physical, were normal, though my doctor has been on my case for awhile about high triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

Today looks to be rather low-key. Fran did some early shopping and also went for a walk with the mutt. She has opera rehearsals this weekend, as well, and is away for one now. I'm doing some yard watering, after mowing the front. I'll probably also get in a couple hours of meditation, work on cost basis calculations for stocks recently sold, and perhaps edit some previous writing.

I was uncertain what to get Mom for Mother's Day (5/12) till I thought of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her brother, H. Alan Day's, autobiography of their childhood ranch and family life, Lazy B. But, in view of my mother's own literate interests, rustic background, and challenging early years, I think this excellent work will be a good choice, so have bought it for her.

5/6/02-Mon.-Started working with Quicken on Sunday, to better organize our accounts and, mainly, to work out the cost bases for a large number of stock and mutual fund holdings and sales over the years. Our CPA had recommended Quicken's main financial program. I ordered it online at a discount; and it arrived over the weekend.

My initial efforts brought primarily quite frustrating results. For instance, the software does not tell the user that it vastly complicates things to indicate you have check writing privileges in a brokerage account, and that it is then most difficult to change the info. it stores and uses, once it has been entered. There is no clear detail of the steps which do and do not work for a complex cost basis calculation. In four attempts, on into the night (till nearly 2:00 AM), the program correctly calculated the cost basis of a mutual fund only once out of four times. I still do not know what made the difference that time. Future, similar failures are therefore likely.

Have also been largely relying on Fran for the past couple years or so to do most of the actual computing here, and am paying a heavy price in extra time spent just learning, by trial and error, mostly the latter, how to do some of the more fundamental steps. All too human, my reaction, I suppose; but I do not enjoy what does not come easily. So, last night was not one of my happier ones. I'm sure eventually this will get better. For now, though, it feels pretty awful, yet must be done.

I heard a report on the radio in the past couple days about third party, nonviolent, peace activists in Israel, trying to help at Arafat's headquarters and in Bethlehem, by their presence to somewhat limit the actions of the Israeli military. I applaud their efforts and wish them well. I prefer not to side with one group against the other, but feel that international efforts of peace loving people, with or without their governments' sanctions and support, will be required if the violent stalemate in the Middle East is ever to be constructively resolved.

Was up early this morning, Fran's last time of having to leave by about 6:30 for her work, a milestone she noted with satisfaction.

It is perhaps ironic that Frances, who has little patience with children in general and certainly never wanted to have any of her own, is often considered a rather good teacher by her private music students, several of whom have given her a variety of gifts, cards, and personal testimonials over the years. It is just routine now that her students win most of the first chair positions in the competitions at school district and regional levels. She's been teaching, at least part-time, for three decades, since 1972, when she was fourteen.

It is fitting that I note, then, that tomorrow is National Teacher Day, a time when we appreciate all our teachers, but especially those who were most positively influential in our lives. Indeed, I had a number of terrific teachers. While my life took a few turns that led me in other directions, I often thought this would have been an excellent career for me. Fran tells me though that I'm entranced with the romantic ideal but would not actually like the day to day reality of that profession. Maybe. Perhaps in the right setting...

Since, despite only three hours' sleep, I was up anyway, I left when Fran did. Adhering to a "three strikes and you're out" policy, I decided, after the third time the squirrels chewed off new chunks of our house siding (despite previous repairs, repainting, and putting bad-smelling things in the plastic wood or paint, to no avail), that the situation could no longer be tolerated.

So, I went to Home Depot looking for some solution, ready to poison the little hairy vermin if necessary. The best option seems to be to capture and then transport them for release, several miles away in a less developed area. To this end, I bought a trap this morning and have set it, using peanut butter and oatmeal bait. We'll see what happens.

I also posted Fran's card and gift for her mom, for Mother's Day, and took Pepper for our morning walk.

I'll be leaving Wednesday morning, 5/8, for Waco, taking our gift and card for my mother, expecting to stay several days and also to visit while there with my nephew, Joel. I'll try as well during that time to get some more names and addresses or phone numbers of some of Mom's friends we might invite to her surprise eightieth birthday celebration, now scheduled for 10/12-10/13.

We learned today that the current Bush administration has once again decided not to abide by a major global agreement, this one the International Criminal Courts treaty. It will be interesting to see if, as other nations follow our lead in repudiating multiple treaties, that their current administrations do not like, we find the results of such international non-cooperation to our liking.

Today I finished my latest videotape rental, "Enemy at the Gates." Though probably not a great film, this is a very dramatic and fairly well done one, by director Jean-Jacques Annaud. I have long been captivated by the horrific World War II Battle of Stalingrad. It played a huge part in the eventual victory of the Allies over the Axis powers. Yet it had horrendous human costs.

My exercise and meditation continue, though, on days like this, when I'm almost drunk with sleep deficiency, they are not given so high a priority. On our constitutional yesterday, we had a couple neat sightings, first a large rabbit which Pepper saw first and for which she gave chase (she on a leash, never catching them, but never losing interest in trying). Then we saw a scorpion (good-sized for this species) carrying, and apparently eating, a smaller one.

5/7/02-Tues.-Happily, my feelings of rejection last week were significantly premature. I received an e-mail from Sandy today. They want us to get together again later this month. She's been quite busy getting everything on her desk ready and caught up for while she and her husband, Clark, will be on a week's vacation soon. I know what that's like! She added that our former assistant manager, a terrific guy and excellent fellow at his job, has just been promoted to head another unit. Great news for him! I sent him a congratulatory message.

I'm also now doing better with Quicken, moving along steadily and at a faster cost basis calculation pace by far than I could have done without the software.

No luck yet with our new squirrel cage. I've camouflaged it some with leaves, put really delectable bait inside, and placed it at the base of one of their favorite live-oak trees.

I'm getting ready myself for a few days of vacation, up in Waco. Fran will be busy back here in Austin with the next opera production plus her very last day of professional teaching, tomorrow. We expect to celebrate a little the blessed event, on Monday, after my return.

5/10/02-Fri.-Am in Waco, on my third of five days of visiting my mom (actually three full days plus two partial ones).

Here are a few details, of my dad, Aaron's, first wife and marriage, that I was able to glean from comments by my mom, over the last couple days, and from my aunt, Kim, whom I'd called on her birthday, in late March. (Up till now, I'd never been able to get information from Dad or otherwise on his intriguing, earlier marriage.)

Dad was relatively young as this transpired. He was about twenty-six when he met and began dating Mom. But that was several years after he had married his first wife. Her name was Matilda. She was a friend of Aunt Celeste's, perhaps her music teacher or in some other mentoring relationship with her. Aaron apparently met her because he saw her with his sister. Though Celeste was younger than Aaron, Matilda was eleven years older than he.

She was a fairly high-strung lady and quite particular or demanding. Aaron often did not suit her; and she felt free to let him know it. Out of financial necessity, they were living for instance for a time with Kim and Randolph, all sharing the same kitchen. She did not fix Aaron's lunch, but complained that, when he would prepare his own, he would take the best food from the ice box or pantry for himself, leaving less desirable vittles for her, Kim, and Randolph.

Later she and Aaron went out to CA for awhile, where Dad tried to make a go of it, his prior job attempts not having continued because of the Great Depression. He ran a Texaco station in the Sunshine State. But this venture did not work out either. He just couldn't make any money at it at the time.

Their monetary circumstances were already a severe strain on the relationship.

Then she got pregnant. She did not, for whatever reasons - perhaps financial, maybe professional - want to have the baby and demanded Aaron give her the funds for an abortion. He wanted her to have the child, in spite of their money worries. She was absolutely insistent on the procedure, even though abortions were illegal at the time and there was great religious and societal prejudice then against them. She may have threatened to do it herself if he'd not cooperate.

In the end, he reluctantly gave her $300 for it, a huge sum at the time (representing easily 1-2 years' wages or several years' savings); but the rift they'd had, over this and other factors, led to their separation. She stayed for a time, then, with my Aunt Kim and Uncle Randolph (without Aaron). Kim said there was just nowhere else Matilda could go; and so they put her up there, though their sympathies in the breakup were with Aaron, saying it was definitely not his fault.

Eventually, Matilda successfully sued for divorce on grounds of "incompatibility." Aaron and the others went along with this as the best way out of a bad situation for everyone, rather than telling the judge, or anyone else, about the abortion.

The whole thing, from their marriage to divorce, did not last all that long, perhaps two to three years, it seems.

Later she married again. When she was pregnant then and in the hospital to deliver the baby, she would scream bloody murder at the slightest pain, so she could be heard up and down the halls. The nurse tried to tell her if she would relax about it the baby would go on down the birth canal and they could have a successful delivery. When she screamed like that it just made things contract, so the birthing process was stopped, making it last much longer than necessary. Mom says she does not know why Matilda was not given something to calm her nerves. Perhaps she was, but not enough; and the doctors were afraid to give her more. Perhaps the medications they had then were not as safe or effective as those used more recently.

She had aspired to a career as a singer, much as I think Celeste, whom she likely encouraged, did at the time.

After her baby was born and she was home from the hospital, she got a lawyer to sue the hospital (unsuccessfully) for ruining her voice, and thus her career, by allowing her to scream so much during the long labor.

Perhaps (hopefully) by then Dad was thinking: "Good riddance!"

My nephew, Joel, was here for several days too, arriving before me and leaving late this morning. Another nephew, Chris, also stopped by for awhile and joined us at The Olive Garden.

My brother, Allen, is due to arrive tomorrow about lunchtime.

We've been enjoying a pleasant time together, though Fran is staying in Austin, busy with her last day of teaching (this past Wed.) and the latest opera.

Mom was telling me my niece, Virginia, has recently been honored with membership in a junior version of the national honor society. She also said her school band, of which Virginia is a member as a flute player, has just been awarded "sweepstakes" (like an A+ rating) by the U.I.L. (University Interscholastic League).

Joel said he'll still be working on weekends for the Texas School for the Deaf through this month but then will be off from that, till later in August.

Pepper and I have been taking daily walks. Yesterday morning we got down to a lake near Mom's place just as dawn was breaking and saw a great blue heron lift off from the near shore and slowly, gracefully, glide off over the waters.

While here, I've been to a couple theatre movies, neither particularly noteworthy, and we've enjoyed a fine meal out as well as pool, good conversations, and a pair of nostalgic sessions with Mom, with me frantically taking notes based on her recollections from the far yesteryears.

Last night, while Joel was away at a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall meeting, Mom and I rented and watched "Shrek," a delightful movie in all respects but one, that it focuses on plump, homely, or obese folks as being (up till about the last line, which does not, by itself, negate the import to that point) ugly and undesirable, even repulsive. Still, even if politically incorrect in this way, the film works and was quite entertaining.

Tonight Mom fixed supper; and I did the dishes, after which we watched the end-of-week public television news summary programs plus, somewhat later, the revised (CNBC) Louis Rukeyser wrap-up of the financial developments, a program clearly superior to the stock week product Maryland Public Television, who fired him with terribly inadequate cause, now puts out on Friday evening in lieu of Lou.

5/11/02-Sat.-Pepper and I got down to the lake again by 7 AM or shortly after. The morning breezes were making interesting patterns on its gray surface, reminding me of the northern lights.

Later this morning, while I was showering, Mom spied a coral snake slowly sliding down under her back sidewalk, from the flower bed closest to her back door. By the time I got there with a camera, it had already disappeared below.

Reflecting on my youthful idealism and faith, or at least hope for something in which to believe much greater and meaningful than myself, I find that, with more age, knowledge, and experience, I have acquired a jaded or cynical outlook.

Poetic visions, dream images, or wishful imaginings aside, I now think it highly unlikely (much less than 1% chance) that there is an afterlife or any other way in which one's existence is other than of merely subjective meaningfulness.

For those lucky enough to live for awhile in promising circumstances, this at least does not preclude rewarding social interactions and interesting experiences.

For others, perhaps the majority, life is still full of drudgery or despair, with constant danger that the whims of fate will further reduce one's modest measure of means until fears, rages, or agonies hold sway for the balance of a miserable sojourn in this "veil of tears."

My situation seems betwixt these two examples, on the one hand seeming to have promising enough circumstances but, on the other, "catch-22," beset by far from pleasant reactions to things, so that much of the potential for a calm appreciation of "the lightness of being" is lost.

I sometimes think I'd do better as a hermit, though this seems a strange assessment for one yet as stimulated as I by the company of others. It takes but a bit of vandalism from neighbors on our property, or a misunderstanding with Frances, to make me passionately wistful for the satisfactions of solitude.

For all my skepticism of ultimate meaningfulness, meditation remains a positive, one that, mysteriously, has rich rewards.

Later-I talked with Allen about our problems with anti-virus programs, etc., and how they seem to cause difficulties with the rest of our computer functioning.

He said a friend in Germany has a laptop, which should have less memory than our computer, but that her program stops viruses and yet does not disrupt other operations. I asked if he could find out specifically what kind of software she uses. He said he'll e-mail and ask her, then let me know. He also said at work he uses a McAfee program and at home a Norton, but neither interferes with other functions, though both stay up-to-date with the viruses that are out there.

I described to him what Michael, our Dell tech friend, had indicated should be sufficient. He said that would only be true if we had the view on our Outlook Express configured for the "no preview" option. He said that way a virus should not be able to automatically open itself. He said I'd know the view configuration was correct if below the in-box e-mails there is no window for seeing the highlighted e-mail. It was his impression that, without that, the attachments cannot open on their own and we should be able to delete them before they open, even if they are otherwise the kind that open when one tries to delete them.

After a little visiting, Allen and I took Mom out for a (day early) delicious "Mother's Day" meal at a Thai restaurant, avoiding tomorrow's crowds.

On the way home, we picked up a videotape. This evening we watched it, "Artificial Intelligence," a dark, disturbing, but nonetheless effective, Steven Spielberg film.

Coincidentally, in discussions with Mom this morning, before Allen had arrived or there'd been any talk of that rental movie, and before I'd seen it, I was telling Mom my vision of our species' future, and how I feel certain that beings like us have only a few generations to go. For our kind, these are already the "final days." We shall either no longer exist at all or shall be so transformed that we'd recognize little kinship with our descendents. Meanwhile, if we persist, the advances of science and technology shall combine with the unintended consequences of our planetary hegemony to vastly reshape the settings in which those who come after us must exist. In that "brave new world," artificial intelligence would play a major part.

Read The Bourne Identity, a good thriller.

5/16/02-Thurs.-Fran and I have been settling in together with our new, retired couple, routines. Making love late at night, with no worries about having to be up before the commute, is a great new plus. Though we must husband our financial resources, we have also been indulging in pleasant meals at favorite restaurants during the less crowded, weekday hours, partly as a way of celebrating Frances' new life of leisure.

More aggressive and frequent vandalism in our front area by neighbor kids is a concern lately. The suburb seems to be going downhill quickly, all the more so in our immediate vicinity. I now fear what we would find when the little gang of hellions knows we are both away for several days.

We have, as a consequence, begun thinking of a possible move to a better location, though the prospect is discouraging as real estate throughout central Texas has gone way up since we bought this place. If we get another residence, we'd likely have to give up most or all of our equity in this one. Yet, if we stay, we run the risk that the current values will slide, just as security here is already plummeting.

A few nights ago something seems to have bitten my right arm several times. I thought at first the itchy spots were from mosquito bites. However, the reaction has been more severe than I have ever had to those little blood suckers. Probably it was a spider instead. In any case, though I have tried to treat the area with over the counter medications, the itching, pain, and swelling have persisted.

5/19/02-Sun.- This morning we finished and uploaded the latest of our family and investment newsletter issues.

Friday night I completed a project I'd been putting off since my retirement pictures were available, about three months ago, preparing captions for them to indicate who the folks in the photos were.

Actually "completed" is incorrect. Some significant gaps were left.

I have organic brain damage. My memory was the first to go. As an infant I suffered from congestive heart failure and would turn blue and pass out if I got too excited. This may also be why it is hard for me to deal with strong emotion and I tend to have a lot of anxiety if there's much threat of it.

Anyway, my mom tended to be kind of judgmental - in fact I got another example of that just today - as well as being of course young and inexperienced as a mother, me being her first and she not having been around tiny children much before. So when I'd turn blue like that as she was yelling at me about something, she believed I was deliberately thwarting her will by holding my breath. Therefore, if she were on my case about something and I started to turn bluish, she got enraged and would spank me, which, naturally, just made my physiological state that much worse.

The condition is associated with anoxia, as neither enough blood nor oxygen was getting to my cells, especially in my brain. Each time I'd lose consciousness a few million little neurons were kicking the bucket.

I've always had a lot of difficulty with names of people and things, with aural languages, and so on. I think one reason I like keeping journals is because they create an artificial memory. Then I often also focus on what recollections I do have and write them down lest they be lost forever, a kind of death before dying.

Anyway, bottom line, when I tried to do the captions I was distressed anew at how many of the names of people I'd seen almost everyday, up till just about five months ago, are now a blank.

Mom and I had a misunderstanding in our e-mail exchange between yesterday and today.

Kenneth, the father of my sister-in-law, Leila, died yesterday morning at 11:00, from complications of terminal cancer. His last several days had been pretty horrible. The funeral is this coming Wednesday, with a family visitation time at the funeral home on Tuesday, these dates delayed because Leila and some of her other siblings are trying to get one of his relatives back to Waco, TX, from out in CA, where he's on maneuvers in the military.

Anyway, I'd offered to go up to Waco and drive Mom to the visitation and funeral. She e-mailed back saying she's extremely busy with all these things and that this is a bad week for this to happen, adding that she has a luncheon she needs to go to Wednesday that continues right up till 2:00 (the time of the funeral).

So, I e-mailed back that I was glad I did not have to solve that riddle, how to both go to the luncheon and the funeral. Since I'd already promised Leila I'd drive Mom, I did not feel I could just leave her on her own in the matter and say, in essence, "OK, if you want to go to the luncheon instead, you're on your own," though this is what I felt like writing. I liked Kenneth and, just for myself, wanted to be at the funeral home in plenty of time.

I emphasized to Mom the importance I placed on being there early and that I had already cancelled a luncheon for that day, one I'd been planning for several weeks, which is true. I'd been expecting to meet then with Sandy and Maria, but have now put the lunch with them off for a week. I never said anything to Mom about needing to change something else about her schedule or accused her of anything.

Anyway, she wrote back today with this long, complicated, angry, defensive e-mail about all the things she had done over the years to help Kenneth as well as Leila and her family, etc., and all about her other obligations, how old people are not given respect by younger folks, and so on, and so forth, but also adding that the luncheon she needs to go to on Wednesday ends at 1:00, not 2:00, as she'd earlier written. That's all she needed to have said! Lord.

Too much stress and tension lately. Besides, I woke up from our nap turned on, just as Fran needed to leave for the opera production. This may be a sensual-massage-and-romance night for Fran and me. Let's hear it for spontaneity!

So, whether Mom and I are on good or bad terms by then - probably, as usual, somewhere in between - I'll be heading up again to Woodway/Waco early Tuesday morning, then again over Memorial Weekend.

Meanwhile, Fran will be heading off by mid-week to points north, to visit with her sister and her family for camping, a dog show her sister wants to attend, and U.S.-Canadian "boundary waters" canoeing, returning after about two weeks or so. (I was invited but, what with my cancer-sensitive skin and other nuisance difficulties, am not as into camping or long stretches of canoeing as Fran and her relations, and so, instead, am doing my funereal thing, visiting with folks in central Texas over the holiday weekend, and holding down the proverbial fort, keeping the home fires burning, or similarly applicable clichés.)

What with all to fro-ing and to-ing, there will be few if any further entries here for awhile, though the journal may be caught up a week or two into June.

5/21/02-Tues.-Helped Fran get our canoe onto her car. She leaves tomorrow on her trip to WI, MI, and MN.

I, in turn, left this morning, about 9:30, heading for Waco and a visit with my mom plus ceremonies connected with Kenneth's death.

Pepper and I stopped as usual in Georgetown, then arrived at my mom's place about 12:30. (On the way, I had another great blue heron sighting overhead, but in her neighborhood, while still in the car.) Mom got in from a luncheon less than an hour later. We're getting along just fine again now.

Fran and I were chatting the other day. She said she's still not comfortable with or convinced of multiple extra dimensions, dark matter, extremely tiny particle matter, and the other complicated attempts to explain some of the anomalous phenomena of astrophysics.

On a whim I said that, given how little I know of the topic, I could be as easily convinced by string theory, a parallel membrane hypothesis for the origin of the universe, or my own idea, that we really have a fairly limited number of ordinary dimensions in our universe and reality, but that the strange findings that are noted result from the co-existent interaction, at one and the same time and space, of multiple universes and realities. That Which Is, in this concept, would be an almost, but not quite, infinite cosmic soup in which the past, present, and future (not separate except in our perception) of all possible universes/realities exist at once and, necessarily, affect one another, creating wave-like harmonies and disharmonies which...[Hmm. I seem to have lost my train of thought.]

[Trying again...] These affect the otherwise ordinary manifestations in presently unforeseen ways, but quite sufficiently to resolve all of the previously puzzling phenomena, and account as well for the apparent need for multiple dimensions to explain things. The interactions of otherwise ordinary universe/reality dimensions create extraordinary- or hyper-dimensions.

Fran played along and joked that if this were the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, then everything would have just now ceased to exist because that's what happened whenever someone found a way to make clear just how it all works.

5/22/02-Wed.-Pepper awoke when Mom did, apparently about 4:15 AM, and got me up. I went to the bathroom and then back to bed, insisting she do too. By 5:30, though, Mom was noisily doing things in the kitchen and on her computer, so that the dog and I were aroused again. This time I just retained a vaguely realistic appearance of wakefulness till Mom had left for the water aerobics class she teaches, and then went back to bed once again.

Yesterday, she and I went to the funeral home family visitation for Kenneth. The casket was open. He looked about as good as a seventy-six year old deceased person could.

Leila and Horace were appreciative of our floral arrangement, which had been delivered in plenty of time and was quite beautiful. Chris, Virginia, Kenneth's wife, Rose, and many of his other relatives were there as well. Rose was sad and tearful but holding up well, aided by all the family support.

Continuing with thoughts on cosmology, but more seriously, it seems to me there must be at least five "ordinary" dimensions, with a minimum of one beyond the traditional three spatial and one temporal. The extra one would be that by which time can be perceived as easily as we normally see in 3-D.

In this view, past, present, and future, and their effects on existence, could be apprehended all at once, rather than, for most of us, at least usually, only as we can understand them in the quite narrowly conceived present moment.

Occasional, unreliable glimpses of such an enhanced perspective may well account for so-called extra sensory perception experiences. If not, yet another dimension may be required to account better for that kind of capacity.

I suppose you could say that god, if any, sees in at least five or six dimensions.

While we were getting ready to go to the funeral, just about to head out the door, Fran called. She'd gotten about half an hour's drive north of Hillsboro, TX, when her transmission went out completely.

Leila and Horace had asked me to speak as part of the funeral, so I went on to it, then picked up Pepper, from back at Mom's place, and drove north immediately afterward, rather than staying for the interment and reception.

Saw another great blue heron on the way, near the interregional and next to a small lake. It proved an unlucky omen, though, as I took the wrong exit, there being an FM67 fifteen miles before the HWY67 (on which Fran and her car had come to rest). Eventually I picked up my fair lady and brought her back for the night to Mom's place in Waco.

We watched an engrossing movie, with Cher, till time to begin getting ready for bed. Pepper was extremely weary, not even grumbling at things that usually bug her, just collapse-in-place tuckered out.

My mom, bless her, has been hospitable as could be, with no hint of the acrimony of a few days ago. Yet, each night she drinks herself to sleep. Tonight she was staggering badly 'twixt lounge chair and bathroom, then bathroom and bed. (I hate to see this; but hints to and talks with her in the past have done no good. She says she knows she drinks too much, but that she prefers this to the pains of arthritis or to dwelling on negative things, that otherwise would keep her awake. She accepts that she may live a shorter life, or one with less quality at the end, as a result of her habit. Mom considers it strictly her decision, not anyone else's business, as much as Dad had protected his right to deny himself medical attention, a matter of principle. They are [or were] both proud people. I know when my arguments are defeated. One really has little ability to "change" someone else. It's hard enough reshaping oneself!)

Mary, my sister-in-law, Ralph's widow, called Mom tonight. Jim, aged twenty next month, after two or three years of college and at least twelve, after Ralph's death, of being a reluctant, ambivalent mama's boy in an often perverse co-dependent relationship with Mary, has finally gotten a vocation (teaching swing dancing) and a dual, part-time occupation (waiter in a restaurant and clerk in an antique store) for the summer, has moved into a duplex, is continuing his coursework, and is independently remaining in Oklahoma City, instead of going home to Mommy in Houston, a first for the lad. He still gets help from her. She bought him a car, for instance, pays his car insurance, and gives him extra spending money. But it's a good start for him at doing without the full strangle-hold of her apron strings.

Mary, however, had been tearful for the last several evenings, as she realizes that, at last, her baby will probably never be living at home with her again. She plans to come to Waco for part of the coming weekend. Jim will remain in Oklahoma.

5/23/02-Thurs.-Slept better than usual last night. Then had a busy, productive morning. Have decided not to return to Austin till Monday AM, even though I am quite concerned about the poor security/high vandalism situation back home.

I'm simply tired of driving. I've been on the road three to five hours in my toasty-roasty (no AC) little vehicle each of the last three days. I'm due to be "back" here on Saturday anyway, for the family's Memorial Weekend get-together.

I dropped Fran off this afternoon in Alvarado, following another hot and harrowing motor trip amid thousands of other interstate private and commercial drivers, most determined to exceed the posted speed limits by at least ten to fifteen miles per hour, and a few score crazies willing to suddenly disrupt the traffic flow to suit their personal whims.

Her car had been fixed in good time. Once the repairs were paid for, the canoe tied on again, and the vehicle reloaded, she got underway anew about 2:30. I was back in Waco by about 4 PM.

Meanwhile, Mom got her van back by around noon, once its brake job was finished.

Ernie and Diane also came down for the funeral. Diane's birthday was 5/21. They left right away after the ceremony to get back for Ernie and his wife, Caroline, to take Diane to see the famous musical "Cats."

Interesting natural sightings continue. This morning Mom found a scorpion in her bathroom.

Fran discovered a green tree frog on Mom's house today.

5/24/02-Fri.-It turns out my chauffeur duties are persisting. Mom goes in for leg diagnostics (in Temple, about an hour's drive south of Waco) today. There is some indication of circulatory problems, with peripheral vascular disease. She's asked me to go with her, handling the driving, which I'm glad to do.

Ernie went fishing near Mom's place yesterday, caught some big ones, including a gar he was strenuously chopping up for us to enjoy for supper tonight, and showed up here at her house for the weekend about 8 PM that evening. After he'd arduously cleaned and cut up his catch and stored it in a freezer, we chatted some, then watched TV till time for bed.

This morning I checked the value of our portfolio, using Mom's computer to get on-line. The equities total is about 2-3% below target, with total net assets actually ahead for the year, despite the weak stock market. Debt is 4.8% of the total.

Reading Harold Coyle's God's Children. It seems well written, an interesting yarn of military action.

Ernie and I had a short political discussion this morning and, of course, solved nothing: poverty, AIDS, the inadequacies of the healthcare system, insurance generally, the Middle East, culture clashes, poor western diets, terrorism, and so on.

The trip with Mom down to Temple was uneventful.

Ernie did give me some ideas for dealing with squirrels: a pellet gun and/or a pepper spray solution. This last, combined with my notion of using a power-squirt gun, might work very well. He also suggested concentrated fox scent. Wonder where I can get that!

Mom was talking with me about her paternal grandfather, Stanley, who helped raise her after her father, this man's son, had run off during the Great Depression, not heard of again for nearly twenty years.

Like each of my parents, Stanley was proud too, intent, though he had quite humble origins, on being successful and looking after his own.

She said her father, the flake, had been born in Hillsboro, TX. I remember him showing up one day, when we lived in Falls Church, VA, and I was about six.

He would send me two quarters for each letter I'd write him. So, for awhile I kept up a correspondence with this man who was technically my grandfather but who carried a huge cloud of shame around with him for having abandoned his family, plunging them into poverty in the midst of our country's worst depression. If not for that, my mom probably would not have been starving a few years later, would never have had a step-father who sexually abused her, and would not have been taken in by Stanley and tyrannized by his second wife, my mom's strict step-grandmother, who, the first day after she'd moved in with them, put Mom literally in her place, showing her the tiny hovel of a space, with barely room for her thin pallet, among the extra, out of the way things, on the enclosed, but poorly heated back porch, where she was to stay.

He wrote to me of exotic places and kinds of work, like on a banana boat in the Caribbean. He later remarried, a lovely, Spanish lady, Carmen, his widow now for several decades. She is ninety-six, blind, senile, terribly confused, and living in a New Orleans nursing home.

Despite her father's reappearance in her life, Mom never had much of anything more to do with him. She did go to his funeral, though. He died, about twenty-five years after showing up again, of diabetes and gangrene, complicated by alcoholism.

Mom said it was Alvarado, TX (the same small city where Fran had just gotten her car fixed), that her grandfather, Stanley, went to and from when living in Waco and working on the railroad, as she was growing up.

He labored over half a century on trains, in several capacities, oiler, brakeman, conductor, signalman, and so on, but ending as an engineer. In that last capacity, he had gone between San Antonio and Waco. He worked until his mind and body could take it no more. Then, amid dementia and crippling arthritis, he succumbed to a stroke in his late seventies.

She also told of how, when he'd been little, up till about age six and time to start his education, the family had been too poor for what we consider regular boys' clothes. He'd only gone to school a few years, but did learn to read and write. As was the custom then, both boys and girls just wore dresses. She said when cold weather began each fall, he would put on his single pair of long-johns, which would then not be taken off or cleaned until warm weather would start in the spring.

Later-Great news for Mom. The doctors told her she has the leg circulation of a forty year old, that her sole leg problem is arthritis. They recommended just more warm water exercise, glucosamine, choindroitin, and "clear blue" salve, a special treatment from China. They suggested Benadryl tablets to help with insomnia. Said never to regularly take aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen for pain, that these are bad for the GI system and one's kidneys or liver if taken very much.

Still Later-Mom, Ernie, Caroline, William, and I went out for Tex-Mex food, then watched an emotional film videotape, "Hardball," that William had recommended.

Meanwhile, though, Fran called from Mt. Vernon, IL, nearly at the end of her rope, after two more on-the-road breakdowns, a flat tire this morning and an apparent new failure of the transmission system, so recently and expensively replaced.

Either she'll be able to get it fixed tomorrow by noon (when the place where her car was towed for the third time in as many days closes for the holiday weekend), not too likely it seems, in which case she'll try to go on to her rendezvous with her sister, Trudy, helping out with the dog shows Trudy is wanting to attend, before trying to make it home. Or she'll be stuck there at least till Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, in which case she'll throw in the towel on any of the visit with her sister or her family and just try to limp back to Austin with a vehicle that has probably become a liability.

Already very tired and not eating well, she's not a happy camper after these last setbacks. At least she's found a motel where she can stay for tonight alone or over the next several days. I hope we'll be in touch regularly till this crisis has passed.

I called Scott, Trudy's husband, and let him know Fran's situation, so he can let Trudy (who's already on the road herself, with an infant and toddler) know, when she checks in with him.

I just want Fran home safely as soon as practicable. We can trade her car in or just take our losses. First she has to get herself back and in good health!

I've never seen our older model cars as being good travel risks. After this, we probably should wait till we can afford newer vehicle(s) or a good medium-sized rental, before doing further significant road trips.

The good news is we have plenty of good credit, are physically in pretty decent shape for our ages, and are both essentially retired.

The bad news, though, is that we have a fairly limited budget, just $32,000 a year after taxes, deductions, and misc. debt retirement, a mere $20,000 after these and our mortgage, except for modest gifts from relatives and/or any extra earnings, such as Fran's part-time work for Austin Lyric Opera.

We'll get by, but must for awhile put up with a poor neighborhood and second hand cars, till my Social Security benefits will kick in.

5/25/02-Sat.-Last night, when we went to the video store, there was a very friendly, small dog, a little larger than Pepper, a pretty mutt, looking something like a sheepdog.

Caroline and William seemed taken with the beast and noted that, with busy roads on three sides of the parking area and a fence on the fourth, the creature was at severe risk. He seemed to be aware of this himself and, when we opened the van to load ourselves in, he jumped aboard as well.

Caroline and William checked with the store clerks and learned the dog had been hanging around for a couple hours already. It was a good looking animal with a band around its neck where the hair was pressed down, as if he normally had a collar. Yet he was without one now.

William seemed quite interested in having a new pet. His last dog died at age eleven, a little over a year ago. Caroline seemed so inclined as well. Mom even said she'd like to give it a new home. I said if we took it away from there and it did not have a home otherwise, I'd take it to the Humane Society before the end of the weekend.

But Ernie was driving and also insistent that William not have it. He decided we'd just take it over to an apartment complex about a block away from the video place and let it go there. This is what was done. I hope it will be alright. One cannot rescue every being in need. But I have a bad feeling about it. It could so easily already be dead.

Ernie brought a bucket of pond water, with several hundred frog or toad eggs, back from his fishing trip, then dumped it into a big round fish bowl. The eggs proceeded to hatch, seemingly at a rate of about twenty a minute for a couple hours. Unknown till then, Ernie also found that there were three young crayfish in amongst them. Unfortunately, they died within a few hours in the not aerated organic goo. Ernie had said he'd dump everything in Lake Waco if things weren't doing well. By this evening, though, about half the critters were dead and smelly, while this centerpiece remained on the kitchen table.

My spider bites of several days ago have now all healed, replaced by a raw spot of swelling and infection below the waist, where a tick apparently had its way with me and then must have been scratched off in my sleep.

Pepper and I slept well. In the morning, I came across Diane, talking to Mom in the kitchen, and learned she'd arrived late and then been up all night, chatting on her cell phone with a new boyfriend. She's been on a diet that she really likes and has recently lost about twenty-five pounds, though she still needs to reduce a lot more.

About 10:30 this AM I got a call from Fran again. The folks working on her car told her she needed another (rebuilt) transmission plus work to fix the crankshaft, now messed up too, with next Wednesday, 5/29, the earliest date she could drive it away.

Since this meant she couldn't reach her rendezvous with her sister till after Trudy would need her, she just wanted then to get back to Austin, hopefully with her car, canoe, and other stuff.

An hour or so later I talked with Scott, then Trudy about Fran's circumstances. I sent Fran's folks an e-mail about her situation too.

This afternoon several of us discussed the 10/12 Saturday evening festivities. I'll be the "fool" (for those who like labels).

After much frustration (over several hours) about when the room would be ready, while the clerk checked in many people without reservations ahead of me, I finally got checked in at the Motel 6 north of Waco (vacating the room I'd been using at Mom's in favor of one of my siblings, whose wife and children are here as well). I unpacked and took a short nap, as did the dog, who acted as though she was relaxed for the first time in quite awhile.

Tonight Fran's mom called her and they talked for some time. Then I reached her as well.

Ernie, Caroline, Diane, Allen, Ron, and I watched the rest of the latest Robert Redford movie, "Spy Game," a fine modern romance. Then the mutt and I headed for our motel while a thunderstorm moved into Waco from the west.

5/26/02-Sun.-The rain finally arrived, along with minor blackouts.

Called the wife this morning, feeling like I'm free and communicating with someone in prison. We had a good chat.

Mary suggested Fran take still pictures of the Saturday evening and Sunday activities, but that Pete, Allen, and Horace alternate running video cameras, for the 10/12-10/13 celebration for my mom's 80th birthday. Fran agrees.

This afternoon, after lunch, some of us played pool. I did my laundry too. We also watched a video movie, "Life as a House."

5/27/02-Mon.-Out to eat this morning at Golden Corral in Waco, with Caroline, Diane, William, Ron, Esther, Jane, and Mom. Then hit the road for the trip back to Austin, an uncomfortable one for Pepper and me, as temperatures had heated up. The sunlight was intense. My car, of course, has low power and no air-conditioning.

Nonetheless, the return journey was uneventful.

At breakfast, Esther related that she and Jane, with their mom, Joan, plan an Amtrak train trip north to Toronto, starting about 7/22 of this year, to see the Pope, during his visit this summer to Canada.

Later. Back home, as we approach midnight, it appears a long awaited severe thunderstorm is headed our way.

Had a good phone conversation again with Fran tonight.

5/28/02-Tues.-The lightning, thunder, and rain did indeed arrive, between 1 and 2 AM. However, we were on the edge of the storm and apparently just got about ½ inch of precipitation, better than nothing but far less than was hoped.

Later-These are tomorrow's good ol' days.

At Bombay Grill for lunch. After a week in Waco, visiting relatives and dependent on them for decisions about activities, for communication content, agendas, etc., it is refreshing to be in my own "castle" again. Both Pepper and I are so appreciative, despite my misgivings about our neighborhood, uncomfortable summers in Austin, and the several repair problems with our poorly constructed, sixteen year old house, of a return to reliable and satisfying routines and surroundings.

Fran, still of course stuck in Mt. Vernon, IL, is to call me later today with the latest intelligence on when repairs are likely to be effected on her car, and so how much longer she'll be an unwilling guest in that community.

Things won't really be back to normal until she's back, her car runs well again, the matter of payment of the repair folks in Alvarado (who messed up "fixing" her transmission) has been resolved, and we've factored the latest car expenses into our annual budget.

A young friend of Chris's, Gail, and he, stopped by to visit (and get a free meal) while I was in Waco. She's back from college in Longview, TX, and is deciding whether to work for awhile or go directly on to graduate school.

After listening for a few minutes to mainly Mom, and to some extent also me, Gail made some patronizing comments to Chris, as if we were not there, about "old people" and how they talk, their endless stories about things that happened decades ago, instead of doing neat things today.

While they were somewhat more polite, or restrained, in our presence, I realized that Chris, Esther, and Virginia, all Gail's age or younger, were doubtless of the same dismissive opinion.

As if to drive the point home, on late night TV last evening I saw a comedian doing a funny standup routine on who's cool and who's not. Anyone in his or her thirties or older is not. Anyone married is not. It does not matter if one is working on the most innovative artwork, science, etc.

In my day we called it "the generation gap." But then we were on the younger side of that huge chasm. We thought we knew so much. Ironic.

Still Later-Things keep going from bad to worse recently. Fran called while I was out. For some reason the price and timeframe she'd been quoted last week for repairs of her car by tomorrow were no longer viable. Now she was told it would cost over twice as much and could not be finished for about another week!

She also talked with the jerks in Texas, who'd put in a transmission that didn't work and that then messed up her vehicle's crankshaft. They're refusing to take any responsibility for what they did and are just saying they'll take a new look at it if we get the car back to them (which would require us to tow it over eight hundred miles). Sure! By rights, we should sue them for loss of the vehicle; but I'm afraid that, with a rather old car and shops in different states, both fairly inaccessible to us while legal proceedings drag on, this is not practical.

We talked again. Fran's extremely upset but has cancelled a new transmission order. The total expenses, car parts and labor plus the extra motel and food costs for Fran, would have come to about another $3000. She'll see if she can sell her car for junk, get it towed away, and, essentially at the same time, rent a vehicle for the return trip with her canoe and other stuff.

When she gets emotional this way she sometimes tends to make snap judgments and worry about the consequences later.

I've urged her to get some rest before she gets out on the road again. She's sounding so frustrated that she might go off rather recklessly, not the best circumstances for a long road trip. Frances plans to get back on the phone with me after, hopefully, arranging a rental vehicle and disposition of the now useless car.

I note that Fran has, since before she left, had a lot of bad feelings about this trip. As things have turned out so far, this may just have been coincidence. But it is intriguing to think there may have been some kind of ESP involved. Too bad there was not some acceptable way of canceling the trip!

5/29/02-Wed.-Glancing over yesterday's entry, I'm chagrined to note how easily I took for granted before lunch that things were at least beginning to get better with respect to Fran's situation. How wrong I was!

She does not even have the option in the tiny community of Mt. Vernon, IL, of renting a vehicle to take her canoe and other stuff (and herself, of course) back, after having the broken down car towed to a junk yard. None of the places will do one-way car rentals. Nor is U-Haul a viable alternative. I'll need to travel up there to get her. Have decided to rent a car here that has AC, so I can take the mutt with me to go get her, rather than leaving old Pepper (nearly thirteen) in a kennel.

5/31/02-Fri.-We're stopped for breakfast in Charleston, MO, a little over one hundred miles into our return trip, the rental car loaded down with our stuff from (originally) two vehicles, including the big canoe (about 18') fastened on top.

Fran did a terrific job rigging up a car-top carrier for the boat, tying it down, and organizing all our things so they would comfortably fit in the compact rental sedan. She has, in general, managed this crisis most effectively.

Later-A little after 4 PM, we have just switched drivers. Fran has taken over for the first time in the rental vehicle. We're about an hour's drive east of Texarkana. There have so far been no difficulties with either the canoe carrying or the car. We've about decided to go all the way back to Austin before stopping, as long as no major problems develop.

We've seen some interesting and beautiful country on this trip. This catalyzed further speculation on where we'd like to move next. Among places seen on this little adventure, we're agreed that, if we had to choose and the real estate were a reasonable price, southern Illinois would be better than just about anywhere in Texas. (New York State, which has similar geography, would be a favorite choice for me, if we considered other places.)

Still Later-We drove over eight hundred miles today and got as far as Waco, then spent the night at Mom's place. All three of us (including Pepper) are completely bushed.

I played a couple games of pool (nine-ball) with Horace, Charles, and Keith, who'd stopped over too.

Fran and I visited with my mom, then got ready for bed. It's been a long day.

Fran's mom, Linda, is seventy, I believe. Her dad, Mike, is several years older and disabled with back and knee joint problems, angina, and serious coronary artery disease. Yet, a few days ago, at the height of her exasperation with the car crisis, without my knowledge, Fran called Linda in Florida to see if she would drive to Illinois to help her out. She asked her husband (to whom she'll have been married seventeen years next month) the same thing only after Linda had turned her down. Interesting priorities. (Well, few of us are at our best under stress.)

During breakfast at my mother's, we saw several rabbits playing and feeding in a field just behind the back yard. Then, Mom and Fran were treated to a rare sight as they continued visiting while I was off taking a shower: a coyote that came right up to Mom's chain link fence, only about fifty feet from the large, glass patio door into the kitchen, and continued walking about in the field, doubtless interested in the rabbits too.

We got underway from my mom's this morning and were back in Austin and unloaded before noon. I returned the Avis, retrieved my old car from a supermarket parking lot, picked up our held mail, and resumed postal deliveries.

Pepper seemed extremely glad to be home. Fran and I were not as demonstrably enthusiastic. However, if we'd had tails, they'd have been tiredly wagging as well. The last two to three weeks have been quite disruptive and enervating.

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