Monday, September 29, 2014

Day out with friends

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 90 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

Mom had a good day on Sunday. She walked Marley, her dog, went to church, had lunch at a friend's house, came home for a bit, then went out again to another  friend's home for a late afternoon/evening visit. At least I think that all happened. I called her after 5 p.m. and she was waiting for a ride. She told me to call back around n9, so I did.

At 9 she was bubbling over and anxious to talk. I was thinking she'd be ready for bed, but no, she wanted to talk, So we did. The cooler fall weather is making her more anxious about spending another winter in Portville. She'd rather be in the south where it's warmer and she could avoid icy sidewalks. My sister lives in South Carolina and a brother is in West Palm Beach. She stayed at both homes a couple of years ago, but got herself in trouble with some remarks she made. Now, she says, she isn't welcome back. She has two arguments about the issue. She says it has to do with the dementia. She says she doesn't remember saying what she was later told she said. I know, this is hard to follow. This is something she talks about repeatedly. Some days she is desperate to undo the harm so she can enjoy a warm winter. Other days, she is resolved to endure another cold and snowy season.

We were on the phone for an hour and much of the conversation was reruns earlier calls. I could tell she just wanted to talk, to have someone to talk to, even if it meant repeating things, until an interesting topic came up. She mused about the potted mum plant she has on her table. She wants to plant it outside, once the wine-colored blooms fade. She would plant it in the cemetery, but says no one would take care of it and she wouldn't ever get back to see it. Mom was superb at growing things outdoors, but not so good with indoor plants. "I don't know where this plant came from." mom says. I remind her she's had it since my sister Liz last visited, so I am sure it was a gift from Liz. "Oh yes, probably. She's always good at stuff like that."

Mom talked about how much she loved visiting New York City in the 1960s when she was a big mucky muck in the Eastern Star. They had a statewide conference in the city and mom took in as many sights as possible in one week. She told me this story which is a little mixed up, about an incident at Rockefeller Center. They were at a function and she needed to go upstairs for some papers she needed. I gather she was wearing a white evening gown, as was the custom  during Eastern Star rituals. She got on an elevator and at the last second, one of the musicians from the orchestra hopped in, too. She said he had a uniform on and she knew he was with the band. As soon as the door closed, the elevator got stuck and wouldn't move up or down. She was trying not to get all upset and the man was on the elevator phone getting help. She says at one point he made a joke on the phone. He said they were getting along fine and may end up getting married. Remember -- white evening gown. She says she got so flustered over that. I nearly forgot to mention how my brother Len teased for her to visit Marvel Comics while she was in the City.

She talked about how much she loved her job working for John, my sister's first husband, at his shoe store. She'd worked on the farm and cleaned other people's homes over the years. So, working at the shoe store was the only out-in-the-real-world job she ever held. It all started when John needed someone to help out, while employees were off for the night and he was alone in the store.

Mom ran the upstairs part of the store where they sold odds and ends. One time a woman mom knew came in and bought two pairs of shoes. A few days later, someone from her family brought them back, saying the woman couldn't afford them, It was a mess, to mom. Something she says that got her into trouble. Another time a boy who came in to buy sneakers insisted on a pair that mom told him were too small. He started kicking and screaming, so his mother went ahead over mom's caution and bought the sneakers. The father returned in a few days throwing just as much of a fit over the fact that the shoes gave his kid blisters and blamed mom for letting his wife buy them. Another mishap.

Then there was the mayhem with really big shoe sales events. People would end up returning  shoes that weren't even pairs or were two different sizes. Shoppers would tear boxes open and shoes were dumped all over the floor.

But despite all of this, she loved going to work, meeting people and getting paid.

She loves her apartment and is now asking when I am coming for a visit. I tell her, I don't have any plans right now to travel there and that we have our phone conversations to keep us together. "Well, I am afraid I messed up." mom says. "I told Liz and some other people that you were coming to visit me." I replied it was okay, just tell him we got confused. She pressed the issue a little and I told her maybe someday, but I have no plans, for now. We agreed our phone conversations make up for a visit.

I wished her a good night's sleep. (I was more tired than she seemed to be.) We'll talk again in a couple of days. Until then, "I love you, mom."  "I love you, too, sweetheart."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ostracized for sore throat

I was lucky to catch mom at home around 6 p.m. on Wednesday. She likes being outside, observing traffic and people, especially during the week when the school kids are playing football on the fields next to her complex. When she comes in, she likes going to the community room where she can be with other residents, to chat and work puzzles.

But today, she returned to her apartment in a huff after a resident went into a rage when mom mentioned she had a sore throat. "She's one of these who think they are perfect," mom says. "Her family is perfect. Well no one is perfect in this world. I said I have a sore throat and she went on and on about how I shouldn't be around (spreading germs). It is my sinuses draining. I'm not sick."

Mom sounds a little hoarse like she did six weeks ago. She spends a lot of time outdoors and does have allergies to pollen, etc. The last time, mom ground up some aspirin and gargled with it. Her throat and voice were back to normal the next daytime we talked. "If I have to, I will have Dennis (my brother) take me to the emergency room, but I don't like the way they pile a bunch of medicine on you these days, unnecessarily." I understand that. I've had migraines since fourth grade. Turns out it had to do with my teachers' perfume. Over the years, I did try different medications and settled on Tylenol. But, I finally figured out something. If I take Tylenol, the migraine subsides in about a half an hour. If I don't take anything, the headaches subsides in about a half an hour. I believe some meds I was given for migraines actually prolonged the headache.

Back to mom. So she was nonplussed about the incident, but her mood changed once we started talking about the rest of her day. Of course, she was busy people watching. She ended up with a beautiful quilt, left behind by a resident who moved out. People leave food and things in the community room for others to take. Mom was admiring the quilt when a neighbor told her to take it before someone else grabbed it. She was considering whether she will keep it to use on her bed or give it to my sister Liz. As we talked she was thinking about that quilt and liking how it would look on her bed.

"I have this beautiful bedroom set and I can't remember where it came from." says Mom. I am pretty sure it was mine. Nice mahogany set I bought at an auction, when I was back at the farm, before moving to Florida. Mom continues, saying she thinks there is something special about the set, but can't remember. We've talked about it before. I didn't say anything, this time.

Mom mentions the lady downstairs again and how people do things without thinking. How they hurt someone's feelings. She refers to Christ being crucified and how he offered forgiveness. "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."

We turned to bringing up good times, fun memories. Picnics and summer outings. We had fun when we camped at Allegany State Park. Someone lent dad this large tent. My brother Dick and one of his friends slept in a pup tent. My friend Sharron O'Neil came along, too.

I started this part of the conversation by asking mom if she remembered how we brought this huge tub of night crawlers in dirt to use for fishing. The first night we were there, raccoons discovered the worms and picked every worm out. The next morning we discovered a tub of dirt and no worms for fishing. We had to break down and buy worms. Can you imagine farmers having to buy worms?

Mom loved that story and went on to talk about going to the area in the park they called the dump. The were barrels of garbage around and a bonfire going. Everyone went there to see the bears. Seems like there were usually a family or two on hand to check the barrels for food. People would bring food for the bears. One man stuck marshmallows on the end of a fishing pole and held it out for the bears to grab. His wife took pictures of it. Dad, who was a jokester to a fault, found a twig and moved it withh is foot until it touched the leg of the woman taking pictures. She jumped and screamed. What a lark. Mom enjoyed watching the bears, but some people made her nervous when the tried to get too close to the bears. It was a fun weekend, though. Don and Marie Witter and kids camped next to us.
We went fishing, swimming, hiking and had a lot of great picnic food.

We also talked about our outings to Letchworth State Park. Most notable to me were the times we went when I was 4 or 5 years old. First, on our way there, we had to take a little detour to look at the bottle tree. Years before, someone had stuck a bottle on the end of a small limb and the tree grew up, even had leaves growing inside the bottle. It became a tradition and people put many bottles on the tree's limbs. The tree actually survived and thrived. This was one of dad's favorite pilgrimages. The last time I was there, the whole thing had gone downhill. Someone got the bright idea of simply tying bottles to the limbs. Made a mockery of the original creation.

Times at Letchworth were generally fun. Once we went with friends visiting from Long Island. Sparky, Betty and their son, "Sonny." Mom and dad met them when dad was in the Army during WWII. Mom stayed with them when she went to visit dad before he shipped out. Sparky's real name was Adolph, but that wasn't a popular name at that time. Sonny was a gullible kid and would do anything Dick told him to do. One time Dick told him he could fly by jumping off our upstairs porch. The tied a sheet around his neck, his cape like Superman. He did jump and nearly broke something. Another time, the pair used Dick's bee-bee gun to shoot broken match sticks into my chest and stomach. Mom nearly fainted seeing her 4-year-old walking into the house with matchsticks plugged into her body. Dad hurriedly pulled them out. It didn't hurt until I saw horror in mom's face. I do remember I was bleeding and my father was yelling at my brother.

Sonny also jumped onto the back of my grandfather's work horse, "Dick." My brother neglected to tell him the horse would head straight for the woods. Of course, Sonny got knocked off by the first tree limb he and the horse encountered.

The day we spent with them at Letchworth was certainly memorable. First of all, while walking along the gorge trails, Dick and Sonny spotted something on the ledge, beyond the safety rail and decided to crawl down and get it. At four years old, I was so frightened to see them practically dangling where they shouldn't be in the first place. Everyone was screaming for them to get back to where they were suppose to be before they fell or got caught. Maybe Dick thought he could pull one over on Sonny with some of these antics, but it seems like Dick always got sucked into doing the crazy stuff, too.

We were having a lot of laughs remembering all of this. Then mom told me later that day at Letchworth, while the picnic was being made, mom discovered Dick and Sonny were selling the corn she brought to other families in the picnic grove.

That reminded me of a story my grandma Whitney use to tell about one of their family picnics. One time they were having a picnic and the kids ran off to play while the adults were setting it up. After a while my dad was getting hungry and started back to get food. On his way he saw a table set up and (said) he thought it was his family gathering. Well these people had fried chicken, so dad sat down and ate. The others just stared at him and never said a word. When he was done, he stood up and left. Dad always claimed he didn't know he sat at the wrong table, until he finished eating. We think it had to do with the chicken.

"I've always loved picnics," mom confesses. I agree. Being with friends and family, outside on a warm sunny day, eating great homemade food and making memories that last a lifetime -- can't beat it.

I need to go and make dinner, I told mom. We talked for a couple more minutes. She wrote down my phone number, again. Wrote done that I was calling her on Saturday, And she told me how she loved visiting me in Massachusetts, loved visiting the girls in Florida and is so grateful, we've reconnected.

"My sore throat is going away," mom said.  "I  probably just needed to do more talking.  I've enjoyed this so much. Remembering old times and talking about them. We didn't have much, but we made the best of what we had."

I love you mom. I love you, too, sweetheart.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I was just thinking about you.

That was mom's greeting when I called Sunday afternoon. She explained she didn't want to forget a couple of things she wanted to tell me. She was bursting with excitement and obviously glad for my call.

First of all, she wanted to share her crazy day and the the mystery of the cartons of milk, left at her door. Over the past few days, someone was putting small cartons of leftover milk by her door. Mom had no idea who was doing it or why. She wasn't sure if they were sharing their milk with mom or if the milk was intended for Marley, mom's dog.

Right off, the problem is mom can't drink whole milk. She can drink skim milk, but not in large amounts, due to digestion problems.

And she never gives milk to her dog. She can't remember why, but knows there is a good reason. I reminded her of the time we had boxer dogs. They ran loose on the farm. After the cows were milked, dad would fill dishes with milk for the barn cats. But the boxers, kept watch and would beat the cats to the milk. He finally put the dishes for the cats in a place the dogs couldn't reach. During that time, we realized why it isn't good to give milk to a dog. After they drink milk, for the rest of the day, the have very stinky farts. Mom got a laugh over that and said she knew there was a good reason. "I wouldn't want to make my dog sick or have something like that happen."

She thought about taking the cartons down to the community room for someone else to use. But she was afraid the person who was leaving the cartons at her door, might feel bad if they found out she gave it away. So, she dumped them down the sink and into the trash. It bothered her to do so because she hates to waste anything.

So back to her dilemma. When she opened her door on Sunday morning there were six cartons lined up. Determined to find out who was leaving them, she asked a neighbor down the hall, if she left them. She hadn't but was pretty sure it was the woman who lives across the hall from mom. So on went mom to the other neighbor's door. The woman admitted she left them, thinking mom needed the shared milk. Mom thanked her profusely for being kind, but explained she can't use it and won't feed milk to her dog. She asked her to please not leave anymore cartons of milk. Mom said her neighbor was nice and understood that mom appreciated what she did, even though ...

Mom explained this woman is a very kind-hearted soul. She has money, owns property and has a nice little car she uses to drive some of the residents around. Mom isn't sure why her neighbor thought she needed leftover milk. "I'm thin, but not skinny," mom said. "My family is like that. None of use were ever overweight. I guess it is from all of the walking and we ate good food."

That was mom's funny story she was eagerly waiting to share with me. We both laughed. I suggested she tell her neighbor to leave money instead. "Yeah, that would be nice, but no I would never do anything like that. I have money."

I was amazed at how much she remembered about this event and she is so happy to be able to recount the whole story to me, as well as comprehend what was happening. I think a few weeks ago, she would be in a daze over what was going on and wouldn't have figured out how to handle the problem.

Remember Morey, mom's friend's boyfriend who lived on the corner of our street? Morey the guy that eats funny? Well, he just bought her friend a new car. Mom pondered whether she should rethink the idea of having a boyfriend, but decided it wouldn't be worth a car.

On the same subject as Morey, my daughter Maia and my brother Len recall Morey attending fairs and local events selling cotton candy he made in his pushcart machine. His son (none of us can remember his name) would eat fire, according to Maia. Len said he remembers him as being very spoiled and wearing Poindexter glasses. I thought his nickname was Buzzy, but now I am pretty sure that was another Weatherby kid's nickname that Maia and Len are too young to know.

Mom couldn't remember Morey's son's name, but said he probably did contribute to the family carnival atmosphere as Morey's father was a great magician, famous even, but I presume she's talking locally.

Another thing mom wanted to talk about was more of what she remembered after our talk last week of her picking up that groceries for her parents and bringing them home. She wanted to clarify that she and either one of her sisters or her brother would walk to the store, sign for and get the groceries, bring the filled sacks back to school and take them home at the end of the day, on the the school bus.

She wanted to add how one time when she and her brother Arnold went to pick up the groceries, they got into a fight, while carrying the bags back to school. They ended up dropping a big jar of peanut butter and it broke on the ground. They picked up the broken glass and found a ditch to throw the mess into. She was sure they would be in a lot of trouble when they got home. She doesn't remember exactly how it went, but she says there was still a lot of peanut butter left in the opened jar in the pantry at home and her parents didn't miss the one they broke.

Whew, she got away with that mishap, but got into trouble another time. She would have to sign to charge the groceries and her parents would pay by the month. One time, she included two candy bars for herself. Her parents found out and she was in hot water.

Mom said she and her sisters often mixed errands for her parents with school. They would walk to to their parents' employers' offices and pick up their paychecks.That was how they helped out as their parents didn't have a car and were always busy working during the day.

Mom went back to talking about her family and how none of them were overweight. She attributes it to all of the walking they did and eating good food. We didn't mention the fact that her father had heart disease and died of a heart attack. Her mom was a diabetic. We've discussed a bit about her brothers and sisters in earlier posts.

In my last post we talked about another neighbor, Marie Miller. Maia admits to doing a great Marie impression. After Marie's husband Carl died, Marie depended on mom to take her shopping, to the bank or doctor. When Maia was living there Marie would call and holler into the phone, "Where's Hazel?" Grandma was always nice to Marie and taking wherever she needed to go, says Maia.

I told mom about my conversations with Len and Maia. About how she did stuff for other people and how dad was so patient with some very annoying men who loved to come by and visit with our dad. Lots of people who didn't seem to get attention from anyone else.

Mom said you do for others, it is a part of a Christian's duty. That's what she says kept her and dad going in the right direction. Maybe so.

Mom is looking out her window and says right now it is all bright green fields. She says she takes a bag outside when she walks and picks up the fallen leaves to keep the ground neat and clean looking. She's worried about winter, ice that is slippery as glass. She worries about falling.

Mom says, "They can only control so much. There are so many crimes they can't keep up with them." I decided not to ask what she meant by that and she changed the subject.

She said Marley was cleaning her feet, maybe getting ready for a walk or thinking about the icy sidewalks, too. Marley was lying down in Mom's favorite chair as mom sat in another chair by the window. She says she watches the athletic fields when the kids play. She watches cars come and go from the parking lot below. She even watches when the big truck comes to empty the Dumpster. She says that happens once a month. "People think I am strange, but those are the things I do." I replied, maybe it is just her way of marking time. She laughs and agrees I am probably right.

Marley barks and there is a knock at mom's door. It is the neighbor who left the milk cartons. She brought mom a dish of macaroni salad that she made and wanted to share with mom. Boy oh boy, that really made mom's day. This was around 5 p.m. Mom had told me she had a one-inch thick slice of ham for lunch. She couldn't eat the whole piece, so she planned to finish it off for dinner. Now she had this wonderful dish of macaroni salad that had olives in it. What a perfect pairing.

I said I should let her go to eat. Are you excited, I asked. She replied. "Well not excited, but I am hungry."

We made plans to talk again in a few days. "So it's Antsy Nancy. I love that name. I am so proud of you and I tell my friends about your calls. They think it is great. Please keep calling me," she said. I responded that I think it is great, too. And I look forward to our visits and sharing memories with her.

"Goodbye, I love you, mom."

"Bye-bye, I love you dear, so much."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Scream for attention

Mom said she was so bored she felt like screaming to get some attention, when I talked to her last Wednesday. It was cloudy, sweater weather. Mom had to ask whether we were going into spring or fall. Bit of wishful thinking, she groaned when I said fall was around the corner. She pines to head south for the winter, but has no place to go.

Her friend is dating an old neighbor of ours. She talks about it every time I call her. Used to be mom and her friend would go out every Friday night for fish fry. Now the Friday night get-togethers are less frequent and the boyfriend joins them. Mom can't stand to watch him eat. He leans over his plates and pulls his food into his mouth with his tongue. Or something like that. She says she has to fight the urge to push his head in to the plate of food. Of course, she would never do that -- as long as she can resist doing anything like that.

We talked about some of our neighbors when I was growing up. On the corner, where Morey, her friend's boyfriend now lives, was Eugenia Sloan. She was a nice woman. Her son and his family traveled all over the world, though I don't know why or what he did. I couldn't remember her name, but mom did -- scratch one up for mom! Eugenia died a long time ago. Then Morey bought the house and spent years erecting signs, calling out the local government for not fixing the adjacent swamp.

On the other corner was Carl and Marie Miller. I remembered the last name and mom told had their first names. They were nice, too. But, they always went to their favorite bar on Halloween night. We would try to hit their house as soon as the sun went down, but they were never home. Their house would have been a perfect haunted house. I was friends with their daughter, Jeanette. She was four years older than me. Took off with some guy she met somewhere and I never saw her again. The Millers never painted or did anything to the exterior of their Gothic looking house because they thought the town would raise their taxes. Mom said whoever owns it now really let is fall apart. Hard to believe it could fall apart more than it had 30 years ago.

Marley is mom's best friend. According to mom. She's had other dogs, but this one is the perfect dog. As we talked, Marley was curled up in mom's lap, sleeping sort of soundly. Mom was sitting in her swivel rocker, gently moving from side to side, the way Marley likes to be rocked.

We did some more reminiscing. Mom misses when she made her own cottage cheese. I remember all of the cheesecloth, but I can't recall eating the homemade stuff. The cottage cheese you get at the store nowadays is sloppy, according to mom. She must be referring to the texture.

I brought up the time the corner store raised her favorite brand of bread from 16 to 19-cents a loaf. She was furious. How could they raise the price by three whole cents? Why not just 1 cent? She laughed and agreed with herself. That was a lot, then, she added.

She loves her mum plant, but can't remember who brought it to her. Possibly Liz.  She put it in the middle of her table. But, she is already worried about where to plant it.

She talked again about her parents' home, where she grew up. It was a comfortable house, with a crick (creek) that ran along one side and my grandpa's extensive garden on the other.

We talked about some things that I won't write about for now. Nothing bad about anyone else. Just stuff I think she is finding hard to discuss with others.

So, now I am off to talk to her again today. Of course, I will be lucky to catch her, but that makes me happy because it means she isn't sitting in her apartment by herself.

"Love you mom."

"Love you too, sweetheart."


Monday, September 15, 2014

Two conversations. Real mixed bag.

I wrote in my last post how mom seemed like a new woman. She knew who I was. She brought things to clarify from our recent conversation and acknowledged her memory was improving. She was laughing, happy and very chatty. That was one week ago, on Tuesday.

But when I called her two days later, she sounded lost at sea. She told me my sister Liz was there, at first she said that day (Thursday). Later she corrected herself and said Liz visited her on Wednesday and that she had taken mom to a doctor's appointment and out to dinner at Sprague's Turkey House. She couldn't remember much else about what they did or what they talked about.  

When I first called on Thursday mom said. "Hello, I was wondering when you were going to call again. I was going to tell Liz you were going to call me, but I haven't heard from you in a while, so I didn't say anything to her."  I replied that we'd talked on Tuesday and she was going to write down that I would be calling her again on Thursday. "Huh, well I probably wrote it down and lost the paper."

We talked for a half hour. Most of it was rehashing and repeating things she's talked about before. Not much new. She was more confused than usual. I asked if Liz would be coming by again and she didn't think so.  Mom talked about being hurt and being by herself. She feels bad that the Eastern Star hasn't reached out to invite her to meetings or gatherings. She was kind of big to-do in that organization many years ago. She knows the membership has changed, with members now who are daughters and granddaughters from the women with which she served. She says of family and her favorite organization, They just don't understand what it is like. And they won't know what it is like until they are old and in this condition. But she did look forward to Friday fish fry night.

I was supposed to call her on Saturday and I tried several times throughout the day, but she was on the go all day. I caught up with her on Sunday afternoon and we ended up talking for over an hour. She said Liz came by and took her to Olean for a bite to eat on Saturday. They went through her wardrobe and Liz decided mom didn't need to go clothes shopping.  "I really don't need anything, but sometimes you just want to get some new clothes," mom said. "I am going to see if Dennis will take me to Walmart. He can get me a discount."

She was more settled. That morning she meant to go, but never made it to church. She got as far as the bench outside and just sat. Liz stopped by to tell her she was going back home and to say goodbye. I asked if it bothered her to have Liz leave. At first she said, "I am feeling bad and depressed. Yes, it is depression. It is all part of growing old. Some days are better than others." Later she admitted she was happy to be with Liz and sad to see here leave. But she loves that Liz comes to see her, when she can, even though it is a long trip. It is everyone else who ignores her existence that 
is bothering her.

I am beginning to see how it will be heart-wrenching to grow old and see everything you've enjoyed and counted on, drift away from you. It is easier for the young, with full lives to turn away. You are old and they are not. In your mind, you gave them your time, a lot of time. You think you made sacrifices along the way. But, from their point of view, well it is different. If they turn away, they can ignore and forget how you were once a part of their lives. 

We turned to some lighter chatter. September 20th, will be mom and dad's 73rd wedding anniversary and I suggested she plan a little party for herself. "That's a good idea," she agreed. "Are you coming to visit me? I told someone you were. Maybe I told Liz, I can't remember." No, I told her I don't have plans for a visit. It is kind of hard for us to get away. "Oh, well I told someone you were coming. Now where are you? I forgot." Florida, I said, near Tampa. And that brought on her lament about not being invited to spend winter in South Carolina or Florida.

"Oh, I just got a fly," mom shouted. I asked if she swatted it with a fly swatter. No, she said. Her window screen isn't in just right and it was in the crack between the screen and window sill. So she poked it with her finger. She reassured me she didn't squish it just poked it enough to kill it.

That reminded me of a memory I had, but she she didn't know about. My Grandma Whitney hated flies. So much so, that one time she made a deal with my older brother, Dick. She would give him a penny for every dead fly he brought her. In a short time we brought her a pile of dead flies and she paid him for his efforts. I can't remember how many flies he counted out to her, but I did know he tore flies in half, in order to make more money. He knew she wouldn't inspect the fly bodies too closely.

Mom had a good laugh from that memory. "That was Dick?" she asked. "Dick was an enterprising one."

We talked for quite awhile about people growing old. She talked about Gowanda State Hospital and how they use to put people there, give them drugs, but never gave them anything to do. 

We talked about Thrifty Westies that turned into Westons Shoppers City and is now a huge furniture store, according to mom.

We talked about the creek next to Grandma Pire's house and how we kids spent hours building dams and catching polliwogs that mom would have to later throw out. We talked about the creek on the farm and I told her how once, when I was walking along the creek, a flock of hummingbirds flying along the creek, nearly ran into me as they passed. They darted around my head and just kept going. Was a little scary.

We talked about mom making noodles -- great amounts at a time. She wants to make them again someday, only a much smaller batch.

We did a lot of talking and finally said our "Love yous" and "good nights." Calling again on Tuesday (tomorrow) and I know we will find a lot more to to remember, rehash and smile over. I love you, mom. I love you, too dear.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Meet, greet and eat compliments of the Hernando County Chamber

Pleasant night for the Newcomer's Reception at Weeki Wachee.
There was a huge crowd at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Friday evening. And for a change they weren't mermaid watching. Hernando County residents who attended the Newcomers Reception came for the swag, literature, food sampling and maybe a little peacock watching. The annual event presented by the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce is meant to showcase their business members' offerings and provide information about county recreation and amenities.

OK, it is an annual business fair/health fair/resident reception/area food tasting. Big deal -- and it was. So on a late summer evening on Florida's Nature Coast, where else would provide such a beautiful setting and bring young, old, singles, couples and families out in droves?

Yes, now that we've lived in Hernando County for four years, we've made our way around to restaurants. We've found auto and homeowners services that we've needed, medical assistance and met some county officials and personnel. We have our bearings now and that made the Chamber's event more relevant and fun. I can tell by the turnout, we weren't the only not-so-newbies to attend.

I have to admit, we generally view these affairs as a "freebie office supply fair." We wouldn't have attended if it were held anywhere else. We didn't attend this event when we were officially newcomers and received an invitation. Back then, we would grab the freebies and stuff, but not so much would sink in about this new place we call home.

There was a lot of everything. You could -- and many did -- go from line to line, getting tasty samples provided by many of the area eateries, from soup, entrees and dessert. "Did you try the bread pudding?" was a familiar comment folks would call out to each other. We took information from a tree and landscape service for a new neighbor who wants to refresh an overgrown cedar tree. Never knew about the community garden just outside of Brooksville. Got the lowdown on plays to be presented at Stage West this fall and winter season, Found out there are so many health care associations and coverage plans. You can plan a funeral for yourself and/or your pet, discover and fix sinkholes, join the Chamber or other area organizations, hook up with a Realtor. The list of presenters from Friday night is very long.
Commissioner Diane Rowden wants this
 Oreion from Halo Autosports.

Just when we started feeling overwhelmed by the energetic atmosphere and weighted down with many bags filled with pens, pencils, papers, fridge magnets, key chains, packets of wildflower seeds and more,  we spotted a familiar face. Hernando County Commissioner Diane Rowden was in the drivers' seat (as always) of this really cool Oreion Reeper on display from Halo Autosports, and she's with her husband adnd sidekick Jay Rowden. We wander over to chat . BTW, the Orein is a crossover vehicle built by the Hummer people in New Mexico. Looks like a perfect ride for Nature Coast traveling.

There were a few candidate's booths set up, looking for voters' support which seems a waste of time and money for the Republican incumbents. Hernando is a Republican heavy county and  Rowden is the ONLY Democrat county official, for now. Jimmy Lodato is putting up a fierce battle for a County Commission seat.

Diane and Jay Rowden
Commissioner Rowden came to our aide earlier this year, when a home in our neighborhood was overrun by cats. She got help from the Lakeland SPCA which was able to capture more than 70 cats and find most of them homes or have been placed in foster homes. So, we have great respect and are grateful for her friendship. It always feel more like home when you run into people (personalities) that you know on first-name basis. Jay, who is a veteran campaigner, recently lost out in his bid for school board member. But that doesn't keep him from wanting to make county schools better. He discussed some projects he is currently involved with, like alleviating long student pick up lines at some of the schools. This couple is always busy making things better.

Oh yes, the peacocks. While we were chatting with the Rowdens a mother and chick hung out, nearby, maybe to listen, mostly to peck at insects in the lawn and pose for photos. Dad went on his merry way, displaying his colorful tail feathers for all those interested in watching. I think the peacocks look forward to having the evening to themselves sans mermaids -- occasionally.
Peacock hen and chick entertain the crowd.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Remembering and not forgetting

Monday and Tuesday were more of the same for Mom. She lists off the things she remembers doing. Even though most of it shouldn't be hard for her to remember as it is stuff she does everyday, it is amazing that she just started rattling it all off. Up until this conversation, I would ask what she did since we last talked and she would just sigh or say, "Probably nothing."

She did the usual. Lots of sitting out front watching the traffic pass by. The four-times-daily dog walks. A visit or two to the community room to work on the latest jigsaw puzzle.  Oh yes, she got a perm on Monday, so she's happy with her hair, for now.

Since school started last week, the athletic fields behind her complex are once again full of activity. From her living room window, she can watch children play football late in the afternoon until dark. She is more interested in watching parents driving around, trying to find places to park. They can't park in her building's parking spaces. There is barely enough parking for the staff and people who live there, she says, adding that one time a guy came home and all of the spaces were filled. He couldn't park his car. So now, their parking lot is off limits and parking near the fields is limited.

When we first stated talking around 6:30 p.m., Mom had just returned from taking Marley for a walk. She laughed and sad her dog was already taking a nap in the middle of mom's bed. "That's OK, I was going to bring her back up and sneak down to watch the games for a while." As we were talking, Mom would say something about the games outside her window, the families she could see and how it looked like it was getting colder as the evening wore on. She finally decided it was too cold out and she would pass up going down to watch this evening.

Tonight's walk down Memory Lane was a lot of the same recollections we've already discussed and written about in earlier posts. I brought up a few things and she noted with a word or two, but didn't have much more to say. I brought up and she did talk more about a family that lived on Mill Street, last name Fox. They had a big beautiful house with a huge backyard that they turned into a football field. Probably not full scale, but large enough for all of the boys in the community to play on teams they formed. Parents and siblings would line the fields cheering. Everyone walked there. What Mom loved the most was seeing families turn out. Watching parents take interest in what their kids were doing. "It's the same thing here," Mom says referring to the gathering on the fields below her window. "Now, more than ever, parents need to spend time and their attention on those kids."

She doesn't like her window unit air conditioner. Blocks her view and always makes for place too cold when it's running. I am not sure if she ever turns it off or on. She says my sister Liz left instructions for her to leave the settings alone. "I pull the Venetian blinds down to cover it up."

She is looking forward to seeing Liz, later this week, when she comes for a visit. She says she needs some new clothes and hopes Liz will help her go through what she has to decide what she needs. She has a stack of wrinkled clothes that need ironing, but she doesn't have an iron.

But having Liz around for a bit will do her a lot of good. She needs someone to talk to and she is so happy that we have rekindled our mother-daughter friendship.

"I remember you now. I remember you are Nancy, my daughter," Mom says. "I am so grateful that you are calling me and we can talk together. Now, I have to ask. Do you go to church?" I pause and answer honestly -- no. "Well, do you believe in God?" Uhhhh,in a way. "Well I am going to have to send you some church literature." I quickly reply that I am a good girl, though. Mom laughs and says, "Well, as long as you are a good girl."

I remarked that she is remembering a lot more than when we first started talking a month ago. That not only is she remembering who I am, but she's bringing up a lot of memories, things from the past, on her own. She's asking about and remembering my siblings she isn't in contact with. She wants to know what they are doing. How they are. Her mind wasn't so clear when we first started chatting.

"Yes I am," she exclaimed. "I am thinking and remembering a lot of things, I'd forgotten. Do you know why? It is because of you. It is because you called me. You came back into my life and I remember how much I loved going to your house in Massachusetts. You got me to thinking about a lot of things. I look forward to your calls," Her voice wavers, " I feel like I don't have anyone ... You don't know what you mean to me." I tell her it means a lot to me, too.

Mom went on to explain the things Dennis  and Liz do for her. How much she appreciates them and the calls Jim makes. I've been calling every two or three days. She now writes down the next time I tell her I will call. I'm calling so often, she's getting better at remembering what day it is. And the calls are becoming part of her routine.

What fun we are having, Mom. "Goodnight. I love you Mom and we'll talk again, when I can catch you on Thursday."

"I will be waiting for your call. I love you, dear."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sunday Rituals for Mom

Mom had a fun Sunday afternoon. The fall school session started last week, which meant lots of fall sports activities going on at the fields behind her complex. She can watch the children playing soccer, football and tennis from her apartment window. But when the weather is nice, she and her dog Marley go outside, find a suitable bench for mom to sit on and watch all of the activity, in person. That's where she was all afternoon, as I was trying to reach her. It makes me happy that she is doing something to interact with others, instead of sitting alone in her apartment.

There were kids filling the fields all afternoon, she says. I asked what they playing and she replied not football, something that sort of looked like soccer. She wasn't sure, but they were having fun. 

Even better, she says, it was more of a family thing. Parents and kids were watching and cheering. 

"I think it is so much better for the parents to be involved with their kids. Watch them play. And get their kids involved in good activities. Keep them out of trouble.

" I like to bring my dog out, but everybody wants to pet her. Little kids will run up and ask if they can pet her. Or their parents will ask. I worry when there are so many people around, I don't want someone to get hurt. She acts funny, all of these people around us." 

Like a lot of dog owners, she doesn't want to say the word bite.

The weather was nice and that was her Sunday afternoon entertainment. For lunch and dinner, she walked to Subway and got a meatball sub. She divides it up and says she gets five meals out one sub. "They will put all kinds of things on it, if you want." During the week her main meal of the day is delivered via Meals on Wheels. She wishes on Fridays they delivered fixings for another meal on weekends -- but she isn't complaining. She is grateful for the service.

Again, mom talked about the farm house and how she and dad spent their lives fixing it, building and rebuilding it and  making it better.  "I think I told you their were gas lights when I went there to live.
It was terrible. When Dick was little, every time he got mad, he would throw his Tommy Tippee cup on the floor and break the glass globes. (Back then there was a kitchen upstairs. When Dick threw his cup on the floor it would break the globes of the ceiling lights in the downstairs kitchen). "I would have to go to Dewey Whites (combination food and dry goods mom and pop store in East Olean) for more globes. They were 15 cents each. That was a lot of money then. We had to pay a contractor to come in and dig a tunnel under the railroad tracks for the electric cable, so we could have electricity. They ran it over the tracks (on poles) anyway. Figure that one out."

She drifted back to the kids and families on the sports fields. "I loved playing sports when I was in school. We were poor and never had a car, so I would walk home when we played games after school. We walked everywhere. My parents would walk to the grocery store in the morning and pay for groceries. At noon hour, I would walk to the store pick up the groceries and carry them home. I've always been walking. Good thing I like to walk."

She got a little confused on something dear to her. The time of year. "The weather is nice right now. This past winter, was OK. We didn't get much snow, but it was icy and cold. Now it is getting warm. Spring is coming, isn't it?" I reply, no fall is just around the corner. "What month is this?" It is September, mom and today is Sunday. "I wish so much I could go back down south for the winter."

Mom is looking forward to a visit from my sister Liz later this week. She doesn't remember exactly when she's coming, how long she's staying or the reason for her trip. Doesn't matter so much. she is happy to see Liz, again. Maybe they can go shopping or something. "Liz will have our visit planned," she says.

It was getting close to 7 p.m. -- the time Jim calls her every Sunday -- so I said my goodbyes and promised to call her on Tuesday. She said she was going to write that down. As she was writing, she said, "Now who are you again? Nancy?" I said yes, your daughter Nancy. She giggled and said, "Hey, I knew that. I was kidding you." That is a breakthrough! "You don't know what your calls mean to me." I told her I think I do and that I am thinking about her, all of the time. 

"I love you, mom."  "I love you, too, dear."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chatty Mom Saturday

Unsettled. When I finally caught mom home today, she said she was feeling unsettled. "Everyone around me has family to visit or are out doing things. I don't have anybody, family that visits me." she says. Although her mood quickly changed as we did our walk down memory lane, took inventory of her fridge, talked about relationships and had some laughs.

"I am glad to have friends. We go out to eat and do things, but some of my friends are going with men. I had a good man. We had a good life. Now, I don't want all of that (sex). I'm not interested in anything like that." she says.

"I did meet one guy who lives here that liked me," she goes on. "Well now, at first what attracted him was my dog. he really likes her. We talked, but I let him know I am not interested ."

I stopped her there and told her it is alright to be friends. "You can make friends, mom. Be honest and tell them what you want in a relationship. I think there are men out there who have the same desire, to share a friendship."

Afterward, she repeatedly went back to talking about this particular man. At first she was thinking she blew her chances with him, but I could tell our conversation got her thinking about the possibility. She said what she wants is to have someone to go out with to dinner, Dutch treat.

I finally suggested the next time she sees him, maybe she should ask him about that. See if he would like to go out, Dutch treat. All this talk got her spirits up.

Our last two phone conversations were relatively short and then today we talked for more than an hour. Mom just returned to her apartment. She'd done the usual things  -- walk the dog a couple of times, sat on the porch swing in front of her complex and watched traffic. Now she was coming back from working on a puzzle in the community room. Said all of the others left to have dinner. she wasn't hungry yet, but didn't want to be sitting there by herself.

Her dilemma was whether to fix something to eat from what was in the pantry and fridge or go to a nearby restaurant where she could sit and do more people watching. I asked her what she had for making a meal at home, so she checked her cupboard and listed off peanut butter, applesauce and some other canned items. I asked if she had bread. She checked, yes a half a loaf. I suggested she have a peanut butter and applesauce sandwich and that made her laugh."That would be interesting'" she chuckled.

"Oh, I have a tomato, I will make a sandwich." I asked if she had cheese for her sandwich. Of course she did and it was Cuba cheese. (My favorite) But in the end she decided to go out to eat, because she felt like she needed to get out  for a while.

Not sure what's been on her mind, but she talked a lot about relationships. She has zero tolerance for cheaters and she thinks men cheat more than women. Women. she says, have children to raise and protect. One woman though that cheated on her first husband (they didn't have kids) was one of dad's sisters.

Mom said when her husband asked her why she did it, she said, "Love goes everywhere it is sent. Even if it's up a pigs' ass."  I was so surprised, I asked her to repeat the phrase. We both got a laugh out of it. This aunt just had all kinds of personality and could get away with cheating and making a statement like this without losing a lick of respect. Maybe a  je ne sais quoi charm. 

Mom talked about younger people in her life and how they just don't get what it means to grow old. "Your health deteriorates. Your body and mind changes. No one wants to spend time with you. They talk about old people like it won't ever happen to them. when their time comes it will. Their time is coming." I added, If they are lucky enough to live that long.

She talked about the sadness and dread she felt when she took her aging mother to a doctor's appointment and realized her mom didn't have anything underneath her dress. "I felt so bad. She wasn't like that." I made her aware of what growing old had done to her mother and it wasn't grandma's fault.

She talked about the farm again. How she knows she was moved out of the house for her own good, but she didn't really think it was for her own good. She says she used to pull down the folding stairway and climb up into the attic at night and sleep in the front dormer windows where she could see the end of our street and the main road. I didn't ask her why she would go there, maybe from being afraid when she was alone, I don't know.

She talked about how dad spent his life working on that house. "When I went there to live, they had gas lights and no indoor plumbing. We had an outhouse."

I told her I remember when one Saturday, a big Sears truck pulled in and unloaded new bathroom fixtures -- tub, sink, toilet, faucets, shower head. Dad stood outside, his jaw dropped. Mom had given up on seeing anyone else doing what needed to be done to get a bathroom in that huge house. She went to Sears and bought one.

"I guess I was different about things like that." she laughed.

She talks often about another place in town where she originally wanted to go -- move to. It was near the grocery store. She concludes God wanted her in this place instead. I explained, God probably wanted her to live next to the church where she can worship and the food program is also run from there where she gets free food each month. That drew a big laugh from her. I will have to tell my pastor you said that. Probably something she WILL remember.

It was getting late, so I suggested she go out to dinner, enjoy the outing and I would call her tomorrow (today). She let me know how much my calling and our conversations mean to her. I told her they mean a lot to me,too. She said don't spend all of you money on phone calls. I told her we have a plan (the simplest way to tell her I am not spending money on her calls.) She said she was relieved about that and looked forward to talking again. 

Goodnight, I love you, Mom. I love you too, dear.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fish Fry Friday

"Hi mom, this is Nancy, your daughter." That's my usual salutation, meant to help mom remember who's on the phone. I explained that I was calling on Friday, a day earlier than we'd agreed to because I wanted to make sure she was feeling OK. Her voice has been hoarse for the past week or so.

One day she was in a tizzy because she had a sore throat and couldn't get in touch with Dennis to take her to the doctor. The next day she said it was better. But to me, her voice sounds a little worse every time we talk, so I wondered if she should have her throat checked by her doctor. She thinks it is just allergies from pollen and because she's alone and doesn't have anyone to talk to, except her dog. "I just wasn't using my voice." she told me. "My head's been draining and running into my throat. I don't like to go the doctor and have them give me more medicines." In the end, she said, people are worse off from taking all kinds of different medicines. And, besides, she feels fine.

Back to my phone greeting. "Oh I am so glad you called. What day did you say it is?  Did you say Friday? Is it Friday?" (Yes, yes and yes.) "Thank you for letting me know that today is Friday. Tonight we go out for fish fry and I don't want to miss out on that. I was going to go downstairs and ask someone what day this is and I hate doing that. It's always embarrassing having to ask other people what day it is. They look at me like I am crazy or something. Thank you, now I don't have to ask anybody."

She asked me several more times if it was Friday. She asked a couple of times who I was and then finally said, " This is Nancy, right?"

I'd tried to call her on Thursday, but never got an answer when I called in the morning, mid-afternoon and around 8 p.m. She says she was walking her dog or maybe sitting outside watching traffic. She says she doesn't do much else. Her daily dog walking schedule starts around 7 am, then another outing between 11 and noon, a walk and outside sitting around 3 or 4, then the last walk during the evening before bedtime.

We talked about the historical significance of the farm property. Long before the house was built, it was occupied by a lumber mill, owned by the Weston family. Mom wasn't remembering much about this, just agreeing with what I was saying. I told her the town Weston Mills was named after the mill which eventually burned down. It was rumored that Johnny Appleseed planted the small apple orchard. Mom couldn't remember the original owners of the farmhouse. They were the family that built it. My grandparents bought the farm and my father was born in that house.

Mom started talking about roller skating and when she met dad. She misses him, so much.

Her dog started barking, the doorbell was ringing and I suggested Meals on Wheels was bringing her lunch. She was hungry today, so I told her I would call over the weekend. OK, she said. "Call me back soon. Today is Friday, isn't it? I love you, dear." "Love you too, mom."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lost weekend for mom

Finally got a hold of mom today, after calling Sunday, Monday and yesterday. I figured. since it was a holiday weekend, she had spent time with friends or my brother Dennis and his wife. I tried Monday and Tuesday in the morning, afternoon and evening and got no answer. I didn't leave a voice mail for fear of her getting upset for missing my call.

So, the first thing I asked her was what she did over the Labor Day weekend. Her response was, "Huh, I don't think I did anything. Maybe I was with one of my friends." I told her I'd called Sunday evening, before Jim normally called, as she advised. She said,"Huh, I probably missed his call, too."

I asked if she was ready for the Wednesday night concert in the park across the street. "What day is this?" she asked. (Wednesday) "Thank you for telling me. I probably would've missed out on the concert. This one is the last one of the summer."

She asked me at least four times what month it is, before it finally registered. It is September and today was the first day of school in Portville, so she wants to be outside in time later on to wave to the passing school buses.

Oh, the dementia. She said she gets confused and frustrated when she can't remember things. She knows she went to church on Sunday morning and they didn't deliver Meals on Wheels on Monday because it was a holiday. She's very sure she walked her dog as usual. She can only guess that she spent time working on the jigsaw puzzle in the community room. The one she and other residents started putting together on Saturday and finished (maybe on Monday) and no, she doesn't remember what the puzzle's picture was, but it was nice.

"It is so terrible," she says. "How can this happen?" I told her for me anymore, I start talking about something and all of a sudden, I forget a name, a place, the title of a movie or book. I can see the person or whatever in my mind, but sometimes I can't make the connection. People always say, that happens to everyone as they age.

"That's what it is like for me and sometimes I want to cry. Something will be so vivid in my mind, then I can't remember. It bothers me more because, and maybe it is just my imagination, but I feel like some people don't like me. They make me feel inferior. It is probably just me, but I can't help it."

She ends that bit of sad revelation with, "You see some good in most people, if you look hard enough."

About memories she says,"I keep trying though. You are my daughter, right? I'm getting better at remembering that. I try to tell someone that we were talking and I can't remember who you are. Oh yes, I've been thinking about how much I loved visiting you. Where was it? (Massachusetts) Oh yes, Massachusetts. Didn't I pick up the girls once at -- was it the airport? "

I told her I wanted to ask her a couple of things. First, what was her favorite movie?

"Oh, I don't know. Gone with the Wind? maybe?" she answered. I was delighted to tell her, I knew she'd say Gone with the Wind. "That's the only one I can think of. I don't remember what it was about."

I laugh because she loved the setting, the beautiful costuming and the mansions. She probably saw that movie a couple of times, which would have been a luxury to go to the theater twice to see the same show.

I asked movie star and she responded that she hasn't seen any movies in so long, she can't think of even one, let alone a favorite. She did remember her sister was a bobby soxer and loved Frank Sinatra. She feels sorry for Bernie because the says her sister was hurt by a man she really loved.

"Some men cheat on their wives or their girlfriends and don't care how much hurt they make. Some women are married two or three times and get their hearts broken."

I told her she must know how to pick them. She was married to dad for more than 60 years before he passed away and I am pretty sure he never cheated on her.

"I picked the right man and I am not going to ruin my record," she laughed

She wishes something could be done with the farm house that she says is falling into ruin. "Everytime it rains, I think the rain is Leslie's tears. He loved that farm, so much."

I did not know what she told me about why she was moved out of the house into her apartment. It was the fire department, she says that recommended she be moved to a place where she would have help nearby if she needed it. She says she started to get scared at night and she would call 911. The firemen would come and take her to the hospital. But there was never anything wrong with her, except that she got scared. Firemen talked to her about it. They told her they were afraid something bad could happen to her, specifically fall and not be able to get help. They were nice to her, told her they would be writing a report because they care about her and wouldn't want anything to happen to her, living alone with no one around.

"They were right, but it is still hard for me. I miss home."

She says of her apartment, she tapes pictures on her wall when she has one she wants to look at. There are a lot of framed pictures of people and kids on her wall, but she doesn't remember who put them there or who the pictures are of. Probably family or something, she concludes.

We talked about when she and dad renovated the living room. She said the stones for the fireplace were stones they gathered and bought home for the project. I asked her where they found them -- really nice field stone. She thought for a minute and said from East Branch Dam. That surprised me. When I was in high school, we spent a couple of summer vacations staying in a cottage there that was owned by a friend of dad's who owned a big turkey farm. I remember it was called the East Branch Dam on the Clarion River in Elk County, Pa. We loved staying here. It was quiet, with lots of wildlife -- wait, that was just like home. :)

Mom and her dog were about to take a nap, when I called and I could tell she was getting tired as we talked.

We made plans to talk again in a few days and I wished her a dream-filled nap.

"I love you, mom." "Oh, I love you, too dear."

Monday, September 1, 2014

How I spent Labor Day

Congressional candidate Dave Koller and I discuss the issues.
Wow. A three-day weekend. It doesn't mean so much to me since I retired from the normal working world. I do have my own business, creating things. And that goes on every day. But, this is Labor Day and there are pressing issues out there that involve labor in this country, that won't be fixed with a clever line or two on Facebook. Instead of indulging ourselves in an afternoon of laziness, we went to a Wage War rally  -- a picnic-in-the-park event held by the Hernando County Democratic Party, to support American workers and the need to raise minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. You may have a different opinion, but for us this was the most appropriate way to mark Labor Day.

As billed there was music performed by Jennifer McRae and Louie Palmer who sang and played guitar, and a DJ. There was free picnic food, a line of tables with information and petitions on supporting the vote for Medical Marijuana to protesting strip mining and GMOs.  There was a lot of reminders to vote, please vote.

The point for today's Wage War rally was to protest the despicably low incomes millions of workers in our state are forced to accept. We signed a petition to raise the state's minimum wage rate to $10.10 an hour. Everyone deserves to earn enough to take care of themselves and their families. Raising wages for workers on the bottom of the scale would not have such an effect on large corporations  that they would have to raise prices on their goods -- or at least honest corporations wouldn't find such action necessary. These very large businesses are raking in record-breaking profits, on the backs of their lowest-tier of employees. And in a lot of cases, taxpayers are footing the bill for medical care and food stamps to supplement what these large corporations are not providing.

There weren't a whole lot of people at the rally lots of  apathy going around. Those who were there are genuine in their concerns, including three candidates running for county commission, state house of representatives and U.S. Congress. I applaud all those who took the afternoon  to show their concern and bolster one another in the name of labor and fair pay for every American citizen.

I had a chance to discuss this issue and more with  Dave Koller who is running to represent Florida's District 11 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Koller is running against incumbent (and Tea Party favorite) Richard Nugent, who has never appeared to have had any intentions of serving everyone in his district. In my opinion he points his nose in the air and says crude things about those he doesn't like or those who think differently. There is no thought or consideration for anyone else's view -- he never even pretends to look at an issue in another way before making any decisions.

So, it was refreshing to hear Koller address how he plans to serve our district -- with an open mind, ears and an unbreakable commitment to include every resident's needs in his votes and decisions. Koller had spent his life working with and for the disabled. He says he understands what's needed to serve someone's needs and get tasks done. Koller gets it. He doesn't pretend it would be easy satisfying everyone from Tea Party right to the left leaningest liberal. The way Koller sees it, his job,and the job of Congress, is finding solutions to get whatever needs done, done.

An example is gun laws and the extreme views found everywhere in our country. Koller says he doesn't support the NRA's stand, but thinks the only logical solution is to enforce laws, tighten loopholes and to listen to various opinions, respect the holders of those opinions and try to vote his conscience when hot button issues await the vote of Congress.

He seems to be a moderate in the truest sense of the word -- he's for the give-and-take of politics and not always interested in the so-called party line. At least that's the impression I was left with after chatting with him for about 15 minutes prior to the speech-making portion of the afternoon.

Koller has a lot of great ideas and I really enjoyed our chat. Later, when he spoke to the group about his run for congress and views on raising the minimum wage, he touched on many of the same points. Too bad more residents in this district didn't get a chance to meet and listen.

Koller speaks at Wage War rally.