Helen Keller

Several years ago, the Clark Boys were making up stories about Helen Keller on our way too see friends.

Jack: ” Helen Keller lost her sight by looking into the sun when she was little.”

David: “Stop lying Jack. I knew her.”

Jack: “Helen Keller was in World War I.”

David: “No she wasn’t Jack. She was in World War II. She and her husband took over a cannon. When he got injured she took over and started shooting.”

The Stunning Mrs. Clark: “David, Helen Keller was blind and deaf. She couldn’t even see or hear a cannon.”

David: “I must have been thinking of someone else….”

16382401691_ef48633e2a_k

Advertisements

The Problem With Cotton Candy

20131212_172551_NE 19th Pl

In 1969 we went to the Woodland Park Zoo.

Aside from seeing many unknown critters (I was a five-year old Alaskan Bush kid new to the area), and walking the park for what seemed like forever, we got something to eat at the center food area (same spot as now). The only thing I recall eating during that visit was Cotton Candy.

Now the only thing I can imagine about cotton candy is throwing up.

Yep, I hurled my cotton candy on that warm summer evening. Haven’t been able to even go near it since, due to the smell. The mere sight of the word raises bile in my throat to a level that allows me to sing like Janis Joplin. When the stunning Mrs. Sherry Clark spun cotton candy at the church harvest festival, which covered her with delicate webs of sugary hurlage, I could barely contain my stomach.

Now you know my food weakness. The word “moist” is almost as revolting to me but the smell of cotton candy beats moist hands down for making me feel like someone is poking a pencil eraser into my belly button.

This popsicle is going straight back into the fridge 🙂

Caboose Coffee

The stunning Mrs. Clark’s grandfather Donald was the child of a railroad man, and drank his coffee “caboose style.”

Over his entire life, he brought water to boil in a pan then dumped in his coffee grounds – no filters or percolators. After a few more minutes of boiling he dumped the whole mix into this coffee cup. Pitch black. Sherry remembers vividly how there would be a layer of coffee grounds at the bottom of his cup.

Donald died in 1984, so the recipe for his coffee is long gone.

But I had seen references to coffee being prepared on the caboose of a train, and it matched closely what Sherry was able to share with me.  I searched the Internet to locate something similar, but only came up with mixes like “one gallon water, one pound coffee, and one horseshoe – boil until shoe floats.”

Bet he stayed awake!

6129278065_3fb2120a0a_b

Lost Opportunity

Jan Jack May2013

My mother-in-law Jan battled many illnesses for many years.

In May 2013 she was in the hospital after having a brain tumor removed. The recovery for her was a roller coaster; one moment she was fine and recovering, and then the next she struggled with something else. The toll was great, not only on her but also on the family. We could only stand back and hope the doctors worked quick enough to complete her recovery puzzle.

One night Sherry, Jack and I visited her at dinner time and talked for a while. I had my DSLR with me, to take advantage of the skyline views out of the 17th floor windows of the hospital. I also managed to take some profile pictures of Jack. Not long before we left, he lay his head in her lap; Jan quietly moved her hand to his back, her arm adorned with lines of alert bands prompting care givers to be wary of certain drugs or treatment. There were at least four of them, in many colors and different types of writing. It was this touching image of an elderly arm wrapping comfort around a seven-year old’s body that quickly made me think, “Take of picture of that.” But, out of quiet respect for the moment, I put the camera down.

In short, I blew it.

The next day Jan took a serious turn for the worse. She stopped breathing, right in front of the doctor. After being revived she was taken immediately to the ICU for heavy duty care. Then she was sleeping or in & out of consciousness. When we visited her next she was sleeping and wouldn’t wake up; part of me was bummed, and the other part was relieved because it meant she was finally getting some sleep. Still, that missed photo opportunity haunts me.

The question for me revolves around the line between being the observer or being part of the moment. Leaving the camera alone meant that I was experiencing a very special gesture and smiling inside. Taking a picture would have interrupted the silence with a shutter snap; it just didn’t seem right at the time. But now as I think back, I regret that brief moment where the camera sat quietly, because it’s the image that now goes through my mind over and over.

While the diagnosis for Jan was fatal, she recovered long enough to enjoy three more months with her family.  I did get more pictures of her before she died, but none of them were as special as that one moment that I will remember forever.

Help From Beyond

As I was organizing the family room during a dream last night, my late mother-in-law walked into the room.

“What are you doing?”

I stopped briefly to take in what was going on. Jan passed away five years ago after a battle with lung cancer. “Just going through your silver service and our silverware,” I said. It’s stored all over the place down here.”

Most of it was hers – stuff she’d purchased when she was alive.

“I have a platter we can store that on,” she said. She walked into the kitchen to dig it out. Not long after, Sherry walked downstairs. She looked into the kitchen towards the noise being made, saw her Mom, then looked at me wide-eyed. I nodded and leveled my hands palms-down to signal ‘stay cool.’

“Sherry, your Mom is helping us organize her silver service.”

Sherry acknowledged what was going on and voiced “Oh I get it” silently to me. “Mom are you going to use that platter that you’ve had since I was little?”

Jan dug it out and brought it over. “Yep. We can put it all on this.”

We took all the silverware from the different boxes and drawers, then placed them all on the tray. While Sherry and Jan talked I placed the tray on a shelf, in a way that would display the beautiful silver Jan owned during her life.

For some reason my dream control was really strong.. It hardly ever is, and I rarely know I’m dreaming when I am. This time, I knew it was a dream and I knew my mother-in-law was a ghost in that dream. The most interesting things in the whole experience were that I wasn’t scared about the unknown, and that everything she touched was something she would have known in life. She handled nothing we acquired after her passing, and her presence there didn’t seem out of the ordinary.

It just felt like another September day in 2008 when she was still with us.

Along The Boardwalk

 

I saw my first fallen-down drunk when I was four years old.

For the first part of my life, our family lived in a remote fishing village on the east end of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. It was a place where fishermen would get their paychecks on Friday, then drink them up at the bar by Sunday. On one Sunday evening we were walking from our home to the chapel for evening service, when I looked off the boardwalk to see a man just lying there. He wasn’t moving, like he was asleep in the grass and sprawled out like he fell. “Mom what’s wrong with him?” I asked.

“Just keep walking,” she replied.

Later on at the chapel I was told that he had been drinking and that he was passed out. Since my parents helped care for the physical and emotional well being of our fellow villagers, I can only surmise they determined he was fine and just needed to sleep off his booze right where he was. They would have NEVER left him in that spot if there was danger. I don’t recall ever seeing him again. How did this impact a four-year old kid?

I remember enough of it to share the story nearly fifty years later, and know first hand what true alcohol abuse looks like.

I never wanted to be that guy. I have never laughed about it. Through my teen years I remembered him. When I had my first alcohol ever, that dude along the boardwalk was on my mind. I was dry for about ten years during my 30s, because his sprawled out frame kept showing up in my head, and I didn’t want to end up lying in the grass somewhere completely unphased by passers by. This summer, while walking to a restaurant in White Center, I passed a man who was passed out and encircled by malt liquor cans – right along the sidewalk; immediately the man in Sand Point popped into my head and said, “Yeah that was a bender.”

Even last night, as I relaxed with my wife, I looked at my beer and thought of him.

He didn’t seem glorious, or a champion, or anything remotely like a life goal. He was a sad representation of a life wasted, alcoholism, and self medication. Was he using the bottle to run from depression? Bad relationships? Abuse? I’ll never know. Maybe he couldn’t stop, which was common among many of our friends in Sand Point. We knew a brilliant painter on the island who was also regular resident at the jail, and a slave to the bottle. It happened, and it was sad. Maybe this guy just overdid it after having a good time.

But when the result of your good time puts you face down in the tundra in the Alaskan bush, maybe the end game outweighs the excitement at the start.

At 53 years old I can safely say I won’t be him because I saw him, early enough to make the right impression at the right time. I know where to drink and when to stop. I like coffee just as much as I like Rainier, and can easily switch when it’s time to be responsible. Thanks to this unidentified man, sleeping off a weekend along the boardwalk to an island church, I have stayed clear from the damage of heavy drinking.

In some odd way, that fallen-down drunk kept me safe.

Most Epic Procrastination Ever

This is a story that I documented years ago, because it was frustrating and funny at the same time. Someday, David will be famous for his ability to turn a situation around for his benefit. After reading this, you will probably understand why!

In 2009 David had some homework to complete on a Thursday, because it was due on Friday morning. He was not yet 8-years old.  At the time my work schedule allowed me to pick him up at home and take him out to look for trains – along with doing his homework. Generally this method worked well; we both love trains and it was a way to keep him engaged. I tried to help him work at his own pace, while setting the goal that the work needed to be completed. The key with him is to maintain his flow rather than forcing my own. But on one particular Thursday, his flow became so funny that I started taking notes. It started when we got trackside in Seattle, at 2nd Ave S. and S. Horton Street at around 5:30pm.

Kurt: “Okay, now that we’re trackside let’s do some homework.”

David: “Not yet. I want to eat first. I want Burger King.”

BK is a mere block away from where we were shooting video. So we watched trains for awhile, went and got our food (Angry Whopper meal / Kid’s Plain Cheeseburger Meal) and went back to Horton. After eating our food and watching a few more trains, it was time.

David: “Not here. I want to do homework at Holgate.”

So we headed that direction, just in time to have a massive freight train go through the crossing. We parked along the side of the road and I shut off the truck.

Kurt: “Okay let’s get started.”

David: “No, not here.”

Kurt: “Why not?”

David: “Because we’re not at Holgate.”

He was right. I had parked on South Lander Street by mistake. So we headed north to Holgate and parked.

David: “I can’t work. The sun is in my eyes.”

Kurt: “Turn your back to it. This is where you chose to do homework.”

David: “…But I need to go to the bathroom.”

There isn’t a public restroom for miles in SODO. No parks.

Kurt: “Then we’ll need to go to Georgetown, mister. There aren’t any public restrooms around here.”

David: “Okay, I’ll start working on it. Can we play at the park after I do homework?”

Kurt: “Yes we can.”

So we headed south to Georgetown.

David: “Where’s my board?”

He was referring to the piece of wood he uses as a tabletop while sitting in the truck.

Kurt: “It’s behind the seat.”

David: “I can’t work without my board.”

We were almost there, so we parked the truck near the Georgetown Playfield. on a side street. I dug out the board from behind the seat. David looked down there and saw something else.

David: “I’ve got Hot Wheels down there.”

He tried to dig a bunch of stuff out.

Kurt: “It’s not time for Hot Wheels; it’s time for homework.”

He managed to dig something out anyway.

David: “Look…what’s this?”

He pointed a Potato Gun at my head.

Kurt: “I’ll tell you after you do homework. DON’T point that at people, mister. Even if it’s a toy.”

David: “Why? It’s not even real.”

Kurt: “Because it’s still not okay to point toy guns at people. Bad habit.”

David: “Where’s my pencil?”

He had managed to lose his pencil between Holgate and Georgetown.

David: “I don’t see it anywhere, Daddy. Did I throw it out the window?”

Kurt: “I really don’t know if you threw it out, mister. Here’s another one to use.”

I pulled another pencil from the visor.

David: “But my pencil had a Tiki eraser on it. I want that one.”

Kurt: “There are no choices here. That pencil is lost and I have another one.”

David: “Okay. What are you writing Dad?”

Kurt: “Nothing mister.”

I documented some more of our conversation on the back of an envelope. Then I went silent and looked out the window for the next 15 minutes, while David completed the three final pages. Total time involved to finish that last 15 minutes worth of homework?

1 3/4 hours.

Most Epic Procrastination Ever!