Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Keeping my eyes on the gift

6/19/07 Tuesday
The puppies were moving much faster than I this morning. (Duh, No surprise, get used to it you old fart) They were out the door before I could get my cloudy minded butt dressed. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I was moving much slower this morning though their energy level leaps forward everyday. I coaxed them into the back yard as I do every morning in order to make that a place they go instead of towards the highway out front. They discovered that the pool is a cool place to be and that getting in the water won’t hurt them yesterday. Got one bad side effect from that. Trixie pawed and played in their drinking water feeder, splashing water all over the place. Not a big deal, just means I’ll have to fill it more often.

They are exploring their domain more each day, ranging out farther all the time. Unfortunately that means they are getting into the crabgrass and picking up those nasty stickers more. When one gets on their paw we hear them yelp and they come limping to the door. Both of them are starting to get better at laying on their back on our laps as we work to remove them. It’s can still turn into a fight but not as often. I so look forward to getting rid of these weeds and planting some kind of grass. That will make a big difference in so many ways. It will take a lot of work and probably a long time before these parts of our vision for the farm to come to pass. But it’s our home and dream, we plan to live out our lives here.

It’s going to hit a hundred plus degrees today so I need to get the outside work done now before things get too bad. I had some serious chest pains last night which were probably due to the heat and dehydration. Came with a pounding head also. It all subsided when I came in, took two aspirin, drank two glasses of tea, and laid down. But Cherie made me call it a day so the painting didn’t get done. It’s all ready to go now with the masking work done so it won’t take long to put the second coat on. This is a primer, stain blocker, covering paint, and thick as pudding but still needs a second coat. At this rate the five gallon pail may not be enough to do the living room.

It looks like our Direct Buy membership will go to collection. That’s a shame as we never got to use it at all. There goes a thousand dollars and it will be our first mark on our credit since the bankruptcy. It was a great idea when we thought we would have $20,000.00 from the inheritance to fix the house up. We could have gotten everything from replacement windows to appliances, and thousands of other products at half the price you pay in a store. How quickly things can vanish into the wind. Puff…it’s gone.

Ah quit whining bob. You’re blessed and one of the richest men in the world for you have what money can’t buy. A miraculous new and restored life where everything has gone a full circle and returned to where it was over twenty years ago. Where that which was destroyed has been brought back. Remember, every day you wake up is a gift.

It is good to keep my eyes on that and not forget. Gotta get out there before it gets too hot. Time to wrap my head with the T shirt I use to soak up the sweat and keep the sun off.
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I came in at 2:00. Been out busting my butt with the hoe, trying to get all the weeds in the back patch chopped down. As I worked the hoe up and down, feeling the blisters start and changing my grip to ease that, I remembered and thought. I first learned to work in a Texas prison and it was with a hoe. Up until then I never really held a job. The closest I came was military service, other than that there were only occasional jobs that would last a few weeks.

My grandmother, who left us this house and farm, visiting me in prison. 1976

Texas prison, what a shock that was for a nineteen year old kid who weighed maybe a hundred and forty pounds after living on the street and drugs. I remember that first day we were sent out into the fields. We were called out of the cells and lined up. Then we were marched outside and saw the “Bosses”. They sat on their tall horses without a smile and all of them wore mirrored sunglasses. In Texas prison you said “Yes sir Boss. No sir Boss.” Either that it was “Sergeant lieutenant” or whatever rank they held with a “Sir” attached. It was like something straight out of the movies, only it was real now.

So we were divided up into squads and marched to whatever area they would have us work in. The guards rode behind us on their horses close, barking commands to the squad leader, the inmate they put in charge who was invariably the biggest meanest guy on the lot. When we arrived we were handed our hoes. They weren’t at all like the hoe I bought at Home Depot. This one had a handle made from some kind of tree branch that grew in the low lying river banks and had the bark shaved off. The head was a piece of steel plate welded on a short piece of pipe where the handle attached. And it was heavy.

We were lined up tightly, chest to back and commenced to chopping the ground in front of us at a steady rhythmic rate. Being the new guy I was placed in the middle and quickly learned to keep up. With each chop of the hoe everyone would slide their left foot forward maybe four inches. The guys on either end were called “Lead row” and “Tail row”. Their job was to keep everyone squeezed in tight. As we worked I could feel the blisters grow on my soft virgin hands but there was no stopping. Oh no, not at all. You kept going, up and down, up and down, chop, chop, shuffle forward, chop, chop. “Take a break Boss?” I hear asked. “You better keep your ass working if you know what’s good for you” was the stern reply. Me, I don’t want to be noticed and keep going, pushing hard to maintain my grip as these unused muscles began to lose their strength. The blisters on my hands pop open but I grit my teeth and take the pain. Soon the blisters are replace with open sores where the skin was worn all the way through. They start bleeding. This just makes it harder to keep your grip as the hands begin to slide on the blood. But I keep going, chop, chop, up down, shuffle forward, keep going. There are breaks for water which are welcome for sure.

My squad is one with the new and also smaller inmates who, like me, are in poor physical shape. When it’s time to go in we are “run in”. All the squads are “run in” so it’s maybe a hundred inmates running with the guards behind on their horses breathing down our necks. If you stumble you get run over.

So I learned to work in Texas prison. I learned to work hard and fact is I like to work hard. One of the frustrations I have now with this disability thing is the limits I must face. Gone are the days I regularly put in fourteen hour days. I still push but it comes with a price. My tolerance for pain is much higher than the average guy but it has limits. Between that and the heat I came in. I’m a bit unsteady on my feet and took another pain pill. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t get as much done. I’ll rest for a couple of hours and then think we will tackle the painting in the living room. Pretty much done outside as the temperatures are hitting a hundred now. It’s the heat that saps my strength. But I like to work.
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It’s 8:00. That took a lot out of me, working out in the sun that is. Been sharp all day as far as the brain goes but the body is dragging. I can deal with that just fine. There have been many times that Cherie has heard me say that I would gladly spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair in exchange for my mind staying sharp. Physical stuff I can push through but it’s the forgetting and confusion that drives me nuts. Earlier today I had taken one glove off to do something. Later I was out hoeing weeds when I looked at my hand and realized it was missing. So I began looking all over for it. I looked in the wheelbarrow, under the leaves of the pumpkin plants where I was working, and in the pile of weeds I had made but there was no glove in sight. I thought and thought again trying to recall what I might have done with it but there was nothing there. So I looked all around the area again and finding nothing decided to look in the garage. There it was. When it got there and why I took it off is gone from this mind. So here’s a paradox. I clearly remember all this happening but can’t remember taking only one glove off or how long I worked with only one on before I noticed. It’s not the forgetting but the unpredictability that drives me nuts. I never know when something will just blank out. Kind of like the times, rare though they are, when I am driving and suddenly nothing is familiar and I don’t know where I am or where I was going. Scary stuff. Then it comes back to me, usually.

So we are going to get moving on the painting. Got to put the puppies in their room. Otherwise we are liable to have white puppy tracks all over. They are starting to bark now. That surprised Cherie. I heard her calling “Rob, come here” with a panicky sense of urgency. “Trixie is getting all kinds of aggressive. She was barking and growling at me” she said as I watched Trixie bouncing around in her joyous “Lets play” fit of energy. It was the first time Cherie had heard Trixie bark and, having only owned cats and never dogs before, was a bit taken aback. My lovely wife can be a worrier at times so didn’t know what was wrong. Was it rabies, was it…? Who knows what went through her head but I reassured her that Trixie just was saying “Play with me” with her new found voice. Kids. Whatcha goin to do??? They are tearing up the living room and being very vocal as I write. Boy are we in for it as the get bigger.

So it’s time to paint. Be back later. If I feel like it.

3 comments:

Tricia said...

Wow, thanks for sharing your prison days story with us! Sounds very much like Cool Hand Luke, one of my favorite movies. I can't imagine coping with blisters/sores like that, though.

Enjoy getting to go inside and take a break whenever you feel like it! You've paid your debt to society. I'm so glad you have your much-deserved chance to just enjoy your blessed life now!

Janie said...

Those pups are wayyyyy too cute!

Bob said...

Tricia-I've paid lots of debts and even more high prices for poor choices. I don't think I deserve the blessings I have but am grateful and will make the best of the gift of life given me.
Janie-Yeah, big source of joy there.