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Thread: Daily Bread

  1. #61
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Continued

    Just the hum of the tires on the highway. That's all you hear. Your mind is going through scenarios. Your wife is dozing, worn out emotionally from the turmoil of decisions. There is a small matter of where to hang your hat until one of you gets a job. It's inconceivable that you are actually considering asking to move in temporarily with your new in laws. Their house is viciously small. It is a row house in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Your father in law is an electrician preparing for retirement. Your mother in law is a traditional German housewife, has never had a drivers license, and is a colon cancer survivor. The last thing you want to do is get in the way of their lives. There are just two bedrooms and one tiny bathroom. You can imagine how proud they will be to tell their friends about the new son in law who is jobless and homeless.

    Eventually, the road runs out and you bring your wife home, back to where she began. That's the sum total of your glorious honeymoon. All you bring to the table is the clothes on your back and another mouth to feed. You begin in earnest to search the paper for a job. Both of you. On the weekends you help your father in law fashion a corner of the basement into a bathroom. You learn a lot about things you should already know. Plumbing, electricity, patience!

    You take up running. Every morning you go out into the streets and you run. There is something therapeutic about it. The sweat seems to be a way to purge your life of thoughts that weigh you down. You can't understand how gracious your in laws have been. They seem to have a kind of light approach to life that you've never experienced. Your wife explains that it's because of the gratitude they have for her mother's recovery from cancer. And she tells you about her brothers open heart surgery when he was just ten. He was one of the first ever for a child his age. You experience a new level of thankfulness modeled by the family. It's not fake made up religious zealousness. There is consistency.

    Your wife brings you the newspaper every day. One day there is a bulletin, the State Police are hiring and the first step is a civil service test. You apply to take the test even though you have never once in your life imagined a career in law enforcement. Most of your life has been spent avoiding the police. Sometimes for good reason. But it is a job. You also apply to the Air Force for Officer Candidate school. You figure that the pilots license you acquired as a teenager might help sway the decision in your favor.

    In the meantime, your wife gets a job interview at a private endowment for severe and profound mentally handicapped people. They need a teacher. You happily drive her for the interview. She is dressed nicely. You think this could be something to celebrate. As you wait in the car in your jeans and ratty sweatshirt.....she comes out after just a few minutes. There's no way she got the job that quick is there? She comes to the car but doesn't get in. Rolling the window down, you hear her say, "They need houseparents! We can live here. There's one room in the back of each house and thats where we can stay. It pays $12,000!" "Well? They want to talk to you." I'm am thinking.....they are in wheelchairs, they can't speak, they have to be fed, they wear diapers and have to be changed, they have to be bathed.

    Continued
    Last edited by Williamsmith; 9-1-17 at 12:57pm.

  2. #62
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Float On View Post
    I had a very vivid picture in my mind of the West Virginia area you were in. I spent the summer of '84 out there and it is remote! I was leading a group of inner city kids from DC on a backpacking trip and though I'd been over the trail several times before got myself turned around which is hard to do since I have a very good sense of direction. We ran across a sibling group in bare feet, undersized overalls and faded feedsack dresses, on their daily walk to get water in buckets. They were kind enough to point us back toward where they knew the trail was that "city folk use". I had a feeling we'd been caught in a time-warp and that we were in the '40's and would never find '84 again.
    Kids from D.C.? That had to be an experience!

  3. #63
    Moderator Float On's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post
    Kids from D.C.? That had to be an experience!
    Yes it was. The community center where they held summer day camps were daily shootings on the other side of the tall fence. We'd take a bus load of the 12-16 year olds to West Virginia for a 2 week adventure camp. We lived in army tents on platforms, taught nature classes, ropes courses, camping skills, cooking, trust building things, backpacking (my favorite - lead me to major in recreation in college and I lead backpacking trips to Colorado for youth groups for several years), hiking, rock climbing/rappelling, etc. It was a rainy summer and I know nightly we'd say "don't touch the drops of water on your tent roof" and nightly someone would touch the drops. Some kids spend every night in the bus! Many had never noticed the stars before or the sounds of night sitting on the side of a mountain overlooking the dark hills for miles. It was a pretty incredible program but I know for most of those kids once they aged out of the community center they ended up on the other side of that fence. I often wonder how many made it to 18 or 21. Did we make a difference?
    Float On: My "Happy Place" is on my little kayak in the coves of Table Rock Lake.

  4. #64
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Did you make a difference? Are you kidding? How could you not?

  5. #65
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post
    Did you make a difference? Are you kidding? How could you not?
    Honestly, when I read these kinds of posts I feel so happy to be a part of this discussion board. I know we argue on political matters sometimes, but Simple Living takes many shapes and forms. There are so many of us here, teachers, public servants, minimalists, gardeners, writers, artists, nurses..all bound by our commitment to eliminate the superfluous from our lives. I aspire to be like you all.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

  6. #66
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Dignity. It is a word you have seldom considered in your short 23 years of life. Until now, it was a word that simply existed but was seldom needed. Now, you learn the true meaning of the need for a dignified life, you see what "normal" people wish to not see, what political entities have institutionalize, and how seemingly insignificant populations can be marginalized.....even prejudiced. You learn to expose your hardened heart to caring.

    It is a rough transition for newlyweds. You and your wife share one room under the same roof with nine severely handicapped and profoundly retarded individuals. It is a simple footprint. A kitchen, a room with various devices meant for therapeutic purposes, a small living room with a television, three bedrooms with three beds in each, a bathroom with an elevated tub and a laundry just outside the door to your room.

    You split the room in half with a large bookshelf. On one side your bed on the other a couch. You work a split shift. 6-8:30 am and then back 3-9pm. There are three shifts for pairs of assistants. The job is simple. You are responsible for the health, safety and care of nine people who cannot care for themselves. One of them can walk by himself. He constantly roams the house and bite s the back of his hand when anyone approaches him. All the rest are wheelchair bound except one. She is locked in the prison of infancy. An adult by age but only an infant in development. Her body is frozen stiff. She has no flexibility and must sit in a beanbag chair when she is out of her bed. She barely weighs 30 lbs.

    The others are in various stages of development. Some can smile and cry. Some cannot. Some can feed themselves with assistance, some cannot. None can use the bathroom and require changing of diapers. It's an intensive challenging environment. Only one of the residents receives visitors. His mother comes on the weekend. He chews incessantly on his hands so he is fitted with splints that refuse to allow him to chew. He is frustrated by the splints and otherwise appears to be in another world.

    To be an infant or child is a beautiful thing. To be frozen there for life ....what must that feel like. You resolve to maintain their dignity. It's what makes them human and it's the one thing that is always at risk for they have no way to advocate for themselves. It is a lesson that sticks with you long after you leave this place.

    Continued

  7. #67
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    As you go about your daily routine it is inevitable. At the ripe age of 23 you often get the question, "So what do you do?" You get to the point that you know some variance of the following will be said when you tell them...."Wow, I couldn't do that." You don't tell them that you said it to yourself before you committed to doing it. In fact, you're not all that certain that you are doing a very good job at it. Sometimes you catch yourself being frustrated with your inability to interact with them, fighting the feeling that all you are doing is keeping them alive and barely. And there are times when you become angry about having failed at Air Traffic control necessitating this compromise in your plans.

    But within a year you get an appointment to the State Police Academy, your wife moves to a shift position and you make preparations for a 21 week para military training program. The program is modeled after the United States Marine Corp and is the oldest State Police Academy in the nation having been founded in 1905 as a response to violence in coal strikes. It has evolved over time but when you enter it still has remnants of the old school. There was a time when only single men could be Troopers. If you were engaged after being placed in the field, your station commander had to approve of the marriage. Women were not permitted to serve.

    But at the time of your entrance, the department is under mandatory court ordered affirmative action. Minorities and women are highly recruited and given preference over all others. You can't help but feel a sense of pride that no preference has been given you and you have made it the hard way. You earned it. Once in however, you believe each man and woman must prove themselves worthy. You will be pleasantly surprised by some and sorely disappointed by others. You are only allowed to leave every other weekend and only if you are not being disciplined. Many find that difficult....some never get to leave.

    It is the period before cell cell phones are popular. There is only one payphone. You make a call home once a week. Your class is small. Only 48 cadets from the entire pool of applicants. On your leave weekends you make the trip home with a classmate from your home county. It is a five hour drive. You get to know him rather well. What you don't know is that within a few years after graduation, he will be killed in the line of duty. It will not be the first friend to have his name etched in stone on the memorial wall and not the last.

    A cadet does not get to wear the uniform until graduation. Until then it is gray dockers and a button up shirt without a patch or markings accept a nametag. On the first day you are addressed by the Major in charge of the Academy. You don't remember much of the blather but you do keep in mind that whatever personal ego you brought with you....it had to be surrendered at the door. He tells you, "You are a cadet. You are lower than whale shit! Do what you are told to do or you will be out on your ear."

    Laying on your bunk on the first night, the thought crosses your mind...."I am going to have a rough go of it here."

  8. #68
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Twenty one weeks. That seems like a long time when every minute of every day is controlled by someone else. You are examined right down to the dust on the floor beneath your bunk. The bed has to be made a specific way. Your shoes shined to a mirror image. The floor of your room which you share with one other cadet must be stripped and waxed. There are unannounced inspections and the instructors seem to enjoy inventing "gigs" or offenses.

    Perhaps a thread that unravels around a button hole, a crooked nametag or dust in the barrel of your stainless steel Ruger .357 Security-Six revolver. Everyday you march in formation to the range and every day you fire your revolver. That means every night the revolver must be cleaned of all powder burns, fouling and made to be squeaky clean. Just the hint of oil found on the gun will be cause for weekend leave to be revoked.

    It shouldn't be a surprise. After the first day in the "tank". You are all tested to determine your ability to swim. One of your cadet mates is African American and from the inner city of Philadelphia. He stands on the edge of the tank with the rest of your class. The tank seems to be infinitely deep. Everyone is ordered into the tank and told to tread water. He is the only one who remains on the deck. The Corporal is extremely aggitated and orders him in nose to nose. He is so animated he is spitting on the face of the terrified cadet. But the cadet will not budge. He tells the Corporal that the only water he's every been in was from a fire hydrant. That only seems to anger the Corporal even more. The rest of the class is treading water and watching this unfold.

    Suddenly, the Corporal wraps his arms around the cadet and flings him in the water. He disappears immediately to the bottom of the pool. The Corporal orders everyone else out on the deck. By the time the water is clear it has been a couple minutes but it feels like forever. You wonder if he will let the cadet from Philadelphia drown. It seems an impossibly long period of time but eventually the Corporal removes a long sheeps hook from the wall and thrusts it into the water down toward the dark form at the bottom. He pulls it up and the cadet bursts through the surface gasping for air. He is drug onto the deck heaving.

    You later come to learn more about Arnold and are sympathetic to his fear of water and the rural woods. He learns to swim and he eventually graduates but is gone from the department within ten years under less than honorable circumstances.

    You quickly determine that attention to detail seems to be the key to success. Again, the first lesson learned is in the pool. The second test is performing the breast stroke. The Corporal demonstrates. You are standing beside your roommate watching and notice that the Corporal is doing the stroke the wrong way. One by one each cadet gets into the water and performs the breast stroke flawlessly, except Arnold who is standing on the deck. His weekend leave has been revoked permanently until he can learn to swim. He will be having remedial swimming classes when everyone else has gone. But you lean over to your roommate and whisper, "Do it like the Corporal did it." When it is your turn, you do it wrong, just like the Corporal. So does your roommate.

    When everyone is back on the deck, the Corporal announces that everyone's weekend leave is revoked except two. You and your roommate. Attention to detail. Lesson one.

    You return to your room room to prepare for cleaning the stalls of the horses and notice one of the cadets has his belongings packed and sitting outside his room. When you find out why he was dismissed, it amazes you.

  9. #69
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    The last thing you have any use for in this place is money. There are no vending machines and no place to spend it. You can't leave the facility unless of course you quit. And that happens occasionally when someone realizes they aren't cut out for this sort of thing or they can't mentally or physically bear it anymore. The longer training goes, the more connected you become with your cadetmates. So when one of them disappears without their goodbyes, it strikes you as mighty strange and in a brief span of time saddens you. That feeling doesn't last long because you are busy every minute of the day figuring out how you will continue.

    So when more than half the training time has passed and someone leaves, it's a matter of great concern. In this instance, a cadet has chosen to take a five dollar bill from the dresser of his roommate. The act of theft is an automatic dismissal for committing a crime, however petty it may be. It is unbelievable that a person could go through all the steps to get this far and screw it up like that....but it is a lesson. Not everyone is what he/she appears to be. You store that bit of skepticism in the back of your brain and there it grows like a joe pie weed until once in the field you will not trust anyone until they have proven they diserve your trust. That might some day include...even your wife. And your grandma.

    The horses are a throwback to a different time. Perhaps a more raw and dangerous time. The department has a mounted unit that it uses in crowd control, parades and rodeos. The horses are therefore, possessions of great value. A cadet is decidedly not of great value. So you learn early that when they dispatch your class to the barn several times a week, it means the supervisor will be watching you closely and making sure the stalls and horses are cleaned and groomed to perfection.

    It is a stinking dirty job. And a dangerous one. The horses seem to know you are lower than whale shit too. They bite at you when you have your back turned and they kick you when you least expect it. For those cadets who have never been around a horse, it is very unsettling. You learn what a horses dock is and how to clean it. Basically, you wipe their ass.

    Some horses have worse dispositions than others. You learn how to get the point across when the instructor isn't looking, that you aren't to be played with. The horse knows the game but he has a final ace in the hole. Later along the training schedule, you have to ride him. It behooves you to create a working relationship. One of your cadetmates with be kicked in the groin and terribly injured. Somehow he will make it through training and you respect him tremendously for roughing it out. Another will be thrown over a fence from his mount. He is your sparring partner in fight class and he is a semi pro boxer. You yourself will be injured but it will happen in the tank and somehow you will make it through the rest of the training. Immediately after graduation surgery will be required but you'll make it.

  10. #70
    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Taking a time out from the story line. We've had a nice bit of Indian summer and it's relaxing to sit on the porch in the early morning again. My flowers and baskets haven't given up yet and my solar bird bath babbles reassuringly. A humming bird will zip by and occasionally perch in the ornamental cherry right next to my chair. Those little guys are amazing. I wonder if anyone has ever gotten them to feed nectar out of the hand? It's dangerous to keep a hummingbird feeder around here. Last garbage day a black bear went through the neighborhood like a tornado, upsetting cans and spreading garbage all over creation. One can here would be untouched, the next destroyed.

    Anyway, I was thinking about the consumer culture and I think this whole screw up with Equifax is making my brian waves go in a definite direction. My oldest son is financially challenged so we've been brainstorming ways to reduce his monthly budget. He has moved into a trailer where the rent is half what an apartment is but he has to regulate what he spends on heating, cooling, water, sewage, trash removal, transportation and entertainment.

    He is currently with Verizon for cellphone service and plans to move to consumer cellular to save money. Except when he moves he wants to buy a new iPhone on the payment plan and get rid of the iPhone that he has. But it still works! I can't understand this.

    I mean, I can because it's the way our consumer culture markets its products. Apple is a champion at this. But the thing is, here is a guy who is a poster child for needing to live a minimalist life and reduce his consumer profile. He's got child support, rent and a car payment plus utilities and a need to establish a monthly retirement plan. But no, Apple, has dangled the carrot and it keeps him in the consumer circle.

    When I bring this up to him, he says that he plans on working until he is dead. He sees no light at the end of the tunnel. It's like he believes whatever joy he can squeeze out of life now, he better take. So....he wants a new $700 iPhone and he can't afford to pay an attorney to negotiate a visitation order for his daughters relocation several states away.

    I did talk him out of trading in his car which is worth less than the trade in value. At least, he saw the wisdom in running it until it can't be fixed anymore. I seriously believe this easy credit we've adopted has been really bad for the country.

    With th that said, my state just passed a bill to borrow one billion dollars to finance expenditures for this years budget! Oh Boy!

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