Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tripping Over Myself: Self-sufficiency verses Asking for Help

When I went to the Clinics at Jefferson Hospital I was told again and again I must ask for help. The Social Worker called and admonished me for not asking others for help. At the ALS Support Group we were told we must ask for help. Over and over again at church people ask me if I need anything, do I need any help, what can they do for me.

Generally I answer, "No, I'm fine. Thanks for asking, but I really don't need any help."

It was the way I was brought up, how I grew up and how I lived as an adult. You took care of yourself. You didn't ask for charity. You didn't beg, surely. If something needed done, you took care of it yourself. I always did. Sure, if the complexity was beyond my knowledge and skill somebody else would have to do it, but that meant you hired some specialist to come do it for a price. I paid their fee, so I still could say I took care of it myself.

But you know what sins those two things are?

First, that, "I'm okay", is often a lie. It is another thing we were brought up to do. Someone asks, "How are you?" "I'm fine," is the excepted answer. Anything else is whining. People don't want to know your problems.

Second, I was brought up to take care of myself and that was called self-sufficiency. This is honorable up to a point, but you can step across a line where it becomes self-pride.

Makes me think of the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". In a sword fight with King Arthur the Black Knight has both arms cut off, to which he replies, "'Tis but a flesh wound!" The result of this insistence on self-sufficiency is he has both legs chopped off as well.

There is a point you have to concede to the reality of your situation. Metaphorically, I am as limbless as the Black Knight. I have to swallow my pride and admit I need help.

I have had some help. People have brought me things at times and cut my grass occasionally. Right now my next door neighbor cuts my front lawn whenever he mows his own. I am happy, because the front yard is the hardest for me. It has embankments and I have bad balance.  I still cut my back yard. It is larger, but flat, and I can do it, even though it wears me out by the time I finish. I am not sure, though, how well I will do once the hot weather settles in. My wife has been doing lot of trimming back the jungle of bushes that surround us. I've been out doing some, but I last about 15-20 minutes and lose my legs, and feel sick.

I can take care of myself still. I can dress myself, but it is a comedy routine. So is getting out of the bathtub. Jean, a friend, gave me a shower bench, but I enjoy a long bath and will do so as long as I can. The problem is getting out of the tub afterward, we have no hand grips or anything like that. I actually videoed myself getting out after a bath. It's is rather hilarious, but I deleted the film. I mean, funny as it is I could hardly put it on YouTube.

I don't have trouble going to the store for groceries and other stuff. After all, at worse, the cart holds me up. I am losing so much strength now I can't lift anything heavy, and by heavy I mean anything much bigger than a jug of milk. If I get the cat supplies I have a clerk bring the littler and food to my car and ask my daughter to unload it when she is around. I have to ask others to open juice and water bottles. I don't have the strength in my hands to break the seals and turn the caps. I lifted a bottle of V-8 from the bottom of my little refrigerator the other day and could barely get it up to waist high. My hands are so bad I drop a lot of things. It is embarrassing. I still take a morning walk in the park every day, but I have to use a walking stick.

We still cook, but I don't as much. I cook anything and it really fatigues me. Lois gets pretty worn out cooking, too. We can't afford to eat out every night, though, so cook we must. To tell the truth, writing is an effort. I use to sit and type for hours, not I am drowsy in no time and pressing the keys doesn't alway work because of my weak fingers.

One thing is I look pretty normal still, old, but normal. I look capable. I can see the changes in my body, but am not certain other people can pick up on them. I also know I will deteriorate more with each passing month. Therefore, I look at tasks that once I would have done probably with some ease and feel daunted by my uselessness. Lois says she'll do them, but I know some she can't and some I would rather she didn't. She sits and worries, or rather, stays awake all night and worries, because she doesn't think we'll be able to sell the house if the day comes when we must. Here are most of our tasks:

Probably the biggest is the bathroom floor. It looks awful these days. That white tile was supposed to be strong, but in reality it didn't lay well and it chips and breaks easily. There is a layer of tile beneath it I had put down several years ago. Once I was good at doing that. Lois is concerned about the floor beneath. It is a very small bathroom, but may as well be the Taj Mahal to me.

The driveway needs the cracks patched. I did it last year, but I know I can't now. Lois says she'll do it. She has in the past, but things are getting very difficult for her even if she doesn't want to admit. She has already bought the gunk for filling in the cracks.

A number of years ago, Lois tiled the backsplash area, but she never finished this one line down this wall. It is the same with the floor, she didn't run the ceramic tiles beneath the refrigerator. She keeps talking about riping up the current tile and resurfacing the floor. I really am hoping she doesn't she start doing that.
She speaks of taking up the carpet we laid the other year and refinishing the hardwood floors, and they do need such work, but I can't imagine us accomplishing that anymore.

The kitchen faucet drips, has for years now. I asked a plumber who was here one day about fixing it. He said it would cost $600. I can't afford that, so I have let it drip. There was a time when you would unscrew the end and replace the washer and drip stopped. These are waterless spigots. Isn't modern technology wonderful? $600 to fix a small drip.

Anyway, enough moaning about my little annoyances.I don't want to be a whiner, but I do have to admit I need help.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mystery of the Suspicious Packets: A Frank March Adventure

It's been a while since I reported on any of my cases, quite a while; years I think. Here is a recent mystery. I was hiking about in Rockford Museum Park, a regular morning routine, when I noticed beneath a stone bench some kind of packet tucked back in the showdown of the support stone. He, I though, someone forgot their lunch. But on reflection I figured someone sat there, ate their meal and hid the refuge beneath the bench.

A litterbug!

I continued on. This was the Northern Delaware Freeway Trail that ran from the Brandywine Creek State Park through Alapocas, Rockford, Rockwood, Bringhurst Woods, Bellevue and Fox Point State Park. Where I saw the packet was the beginning of the long and winding hill, up into the woods and to the highest point within these grounds.

At the top I turned right onto a dirt trail up to that very highest point where a gazebo sat overlooking the
Southern vista. There, to the rear near the gazebo seating, was another packet. These consisted of a plastic storage box, one of those you might stick a sandwich in. The top sealed down very tightly. This, in turn, was inside a clear ZipLoc bag.

Since this was not so tucked away I could take a closer look. You could see through the baggie right on through the lid of the box. Inside were two vials, similar to those you are given with your prescription pills. There were no pills here. The contents inside the vials appeared to be a white powder. Ut oh!

What in the world was the purpose of these packets and was there something nefarious in the works.

I went down the steep side of the hill and eventually wound my way around into the Kitchen Garden behind the Carriage House. This area is surrounded by a stone wall. To one side are trees with thick drooping branches, evergreens of some sort, that form a canopy. They sometimes hold weddings in this courtyard and the bride will enter from beneath this canopy, so obviously you can walk beneath the branches. It is much like walking through a cave. In the center inside there is another bench. I walked through the tunnel of nettled branches and stopped to stare at two more of these mysterious packets under that bench, one to each side.

I went to the Mansion and saw the lights were on in the upstairs office. I rang the doorbell. Shorty a man came down and opened the door. His name was Phillip. He was the Park Director. I inquired if he knew anything about these packets. He did not.

I wrote about these discoveries later on Facebook.

I received several comments all advising me to contact the police.

I emailed the New Castle County Police, enclosing the photos I had taken of the various packets. Next morning I received an email in return. It informed me my original notice and pictures was being given to an officer. It then spend some time telling me I should have phoned the police rather than send an email.  I though an email was more effective since I could include photos. Oh, well.

I then got a phone call from this same police contact, who spent more time telling me I should have called rather than emailed. I'm sorry. She said I would hear from an officer. I heard from a Police Sargent about two hours later. He asked several questions.

"Are you at the park now?"
"No, I'm home. But the packets are still there. They have been there two days. I actually found another one this morning. It is down on the porch of what is called the Porter Lodge."

"Did you collect the packets?" he asked.
"No," I said, "I wasn't touching those things."

He paused as if forming his next question, which was, "Is the Park Direct there?"
"No," I said. "I'm home. He is probably in the park. But I spoke with him and he knew nothing about them."
"Okay, I'm going to drive over to the park and talk to the Director."
"Fine, but he doesn't know anything. The easiest one to find is at the Porter Lodge." I figured the cop could stop on his way in, he would have to drive past where the Porter Lodge was in order to get up the hill to the office.

The next morning all the packets were still in place, except the one on the stone bench was pulled out from underneath partway. As I went on the route about the paths and drives I saw the Manager of the Carriage House arrived just as I was about to leave. I hurried across the lot to speak to her, leaving my walking stick behind in the car, which meant I really didn't hurry very fast. Still I caught her.

Her name is Barbara, but it turned out she knew nothing of the packets either. She said she would call the police, but I told her I had already done so and also reported them to the Park director. Barbara said she would follow up with the police. My goodness, we are getting quite involved here and still don't know what these mysterious packets are. Or what was in the vials each packet contained.

The next day, no change, except the Stone Bench packet was now on top of the bench. Another day passed and the packed was again tucked in the showdown beneath the bench.

On the next day, this packet and the one in the Gazebo were gone, but the two under the tree canopy remained, only one was outside the bench and both had been flipped over.

Now on what, the seventh or eighth day, all the packets had disappeared as strangely as they had appeared. I still had no clue to what they were for. This was driving me crazy. I hate not knowing. Especially, since on the next day after they all went away, they came back.

However, the content was different. There were no vials. Instead they contained a rock and paper. I looked closely at the one on the stone bench. Yes, this packet was atop the bench, not under it. The paper inside looked very much like folded up money. The ploy thickens or the mystery deepens or some such saying.

Okay, so this morning, after over a week of mysterious packets, all were gone, except one. That's right, there was a packet sitting atop that blasted stone bench where all this first began for me. I sat down next to it and opened it up. I had a great deal of difficulty opening the lid of the box inside the ZipLoc bag, but persisted. Inside beneath a rock were the cut up pieces of a photograph, but no money. There was also a piece of paper. Typed upon this strip was, "Mr. Salisbury once lived here."

Mr. Salisbury had been Joseph Shipley's gardener and when the wealthy merchant banker retired and built Rockwood, he brought Salisbury with him as his landscaper. But the cut up photograph was of the Porter Lodge, not the Gardener's Cottage. At any rate, I tucked everything back away and left it where it was.

The mystery was about to unfold.

Up at the high point, within the Gazebo was no packet found this morning; however, the rock that had been in the second set of boxes was there as was a long strip of paper it had contained.

Those were direction that took one from this gazebo down to that infamous stone bench.

I ran into the Park Director as he arrived this morning and asked him if they had found out what the packets were. He told me, "Yes. The police were out to investigate. They checked out each site."

So what were they?

There had been some organization that held a scavenger hunt for children this past weekend. They had planted the original packets as a test run. Nobody informed any authority at the park. It was just a harmless game. Still, I was thanked. I did the right thing on seeing suspicious packets laying about. It could have been something no good. Never be afraid to report strange packages or odd behavior, especially in our current age. Risk the embarrassment of looking a fool, better that that a tragedy or crime because you ignored such things.

Case closed on the Mystery of the Suspicious Packets.