Monthly Archives: August 2010

3 Bikes With Banana Seats

Stingray Bike with Banana Seat!

As a kid, there is usually one Christmas that stands out from all the others.  For me and my sisters – it has to be the Christmas we all got new bicycles.  We did not get just any bikes, we received banana seat bikes.  We grew up typical lower middle class, for all three kids to get new bikes at one Christmas was a BIG deal!!

Red Banana Seat Bike

One advantage we had growing up was that we had no concept of money.  Dad worked hard and my mom was a 70s stay-at-home Mom.  We lived in rural Mississippi.  We had no idea what asking for 3 bikes meant financially, Santa made them with elves for free.  Hearing about Dad’s depression era tales & adventures of walking to school 10 miles in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways, then picking cotton until bedtime; we thought we were rich by contrast.  As a kid I did not question why it snowed in the south during the depression and no longer snowed here or even how it was uphill both ways.  I got the point, he grew up in tough times.

To keep us in our world of innocence, Mom & Dad made sure we always had great Christmases.  Earlier that same year Dad had even had Christmas in July getting himself a new truck (actually a truck that was new to him).  As we rode our bikes at Christmas, we did not notice the absence of Dad’s new truck.  Actually it was not until I was an upper teen that I learned that my Dad sold his new truck, bought an older one to use the money to buy us the bikes we wanted.

As kids, we never knew how close we were to being poor.  Many of my bad financial decisions in life may be a result of that protection from reality when I was young.  Mom and Dad never complained or discussed money in front of us and Christmas was a time they did whatever they needed to make it the best time of year for us.

If you notice on the photos…there are no gear shifts.  The banana seat bikes had on 2 gears – right leg and left leg.  A few months later Dad even upgraded my bike to have the higher back rail.  I am sure it had a much cooler name than high back rail.  My thin swimmers build body was not a result of swimming, it was the result of pedaling that bike up and down every hill within probably 3 miles of the house many, many times.

Knowing now how Dad sacrificed so much for us makes those memories even more exceptional. Mom and Dad made all Christmases special, but it will be hard to top the Christmas with 3 banana seat bikes.

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Yes! There Is Something You Can Do!

Dad & Thomas August 2010

Since we were told that Dad has only precious time left, many have said, “Just let me know if there is anything I can do.”  Great words to hear and we say, “hanks, we will let you know.”  But we never ask, well I have not asked …. until NOW.  I want to see how many people really want to do something to help us.

One problem Dad has…. he knows he is dying.  In the few moments of clarity, he worries not about dying, but Mom.  If anyone has dealt with someone with dementia, you will understand.  Dad gets something in his mind and he frustrates himself worrying about it.  He only has 25% use of his lungs combined with the dementia.  He amazes me because he does not worry about himself, he worries about us taking care of him, what will happen with Mom when he is gone, who will really look out for his kids and grandkids when he is gone.  Most of this he worried about silently, now he talks to us about it.

The Barn 1

One thing he worries about is our barn.  He keeps saying, “I always meant to get it cleaned up.” , or “I thought I had time to do that later.” or “How will Mom mange it.”  I have MS (Multiple Sclerosis), my sister Darlene has had 6 surgeries on her left knee and one on her right knee and Mom is a 74 year-old Southern Belle.  Add us together…. we are worth 1/2 of one healthy person.  I am going to ask if anyone in the Pike county area is willing to help clean up around the barn?  Is there something you can do…yes, help us eliminate one of Dad’s concerns – the barn.  It is a bigger task than Darlene and I can tackle and we need help.

First Loads

We have gotten a start. But it has hardly put a dent in the project. Using a borrowed tuck even to get this far.  Other than a willingness to help we could also use some equipment: chain saw, heavy-duty mower, and maybe even someone with a Bocat would be great to assist.  Our perfect solution would be just to hire it done, but that is not an option.

Once this project is complete, we should be able maintain it.  It is just a bigger project than we can tackle alone and cannot afford to pay for help.  We need the efforts of our community.

There are sheets of tin, lumber, fence post and many other items that if there is something someone can use, they are welcome to take it with them.  There are well more than 3,000 boxes containing 24 plastic clothes hangers in each box and maybe 500 boxes with 144 hangers in each box.  So anyone needing clothes hangers…. we can help you out.   Actually, we will be paying with clothes hangers!! lol

There is a lot of scrap metal. My idea since we cannot pay people for helping; is to use any money from selling the scrap metal to have a meal (party) for all the helpers.  If we can get good money for the scrap… maybe even something to drink as well.

We can accept our status as rednecks or even charity cases, but Dad is worried of us being perceived as “white trash”.  With Dad’s condition… we can tell him just about anything and he will accept it.  We could tell him everything will be ok, it is taken care of.  I prefer to tell him it will be taken care of and it is the truth.  We could let things just grow up and overtake the barn because we no longer farm and really do not “need” the barn… but the close proximity to the house helps us understand why Dad is worried about this.

Home with Barn in Background.

I hope this experiment surprises me!  Just in saying I was going to write about this, I have a commitment from one strong back.  With a lot of help – think  how much easier and faster this project will be.  If you are interested, let me know via e-mail,  or facebook.  once I see what size crew we have… we will try our best to schedule at a time best for the majority.  If you are not able to physically help – there is always the paypal donation button!! lol  But the fellowship with friends and neighbors will be even better!  😉  Thanks for reading.

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I’m A Writer?

Me - July 4, 2010

Does writing  a blog make me a writer?  In a technical sense – yes! I am writing – therefore I am a writer.  But my mother writes checks and does not consider herself a writer. lol  I think the key for me to be considered a “real” writer will be to have readers.  My intent is for someone to enjoy what I am writing.  Maybe one day when I also get money for writing I will move from being a writer to – author.

Now, are my writing skills perfect – NO!  My high school English teacher, Debbie Wilson, would be ashamed of my poor grammar!  But even William Faulkner pushed the boundaries of proper use of grammar.  I am trying to express myself, not pass a course.  As I experiment with blogging, I hope to improve my skills.  But friends and fans reading the blogs will push me to improve.

To explain again my 2 blogs – This one, Thomas Johnston, is my personal blog.  Here I will write about whatever crosses my mind – love, broken-hearts, politics, movies, music, memories… just about anything.  The other blog, Tomass Gringo is to tell a story…. a gay story and targets my gay readers.  The main character -Tomass- based  very loosely on me and will have more adventures and yes even sexual adventures that the real Thomas does not!  Always keep in mind – Tomass is not real and is only a character.  lol

I have a new “page” on facebook strictly for the Thomas Johnston blog .  I sent invitations to all of my friend list but it can be found by searching Thomas Johnston and there will be a small “author” under my name.  Click like and you will get updates about my blog there.  The Tomass Gringo (gay) blog will be linked to the Tomass Gringo fan page on facebook.   Just search Tomass Gringo and you can also join the fan page.  People who enjoy my writing and encourage me to continue can join either or both pages to receive updates about the blogs!

Anyone can follow me on twitter now also – thomasajohnston .

I encourage feedback on both from anyone!  There is also a “donate” link through paypal for anyone that wants to encourage me that way!! 😉

Most of all – I hope you enjoy!!

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The Shell of Man

Most of the Fam Eating Out

“If you want to see your Dad alive, come home as fast as you can.”  is the call my sisters and I  received at the end of June.  We were all in South America. My sisters were in Brazil, and I was in Medellin, Colombia.  My sister’s were already scheduled t take the red-eye that night, but I went into high-gear changing my flights.  The trip home for me was hellish, not just for the reason I was traveling, but truly a horrible travel experience.  Dad was alive when we arrived, but all that was there was the shell of a man we once called Daddy (pronounced Deady).

For over two years Dad has battled with breathing because of Asbestosis from exposure to asbestos when he worked for the federal government.  This condition also made him susceptible to pneumonia.   For the last two years, he had been hospitalized several times because of pneumonia.  When I found out why Mom & Dad were not answering the phone, because he was in the hospital with pneumonia, my thoughts were “No big deal, I will be home in 6 days anyway.”  For Dad getting pneumonia was like anyone else getting a cold.  He would go into the hospital, have a round of antibiotics and go home in a few days.

With all three of her kids, her son-in-law, and one granddaughter out of the country along with the other granddaughter living out-of-town; Mom was alone with only Trace, my nephew, to deal with this situation.  My father has a living will and Mom had already had to invoke that to prevent him from being put on a ventilator.  Dad said his good byes to Mom and to Trace.  The last I talked with him before his condition changed so drastically, I told him I would be home in 1 week and he said, “I hope I am still here that long.”  That is the night things went downhill.  We were called to get home A.S.A.P.!

Traveling with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) is difficult enough….but this was my travel agenda home: Bogotá, Colombia to Medellin, Colombia; Medellin to Barranquilla, Colombia; Barranquilla to Fort Lauderdale, FL; Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta, GA; Atlanta airport was closed due to weather so we landed in Augusta, GA to refuel; then Augusta to Atlanta; FINALLY Atlanta to New Orleans, LA.  With little time to prepare, this was one of the most difficult traveling experiences I have had.  The airlines were a big assistance for me.  Once I arrived in New Orleans, I had to wait more than 2 hours for my ride to arrive.  Then the 1.5 hour car ride home.  I was only able to see Dad for a moment before I fell into a coma in my old bedroom at home.  For days I was physically paying a hefty price.  The actual financial cost of changing my flight was higher than the original purchase price and as noted involved more connections.

The doctors explained that he now had only 25% use of his lungs, but was stable.  They said he could live 2 weeks, 2 months or more than 2 years…. there was no way to tell.  But to complicate matters, he had developed dementia.  The night things turned, he wandered out of the hospital and was trying to get into their car (yes he had found the right car).  The doctors were amazed he had the strength and ability to do that.  When security brought him back, Mom asked, “Where were you going?”  He replied, “Tommy (my childhood nickname) is trying to get home, so I was just going to pick him up.”  His confusion continued and they began treating him with psychotropic drugs.  The doctors did not consult with one another and we left the hospital with him (moving him to a swing bed unit) on 3 different psychotropic drugs.  We were so exhausted, and trusting the doctors had not paid attention to this.  At the swing bed unit, another doctor added another psychotropic drug.

He was not sleeping at all at night and we were taking turns staying the night with him.  My MS limited how much good I was, but I did my best.  He wanted to go to Homecoming at church.  They allowed us to check him out. We came by the house and he fell asleep in his recliner.  We checked him out permanently from the swing bed unit.  The next day we took him to the hospital in Jackson where he stayed for 4 days while they ran test.  They determined the biggest problem was the four psychotropic drugs.  We left the hospital with no drugs except for one to help him sleep.  Which also helped us also get much need rest.

Now, we function day-to-day with Dad not even recognizing he is at home , knowing what day it is, asking where his bedroom is (this is the same house he grew up in), and sometimes not recognising who we are.  He mind is good for moments, but it is only briefly.  I have heard the horror stories, of parents becoming the children and now we are living it.  He is an elderly child.  Sweet and innocent at times mixed with aggravation and frustration because he does not understand what is going on.  Sadly, sometimes combative.  He sits in his recliner looking lifeless, the shell of the once strong, powerful, active man, I call Dad.

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Getting Back Into Action

I apologize to anyone that has been looking for new content on my blog.  But as blogging goes… I really do not know who (if anyone) is reading my blogs; therefore I do not know if ANYONE has even noticed I had taken a break.  While I may have taken a little more than a month off from blogging, it has been far from a vacation.  Look for blogs about my Dad and his health, traveling home, life in Bogota as well as life back home in the U.S.  While my official residence is still Las Vegas – Summit, Mississippi has become a very long layover on a very long experience.  I now have high speed internet here so, I am out of excuses not to get back into action and blog.

My dream is to know that people are reading this and sharing my thoughts matters to people or even someone.  That expressing myself may even entertain someone.  So for anyone that has been looking for new blogs… they are on the way.

Categories: Life | 2 Comments

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