Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tribute to my Uncle Leland

They buried my Uncle Leland Walsh two days ago.

He was 100 years old.

Had led a good, fulfilling life as a member of “the Greatest Generation.” That’s what noted journalist Tom Brokaw has written of those—such as my Uncle Leland—who endured the tribulations of the Great Depression and then gone on to selflessly serve our country in World War II.

Leland Walsh was my dad’s sister’s first husband. Dad always liked visiting him at his residence in the Stoney Creek community of Carter County, Tenn.

“Come back. Don’t stay away so long,” I can still hear Uncle Leland saying as we’d head up for home.

Uncle Leland loved for people to visit him. He loved his family. He had long been divorced from his first wife—Novella Timbs Peters (who passed away late last year)—and he had remarried.

But he never forgot my “Aunt Vell”; and I’ve heard tell that he still loved her after all those years of being remarried and then losing beloved second wife Ethel to death.

As recently as a few years ago, after he’d lost Ethel, Uncle Leland wanted one last kiss and hug from Aunt Vell. I urged her to go up to Stoney Creek and give it to him.

She never would do it.

At his graveside service Friday morning—at a pastoral cemetery in rural Butler, Tenn.—Brent Nidiffer, minister, recalled how Uncle Leland had been a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served as an elder in his church.

He always put his faith and family foremost in his life.

A gentle mountain breeze caressed the little cemetery where Uncle Leland’s flag-draped coffin was laid to rest. It happened under a cloudy sky that threatened rain. But the rain held off.

A military honors color guard stood at attention, then fired three shots into the air.

A crisply dressed U.S. Marine corps private sacredly and carefully folded the flag and presented it to my first cousin Larry Walsh “on behalf of the president of the United States.”

The graveside service—simple but profound—ended with a solemn prayer—thanking the Lord for Leland Walsh’s life and requesting comfort for Uncle Leland’s grieving family and friends.

Farewell, Uncle Leland (pictured as a strapping young man with this blog post).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ode to Andy

This is a remembrance for Andy.

He was an adorable bichon frise who touched a lot of lives.

Brought love and playfulness and joy to everyone he came in contact with.

He died from cancer—leaving his owners and many others broken hearted.

I didn’t know you, Andy, but I’ve heard you were a great little dog.

Being a bichon, you were a step above a dog.

I can attest to that because I have my own bichon frise—Michael Jackson.

From your picture, you remind me of him.

Smart, always up for a snack or a squeeze toy or cuddling from a human. Not exactly the most sociable with other dogs but seemingly always comfortable in the company of people.

Can’t stand the thought of losing my Michael Jackson, as I’m sure your owners could hardly bear losing you.

Must have been one of the saddest days in the world when Andy, who lived in Georgia, passed.

Tears and hugging and prayers, I’m sure.

And guess what else?

There Andy was—gloriously up in the sky—the day the little guy died.

As if he were on his way to Dog Heaven.

Andy’s pictures and moving likeness of his shape in the clouds appear with this blog post.

So long, Andy—the dog I never met.

But surely the dog that will never be forgotten.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Close call at the veterans hospital

Close, as they say, only counts in three things: horseshoes, hand grenades and dancin’.

Now there’s a fourth.

Making a phone call in the hot, unbearable sun on a bench at the entrance of the Mountain Home VAMC in Johnson City.

Right out of nowhere, in the middle of my phone conversation a couple of days ago with my co-author and friend Michael Manuel, I blacked out.

As in fainted.

Lost consciousness.

Entered into another dimension of nothingness that I never ever want to visit again.

It happened a bit after 2 in the afternoon—after I’d had glowing reports from the doctors at both my appointments earlier in the day.

I’m thinking I’ve got the rest of the day free. I’m going to split this popsicle (leave the premises and get on to my car and do whatever).

I’d had a good lunch.

Felt good. Looked good (I think). Acted good (hard for me but I tried).

Then that phone call before leaving the hospital.

I went outside to the front entrance of the building for a better signal.

I’m talking. Jawboning with Mike. Swapping lies. Sharing whatever other mindless stuff you share on a cell phone.

Had been chatting for about 15 or 20 minutes. It was hot outside—really hot. In the low 90s, I’d say. But I was in quasi shade about 40 feet from the front door of the building.

And then my world and mind went blank.

For how long?

Not sure but might have been 5-10 minutes.

Then I “came to”— dioriented and dizzy and scared, my world spinning, my legs rubbery and wobbly.

I got my bearings, barely, and staggered back into the air-conditioned hospital. Tried to walk, but couldn’t. Sat back down. Tried again. Clutched anything I could get my hands on while I moved. But then gave up and plopped back down.

Saw a nurse and asked for a wheelchair so I could make it back to the far end of the building to valet parking.

But she wasn’t game. Told me there was no way she’d let me drive.

Found me a wheelchair and rolled me to the ER.

Man, they work fast and efficiently and professionally in the Mountain Home VAMC ER! No messing around. They took me right in. Asked me dozens of questions. Connected me to wires and computers and all the rest of the stuff they tether you do when you’re in crisis.

Read me my “rights”—sort of.

Doc: “If your heart stops, do you want to be revived?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Doc: “Do you want us to do chest compressions and intubate you or whatever else we need to do to get you breathing.”

Me: “Yes.”

Doc: “Do you have a living will?”

Me: “Yes, I have an advanced directive on file here.”

Hours later, they still didn’t know what had happened.

The suspected gremlins: dehydration, a reaction to one of my heart medications, a pesky UTI (which they discovered while I was in the ER).

And then—on the day that had started out so well—I was admitted to the hospital.

To a part of the place called C-1.

Wow, did they ever pamper me!

By “they,” I mean primarily the nurses on C-1—Renee, Jackie, Amy, Felicia.

Angels all of them. (I love my veterans pajamas).

Didn’t stay on C-1 very long. Got discharged the next day. And they still don’t know for sure (my opinion) why I blacked out.

But if you’re going to go dark, what better place than a big VA hospital?

Thank you again to the docs, nurses, my family and to everyone else who helped me.

I’m glad I’m a veteran. An old USAF veteran but still one who got exceptional treatment at the Mountain Home VAMC.

Y’all are the best!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Never, ever give your best friend Tylenol!

Many of you at the Johnson City Dogpark have noticed my beloved bichon frise Michael Jackson.

That’s him—with his brother Joe (my sheltie)—in the photo with this blog post.

(We named him Michael Jackson because we got him eight years ago on the day the King of Pop died.)

He’s 27 pounds of adorable, romping, playful fur.

One person recently told me a bichon is a “step above a dog.”

Well put.

But I almost killed Michael Jackson two nights ago.

He had a fever in the middle of the night—about 1 a.m.—and I gave him a 500 milligram crushed tablet of Tylenol in a spoonful of peanut butter. Actually forced him to swallow it cause he was so warm.

For whatever reason, my wife Patsy awakened about one hour later and decided to Google “dogs and Tylenol.”

We were shocked and horrified to discover that Tylenol is extremely deadly toxic for canines!

So we got dressed, scooped little MJ up into our arms and hurried to Robinson Emergency Animal Hospital.

Yes, we were told, our bichon frise could have died.

Yes, a dog that ingests Tylenol can suffer massive kidney and liver damage.

Yes, “Jackson” (as we call him) needed to be hospitalized, medicated and put on an immediate IV.

Two days, a lot of anguish and several hundred dollars later, our beloved dog is back home and doing pretty well. He’s not 100 percent back to his old self but we hope he’s getting there.

Moral of the story: Never give your dog Tylenol.

A friend, a regular at the dogpark, also told me yesterday that grapes or raisins or dark chocolate can also be deadly for a dog.

So be careful—fellow dog lovers—what your pet swallows.

Dogs don’t always benefit from what helps us humans.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Secrets to the Airstream

About our 1969 Airstream Tradewind:

Setup: Unhitch trailer. Unhook 2-inch ball. Crank up jack. Note the level bubble on side of trailer. Bubble should be in middle if trailer is level. Also note level bubble above propane tanks near tongue of trailer. Everything level? If so, apply screw jacks to back bumper and tongue. No need to put jacks under frame. Level blocks go under tires if they are needed.

Leveling trailer important for the A/C and refrigerator.

First thing to do is connect to electricity. Pigtail cord is stored in back bumper. Plug cord into campground outlet. Might have to buy an adapter to fit RV outlet.

Trailer has a 30-amp breaker located in bathroom oak cabinet; has its own little gray box. This 1 breaker will cut all 120-volt power to whole trailer.

From 30-amp breaker, power feeds to front of trailer to cabinet on R side of control center (above bed). Grey box has 3 breakers. 1 breaker is dedicated to A/C. Other breakers run electrical outlets on right side of trailer and left side of trailer. Also one of the breakers supplies power to the power converter.

When 120-volt power is one and converter is on, converter is supplying power to lights and charging battery and radio up front.

2 small fuses located next to converter (in panel on side of trailer and near back of trailer). Each is 30 amp.

When hooked up to 120-volt power, this supplies power to A/C and all receptacles (outlets).

The 120-volts goes to converter, which breaks it down to 12 volts. All lighting in camper and radio is 12-volt. If lights go dim, something wrong w converter; check fuses.

Hook up water hose. 2 water sources on trailer. Water source from campground is shore water. Hook up water hose to back rear of trailer. (Put water filter between hose and hookup location, located on lower part of fram on back L side.

Then open back hatch (compartment that has battery). On L side is an orange orange valve. If lever is vertical, it’s off. To turn valve on, lever will be horizontal; this releases water into trailer. Pressure gauge is to right of orange lever; pressure reducer valve is set for 50 psi.

Water not flowing. Test it. Make sure water pump in center control panel in front of trailer (above bed) is off. The button for this is the 3rd button from L. It’s the only button that has an old label marker. Turn button on if we want to use water from fresh water tank.

Check hot water heater. See monitor in bathroom on wall to R. If red light is on, power is on to hot water heater. If light not on, go outside and open hot water heater door (rear side of trailer) and see on/off switch. Turn switch on if red light inside trailer is off.

Rear bumper. Open compartment for storing sewer line. Look for RV sewer hookup. Hook one end of sewer hose to RV sewer intake; hook other end of sewer hose to trailer. Once that is locked into place, open the black (sewer) holding tank on trailer. Do this by opening central compartment rear door. To lower L side, see a black T handle. Don’t pull out; pull up! This releases door for sewer wast to travel from black holding tank of trailer to campground septic tank. (Be sure to put freshener in black tank of trailer).

Fresh water tank: will water in this tank go stale? Combat this by adding freshener to fresh water tank. Maybe add a tablet or 2 of freshener.

On R side of battery compartment, there’s a fuse panel. Has little glass round fuses in it (30 amp round fuses). Some of the fuses are rectangular with 2 little prongs at their base; others are little cylindrical fuses) Buy some extra fuses just in case.

Radio is 12 volts. Has a removable face on front. Make sure radio is off. If radio is on, it’s drawing power from battery.

SRC is the source button on radio. Hold SRC button down to turn radio off. Also has buttons for seek/tune to change channels.

There’s an ejectable face on radio. Lower R hand black button. Push button in to eject the face. Radio face pops out and kills power to radio lights.

2 propane tanks. Between tanks is regulator. Has a black switch (little lever) that regulates gas from 1 tank to the other. Keep tank knobs turned on.

Drain system for winterizing Main water drain is in closet to R of hot water heater. (See 2 valves). There’s also a drain for fresh water tank—located in little box next to head of bed.

Buy a fire extinguisher!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Farewell to Crawford Alexander

We buried my brother-in-law yesterday.

His name was Crawford Alexander.

He was 68.

Same age as me.

His name was Crawford. Same name as my son.

He had two daughters. Same as me.

He loved journalism—same as me. He was a prolific reader of the local newspaper. He read every single word—from the front page to the back page. Because he read so much he was always INFORMED and SMART about what happened in his community and the rest of the world. Nothing took him by surprise.

Years ago, Crawford had worked and lived in Charlotte, N.C.—same as me.

He loved dogs—same as me. For a long time he and his beloved old labrador retriever “Bill” were best friends. Did he ever love that dog! He talked about Bill and even reminisced fondly about Bill’s granddaddy.

He died Wednesday shortly after I visited him in ICU at the Johnson City Medical Center.

He had become ill earlier that day. So ill and weak that my sister Cheryl called 911.

They rushed him to the hospital in an ambulance and tried desperately to save him.

But to no avail.

He departed this world late Wednesday night.

We are all still in shock. Stunned. Baffled.

Because Crawford was always the strong one—the one our family called upon to lift, move, haul or do the heavy (sometimes backbreaking, unseemly) work of taking care of our parents when they became hill.

Who you gonna call?

It was always Crawford.

My sister shared with me that when he suddently fell ill—after being so healthy and strong and vibrant all his life—Crawford asked her “What happened to me?”

“I don’t know, honey,” (or words to that effect) she responded through tears.

Today, one day after his funeral service—where his coffin was wrapped in an American flag—we are all asking why. Why Crawford? Why at this time? Why did he have to die? Surely he had 10, 20, maybe even 30 more years or longer left to live… (After all, his father lived to be 94).

When my sister Cheryl asked me to say a few words at where we laid Crawford to rest, I tried to think of a song that would define their marriage.

For they had been together only a few short years—after tying the knot, as I recall, in Boone, N.C.

But WAY, WAY, WAY before that, Cheryl and Crawford had been sweethearts as teenagers.

Then life happened. They followed separate paths. Had gotten married to someone else and then divorced.

And then, just a few years ago, found each other again.

The romance was rekindled. They were happy as two love birds who’d somehow bumped into each other after decades of being apart.

Suddenly they were chirping and flapping their wings joyously and soaring high. Taking trips together, taking care of a household together, dreaming together, building and remodeling together, making a blended family work, leaning on each other.

And, most importantly, loving each other.

Ok, back to that song I mentioned earlier. I recited a few lines of it yesterday at Crawford’s service. It’s by Johnny Cash and June Carter. Here tis:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom's Day

Mom, I know you left this world in July 2013. But you are still with me.

You were there that very first breath I took.

I was with you the day you died.

And so many, many years in between.

You were the best mom in the world!

Loving, kind, sweet, gentle, giving, selfless.

I heard a sermon today. Minister says Mother's Day is joyous. But it's also painful for some.

Yes, I hurt that you're gone.

But I'm still forever grateful and honored you were my mom.

Happy Mother's Day 2017, Mom!

(With this blog post are a few photos. The single is of my mom--Dixie Nadine Jenkins Timbs. The group shot, from left, consists of some other wonderful moms: Elizabeth Timbs Sherling, Nell McQueen (not a mom but still one of my favorite aunts of all time); my mom; Dorothy Timbs Yeung.)

And here's a video showing Mom in her younger years.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Beard net

Saw something yesterday at a pizza place I'd never, ever seen before. (And I thought I'd seen it all!)

A man behind the counter--obviously in charge cause he was handling the money and barking orders to his fellow employees working the dough, sauce and ovens--had a hairnet on his beard.

I learned later that evening that he was actually wearing a "beard net."

Who knew?!

Did that person really say this?

A neighbor told me she recently visited a restaurant in Johnson City, Tenn., called The Mediterranean.

One of the servers there shared this startling tidbit with her.

"A customer asked me what my ancestry was and I said Muslim."

"Are you a terrorist," the man asked the young Muslim woman.

"No," she said, keeping a lid on her anger. "Are you a member of the KKK?"

Way to go, Muslim server woman!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Remembering a friend

Lost a good friend a few days ago.

Rod Balch, only 59, died after a short stay in the hospital.

We were shocked and heartsick. We all loved him.

By "We," I mean all of us steadfast members of the Johnson City Dog Park.

His dog, his best four-legged friend, is a frisky bull-terrier named "Tara."

Tara will be lost and sad now, as Rod brought her to the dogpark just about every day.

Good man, this jolly, upbeat soul, Rod Balch.

One memory of him I'll take with me to my grave: When I retired from teaching in South Carolina and moved to Johnson City a few years ago, I knew not one single person here.

But I had heard about this place called "the dogpark" at Willow Springs Park--not far from where I live.

So off I went to the dogpark with my sheltie Joe and my bichon Jackson. My dogs and I entered the card-coded gate, and there on a metal bench sat Rod Balch. As happy and content as you please. He was petting his dog, as I recall, and basking in the warm mountain sunshine.

Rod, who apparently had never met a stranger (at least not for long), smiled and asked who I was and where I'd moved from.

That's the way it started.

I instantly liked him.

And just about every time I re-visited the dogpark over the last few years, Rod Balch and Tara were there.

Like a steady, friendly, outgoing presence--always up for conversation, a laugh or two and a few tidbits of news.

Farewell, Rod Balch. You were the best ambassador Johnson City ever had.

We will never forget you. And if any of your family reads this blog post and needs someone to take Tara to the dogpark, point them in my direction. I'll gladly take care of your beloved canine.

Photo of Rod and Tara taken from the Johnson City Press.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Revisiting my blog

Cannot believe it's been a few months since I've posted anything on Carolina Magic. No, I haven't forsaken by blogging, but I've gotten a bit distracted.

By Twitter.

Yes, I'm now tweeting.

I like to think of my tweets as bursts of insight about whatever or whoever.

So find me on Twitter if you're curious about what I'm writing about these days.

But also don't neglect to see if I've revisited Carolina Magic.

Because life is more complicated than trying to boil it down to 140 characters or less.

Happy 2017!