Archive for the ‘MARRIAGE, FAMILY, AND LIFE IN GENERAL’ Category


It is 5 PM, Saturday, with time on my hands. It has been the kind of day that I have come to dread – too much time to think. Unless I actively think of something else, my thoughts turn to Patty  and the downward spiral begins anew. I am thinking of her now and it hurts me in ways that I could never have imagined before her death. The feeling of loneliness is sometimes overwhelming and fighting against it seems futile to me  – but I am trying my best as I write this. I wonder if I will ever be able to think of our life together without feeling so sad because it has ended. These feelings are made all the worse for me because of my inability to set aside my strong beliefs that the death of a person is the absolute end for that person and as a consequence, no afterlife is possible. I must accept that Patty is just gone – forever. I believe that, but I have not yet accepted it. I do not think I ever will. The hole in my heart is just too large to heal in my lifetime.




I saw a neurologist, new to me, yesterday morning and I am much encouraged by the interaction between us. No, he does not have a cure for Parkinson’s disease, but he does have what I am seeking; the knowledge of the application of my DBS to my particular situation and, most importantly, the communication skills to make me a better informed Parkinson’s patient. I expect good things from our joint venture.

Yesterday evening, I attended the first meeting of the grief support group that I have signed on to for the next nine weeks. We spent the time telling our “grief” stories. All that passes between ourselves is considered confidential and I will respect that and the only comment I will make is that I believe I have the easiest “row to hoe”, over the next nine weeks. I was very touched by what I heard and I am doubly thankful for the love and support shown to me by my family.

My son came in from Lancaster today and we went shopping for a piece of brass from which we will fabricate a new valve for the big Lunkenheimer shop whistle that we are working on. We also priced a new 1/8 NPS tap and the asking price was $43.00 plus tax. We passed! I will borrow one from the vast numbers of new and old taps at the museum. My son needs one for the repair of the “Trial bike”  he recently bought. The 3″ dia. x 5″ long piece of brass cost $55 and weighed in at 10 lbs. Most of it will end up in the brass and copper scrap barrel that I maintain.


Well, I managed to piss off my oldest son by failing to inform him that I was in the hospital. He found out by reading my previous post to this blog. I apologized to him appropriately. We have a close knit family and I was very much in the wrong.  Now for my mea culpa, read on.

Never at any time during my two day stay in the hospital, did I feel I was in any danger of a serious problem. So, I did not consider it a life threatening series of events and I did not even think of calling anyone about my situation. Given my age, the fact that Patty had recently died, and my family’s concern for me, my failure to call was a huge mistake on my part. It will not happen again. Besides, I did not have my cellphone the first night, so I was “out of the loop” for a while. I have a lot more excuses, I will spare you from a recitation of them.


Patty drank only decaf. coffee and I do not drink coffee any more, so Patty had her own little space where she kept her coffee fixing “tools” and she fixed her own coffee whenever she wanted some. She heated the water in a glass measuring cup in the microwave and the cup is where she left it. This “tool”area has become like a little “de facto” shrine, especially the coffee cup with the lipstick stain on it. It contained her last cup of coffee, of that I am sure. One would think that a two and half month old dirty coffee cup would have been washed by now. But, to me, this would erase one of the pieces of evidence that remains that she was alive and here with me. I cannot bring myself to wash away any evidence she was really here with us. I just can’t do it. I have little shrines all over the place. Come to think of it, this whole house, and her yard, has become like a shrine to her. This was HER place and it is my intention to keep it that way. But, things change with time; things do not get put back where she kept them. Plants die and need to be replaced. I cannot bear to look at her side of our closet; I do not have a clue about what I am going to do with her clothes. That is WAY beyond my present state of mind. I am serious, I do not look at her side of the closet. This simple act would be like a knife in my heart.

I was in the hospital for two days (last Wednesday and Thursday). The doctors think I had a transient ischemic accident (TIA), but I am not so sure of that. I have several of the stroke risk factors including an irregular heartbeat that does not otherwise concern any one as to risk of heart problems.  Anyway, I feel pretty good now. While I was in the hospital, I spoke with the on-call neurologist and it ended up that I am going to change Parkinson’s doctors from my present one to one in the on-call doctor’s group. I am looking forward with great anticipations of better times ahead. I see the new doctor on Tuesday at 0930 hours and at 1900 hours that evening, I go my first meeting of a bereavement support group. That will be interesting. My, now former, neurologist was incapable of answering my questions and those of you who know me well know that is big deal for me.



I want to write something – anything – or I will become more depressed than I am now. That is because writing , for me, is a kind of safety valve, a way of releasing the emotions that occupy my mind when I am not doing something which requires my full attention. Yesterday, I went out to the museum with a friend who I am working with in an effort to improve his already considerable machining skills. I had some time ago agreed to rebuild the valve for the mechanism that controls the flow of steam into a very large Lunkenheimer whistle that was formerly mounted on the SPRR Taylor yard power house and was the whistle which announced the beginning and end of the yard shifts. The valve seat and the valve itself were in very poor condition. The plan was to resurface the valve seat in a lathe and make a new valve as the old one was steam-cut too deeply to be resurfaced. We set-up the valve seat body in the 16″ Axelson lathe and used an indicator to true it up. We then set about the task of re-surfacing the valve seat surface. It was our intention to remove as little metal as we could and still have a good seat area. We were pleasantly surprised at how little metal had to be removed to apparently achieve this. However, upon a close inspection of the new surface, we discovered what appeared to be a small hole. We removed more metal which revealed that we had opened up a hole in the valve body casting. We decided to remove more metal – we did not have any real choice as the hole was in the center of the valve seat area. Fortunately, the hole closed before we ran out of metal.

Even though the existing valve was not usable, I decided to resurface the seat to see what I would end up with – miracles do happen you know. As I was resurfacing the seat, the valve snagged on the tool-bit and jumped out of the chuck with a disastrous result. The valve was now broken into two pieces. Since we had already decided a new valve was needed, nothing was lost, except a little of my pride as a machinist.

My friend had asked previously asked me to machine a flat surface on a piece of rail that he wanted to use as an anvil. He also wanted to gain some experience on our 24″ shaper machine. Since the job seemed simple enough, we set-up the piece of rail in the shaper and I installed a suitable tool bit made of “high speed” steel. Well, that piece of rail was harder than a w—-‘s heart and the “high speed” tool bit did not make it through the first cut! I replaced it with a carbide bit and it promptly broke! Obviously, the job saw not as “simple” as I had first thought. So, I went to the toolroom and selected a carbide tool bit and fashioned a “proper” tool that would do the job. I had already yielded up all of my pride that I was willing to that day. I also paid more attention to the “speed and feed” settings of the shaper. After that, things went well and the job was completed without further injury to my pride.

I have included a picture of a “diamond” being constructed by the track gang. The name “diamond” is given to track assemblies used to permit one line of track to cross another. This one will be used to permit an extension of the narrow gauge (3′) the cross the standard gauge mainline (4’ 8 1/2″).


Patty died two months ago. She died at two minutes past midnight on February tenth of this year.  I listened as she took her last breath and the silence that followed. The loneliness began for me at that instant and this loneliness burdens my every thought. Patty’s presence is everywhere I go, no matter where it is or what I am doing. I am reminded of her by literally everything I touch, every thought I have, even now she appaers in my dreams . Tonight, as I was watching an newborn’s umbilical cord being cut, as part of a PBS drama, I started to cry uncontrollably; I could not stop and my crying lasted for several minutes I am sure. That is the first time this has happened since she died. I believe the crying was good for me as I feel less burdened by my grief and that is a good thing as I hope I will be able to focus less on MY feelings and more on the events of our long marriage and what these events meant to us. For instance, early in our marriage, we decided to limit the celebration of our wedding anniversaries to just the two of us and we used the occasions as times to renew our commitment to our marriage. It worked for us.

Patty took her responsibilities as homemaker seriously and she spent many an hour going to school to strengthen her homemaking skills. She was a very good cook and she was an even better dietitian, She knew how to live within our means even when our income became such that we had plenty of money – no mean feat. She became an accomplished gardener and was an untutored landscape designer of great talent. When we rebuilt the house, she was the driving force behind the design of the rebuild. She had definite ideas about the colors and materials. Patty was able to make us a home. Using her innate talents, she was able to make a house  our home.


I fill out forms all the time and they require one to reveal much personal information. One’s marital status is one such bit of information that is often asked for. Sixty five years ago, I had to adjust from “s” to “m’; two months ago I had to start the adjustment from “m” back to “s”. It is absolutely amazing to me how much such a simple act of penmanship – “circle one: S M” – can effect my mental state so powerfully, but it does! I have filled out many such forms in my eighty four years and up until two months ago was accomplished almost automatically. Now, when I reach the “s’ or “m” part, I go into my usual (now) tailspin of remembering some detail of our marriage life. Believe me, it is a bittersweet experience for me. I want with all my heart to remember every thing I can about Patty, but in so doing, I fall into the mental tailspin I so fear.   That is why I call the experience bittersweet.


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