Archive for the ‘Family’ Category
Earl, of course, is the Great Grey Owl Mrs. WC uses for educational programs.
It turns out Earl may have talents beyond wowing the crowds at educational programs and being cranky at home. That’s the story of Jen, Lee and Somerley. A sweet story for a cold, gloomy Monday. Well worth a read.
And Happy Birthday, Somerley.
WC’s sister-in-law Karen is a gifted musician and a music instructor. She and her husband Jim sang at the wedding of WC and Mrs. WC, many years ago now. Among the songs they sang was The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around,” a song they selected.
All this comes to mind because Reg Presley, lead singer for the Troggs, died February 4, 2013 in Andover, England. He was 72 years old. He was a high school dropout, a bricklayer, who became the raspy-voiced lead singer in a British invasion rock and roll band. Born Reginald Maurice Ball, the band’s manager changed his name to Presley and forgot to tell him. Best known for the early garage band grunge hit, “Wild Thing,” The Troggs could also do more sensitive songs. Like, “Love Is All Around.” Here’s a proto-MTV video of the Troggs singing the song:
R.I.P. Reg Presley, both a Wild Thing and a man who was married to the same woman for 52 years. Thanks for the great tunes.
Oskar went fly fishing for Arctic Grayling on the upper Chena River this weekend. At 3.5 years old, he had some challenges but got to help land his first fish.
Then you get to see the fish up close for the very first time, which is actually kind of cool.
And then, of course, you get to look at the fish just before it is released. But you aren’t completely sure about getting too close.
Always great to see kids excited about fishing. Props to Mrs. WC, who is a patient, cheerful instructor.
When WC was 8 years old, shortly after the start of the Holocene Period, the family took a vacation from Bethel to visit the grandparents in California. WC’s Grandma Ruth, a fearsome old woman, took the opportunity to read WC the first and only story she ever read him. Seriously, WC has no memory of her showing any interest beyond complaining WC was too skinny earlier. And there sure weren’t any stories afterwards.
The story she chose? The heartwarming Hans Christian Anderson fable, The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf. If you don’t know the story, a vain little girl named Inger throws a loaf of bread in a mud puddle, to step on so she doesn’t get her new shoes muddy. Instead, she sinks to Hell, where she serves as a statue for decades, starving every minute. Not until an angel sheds tears for her can she return to earth. And then only as a “sea sparrow,” who must find enough crumbs for other birds to make up the loaf of bread she wasted. Only then can she ascend to heaven.
You can tell it is a children’s fairy tale. Bad children are tortured and terrorized. The moral is hammered into a little kid’s skull with the subtlety of a jackhammer.
When Grandma Ruth was finished reading she asked WC what the story meant. WC told his grandmother, “God tortures little kids.” It didn’t go over well. WC got yelled at and spanked for being rude to his elders. Not for the last time. WC was sternly warned that if he didn’t watch his smart mouth he’d go where Inger went.
The warning didn’t work. WC didn’t learn to watch his smart mouth and it gets him in trouble to this day. He hasn’t sunk to the Christian Hell just yet, although several of WC’s more pious friends seem to be worried about the possibility.
Grandma Ruth is dead some 50 years. An orphan herself, she wasn’t especially religious, didn’t attend church and never in WC’s hearing talked about anything but trivia. Her one attempt to put her smart-ass grandson in his place only made the situation worse. She died two years later. Her husband, Grandpa Mike, lived another 15 years, remarried twice and died at age 92. WC saw him a year and a half before he died, and took him to watch his beloved Dodgers play the hated San Francisco Giants at old Candlestick Park.
On the drive back to his home, WC asked him, “Do you miss Grandma Ruth?”
He answered, “I miss my teeth a lot more than I miss that woman. The only thing good ever came out of her was your mother.”
We talked about baseball the rest of the drive back.
Progressive retinal atrophy (“PRA”) is genetic disease, found almost exclusively in dogs, that blinds them at age two or so. WC’s border collie, Jackson, was diagnosed with PRA in 2003, not long after we adopted him. He’s been completely blind since late 2003. PRA has no cure. About all you can do is make certain that a dog that carries the recessive gene doesn’t breed.
He doesn’t know he’s blind. He astonishes visitors with his ability to navigate the house, the yard and even the areas where we walk. His map of the neighborhood is simply amazing. Jackson is a tribute to the malleability of a dog’s brain.
Even before going blind, his favorite activity was chasing his cloth frisbee. And it still is.
Jackson thinks nothing of charging full speed after a thrown frisbee. Using a combination of hearing and scent, he can track the frisbee down and bring it back for another toss. And again, and again, with all of a Border Collie’s classic intensity.
Sometimes he gets so excited that he loses his “mental map” of the area and crashes full speed into, say, a retaining wall. It’s given him a West Virginia smile, WC is afraid – there are some missing front teeth. Jackson regards those kind of events as minor distractions in the serious business of having fun.
WC counts himself lucky to have Jackson as his buddy. He reminds WC every day that a disability isn’t disabling.
There has been a development. No, silly readers, she has not made her court-ordered restitution. Not a dime. WC will just set out the certified letter he received earlier this week.
July 25, 2012
[Name and address deleted]
RE: DUTY TO WARN – MEGHAN SIMON
To Whom It May Concern:
Please be advised that Meghan Simon was released from incarceration on July 17, 2012 and is residing in the Fairbanks area. The defendant was convicted of Forgery in the Second Degree on March 25, 2011 and received a two year Suspended Imposition of Sentence. Due to multiple probation violations, the defendant’s Suspended Imposition of Sentence was revoked and she was sentenced to 24 months with 23 months suspended. Ms. Simon will now be on probation supervision until July 16, 2014. I have enclosed a copy of her Judgment which lists the conditions of probation she is required to follow.
Should you have any questions or comments, please contact her supervising probation office, [name deleted].
It might be just a bit too late to warn WC about Meghan Simon, but the thought – even a week after she was released – was nice.
So WC got one of his wishes, anyway: Simon went to jail for a bit. WC isn’t holding his breath for restitution…
One unexpected benefit. If you Google the woman’s name? You get WC’s essay. That should make it slightly harder to pull the stunt on someone else.
For a few years now, WC and Mrs. WC have hosted house concerts. We invite friends over, pack them into the living room, and share with them a terrifically talented singer-songwriter they’ve never heard of. It’s hugely fun. You get to hang with your friends, listen to outstanding music and talk with amazing artists.
Last night Beth Wood sang at WC’s house.
Energetic, charismatic and talented, her classically-trained voice and megawatt smile utterly charmed the audience. Her songwriting, singing and playing skills are superb. Serious ballads and light-hearted zingers, she has a wide range of styles and can’t be classified.
The trick, of course, is finding artists like Beth Wood. For that, you need to know someone like Bud Johnson, host of Acoustic Accents, based in Tok, Alaska. A long time ago, Bud Johnson was at a barbecue hosted by Mrs. WC, looked at the living room and said, “This would be a great place for a house concert.” The result has been a series of outstanding singer-songwriters live in the living room. Capped by the delightful Beth Wood.
WC sends special thanks to Bud Johnson, the 60 plus friends who were kind enough to stop by and, especially, to Beth Wood. It was a terrific show.
As WC gets older, he finds death is claiming more and more of those he respects and admires. As we head in to a new year, WC wants to pause and note the loss of those who in one way or another, enriched WC’s life. In no particular order:
|Ronnie Gaubert: WC posted earlier on Ronnie’s work and life. A remarkable artist and man, and a model for us all. WC misses him.|
|Vàclev Havel: WC studied one of Havel’s plays, The Garden Party, when WC was an undergraduate student. It was a brilliant send-up of Soviet society, sort of Mikhail Bulgakov meets Albert Camus. The play earned Havel his first prison term.Havel emerged as an unlikely non-violent political leader in the Velvet Revolution that overthrew the communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and in 1989 became the president of the country.|
|Steve Jobs: WC has posted earlier on Steve. But will repeat here Steve’s words on death:
|Geraldine Ferraro, U.S. Representative and first woman to be a candidate for Vice President of the United States for a major political party. She was also a successful prosecutor, tireless advocate for the protection of women and children and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
If Sarah Palin had an exact opposite, it was Ferraro.
|Christopher Hitchens: WC has posted on Hitch. Twice. Once on his death and against focusing on his Ten Commandments. An extraordinary man, and extraordinary life and an extraordinary body of work.|
|Jerry Lieber, the lyrics half the the songwriting duo, Lieber and Stoller. His songs included “There Goes My Baby,” Stand By Me” and “Hound Dog.” A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987), his lyrics and Mike Stoller’s melodies got in your head and stayed there.
|Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, tenor saxophonist in the E Street Band, and the heart of Bruce Springsteen’s band. His tearing sax solos helped define Bruce Springsteen’s music. Born to be wild, indeed.|
|Angela Ertter, German war bride, godmother to Mrs. WC, mean harmonica player (she’s playing the harp in that photo) and unrepentant singer of German folksongs. Her family was everyone Oma could hug. And her love could fill a big room.|
Others WC might name include James Arness, whose television show “Gunsmoke” was one of the few televisions shows WC could stand when WC was a pup; and Gerrie Rafferty, whose “Baker Street” would be on WC’s list of all-time top ten rock and roll songs.
Correction: 26 Dec 11 – As reader Paul Eaglin points out, Geraldine Ferraro was a member of the U.S. House, not the Senate. Corrected.
WC’s photo of an adult Gentoo Penguin with a chick is usually interpreted as mom and kid; in fact, this adult is large enough to be the male, although Gentoos are famously difficult to tell apart. But it is known that the parents share equally in rearing the chicks, exchanging nest duties daily.
WC chooses to interpret this as a male adult. So Happy Father’s Day to all fathers who are readers and readers whose fathers are still around.
This is the first of a three part post on WC’s long adventure with the Alaska criminal justice system in State of Alaska v. Meghan Simon. It’s a story with an ugly beginning, very serious crimes, protracted delay and no closure. It’s also a serious criticism of the system.
How WC Hired Meghan Simon
Like a lot of folks WC’s age, WC for more than a decade dealt with a parent’s declining health. WC’s mother, widowed in 1989, moved to MLH Manor shortly after it opened. The initial promise of appropriate levels of support as residents aged never panned out. It became what it is today: tax-subsidized housing for the elderly.
By 2002, it was apparent that WC’s mother was going to need more support than WC and Mrs. WC could provide. WC’s mother was adamant that she would not move to the Pioneer’s Home. Happily, WC stumbled upon a very capable young woman to serve as a home health aide, and from 2003 through the end of 2008, WC could leave town for more than a day without undue worry. But in December 2008, that capable young woman announced she was pregnant, and would be staying home. She gave WC two months’ notice. And WC struggled to find a replacement.
At the time, there was not a centralized clearinghouse for finding home health aides. Grants had expired, persons had left, and there was a vacuum. WC was provided with a faded, two-page, single line list of possible home health aides. The kind that has been photocopied so many times that the page is all pastel grays. And there was no one on that list – WC attempted to contact everyone of them – who could provide the level of service WC’s mother needed. At least none who didn’t have criminal records, or domestic violence complaints against them.
WC has lived in Fairbanks most of his life, and has extensive connections. But none of those connections was able to provide a name. WC assumed the role beginning in January, but it was simply not possible to do it indefinitely. And WC had an extended trip planned in February. Travel insurance would not cover cancellation.
And then WC was contacted by a public health nurse, who said she knew of an unlicensed woman who was providing support to another of the public health nurse’s patients. Her name was Meghan Simon, and she would be willing to take on another patient. It wasn’t a recommendation. WC wants to be clear: this is not a criticism of the public health nurse. She provided helpful facts.
WC interviewed Meghan Simon. Simon appeared to a be a 40-year old woman trying to appear 20-years old. But that’s hardly a reason to reject a person. WC obtained the information to do a background search: review of records in Alaska Courtview, a credit check, a bankruptcy court check. WC wouldn’t have made her a large loan, but there was nothing otherwise. WC set up a meeting between himself, WC’s mother and Meghan Simon. It went okay; not great, but then WC’s mother, even before the onset of Alzheimer’s Syndrome, was a difficult person.
So Meghan Simon was employed to work 20 hours per week, at a rate that was half again what her predecessor had been paid. Bills were to be submitted to WC; WC’s mother regularly forgot to pay bills. And WC wanted to keep an eye on what was going on. After two weeks, it seemed to be working okay. WC’s mother had complaints, but they centered on being made to eat healthier food.
So WC and Mrs. WC headed off on their trip, out of the country and out of communications for three weeks. There was no cell phone service in the Amazon basin.
What Meghan Simon Did
On his return, WC found numerous messages on his answering machine: from the public health nurse, suggesting WC should terminate Meghan Simon immediately; from MLH Manor’s manager, complaining about Meghan Simon; from WC’s mother, complaining forcefully about Meghan Simon; and from Meghan Simon.
What had apparently happened was that the son of Meghan Simon’s other patient had beaten the living snot out of Simon. There were cross-domestic violence complaints. Simon, without anyone’s permission, had brought strange men to MLH Manor to care for WC’s mother while Simon was injured.
WC set out to find a new home health aide. But, after a long and difficult meeting with Simon, allowed her to stay on in the meantime.
Access Alaska had been awarded a grant to take up the abandoned task of coordinating home health aides. And they gave WC an appointment for March 25, 2009. There was a lot of pent-up demand, WC was told, and they couldn’t get WC in sooner.
WC visited his mother on the evening of March 22, 2009. There was nothing remarkable about the visit. WC’s mother complained about the usual things, and like many Alzheimer’s victims, voiced the same complaints multiple times. There was fresh food in the fridge; the apartment was clean. We talked about getting a new home health aide, or whether she wanted to move into the Pioneer’s Home. She was emphatic; she wanted to stay where she was.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009, at 10:11AM, WC had a call at work from the MLH Building Manager. They were worried. There were two newspapers in front of the apartment door. That wasn’t usual. Could WC come over?
By the time WC got there, ten minutes later, so had Meghan Simon, the City Police and the City Ambulance. Simon had gone in to the apartment, found WC’s mother dead, and gone into hysterics.
The police and the ambulance personnel were professional and polite. But one of the police officers took WC aside and said that Simon’s reaction was far too strong to be normal; he suspected she was on drugs. After WC’s mother’s body had been removed to a funeral home, WC set out to secure the apartment. WC asked Simon for her keys, and got them. WC picked up his mother’s purse and noticed immediately that the checkbook was missing. WC’s mother had been on the far side of absent-minded; WC asked Simon if she knew where the checkbook was. The look of guilt that flashed across Simon’s face would have been obvious to third grader, let alone a cynical lawyer. WC knew at that point that money had been stolen. The only question was how much.
Continued in Part 2
I am blessed to have married into a large, close family. One of my wife’s nieces married on Thanksgiving, and in addition to a charming, delightful wedding, it was an extended family reunion among the nicest people you could hope to have as in-laws.
The ceremony was conducted by the bride’s younger sister, who apparently wrote the vows herself (“You may now kiss my sister”). The entire event was a delight and a treasure.
Thanks, Hailey and Justin, for reminding me of the blessings I have. And my warmest congratulations and very best wishes to you both.