Heart Failure, 27 November 2021

On Friday, September 24th, 2021, little Willie was diagnosed with heart failure. On Saturday, September 25th, Ray insisted we drive to Moab for Steve Prescott’s Celebration of Life. Dr. I. Ray Thomason (iraythomasonmd.com) insisted on playing his guitar that day.

Ray was, as ever, late. On that day, he was 1 hour and 45 minutes late. The service was over when we pulled up on the gravel road.

I held Willie and Gus on my lap for entire drive — worried about Willie’s heart. He needed to stay hydrated and, with his new Lasix medication, he needed frequent rest stops.

But, as ever, we were just supporting characters on the Ray show.

On the drive down, I helped Ray learn the lyrics to the song he planned to perform.

Once we arrived at Pack Creek Ranch, I was, as ever, relegated to my bit part sitting on the sidelines with Willie and Gus.

Since the doctor advised us to not take Willie to Moab, I cancelled our hotel room.

Driving home under a moonless night sky, Ray missed the turn. We arrived “home,” to the 3rd Avenue house, the one he didn’t tell his two-legged children we shared, at 2:15 in the morning.

Ray’s show was, to him, far more important than the eulogy I was to deliver the next day for Bob O’Connor.

Ray sat in the third row at the Eccles Center next to my former Student Body President video taping me and acting proud. Of course, we couldn’t stay at the “after party” because we had to get back to meet Buddy for dinner in Salt Lake City.

Earlier that month, Ray slid this ring on my finger before leaving for Belize — clearly, one would not expect to be dumped by a text days later.

Ray put a ring on it, then left town. I celebrated my birthday with my work husband.

A few days after Bob’s celebration, where I said goodbye to my principal, my friend — a linebacker who fixed problems instead of creating them, Ray texted me, “I just can’t straddle the fence anymore.” That was his code for “I’m failing your heart, just like Willie’s.”

We made up. He put the ring back on my finger.

Then, a week later, on the day we celebrated Kiana’s life, Ray, again “just couldn’t straddle the fence.”

Now, a month later, I’m in heart failure. Still.

30 years and 34 months. Gone.

No explanation.

Instead, Ray lies to folks and says, “Julie left me because of what people said about my children. She couldn’t take it.”

Truth was, I lived it. I saw it all. I took it.

I packed up the Alta shot glasses and Texas Longhorn toothbrushes I bought to stuff stockings and mailed them to the 3rd Avenue house.

Then, tonight, to accompany my broken heart, his friend, Lee Burke told me, “Bite your lip, bide your time, and wait. Make no Xtra waves . . .it may take several months, but if he can regroup and has no adverse communication from you, he will reach out. . . I really think he loves you.”

Dr. Lee Burke, a retired cardiologist, says it is because Ray has untreated ADD. I’ve never known a 71-year-old with ADD. As Lee noted, “That makes him o-so charming, but scattered. We (his friends) are often frustrated by his lack of response. It’s taken him three days to respond to emails/texts regarding future fishing planning.”

WTF?

I’ll take my heart, patch it back together and be able to love bigger because of it. As for Willie, let’s all just send the love and light in his direction.

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If you need something, ask

A few years ago, I realized that there were a lot of issues inside my classroom that could be managed if I just asked — or, even better, if my students asked.

Time wasted and off-task can be minimized if I have tools like pencils, pens, laptop chargers and paper available. In purple marker, I added “Rule #6.” It reads: If you need something, ask.

The other day I revisited Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking and watched her TED talk.

In her first example of asking, she shares a story of being a street performer.

So I had the most profound encounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks, and we would get this beautiful moment of prolonged eye contact being allowed in a city street, and we would sort of fall in love a little bit. And my eyes would say — “Thank you. I see you.” And their eyes would say — “Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.” 

Giving and receiving, especially now — in this economy and moving into the holiday season, prolonged eye contact, seeing each other, and connecting, means more than ever.

Consider, then, what you need. Consider what you can give.

Happy Holidays from Heidi, who gives unconditional love, and Hooker Horde.

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Be the ONE to Give What Someone NEEDS

Close to Christmas time, my 5’4″ towered over Iris Durfee, the smiling squat Princess of Treasure Mountain Junior High School — a veteran teacher filled with creativity, passion, and love. Mrs. Durfee was a force in the classroom. Students learned and they loved learning. Mrs. Durfee inspired teachers to teach better and students to learn more.

During passing periods, teachers stood in the crowded hallways to monitor behavior. Some complained. I loved it. Not only did I get to interact with students outside my classroom, I got to chat it up with colleagues, like the Princess.

“I went to Salt Lake last night to pick up my car,” I shared. “Jeff had it waiting for me at his house. When I got there, he handed me the keys and said, ‘I put new tires on it.'”

“Wha—at? How?” I asked, knowing that tires are expensive.

Charlie, our mechanic fixed everything that was wrong on my Subaru. The charge to my credit card was over $3,000.

Jeff explained, “When I was driving it, it didn’t feel right. I looked at the tires and knew my sister couldn’t drive on these. Merry Christmas.”

“I wish I had a brother like yours,” said Iris Durfee with tears in the corner of her eye when I finished my story.

That’s when I realized that not everyone has a Jeff.

With 65 days until Christmas, take the time to consider how to be the ONE who gives what someone NEEDS.

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Rules for Engagement

Rules for Engagement

4 December 2021

Okay, I have to admit that I don’t love Brene Brown. By that, I mean, I don’t love her the way other people love her.

During the pandemic, I bought Willie Nelson’s Letters to America. In it, he shared the family rule: Don’t be an asshole.

Today, Saturday morning, looking out at the far vista of the Uinta mountains and nearer, the cows in the pasture, I happened to GOOGLE “Willie Nelson’s Family Rule,” and found this podcast.

In it, Willie and Waylon put things into perspective including, but not limited to, sharing the three family rules.

Waylon: Rule #1, don’t be an asshole.

Waylon: Rule #2, don’t be an asshole.

Willie: Rule #3, don’t be a Goddamn asshole.

Willie continued, “it’s not hard.”

Right now, at the end of 2021, as we re-learn how to be in shared spaces. We need to practice the Nelson Family Rules.

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Hope –it’s a survival trait: 28 November 2021

In these difficult dark times, we need hope more than ever. Goodall claims “hope is contagious.” I hope so. She explains that hope is survival trait.

I just started reading the book this morning. I’m hoping it helps me survive and teach the essential trait of hope to others.

So, today, let us have hope.

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My Defensive Line is Strong

27 November 2021

2021 put all of us on the defensive. Trying to navigate trauma — a pandemic, violence, racism, careers, and, of course, personal letdowns.

On January 14th, Bob O’Connor left our world.  When I paid tribute to my principal, my friend, and my mentor on September 26th, I shared, “Eric Green said that losing a starting linebacker is like losing the heart and soul of your defense.”

With Bob in it, the world felt a little safer. We felt a little safer. Bob stood up for us — his teachers, his students, his staff, and his family.

Dwight Hooker died on January 3rd, 2015. A week later, there was a service for him in Salt Lake City. That’s when I saw Kenneth Thomason for the last time.  Kenneth left just over 15 months later.

Not particularly welcome at the celebration for my first husband, I hid in a back room with Kenneth and my daughter-in-law, Bonnie, drinking High West whiskey. I remembered Kenneth, at 24-years-old, my age, kneeling next to Dwight after Tommy died. Kenneth spoke to Dwight with the wisdom of the ancients. They talked about “the black dog” of depression. Kenneth knew and communicated something I will never understand. He connected to Dwight. He was gracious. 

On that Saturday at the funeral home, Kenneth told me about the cancer he’d been battling. He told me about his love, Cara. There was a lot left unsaid — no words about his father (who ultimately came into the back room to disrupt our conversation), his siblings, or, his life in between kneeling next to Dwight and January 10th, 2015.

Kenneth lives in my heart as the “kindest of the Thomason family.” Kenneth is the one that knelt beside Dwight and cried over the loss of Tommy.  Kenneth is the one that saw my discomfort and sadness and tried to make it better. Kenneth is the one that showed up when no one else would for his sisters and his mother.

Now, at the end of 2021, the year that took the heart and soul of my defense, I’m here, in my home, with the treasures Kenneth left behind. Not the guitars, not the art, not the furniture — the real treasures, his words, his writing, his story. I am the keeper of his the portrait with him writing. It sits next to Jeff Metcalf’s silhouette and Dwight’s pictures.

Somehow, after 30 years and 34 months with the Thomason family, I am the keeper of Kenneth’s journals. I am the keeper of Donna’s photos. I am the keeper of the secrets.

I am the one who Kenneth trusted to tell his story, to tell the story of his “family.” 

Just as I was both humbled and terrified to speak about Bob, I am both honored and afraid to be tasked with Kenneth’s story. After all, he was the writer. 

But, rereading his farewell note, he promised, “I’m running defense on the other side.” Even for me, someone he knew very little, but saw at the most devastating moments, he ran defense — he pulled Dwight out of a depression and he made me feel like I mattered when no one else did.

My line of defense is strong.

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Etiquette and Ethics with Vaccines

Etiquette and Ethics with Vaccinations

I read Kwame Anthony Appiah’s column for The New York Times addressing ethical questions for ordinary folks each week. I have questions about etiquette and ethics regarding Covid vaccinations.

Yesterday, on the 3rd of July, I engaged in this conversation:

Me (to a 30-something woman):                    What brings you joy?

Her:                                                                 Oh, I like to plan vacations.

Me:                                                                  Where is your next adventure going to take you?

Her:                                                                 Ibiza. But, I’d have to get vaccinated.

Her (turning to her BF):                                  That’s the ONLY thing that would make me get vaccinated.

Her 45-year-old BF:                                       You could just buy one for 5 cents online.

Me (grateful my sunglasses covered my shock and disgust knowing that she was spending the night in our home).  Nothing came out of my mouth. Here was the son of a physician with an advanced degree and his girlfriend acknowledging that she was not vaccinated, but sitting in our home.

Me (to the 45-year-old):                                 Are you vaccinated?

Him:                                                                Yes. She had Covid.

Me (my brain calling up the facts I know

about Covid transmission and sure that

 you can still carry the virus, especially

the new variant, but not wanting to be

rude):                                                              What were your symptoms?

Her:                                                                 No big deal.  It felt like strep throat.

Personally, my closest loss to Covid was my cousin, Mikey. I kept my mouth closed thinking that these two would ask about underlying conditions.  Mikey was 54 and had Downs Syndrome. 

Personally, my friends, including their 93-year-old mother had Covid over the holidays. Seven months later, they still do not smell and taste.

Personally, my friend’s sister is on a ventilator in Las Vegas right now. She is a transplant patient making the fight even more difficult. Her father wrote this: “No one’s fault.  Just mad at the situation. But let me tell you, if you may be one of those that thinks Covid’s a hoax, I sure as hell don’t wanna’ hear about it.”

Which brings me to my question on etiquette and ethics – does one have an obligation to get vaccinated? If one chooses to not be vaccinated, should they acknowledge that before staying in someone’s home? Should someone wear a mask when visiting to identify themselves as unvaccinated?

The other day when I visited the Utah Museum of Natural History, all of the children were wearing masks and most of their parents wore them, too. 

Now, the bigger question, why would the next generation of be so cavalier about the health and safety of others? Where is the basic human decency?

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Maude (2006-April 5, 2021): Your Head is in the Stars

Maude 2006 – April 5, 2021

Gray kitty. You blew into the neighborhood behind REI 15 years ago. Jennifer told me about you. Her neighbors “adopted you.” When I met you, I saw that their idea of adoption was leaving the garage door open a few inches. You had a big gash on your right thigh.

I looked at the neighbors and said, “I’m taking her.”

That night, you sat on my lap while I ate supper at Jennifer’s. Then, you purred on my lap driving home to our little house in Park City.

You fit right in with the Cat, Mandu. Being all gray and having an old soul, the name Maude chose you.

Your old soul taught me patience.

Do you remember when you spent the entire evening on the gray wool yoga blanket? I called and called for you. I cooed “Here kitty, kitty, kitty . . .” But, you never came. I had all the neighbors out looking for you while you slept under the coffee table–camoflage.

When you crossed the bridge, I think the Cat, Mandu, Gorby, Midas, Faith, Princess, the Little Prince, Diesel, Booker T. Washington, Hefty Hefner, Mr. Sunny Sunny Bun Bun, Timmy, Maggie Mae, Fluffy, Blackie . . .and, Dad and Dwight met you. You won’t sneeze anymore. Breathing will be easy.

Please stay close.

You’re purrfect. I love you.

Now, you’re on the road to find out.

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Mikey — You Were Always an Angel

In 1985, Santa was good to me. I was 15 and received paisley pants, a v-neck sweater, and chunky long pearls to match my big bangs sprayed high with AquaNet.

Dad and I visited Uncle Roy and Aunt Patty in the afternoon. My cousin Mikey, a few years older than me, received a Teddy Ruxpin.

I didn’t understand. Until then, I hadn’t noticed a difference between my cousin and me.

My dad explained, “Cousin Mikey has Downs Syndrome. He won’t grow up like you and Jeff.”

Dad continued, “Mikey does not have guile.”

I asked, “What does that mean?”

“It means he will always have a childlike innocence. He can’t be unkind.”

“What will happen to him when he grows up?”

Dad explained, “Usually children with Downs Syndrome don’t outlive their parents.”

Yesterday, Mikey died from Covid-19. His parents, Uncle Roy and Aunty Patty have it, too.

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Teaching the Greatest Generation

‘Disturbing’ lack of Holocaust knowledge in US popped up on my Facebook feed the other day. . I re-posted noting, “this is why we must continue to teach books like Night.” A mom, a friend, and a tremendous advocate of public education asked, “How can that be? My girls have been reading about WW II and the Holocaust since the third grade. They read The Book Thief, Number the Stars, Night, and the Diary of Anne Frank.”

My first year teaching, in 1997, Timmy was in my sixth-grade class. His twin was in the class next to mine. Together they absorbed nonfiction, fascinated by WW II history. The twins grandfather, like my uncles, fought in WW II. Like me, they grew up on the stories.

My mama recounted what it was like to listen to the radio. She was home, in Salt Lake City with her mama, her sister, and her brother — the older boys, her brothers, were in Europe–fighting. Grandpa was in Omaha working for railroad.

When my mother’s pet duck, Cornelia, was hit by a car on 13th East in Salt Lake City, the neighbor, knowing Nana was home alone with three children offered to “take care of it” and asked if his family could . . .eat Cornelia because of the rations. (Mama, to this day, eighty-plus years later describes the sound of Cornelia’s little duck feets slapping on the sidewalk when they called her to come home. Cornelia would visit another duck down the street.

It was rare that kids went into Uncle Bob’s office in the basement of his St. Mary’s home. I remember a red chair cushion and a helmet with a spike on top of it. Whispering, my mother told me he brought those home from “THE WAR.” Even in a whisper, the war sounded so big.

Even though my mother was a child during the war, it remained big for her. Uncle Bob never spoke of the war. Both Uncle Bob and Uncle Dick, like the rest of their generation, just gone on with the business of living.

For me, THE WAR, was big, too.

In Montana, my cousin Sara heard first hand accounts from Grandpa Mac, a Chief Petty Officer and Grandma Evelyn, a nurse.

THE WAR was real.

My teaching career began in 1997. Since then, each year it has been more difficult and taken more time to build background about WW II.

Sophomores read Night by Elie Wiesel. Before that, most read The Book Thief. When I taught eighth grade, we read the play, The Diary of Anne Frank. But, with juniors, I still have to remind them, re-teach, before we listen to King George VI speak to his people in 1939 about entering the war.

Storytelling makes it real.

Scrolling through Facebook, I saw this.

We must tell the stories of our parents, grandparents, and friends. We must read the stories of survivors.

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