“IT’S UNDER MY FINGERS”

Yesterday morning, I did something fun for myself. I sat and played written piano music instead of just playing a bunch of notes or chords as I passed by the piano.

After muddling through a couple of songs, I remembered I’d played the Prelude in C# Minor by Rachmaninoff for my piano kids recital about the last year I taught in Afton. The Prelude has a series of chords that require overlapping your hands. The first bars were terrible, but as I came to the repeat of those few measures my fingers remembered what they’ve been taught and played them without my thought.

It’s interesting to me that your fingers do remember. I didn’t have to read every note.

A concert pianist once told me he could play “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin anytime because “it’s under my fingers.”

I think each of us has something under our fingers. If you work at a computer as a writer, typist, or any job requiring reports, you do not think “I must press the little finger on my left hand for “a”. You see “a” as a word or in a phrase and your fingers remember.

I watched my accountant use his calculator at lightning speed. He sees a number and it is immediately appears on his screen.

No matter what keyboard you lay your fingers on, your fingers recognize what they do there. True sometimes they get confused and strike the wrong letter, number, or sour note, but they also immediately recognize their error.

What is that connection between the tips of your fingers and the brain that allows for this memory? I’m sure it’s been studied, but I don’t know the answer, do you?

 

AHUAS, HONDURAS

In the early summer of 2003, I saw an ad in our Reformed Church Magazine that said an elementary teacher was urgently needed in Honduras. I was an elementary teacher.

I went into my husband’s office and said, “Would you like to go to Honduras?”

“No.”

I wanted to go and gently persuaded and bribed Richard to agree. We left Syracuse on October 1 at six in the morning and arrived inHonduras’s third largest city, Le Ceiba (which is the name of a tree), about five in the afternoon. The airport there was closing and the person we expected to pick us up had not arrived. Finally, a kind taxi driver, who knew our contact, took us to her house and then us to the Hotel Paris in center city.

We’d left Syracuse on a large jet and after three plane changes, arrived on a thirty passenger plane.  Two mornings later we left LaCeiba on an eighteen passenger plane that was half filled is boxes and cases of things. We made an intermittent stop on a grassy field after buzzing it to make sure there were no cattle in the way. We were invited to get off the plane, while they unloaded stuff. Back on the plane we landed a short time later in Ahuas. We were greeted by one of the two doctors of the hospital.

As Richard stepped from the plane it was into a cowflop. Dr. Gerard walked us to our new home a hundred yards from the airport. Other men from the hospital compound had been there and grabbed our suitcases for us.

Our house and the doctors’ home formed a triangle  with about fifty-foot sides. At ten in the morning the heat was already building to be brought down later in the afternoon with a sudden shower.

The hospital is a mission of the Moravian church and the Reformed Church in America. I was there to teach the doctors’ son. Our home had a classroom, kitchen, dining area, living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a wonderful screened porch the full length of its front. Sufficient, yes. Luxurious, no.

Looking across from the hospital were several cabins where relatives of patients stayed to care for them, such as providing the patients’ meals.

Two four-passenger airplanes flew up to twenty flights a day bringing and taking to and from the hospital. Both pilots were missionaries and assisted by local mechanics.

I taught three children, Peter and Hazel in first grade, and Toby in kindergarten. Having taught first grade seven years, I designed my own materials using whatever books were available. When six months had passed, Peter and Hazel could read, write, and do required math. Toby, whose parents were Norwegian missionaries, had learned all the English sounds and was well on his way to be a reader in English, as well as Norwegian.

 

FASHION: 1963

This picture of my husband and I standing in front of the Bloomington Reformed Church the year he was ordained shows a considerable change in clothing people wore to church.

We had lived in Bloomington (our first church) about three or four months when this was taken. Richard is still in his Genevan gown following service. I am wearing a suit I do not remember but would presume to be a neutral light brown, tan, or gray. My hat is red. In the 1960s a woman always wore a hat to church. I am not wearing gloves which were also demanded if you were to be “properly dressed.” I would guess this was taken after the congregation left, so they had been discarded. When I went to church I would also have carried a matching purse. Certainly a new minister’s wife was expected to be properly dressed.

A SALUTE TO MY DAD

I grew up on an upstate New York dairy farm in the 1940s. An only child, I have always been petite, a nice word for small. Dad certainly could have used a strapping young man to help him care for the herd of 50 to 60 large animals. He hired those men.
Still, no matter what I asked to do, Dad never said, “You can’t do that. You are a girl.” He did say on occasion, “You can try it, but I don’t think you can do that.” It was true, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength.
When I was about twelve, he taught me to drive the doodlebug, which was an old 1929 car, cut in half with no cab that he used for a tractor. Manufacturers who built tractors were turning out tanks during World War II. A standard shift and I had to learn to deal with the clutch and changing gears.
One day I asked to drive our pickup truck on the road. About a mile from home I went around a sharp right hand turn on two wheels. In a normal voice Dad said, “Next time, slow down before the corner.”
After the war, we acquired a tractor which was fun for me to drive. One day I was driving it with the hay wagon and hay loader attached, making it nearly the length of a semi. Twice the same day, I cut the corner in the hay field too short causing the hay loader to catch on the rigging of the wagon. The first time, he called, “Whoa.” The second time, Dad hollered, “Lord, girl, what in hell are you doing?” He fixed the problem and we finished loading the hay with me being more careful to swing wide on corners.
One day, the tractor was on the third story barn floor. I asked to back it out of the barn and down the stone ramp. I climbed on the tractor, started backwards. I had my foot on the clutch and it began rolling. Dad yelled, “Brake!” I slammed on the break just short of going over the side of the ramp. I think Dad took over at that point. But a short time later, we were back in the barn. Dad pointed to the tractor. “Get on.” He climbed up beside me. “Now, back up. Keep your foot off the clutch!”
I’ve driven many vehicles with a standard shift over the past years. Each time the words, “Keep your foot off the clutch!” have kept me from making dangerous moves.
When he had back surgery in 1952, the doctor told him he’d spend most of the remainder of his life in a wheelchair. His response, “To hell I will.” He was never without pain for the next 35 years of his life, and he almost never complained. He just kept moving.
Dad has always been my hero.

COMPUTERS AND A CERTAIN AGE

Whether you embrace this new world of artificial intelligence and constant communication, or  using a computer is like entering a foreign country, may partially depend on your age.

I am of the latter age, but was lucky enough to be given a computer to use when I worked as a stringer for a daily newspaper in the mid-nineteen seventies, when the biggest share of you reading this were yet to be born. As a stringer (sometimes referred to as a correspondent) I submitted a lot of print to the paper via telecopier (look that one up). The editor or someone at the paper then had to retype it into their press computer. They decided giving me a Compugraphic computer would save the staff time and I could submit my writing so it could be edited and sent directly to the press.

 

The Compugraphic had five-inch discs. One had to kept in place because it was the operating system. A second disc would record up to 300 characters on a ring and there were 30 rings on each recording disc. If one story had more than 300 characters, I had to put the rest of the story on a second ring, etc. I could write over a recorded story, otherwise it would remain on its ring.

 

There was a red button on the keyboard, which I never touched because it erased the ring I was writing on. I had a cat who loved to hang out on my desk while I wrote in the morning. You guessed it. I had just completed a story when Rasputin walked across my keyboard and put his paw on that red key. He was persona non grata that day!

 

When I left that job and moved to a city, I found work which required me to learn to use an IBM Word Processor. The company sent out several hundreds of letters t
o town and village officials who were possible customers. I read about merging and how we could send letters that were far more personal. It took me several hours, but I taught myself and my coworkers the process.

 

My next job requiring use of a computer came for a Meals-on-Wheels program. We kept track or our clients on a computer with a 30MB capacity.

 

Now I am a writer and can’t imagine not having the use of a computer. This laptop might be called limited at only 596 GB. However, it is enough for me. It does what I need it to do because so much of what one can do, I don’t need for my life at this certain age.

A VAN GOGH TRAUMA

My sweet loving cat, Van Gogh,—so named because he has one bad ear—had been losing weight in spite of eating and eating. Concerned I took him to have blood tests on Monday.  I pulled out my carrier, careful that he not see it, and loaded him into the car.

To say he does not like getting into the carrier is to highly exaggerate how he feels about it. He knows he doesn’t want to go. After the doctor is finished and it is time to come home, he feels much kindlier toward the carrier.

Tuesday, I discovered the tests showed his blood sugar was elevated and so, diabetic and will need insulin shots twice a day. My son had a diabetic cat so I knew how that worked. An all-day appointment at the vet’s office was required to have his initial insulin shots and discover what dose would be correct.

It was set for Wednesday.  I’ve usually been smart about putting him in a room so he couldn’t escape being put in the carrier, but Wednesday my smarts deserted me. I was ready to go by quarter to eight in order to be at the vet’s office between eight and eight-thirty.

The carrier was just outside my front door. I live in a mobile home with a limited number of rooms. Van Gogh saw the carrier and disappeared. I searched all of his normal hideouts. With a flashlight I looked and looked. There he cowered behind the electric fireplace TV stand that fits tightly into the corner of the living room. I closed the bedroom, office and bathroom doors, managed to maneuver the fireplace away from the wall and poke at Van Gogh enough to get him to leave there. He raced toward the bedroom only to be blocked.

I was pleased that now I certainly would be able to get him. Faster than I could blink, he jumped up on the washer and dryer and dove down behind them. There was no way to reach him other than to move either the washer or dryer.

What to do? I called the vet’s office to say I’d be late and would let them know when I’d retrieved my cat.

My friend, Cecile, came to my rescue with a can of shrimp cat food she knew he loved. She managed to move the washer and dryer a few inches from the wall. After many minutes of her sweet coaxing and the smell of the shrimp, he showed he’d like to come out, but he didn’t have room to jump. We solved that with a pillow.

Now he was out and was rewarded with a few bites of food while called to say I could be at vet’s by nine-thirty. That wouldn’t be too late.

Before he re-immerged, I put the carrier in the closed bathroom. He fought mightily against getting into it, but Cecile and I succeeded and I managed to get him to his treatment.

Next time he must go in the carrier, I will be more careful to hide my intentions.

Van Gogh is well. He hates waiting to eat until the twelve hours have passed since first meal of the day, but he doesn’t seem to notice when I give him his insulin shots, and has returned to his normal loving self.

 

HOW DO YOU WAIT?

HOW DO YOU WAIT?

What do you do while you wait for a doctor to see you, for the person ahead of you at the grocery store, for the pharmacist to fill your prescription, or for the stalled traffic on your way home?

Do you sit and steam because it is now 35 minutes past your appointment for which you left early so you would be on time?

Do you shift from one foot to the other as the person or persons ahead of you in line seem to have all the time in the world?

Do you drum your fingers on the steering wheel and say unkind things to whomever is keeping you from moving?

I could have said yes to all these questions at one time, and as I waited anger would build and I would think of all the things I could be doing. Whether or not I would actually be doing those things is doubtful.

The only way to eliminate the waiting is to leave: not to keep your appointment, walk away and not get what you need, or get out of the car and walk. All of these solutions would have consequences.

Through the years I’ve learned that waiting can be fun and restful.

Arriving on time at the dentist today for my eleven o’clock appointment, I discovered he was at least a half hour behind. I’d planned to buy gas after my appointment, so I went to do that. I returned and in a few minutes I was seated in the examining room. After five to ten minutes, I realized I was in for a long wait. What should I do? I’d not brought a crossword puzzle or a book.

Relaxation is always good for the body. I began with head and neck stretches; I sat back in the chair so my head was on the headrest, my arms on the armrests, my legs stretched out in front of me, I closed my eyes, and began quiet deep breathing. I’ve been known to fall asleep in the dentist’s chair or lying on the doctor’s examining table. Time passes.

After fifteen or twenty minutes today, I felt rested. I began thinking about what I needed to for my writing. I’ve wanted to post a blog for several days, but no topic seemed to blossom in my brain. Now it did. I pulled a little notebook and pen from my purse. This is result.

If you are a writer, the grocery or pharmacy can become character food. One day while I was next in line, I watched a woman in a wheelchair cart with less than twelve items, which someone had already put on counter. That should be quick, right? It must have ten minutes as she told the very patient clerk into which paper bag each item should go, then to put the paper bags inside plastic bags. Then the clerk went around the counter to put them in her cart. I’m sure those  minutes hold a story. Meanwhile, I discouraged out persons from standing behind me in the short line. The next cash register line was moving quickly.

In the car, you can catch up on the news with an NPR station, or listen to the music with more intention. While the music plays on my radio when I am driving, I only half listen. Stopped I can concentrate on what I’m hearing.

Wherever you are waiting you have time to pray. Pray for ones you know. Pray for the hungry and the homeless. Pray for the sick and lonely. Pray for all those you know and those you don’t. Pray for this world torn apart in so many, many ways.

Waiting will no longer be an annoyance, but an opportunity.