Saturday, December 30, 2006

bunches of stuff and reactions

Boy, lots of letters in the maelstrom, and a bunch of reactions. I enjoyed reading your letter, Doug. I have finally posted my annual letter (by the circuitous route from my old Mac using Claris Works at home to the web via the magic of a special request for a zip drive from the guy in Client Services to TextEdit on the fancy iMacs in the lab to Word for Mac to Geocities to the ... ta da ... net) at -- I have gotten some of the copies mailed but it wasn't on da web until a couple hours ago.

My short trip to Boston earlier this week was very nice. Bill and I share each other's space enough that we're beyond pretense or tense. The new building of the ICA is splendid: much smaller than it looks in the pictures and the art installation was very nice. Steve and Barbara and Tom joined us for that part of the weekend, and then Bill's sister Martha joined us at supper. And we got to go out to our favorite bar -- Paradise. With a name like that, how could it be anything but?

Christmas itself was pretty quiet and nice. Christie had me and Janet and Virginia over for supper. She had to work on Tuesday so we weren't there too late. Janet regifted me with a wonderful desk toy -- a lump of coal (styrofoam, squishy, very black and shiny, she works as an archivist at the NY Stock Exchange and the lump says Consol Energy on the bottom, I hope they're not too horrible environmentally and I know I could google them and find out).

I didn't know that Bert had declared one day TV-less. I guess I don't expect it, nor desire it. And not having watched much, even the ads aren't especially amusing even as a diversion. That is not to say that I can't sit and stare at solitaire on the computer for way tooooo long.

Barb, I don't remember any whispering. Thanksgiving seemed to be nicely free of that, or maybe I don't notice anymore?!?!?

I can't remember what else I was going to react to. Sigh. This is not a senior moment!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

An almost annual letter from Doug, Jeanette and Ian

What can I say about 2006? Hmmmmmm, I guess I feel a bit like how the pResident (of the White House) responded to the Iraq Study Group report, which is to say that 2006 was “interesting”.
In 2005 I had been hired full-time in the Information Technology Services department at Alfred University after a few years as part-time Technical Specialist for Environmental Studies, AND I taught Alfred State College’s only Environmental Science class (over my lunch hour, three days a week) during the 2005 fall semester. Near the end of the semester, I was told that someone with seniority wanted to teach the class, so I would only be working full-time on one side of the valley as 2006 began. Three weeks after 2006 began, I had no job at all. The new head of ITS had decided to change things. A lot.
So I spent the first half of 2006 looking very diligently for another job (as far away as Elmira and Salamanca), and although I was told I interviewed well on several occasions, by June I was still unemployed. In retrospect I think I should have just resigned myself to unemployment (pun intended) and done more work on our house, sooner. Ah, if only we had “do-overs” in adult life!
Anyway, over the summer we did get two bedrooms (after dividing our “master bedroom” in half) finished so that Ian has his own finished space, and we are staying in what will be the “spare” bedroom until we convert two unfinished rooms downstairs, into our “new master suite”. Since I stopped trying so hard to find employment and started spending my time more like a house-husband, things are going better and I think we’re all happier. I’m exploring other prospects, including a home-based business, a used book store in “beautiful downtown Alfred”, and another part-time position at Alfred University. But I’m making bread and cooking meals, sorting and disposing of things, working on our house, and spending time with Jeanette and Ian that two jobs and too many volunteer activities used to keep me from spending. Good things come in surprise packages.
Toward the end of the summer, Jeanette was called in to a special meeting at her school. She and a couple other teachers were told that enrollments had changed so much that they were moving to new positions. Jeanette went from teaching 5th grade Special Ed. to 10th grade Resource Room, so she’s been re-learning algebra and other subjects, and has moved to the high school building of the newly-merged Canisteo-Greenwood Central School. Change seems to be the theme of our year by this point.
Ian, meanwhile, finished third grade in great shape, played soccer, went to Camp Gorton and advanced to Webelos I, and did some camping with his parents. We spent most of a week in our RV at a conference where Doug gave two workshops (one on biodiversity and another on environmental history), we celebrated Jeanette’s birthday, and Ian got to play laser tag and go on a water slide (his Dad went, too).
Having been “camped out” at Dad’s place in the village of Alfred since Dad’s cancer surgery and following Jeanette’s hip replacement, we finally moved back into our house after the school year ended. In August, Doug’s Dad’s second wife, Ethel moved into assisted living so I went to South Carolina and moved Dad back into his house in Alfred. Then Dad spent over a month with big sister Roberta and we went to get him when Doug’s brother and sisters gathered at Bert’s for Thanksgiving.
Ian has told us he loves being back at our house where he can run around outside all day long, and seems to think it’s ok to only get a few channels with the TV antenna. He does use his PlayStation and GameBoy for entertainment when other amusements are unavailable due to weather or the like. Both parents enjoy reading such things as Tom Sawyer and Sherlock Holmes to him at bedtime, and his Mom is diligent in working with him on his studies, evident at report card time. He has a pet crayfish named Bowser, thanks to a science project, and is looking forward to taking in Aunt Carol’s cat, Midnight, after the holidays. I think he’s a natural drummer but so far he is only singing in chorus. He also plays soccer and wrestles, having played tee-ball for a couple years.
All three of us continue to make new friends, whether in the fire/ambulance company, church, school or community, and we always enjoy renewing old friendships. We’re glad to have Dad back in our midst and, aside from helping him with practical things, we’re just trying to spend as much time with him as we can. We’re off to Oklahoma to see Jeanette’s family at Christmas-time.
We hope your 2006 has been a bit less “interesting” than ours has, and that next year will be even better. We hope that a more progressive approach in our government will lead to a better future, and we will continue to try to make a difference in all the things we do. We hope you have an awesome 2007!

Doug, Jeanette and Ian

Thursday, December 21, 2006

update on Dad

I was thinking I had kind of a breakthrough with Dad a few days ago, when I asked if he knew how much he started sentences and left out significant elements and left them unfinished, then started other sentences and left them incomplete. He seemed to get it (although I've tried to explain this many times before) and said that he often pauses to choose the best word to fill the next blank, but I pointed out that he often doesn't get around to choosing before he starts another sentence, or at least doesn't say it out loud.
He has done things like pick up our mail, several months old, read it, and then ask us if we've seen it. He mixed up the weeks a while back and ordered pizzas for an event at the Parish House that wasn't happening until the next weekend. He keeps doing things so he can't use the TV the next time he comes to it, even though I wrote out very specific instructions. When I checked the situation I found he had -- again -- turned off the cable channel box, leaving the TV screen blank but the set very much ON. So I reiterated to him to just turn the TV off and on, and use the remote to change channels. We'll see if the idea sticks this time.
I told him I thought some of the difficulty is that he has few landmarks in his vista: if we don't come around, almost no-one comes to see him; he isn't driving, and had said he didn't want a car but is reconsidering the idea that he'd like to be able to get to Hornell or Dollar General now and then, and is worried about imposing on us, and so on. I guess the days must look pretty much the same to him, so I'm trying to check on him more often, and Jeanette is thinking about getting him a calendar and suggesting he put an x on each day as it passes.....
What I think is really happening is that he's moving so quickly from one matter to the next, in his mind, that he doesn't pay attention to what's right in front of him. I know I suffer from this tendency at times. I tire of him going on and on, speculating about something (like last night when we were in the car and couldn't check the reality of what he was talking about, but he kept going on and on with different possible scenarios) that can't be checked at the moment. Sometimes he'll talk at length about something which is of little or no importance to anyone (but he's curious anyway), when I'm trying to bring up something of import.
Sometimes he'll go on and on after I've asked him to be quiet because something came to my mind and I need to retrieve it and write it down, but he'll keep on talking and there goes my thought out the window. I tried again to explain how troublesome and aggravating that is, again yesterday and maybe he got it this time.
I had made a draft of this post a while back, but this week (Jan. 1, 2007) he thought his doctor's appointment was on Thursday instead of Friday. When I asked him if he hadn't put that on his calendar, he said he had changed calendars and not gotten it transferred to the new one.
Anyway, we will try to help him keep things straight, and I will try to keep myself straight, too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Remarks for Stan Butts’ memorial service

When a person met Stan Butts, there were a few things that were quickly obvious:

First, he was dedicated to his community: I know he was active in our church and the fire company for decades, among other things. When I was young, I often saw him at the Fire Hall and I remember going to see the chalk-board just inside the truck bay, to learn where the fire was. I understand he was often the first one there…….

Second, he always tried to do the right thing, for the future long-term: I saw this myself, and first got a taste of “grown-up behaviour” watching him discuss things in church business meetings, when he would point out things that others hadn’t thought of…..

Third, he liked to work hard -- heck, he owned a HARDware store.

Fourth, he was persistent -- Alfred will always be better for that, and so will Molokai, Hawaii, where they spent so many winters, living and working with people afflicted with leprosy. The same is probably true for every place Stan and Lydia visited.

But Stan must have liked to have fun, too – after all, Alfred’s fun facilitator is his daughter, Becky Prophet!

My siblings knew Stan as “Uncle Daddy”. Becky told me just today that this was because our families were too close for the formality of using “Mr. or Mrs. Butts”, so Stan and Lydia became Uncle Daddy and Aunt Mommy and the monikers went both ways between the families. There was an obvious warmth between our two families over a number of decades that continues to this day beginning, I suppose, when my mother and Lydia roomed together in college, both at Greene Hall and Crandall Hall.

I have fond remembrances of meals at their house. These are memories that are warm and comforting, and have been continued with Stan and Lydia’s children and grandchildren.

There was another thing about Stan, which I know was true in later life but don’t know if it was always so:

He didn’t like cold weather.

Many times Stan and Lydia would show up for church on Saturday morning and I would greet them in the foyer. I would ask Stan how he was doing, and if the temperature was less than 80 degrees outside, he would say “cold and miserable”. That was the other thing about Stan: sometimes you got the truth from him, whether you expected it or not.

[What I didn’t say at the memorial, but wish I had, is that I found his candor to be refreshing and wholesome]

G. Douglas Clarke December 2, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Little of everything

Hi, all. I just wanted to share a little update with all of you. Doug, you aloready most of this. I have an appointment ot take Dad in to apply for HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) this Thursday at 2:15. Doug, we told Dad this by phone, but it wouldn't hurt to follow up. He will need birth certificat, proof of income - if his checks are direct deposited in his account, his bank statement will do that - proof of residence and a current utility bill or receipt. The proof of residence could show up on his utility bill, or he can use any other mail that he receives at that address. Berta, Carol was threateneing to sic you on Dad again. He's still afraid he's "imposing on us" to help him with this stuff. We also discussed Christmas. We're not definite at this point, but Carol and I may plan to go down there on Christmas Eve, spend Christmas Day there, then bring him back with us for a few days. My grandkids woun't be out till December 27, so we'll celebrate later that week, Doug, you're getting back the 29th:? Just want to make sure we're all on the same page. A great holiday to you all.

Sunday, December 3, 2006


I hope everyone felt that our Thanksgiving spent together was good. Jeanette told me she thought it was the best holiday she'd spent for some time, if not ever. I was glad to spend time with everyone, and only wish we could have seen Mike (and Audra), and Mike and Sue and Kim and Brian (we got a card from them yesterday, expressing the same regret), and that we could have had more time with Cathy and her family. Bert, I think your insistence on no TV for the one day, at least, was a great idea and paid off in conversation and "quality time" spent. Thank you, thank you, thank you for hosting us!!! I hope your time with Dad was good and not too frustrating. I know I have a hard time conversing with him, some days, just because I get impatient........

On the way home from Queensbury, Dad was telling Ian that when he was a boy he went with his mother and grandmother "back" to Rhode Island to visit his great-grandparents (this would be Edwin O. Kenyon and Cordelia, A.B.'s parents, who had a cottage and a farm) and that there was a hill (I think) near Hartford, Connecticut at which they had to back up the hill. This was because the Model T had a gravity-feeding gas tank in front of the windshield, so the tank had to stay above the engine or it wouldn't make it. I'm trying to record on tape or take notes or type up all such things that he shares, just so I can keep them. I hope to get them all into a file on the computer, at the very least, and maybe get it into a book, using all the old family letters and diaries and things. In my spare time.......

We had supper with Dad Monday, after he had told me he was having a lot of frustration about his not being able to keep things straight. He had evidently dreamt that Mom was back with him yesterday morning, which I told him I didn't think was at all strange, however unsettling. We hope that spending some time with him helps.

Tuesday evening, I went to a meeting of the Alfred Bicentennial Committee, attended by Becky Prophet, among others, and she told me that when Dad went to their house after Stan's memorial (Saturday), that Dad and Lydia talked for more than an hour and that she thought it was great. I agreed. I guess that friendship started when Mom and Lydia roomed together at Crandall Hall and Greene Hall, in college.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas plans

Hey Folks,
I just finished paying Dad's bills, and am relieved to tell you that he has abandoned plans to go to Jill's wedding and see Ethel over the Christmas holiday. He had looked into flights and even talked about taking a bus and had said it was important to him to get to Jill's wedding because she seemed to be the one who most appreciated him. But then he called Bob Edwards, who told him that Ethel is not conversing much at all and would not be at the wedding. He offered to have Dad stay with them if he came at a later time, but gave his assent to Dad not making the trip now, so Dad will write a nice letter to Jill and stay here for the holiday. So, does that mean you, Carol and Barb, may haul him off to Branchport for a couple days? Just a thought. I've got lots more thoughts but wanted to get these posted now, then I'm off to mail bills, take stuff to the transfer station, hang a wreath at the church and clean it up for the weekend, etc. Then maybe I'll get to go to Keeney Swamp (in Birdsall) to see a native balsam fir stand (before the snow starts coming) with Sean Phelan, who has just finished his radiation therapy and is hoping to get his strength back soon. Anybody know anyone who wants to buy an RV?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Home again

Well, Carol and I also made it safely home about 5:30 PM yesterday. We really enjoyed the weekend also. As you said, Doug, May went by too fast, and we were all so focused on finally haveing Dad back here. Berta, it was wonderful to bet the opportunity to get to know you better. Sherm, I still owe you a game of Trivial Pursuits. I might be a little beter there than at Monopoly.
By the way, I have to ask. I noticed a lot of whispering and dropped conversations. I guess that was probably about the talk we (you all) had with Dad. Was there anything that wasn't brought up when we all got together with him?? Doug I like your idea about dropping in on him. If one of my Mom's neighbors had done that, maybe we could have found out before she got so bad. I found out later that some of them knew something was wrong, but didn't feel right about letting me know. I am always amazed at how well he gets along. I'm glad that now that he can focus more on his own needs. Sounds like we may need to continue to remind him that he doesn't need to continue to feel responsible for others. Old habits die hard.
We're just relaxing today. I've been hogging the computer all day, (Doug, thanks for the link to the Hag page, and the link to get my g-mail account operational. Haven't done it yet, but I intend to very soon.), but Carol can take over when I go to chorus rehersal tonight. She's been sorting mail and catching us up on other things.
Guess that's 'bout enough for now. I'm hoping this will become an active site. It feels good to be able to talk to everyone at once.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jiggety jog

Hello folks,
It is good to be home again, home again, jiggety jog.

Sherm was saying something this weekend suggesting that perhaps "Middle Age Maelstrom" wasn't appropriate, so I suggested "Late Life Lyceum". Bert said something about Maturity, I think, but I can't remember exactly what she said, which I guess proves Sherm's point. Anyway, if someone has a "better" name, please pass it on. M.M.M. was what I was calling the website I was setting up for myself a year or two ago and I had thought it would work for this because I was thinking of us all being in middle life, but maybe I 'm just bring up the rear, as usual........

We got Dad home and I talked a bit with him about going to see him most days, probably around the lunch hour, so we can be sure he's ok and so I can do some sorting of papers and help him with whatever needs doing around there.

It was satisfying (to me, at least -- if you differ, please say so) to get together -- it seemed like a long time, I guess because the gathering in May seemed to go briskly along. I've spent the morning trying to catch up with myself but since the weather is warm, I better get some things done outside that I've been putting off until things dried out a bit.

I'll rejoin you later....


new dashboard

just wanted you to know that after i posted that little "glad to share" message, i updated to the new blogger software (part of the google empire). i had been trying to figure out how to get clarkety on my existing dashboard and couldn't. now, i've got it on my new blog-via-google (too many g's?) dashboard. ever onward!!


not in beirut but amazing

siblings and all--
it was such fun to share nina katchadourian's show at the tang museum with you, along with the drawings on the first floor and the meals and talks and games of monopoly. my bus trip was fine, and i was in the apartment at about 10 p.m.

now, i'm sitting at my office desk and avoiding doing "real" email while i cavort in blogland.

hope you had a good ride home, or are having a good time getting ready to get on the road.


Friday, November 24, 2006

so i'm finally here

Doug and other middleagists!!
Guess what. I finally got here, with Doug at my shoulder, on Bert's electricity but Doug's machine. I have to go back and read that letter that Doug sent me all that time ago.
Ever onward, but later.......

Friday, November 10, 2006


OK, Doug. I'm here. Now I just have to find out how to use it, create a profile and all that good stuff.

First Entry

I thought I'd set up a blog so we can post thoughts or annual letters or seasonal greetings or gripes or things we should discuss as a family, or whatever, and then anyone (of us -- as administrator, I can pick who can see or write to the blog, so let me know if we should add or whatever) can post comments at any time. I also thought I might set one up for cousins and such, as kind of a concentric circle.

As an introductory subject, I thought I would maybe talk about the recent elections or recent events in family life.............

It is so good to get Dad back to New York state. I had worried about him but hadn't found ways to break through so I could feel that I was helping him. I felt uncertain about talking on the phone because someone might pick up the other receiver, and didn't know if letters would get read, so I just tried calling and talking with him when it seemed like a good time. That was not often enough.

I knew he was being expected (by himself if not by others) to do more than was reasonable for him, and that he was very insulated and isolated there on Swamp Fox Drive. I was just glad that he got things worked out in his mind and with Ethel's family so that he could come home.

I hate that we didn't get things cleared up so he could have the house (33 S. Main) really to himself, but plan to get our papers and other things cleared up by the time he gets back to Alfred from Bert's. Part of the problem is that, although we got a lot of work done at our house, we still don't have places for lots of things, so things tend to stay scattered, including some of them being at 33.

I also hope that he and Bert are having lots of good time together, and that it's not too much for Bert. I know that they, being newly single, probably have things in common to talk about. But I may be making too much of that. Anyway, I hope that my perspective -- which is that Dad and Bert have always had a unique understanding of each other -- is correct and that my arranging for Dad to go out for a month is regarded as a good idea by the two of them.

I look forward to seeing everyone at Thanksgiving time. We took some of our organic chickens when I took Dad to Bert's, so they're in Bert's freezer. I know others have talked about food of various sorts and Sherm talked about a field trip, so those things could be posted here.

Meanwhile, please let me know if you received that letter from Dad's uncle Clarence Clarke to Dad's mother, Agnes, regarding Ford Clarke's recovery from tuberculosis and his compulsion to be involved in so many community activities that Clarence and others were worried that he'd wear himself out. If not, I thought I'd see if I can post it either here or at Facebook, so you can read it. It tells a great deal about why Dad is the way he is, even though he never had a chance to learn such things from his father -- the tendencies had to be inherited, somehow.

More on that later.