Sunset Beach in Fish Creek/ Peaceful?

The Many Faces of Larry

At Sunset Beach in Fish Creek crowds gather for the big event—watching the glowing sun disappear over the Lake Michigan horizon where earlier we saw pelicans flying like pearls in the sky. Parents and children skip rocks and lovers embrace one another while gazing at the halo of orange and pink. Larry and Sue along with three female friends are ready to join the crowd for applause that begins with the sunset.

Somehow Larry got on the topic of hunting remembering the nightly jaunts of the deer crossing our yard nibbling our flowers and shrubs on their way to a save haven of soft underbrush where they nestle for the night. Our son, Aaron, is a hunter because that is what one does in Montana to get meat for the year. Larry has always longed to join him but the cost of the tags are too expensive. Over the past five years, we have seen the deer population grow exponentially in our suburban neighborhood.

Waiting for the sun to set is a celebration anticipating the guest of honor to arrive. The joyful atmosphere transforms strangers into friends. The picture changed abruptly as Larry explained loudly how he would love to hunt Bambi in his own backyard but he said, “My chances of killing a deer with a single bow would be close to impossible. An arrow would slow it down, but then I’d have to chase it through the neighborhood with a knife and slit its throat. I don’t think the neighbors would appreciate that very much.” The mental shift from a setting sun to a slit throat causes us to cringe. The man on the rock below us was squirming while eavesdropping.

Next, we drove into town to get ice cream when Larry suddenly pulled over to the curve and parked. He then took us to a circle of lilacs and told us to breath deeply. “It’s the most pleasant aromatic smell. Isn’t it wonderful? I just love it and had to share it with you,” said Larry.

Our friend Lu, a counselor, burst out laughing saying to me, “One minute he is slitting Bambi’s throat and the next minute he has us all gathered to smell the lilacs. What’s that all about?”

Yes, Larry hasn’t hunted anything more than a pheasant and cries first at the movies. My former Marine husband will stand up for the needy and oppressed, yet he will stop for a sunset and to smell lilacs—–the many faces of Larry.

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A Motorcycle Trip to Praire Du Chien

When you see signs labeled Bad Ax River and Lone Elm Tree road, it’s a clue you are no longer in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Actually, we were in the outskirts of Prairie Du Chien. It’s where the Mississippi and Wisconsin River meet. Our mode of transportation was a 1981 Honda motorcycle loaded with everything we would need for a two day adventure. You might call it a midlife crisis, but then no one lives over 120 years unless they are eating Dannon yogurt in some remote village in Russia. Yes, after twelve years of begging and the sky high prices for gasoline, I finally gave Larry permission to buy another motorcycle. Permission, you may ask! Well, Larry crashed his first motorcycle on the Ides of March in 1995— when he gazed at a police officer giving a poor soul a ticket. The woman in front of him suddenly put on her brakes and Larry slammed into her trunk resulting in his broken pelvis, a demolished  motorcycle and a lost teacher spring break. Fortunately, no surgery was needed and the wider pelvis would enable Larry to have our next child.

Every time we went through Sturgis on our way to Montana, I would have to wipe off the drool from Larry’s chin as he lusted after another motorcycle. But Larry wanted his wife as a partner, and he waited twelve years for me to finally give consent. Now I have to admit, I love the freedom and fun of a motorcycle myself.

.Over the past twelve years, gravity has played havoc with Larry’s 6’ 2”, 240 lb. frame.  To get on his motorcycle, he grabs his pant leg and throws it over the seat and does a little jig when a cramp sets in. I’ve promised to teach him yoga and stretch moves to remedy his condition but he shows little interest in learning. Getting off the motorcycle is also a trick since the body wants to stay in the bent over position. Other than that, we had a wonderful time enjoying the onset of fall and the flocks of pelicans landing on the Mississippi river.

The first night we camped at Governor Dodge State Park right along the cliffs. It was late September and we had the place to ourselves. We pitched our backpacking tent and made an attempt to sleep well on insulate which is like sleeping on old cardboard boxes. Following tradition, we strained to read before bed with our trusty headlamps and foggy glasses. I dreamed of our first motorcycle trip to Galena twenty years earlier when we traveled with four other couples surrounded by a lightning filled rainstorm. I was young enough not to worry too much about the metal tent poles attached to the back of the motorcycle. There are some advantages to growing old—such as gaining wisdom.

I highly recommend a trip from La Cross to Prairie Du Chien and then over the bridge to see the Indian Mounds in Iowa. From there, continue on to Galena and back to the land of more sophisticated names for rivers and roads. By the way, the lowest gasoline prices were in Dubuque, Iowa —just $3.66. You might also find a deal on a motel, but then you’d miss the beauty of being so close to nature at its best.

Since writing this post, we have a better motorcycle which is much more comfortable for me. We just took a trip up to Delafield through Kettle Moraine and to Lake Geneva WI. It was a beautiful July day and we celebrated our anniversary by walking around part of the lake and going to Tuscany’s for dinner. Life is good and the gas less expensive in Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

 

A Breath of Fresh Air

After two days of rain, I was pleasantly awakened by sun streaming into my bedroom window. The earth is  clean and sparkling but chilly.   I can’t remember waking up and being able to see my breath in July with temperatures in the 50’s. But it promises to be a beautiful day in the 70’s.

Life with Larry means a lot of volunteer work. We have been up to Conference Point in Wisconsin and the Life Center in Schaumburg. We are at that stage of life, being retired, where we are blessed to be available. We are praising God that we have the ability to be used in this way.

A few years back, we went to Bay St. Louis where the Katrina disaster took place. We helped Willow Creek build homes there and made many close friends doing it. The temperatures were so hot at times that Larry’s muscles cramped. But the job got done.  A very cheerful black woman gave us these hats as gratitude for helping build her Habitat for Humanity home.  I’ll treasure this picture and the memories. When we finished one of the homes, we got in a circle and all sang and danced to —“Sweet Caroline”.  Every time we hear the song, we remember.

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I’m Married to a Turtle-5/18/11

A green and white neck brace encompasses Larry’s 171/2 in. neck making him look like a turtle. He does the impression quite well. His large head pokes in and out like a Sesame street character.

His speech is sometimes garbled, but I’ve always had to interpret for Larry whose original language is mumble. The neck brace doesn’t allow for much mobility. Although his neck fusion happened in January, 2010, he continues to wear the brace occasionally to deal with yet another problem: swallowing his tongue.

Yes, I controlled his every move for a month or so. I was the Siren in charge of his destiny. Even if I’m not quite five ft. and he is six-two and-a-half, he cringes at the thought of me driving his 4×4 testosterone laden King cab pickup truck. It has a special button to raise the pedals enabling me to drive. This is good because Larry refuses to add blocks with electrical tape like my dad did when I rode my first tricycle. I have to adjust the side mirrors which I haven’t quite mastered. Scary, since the rear view mirror is useless. He has to submit to my wonderful driving techniques. We had a Fox River Grove policeman as a neighbor who would stop me on the way to school telling me my stops were totally sloppy and what was he going to do, give me a ticket? For some reason, I was always in a hurry.

Geoffrey Chaucer
Larry’s neck brace

When we take off, Larry holds his head; otherwise it might fly off and topple to the ground like the headless horseman in a future horror flick. I threaten to push him out in the snow if he complains one more time. I have waited years to get even. This is the man who, while laughing, throws my pillow down the hallway a half a block when I get up at 2 AM. My secret desire has been to exchange weights and heights for at least a week to get sweet revenge.

Every once in awhile, he takes off his neck brace and turns into a frog hopping from one activity to the next. Maybe if I kiss the frog, he’ll turn into a handsome prince. But the doctor’s orders are that he remains a turtle for at least a month.

So now I eat with a turtle

I sleep with a turtle

I drive a turtle around town

If he doesn’t behave, I threaten to turn him into turtle soup. Control over men is what Geoffrey Chaucer has said every woman desires.

Larry and Washed out Technology 8/2008

 Unshaven— retired—Larry is dressed in his usual ragged attire of holey blue jeans and a multi-stained red flannel shirt. He is feverishly pulling weeds in our front yard flower garden while tunes float from his iPod. His newly purchased cell phone is securely fastened to his tattered belt for instant retrieval. Less than a year ago, macho 6’ 2” Larry would not be caught dead with either one of these devices. He mocked the cellular world by taking a dead phone and banging it on the table shouting, “Can you hear me? Can you hear me, now?” But Larry wanted to buy a travel trailer for retirement years to see two of our grown children and grandchildren in Montana, and I would not approve of the purchase unless “I” got my desired wish—a cell phone.  The devices are now precious commodities to him. I was given the golden cell phone rule, “Thou shalt not talk on the cell phone while driving.” If I committed such a crime, my punishment would be confinement to the backyard shed for a week with nothing more than bread and water for sustenance.

Life has radically changed over the past year. Now that I am also retired from teaching, I have more time to clean the house and to do the wash properly. Did I say properly? Honestly, I checked his pockets, but missed his precious iPod in his back pocket. To my dismay, it was doing a backstroke on the bottom of the washing machine. It has been secretly drying out in the kitchen drawer for a week now.  Do I tell him or continue to lead him to believe the iPod is missing in the cluttered menagerie of the house? I called Best Buy and Circuit City for life support and advice on how to renew sanitized iPods. Their bleak statement was to run while the running was good, or I might be confined to the attic with no food at all.

I reminded myself that it was just a gift from our precious daughter, Julie,  and her husband Geoff so they didn’t have to listen to Enya, Elvis and Hank Williams while Grandpa Larry remodeled their 118-year old home in Chicago. They only downloaded 750 songs for him.

Have I heard somewhere that being retired is like returning to those carefree days of yesteryear?   What carefree days? Who has them with the economy on the brink of disaster, and bread at $4.00 a loaf? Now that’s a thought; I might not get bread while serving time in the shed.

To the astonishment of us all, the iPod did dry out and works well today.

 

 

 

A Wounded Warrior

 

I peered into the sad eyes of a 25 year old 6’4”man named Bob sitting in a wheelchair. He had a handsome ruddy complexion and a desire to communicate. It wasn’t long before he told me his life story. Five years ago he was in a snowmobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. A few years later he lost his mother. I wanted to comfort him like I would my own son. My heart was heavy when he responded fatalistically, “It is what it is.” We talked about medical science and the progress they were making helping people like Bob and we talked about God and his plan for his life. “You know what I miss the most,” he said, “the adrenalin rushes. That’s why I am here at Adaptive Adventures. I was hoping to ski today but the slots are filled.” I put it on my calendar to be there when Bob tried a sit ski for the first time. Adaptive Adventures provides an opportunity for a handicapped person to down hill ski with an able bodied person. My husband and I love volunteering with them. As fate would have it, Larry was Bob’s teacher. They worked together learning to ski at Wilmot Ski Resort. Just like an able bodied skier, one directional turn can be stronger. But by the end of the day, it all clicked and Bob triumphantly cruised down the hill solo all the way to the lodge with Larry and his good friend following. He was ecstatic about his new accomplishment, and he certainly experienced an adrenalin rush. Bob now has a passion for skiing and other sports offered by Adaptive Adventures. Bob now has hope for a better, more fulfilled life.

The week before, Larry worked with a client named Ted who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force while Larry was merely an E5 in the Marines. This was quite a role reversal for both of them. Larry’s method of teaching was to treat the Vets as though he was their gunnery sergeant. “Turn left he would shout. Make it a harder left turn. Get up and do it again.” Ted, Larry’s client, was a pilot in the Air Force. When he was discharged, he joined the reserves and started working for United Airlines. But during the Iraq war, the Air Force Reserves took him from his job and family to serve where he suffered an injury as a result of a cargo plane crash. Today, he walks hunched over with a cane as a result of being partially paralyzed. But he has a passion for skiing and his dream is to join his lovely wife and child on ski adventures in Colorado.

While Larry worked with Ted, I volunteered with Vince, the gentle bull dog. He was a guerrilla sniper in the 80’s. He talked about his deployments in Grenada, El Salvador and Panama. He vividly recalled a rescue effort of nuns and priests in El Salvador. Sadly, they were all executed before his team of guerrillas arrived. Vince suffered trauma on his final deployment and currently has a rebuilt shoulder and hip. He also suffered a stroke that has limited his movement on the left side. My fellow instructor could understand Vince’s condition; he also suffered a stroke on the same side. As the only able bodied skier, my job was to demonstrate how to ski down the hill and to help Vince stay steady. We took him up on the magic carpet and worked on getting him down the bunny hill which looked like Mt. Everest to him. Vince did fall a couple of times and we wanted him to quit, but quitting was not in Vince’s vocabulary.

Larry and I both have worked very hard in Adaptive Adventures, but the real heroes are those that are overcoming their disabilities with courage and passion.

For more information, see www.adaptiveadventures.org.

 

“Band-aids and Screwdrivers” 2/27/09

Why did I choose the subtitle “Band-aids and Screwdrivers”?  Geoff, our son-in-law, was helping Larry put away his tools after a hard day working on their recently purchased 118 year old house, and he asked him what he wanted to keep.  Larry looked around and said,”Leave just the band-aids and the screwdrivers.” Geoff announced, “There’s a great subtitle for Sue’s ” Life with Larry” blog which was lost in the process of moving from Go Daddy to Word Press. Be patient and I will be redoing this blog from the past to the present. We have so much to share about marriage, family, retirement and living a full life. You’ll be sure to gain a refreshing perspective on life.

The band-aids represents Larry’s many wounds. His grandchildren affectionately call him,”Grandpa Owie”.  Larry replies, “I do have a name”. Not only has he had a bicycle and motorcycle accident, but he has broken five ribs and punctured a lung while skiing. His body, like an old car engine, has gone through a complete rehaul. It includes hernia, nose, back, neck, shoulder and knee surgeries. He occasionally sets off the metal detector at O Hare Airport. However, you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He still rides in the Hilly Hundred Bicycle Ride in Indiana, tears down a black diamond hill in Montana, and teaches skiing at the Wilmot Ski School in Wisconsin.

The screw-driver represents his skill as a carpenter/builder and his occupation as a high-school Industrial Art’s teacher. Currently, Grandpa Owie is using his retirement days to volunteer in organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Bright Hope, Love Thy Neighbor, His Working Volunteers and  Faith in Action.  As a retired English/Speech teacher, I’m learning how to use power equipment and how to drive a nail before 12 attempts.  Larry and I are a team.

Larry loves to laugh and play practical jokes. He scared our son-in-law’s mother by wrapping Geoff’s arm  in a  catsup covered rag.  Bonnie freaked out when Larry asked,”Where’s the nearest hospital.” Geoff is an Urban Planner and construction was a trade he was learning from Grandpa Owie. His mother feared for his life and his limbs.

Consider subscribing to this blog as I go deeper into LifewithLarry.org

 

 

 

Rainy Nights/Clear Days

The last three nights, it has rained in torrents. Fortunately, the days have been clear. We camped at Devil’s Lake with friends and our sweet little granddaughter, Natalie. At night, the rain pounded on our trailer and all slept through it, but me. During the day, we hiked around Devil’s Lake enjoying the beautiful scenery. Natalie and her friend Mikey looked for quartz stones and collected the gems in their pockets. After a delightful weekend of hiking, swimming and kayaking, we returned home.

It rained again last night, and  Larry was busy tying flies  in the basement when he said,”Oh no, it’s flooding in here.” So he donned his raincoat and boots and shoveled dirt near the base of our house to stop the onslaught. Now it was 9:30 PM and it was coming down like cats and dogs—–but it didn’t stop Larry. He came in like a drowned rat—-but he got the job done.

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