Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rodge Jams It Up

My big brother, Rodger, y'all:

Last night at the visitation, one of my brother's longtime friends told us a funny story about Rodger taking off to California to find Jimi Hendrix.  Rodger didn't find him then, but I bet there's a helluva jam in Heaven when they find each other now. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And Then There Was One

My birth mother, known fondly as Tookie, had four children.  First came Perry in 1949, then Rodger in 1952, then Phillip in 1962 and lastly me, in 1967.

Perry died the same year Phillip was born, the victim of an accidental shooting by Rodger with a gun their father bought them, a gun Tookie never wanted my brothers to have.  She divorced their father not too long after that. 

Sometime about 1965, Tookie rekindled a love affair with her high school sweetheart, a big bear of a man who was unfortunately (for my mother) married to someone else.  When she discovered she was pregnant with me, she did not tell him.  My brother Rodger, barely 15, drove Tookie to the hospital and didn't ask any questions when she came back home three days later without a baby.  Those questions he'd save for later.

I was raised south of the river, my little town a 20 minute drive or so from the little town where Tookie was born and raised and where she brought up her two remaining boys.  I've always known I was adopted, known it like I know my name, and accepted it as just the way things are.  My adoptive mother told me a bit about my birth mother over the years:  that both of my mothers were the same age (Tookie was in fact 42 when she had me, two years older than my adoptive mother), that I had brothers, that one of those brothers was known as a stellar guitarist and keyboardist even when he was a kid. 

In the summer of 1979, my brother Phillip begged Tookie to allow him to live in Colorado with our cousins until school started again.  She reluctantly agreed.  He was killed in Colorado in a car accident a few weeks later.

When I turned 18, my adoptive mother handed me my adoption decree, which allowed me to know Tookie's name for the first time.  I went looking, but found nothing.  Tookie had moved several times over the years--to Kansas City, to Colorado, back to Kansas City, then to Reno--and I couldn't find her.

In 2001, I happened to see Tookie's obituary in the Kansas City paper.  I went to her visitation.  In my mind's eye, lots of people would be there and I'd blend into the crowd.  The reality was a bit different.  Maybe a dozen people stood around the front room of the funeral home, and when I walked in the door a little old man scurried up to me saying, "My lands!  You must be Gene's daughter.  You're the spittin image of him."  That's how I discovered my birth father's name.  Three more steps across the room and I felt a hand on my shoulder, turned, and came face to face with a small man in an ill-fitting tan sportcoat who looked so much like me we could be twins.  We stood there staring at each other.  "You're my baby sister," he simply said.  "You're my big brother," I replied, and hugged him.  The next afternoon he played a Jimi Hendrix song, Little Wing, at our mother's funeral.  For weeks after that we were inseparable.  Turns out he'd been looking for me since I was born, but didn't know my name because Tookie absolutely refused to tell him anything about my adoption.  The years passed and we stayed in touch sporadically.  He moved around a lot, always looking for another gig, another band that needed a guitar player, a keyboardist, a bass player, or a backup singer.  Rodger struggled most of his adult life with alcohol addiction and so I heard from him most often in his periods of sobriety.

My friend Janice called me Saturday.  She'd grown up with Rodger, a fact I didn't learn until very recently when I happened to mention to her that I was adopted.  She said, "Oh, honey," and began to cry.  Somehow I knew she was calling about Rodger.  "Is it my brother?" I asked, and she said yes.  Rodger had died on Tuesday at a hospital near Kansas City.  I hadn't seen him or talked to him in nearly five years.  The person who brought him to the hospital knew that his only kin was a little sister, but couldn't remember my last name.  The hospital released Rodger to the funeral home in his hometown and asked the funeral home to notify them of any next-of-kin located.  In the way of small towns, it went like this:  the funeral home tried to call my brother's best friend Billy who happens to be without phone service because he's in the county jail, and then called a relative of Billy's who told them he didn't know my name but they should call Janice, then called Janice who gave them my name but told them she would inform me of my brother's death herself.  I got the official phone call from the hospital ten minutes after I hung up with Janice. 

Tuesday afternoon we will bury my brother on the hillside in Southpoint Cemetery near our mother and our brothers Perry and Phillip.  I am now the only living child of Tookie.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


What a crazy week, and this is only Wednesday.  Wait.  I mean, this is only Thursday.  Thanksgiving Day, or as we in emergency services call it, Thursday.  I think we dispatchers might be included in the firehouse Thanksgiving supper, but no one's formally invited us yet.  I'm bringing a ham sammich tonight just in case the firefighters forgot about us. 

Amy & me somewhere in IL.
Royals cap covers Bad Hair Day.
Anyhow, I had planned on painting the newly-caulked east wall of the house on my last days off, until the weather turned too cold and rainy to make that possible.  After that, I had visions of finishing the paper in the alcove of the front parlor.  But then my bestest bestie Amy called and said she was going to Tennessee to pick up her step-daughter who was in a bit of a tight spot, and would I like to come with her?  So, Saturday morning instead of going home to sleep, I hit the road to Gainesboro with Amy.  If you've never done it, I don't recommend driving across three states and into a fourth one on no sleep, even if you are sharing the driving and you're with your dearest friend.  We made the return trip to Kansas City the next day.  This taught me two things:  1. Amy is one of very few people I would willingly spend that much time in a car with; and 2. I am not cut out to be an over-the-road trucker. 

I slept 14 hours on Sunday night into Monday.  That's approaching my record of 16 hours of sleep at one stretch, achieved last winter.  (Yes, I am somewhat proud of that.)  That made me well-rested enough to tackle the front parlor paper again.  I tore down the crooked strip in the alcove and replaced it with a straight one, hung the "top" paper (the one that will go above the picture rail) all along one wall and partway across the header in front of the alcove, and made it two-thirds of the way around the alcove walls.  That alcove, with its four windows and all that trim, makes for some slow going.  Very slow going.

Maybe next week will be better.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Front Parlor Paper

If I finish papering the front parlor without either losing what's left of my mind or falling through the windows, it will be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.  Raising a child pretty much alone, finishing my B.A., delivering a baby over the phone, and papering the front parlor.  Yep.  The top four, right there. 

After a whole lot of angst which culminated in my taping wallpaper up with Scotch tape, I decided that all of the alcove, baseboard to ceiling, should be papered in the floral paper.  There's no picture rail in the alcove (where the stained glass windows are that "bump out" on the front of my house in the profile picture) because it's pretty much all windows. 

I can tell from the ghost marks of the picture rail that it wrapped around the corners of the alcove and stopped at the window trim.  What I can't tell is if the alcove was originally papered with two wallpapers, or just one.  So I agonized.  What did Mrs. Kelly do?  What would she want me to do now? 

The ceiling in the alcove is a few inches lower than the rest of the ceiling in the front parlor and the windows are also lower than the other window in the room.  The space between the top of the window trim there and the ceiling, though, is only 3 inches shorter.  I couldn't decide what to do.  So I taped up wallpapers in the alcove to see what it looked like with one and then with two.  One wallpaper, top to bottom, won out.  For now.  Unless I decide, once I get past that point, that it looks dumb.

But all those windows and fancy trim and windowsills wider than the trim and fluted trim under the windows mean that I have to measure and cut the paper verrrry carefully.  What's in this photo took me over an hour to do.  That's one strip of paper.  So much light comes in those windows that I'd better be extra-careful with the pattern here because any mistake will be really noticeable. And that one strip of paper is crooked, I noticed this afternoon, so it will have to come down.  Really crooked, not just a little crooked so that I can fudge it. 

I'm at work until Saturday morning, so I have plenty of time to worry over that crooked piece of paper while not having time to actually correct it.  Sigh...

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Have Returned!

It started on Friday.  Randy asked me if I was coming to St. Louis to have supper with him and go to a hockey game.  "Nah," I said, "The weather's supposed to be really nice and I think I'll stay home and work on my house."  Lately when I've made a statement like that two things have followed:  a bad swear at the end of that sentence, and a noticeable lack of any actual work getting done.  I didn't utter a bad swear, and y'all already know that I spent Saturday on the roof of the house. 

Then came Sunday, in which I finished all the scraping on the east side of the house.  All of it.  After that I went to the flea market in Excelsior Springs to see if the lamp I passed up two weeks ago was still there.  It was.  I bought it.  It's ugly as homemade soap right now, but I have makeover plans for it.  (Which I will share here, if it turns out well.) 

Front parlor progress
Along came Sunday night with nothing to do, so I started wallpapering the front parlor.  (One lonely little strip of paper has been hanging there since May.)  White Trash Bob and I had a discussion last week about which to do first, the paper or the picture rail, and he finally convinced me that it'd be easier to do the paper first.  I am stubborn; WTB is persistent when he's right.  It was quite a discussion and included much waving about of arms. 

Which brings us to today, in which I finished caulking almost all the clapboards on the east side of the house.  Annnd, when it got too chilly outside to be spreading caulk around with wet hands I came inside and hung up a few strips of the trellis wallpaper that goes in the space between the ceiling and the (future) picture rail.  After supper, I plan to hang up more wallpaper.

So I have not one, but two projects going on at the same time.  One outside; one inside.  Do y'all realize what this means?  It means that really and truly, at least for now, my house-loathing is over.  I went to bed last night sore and tired but happier than I've been in weeks because I got something important accomplished on the house.  Wait.  Make that two important somethings.  My house mojo has returned--and better yet, I have returned!  I feel more like myself than I have in a long time.  Hallelujah! 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Thing Which Scares Me

I passed up a road-trip to St. Louis this weekend.  Supper on The Hill.  A hockey game.  Hilarity with a long-time friend.  Why?  So I could work on my house.  I think I got my house mojo back, what do y'all think? 

So today (after a very long nap, of course) I went right out there, leaned a ladder against the house, dragged a broom, a rake, and a trowel up the ladder with me, and went up on the roof.  Bravely, I might add.  (Y'all must recall my well-documented fear of heights.)  I attacked the giant pile of leaves and sticks that had accumulated up there, scooped about a bushel of pecans out of my gutters, and then...and then...I had to face getting back down the ladder.  Yikes. 

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Do one thing every day which scares you."  Yeah, well.  With all due respect to Miz Roosevelt, she never had to deal with this schidt.  There's a reason why we've never seen photos of ol' Eleanor up on a roof.  She did a lot of amazing and inspirational things in her life, but I bet she never walked around on the roof of her house with a phone in her bra trying to psych herself up to climb back down that ladder. 

Help arrives.
And when I finally did scoot to the edge of the roof (backwards, at that) and put one foot on a rung of the ladder, it went a little sideways and screeched along the gutter for two or three inches.  Or maybe that was me screeching.  Anyway, to put it like my bestie Sharon would, "I was a-scared."  I scrabbled back up onto the roof.  And then it occurred to me:  No one knows I'm up here.  I broke the South Street Rule.  And since nobody knows I'm up here, I better hope someone's available to come over and hold the ladder for me while I climb down it, or it's gonna be an extremely long night.  Fortunately, someone was.  My beloved son, Dylan, who's home from work recovering from minor surgery to his wrist. 

Let's see...climbing up the ladder and then back down...I surely think that counts as two scary things, so I'm good for tomorrow.  No need to be a risk-taker tomorrow.  Tomorrow I'll just scrape and caulk.  Safely.  No climbing about on top of the house.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you already saw that pic and read about my other shenanigans.  If you don't follow me, I'd sure like it if you did.  You can click on "join the conversation" on the Twitter badge to the right, or on the highlighted word "Twitter" in this paragraph.  Thanks, y'all. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Caulky House

Seriously, after the past couple of days I'm thinking this place is more The Caulky House than The Kelly House...
The before-and-during shot...Curling paint to the right, halfway down; nicely-scraped paint above and below that; and then allllll that caulk.  Work pauses until Saturday.