Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Latehomecomer and Trampoline: children's journeys worth reading

In The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, Kao Kalia Lang recalls how the joy of leaving a Thai refugee camp to come to America was accompanied by grief over her separation from her grandmother. The six-year-old girl settled with her family in Minnesota while her beloved grandmother lived with another branch of the family in California, but they spoke regularly on phone calls interrupted by tears on both ends. "I wanted to believe that the tears would reach her," writes Yang, "but I knew they wouldn't.  Only human beings can reach each other."

Yang's 2008 memoir traces the many obstacles that interfered with human connection in her young life: born to Hmong refugees displaced from their home, shifted to another camp in preparation for the move to America, moved from school to school in search of one that would accept students learning English as a second language, taking on adult responsibilities at a young age so her parents could work nights. The one thing that remains constant through all these upheavals is an urgent need to reach across distance to stay close to her family and establish a sense of home far from the lands from which the Hmong were displaced.

Keeping the family connected in America requires money, and nowhere does Yang demonstrate the contradictions of a child's mind better than when she recalls the young immigrant's tortured relationship with cash:
I started dreaming about money, dollar bills that folded into cylinders, looked like trashcans, and rolled around in my head, loud and angry, smooth and gentle. After my dreams, I made decisions. When I grow up, I'm going to have money. When I grow up, I'm going to never need money. When I grow up, I am going to treat money so well that it will always want to stay with me. When I grow up, I'm going to hate money so much that it will be afraid of me and stay away from me. Money was like a person I had never known or a wall I had never breached before: it kept me away from my grandma. I saw no way to climb this wall. Sometimes I thought so much about money that I couldn't sleep. Money was not bills and coins or a check from welfare. In my imagination, it was much more: it was the nightmare that kept love apart in America.
In the end Yang keeps her family close by cramming them all into this slim but satisfying memoir. The subtitle is no accident: this is truly a family memoir, reaching back across generations and forward into the future to situate Yang in the midst of an entire people who "Together...are typing on the keyboards of time." In the closing lines, she urges family members to keep seeking the dreams that unite them, "If not in life, then surely in books."

Another book that brings to light a tale of a youthful displaced person and her problematic family is Trampoline: An Illustrated Novel by Robert Gipe. The narrator is 15-year-old girl Dawn Jewell, who has a dead father, a drug-addicted mother, a whole host of ne'er-do-well aunts, uncles, and cousins, and a grandma who provides a fleeting sense of stability in a chaotic life. Dawn could be a female Huck Finn, except she does her traveling on Kentucky backroads, often in "borrowed" vehicles that come to no good end. And as with Huck, Dawn's voice compels attention:
Mamaw linked her lean arm through mine and told me about growing up on Blue Bear Mountain. Her stories smelled of sassafras and rang with gunfire, and the sound of her voice was warm as gravel in the summer sun, but the stories flitted through my mind and never lit.
Meanwhile, Dawn tries to figure out how her own life story fits into those around her, stumbling into other tales and then finding that she doesn't quite fit. Is she headed for jail or to the governor's office to represent the "face of the future"? How will she make a home for herself among her dysfunctional moonshine-brewing uncles and addicted aunts? And where does the trampoline fit into the puzzle?

The trampoline of the title plays a vital role in the end, but it makes a few minor appearances early, including a charming moment when Dawn's eyes are drawn to an image in an art book: 
I sat staring at a picture of a woman, floating on a cloud held up by a gang of babies. She was dressed in red and blue and reaching for a man looked like her daddy held up in the sky above her like an angel. She was the mother Mary, Jesus's momma, and below was all these beardy guys..., and they was reaching for Mary, trying to get past them babies to grab her and pull her back down.
Dawn knows what it feels like to be torn between conflicting demands, between loyalty to family and commitment to pursuit of a different calling, but she perceives Mary's ascension not as a final triumph but as a brief moment of stasis within a continuous up-and-down journey, as if Mary were bouncing on "God's trampoline." Gipe keeps readers in suspense as to where Dawn's up-and-down journey will lead her, but the character is so delightfully original that I had to keep following. 

Gipe's clever illustrations add another layer of interest to the adventure, serving not so much as postcards along the journey but as external emblems of Dawn's inner turmoil. Never has scribbled hair been so expressive. Yang's memoir, meanwhile, is illustrated with family photographs in which fragility and strength mingle in equal measure. Side by side, Gipe's drawings of Dawn and Yang's family photos stare at us with eyes that know suffering and displacement but nevertheless testify to a strength that will not be thwarted.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

On the transience of beauty

Not much left of the carefully constructed nest.
Three sets of eyeballs looking intently up into a tree cannot locate the blue-gray gnatcatchers' nest we watched being built a few weeks ago (here), but one set of eyes looks down and finds the remains of the nest on the ground--knocked down, no doubt, by some sort of predator. We still hear blue-gray gnatcatchers in the woods nearby, but this nest has bit the dust.

Nearby at the edge of the woods we see bushes covered with newly-emerged cicadas. Hopeful snaps up the tasty treats without making any visible dent in the population, and when a bunch of them take wing toward the treetops, it could be a scene from a horror film (if they weren't so cute).

(My son doesn't think they're cute, but how could you not love those little red eyeballs? Why doesn't someone manufacture a cicada plush toy?)

The sheer numbers are difficult to grasp: after living 17 years underground, millions of creepy-crawlies emerge, enjoy a few frantic weeks of singing, copulating, and laying eggs, and then they disappear without so much as a goodbye. Funny, but I'm more likely to mourn the loss of one blue-gray gnatcatchers' nest than the deaths of millions of cicadas. Who can understand nature's fecundity?  Annie Dillard asks, "What is it about fecundity that so appalls? Is it that with nature's bounty goes a crushing waste that threatens our own cheap lives?"

To live invisibly for many years, emerge to make a racket and reproduce, and then disappear again into the darkness--or to labor long hours to build something useful and beautiful only to see it destroyed in the blink of an eye--not so different from so much human endeavor. Still, while we're in the light, we can build a nest or a noise so beautiful that it will not soon be forgotten.

Cicada molting--pulling itself out of its old skin.

Husks left behind after molting

Bent wings--something went wrong here.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Cicada season

Yesterday on a walk in the woods I spotted a wildflower that stumped even my birding-and-botanizing buddy, but she later looked it up and gave those spiky-globed blooms a name: broadleaf waterleaf, or hydrophyllum macrophyllum, which sounds like poetry or a really effective mantra. In fact, if you put a thousand Hare Krishnas in the treetops chanting hydrophyllum macrophyllum, they might replicate the sound of the cicadas filling our woods.

Some say cicadas sound like distant chainsaws or whining weed-eaters, but they're more otherworldly, like sound effects in a sci-fi film. Walking through our woods, you might think you're in the midst of a massive light-saber fight or the target of a thousand phasers all firing at once.

It's hard to see the cicadas once they take flight because they're too high in the trees, but in the morning we see the holes they make when they emerge from the ground and the husks of skin they leave behind when they molt. Catch a cicada while its wings are hardening and its beady red eyes look like shiny plastic beads.

The lizard that lives on our front porch has been getting fat and sassy lately and we figured out why: my son saw the lizard sitting with a cicada hanging half out of its mouth. They're bursting with protein and fat and I've heard that, roasted, they make a good snack, but I'm choosing to take that on faith instead of putting it to the test. I couldn't put those beady little eyes in my mouth--I'd rather hear them up in the treetops humming hydrophyllum macrophyllum to their hearts' content.  


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Predictably preposterous

I like a good murder mystery as much as the next guy and in a pinch I'll even read a bad murder mystery, but reading four mediocre murder mysteries in the same week seems like gratuitous suffering. Nevertheless that's what I did to fill the long quiet hours between moments of drama while my mother lay dying: having exhausted my own reading materials, I picked some mysteries from my parents' shelves and plowed right through them.

They were okay. One was even better than okay: The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg features interesting characters, fresh plot points, and unusual settings, and while I did eventually solve the murder, it didn't destroy the suspense. I cannot say the same for the David Baldacci novels I read. They're all best-sellers so someone out there must enjoy them, but I found them predictable, poorly written, and, at times, preposterous.

In the Baldacci universe, the good guys all struggle with some deep inner turmoil but are blessed with superhuman crime-fighting skills plus the ability to dodge speeding bullets--or else maybe all the Baldacci villains are very bad shots, which makes you wonder why they chose a life of violence. I mean, if your chance of advancement up the Evil Henchman career path requires the ability to shoot a person standing right in front of you, wouldn't you spend a little time at the shooting range?

The henchmen do find their marks occasionally, but it's always pretty obvious which minor character is about to be sacrificed and which helpless, innocent young woman is about to be put into extreme danger to raise the stakes in the case. Will the good guys unravel the clues in time to save the beautiful princess from the Evil Mastermind?

Of course they will! That's what Baldacci detectives do, regardless of how bizarre the plot. The least believable moment in one of the novels--and they've all blurred together in my mind so don't ask me which one--occurs when (spoiler alert!) the Evil Mastermind, obsessed with seeking the kind of revenge that most of us grow out of by age six, uses a satellite to gain control of the President's limo and drive it off a bridge straight into the Potomac. How does Our Hero rescue the President of the United States from a sealed limousine resting under 30 feet of water? The answer involves a frantic cell-phone call, a hidden rifle, a pair of oxygen tanks, an epiphany borrowed from the movie Jaws, and a Good Guy with superhuman swimming power, but here's the question that never gets answered: How did the Good Guy get cell-phone reception 30 feet under the Potomac?

It doesn't matter, really. The plot requires cell-phone reception so that's what they get, just as the plot requires the two detectives to keep talking about whether they ought to sleep together without ever getting down to business. And in that way Baldacci novels resemble just about every television crime series of recent years: damaged detectives, superhuman abilities, unresolved sexual tensions, endangered innocents, and plots that just keep getting more and more ridiculous. 

Makes me want to drive right off a bridge. (Better take along a murder mystery in case it gets dull down there.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How I know I'm home

Wild turkeys gabbling loudly on the hillside in the mornings.

Hummingbirds buzzing the feeders all day long and wood thrushes calling from their hiding places in the woods--but no sign of the blue-gray gnatcatchers' nest.

Cicadas emerging from the soil, molting, and starting their summer racket in the treetops, members of the massive 17-year emergence that will soon fill the woods with a sound like hungry chainsaws.

Rhododendrons we planted as bare sticks a decade ago producing masses of showy flowers today.

Columbine blossoms in the front garden nodding next to wild daisies and dandelions.

A kind neighbor tilling up our garden, and all those leggy tomato and pepper plants making their way out of the greenhouse and into the ground.

A yard that needs mowing and, afterward, sweet corn waiting in the kitchen and the Cleveland Indians on the radio.

Feels like home.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

At some point it will all add up to something-or-other

Cocoa Beach
The road that rolled past so swiftly two weeks ago seems to be stuck in slow motion today as we feel our way home through a fog of exhaustion. We buried my mother on Thursday with a bittersweet funeral marked by warm hugs and kind words, a lovely event following two grueling weeks of waiting and watching punctuated by flurries of activity. I can't quite make all the events line up in order--Which was the Day of the Lizards? When did I walk the beach? How did Dad talk that traffic cop out of giving me a ticket?--but instead I'm left with disconnected snippets that don't add up.

How many times did I have to move my car? Twice a day the hospice nurses performed the Musical Cars dance out in the driveway, shifting vehicles around to make room for visitors, so I finally got tired of moving my car and parked across the street, which is where the traffic cop would have given me a ticket if my dad hadn't gone out there to plead extenuating circumstances. I was in the shower at the time so couldn't plead my own case. At such a difficult time you wouldn't think the minor issue of parking would take such prominence, but even in times of suffering, the laws of physics (and parking) still apply.

brown anoles
And so do the laws of attraction. I kept going out on the front stoop to make cell-phone calls and I kept seeing these nondescript brown anole lizards darting around like crazy, but occasionally one would stand still and puff out its brilliant orange throat sac. If this was a mating display, it certainly worked--I caught a pair in flagrante delicto more than once.

I walked the beach twice, I think, once by myself and once with my husband, who flew down after I'd been in Florida more than a week. I had driven down there alone powered by sheer adrenaline, but since then my superpowers had been sorely taxed so I was delighted when my husband arrived at midnight Monday. (Not much traffic at the airport that late.) Before the funeral we took a day trip to see his brother and walk the beach at Cocoa, where the previous week I'd seen skimmers gliding above the water while dipping their beaks into the waves to catch some in-flight breakfast.  Salt air and waves breaking, pelicans flying past in formation--walking the beach provides welcome relief from crowded rooms full of pain and suffering.

But not just pain and suffering. I laughed with an uncle I haven't seen in decades, chatted with my very creative niece, admired my nephew's ability to gather loving words from his cousins and share them at the funeral. I even enjoyed talking with the hospice nurses, who treated my mother as gently as they would their own, offering kindness beyond the call of duty. 

Their duties may have appeared slight--giving sponge-baths and drugs, shifting Mom's swollen limbs to a more comfortable position--but I've never seen anyone keep watch so intently, an exhausting job in itself. They noticed small changes in color and breathing, and I'll always be grateful for the hospice nurse who told me, "She's taking last breaths."

That was Sunday afternoon, just after my uncle left. I'd been embroiled all afternoon in a silent Circle-of-Life drama: back in Ohio, my granddaughter was celebrating her third birthday but her mother, my extremely pregnant daughter, had been admitted to the Emergency Room for IV fluids following a bad bout with some intestinal virus. I was sitting in Florida trying to chat lightly with my aunt and uncle, listening to my mother's labored breathing, keeping my daughter's difficulties to myself so as not to alarm my father.

And then a whole lot of things happened at once: My aunt and uncle left. I spoke to my granddaughter on the phone, wished her happy birthday. My father needed my help with some computer problem. My son-in-law texted to tell me that my daughter had been released and would be fine. The hospice nurse said "Last breaths." My father's pastor arrived. His daughter handed me a hot pan of lasagna. The phone rang. People started yammering all around me. And somewhere in that welter of activity, my mother died.

Since then, my brain feels broken. Events flit past like billboards on a highway when you're traveling 70 miles an hour. Sometimes they convey important messages but more often not. How many South of the Border billboards did we see yesterday? And why would someone post a gigantic billboard asking only "Who is John Galt?"? And what's with all the cans of beans on billboards in South Carolina? None of this matters but I can't stop trying to make sense of it all.

Now we're pausing at my brother's house in North Carolina before making the final drive back to Ohio tomorrow. At some point all the events of the past week will form themselves into a coherent narrative, but by that time I'll be well on my way to the next adventure--welcoming the new grandson, who could arrive any day now. One journey ends while another begins, but all I can do right now is watch the billboards go by.


Monday, May 16, 2016


Juvenile stretching its wings
Somewhere there must be a how-to manual for dealing with a mother's death--Grieving for Dummies or whatever--but if so, I've never read it, so I'm dealing with this the best way I can. Today that meant getting out of the house and going to the park to look at birds. The egret chicks were not in sight but I found a pair of young anhingas taking a few wobbly steps away from the nest while the adult perched protectively overhead. What do they do when the mom is no longer there to nurture them? They don't need any how-to manuals--they just wing it. If they can do it, so can I.

Juvenile on left; adult on right.
Juvenile on the nest


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Last words (almost)

On Tuesday when we were waiting for the ambulance to take Mom home from the hospital, she said, If they don’t take me home soon, I’m running away. I wouldn’t put it past her to try, even though she was hitched up to tubes and machines and her legs aren’t in good working order. Now she’s home with no tubes or machines so she’s more comfortable, but she’s not saying much.

The first day or two she would wake up long enough to say a few words to visitors, but now she’s rarely alert and it’s hard to understand what she’s trying to say. The other day she said something that sounded like either love you or want soup, either of which would be plausible even though soup is not on the menu for patients who can't swallow.

She said hello to her brother and told the night nurse her name, and yesterday when I was helping the hospice nurse bathe her, she very clearly said terrible, terrible. I have to agree.

I ask if she’s in pain and she says no, but then I tell her I’ve got her pain medication and she opens her mouth wide as if eager for relief.

She cries out when they move her and gurgles when she breathes and when we lower the bed to bathe her, she says can't breathe, can't breathe, so we raise up her head again to make her more comfortable.

That's really all we can do now: make her more comfortable. I really don't want my mom's final message to the world to be can't breathe or terrible, terrible, but I know what what she'd say if she had the strength: If they don't take me home soon, I'm running away. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Slow drama days

The most dramatic moment of my day yesterday was when I watched three burly maintenance workers armed with sticks struggling to encourage an angry snapping turtle to move off a sidewalk and back to the nearby lake. In a week devoted almost entirely to inactivity, I'll take my entertainment where I can find it.

We moved Mom into home hospice care yesterday, which delighted her: no more tube down her nose, no more needles and IVs, no more hospital. Now she's ensconced in a hospital bed in her own living room, where she can see her flowers and cards and photos of beloved family members, while the rest of us can rest more easily knowing that she's getting the care she needs. She says she's not in pain and I'm trying to believe her, but we have pain medications just in case. Meanwhile, we're doing a lot of sitting and waiting, sitting and talking, sitting and reading, or just sitting.

I'm committed to staying until the end of the week and then I'll assess the situation and see what I need to do. I need to get back to Ohio before my new grandson is born, but neither birth nor death can be forced to conform to my schedule. So I'm working on my waiting skills, even if sometimes I'm tempted to snap like that angry turtle. I keep telling myself: Be the lake, not the turtle. So far it's working, but if you see a bunch of maintenance workers coming my way with sticks, you'll know I finally snapped. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Feeding time

Yesterday I watched my brother carefully spooning ice chips into my mother's parched mouth. That's all she can have right now but she was so grateful you'd have thought she was eating filet mignon. My brothers and I hover around, trying to find something we can do to make her more comfortable, or we show her pictures of the grandchildren or, this morning, egrets.

I stopped at the park on the way to the hospital this morning to see whether the egret chicks I saw a few weeks ago are still there. I found mergansers swimming on the lake, anhingas preening at the tops of trees, and adult egrets doing their morning rounds, and then finally I found a nest with an adult feeding two fuzzy chicks. The adult would stretch out its neck, point a long sharp beak toward the sky, hawk up some digested goodies, and then regurgitate them into the waiting mouths of her chicks. It didn't look particularly appetizing but the chicks got really excited, clacking their beaks together to compete for the best breakfast.

Soon the chicks will fledge and learn to feed themselves, and one day they may be regurgitating breakfast into their own chicks' beaks. Meanwhile, I'm at the hospital showing the photos to my mother, who is very glad we don't have to feed each other that way. Hurrah for spoons and ice chips! A meal fit for a queen.  



Sunday, May 08, 2016

When the nursing shoe is on the other foot

Today I helped my brother celebrate his birthday with Key Lime Pie in my mother's hospital room. The pie was great but I really felt horrible about not being able to offer my mom a bite--she's not allowed any food by mouth right now, so she had to enjoy it vicariously.
She's glad we're here. I'm glad we're here. We're not really doing much--sitting around the hospital for hours on end, entertaining her when she's awake, doing what we can to help her be comfortable.

Every time a nurse comes in to take a blood pressure or hang an IV, I think about all the years Mom worked as an RN in this very hospital, a tiny, quiet woman who could gently and competently keep track of the needs of multiple patients or even climb on top of a patient and thump on his chest if he needed CPR. She never wore scrubs but preferred the white nursing uniform and white shoes and stockings, her stiff little hat perched on top as a mark of professionalism, a token of her ability to guide patients through their darkest hours.

Her nurses remind me of a younger Mom--in blue scrubs and sneakers and no stiff starched hats, true, but gentle and competent and ready to provide any comfort Mom might require. (Except Key Lime Pie. Strictly off limits.)  

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Toward journey's end

I got the call from my brother at about noon yesterday and within an hour I was packed and on the road for Florida. Driving to Florida by myself was not how I'd planned to spend Mother's Day weekend, but someone says this may be my last chance to see Mom, what else can I do?

Which is how I ended up here at the Florida welcome center on I-95, enjoying free orange juice and wi-fi. I figure on about four more hours of driving, but I needed a break. Yesterday the time flew by with the miles; I still felt alert when I stopped for the night in South Carolina, but my eyes were giving out on me. In fact I continued to feel alert through a good part of the night, but here I am on the road again.

It's a beautiful day for driving--clear skies, pleasant temperature, not much traffic. I've seen this stretch of I-95 bumper-to-bumper with cars moving at parking-lot speed, but this morning it's been clear sailing all the way. That doesn't make it fun, however. My eyes hurt and my hip hurts and I've got this nagging headache, but the worst, of course, is that I don't know what I'll confront when I get to the end of the road. My brothers will be there and so will my Dad, but Mom? Surely she can hold on for a few more hours!

So what am I doing sitting here? Better get back on the road.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Summer, ascendant

From where I sit in my quiet office, I can just about get a glimpse of the near edge of Summer. At the moment it's a big blank amorphous hot-air balloon threatening to drift off into the stratosphere, so let's tie it firmly to the solid earth with some meaningful goals.

I'm not going to Louisville to grade AP essays this summer and I have very few solid commitments on the schedule, which is a good things since I need to be available at a moment's notice to rush to Akron to welcome the impending grandbaby into this world or to rush to Florida to ease my mother's journey to the next. Aside from those important tasks, how will I spend my summer?

Fitness goal: walking at least 12 miles per week. I've done more in the past but not since my bad hip starting acting up. Will I ever get back to the 15-20 miles per week I used to walk? Maybe summer's heat will ease the pain.

Research/writing goals: Finish revising last summer's conference paper and submit it to a journal; write the article that takes the next step in the project; make enough progress on the project so that it will look fundable next time I submit a proposal for a summer research grant.

Teaching goals: Revise three old syllabi and create one brand-new one from scratch. Meet with learning community partners to develop meaningful activities aimed at integrative learning. 

Professional development goals: Prepare a faculty workshop on the changes to MLA citation format--and change all of my handouts to reflect the new style. (I'm afraid I'll have to look at every handout from every class I teach, starting with the four I'm teaching this fall.)

Personal goals: Plan an overnight canoe trip with my chief oarsman. Visit Fallingwater. Spend a reasonable amount of time gardening without letting the garden take over my whole entire life. Watch birds. Write about it all.

That looks like enough rope to keep the balloon from drifting out of control. Now all I need to do is climb into the basket and begin the ascent.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Caught in the act

Wood thrush

My birding-and-botanizing buddy came out to keep me company during the latest stage in Waiting for the Phone Man, and even though we had to stay close to the house in case the service technician showed up, we found plenty to wonder over: wood ducks flying above the creek, a Louisiana waterthrush singing its heart out along the bank, yellow warblers singing invisibly in the trees, a rose-breasted grosbeak in the tulip poplar just overhead. We traced the bell-like call of a wood thrush in the back yard for quite a while before catching a fleeting glimpse of the elusive bird, and we thought we'd hit the jackpot. 

Then we saw the blue-gray gnatcatcher.

Well, we heard it first, a whispery little whistle easily overlooked, but it took a while to find the tiny puff of gray and white on a tree branch at the edge of the lower meadow. A week from now that tree will have thoroughly leafed out, but today it was bare enough to allow easy observation of a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers building a nest. 

Blue-gray gnatcatcher on the nest
It doesn't look like a nest--just a bulge on a branch with some stuff stuck to it. But we watched as the two birds flew up carrying bits of spiderweb and lichen in their beaks and glued it down around the nest's exterior, and we even observed courting behavior when one bird would offer the other a bit of grub.

I've memorized the spot and noted the best place to stand to watch the nest so I acn locate it again and follow their progress. I don't know if that tree is sturdy enough to climb, so maybe a ladder would help--or a periscope. Anyone have a surplus periscope gathering dust in the attic? 

People ask me sometime why I choose to live so far out in the boonies, and today I have an answer: where else can you observe such wonders just outside the door? 


New frontiers in non-communication

Dear whoever might be listening out there at Frontier Communications:
Two years ago when a car flipped into our creek in the middle of the night, we were the only people who heard the crash. I dialed 911 and, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the place was crawling with first responders within minutes.

If that happened today, I wouldn't be able to dial 911. In fact, I wouldn't be able to call anyone. Our landline has been out of service since April 22, and since there is no cell-phone access in our rural area, I have had to either contact you via live chat or call you from my work phone, which is difficult to do when you keep telling me that I have to stay home from work to wait for a service technician. Over the course of the past week and a half, various representatives (Hi, Amber! Hi, Chris!) have conveyed to me the following messages:

1.  We will have a service technician out there April 29. Someone will need to be home between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

2. No, we didn't send someone out to fix the line on April 29 because our records show that it was fixed on April 26. 

3. No, we didn't inform you that you would not need to stay home on April 29 because we assumed you would figure that out when you saw that the phone was fixed.

4. What do you mean it's not fixed? Our records show that it was repaired on April 26.

5. We will expedite this ticket and have someone out there April 30. Someone will need to be home between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

6.  We have no record that anyone was scheduled to come out on April 30, but our records show that someone will be there on May 2 or maybe May 3. Someone will need to be home between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

7. You'll need to provide a phone number where we can reach you at home.

I am now spending a third full day sitting at home waiting for my phone to be fixed, and it looks as if I'll be doing the same thing for the foreseeable future. (It's easy work, but the salary stinks.) I don't know where your service technician went on April 26 when he claimed to be at my house fixing my phone line, but he didn't come here. While I stay home waiting for the service technician, here are some things I can't do:

1. Call my father to get an update about my mother, who was admitted to the hospital yesterday.

2. Call my daughter to check on the progress of the new grandbaby due to be delivered in a few weeks.

3. Receive calls from anyone, anywhere.

4. Attend the employee service awards ceremony to congratulate my colleagues who are retiring and receive my 15-year service award.

5. Get my annual mammogram.

6. Attend important meetings on campus. 

I have plenty of time, however, to file a complaint with the Public Utilities Service of Ohio. (Another complaint. Because this is not the first time this kind of thing has happened.)

If this were the first time we've had trouble getting service, I would not be quite so upset, but prior experience suggests that Frontier considers landlines outmoded and would be very happy if landline customers would just give up and switch over to cell phones. But what about those of us who can't get cell-phone coverage? Do you expect us to live without a phone entirely?

It's pretty quiet out here in the woods and I confess that I don't miss all those political robo-calls, but if the quiet should be interrupted by another crash from down by the creek, who will dial 911? Will you?

All I know is it surely won't be me.