All posts by Edward Staskus

Edward Staskus is a free-lance writer from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Lakewood, Ohio, on the north side of the Rocky River valley.

Chapter 60

Chapter 60

When I was reading Jimmy’s letter and got to the part where he wrote that God had spoken to him, my first thought was, please, don’t do the God part thing on me, not just yet. But, knowing Jimmy, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It seems that God had answered a prayer of his, and Jimmy noticed, and now he was all in with God.

He was downtown in the Correction Center, in the county jail, for stealing all the lawnmower equipment from the landscaper he had gone to work for. Video cameras caught his every move, and the Cleveland Police caught him. They made out a warrant for him. They dragged him downtown, up the river, to the clink.

The problem he had in jail was that he had become a little squirt. He used to be a big man, but he had been smoking crack for a year, so he had no weight on him anymore. He had stopped working out, so he had no more muscle on him, either.

He had been big guy, but now he was a little twerp. A little tiny twerp in a jail on a floor with forty other guys all bigger than him, pushing him around, and taking his food. The county jail doesn’t give the prisoners an over-abundance of food to begin with, and if it’s being taken away from you, that is not a good thing, not at all. He started praying to God that he needed some more food, any food.

“I need some help,” he prayed. “If you still hear me, help me. If you help me, I promise to turn my life around.”

He got moved to a new cell, a cell all to himself. An inmate approached him, said he could help, and gave him some food, and some extra food, too. Jimmy wrote that it was God’s hand at work.

I wrote him back, nine pages worth of letter writing. The first four pages were all about, fucking asshole, dumb piece of shit, what the fuck is wrong with you? You’re 52 years old! Grow the fuck up! Then I listed all the ways he had screwed me over, lived with us, took our money, and treated me like dirt.

Then I said, now that I’m done yelling at you, since I am a child of God, whatever help you need, I’ll give it to you.

I got a phone call from JJ, who is one of Jimmy’s sons, and he said his father had been trying to call me. But it was from a 0000 number, the kind of number I never pick up. Finally, I picked it up, when I knew where it was coming from.

“Julie?”

“Hi Jimmy.”

They have phones, but they’re not allowed to have phones. They have to have pre-paid cards to use the official phone number from the lockup. He talked and ranted all about life on the inside, even though it wasn’t even close to being a penitentiary.

You don’t get much time to talk, though, maybe about five minutes. When there was a minute left, we started saying our goodbyes. The phone went dead in the middle of a sentence. There wasn’t even a dial tone left behind. Just dead.

He called again the next week. We only had five minutes, so he got right to the point.

“Is Brian with you, is he there?” he asked.

He must have read my letter. I had written, all the stuff we did for you, all we do for you, I do because Brian says I can.  He lets me help you. In return you have been nothing but disrespectful to him. Show him some goddamn respect!

“Is Brian there?”

“He is going to be.”

“I need to apologize to him and to you,” he said.

“You can start with me.”

Another thing I wrote him was that I was going to get him a Bible. Many a man has found God in the slammer. I wrote, I am so glad you talked to God, that is great. Fucking fantastic! But I want to remind you about the argument you and I got into about the seven deadly sins. You said you were right about them, and that maybe I should read my Bible, read up on them.

Are you kidding me?

What book and what passage and what verse are the seven deadly sins in? Can you point that out to me? If you can’t, is that because you have gone the Roman Catholic way?

I knew he was hiding something, and I thought it was the Catholic religion bullshit. Their religion is totally man-made. Period! They don’t even call themselves Christians.

The God I believe in isn’t short on cash. That’s a direct quote from U2’s song, from Bono. Where in the Bible does it say you need incense and stained glass? If you’re a church, you preach the Bible. That’s the whole point. You read it and read it until you love it.

The Catholic Church has been around a long time. Roman Catholics believe they are headed by the Pope, who they think is the mediator between them and God. Finally, the Protestants protested, saying the mediator between man and God was and is Jesus. That’s what the Bible says. Catholics believe crazy things, like the seven sins, that are taught by people who aren’t God. Protestants believe in the teachings of God as they’re taught in the Bible.

I believe the Bible is 100% God-made. There’s no interpretation. Who needs a Pope? If you don’t believe one part of the Bible, then you might as well not believe any part of it. Don’t bother believing something you don’t believe in.

That’s what I believe.

That’s my whole strength. Now that Jimmy has found God, and knowing how much he likes to argue, and get his way, he and I were going to have thrash it out. Although if you’re in jail you thrash on your own time. If you are in jail, you have plenty of time, doing time, so Jimmy was going to have plenty of time to get it right.

Chapter 61

Jack and I were on our way to the park for a five-mile walk when the next thing I knew a kid hopped off the bus, just a few feet away from me, and started creeping on me. I stopped. I turned around. He stopped. Jack stopped and turned around.

“Don’t come up on a woman like that,” I said. “We have enough to worry about.”

Jack looked the kid up and down. The kid was tall for his age, but Jack can jump five feet up in the air from a standstill. He has great jumping skills. We had to train him not to jump up at our friends who were visiting, who he was excited to see again. He’s a blue nose pit. He is an American Pit Bull Terrier whose nose pit is colored blue. We rescued Jackie. He is the friendliest dog of all time, except when he isn’t.

The kid was still right behind me.

“Dude, you are kind of creeping me out.”

Jackie stepped forward. “What is this guy doing?” I could see it in his face. I don’t think the kid could see it. I don’t think the kid knew what he was dealing with, if it came to that, and he had to deal with it.

Blue Nose Pits back in the day were bred to fight blood sports. One of the   sports was tossing a dog into an arena with a bull. The dog would bite and try to hold on to the bull, fighting to bring it down. The breeders bred the dogs to be ripped and hard as nails. They had a powerful jaw for biting into things. The kid was no bull, for sure. he was scrawny. He wouldn’t have a chance if Jackie got on him.

We trained Jackie to not be vicious, but sometimes there will be blood, when it comes right down to it. You can’t train all the old-school fight out of a pit bull.

Blue Nose Pit Bulls are not a separate breed. They are rare and rare for a reason. The blue color is recessive, which means it takes two dogs with the same gene to make another.

Jefferson Park is just down the street, past the firehouse, from where we live in West Park. It’s a city park, near George’s Diner. During the summer there is a concert series, the Jefferson Rocks West Park. People bring blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy music from local bands. There are some basketball courts and baseball diamonds.

There is a railroad track that runs by the park. There are holes in the fence and kids are always hanging around on the tracks. Bums sleep on the rail bed. There have lately been some Mexican men hanging around, doing I don’t know what.

Jackie is a very active dog. He needs a lot of playtime and exercise. That’s why I take him to the park for a walk. When I can’t, I let him run around the backyard. He never gets bored doing that. He never gets bored doing anything. I like taking his leash off in the park so he can enjoy the outdoors the way dogs like to enjoy it.

When I go walking in the park, I definitely bring one of our dogs with me. Who’s going to bother me, if it’s Baby, who is nearly 200 pounds, or Jackie, who can jump a fence in the blink of an eye? If it’s Jackie, it would be best to not even think of messing with me or him.

Sometimes I have Jackie on a leash and other times I have him off the leash. One time I had him off the leash, and we were coming up to a guy on the sidewalk, who said, I’m freaking out, I’m scared about your dog.

“I sorry,” I said. “I’ll get him on the leash. Just so you know, he’s friendly.”

I don’t usually tell anybody that, because I don’t want most people to think I have a friendly pit bull. I don’t want them to think that, if they tried to do something to harm me, he would be friendly about it. He wouldn’t be, no way.

Jackie is a sweetheart, though, who will break your heart. Now that he’s grown up, he doesn’t fit into the baby clothes I had gotten him, which bums me out. I loved seeing him in his jammies. I have to find him a new set. The last time we were in Mexico I brought a gift back for him, but he wasn’t cool with it, and I was heartbroken. It was a pale blue zipper hoodie. It had big purple polka dots on it. It was a perfect jacket for him, but I could not get it on him. Whenever I tried, he wrestled away from me.

I told the kid, before he could start anything that Jackie would finish, you need to not creep up on me like that, or pass me, one or the other. Don’t breathe down my neck when I’m walking.

God gave women intuition. They always talk about women’s intuition, about getting a weird feeling about something, a gut feeling that something is about to happen.

“A woman uses her intelligence to find reasons to support her intuition,” said G. K. Chesterton.

I don’t like to be touched, either, when I’m out. If you’re on an elevator with me, don’t touch me. It’s just a weird thing. I don’t know what happened in the park, but luckily the kid finally turned away. Maybe he finally got a feeling about Jackie, a feeling that wasn’t a good feeling. He got smart and went his own way.

I called Jackie to me and we went into the heart of the park, where he ran his legs off to his pit bull heart’s content. It’s just a feeling with him.

Chapter 62

When Jimmy was in jail, in the Correction Center downtown, where everyone, unless he is the wrong man, is bad, he was on a bad floor. He was there because his brother put him there, with murderers and molesters and rapists, even though he was technically in jail only on theft charge. He was in with the worst of the worst.

He shouldn’t have been there. He was the wrong man on the wrong floor. But you can’t always get what you want, no matter how bad you want it.

He called me once a week, usually on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon. When he told me about how he had started giving Bible lessons, and three jailbirds were coming to them, I sent him a Bible, even though he had argued with me about the seven deadly sins, and would not admit he was wrong, no matter what. Every time his pride rears its head, and it always goes right to his frigging fucking pride, I’m stuck in back, because he knows everything, Jimmy does.

Surprise, he doesn’t.

The biggest idiot you will meet in life will be the Jimmy who thinks he knows it all. Everyone who thinks they know it all have no way of finding out that they don’t.

I’m still learning about the Bible, and I’ve been reading it for years and years.

The core of Protestant teaching is in focusing on the Bible as the sole source of infallible truth, and the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. We traditionally encourage private interpretation of the scriptures by one and all rather than relying on the interpretation of the church, like Catholics do.

Scripture is clear about the essential truths of salvation. That’s why I keep reading it. “When you follow Christ, it must be a total burning of all your bridges behind you,” is what Billy Graham once said.

Brian and I were out at a Friday night football game. We were rattling on about something I had said the week before, that he was pissed off about, and missing most of the game as we rattled on.

“There’s nothing for you to get pissed off about,” I said.

“OK,” said Brian, “but what about Jimmy? What is he going to do when he gets out?”

I knew that he thought he would be getting out of jail sometime during the holidays.

“Where is he going to go? asked Brian. “What is he going to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s not my thing.”

Jimmy was waiting for the kidnapping and armed robbery charges to be dropped, because they weren’t real, and waiting to be released on the lesser charge of simple theft. He was talking to his lawyer, waiting, watching time creep along.

“I don’t know where he’s going to go. He kind of burnt that bridge with us.”

I don’t think you want to burn bridges unnecessarily, but some bridges are just meant to be burned. Some roads are not meant to be traveled again, like the Jimmy highway, when there have been too many fender benders and crashes on that road.

He has lost all his jobs with the union. He’s been stupid. He lost a great gig with them. If he can even do it, he’s going to have to fight hard to get back into the union.

“Julie,” Brian said, we might have to do that, take him in.”

“What? We’ve been there, done that. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Honey, we need to help him out.”

“Look, this is you and Jimmy,” I said. “I am not inviting him. If it were up to me, that bridge would stay burnt. I would be telling Jimmy, you’re not coming back, ever, sorry.”

“We’ve got to help him,” said Brian. He and Jimmy grew up together. They were best friends for a long time.

I wasn’t thrilled, not at all. I would have been surprised if Jimmy even asked us, though. I didn’t think he would. But I knew he couldn’t just get another pick-up truck and live in that. It would bring back the loneliness in him.

Loneliness is a part of life, but it is the least favorite part about life for most people. Jimmy is so self-centered he gets lonely easy.

We can help him, I thought, but he doesn’t have to live here. I didn’t want him in my house. Besides, it would be better for him, building a life, to take responsibility and have his own place.

“I think we should give him a place to live until he can get his own apartment,” said Brian.

“We’ve had him here before,” I said. “If you feel you need to put me in this predicament, I predict I’m going to kick him out again.”

I love Jimmy, but being in jail, getting out of jail, he hasn’t proven he’s not going to go steal stuff again. I don’t think he would ever steal from me. He’s never done it, yet. The only thing he’s ever done is ask me for money. But it depends. It depends on how bad his addiction gets. He needs to go to rehab, and continue going to rehab, before he does anything else.

I told Brian, “I don’t think we should be coddling him, either. He should get his own place, make his own bed. He’s like a brother to me, I love him, but always helping him, no, I don’t love him that much.”

He needs to get a job, get an apartment, get a truck, pay his own bills, make his own bed, and look out for himself.

It can’t be me looking out for him. Not anymore. That bridge has burnt down.

Chapter 63

Chapter 63

The virus came from China, starting there towards the end of last year, and now it is just about everywhere. Unless it didn’t come from China. We all have to stay indoors as much as possible for another week, governor’s orders. The hair salon has been closed since the middle of March, schools closed, restaurants and bars, gyms, almost everything shut down.

It has been getting around fast. It’s the same as it was in the 14th century. Maybe everybody thinks nobody ever went anywhere back then, but lots of people moved around traveled sold their stuff. It’s always been global, since the first people walked out of Africa.

The plague started when Mongols attacked an Italian trading station in the Crimea. In 1346 contagion broke out among the Mongols and from them it got into the town. When winter broke, the Italians sailed away on their ships. The Black Death got on board and sailed with them.

It got to Sicily in October 1347. Early the next year it landed in Venice and Genoa and from there it moved inland. By summer it was in Tuscany, where more than half of the people in Florence died, and south into Rome. By the winter of that year one out of three of everybody in Italy died.

The Black Death was bubonic plague, a disease that rodents get when there are lots of them all in one place. It’s called a plague focus. People get it when black rats become infected. They’re called house rats, because they like to live close to people. When the plague kills off most of a rat colony, the fleas go looking for their next meal ticket. The freeloaders turn on people. When they bite you, it swells to form a bubo, most often in the groin, on the thigh, or in an armpit.

That’s the plague. A booboo as in bubonic. 80% of the time, if you’re bitten, you’re a goner.

Dogs get sick for lots of different reasons. They’re big on throwing up. Vomiting is often brought on by a sudden change in diet. Dogs feed off leftovers, scavenge, beg, and sometimes eat too much and too quickly. They gulp down things they shouldn’t, like socks and toys. Motion sickness makes them throw up, which can and will be a mess in your car.

Sometimes they get an infection, or get worms, or lick plants and random toxins laying around that are poisonous to them. They suffer, just like us, serious medical problems like kidney and liver disease and cancer.

Flea infestations range from meek and mild to severe itching and discomfort to inflamed skin problems and infections. Dogs can get anemia in extreme circumstances. Fleas can transmit tapeworms. No dog wants a tapeworm. They don’t get the plague, though.

There are three kinds of plague, bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic. Bubonic plague causes swollen lymph nodes. Dogs are resistant to the plague-causing bacteria. Fleas be damned!

They don’t get the new virus, either.

Dogs can catch some viruses, like the canine respiratory coronavirus, but the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, isn’t a health threat to dogs.

The World Health Organization says, “There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. It is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.”

Dog’s don’t contract 19 nor do they spread it.

The CDC says that “while this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person.” The CDC recommends that people traveling to China might want to avoid animals both live and dead, “but there is no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this novel coronavirus.”

The Bubonic Plague was bad, but there are many viruses that can make us sick. They range widely in severity. Some people don’t even know they’re sick when they’re sick with something.  The first serious known illness caused by a coronavirus was the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic in China. Everybody called it SARS. The next outbreak started in 2012 in Saudi Arabia with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Everybody called it MERS.

Last year Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization of an outbreak of a new strain causing severe illness They called it SARS-CoV-2. Everybody else called it COVID-19.

They might as well have called it “The Plague.”

Towards the end of last month 650,000 people had gotten the virus worldwide and more than 30,00 of them died. In the United States we got caught flatfooted and more people are sick here than anywhere else. Everybody knew it was coming, but the amateurs in the Executive Office laughed it off.

There are at least 175 countries and territories that have reported cases. Many have declared lockdowns or dramatically restricted travel or said stay six feet apart. This has left hundreds of millions of people under all kinds of different restrictions.

For God’s sake, the entire country of India can’t step outside for three weeks, not even for anything. They have to stay home 24/7. The cops ride around on scooters and beat you with a cane if they catch you out the door.

Some people are tossing their out pets out the door, their cats and dogs, because some people believe their pets can catch the virus. Then they think they will catch it from them. Some people are idiots, if not total assholes!

Sometimes dogs just can’t catch a break.

Missy Lamonaca, who works at Helping Hearts and Healing Tail Animal Rescue, said, “we’re starting to see people dumping their animals because they’re afraid they are going to get the coronavirus from their animals.”

Cats and dogs don’t get COVID-19!

“Thousands of samples have been done since that on dogs, cats and horses by Idexx Laboratories,” said Dr. Johanna Vena at Cambria Veterinary Care in Johnstown, near where my family’s family came from. “There have been no positives so no evidence that pets can contract the disease of Covid-19.”

Some people think there are no dogs in Heaven. I think all dogs go to Heaven, but only some people do.

Chapter 64

Three million-and more people filed claims for unemployment the week after the lockdown when the virus pandemic closed down big parts of the country’s economy. Experts are saying “catastrophic unemployment crisis” after the Labor Department announced jobless claims rose to 3.28 million from 281,000 the week before. It is the highest ever reported, smashing the previous record of 695,000 claims filed the week ending the first week of October 1982.

That is almost forty years ago. That is a hell of a jump in numbers. The full scale of the impact of the crisis started to come clear.

“This morning’s jobless claims confirm that the United States is in the thralls of a catastrophic unemployment crisis, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression,” said Andrew Stettner of the Century Foundation. “This represents the single worst one-day piece of labor market news in America’s history.”

Our Governor Mike DeWine announced that all movie theaters, bowling alleys, spas, fitness centers, tattoo parlors, and nearly all Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices have to close in response to the virus outbreak. He also asked that businesses start to check the temperatures of people who still have to report to work.

“The virus is here,” DeWine said. “It lives among us and we must be at war with it.”

I think I know where the war might have come from, although nobody wants to talk about it. I think Dr. Anthony Fauci is blocking cures to enrich vaccine makers and Bill Gates wants to use a vaccine to inject microchips into people or try to cull some of the world’s population.

All bars and restaurants are closed. All K-12 public and private schools were ordered to close. All hair salons had to close, too. Just like that I was out of work. Just like that all of us at the salon were out of work. Just like that everybody like me up and down the state was out of work.

A cross-section of businesses was allowed to stay open. The list included grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, health care facilities, gas stations, and hardware stores. We all have to eat. It also included liquor stores.

Jessica Miller, co-owner of Roots Hair Salon in Greenville, wondered what a shutdown would do to her four stylists. She and her partner, Cassie Bunger, talked about whether they would be able to get unemployment.

“It’s nerve-wracking, especially if we find we won’t be able to pay our bills and can’t pay for the shop,” Jessica said.

“My best wishes to the employees,” said Diana Fyfe, who gets her hair cut at Charles Scott just up the street from our salon. “This is definitely changing the world. I hope you all will be fine and able to pay your bills, feed your family, and stay healthy.”

Nothing works unless we do. Working is what gets it done, paying the bills and putting food on the table. Without work, life starts going downhill.

“It’s a difficult time and the various service industries are getting hit hard, but we will get through this and take it one day at a time, ” said Jennifer Bodnar of Nailchick71 Salon & Boutique, in Youngstown. “Our number one priority has and always will be the safety of our customers, so we will be here once this is all over to make our clients look and feel beautiful.”

At Jen and Friends in Boardman, Karin Bernard, a stylist, was finishing up a client when she heard the news.  “Of course, all of us here in the salon are devastated, but we will comply with the Governor’s mandate, and we know our clients are loyal and will return.  We just pray that our customers, who are more like family, stay safe and healthy, and we pray for everyone here and across the world.”

It’s gotten to be a mess all over the world, especially in Spain and Italy. All the Indians, all the 1.3 billion of them in India, except for the police and army and medical and absolutely essential workers, were ordered to stay at home, not set foot outside, for 21 days.

What happens when they run out of food?

The Mexicans told the Mexicans to stay home. I don’t know how that’s going to work. “I can’t stop,” a guy by the name of Leonardo Prado said standing next to his hamburger cart in Mexico City.

“If I don’t sell, I don’t eat. It’s as simple as that.”

The virus sweeps into Detroit. The virus sweeps through Louisiana after Mardi Gras. The virus sweeps into Florida as people with second homes try to get out of whatever city they are living in. The virus spreads everywhere where people go.

The virus spreads behind bars, jails and prisons

Roughly three out of four Americans are under orders to stay home. If they aren’t there now, they will be soon. President Trump says so. He said the day before the end of last month that everybody had to chill until about the end of May.

He said he was extending his administration’s social-distancing guidelines for another thirty days, after saying for days that he was going to open up the country in the next couple of weeks, by Easter, no later. Before that, before the virus got here, he said it was no problem, Americans didn’t have to worry about it.

Something isn’t right in the White House

I went to Lakewood park, found a parking spot, and went for a sanity walk. I got some fresh air and got in four miles.

Everybody is letting their hair down until we open up again.

“I will definitely have some roots,” said Jacquelyn Fabiszewski.

“Hang in there Julie,” said Chris Pate. “I’m glad I got to see you before things shut down. I’ll be back to see you. Stay safe!”

“See you when lockdown is over,” said Rhonda Dearfield.

“Stay safe Julie,” said Beth Strohm. “I will see you when this is all over.”

It might be a while, which means some of my clients might start getting desperate. All I can say is do not under any circumstances go a pet store and get a cut from a dog groomer. They do great with dogs, but it just wouldn’t be worth it.

There’s nowhere to go to show off your new do, anyway.

Chapter 65

Now that Jimmy is out of jail and at our house, it’s like having two full-grown toddlers rolling around. They are worse than the dogs. I said over and over that Jimmy could only live in our house over my dead body. But there he is, and I’m still alive and breathing.

I had gotten Brian a pair of slip-on shower shoes, but he didn’t like them. He told Jimmy he could have them. But Jimmy could only find the left slip-on. He couldn’t find the right one.

“Where’s the other one?” Jimmy asked. “Brian said I could have them.”

“I don’t know where it is. I would have to look myself.”

“Well, I love them, can you look?”

“I don’t give a fuck,” I told Jimmy.

I told him in the letter I wrote him when he was in the Corrections Center downtown, that what you want to do sounds great, but it all depends on what you actually do when you get out of jail.

What he actually did when he got out was go straight to Lorain County Jail.

Even though his brother hates him, his brother who is a prosecutor downtown, Jimmy got out on a personal bond. He is broke, so he couldn’t have made bail, but all he had to do was promise to stay in town ad show up when he was summoned.

He walked out of jail and walked right back into jail. His brother set it up when he found out Jimmy had stolen three thousand dollars-worth of golf clubs from Golf Pro. Jimmy plays, but he was going to sell the clubs so he could get drugs.

Have clubs, will trade for crack.

He had never told me about what he did to deserve the Lorain jail, but I found out.

“I didn’t want to tell you because you wouldn’t be my friend anymore,” he said.

“This is the same fuck-up,” I said. “Get it cleaned up!”

Brian and I were having the same conversation we had had before, about how I didn’t want Jimmy in our house again, he hurt me, we’ve gone through this before, when Brian asked me, where Jimmy was.

“Jimmy’s out of Cuyahoga,” I said.

“OK but where is he?”

“Lorain was waiting for him.”

“Oh, shit.”

Jimmy called from Lorain, all sad, explaining, thinking we wouldn’t listen to him, or help him out.

“Look, this is still your same screw-up, get this shit taken care of, do your time, whatever you need to do.”

In the meantime, they let him out on a personal bond, again. He called me again.

“I’ve probably got a warrant out for my arrest in Cuyahoga County,” he said.  “I was in jail in Lorain on my court date that I didn’t show up to.”

“That’s your cross to bear,” I said.

“Can you come get me?”

“What?”

Brian took the phone.

“If you need to stay with us, you can stay with us,” he said, to my surprise.

“No, no, no,” I said. “What are you doing?”

“Our friend needs help.”

“We can help him, but he doesn’t fucking need to live here.”

“We’re going and picking him up,” Brian said.

He was waiting for us on the corner.

“Thanks,” he said, getting in the car

“I have to stop at a dispensary downtown to get THC gummies.”

“Great!” he said

In high school I was a Young Christian. Now I’m an older Christian, but I’m a stoner, too.

“No, they’re for me.”

I take THC for pain and because it is supposed to retard dying neurons. If I start on pot now, the way I look at it, I should be really good in later life. If I ever get Alzheimer’s, like my mom, I hope somebody overdoses me on something. I’ve told all my nieces and nephews, I don’t want to live like that. But they are all, no, we are not going to do that. What the hell? A bunch of pussies in my family, I told them again, you better come over and OD me.

Jimmy came to live with us, and it worked out better than I ever thought it would. Brian gave him some of his clothes and I gave him a haircut. Brian has known him since grade school. He’s a great guy, his two sons are both in the military, he just got caught up in drugs. It got crazy.

One night, when Brian and I were away, we were on the phone with him, when suddenly we heard screaming dogs. When Jimmy came back to the phone, he said there had been a fight, Jack was hurt bad, and he had to stop the bleeding and call a vet.

When we got home it was what we thought. Graysun and Hermie had for the sixth time ganged up on Jack and torn him up. He was already starting to look like Frankenstein There was hardly a mark on the other two. Jackie had been bit on the face and head and his back was all stitched up.

My Care Credit card was getting run up. It was up past three thousand dollars getting Jackie stitched up again and again.

I didn’t know why they did it, why they kept doing it, but I cried about it.

“We can’t live like this,” I said

I thought maybe we could take Graysun and Hermie to a shelter, but Brian said, what if they attacked another dog there. No shelter is going to want to take them if they know what they have been doing. What if a family adopts one of them and the dog attacks a child?

There wasn’t anything we could do but put the two of them down. After we did, a peace came over the house. Jimmy made sure to watch and take care of Jack.

He is in love with Jimmy now.

Chapter 66

Chapter 66

I finally told my doctor at Orthopedic Associates, “No more medication, I’ve done all the physical therapy and everything you asked me to do.” I wasn’t getting anywhere. It wasn’t helping.

“What about shots?” he asked.

It was for my shoulders and neck, the tendinitis and bursitis. My shoulders are so bad I couldn’t lay down or even sit in a chair, it was so painful. I couldn’t sleep. It hurt all the time.

The shots were something, which helped, but what happened was from June to November last year my heart started going crazy because of the fucking shots. I told him, “I can’t do those anymore, the side effects are terrible.” I told him I was thinking about medical marijuana.

He said, “Let me know how that works for you.”

I told him I would.

I looked it up, made a phone call, had to go online, fill out forms, and go see a doctor who specializes in pain and medical marijuana. Ohio’s not messing around, which I kind of like. Personally, I’m all for it. I think it’s a God given herb, but you have to be careful.

I called my doctor, told her what I was doing, that I was so sick of pharmaceuticals.

Marijuana is here for a reason. It cures epilepsy, helps with Alzheimer’s, is good for Parkinson’s, all sorts of things.

I’ve been giving my mom medical marijuana for four years. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for her. She now sleeps when she’s supposed to, so she doesn’t get her days and nights mixed up anymore. She has an appetite. Before, she was losing a pound a week. She was crabby today, so I pulled out a gummie for her.

“Open up little birdie.”

Ohio’s medical marijuana program passed in 2016, and was supposed to be operational by September 2018, but red tape delayed it until the beginning of 2019.

The basics of the law are, qualifying conditions only, permitted for medicinal use only for patients who are prescribed medical cannabis by a doctor to treat one, or more, of 21 qualifying conditions, prescriptions by approved doctors only, patients and caregivers must be registered to purchase, possess, and use medicinal cannabis with the State Board of Pharmacy, a 90-day supply of medical marijuana only, and medicinal cannabis in a form that can be vaporized, no igniting or combusting using a flame, or as tinctures, patches, and topical ointments.

It’s a lot, but it’s the law.

When I got my appointment, it was in the King James Building in Westlake. The office was all white, except for one wall that was wall papered in marijuana leaves. When the doctor introduced herself, she told me she had been an anesthesiologist.

“But I stopped believing in the pharmaceutical world,” she said.

“Not many of us do,” I said.

She went over my medical records. At first, I was nervous, but then she said, “You’ve done it all, but it’s going up your neck, so you have every reason to try marijuana. You’re still working, too, so it will work for you.”

She sent me to another office, where a young girl was working, who told me all about it.

“You’re going to love it,” she said. “Just remember, it’s illegal to smoke it.”

“OK, no buds,” I said.

“No buds.”

“Just the oil,” I said.

But I sat on it for a couple of weeks before actually trying it. I finally drove to a dispensary in Elyria. I went in the door. There were two more doors. I pushed a button. A camera looked me over and they let me in. I had to fill out forms and more forms. A man led me out to where the marijuana was.

“This is Chelsea, she will be your personal shopping concierge.”

“For real?”

“Yeah, you might have questions.”

The marijuana room was beautiful, new, crisp, clean, natural wood on the walls. There were three huge flat-screen TV’s. Six tables filled the room, dark wood legs, marble tops, glass cases.

Wow, I thought.

“What are you interested in?” asked Chelsea.

“I don’t know, why not tell me about everything.”

She did.

There was indica, sativa, and hybrids. Indica strains are physically sedating, perfect for relaxing with a movie before bed. Sativas are about invigorating, uplifting effects that pair well with physical activity and social gatherings. Hybrids fall somewhere in between. There were THC and CBD mixtures. There was all kinds of everything.

I got a bottle of hybrid and three different kinds of gummies. The oil was a tincture, the type of thing you put under your tongue. Oh, my God it helps! THC is the best thing I’ve ever done. It stops the pain.

I had been getting my mom gummies, getting them from a friend. She ran out for seven days and every day my stepfather looked more and more haggard. I swore it would never happen again. My doctor’s visit cost $260.00 and the medical marijuana card $50.00. My stepfather paid for half of it.

My mom’s nickname when she was a nurse was “Buescher the Pusher” because she was an IV therapist. Now that I supply her with gummies, I have become “Buescher the Pusher.” The older you get the more like your parents you become.

It’s better than living on pharmaceuticals.

I was clenching my teeth all the time and had to take Flexeril.  It treats muscle spasms. I was taking Vicodin, too. It’s a combination medicine used to relieve moderate to severe pain. It contains an opioid pain reliever and a non-opioid pain reliever. It works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain.

With the THC oil, I don’t take those drugs anymore. I take my tincture at about 8 o’clock, get into my PJ’s, getting ready, and in the next hour it takes effect. My eyes get small and I start smiling. Whatever and whenever Brian says something, all I can think to say is, “What?”

But it’s the greatest thing. I can finally relax.

Chapter 67

My stepdad called me early in the morning. Thank God I was up! My mom had fallen down. Jimmy watched the dogs while I rushed over there. When I got there, she was still on the floor. I couldn’t lift her by the shoulders, since it looked like she had hurt her arm, so I had to grab her by the waist.

I gave her a good wedgie, but at least I got her off the floor and into a chair.

“She was getting up, she was going to get her shoes, and she just fell,” said Pete.

“What do you want to do?” I asked.

“What do you think is best?”

“If we take her to a hospital, drop her off at the door, with this virus, that will be it.”

We called Orthopedic Associates in Westlake. I was not happy with the doctor. I don’t think he was happy to see a patient, at all. I was hoping it was just a dislocation, but after he x-rayed ger, he said it was broken.

I had to keep propping her up because her arm swelled up so fast and so big it was unbalancing her.

“She really needs surgery,” the doctor said.

“Is there anything else?” I asked

“We can put her in a sling.”

“OK.”

He sent a girl in from his staff. She put a sling on and told me I would have to tighten it when we got her home.

“No, I don’t know how tight it’s supposed to be. You do it.”

“I can’t, it’s too swollen.”

When we finally got her home, the next thing I know, mom collapses. Fortunately, she fell on top of me.

“Pete, her legs aren’t working. There’s something more wrong.”

“She very dramatic,” said Pete.

My dad used to always say that. “She used to be dramatic,” I said.

We got her into a recliner, put ice on her arm. I was trying to tighten the fucking sling, but her arm had gotten so big and heavy and her fingers were like giant sausages. It was bad. We gave her pain medicine and more ice and as the day went on, she started becoming OK.

I decided I was going to move in and sleep next to her on their little love seat couch. That way, if she needed something, I could grab it. Brian came every morning, helped me get her to the potty, I would change her diaper and pad, put her back in the chair, and make breakfast. He came back every dinnertime and we did the same thing all over again.

It was a lot of work, but after a month I could tell something was going wrong.

“We’re losing her,” I told Pete. “She’s going to die on the ship. I honestly think she needs to go to a hospital.”

“Well…” said Pete.

“She’s hardly breathing. It’s either that, or she dies in this chair.”

“Yes, call the ambulance,” he said.

“Thank you.”

When they show up, my brother is part of the squad. He’s on the department in North Ridgeville. I’m a mess, but he walks right past me, like I don’t exist.

“Piece of shit,” I said to myself.

They took her away on a stretcher. My brother told my stepdad she was near death. None of us knew why. I called Orthopedic Associates and left messages for two days, but nobody called me back. Finally, I reached the doctor on the third day. I told him she was going down.

“I’ve had it,” I said. “You’ve ignored our calls and we don’t know what is going on. Nobody dies from a broken arm. If she does. I’m coming for you.”

They took her to the Cleveland Clinic on Lear Road in Avon. There, it turns out, for some stupid reason, one of the doctors put her on a potassium supplement. My mom loves bananas. She eats 50,000 of them a day. She eats them with her bacon and toast first thing in the morning. She doesn’t need any more of it. Her potassium levels were sky high, her afib was out of rhythm, and her kidneys were shutting down. It was a very dangerous thing. She was in the Intensive Care Unit.

When they did blood work on her the hospital doctor said it was killing her. The reason she was having kidney failure was also because she had been an addict most of her life. She was a nurse and loved her codeine.

Thank God her kidney specialist was on call at the hospital that day. He told us he was going to try something.

“If this horrible thing I’m going to do doesn’t bring back her kidneys,” he asked, “what do you guys want to do?

“If she needs dialysis, put her in a coma and let her faze out,” I said.

We were all on board with that.

He gave her a shot through her IV and BOOM! Her kidneys kicked right back in.

“Now they can address her arm,” the doctor said.

Because I threatened his staff, mom’s doctor at Orthopedic Associates refused to do the surgery. There was another doctor at the Clinic, also from Orthopedic Associates, who took a look at her arm.

“I’ll do the surgery, no problem,” he said.

He did a great job. When she was well enough, they took her to the Lutheran House in Westlake for recovery.

“She’s going to need a cane, I told Pete, “because she won’t be able to get around on the RollAtor.”

“I think you’re right,” he said.

I told him I was thinking of taking care of her all of the time, but I was bothered by how I almost killed her, waiting so long, torturing her.

“Well, we didn’t know what was happening.” He said he might be good with it.

“Are you sure you want me to?”

I was sure I wanted to.

Chapter 68

It was the middle of May when I announced my retirement as a hair stylist. The day of my retirement from Kameryn Rose Salon is soon, I said.  June 9th is my last day! Thank you to everyone!

“Noooo! I’ll have to share with my mom, but good luck on your next phase!” said Megan Brown

I still have ‘till June 9.

“Oh, my God! I will make a hair appointment for next week. Bittersweet, but I’m happy for you and Brian,” said Julie Raum-Gresko.

“I am sending you prayers on your next chapter,” said Samantha Britton.

“Wow! Big news for you! You are still stuck with me as a friend!” said Julie Busch Jones.

I’ll take it!

“Lucky, lucky, lucky! Congratulations!” said Linda Klaus Legeza.

“Wow! Congratulations Julie!” said Collen Neiman Newcomb.

My mom needs me!

“You are a great person,” said Colleen.

“Congratulations!” said Christy Farneth-Kerr.

“Apparently, you are being ‘recruited’ for a much more important task of the heart. God Bless!” said Karlina Ilze Riders.

“Wow! That is big news. Congratulations. You will have an unforgettable time with your mom. Cherish it all,” said Autumn Semsel.

I can’t thank you enough!

“No need to thank me,” said Autumn.

“Congratulations!” said Tammy Dondorfer.

“I will miss seeing you,” said Alysia Wright.

“God bless you! Cherish every moment,” said Jane Hitchins Archer.

“Your mom is blessed to have you retire for her. Congrats!” saidd Holly Vasiloff.

“I see you’ll be taking care of your mom. She is incredibly lucky to have you for a daughter. I fully believe this is a decision you will never regret. On a selfish note….” said Rhonda Dearfield.

I’m going to miss everyone so much! Thank you!

“I wish I could give you a big hug. You gave me some great color. Will miss me. I’ll tell Meredith,” said Suzy Puckett.

“Congratulations!” said Malena Nanni Roche. “You will be missed, but your mom is very lucky to have you!”

“Congratulations! You deserve it!” said Nicole Kostelnik.

“Congratulations,” said Marc Zukie.

“You are gonna be cutting my hair in your basement then,” said Daniel Skinner.

“You will be missed, for sure,“ said Margie Jenkins.

“Awww, I’m so sad but so excited for you. We will miss you,” said Abby Wick.

“Oh, my God, noo!” said Katalin Safran. “We will miss you but congratulations!”

“Congratulations!” said Janet Cuciak.

“You deserve it! And what a blessing for you and your mom!” said Julie Stringer Reis.

“Best of luck in retirement! You are a good person!” said Lora Hennessey Richardson.

“I am shocked but so happy for you. What made you decide to do this? Who is going to do my hair? Your mom is very special and I’m glad you are going to help her! Congratulations!” said Fay Davis.

“What? Wow! Congratulations!” said Krista Viola.

“Good for you, Julie.” said Megan Winters Wilson.

“God speed Julie, giving up what you love and loving to serve others AND GET PAID FOR IT surely isn’t an easy decision, yet for the greater good you deemed it necessary! Honoring your mom is not an obligation but yet another one of those acts of love,” said Lezlee Sims

“Congratulations Julie!” said Kathy Williams Osborne.

“Best Wishes Love!” said Marybeth Barabas

“Congratulations! Hope your mom is ok!”  said Doug Corlett.

“Best wishes!” said Kathy McClure

“It had to be a difficult decision, but it’s totally the right one! Going to miss you,” said Judy Smith

“Good for you! Congrats,” said Daryl Stein.

“Congrats! Double whammy on my birthday, too. Let’s celebrate!” said Freddy Saulig.

“You need to have a big summer party, with a DJ, I know a pretty good one!” said Jim Berendt.

You know it.

“Congratulations my friend!” said Jacqueline Gillon.

“Wow congrats! I was so fortunate to work with you as a new stylist. I learned to much from you! You are an amazing stylist with a huge heart. I adore you! Congrats on a well- deserved retirement, enjoy,” said Kate Skinner.

Love you.

“Whoa!! Wow!! Bittersweet!! See you soon for one last amazing the works,” said Mary Fitzgerald Wolf.

“I will miss you, but your mom needs you!” said Chris Pate.

“What??? Congratulations,” said Charlotte Sullivan.

“Couldn’t we have discussed this for at least a few years?! Lol! I love you and wish you all the best in your retirement. It’s been a privilege being your client for so many years!” said Mary Caruso.

Gonna miss you a lot!

“What?” said Jessi Pizzuli.

Mom fell and had to have surgery on her arm during the quarantine. They need my help!

“Aw, your poor mom,” said Jessi.

“Congratulations!” said Stacey Caron.

“Happy for you!” said Kati Tarmann.

“Congratulations!” said Carrie Pfaff Hale.

“Sad to hear, but totally understand. We love you, Julie!” said Lori Klodnick.

“Even though I am sad because you’ve done my hair like over 20 years, remember I am one street over from your mom and am available for anything you or her need!” said Debra Brumfield.

“Wow congratulations!” said Pamela Hutsenpiller.

“Good for you! Congratulations!” said Sherri Shepherd.

“May you know caring for your mom is incredibly important and loving. God bless you,” said Lana Rook.

“Whaaaaat? Congratulations!” said Donna Gero.

“Congrats! Your mom is in awesome hands. Peace and love going forward!” said Karen Bartrum jansen.

“Congratulations on your retirement! I will miss you, but totally understand,” said Beth Kevesdy Strohm.

“Warmest congratulations. You will be missed at the salon!” said Wendy Carson.

I’m gonna be a mess on my last day.

“You are the hardest and most dedicated at your craft. You are loyal and loved your people. You had a hard time with this decision, and it’s been waning on you since your mom became ill, but you gave it to the Lord, and you trust in him. Congratulations, I love you so much! You are so kind and loving, you will do well with your mom!” said Brian.

Chapter 69

When my mom had surgery on her arm after her fall, they had to bring it up three inches to reattach it to the bone. They put a rod in her little bone to connect it. One more rod in her little body.

We asked the surgeon to give her twilight instead of anesthetic during the surgery. Older people, when they go under, they will come out of it with some dementia. Mom is at the beginnings of stage three of Alzheimer’s Disease. She knows who I am, and she knows who my stepdad is. Those are great things. We don’t want her forgetting us.

She’s had two broken hands and a broken neck. She’s got a rod in her back. Now she’s got a rod in her arm. The next time something happens, we are going to have to take her out, because I don’t think I could survive it. I don’t want to see her live like this.

Honest to God. It’s killing me. It’s not living.

When she got up on her feet at the Lutheran Home, she was able to take about fifty steps That’s great! We can get her to the potty. After a while we can get her back from the potty. What kind of a life is that? It’s not a kind of life, at all.

Once she got out of recovery from the Lutheran Home she was going home. Once she was home, she would need caring even more than the caring she had been getting. Once again, I would be taking grief from my brother and sisters.

“Have you talked to Brad or Patty or Betsy?” I asked Pete.

“Why should I talk to them,” he said. “They don’t take care of her, we do.”

That’s the sentence in a nutshell that got me kicked out of my family. I never said it, other people said it, but they all believe I said it. There’s no telling them they are wrong. I’ve been taking care of my mom for almost five years. I don’t care what they say anymore.

Many Alzheimer’s Disease patients have ten years from the time they come down with it. My mom could have five more years. I started thinking, once she was up and about, back home, it might be best if I devoted myself to taking care of her. I wasn’t sure how to tell Pete, because every time I had ever brought it up, he said, “No, no, no, you need to keep your job, keep working.”

But work was killing me. I have had many ailments over the years from the job, tendinitis, bursitis, on my feet all day. The salon was closed for ten weeks because of the 19 virus. After my first day back, I was so sore. I had never hurt so bad. It was awful.

I stayed stoned from the second I got home until the second I stepped back through the salon door. You can’t die from it, although I thought I was going to die from the soreness.

I called Pete the next day, after I thought about what I should do.

“This is what we are going to do,” I said.

“What is that?” he asked.

“There’s no way you can do it all alone, take care of her and everything else. I am going to devote myself to it. Brian and I are willing to scrimp and save while we have to, to get it done.”

I hadn’t talked to Brian about it, yet.

“I will help take care of you that way,” he said, which brought tears to my eyes.

I had some huge God things happen to me the past few months. Pete saying what he said was one of them. I talked to Jody at the hair salon. She said she completely understood and that if I decided to retire, I was welcome back anytime That brought tears to my eyes, too.

Taking care of my mom can be rough. She gets Sundown Syndrome all the time. When the sun goes down, she often gets mad as a hornet, throwing shit, yelling.

My grandfather had it. I would go see him at night, after work, and he complained the nurses were poisoning him. I would take a bite of his food to show him they weren’t trying to kill him.

“Look, it’s OK, there’s no poison.”

He would take a bite and spit it right out on the floor.

“Poison!”

It was bad. One time my grandmother went to see him, and the minute she stepped in the door, he shouted, “Helen, there’s a huge black hair hanging out of your nose!”

There wasn’t but no matter what we said, it didn’t matter what we said. The next day he remembered and was so embarrassed.

Pete calls, says, your mom is going crazy. When I get there, I feed her some THC. It’s not going to kill her, but buzz her up a bit, and she gets a good night’s sleep. She won’t take anything from Pete, but she will usually take what she needs to take from me.

I start by playing with her hair, twirling it a little, and once I do that, her body will start to relax. “Down the hatch,” I say, and it’s down the hatch. It’s been a Godsend.

When my mom got home, still recovering from her broken arm, I continued thinking, she is going to need a lot of help, and my stepdad is going to need some help, too. I had been taking care of her for almost five years. My sister and brother didn’t do anything. I decided to talk to Brian.

“I think it’s time for me to retire from the hair salon,” I said. “Can we do this?”

“The two times I was out of work, God took care of us,” he said. “You were tired, working, you made the money. Now it’s my turn. I’ll take care of it.”

“I’m nervous. I’ve never not worked since I was fourteen.”

“We can do it together,” he said.

“OK, we’ll do it together,” I said, and that’s what we did.