Thursday, February 26, 2015

Love Birds

The small coffee shop was not crowded at two o’clock on a warm September afternoon.  School was still in session so the teenage crowd had not yet arrived for wild concoctions of mocha, choi, soy, whipped cream and who knows what else. Customers in the shop were mostly older, sipping simpler drinks, and enjoying their newspapers or just chatting quietly.
It was a convenient time and place for me to prepare for an appointment with a client later in the day. I was fortunate to be able to secure my favorite spot in this particular shop, sitting with my back to the far corner where I could work undisturbed but where I could also observe what was happening in the shop whenever I wanted to take a break.

After a few minutes, I noticed an older couple entering. They looked to be in their mid-seventies and at first glance, appeared to be in good shape for their age. Both were tall and trim and stood straight without a problem. Her blue blouse and white slacks were neatly pressed and a white sweater was draped about her shoulders with the sleeves tied in a loose knot in front. Her white hair was simply styled and held in place with a simple barrette that matched her eyeglasses. He wore an oxford cloth shirt and tan Bermuda shorts, both crisply pressed, a golfer’s cap and running shoes with white socks.

My eyes were attracted to them because the woman seemed to be having a bit of difficulty moving. It looked as if she could walk just fine but she just didn’t seem to know where to go. The man nudged her along gently toward a vacant table where they stopped. The man pulled a chair back and, by gently holding both her upper arms, guided her to a standing position just in front of the chair. Next, with one hand he gently pushed down on her shoulder while tapping the back of one knee with his other hand. She sat slowly.

Two other chairs were pushed up to the table and she was having trouble positioning her feet among all the chair legs. The man rearranged the chairs and positioned her feet in a natural stance. He sat in one of the other chairs and noticed that her barrette was in disarray. He removed it and with both hands, smoothed her hair over her ears and toward her back. Then, he placed the barrette back onto her head in the correct position. She didn’t move and offered no resistance to his actions. He stared at her face for a moment, then stood up and walked toward the restroom.

While he was gone, shop staff members spoke to the woman as though they knew her. She looked at them and smiled faintly in return but did not say anything. She turned her head to look around the shop with a somewhat confused look. I wondered if she was looking for the man. She looked in my direction, not at me specifically, just at space, I think. I got the impression that in her youth, she would have been quite attractive. Although she obviously had issues now, her graceful bearing was still evident.

The man returned with some damp paper towels and dabbed around the corners of her mouth, then walked to the counter and purchased what appeared to be yogurt and granola. He returned to the table, opened the yogurt and mixed the granola with it. He took the woman’s hand and placed a spoon in it while sliding the yogurt toward her. I again sensed that she was physically capable of doing something but could not figure out how. The man guided her spoon into the yogurt, then to her mouth. At this point, she understood what to do and began eating.

While she ate, the man spoke with another man sitting at the adjacent table. Evidently they knew each other and I picked up bits of their conversation regarding medications and treatments. They chatted quietly while the woman ate. She paused from time to time and her companion would nudge her spoon to the appropriate spot to help her get started again. After a while, she placed the spoon on the table and the man wiped her mouth again with the paper towels. He continued to chat with the other man while he placed one of her hands atop the other, then placed one of his own hands atop hers. She didn’t pay much attention to either of the men but glanced around the room, looking not only at the people in the room but also the ceiling, the displays and vacant tables.

They were such a handsome couple that I wondered what they had been like forty or fifty years ago. Was one of them, or maybe both, a professional of some type? Did they have children? Had they traveled widely? What did they do for fun?

Was I was looking at a snapshot of my spouse and me forty years from now? Would one of us be caring for the other like this? Would the issues so important to us today all have given way to simpler tasks? Would there be strong enough bonds to keep us tightly coupled even when one of us was not fully there? 

After about ten minutes, the man stood and pulled her chair away from the table. He took both of her hands in his and helped her to a standing position. With his left hand holding hers and his right hand at the small of her back, he encouraged her toward the door. He paused to say goodbye to the other man and to the shop staff, then they moved to the door. He positioned his right arm more firmly around her waist and held the door open with his left hand. Once outside, he grasped her left hand with his right and they walked to their car.

He opened her door and with nudges at various parts of her side, hip and legs, positioned her in her seat and reached across her to buckle her seat belt.  Once positioned in his own seat, he leaned across and kissed her on the cheek. Then they slowly exited the parking lot and drove away.
© 2015 Jim Stringer


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Chair

When Grandfather Stringer died in 1931, Grandmother Claude Stringer was left with four children to raise, the youngest of which was "Gip", my father. They lived in a nice home in Talladega but, like most people at the time, they had little money.

Evidently, Grandmother wanted her daughter, Martha, to be able to take piano lessons. She negotiated with Miss Zora Ellis, the local high school English teacher (who must have known how to play) for piano lessons for Martha. Payment for the lessons was a chair, the platform rocker in the picture accompanying this article.

Fast forward about sixty years. Miss Ellis, knowing that she was approaching the end of her life, sought out my parents who were living in Birmingham at the time. She stated that she would like to return the chair to the Stringer family. And she did.

Today, the chair resides with me but it is seeking a new home. A Stringer relative would be ideal but so would a museum-type setting that could use a Victorian-era chair. It's in good shape but I do not think it would stand up to everyday use.

FYI, there is a Junior High School in Talladega today named after Miss Ellis.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deep Creek 2011

These snapshots were taken at the Reid Family Reunion, Deep Creek, McHenry, MD, 2011.

Kate and Ella
Ella and Kathryn
Ali and John
Hank, Hayes and Laura
Reid and Ella
Michael and Ella

Leigh and Ali

Hayes, Laura and Reid

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Burning Questions to be Investigated Now That I'm Retired, Question #23

Few things make my heart flutter like it does when I'm driving by my local Krispy Kreme shop and see the "Hot" neon sign illuminated in the window. For the uninitiated, this means that fresh Krispy Kreme Classic doughnuts have just been cooked. Today, as I was driving past the "mother ship" Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta, the sign was lit.

I have had a few Krispy Kreme Classics over the years and have loved them. However, one thought has lingered in the back of my mind - the doughnuts weigh so little, how much substance is actually there? Today, I decided to run a little test.

I bought a hot Classic right out of the cooker and took it home. I squashed it between to hard surfaces to see what I'd have left. The pictures demonstrate the result.

The original doughnut weighed 53 grams. After being squashed, it weighed 35 grams. So, I guess roughly one-third of the Classic's weight was made up of cooking oil!

This was enough to satisfy my curiosity. Now, on the solving the Meaning of Life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Number Six

Alexandra Grace Hlinko ("Ali"), grandchild number six, was born in Washington, D.C., on December 28, 2010.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kate's Atlanta Visit - Summer 2010

Kate visited Atlanta for three weeks in August 2010. She and Grandma worked on lots of projects. Three pictures below illustrate the cardboard playhouse they built. The fourth picture was taken on a great playground nearby.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Michael Completes Lithia Loop Trail Marathon

Michael came in 42nd in the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon on November 6, 2010, with a time of 3:40:09. There were about 200 people registered and 171 finished the race. He beat his time from last year by over 17 minutes and he moved up 17 places in the results.

Only about two miles of the roughly 26 miles was on paved surfaces. The rest of the way was on dirt roads or mountain trails. Here's a link to the results:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Perfect Birthday Gift

Reid's birthday was in August but we've been lazy in posting! Here he is trying out his new birthday present.

Hayes loves it, too!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Interesting Home Repair Project

I don't normally think home repair is very interesting. Here's a case where it was.
We have an addition to our house that is about twelve years old. For the past few years, we've noticed that one corner seemed to be settling a bit too much. In the past year, a crack appeared in the brick on the lower level below the deck. The first picture below was taken after the crack had been partially repaired. Originally, it was about as wide as your pinkie finger.

We called a foundation repair company and they recommended installing three support "piers", two near the crack and one around the corner. A pier is essentially a lip that fits under the edge of the foundation supported by a steel pole that goes all the way down to bedrock. The next picture shows the three "lips" to be used on our piers.

The next picture illustrates the basic pier installation. One edge of the the lip is now under the foundation and the support pole is in place.

Here you see two of the piers ready for installation. The rig above each pier is a pneumatic device that will keep driving sections of support pole down until it hits bedrock. The operator keeps adding two-foot sections of pole as it goes down. The pier support on the left went down 44 feet before it hit bedrock.

Here's another view of the driving position.

Once bedrock is reached, all three pneumatic devices operate together to actually lift the house up. The operators move slowly here to make sure stress is distributed as evenly as possible. We're lifting the foundation, the frame of the house and the brick veneer all at once. New cracks could develop if care is not taken.
The picture below shows a pier after everything has been completed. It will stay in the ground as a support for the house. Dirt is replaced in the hole, hiding the pier and the surface is restored to its original condition. The white lines are just sunlight shining through the deck.

Here's the crack after the lifting process was complete. A little colored caulk was used later to touch it up for cosmetic purposes and to keep water out.

Next week, we'll cover how to hold your house together with caulk!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Break

During spring break, Jim and MH took Reid and Hayes to Seagrove Beach, Florida, for a few days. Here's Reid doing just about his favorite thing to do at the beach - writing in the sand. It could be English, Spanish, Japanese, numbers or whatever comes to mind.

Something Really "Eggciting"

Reid's horseback riding instructor has a small farm where she keeps chickens. She brings the eggs each week to sell at the horse stables. We typically buy a dozen. It's always interesting to see the different colors, sizes and shapes of the eggs.

At our age, it doesn't take much to excite us!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hayes Discovers this Blog

Hayes recently discovered this blog. Here, he reads an entry about Reid's horseback riding. It's hard to understand somewhat but you can make out the last word, "Shadow". That's the name of the horse Reid rides.

You can find the blog entry he is reading about six or seven posts down from here, "A Real Horsey Guy".

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pre-Christmas Events at Hayes' School

Hayes' school was a beehive of activity the week before Christmas. On Thursday night, each class performed a seasonal number for other family members. Here you see Hayes' class doing their "bubblegum" number. Hayes is third from the right. As always, you can click on a picture to see a larger version.

Hayes really got into the hand motions of the song.

On Friday, while Mommy was at Reid's class party, Grandma and Granddaddy visited Hayes' class party. Here, Grandma helps Hayes plan out his reindeer face.

The finished product!

The final project was edible.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saturday with Grandma and Granddaddy

Hayes and Reid spent some time with Grandma and Granddaddy one recent Saturday. The first stop was Hayes' school to have a pancake breakfast and visit with Santa Claus.

Hayes is always ready to say, "Cheese!"

Reid doesn't care much for pancakes but he can really get into Clementine oranges.

Next stop was a local mall to play on the indoor playground, have lunch and ride the carousel. It's tough to get a good shot of both boys, so here are two.

Granddaddy is in his usual position at the south end of the north bound steeds!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Michael Completes Trail Marathon

Michael ran in the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon in Ashland Oregon on Nov. 7. Here's a description taken from the local running club blog.

Runners can expect much more than the standard marathon “bonk” at this year’s USA Track & Field Trail Marathon Championships. Runners will face an initial eight-mile, 3,200-foot ascent through the steep Siskiyou Mountains that shadow the southern Oregon town of Ashland. The trails and fire roads do flatten out for twelve miles in the middle of the race but maintaining pace may become difficult at the oxygen deprived 5,000 foot level. The final six miles and 3,000 feet of descent will test even the strongest of quads as runners descend on technical single track to the race’s finish at Ashland’s town center, Lithia Park.

He finished 59th with a time of 3:57:31. This was great, especially considering:
  • Not much of the race is on paved surface
  • There is a tremendous altitude change
  • Michael was just getting over the flu
Congrats, Michael!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Leigh & Kate are on "Good Morning America"!

Leigh was interviewed recently for a segment on "Good Morning America". Kate briefly appeared also. Go to this web site and click the play button on the video:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Second Annual Apple Picking

The boys joined MH and Jim at Sky Top Orchard near Flat Rock, North Carolina, to pick apples for the second year in a row. This year, we waited until later in the fall so the Fuji apples would be ready for picking. We won't wait quite so long next year because it was windy, rainy and cold! Also, the apples close to the barn had been picked over pretty well so we had to walk a long way in hilly terrain to get to trees still holding lots of apples.

The apples in these pictures are actually the Pink Lady variety. We picked them because they were the first ones we came to! We bought some Fujis at the barn.

"Reid, may I have a bite of your apple?"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hayes and Soccer

Hayes is on a soccer team, the "Strikers". They don't play any games at this age; they just practice once a week. Mainly, the coach is trying to teach them four or five basic skills for handling the ball and keeping their hands off it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Real Horsey Guy

Reid has really taken to horseback riding. As part of his lesson, he has to help get the horse ready before riding and help put him away afterward. These pictures were taken on a rainy day so Reid and his helper had to brush lots of caked mud off Shadow.

A manicure is part of the deal!

Finally, time to mount up.

Teddy Bear Tea Party

Hayes' class had a teddy bear theme during the month of September. To wrap up the month, the class had a teddy bear tea party. Two students sat at each table along with their respective teddy bears. Parents and grandparents were invited.

Ted E. Bear has a cast and crutch because Hayes had a hurt foot the day Ted was purchased.