Touch of Grey will, well, touch upon the rainbow that is life. Good music, good times, and good friends combine to make all the splendid colors. Touch of Grey will celebrate this beautiful rainbow.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Appropriate for Halloween, no? But this is a ghost story of a different sort. One with no easy ending.

Daddy-O and I visited our cousin, dad's first cousin and my second (or first once-removed, or however that works), Robert Wayne. It would have been a pleasant, wonderful little reunion. But due to the circumstances, it was not. Robert Wayne has been in the Michael E. DeBakey VA Hospital of Houston for some time, due to his leg being amputated above the knee. That operation was, in fact, a direct result of him not taking care of himself for some time now. But it's not even as simple as that.

Robert Wayne is a Vietnam veteran. He went, young and scared, to serve his country because he thought it was the right thing to do. He did as his father did, called to duty in the name of the United States. He served his time. He is still serving it, but in a far different way. Between the divorce, the drugs, the wounds you can see and the ones you can't, he returned and remained a changed man. Robert Wayne was as likely as close as my dad came to having a brother. I grew up with his and his wife's children and we were all close cousins. But Robert Wayne was always troubled, always on the "fringe". He never spoke of the horrors over there but I know he lived them every day. And seeing him Friday my dad and I had to fight back tears. The Robert Wayne we knew and loved and had not seen for some time was still there. Deep inside. But he was disoriented, confused, and broken on the outside. He enjoyed seeing my dad, and I know it lifted his spirits. But he could not understand who I was. I am not sure he ever figured it out. He lives with assistance when not in the VA, but can never live completely independent anymore. And he is my dad's age. And his generation. Funny thing is, or should I say, fortunate thing is, that could have so easily been my dad. When dad's number came up, the only two things that kept him out of Vietnam was that he was a full-time college student who also worked to support a young wife and baby daughter. So he was deferred. And he never went to 'Nam.

If he had, would he have wound up like Robert Wayne? We can never know. But I held my daddy tighter that day and enjoyed Halloween with him this weekend more than I ever have. We are so lucky that I can scarcely believe our good fortune at times. He is here, whole, and with me.

The thing that struck me like a bolt of lightning was that this was not the same VA I had become so familiar with in 1992, when my grandfather, my mother's father, was dying of lung cancer from the millions of Lucky Strikes he had smoked since WWII. He saw action in Germany and returned home to take part of the American Dream. He became one of the Greatest Generation and was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather until his passing. I knew Friday when I spent time at that same hospital that this was not my granddaddy's VA. We are rapidly losing members of the greatest generation. The bulk of the population of the VA is decidedly different now, being comprised of mostly Korean veterans (although they too are becoming fewer in number by the day), Vietnam veterans, and veterans from the Desert Storm and Operation Freedom wars (or police actions, if you please). They are younger, angrier, from my dad's generation and mine alike. They haunt these halls in a different way than my grandfather's generation did. Their memories and futures are far closer, and more distant, than grandpa's ever were. I went to a shop in the VA where caps, patches, and other paraphernalia for veterans was being sold. Very little WWII things, but I saw tons of things for Vietnam vets. I knew this was a whole new ball game when I spied a patch that said "Jane Fonda - TRAITOR BITCH!" on it and realized that the anger over Vietnam for so many people will never go away. They have not forgotten, and I hope the veterans understand they have not BEEN forgotten.

The faces I looked into that day had a different gaze, and the VA had a different feel than what I had ever experienced. The place was alive, bustling, but yet it felt like a tomb to me. The halls are haunted with so many souls. I wish for those souls to find peace, but I don't know if they ever will. I know our cousin faces his own ghosts, of a "war" (yes, police action") that should never have been fought, of a family ripped apart, of his drug-addled life, of the wreckage he left behind, and of the family who still loves him in spite of the damage done. I wonder if his ghosts will ever leave him to wander down the halls of the VA and give him a measure of comfort that he needs after all this time.

These are ghosts of man's making. And those are the scariest ghosts of all.

Happy Halloween, all. Don't let your ghosts haunt you.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hidden World

There is so much that exists beyond what the naked eye can see.

Aided by an incredible invention, the human eye can now peer into previously unknown universes. Check this out. You'll be amazed. Then take a look at this. Finally, you MUST see these amazing electron microsope images that are so beautiful, you would be forgiven if you were to mistake them for art.

Is it any wonder I love my microscope so? I am the luckiest gal in the world. I get to go to work every day and view another universe, one that is endlessly fascinating, one that mere centuries ago was unknown to man. I love my job.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

How rare it is to go to bed with a smile on my face and wake up the same way.

As the whole world watches, the first of the 33 trapped Chilean miners made his way to the surface just after midnight.

A weary world somehow needed this, a story of the best of humanity. In a world where so much is wrong, this is so right.

Who doesn't love this story? Who doesn't rejoice with these people half a planet away? I believe that every now and then we need a reminder that we as humans are all connected. Consider this your wake up call this morning.

I know that no matter how my day goes today, I will go about my business with a smile on my face. I know that whatever I go through will pale in comparison to what these brave men and their families have gone through for over two months. I know that I will never think of Chile in the same way again.

FINALLY, something to cheer about in this old, tired world. Blessings to those miners, their families, and the rescuers. You've made this jaded chick believe just a little more.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Darkened Nights

Do you like the black square? Not so much? Kind of depressing, right? Just sort of....there. With no real charm or inherent glamour.

This is a sight seen more frequently these days. I'll bet you have witnessed your very own "blackness" too.

The decreasing number of fireflies in recent years has been cause for concern to amateur observers, scientists, and kids of all ages. Many are asking the question: Where have all the fireflies gone?

In decades past, childrens' leisure activities took place largely outside, and when it got near dusk, excited youth, including myself and my friends, would wait to see that first flicker of light, ever so brief but unmistakable: the fireflies were starting to come alive. Here they would dart, there they would scurry, leaving a luminous trail of phosphoresence behind, thrilling anyone who was lucky enough to spot them. Caught in jars, with airholes so they could breathe (they were so special, one surely didn't want them to die), we would believe we had caught lightning in a jar. How we would marvel at their special ability to light up our nights. Even with the bright lights of Houston around us on all sides, this glow was special.

The news of the declining numbers of fireflies is indeed distressing. If we lose this most special part of summer, there will be nothing to replace the joy of watching fireflies. Is it too much man-made light pollution? Parasites or other biological invaders decimating the firefly population? Environmental changes? Or something else?

When is the last time you sat outside and watched lightning bugs just for the sheer joy of it? Did you catch fireflies when you were young? I remember well going to the drive-in theatre in Houston as a child, one of our favorite activities as a family, and as it got closer to twilight, the show began before the REAL show began; that is, the fireflies would start appearing in the bushes next to the fence, and there would be entertainment for all before the movie even began. To me, that was the best thing about the drive-in. Rarely did I pay attention to the movie. I would watch those fascinating flickers of light, and listen to the sounds of the frogs and cicadas, that unmistakable din of summer, and be lulled right to sleep.

Here is a good website to visit to learn more about fireflies and how to make your yard a friendlier environment to help boost firefly populations. You can even learn how to become a firefly "counter" to help monitor populations around the country.

So tonight, take the time to peer outside at dusk. If you see a flicker or two, consider that a sign that one of nature's treasures is still around, and hopefully will be forever. I believe that if we lose our fireflies, we will lose our childhood innocence. I never want that to happen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth

Or, bits and parts of it, anyway.

Four days off work to myself. Things to get caught up on, old papers to read, movies to watch.

How did I accomplish this? Just by having a little lovely dental surgery.

The lone wisdom tooth left in my mouth has finally made its way OUT, OUT, OUT, courtesy of my dentist, who, incidentally, is THE best dentist in the world. That sucker of a tooth has been hanging over my head and laying totally on its side, impacted in the bone, all these years. My dentist and I had decided it would be the "end of the line" after all the other necessary work had been done, spanning decades, innumerable extractions, veneers, crowns, root canals, etc. The other three wisdoms had been extracted, and, as far as wisdoms go, really no big deal. And at my visit in early September after he had redone two OLD crowns that needed updating, and a cleaning, he said "Okay, we're here." I had never heard such sweeter words. We were really DONE. Except for this one lazy tooth that refused to move. EVER. We had saved it for last because it would be the most involved. So, I said, "Let's do it to it" and proceeded to make an appointment for one major oral surgery. My dentist used sedation and gas, neither of which I had experienced for a long time, and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, after much breaking , cutting, and pulling the stubborn little SOB out in bits and pieces (the tooth, not the dentist), we were done. That was it. GONE. Finally. I slept nearly all day yesterday after arriving home after bragging to him that I didn't feel the least bit drowsy or hung-over, although I was glad that I followed his instructions to bring my dad to drive me home. So, I felt some pain but not too terrible after arriving home, but once I hit my bed to take a small nap (my dentist is in Crosby, by the way, hence a long drive there and back), I proceeded to sleep until 1 a.m. Guess those drugs did kick in after all.

So is my dentist a little like Steve Martin ("Little Shop of Horrors?") Mmmmm....maybe. He can be a sort of "Wild and Crazy Guy!" But GAWD I love Steve Martin. My dentist and I, we are almost like two peas in a pod. After nearly twenty years together, we know each other well, and who wouldn't love getting dental work done listening to the most soothing voice telling his patient of remembrances of college days, of seeing Sonny and Cher, the Lovin' Spoonful, etc. before they hit the big time? Of his travels to the Great Wall of China and Mexico? Of his brave story of beating renal cancer ten years ago against all odds? I would actually go TO the Great Wall of China for him, but I guess Crosby is good enough. He just left me looking like a little one-sided chipmunk. Wonder if they have those in China?

So now all that is left is routine cleanings and perhaps a professional whitening if I desire later. He said the next time he sees me it will be for lunch. No crises, no hard work. Just...enjoyment. The talk of supernumerary teeth is gone, no long-term plans, no big deals anymore. Just a more "normal" relationship. That's the nicest thing of all.

Except the "liquid diet" thing. At least a couple days after, I can't get any food caught in the big hole and stitches, lest I mess up the bone graft and clot that was put in; healing is most important above all. I have drank buillon, soda, coffee, snuck a little pudding. But I'm sure Steve Martin "the dentist" would understand......FEED ME! I'M HUNGRY!!!! Git me some LUNCH!!!!!

Noooooooooooo!!!!!!! NOT THE DENTIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!