Anyone know what this is?

Rotary telephone

Yes, I’ve actually got an old rotary telephone on my desk in my home office. It’s functional and works for both incoming and outgoing calls.

If you zoom in and look closely at the phone, you’ll see that it has an old Dayton, Ohio phone number — REALLY old, because Dayton now uses area code 937. This particular phone was in Carole’s room when she was a kid, and for some strange reason, it made its way some time back from her parents’ house in Dayton to our house in Vermont. We were going to plug it in on her dresser, just for sheer whimsy’s sake, but it turns out that our bedroom doesn’t have an active phone jack. (We have a cordless remote in that room instead.)

A couple of weeks ago, I got tired of the old $5.99 K-Mart corded phone that I had on my desk — its caller ID display had burned out, for starters, and it was light enough that it often got bumped off the hook by me pushing things around on my desk. So, I said “well, I still want a corded phone; when the power goes out, we need a least one phone that’ll still work.” So I plugged in Carole’s old phone. Granted, it’s not much use if I’m calling the power company to report an outage and need to press “1” to confirm that I’m calling from the location of the outage, but otherwise, it actually does work fine and for the time being, I’m sticking with it. There’s something very comforting about an old-fashioned Ma Bell phone.

Now, if I could just get my computer to play a modem initialization tone every time I launch a Web browser.



If you watch only one movie trailer today, make it be this one

For twenty years I’ve been a supporter of the Duke University Lemur Center’s mission to save these exciting, charming, zany prosimian primates from extinction. And I can honestly say that in all that time, no video related to that mission has excited me as much as this one. There’s no IMAX theater in Vermont, so Carole and I will me making a road trip next April to wherever it’s playing.

Give it a view!

Wherein Elizabeth Reid Is A Very Cool Person

Life hasn’t been easy this week. My father had a stroke on Sunday, and a couple of other family members have had a significant and upsetting upheaval in their lives. I’ve been wandering around feeling sort of shell-shocked.

One of the unfortunate things about life as a trainer who travels 40+ weeks out of the year is that it’s not very easy to maintain a network of close personal friends, or indeed, to have any “close personal friends” at all. Most of the people I “know” these days are social media contacts, people who express sympathy or support if I post something distressing on Facebook but who would probably be taken aback if I just picked up the phone and called them out of the blue. Perhaps I’m selling myself short — perhaps a number of you would be more than happy to take a call from me. But I don’t know your numbers from memory and I don’t know if the numbers in your Facebook or Google+ profiles are still up to date and current. And I don’t know which people would be glad to hear from me and which people would go “and you’re calling me why?” Isn’t insecurity wonderful?

But I was sufficiently rattled the other night to pick up the phone and call one of the very few people whose current home numbers I do have committed to memory and who I do stay marginally in contact with — Elizabeth Reid, a friend from Durham, NC who was a groomsman at our wedding and who Carole and I can apparently claim credit for introducing to her husband, Dan Reid, who was also a groomsman. Even as I dialed, though, I had visions of Elizabeth answering the phone, saying “Well, actually…” and going on with how she had something in the oven, or had a kid needing help with schoolwork, or that she was just at that moment about to start regrouting her bathtub.

But, because Beth is a cool person, she said nothing of the sort, took the time to hear me moan and groan about how worried and upset I was, said supportive things, brought Carole and I both up to date on how her life is, how her kids are, and so on, and in general, helped me get my head back squared on straight and got me in a better place.

And I’m very grateful for that.

But her “cool person” score really hit stratospheric numbers when a FedEx driver stopped by the house today and delivered this:

Thanks, Beth!

Thanks, Beth!

Pure nutrition from Callie’s Biscuits of Charleston, South Carolina!

Thanks, Beth!

Dad’s stroke

Dad (Keith Furr) had a massive stroke on Sunday.

I was hanging out at the apartment of one of Carole’s friends on Sunday afternoon — someone I don’t actually really know, with a lot on my mind already (never mind why), and I wasn’t really having a good time. Is it bad to say that getting a call from my cousin Anne down in Florida telling me that Dad had been rushed to the hospital with a loss of sensation in his legs, etcetera, etcetera, made me sort of happy for a minute because it gave me an excuse to get out of there?

It’s not that I’m not happy to socialize, but Carole has had end-of-the-semester homework non-stop for the last couple of weeks and I’d really been looking forward to having a chance to spend some personal time with her. As we left church on Sunday morning, Carole reminded me that we’d agreed to go hang out with her friend. Somehow, that wasn’t what I’d had in mind.

The back story is this: My cousin Anne lives across the street from Dad’s house and checks in on him at least once a day, I think. Dad’s 81 and we lost Mom a couple of years ago. My sister Elizabeth, who is 100% disabled with mental health issues, lives with him, but isn’t the most alert and responsible person in the world. So, it was extremely fortuitous that Anne just happened to drop by within minutes of the stroke… and even more fortuitous that she knew exactly who to call (not just the ambulance, but the right doctors and things too). Anne helps out with a number of elderly people who can’t fully take care of themselves, so she’s got some experience that most people wouldn’t have. We’re very lucky that she’s such a big-hearted person and checks to make sure that Dad’s okay and keeps us up to date.

When Anne called, I don’t think I really got that Dad had had a stroke — and Anne didn’t come right out and say so, either. When she called, she’d just seen the ambulance off to Brooksville Regional Hospital and was about to jump in her car and follow him there. She told us he had no feeling in his legs and other scary things, but I don’t think I registered whether or not he could speak, had aphasia, or what. Later that day, we got an update that he was in the ICU.

It wasn’t until Monday morning that we got a full update — he had aphasia, but had regained sensation in his limbs, and that the neurologist hadn’t been in yet, but that he’d had an MRI, and that he’d definitely had a stroke. He was responsive; he could squeeze the correct hand if instructed to do so, but wasn’t able to speak. I was extremely worried.

The bright spot in the whole affair was the luck we’d had in having Anne find him and get him help as quickly as she did. There’s a three-hour window after a stroke when promptly applied medicine can make a difference, and Dad got the right care inside that window. If Anne hadn’t come by when she did, Dad might have died, or lived but with severe cerebral damage.

Later on Monday, the news improved tremendously — he was speaking more or less normally, with minor problems in enunciation, and seemed to be alert and aware of his surroundings. I didn’t call — I had a feeling that if I did call, I’d call at exactly the wrong time and get him when they were in the middle of a test or something. I knew Anne would let me know if there was good news or bad news.

Dad continued to improve, so much so that on Wednesday they transferred him to Health South, the local rehab facility in Hernando County, Florida. I gave him a call and was very pleasantly surprised to find him sounding alert, awake, and very on top of things. Dad said he was feeling better, frankly, than he has at any point in the last several months. We theorize that he’s had a partial blood clot obstructing flow to his brain for several months and that’s made him a bit confused and logy; with that clot gone, thanks to the drugs and treatment, he could fully and clearly think again.

Dad said that according to his doctors, he had a “massive” stroke and that he’s incredibly lucky. I said that it sounds as though he’s in the 99th percentile of all stroke cases, that most people who have massive strokes aren’t up and walking around (with help) and speaking clearly three days later.

We came pretty damn close to losing him on Sunday. While I know that day’s going to come, I’m not really ready for it just yet. But I thank God and Providence for giving us more time, and more importantly, giving us such a (so far) outstanding recovery. Many people aren’t so lucky. Once in a while, I guess things do work out for the best.