Monday, February 22, 2016

1996

#January

I had quite a bit of artwork fun this month. The lower kitchen cabinets had a total of 6 doors in our house in Phoenix, AZ. They were painted light yellow. I did different drawings on each one, mostly of nature… flowers, trees, etc.

Again Tom was the man to call for help. He went to work on his aunt's water pipes, but she paid him well.

Tom surprised me with two puzzles and a really nice journal that had a butterfly on purple flowers.

I also got 60 stamps for my letter-writing from Kim, which was really nice of her.

My parents sent a copy of their flag catalog. They had some nice designs. I would often decorate envelopes to friends and family by drawing them onto them.

I was getting really fed up with the two dogs that were always in the yard a couple yards away from ours. They barked all the time due to being so cruelly neglected. It was to the point that I had to have fans or music going to drown it out, but didn’t see what could be done about it. I was in the west, and people typically kept their dogs outdoors all the time, though Gloria, the woman behind us, did say the dogs drove her crazy, too. But they were fed and watered and that was all that mattered to the law.

Tom and I visited his parents. I was surprised to see one of my paintings framed and hanging on their wall.

Tom fixed a pair of electric scissors for his mom since she really relied on them due to having bad arthritis.

Then Tom and I took turns sawing branches off a tree in their front yard with a pole saw, still hoping we could come over and simply visit someday without all the requests for favors. Mom made up for it somewhat that day with some of her homemade cookies.

#February

The roof in the back room was leaking much more and I also wondered how much longer the TV would last. Back in these days we didn’t have a whole lot of extra money.

Got a package from my parents which included:

- A large windsock of a cow.

- A small windsock and a bracket to put up a mini flag.

- Mini flags with Halloween decorations, hearts, a pineapple, and one with a slice of watermelon and a drink next to it.

- Big flags with a pineapple (them and their damn pineapples), a cactus and coyote, and a large fish.

- A shade screen for the car.

The worst thing to happen this month was that the house the Mormon family was trying to sell next to us ended up in the city’s hands, and now we had a welfare mom and all her friends and family to deal with.

One of the kids that was driving me crazy by playing basketball in their driveway, which was just a few feet away from the wall of our house, said a black woman and her 13-month-old son would be moving in the following day. When I later met the boyfriend, however, he told me they had a year-old daughter.

As the neighborhood kids as well as visiting kids began to use the basketball hoop more and more, I was beginning to wish my only complaint could be about their insanely bright security light that would shine into one of the bedroom windows at night.

Although I still had yet to actually see her, I heard a woman yell a few times at someone while they were moving in. I thought she sounded very mean. She just had a very gruff sounding voice, and little did I know at the time just what kind of hell I would have to endure for so many years. If I had to start all over again, we would have moved the day she and her associates moved in, or I would have fought like hell to have her moved. Maybe I would have even chosen a worse option.

Tom took his parents to the racetrack one day as well.

We went to the IMAX Theater in Scottsdale and saw a half hour documentary on storm chasers. It was pretty cool watching it on such a giant screen.

We also played miniature golf this month at Castles & Coasters.

At Walmart I got birdseed for the pigeons, a birthday card for Andy, and a toaster for him as well. He and Michelle were to be moving into a house they were to rent.

We went to Staples where Tom got his mom a new mouse she asked for and paint to cover up the stuff he put on our roof to hopefully prevent leaks. I stocked up on envelopes in got pens in six different colors.

I sent Anna & Harry, the Italian foster parents I had when I was 16, a letter just to let them know how my life was, and to apologize for the prank calls I made to them in the late 80s. I told them I still loved them and thought of them and was grateful for how well they treated me when I was living with them.

Tom and I got to the end of a game called Myst, even though we found it boring. I also completed all 50 levels of Ballistics, but wasn’t nearly the gamer he was.

#March

I sent a letter to unsolved mysteries explaining that I had attempted to find the camp counselor that looked out for me as a kid when I went camping in Maine, and how I was unable to find her. I was surprised to get a call about the letter from a woman who asked me if I had a photograph of her or any other information. She also asked a little about my childhood, which I kept brief and to the point. I didn’t want to make it a case of the abuse I endured at home. I just wanted to find the woman and give her the heartfelt thanks I believed she deserved.

In the end they decided not to air my story, but sent me literature on ways that might help me find her instead. It would still be many years before I would locate her and learn her identity.

The work that Tom did to fix the roof was a bust unfortunately. Just when it looked like it was going to work after he slaved away at it, the area by the back wall was leaking heavily. The costs were a big concern to us, too.

I got a letter from Gloria's fan club saying they were to extend my membership for a year, free of charge due to the way they fucked up and delayed sending me anything for the first year of my membership. All I'd gotten was one lousy newsletter and one picture.

Late one morning I was sitting at the computer when I heard the obnoxious thumping of base. I looked out front and saw a black guy next door killing weeds with his car stereo blaring. I asked him to please turn it down and he apologized, then introduced himself as Mike. He said he and his girlfriend and their 1-year-old daughter moved in two weeks ago. I had yet to meet the girlfriend, Jo, or see/hear the kid.

I wasn’t thrilled when he said they were thinking of getting a dog, even if it was an expensive dog that he claimed couldn’t bark and that there was no way they’d leave it outside 24/7.

Still, I didn’t want a dog living so close to me or his damn nephews playing basketball for hours at a time so close to our house.

I was delightfully surprised with a reply from my Italian foster parents that really made my day! It was such a sweet letter that brought tears to my eyes.

Went to the library one day, and discovered that we had 10 daisies coming up that my parents had sent a while back.

Andy got me $25 worth of markers and I did a palm tree and cactuses on his living room wall.

Again I had to ask Mike to turn his car stereo down a few days later, and this was when I saw Jo come out of the house carrying the kid. She never even looked at me much less said a word.

What kind of disrespectful snobs did we now have living next to us? I wondered with concern.

My pigeons began to eat out of my hand. Their claws scratched a bit, but their beaks didn’t hurt. Hanging out with them was fun. I just wished they didn’t make such a mess!

#April

We went and picked up his mother and took her to buy a tape player while his dad slept. She couldn't find one she wanted and of course she had to stop and look at things for Nickolena. A lot of her conversation was about her, too. I got the whole grandparent pride thing, but it sure got old after a while. It’s like she would forget that there were other family members besides Nickolena. Not as young, perhaps, but just as human.

Then we went back and got his dad, and the 4 of us went to a nursery where they got a couple of plants and I got a small pot with 5 different cactuses in it.

Then we went back to their place for a little while where the neighbors reminded me of the NHA. The kids next door to them and behind them were screaming up a storm and bashing a ball against their fence. How did they stand it? I wondered. They said they played their music so loud that they could hear it in the bedroom the night before. I wondered why they didn’t say something, but I would soon learn the hard way that Arizona was no place to complain.

And I sure was getting fed up with our own neighbors. Sometimes they came in quietly, but they usually blasted in and out, and I couldn’t help but wonder, had they really forgotten our little talk? Or did they just not give a shit?

Deciding that maybe reading the words instead of hearing them would drill the message into their inconsiderate little brains, I wrote a note asking them to please lower the stereo volume upon coming and going.

I was on my way over there, intending to slip the note in their mailbox slot, when Mike and Jo were on their way out. They had always reminded me of Barbara and Dave, the couple that lived next to be in the NHA in Connecticut. He was passive while she came off as aggressive. I went to hand her the note because she was closest to me, momentarily forgetting her name. She said her name and took the note. I began to walk away and as I was going through the door to our place, I glanced back at her for a second and caught her staring at me with the strangest expression. It was almost as if she we’re looking at me as if she’d never seen another human being before.

A few minutes later I was in the bedroom, just inches away from their driveway. "I don't care," I heard her say in a stubborn, cold and snotty voice, and I got the distinct feeling it was her reaction to my note.

So yeah, the note turned out to be a complete waste of time. They continued to be noisy and not just by way of loud music. There were screaming kids, there were adults shouting, and more. I knew they were going to be a problem as long as they were next to us, and if I could do it all again, I never would have bothered to say a word to them in print or by voice. Especially if I could have had any way to know the hell I would be put through for many years to come. Instead we would have gotten the hell out of there and then contacted the city.

They were a reminder that sometimes no matter how nice you may ask something very reasonable of someone, people just don’t care. It’s all about doing what they’re going to do and to hell with those around them that it may affect. They were in their own little world, and as frustrating as it was, I didn’t know how to pull them out of it.

On a trip to Walgreen’s I got 3 new lipsticks and found two of them to be too light. I got purple nail polish and 3 journals for only $3 each.

I spoke to my Italian mom & dad, and again visited Tom’s parents. Steven and Carol were there and soon Ray and Nora came over as well. Their daughter Jackie was also present with her boyfriend and her boyfriend's kid.

On another visit to his parents’ house, his mom showed me her stash of material. I had brought over the torn fabric from the back of the chair we used by the computer. I picked out a blue floral print pattern and she made a new back for it with my help. It looked great.

Mom's brother Johnny came over with his wife Maria and their grandson. Maria was from Mexico and we gabbed a little in Spanish.

Tom fixed our bathroom sink’s sluggish drain.

Andy picked me up one day, fed me lasagna from work, then he went out food shopping while I drew a large cat on his wall for him. I also mended a torn apron pocket for him.

Mike Tyson was in trouble again for rape, and the Phoenix PD was under fire again for harassing people. Some things never changed.

Tom fixed a computer problem we had, and guided Eldon through his latest computer crisis.

I went out back to smoke a cigarette one day, then when I turned around to go back into the house, there was a black widow on the door, which Tom killed.

I asked Larry one day if Jenny, who still hadn’t called, just wanted a quick $5 from us or if she got cold feet. Then he told me her mother died. I not only was pretty sure I didn’t really want to hear from Jenny, but I also never cared for her mother to be honest. She was very rude to me once when I was staying with them as a child and once over the phone when I was an adult.

Then I was surprised to learn that Kevin “Nervous” died of a heart attack. I felt a little sad over the news. I knew I had really taken advantage of him when I was younger and living back east.

Tom's spent the day working on his aunt's trailer pipes one day, and at his parents’ place as well working on something for them. His aunt gave him $60.

Bob called collect, and besides his usual love and concern for Kim, he told me he was on medical watch cuz of his heart and that he had an appeal going through.

We got a package from my parents containing a Phoenix Sun's flag for Tom and a musical sequined cap for me.

I decided to start taking measures to decrease the bird population. They were simply making way too much of a mess.

#May

Tom got $45 for working on Eileen and her husband's computer. Eileen was a former coworker.

On a visit to his parents’ house one day, it was dead quiet due to everyone hibernating indoors because of the heat. The peace was nice for a change, but of course Tom had to do something for them and we couldn’t just visit. This time they wanted him to fix their sink handles and some other stuff.

Yesterday I talked with both Larry and Tammy at once. It was the first time the 3 of us talked since I was 19 in 1985 at nana's funeral. We discussed having a ring made with all our birthstones for mom for Mother’s Day.

I drew a simple, yet pretty floral border around a piece of plain white paper and signed it. Then I sent it to Larry to sign and he would send it to Tammy to sign. Dad, who was visiting them, would then bring the ring and the paper we all signed down to her.

Tom’s dad turned 83, and he continued to do things for his parents like mow their yard. It wasn’t that I reminded him helping his parents every now and then; I just felt like they were taking advantage of him at times, especially his mother, and I wished his 5 other siblings would do as much for them as he did. It just didn’t seem fair. We had our own lawn to mow and our own things to fix. But he was working for them part-time and it was at our expense. Every now and then he would be given little things for his time and effort, and one time his mother sent him home to me with a few cans of my favorite instant coffee due to how often they had him over there slaving away on their 80-year-old dump. These frugal people who had saved so much damn money over the years they could practically buy a $100,000 dollar house with cash. Guess who did their taxes in order to know this?

One time I got so frustrated with all the requests that I wanted so bad to come out and say, “Why don’t you just knock it all down, Marge? Why not just tear the whole goddamn house down and make your son rebuild it from scratch?”

She would have if she could have, knowing the softy her son was, and being as selfish as she was. But this was just a tip of the iceberg. I had yet to learn just how truly self-serving the woman could be and how spiteful her daughter could be as well.

Other family members often requested his help as well. He helped David and Evie move.

We bombed the house one day and took off with our guinea pig, Piggles. We got breakfast at a drive-through and ate in the car.

After eating, we stopped at Wal-Mart for a few things, then we went home, aired the place out, and Tom sanded and fixed the front screen door.

Then we went back out, grabbed some candy, an anniversary card for Tammy and Bill, and a Father’s Day card for dad. I also got a new journal.

At the art store, I got drawing stumpers (for smudging and blending pencil drawings), and an eraser.

I got a free trial offer in the mail consisting of a wine glass and 4 Silhouette Romance novels. Romance was never my favorite genre, but I could deal with it occasionally. The wine glass was pretty even though I rarely drank wine.

Tom won $60 bucks at the racetrack and got the software he wanted. I was glad for him. He deserved it.

Andy's pushiness and lack of sensitivity would really get to me at times. I left him a message about a recent asthma attack I’d had, and told him that night wasn't a good night to call, since I was beat and still recovering from it. But he went and called anyway and didn't even mention it or ask how I was feeling.

#June

Tom turned 39 this month and we also had our second anniversary. Unfortunately, however, his dad’s health really went downhill. He was admitted to the hospital for a couple days. They sprayed cornstarch and talcum powder into his lungs to make them bleed. Then they hoped they’d heal and that the lungs would then stick to the chest cavity. Instead one of his lungs collapsed and he had to have surgery.

Tom took some sick days off, as he was emotionally and physically exhausted. He worked on Mary's car, which was very kind and generous of him, but I wished he’d take care of himself more and not worry so much about other people's needs. We had enough stuff of our own to do. Because of this I was caught in a whirlwind of emotions. It was constantly “Tom, will you do this?” and “Tom, will you do that?” from various friends and family in which he didn’t have the heart to say no to. That was why they took advantage of him. The constant demands were getting to me. I understood his desire to help his parents in their time of need, but I also felt like our own lives and home was being neglected. It was hard for me as I found myself having to bite my tongue more and more and just put up with it while at his parents’ or Mary’s when I really wanted to put my foot down on our behalf and remind these people that Tom needed to live his life as well. Yet he mowed their lawn and fixed their cars while I clean their house and helped run errands for them. This was while the rest of the family sat on their asses. Mary did help somewhat, but no one else did shit. Much of our work went uncompensated, including the items his mother would ask us to go out and buy, promising to “get us later,” even though they had a lot more money than we had.

One day we helped clear out one of the bedrooms in back for dad’s hospital bed for when he was released from the hospital. Then his dad came home with his mom and Mary as some guy was setting up the bed. Then the respiratory therapist came and set up his oxygen. He was tired and in some pain, but very happy to be home.

We were told that his dad was leaving each of the kids at least $5,000 when he died, even if his wife was still alive. This was an agreement they had made, or more like that dad had made since he handled the finances.

On top of all the stress, the neighbors, who had been quiet for a while probably due to the heat, we’re driving me crazy once again. Wild parties, loud shouting, obnoxious basketball games…

Andy was beginning to drive me crazy as well, just in a different way. By this time he had become extremely talkative and it was hard to get a word in edgewise. He would call and ask how things were going and before I could finish telling him, he would be rambling on about everything and nothing.

During one of our many visits (his parents never once came to our house in Phoenix, just for the record), his mom showed me a funny letter from her niece in Michigan. She said every paragraph was "HA!" Sure enough, all throughout the letter I had counted 16 HAs.

They were also sharing information about me, so I would learn, and I became distrustful of them and more cautious of what I told them in the first place.

Another one to offend me was my parents when they complained that my letters sounded down. Well, I was going through a rough time. What did they expect? For me to lie to them?

In non-family news, I got my first issue of my Word Find puzzle subscription.

Another day, we went to the art store where I got some things, then we got Chinese food for me and Arby's for him.

The Humane Society sent 5 cards with dogs and cats pictured on them. I used them to write to friends and family in the east.

#July

7/1/1996 – His dad had deteriorated to the point that he could no longer control his bowels. I felt so bad for him and Tom’s mom. It was a scary reminder that someday we would grow old, too. What was also scary was knowing that since it was looking less and less likely that we would ever have kids, we wouldn’t have family to help us when that time came.

Andy gave us a gorgeous shower curtain with soft splashes of pastel colors in a faint flower design. It brought our tiny bathroom to life. Our old one was too dark and kind of ugly, but this one was bright and cheerful.

7/12/1996 – Andy was still driving me crazy with his pushiness and forgetfulness and general lack of consideration. I would tell him not to call and wake Tom, for example, yet he would call anyway.

7/13/1996 – Tom worked on Evelyn's trailer floor. Again, I wasn’t happy that she was taking what little time he had, but appreciated the fact that she at least paid him fairly for his time and work.

7/14/1996 - We went to his parents’ place. Mary and Johnny were there and we all worked on different things. I vacuumed and Tom tore up the filthy, smelly carpet from the room dad was in, then we rearranged the room.

Ma gave me $10 for helping out, then we went to the mall where I got 3 journals and also to Old America where I got 2 dog mugs. I now had 7… a Lhasa Apso, Golden Retriever, Maltese, Sheltie, Collie and two Irish Setters.

Tom dropped me off so I could clean our own house and get our laundry done after we got some ice cream, and then he returned to his parents’ house to put up guardrails in the bathroom. He later came home with an upset stomach.

Evie and David’s selfishness really bothered me. I was tired of them using their kid as an excuse not to do their fair share of helping his parents. On top of that, they gave him absolutely nothing for helping them move. I really wished Ray, Nora, Evie and David would get off their lazy asses. Instead 80% of the work fell on Tom while Mary did the rest whenever she felt like it. Sometimes the two of them even stayed overnight at their parents’ place.

7/16/1996 – My two remaining wisdom teeth began to act up, so that was just one more thing to have to worry about.

7/17/1996 – This would be his father’s final doctors appointment in which his case was deemed totally hopeless. There was simply nothing left they could do for him but try to make him as comfortable as possible for whatever time he had left, which wouldn’t be much.

His medication left him very disorientated and sometimes he would be found wandering in the yard in the middle of the night naked. It was up to Tom, of course, to put a latch on the door to keep him from going outside.

7/18/1996 – Tom spoke to Wendy and said that he didn’t think she would be calling anytime soon. I was glad to hear that. We have enough people demanding shit from us.

I wasn’t happy to hear Tom’s decision not to post for a better job until things settle down with his parents because we had no idea how long that would be, and besides, life was always one thing after another, and I wished he would live more for us instead of for others.

On another visit to his parents’, Tom said that his dad was deteriorating quickly. He was very weak and incoherent. He'd be moaning in pain one minute, then saying he was hungry another minute, then tired the next, and that night he was singing cheerfully for a good 20 seconds or so.

Frustrated with all that what’s going on at the moment, and still angry with some people of the past, I wrote a letter to my uncle Marty in hopes of putting some of that anger to rest for the way he bullied and threatened me when I was just a teenager.

7/25/1996 – Tom’s dad was now in the final phase of his cancer. A nurse had given him sleeping pills and after 24 hours he still hadn't woken up. His lungs were so filled with fluid that they made this horrible gurgling sound when he breathed, which he could barely do, Tom told me on what would be his final visit with his dad.

Not long after Tom went home, Mary called to say that he stopped breathing.

It was a sad time, but we also felt a sense of relief in knowing that he was no longer suffering. My new concern was how much time and work his mother was going to need. My compassionate side understood his desire to help her, but my selfish side wanted to get on with our own lives instead of always living for others.

7/26/1996 - Andy was very depressed at this time because he was in love with Quinn, a guy that didn’t exactly have the same feelings for him, and that regularly abused him emotionally and verbally after using him for sex.

After having to wait forever, I finally received more items from Gloria’s fan club, and I wasn’t impressed at all. Back then, however, CD ROM was a new thing and we were looking forward to getting her new CD so we could play it on that.

7/28/1996 - Tom fixed Evelyn's cooler.

7/30/1996 – His dad’s funeral was on this day.

#August

8/1/1996 – Even though Tom’s parents agreed to give each of their kids 10K from one of their accounts if his dad died first, we were given 5K.

On a visit to their house we put his mom’s sewing stuff back together and then the room dad died in was once again the sewing room it used to be only with new carpet. I vacuumed the computer room and we put the door to the sewing room back on.

His mom also let me borrow a couple of books, but I still had to finish a long book by Dean Koontz. One of the books I got was about the Amy Fisher story and the other about two sisters who were stalked.

She said she'd take care of me for vacuuming next time around, but by then Tom and I had learn that her “taking care” of us meant that she wasn’t going to take care of us at all.

8/3/1996 - Tom did some work at Evelyn’s.

8/5/1996 - Next door was still blasting in and out of their place and getting worse by the minute. At first I considered telling them I'd baby-sit for free if they'd cut the music or do something else for them, but then Tom pointed out that asking them to keep their music for their ears only was making a reasonable request, and you don't reward people for doing what’s right in the first place. I knew Tom was right. I just didn’t know what else to do.

We went to Best Buy's where I got a great stereo with 3 CD trays, dual cassette, AM/FM radio, with 2 detachable speakers and more features than I could ever use. It had a remote, a clock, timer set, pre-set radio stations and more. It was just under $200. As a bonus I got $40 worth of free CDs just for buying a JVC product. So I got 5 Linda Ronstadt CDs and a new 120-CD rack.

8/7/1996 - Andy accidentally met Karson with someone else he knew at a store. He described her as big, ugly and nerdy looking with a plain face, but not as bad as he'd pictured her to be.

8/9/1996 – A pigeon was hurt and drowning in our pool, so I got him out with the net.

Tammy arrived at our parents’ place in Florida, and Andy went back east.

8/10/1996 – Got a call from Minnie, and talked to Kim.

So fed up with next door’s shit, I begged Tom to go over there and see if he could shut them up, since they wouldn’t listen to me.

The guy, Mike, who appeared to be in his early 20s, was working on the damn car and said, “Sure, no problem.”

I couldn’t help but wonder how their kid could take naps with such thunderously loud thumping bass, and knew that because they rented rather than owned the place, they had nothing to lose and could basically do whatever the hell they wanted.

So frustrated to be living in a HOUSE and sleeping with a loud box fan on just to STILL be woken up by our loud, rude, selfish neighbors.

8/12/1996 - Social security sent me a bill for $32 in my maiden name. I was surprised they'd try to sucker money from me two years after the fact.

Went to Wal-Mart and PetSmart. I got a blue floral 1-piece bathing suit, an
electric pencil sharpener, 5 really cute and colorful journals that were just over $3 each, and 2 cat mugs.

8/13/1996 – Evie was pregnant again and Tom’s mom had her hand operated on to relieve the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome.

We attended his dad’s memorial service held at a small church. It was a quick 20-minute thing and then we went to a building adjacent to the church for refreshments.

People were shocked to see that Cindy, who didn't talk to people, came up to me and started chatting away.

8/14/1996 – Something on the AC broke, so we had to switch to the swamp cooler.

8/16/1996 - Exchanged hellos with a black girl I’d never seen next door before that I later learned was probably the sister of the bitch living there.

8/19/1996 – Went to his mom's, but she was still at Mary's. I did the dishes for her and Tom set up some new memory in her computer.

Later I spoke to ma at Mary's to see how she was feeling. She thanked me for helping her out, too.

Andy called collect from his uncle's farm 10 minutes away from Tammy's house. He wanted her number. He didn't go see her, but they chatted for a couple minutes.

Was growing increasingly frustrated with my parents’ constant complaints and the way they would drag others into things that didn’t involve them, including crying on Tammy’s shoulder about some negative and repetitious contents of my letters to them. What did they want me to do? Lie to them? I figured that if they couldn’t accept me as I was then maybe it was time to stop sending them letters in the first place. They wanted to know what was going on in my life, but then they didn’t want to hear about it? There was simply no appeasing them. I began to really realize that nothing I ever said or did would ever be quite good enough for them, and that they would probably complain no matter what.

I was surprised to learn that mom admitted to being a shitty mother, and even dad got a little teary-eyed. I supposed it was good that they finally realized their mistakes and could own up to them, but what was done was done and could never be changed. She abused us, he defended her, and nothing could undo this. Nor were there any excuses for it either, such as how shitty my mother’s own mother treated her. If you can’t tell right from wrong as an adult, then you’ve got a serious problem.

I guess they really did feel bad about giving up on me in my teens, the places I was sent to, the drugs I was doped up on, but again, nothing changed. It was simply too late for regrets. All I knew was that I wasn’t about to deal with any family drama at 30 years old and 3000 miles away. I’d had enough. Period.

8/20/1996 – I had just come in from a swim when I found that Tom picked up a lovely treat for me on his way home from work... Chinese food. I cooked him pork chops and potatoes, one of his faves.

8/21/1996 - Tom got forms for a mortgage extension. I later asked Andy to sign it as a witness to Tom's signature.

8/22/1996 - We got a real kick-ass dust storm and one of the pigeons was trying to fly which looked so funny cuz its wings were flapping while it wasn't going anywhere.

8/29/1996 – After two weeks of spotting, we suspected I may’ve had a miscarriage.

#September

Early September:

We took his mom's car for a test drive outside the city in the empty desert, since it had been having problems. It didn't seem like we went just over 80 MPH in the vast open space, but we did. We went to a place called New River and Black Canyon City. There were only a few tiny towns along the way, but they weren't even a mile long. You could drive past them in two minutes. There was a prison out there too, for the worst of offenders, so they can be far enough away from civilization. It was so beautiful with lots of Saguaro and Prickly Pear cactuses.

One night I had to sit and listen to next door party for hours. The usual shit… blasting music, basketball games, shouting, etc.

The next day the rude bastard started the bass thumping in his car, then leaving it blasting, he ran back inside the house for something. I was heading over there when he returned, spotted me and said, "Yeah, I'm pulling out."

I received the most insulting letter from my parents ever, demanding that I absolutely did not talk about certain subjects ever again. It was actually written by my mother, in which my father, being how he usually was, happily went right along with. My mother had always been the kind that only wanted to hear about what she could personally relate to or that interested her. The letter was so insulting that I was so close to not having anything more to do with them. The letter made me feel like they could only accept a part of me and not me as a whole. It was a shitty way to feel, especially by your own parents.

Mid-September:

Tom wrote a program to “de-cap” my journals in which I had started to type up in all capital letters, as it was easier for me at the time. It worked great, too.

At this time he was also finishing up with installing our roof.

Late September:

Took a trip to Nevada and California. Lots of cacti and Joshua trees along the way. Between Wickenburg and Kingman we stopped for a bite to eat. We brought the camera and camcorder and I did a little filming along the way and shot a few pictures.

The drive to and from there was long, tiring and boring, but the scenery was beautiful with lots of huge mountains. I didn't know there was such a thing as the high desert and the low desert until then. Up in the high desert there were lots of Yucca trees and Joshua trees. In the low desert there were lots of Prickly Pears and Saguaros. I thought the low desert was prettier.

We traveled to Needles, California through the Arizona side of the Colorado River.

We stood on the 24th floor of the Riverside Resort in Laughlin, which had 26 floors. Other than overly hard beds and a couple kids running screaming through the restaurant we ate at, it was nice. We had prime rib and gambled both together and separately. I kept winning and losing the whole time and Tom told me that if I saw something I liked at the gift shop or wherever, to get it while we had the money. So I got some wind chimes and magnets.

For the most part I played quarter machines. I got carded 3 times while I was at it, too.

I sent some postcards from the hotel, and when I returned home I left Andy a message letting him know I needed to unwind from the trip, would be busy, but that I'd call him Monday. Sure enough, the pushy guy called right back.

Got some cat and dog stickers from the ASPCA and used them to decorate envelopes with.

My doctor gave me a new inhaler to replace the Azmacort, saying they didn’t make Azmacort anymore and that Aerobid, the new thing, worked just like Azmacort. He also renewed my Provetil inhaler for a year.

We visited his mother, then stopped at a fast food drive-through on the way home.

Got a postcard from Alex who went to Sacramento. What an old ugly place Sacramento is, I thought at the time. Little did I know!

Tom worked on Mary's car… again.

#October

Early October:

My niece Becky had to have both knees operated on due to rheumatoid arthritis and had acquired Lyme Disease as well. Sarah had Scarlet Fever.

Received a letter from my folks saying they never heard of Laughlin, won $2,000 playing bingo, were having eye exams and lens changes, and sprucing up their store. Also, give Tom’s mom their best, and let them know if I was interested in the extra household items they’d accumulated.

For once she didn’t come off as pushy, bossy, controlling and intolerant.

Next door continued to drive me crazy on and off, and Kim and I were getting sick of Bob’s letters, many of which were sexual in nature.

Mid-October:

We got a wonderful addition to our family in the form of an adorable black bunny rabbit. Apparently, the loud scummy family behind Tom’s parents dumped him.

Late October:

Andy mailed me coupons for my coffee and we’d talk about life at times. The more he hung out with Quinn, a guy who never truly loved him in return, the more I feared for his safety. I had a bad feeling that Quinn would either kill himself or someone else if no one killed him first. He was a druggie that didn’t exactly run with a great crowd.

#November

Early November:

President Clinton was re-elected.

Mid-November:

We were slaving away again at Tom’s mother’s house, this time working on old pipes.

She and I chatted and she even did a puzzle in my Word Find book. I left it over there for her. I knew she could use something like that to occupy her time.

For lunch, ma got us some Chinese food and Tom something else.

Cindy stopped over at some point, too.

In exchange for working on his friend Eldon’s computers, he gave us a really nice monitor for being back in 1996.

I went to the dentist to discuss what dental work I would need done.

My parent sent a package, which consisted of the following contents:

- A 14-karat gold perfume pen.

- Notepads and other office supplies.

- Talc powder, perfumed soaps and incense.

- Halloween decorations.

- A piggybank.

- Knickknacks.

- Kitchen items.

- Contact paper.

- A shirt/shorts set.

I wrote them a letter thanking them for the stuff and gave them the highlights of our lives.

Andy and I pranked people on this meeting line, setting up dates we knew we’d never keep and all that silly, mean, immature shit we used to do back then. Sure enough, where women would blow me off before meeting Tom, the guys were quick to keep our “dates” and leave messages asking why I didn’t show up and all that. I later felt guilty for leading the poor suckers on, since they never did anything to me personally.

Late November:

Little Miss Do for Me (his mother) had us slaving away for her yet again on her shower surround. Shortly after we arrived, Mary came over cuz we needed her bigger car to haul the shower surround in. Tom and mom went to get it and Mary and I stayed at the house.

Tom and I had mugs made up with our pictures on them for my parents and sister for Chanukah.

Ray, Tom's oldest brother who was about 48 at the time, was in the hospital. The doctors weren’t sure what was wrong with him. His heart was acting weird and he had internal bleeding.

Carol and Steven came to visit from Fresno and Tom went to the dog-racing track with them and mom. He won $90 that day, too.

#December

Early December:

We saw Carol, Steven and Matthew at his mom’s place before they left for Cali.

Stopped at an auto parts store, cuz Tom needed something for the car.

For my birthday I got a couple journals and a kitty mug from Tom, and a journal from Andy which I already had, but still appreciated.

For my birthday my parents sent:

•    $50 for my birthday/Chanukah.

•    Household items.

•    Perfumed candles and two candleholders.

•    Little glass bottles for who knew what.

•    A penholder.

•    Two miniature plant pots with pretty flowers painted on them.

•    5 T-shirts, one of which I gave to Andy.

Andy visited one night and gave me some clothes from Laura… two shirts, a long pair of gray jeans, and a white pair of shorts.

I used radio/headphones to hang out in the backyard to drown out the barking to the left and the old man’s company to the right. He would have visitors in an RV a few times a year with an obnoxious dog that would yip up a storm.

I received another package from my parents containing four journals and was surprised. This was because they didn’t usually send what I liked but what they liked or thought I should have, so it was a welcome surprise.

I left John Saul, one of my favorite authors, some feedback online. I was surprised with a reply, too. He let me know what he was working on at the moment and gave me his website address.

Mid-December:

My last two wisdom teeth were pulled fairly effortlessly. I didn’t even need the prescription pain medicine prescribed to me, and could indulge in Jack-n-the-Box take-out shortly afterwards.

Late December:

I was excited to reconnect with my Italian foster parents, Anna and Harry, whom I’d always called mom and dad.

I also located Paula who was now 29. I hadn’t seen her since she was around 23. I learned that she lost custody of her eight-year-old son, but had her other son who was four years old. I wasn’t surprised to learn this either. She was an aggressive individual who, as she herself admitted, hated motherhood. I never could fathom why she had a second child after all the complaining she did about the first one when I lived near her back east.

The older, smarter, more experience me could recognize that Paul wasn’t quite right in the head and that she was on disability for a reason. But as weird, selfish and as unintelligent as she was, I was excited to find her and let her know I was now living out west.

I felt bad for her because she was stuck in an endless rut of poverty and bad boyfriends. On top of that, she lost her mother the previous year to cancer, and her father lived in Florida.

It seemed the only thing out of the ordinary that happened for her was that she participated in some pornographic movies and spent a month in jail for assault.

Tom got a job as a check sorter for nearly $10 an hour.

Tom made his mom a family calendar for Christmas on the computer. We also got toys, plants and stuff like that for Nickolena, Jackie, Pam, Ryan and Jennifer. Ma also got a variety of puzzle books from us.

Tom was given a microwave hotdog skewer and a toolbox, plus some T-shirts.

Ma gave her traditional $50 dollar bill to everyone, and we each got $10 certificates for Wal-Mart as well.

We got a Nintendo-type game called Lights Out and a microwave popcorn popper.

I was given slipper socks, body wash, a small round puzzle of a butterfly, and a magnet with my name in pretty colors, a Gloria Estefan video, and a journal.

My folks sent Tom a package containing cakes, fruits and nuts.

Tom got candy and cards from work.

We finished building a long hutch with chicken wire walls for Piggy and Bunny. They loved having the extra space.

Poor Tom finished the year off with his second cold that month.

Monday, February 15, 2016

1995

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

January

I spoke to Andy early in the month who had a friend over nicknamed Goofy.

I began swapping emails with his sister Marla.

Went shopping at the Metro Center mall where Tom got a computer game and some computer parts.

We got a little CD rack since MP3s hadn’t hit the scene yet.

I got pretty pastel colored computer paper with matching envelopes to use for letters.

I also got vanilla bean scented lotion, journals and slippers.

On another day at Target he got two pairs of pants and I got two word-find books and a puzzle. The 1000-piece puzzle had an image of an old cottage in a field of wildflowers.

We got blinds for the windows in the back room. I chose two different colors… cameo rose and slate blue.

Unfortunately, we discovered a leak in the ceiling in the back of this large room as well.

Larry brought up the possibility Jenny and I resuming our friendship, but after I gave it some thought, I told him that while I no longer had any hard feelings toward her, I didn’t see the point in resuming a friendship with someone who was 3000 miles away. The Internet wasn’t what it is today, and I still believed that we were too different from each other. I usually liked opposites, just not that opposite.

I was pleased to learn from my doctor that my skin graft was healing well.

I began reading and enjoying novels for the first time in years. I don’t know why I took such a long break from reading, but it might have been because it wasn’t as easy to get books back then with such a huge selection.

On a visit to Tom’s parents’ house one day his mother gave me some cookies she baked that she knew Tom didn't like. They were pretty good.

She also had a holiday gift there for us from Tom’s brother Steven and his family who lived in central California. It was a book of 3-D images and a horse puzzle.

I eventually met Steven, his wife Carol, and Carol’s son Matthew from a previous marriage. The first thing Carol said when she saw me was, "She's gorgeous! Steven, look at her."

Matthew, just 12 at the time, wanted to be a cartoonist. He showed me some of his cartoon drawings which were very good.

I made a drink called Bride's Pink Punch that I got out of a cookbook. It came out pretty well. It consisted of Jell-O, pineapple juice, Kool-Aid, and 7-up.

February

My ear doctor was worried that the plastic piece they inserted into my ear frame in Boston as a child may poke through, and it did. So next it was off to see a plastic surgeon.

My hearing in that ear increased by almost half, but because the ear canal had collapsed a bit, he would have to perform a second operation. The inner ear was still looking great and the skin graft healed well, even though it wasn’t as thick as he'd like.

The second operation was to take only 2 hours and not 5. Recovery would be speedy and virtually painless. Nowhere near as rough as the last time. He planned to vaporize the area with a laser. He also wanted to make sure I didn’t get a serious infection.

I knew I would have a couple of choices as far as what could be done about the plastic piece that was exposed. I could have the upper ear removed completely, which was what I was leaning toward being the quickest and easiest thing to do. Or I could have it rebuilt from scratch. The doctor could take cartilage from my ribs to rebuild it with.

My surgeon said he'd do another skin graft from the same area under my left upper arm. The scar tissue apparently built up and closed the ear canal shut, so that was why he had to re-graft the outer canal. He said there was a 98% success rate for the second operation keeping the canal wide open.

Some of the items I got this month consisted of a mug with a collie on it, and a 500-piece puzzle of a piano, sheet music and violin.

March

This month we bombed our home and drove around through Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale for two hours. Naturally, we took the guinea pig we had at the time with us.

Tom helped me trim a few inches from my hair.

Decided to mail the “Brady Bunch” next door a letter about the constant screaming I was tired of dealing with every day. Some noise, I expected and was acceptable, but every day for hours at a time? There was no excuse for that.

Tom went over to Andy's to fix his VCR and I taped his soaps for him until it was fixed.

Tom was laid off from work and eligible for unemployment.

Andy called to tell me that Fran was harassing his friend Donna’s grandmother. As bad as I felt for the woman, I didn’t know what to tell her. All she could really do was change the number or hang up on him.

Our tax return this month was $330, so we decided to pick up a few things we wanted and needed.

Tom got one of those contour pillows, designed to support your neck and most importantly decrease snoring, though it didn’t help much.

I got some silk flowers at Michael’s to decorate with, and at the Old America art store I got my second dog mug, an Irish Setter.

We went to a bookstore that we'd never been in before and they had a pretty decent journal selection. I got a couple of them as I had yet to go all-digital.

We went to a buffet for lunch and then to Wal-Mart where we got several things. A fluorescent light to put in the lamp by the computer, was one thing.

I got some intimates, hair accessories, and two 500-piece puzzles. One had two teddy bears at a picnic with bowls of strawberries. The other had lace and flowers surrounding teddy bears. When I was done I carefully flipped them over, put duct tape on the backs, then hung them on the wall.

Andy and I hung out one night and grab some fast food. I brought him his taxes, which Tom did for him.

I got a surprise letter from Larry, though he admitted that the only reason I got it was because he got a new computer. He, unlike me, hated to write.

On the very day Andy had a root canal done, I have my second and final ear surgery. The second surgery was a piece of cake compared to the first one. The only bitch was the waiting time.

Tom and I spoke to Goldie and Al.

April

Tom got a new faucet to replace our old one in the kitchen. The one we had leaked and was hard to turn on and off.

Our living room ceiling fan died, so Tom brought one over that he had at his parents’ house with a light.

His mom gave me a plastic placemat with all kinds of cactuses illustrations and their names.

The large Mormon family next-door became surprisingly quiet, but eventually some whiny dog they got shattered the peace. At first I was worried they got a new dog when listening to every other dog on the block was more than enough, but it turned out that they were just babysitting it while its owner was away somewhere.

I was totally relieved to get my ear bandages removed and then to come home and shower and wash my hair! Dr. N said the new outer graft looked great as well as the inner ear and the graft on my arm.

Tom got a temporary job at a bank, and I renewed my library book.

We spent around $200 one day. We got a new lamp for the back room and other stuff we needed. He got new work clothes, too.

My parents sent a newspaper article with a picture of my dad holding one of the decorative flags they sold. Apparently a law was passed, and then tossed out, about businesses putting up flags that'd make the place look like a circus.

They also sent a water resistant clock/radio that would be good to use around the pool, as well as some puzzles. Lastly, there were 3 pairs of shorts, a vest, and a jacket. The jacket was a bit big, but beautiful, so I didn't care. My favorite was the denim shorts with gold studs and gemstones along the pockets.

I was 97 pounds as we cruised around filming Camelback Mountain so I could show friends and family back east.

Went to a 50s café and then it was off to the Turf Paradise horse racetrack where we watched two races. Tom taught me a few things about betting and how it worked in general, but I never could get into the sport.

The Oklahoma City bombings occurred.

We got a fan on a stand for the living room, a CD holder, plus some CDs, later in the month. Before we went shopping we went to Red Lobster.

We also got a non-motorized treadmill. I had to rearrange our rather small living room to get it to fit in.

May

Did a lot of organizing and rearranging around the home this month, and Tom installed a garbage disposal in the kitchen sink.

Dad drove up to New England from Florida to visit family and friends up there.

Tom found a note for me on the front door from a couple months ago. I don’t know how we missed it. Two of the girls next door typed it up. They apologized for all the noise, which was really nice of them. All the kids over there had been getting pretty carried away with the shouts and screams for hours at a time (these kids were homeschooled) and with their place being just a few feet away, it could get pretty maddening at times. One living in a house shouldn’t feel like they were still in an apartment, so I appreciated their understanding.

We visited his parents one day. Tom showed his mom some stuff on the computer and mom said she would sew the straps to one of my halter tops on in a way where they wouldn’t slip off. Dad entertained me on the pachinko machine while they worked.

After we left, we went to a park with life-size metal statues of people. They looked so cool. Especially from a distance.

Lastly we went to OSCO drugstore where I got a few small puzzles, makeup remover, nail polish, and some shower gel. I also got a lamp/organizer.

Andy and his roommate Diana brought over a wavy brown chair I always liked that they no longer wanted. I quickly regretted it as we were running out of space to put things.

Later in the month Tom got a vanity table from Mary's, but we had extra space in the second bedroom for that. It was old-fashioned looking but nice, with 3 small drawers on either side of it. Tom attached its large center mirror.

I got my third dog mug, so now I had 3 breeds.

Tom got some things to attach to the block wall in back to wind hoses onto, and a new sprinkler.

We also got a new lounge chair since the old plastic one gave out. This one was of cloth with a floral design on it.

One day I found myself remembering the brief time I attended summer camp in Maine as a child. At first I thought I was 9, but would later come to realize I was 11. One counselor was especially nice to me, and that meant a lot to me with all the abuse and negativity I was usually surrounded by. I couldn’t remember her name, but just that she was of average height and weight with shoulder length dark hair and dark eyes.

I was a little bully back in these days and before I managed to get myself kicked out because of it, she took me to stay with her in her cabin on my last night there. Because she had her own cabin, this told me she had to have been at least 18 and some kind of supervisor.

Where the regular cabins had about 20 beds in them, hers had just 2, plus a little kitchenette. She also had a small dog I totally loved right away, and it seemed to take to me as well.

The next morning I’m pretty sure she cooked us breakfast. Maybe bacon and eggs.

Then we were running through the woods playing with her dog. I remember being amazed at how she would hide behind a tree, remain still and silent, yet the dog would always find her.

After this she said, "I've got a present for you."

It was a Polaroid of the dog. I ditched it when I was around 22, though, and was sorry I’d done so.

"What am I gonna do till my dad arrives?" I asked shortly afterwards. I was nervous because I knew he was going to be really disappointed in me and that my mother would be utterly furious.

She playfully said, "You're gonna stay with me!"

In my last memory of her, we were outside the office waiting for my dad. He drove up and she commented on how handsome he was. Then she hugged me goodbye. I got in the car, looked back and waved.

I saw her wipe a tear from her eyes as she turned and walked away. I knew I would never forget her and that I would always appreciate her kindness.

Who was she? I wondered that day nearly 20 years later.

And so began the hunt for an identity that would take nearly 15 years to discover.

June

Andy moved to a new apartment, and he like the apartment but hated all the noise. That was just attached living for you, especially in Arizona where they tended to build walls paper-thin.

A detective called him because he prank called what I believe was a customer’s family member. This was back when he was a waiter. Pretty sure it never went to court, though.

I did some wall art. Or door art, I should say. There was a little spice cabinet in the kitchen. I noticed that my cactus figurine I painted cast a perfect shadow on the wall, so I traced it. Then I drew it on the door with carbon paper. All around it I drew colorful stripes.

Tom surprised me with a beautiful 3-D journal. I have no trouble seeing the image. The cover had cat faces all over it and the hidden image was of a cat hovering over a fish bowl.

We went to the new main library, which was huge. It had 5 floors and a glass elevator where you could see all around you. I got a book by John Saul that day. He was always one of my favorites, along with Dean Koontz, Ruby Jean Jensen, Stephen King, and Mary Higgins Clark.

I went to the dentist who told me pretty much what I figured she’d tell me… my teeth needed work.

They didn’t have a date yet, but sometime in the fall my parents and their bird, a cockatiel, would be on America's Funniest Home Videos. They sent them a tape and they got a letter back saying they'd been accepted. Dad told me that the bird would climb down his throat and would sing and laugh. It could also say about 60 words.

For our first anniversary we went to play miniature golf at Castles & Coasters. We filmed some of their gorgeous scenery. I got overheated in the end and nearly passed out, so I got some water and then we left.

We went across the street to the Metro Center mall where we got a $40 camera that was super nice with cool features. We also got film, a camera case, a photo album, and a device that strips copy guards from videos.

We also went to Red Lobster later, came back, and took a dip in the pool. I noticed a palm tree coming up in the corner of the block wall by the pool. I thought it was about time that we had one on our property.

Two weeks later Tom turned 38. Unfortunately he had an ear infection, but he at least got to be dismissed from jury duty.

July

We bombed our house one day and Tom, Piggy, and I went to a drive-through to get breakfast, then to his parents’ house. Piggy was not only comfortable riding in the car, but he had a ball at their house.

For years this Mexican family who made and sold jewelry, rented a house near his parents’ house. Whenever they'd go visit family in Mexico they'd leave their jewelry-making supplies at their house. One day they left and never returned. The stuff stayed with them for years with no one interested in it. I was surprised and grateful when his mom gave it to me. There were millions of different beads in so many different colors. Mostly tiny microscopic beads, but there were some bigger ones. There were longer beads, colored glass stones, lots of silver chains, some clasps, raw and polished turquoise, and all kinds of sequins. Not just regular little round sequins, but bigger ones in shapes of birds, flowers, moons, etc. I would definitely have fun making others and myself all kinds of fun things, as I was more into that sort of thing back then.

We ate at the mall another day and visited the arts and crafts store where we got a bead loom.

Our last stop was at the library where I renewed an old book and grabbed a new one.

Andy told me that he and his friend Michelle went to the home of a popular female rock star in Paradise Valley on trash night, and they grabbed a bag of trash.

In it they found lyrics and notes she wrote herself. He was able to learn that she was recently in a local recording studio, was putting out a new album, and going on tour soon.

One note made no sense to either of them. It said, “Decorate house, don't decorate house, sell house, claim bankruptcy, buy condo, buy house back.”

We wondered how she could be having money problems.

There was a receipt for a half a dozen 30-dollar boxes of facial products she bought at an expensive department store.

A credit report showed that both a woman and a man shared her credit card. The guy bought $5,000 worth of stuff.

He found the name of her dentist in Scottsdale, as well as 3 other doctors who gave her prescriptions for pain, swelling, and congestion, which she picked up at Osco drugstore.

The funniest and strangest thing was an unopened letter from a fan named Sally. Obviously she'd gotten mail before from this weirdo. Sally, who appeared to be a lovesick lesbian living in Scottsdale, wrote her a corny poem. Nothing was funny as the tape of her singing and playing the guitar, though. Some of her guitar playing was okay, but never had I heard such horrible singing in my entire life.

As a joke, I took the tape and edited it in a funny way using a dual cassette recorder, and Andy and I enclosed a wacky letter to send to her.

Another girl from New Mexico wrote a short, dumb letter, which she simply addressed to her name, town and state yet it still got to her.

She also got a letter about doing some interview.

Along with my third Word Find puzzle book in which I was now receiving a monthly subscription for in the mail, I got another 3-D journal, and a kitten puzzle. Plus I doubled my dog mug collection and added a Maltese, a Sheltie and a Golden Retriever. I also got a pair of white Velcro sneakers, a pair of white sandals, a pair of black sandals, and some CDs.

We went out to Denny's and to Office Max later in the month. He got some disks, mailers, and labels for the business. I got pens, clear plastic folders to protect my drawings, and a paper cutter.

Dad called from Tammy's when he went up north to visit friends and family.

Minnie called and said she was no longer in contact with Bob. She said her mother called DSS when she took her son to see Bob in jail, and threatened to take the kid away if she didn't cut off all contact.

I made another futile attempt to find the camp counselor from my childhood that I briefly knew in Maine. No matter how much info I searched for on the web or how many phone calls I made, I began to doubt I would ever find out who she was and where she was.

Andy said he had an experience with a ghost that was anything but positive, and he did a lot more than just sense it. He told me that one night he was lying awake in total darkness. He said he couldn't see anything, but could feel a guy crawl onto the bed from the foot of it, and then it raped him. He said it wasn't painful, but he could things. He said that the next day it felt as if something had been up his butt, but there was no pain.

Did I believe it? Or did I simply write it off as paranoia from all the pot he used to smoke?

I wasn’t sure. Not even when he told me that a full name came to him the next day.

The best news this month was that my doctor told me I could go ahead and quit taking the Theodur pills I took for asthma.

August

I was put on antibiotics for a cough and congestion.

Tom, his parents and 3 of his siblings went to the Greyhound racing track, but Tom didn’t win anything.

On a trip to Wal-Mart this month, we got a new scale and a cushioned toilet seat with a floral pattern on its cover. He also got some sport-related CDs for the computer while I got some puzzles.

He built a table we put in the living room so I wouldn’t hog up space on the kitchen table with my puzzles. I then spray-painted the table Pasadena Pink. The can looked bright pink, but it was more of a bright red once it dried.

We got Windows 95, and I got a bunch of markers I used to draw a humongous multicolored cat with on the wall of the second bedroom. I wasn’t happy with the way it came out.

Tom also built Piggy a burrow.

The mailman continued to screw up the delivery of the mail in the area, though I was glad to receive some family pictures from Tammy.

The large Mormon family moved, leaving me to wonder (and worry) what we may be in for next.

September

Goldie and Al surprised me with a call. They were long-time family friends that were to be in Sun City and wanted to know if they could meet with us. I was delighted. I would meet them at the home of Al’s sister. They had come to Sun City to pack her up, sell her house, and move her back east because she’d gotten too old to live alone. We visited for a few hours and it was great seeing them after so many years.

At Walgreen’s I got birthday cards for Kim and my youngest niece. We also got a couple of pool noodles. Got a CD with 1000 fonts but most of them sucked and weren’t very original.

Andy brought over some things he found or didn’t want. Two boxes of cereal, a tape for me to record his voice messages onto, plus a journal.

My parents sent a package with pens, hair barrettes, decorative flags, daisy seeds, and 3 gorgeous journals. I was surprised my parents sent me journals because they usually didn’t send things that I really, really liked. The most surprising thing were old home movies they’d had transferred to videotapes. There was no sound on the old movies, but it was both cool and not so cool seeing old friends and family, most of which are now dead, in various states and places. Everyone agreed I looked barely 2 years old when I was really 4 at the time the movies were filmed in 1969, mostly by my maternal grandfather. Tom’s mom said I looked like a miniature version of how I looked in 1995. OMG, the clothes and hairstyles, though!

My mom suggested painting our block wall a solid light blue-green, then painting in fish, manatees, lobsters and seaweed similar to what some artists had done on the block wall that surrounded their community pool. I never did get around to this, but instead I decorated our linen cabinet. I traced some plastic musical notes/G-clefs lightly with a pencil and then I colored them in.

I began to wonder whatever happened to the diary I wrote in in my early teens. I didn’t remember throwing it out, so I assume it ended up in my mother’s hands. That must’ve been interesting since I mostly wrote about my fantasies, dreams and stories. Trust me, my reality certainly wasn’t worth writing about back then.

Tom was offered a full-time position at work.

He went to his parents’ house to work on Mary's car. Mary was there as well as my niece Nickolena. It was many hours of work, but Mary gave him $40, which was nice.

We went over to his parents’ house one day, but they were out. While they were out, Tom did about 20 minutes of work on their computer that they wanted done.

I saw that his mom hung up the puzzle in her hall that she asked me to do for her since she had arthritis.

I was still feeding our local pigeons. I got a kick out of how I’d go outside, stick my arms straight out at my sides, and they would fly down from the utility poles and wires and onto my arms. I just hated the mess they made.

Kim, now divorced, sent me pictures of her new apartment. She also sent these
hair rappers. They were colorful pieces of string in which you wrap small sections of hair with.

An organization for paralyzed vets sent us 10 free Christmas cards.

We went to Denny's, then to Old America where I got a puzzle. It had a picture of paperweights in 35 different colors, designs, and patterns.

Surprisingly enough, I was seeing a slight improvement in the ridges in my nails after taking calcium tablets.

October

I continued to keep in touch with Kim, Bob and Alex.

Was furious that O.J. Simpson got away with murder simply for being rich and black.

Went to visit his parents. They gave me an old oil painting that they’d had for years in which to use to practice my own oil painting on, that I had recently gotten into.

At an art store I got 8 tubes of oil paint, liquid white base coat, a putty knife, Turpenoid, brushes, liners, canvases, and a small tabletop easel.

Tom and I did our first paintings together, and I begin to follow the Bob Ross show.

Tom worked on his parents’ car for a few hours, and then we went to a bookstore where I got a journal.

Tom won $300 at the racetrack!

We saw my dad on America's Funniest Videos with his bird. He was only on for about 10 seconds, but it was cool to see. My parents were disappointed with the winners because they didn’t even find them funny. Judging never seemed fair no matter what it was, especially since they would always favor kids. Why not let them have their own video contests then? I would say.

Larry quit driving and bought a trucking business.

Andy called to do what he did best – discuss his problems with friends with others. He had a fight with Pam. She supposedly scammed him by selling him shitty weed or something.

Depressed, lonely and feeling hopeless, Andy began seeing a therapist.

My mother quit smoking, but only for a few months. She said she got real sick, had to go to the hospital, and then she gave the doctor her cigarettes and said she quit. She went out and got a needlepoint kit to keep her hands busy.

Tom’s dad wasn’t doing as well. He was in the hospital with pneumonia.

November

Tom’s dad was diagnosed with cancer from asbestos exposure. :-(

Larry was having trouble negotiating with the guy that he was supposed to buy his trucking company from. He didn’t want to give up trucking, but because he had been neglecting his family, he felt obligated to quit driving and stay closer to home.

Money was tight. Tom sold his trumpet for $180 in order to get the money for the new hot water tank we needed.

Pam and John woke Andy up one day pounding on his door for half an hour. Andy had given them some things he didn’t want, and they had given him a table they were now saying he didn’t pay for. He couldn’t tell the cops this, but he didn’t pay for it because they cheated him by selling him shitty pot. Not wanting any more problems from the nutty duo, he gave the cops the table to give to them, and Pam and John returned the unwanted stuff that Andy had given them, hoping this would file them away in the past an be the end of them.

We spent a couple hours at his parents’ this month. A large loud Mexican family moved in behind them and all you could hear were kids crying and screaming like crazy.

We showed them our paintings and his mom asked me to paint something for her some time.

Then Tom worked on one of their cars and put up a wooden bench swing for them similar to ours.

After we came home we barbecued some burgers.

On another visit to his parents’ that month, Mary came over while we were there cuz we needed her car to haul in mom’s new shower surround that Tom was installing. Tom and mom went to get it while Mary and I stayed at the house.

At first, Mary did her thing in another room on their computer while I read out in the living room. Then I dared to share with her that I had been having trouble conceiving and my mixed emotions about it. She seemed to really sympathize with me because she once lost the baby and ended up needing a hysterectomy afterwards. I asked that she keep our discussion secret, but us I would later learn, she didn’t. Now knowing that she couldn’t be trusted, I was careful with what I shared with her in the future.

Someone had been calling and hanging up, so I called my parents to see if they have been trying to reach me. Mom said she'd leave a message if she needed to get ahold of us. They were on their way out to play bingo when I called, saying they’d win every third time and play with about 150 people. They'd won anywhere from $50 to $200.

I got a package from my parents. Every so often she would go through her place and send stuff she no longer wanted. She sent some beauty products and this disgusting tasting toothpaste.

She also sent decorative flags. Two of them were nice, one was boring, and one was ugly. It had a mug of beer with the words: This Bar Is open.

Strange thing to send to people who almost never drink.

In the package that was meant to be my birthday gifts, was a too-big and not too impressive sweatshirt, but a perfect fitting and impressive skirt. Hair accessories and knickknacks were also in the package.

I received a birthday check from my in-laws.

Got a postcard from Kim from a trip she took to Niagara Falls.

Tom carved an animal drawing of mine into wood and it really looked great. He seemed to have a knack for that kind of thing.

Repair work was being done on and off at the house next door, which was still wonderfully vacant. They also painted the place the same dull diarrhea brown color.

December

One day I got two canvases, brush cleaner, a brush cleaning tub, and two new spiral journals.

I later painted a sky, mountain, grass and an evergreen tree in a field.

Next, I took a tiny canvas and painted it pinkish red. When it dried I painted white lily flowers on it with green leaves around it. Then I outlined it for contrast with brown using a liner. Also using a liner, I put brown veins in the leaves.

I had an idea for my big canvas. To divvy it into 6 squares and paint each square a different color. Then to do a different flower design in each square after the background colors dried.

We checked out a paper store, but all they had were kits to glue books, and plastic spirals. I wanted metal ones cuz they were sturdier. The damn paper puncher was $300, so typing and then binding journals with decorative covers was out of the question at the time.

My right wisdom teeth were bugging me. Just what I needed. I knew they would have to be pulled sooner or later.

Tom did some work on his aunt's water tank. I began to wonder why it always had to be my husband that people called upon to fix their shit, but the answer was obvious. He was the smartest and most capable. But yeah, it got annoying at times because it meant we’d lose some time together. I also didn’t like it when he wasn’t paid fairly for his work and I felt that he was being used.

At his parents’ on another day, he helped pull out an old fence around their garden. How nice it would be to just go over to their place and simply visit, just visit, I began to think more often.

I turned 30 this year.

I got a lot of nice things for my birthday and the holidays.

Scented soaps from Andy along with vanilla air freshener and videos I’d never seen before of Gloria Estefan.

My parents sent us a package with Tom's presents wrapped in Christmas paper and mine wrapped in Chanukah paper.

He got:

•    A sweatshirt with flags of all 50 states.

•    An NBA T-shirt.

•    Gauges on a wooden plaque for reading the temperature, barometer and humidity levels.

I got:

•    A really nice denim skirt.

•    Two half-shirts in pink and lime.

•    A curling iron, which I was surprised they sent since I had naturally curly hair.

•    A hand-held mirror with a plastic brush on the back of it.

•    A framed picture of dad in their store.

•    A bird feeder.

•    12 pictures of their store.

•    A purple and blue water bottle.

•    Three turtles made out of shells.

•    An alligator pin, necklace and earrings.

•    Two needlepoints, one of a musical note and one of a southwestern design.

•    Pastels for drawing on fabrics.

We also got cards from other family members as well as friends.

We had a yard sale to get rid of old stuff and raked in $60, not bad for 1995.

We met the lady who lived behind us. She and her retired husband lived there.

One night Larry called saying he had a “present” for me. He told me that since we’d been back in each other’s lives, he'd been updating Jenny C on how my life was going, someone I was friends with from age 9-22, and said she wanted to resume our friendship.

Jenny had been one of his many mistresses for a while. The guy even admitted he was quite a slut, and it was true. He fucked every female friend I’d introduced him to. Variety was a must-have for my brother.

After taking some time to reflect on things, I didn’t see the point in resuming a friendship with someone thousands of miles away and that I had last known myself not to have much in common with. In the past I hadn’t been the perfect friend, but then neither had she. I wasn’t a firm believer in forgiveness either, for I had learned that if you didn’t forgive someone, then they would never have the chance to burn you again, something that often seemed to be the case whenever I’d play kiss and make up with someone.

Jenny and I had come to be very different people with very different interests. She found me to be boring because I wasn’t into partying. I found her to be very selfish because everything had to be her way.

Eventually Jenny dumped me and I paid her back in the form of a series of prank phone calls. Not a very smart thing to do, but that was just my way back then. In the end she was denied the legal revenge she sought for it and we continued on our merry little separate ways.

“I know things weren’t all your fault,” Larry had told me. “I think part of it was all the medication you were on at the time.”

But what he hadn’t told me was that she fucked up as well. In other words, my fault or not, it was still all on me.

He suggested I send a letter with a phone gift certificate for $5 to “make her feel more comfortable” about calling, just take it slow, see what happens, etc.

After I thought about it I wondered to myself, why did she need a gift certificate to make her more comfortable about calling? If she wasn’t comfortable without it, then maybe she shouldn't call me at all.

Either way, I did send the letter and the GC, but never heard from her, much to my relief.

We went to Mary and Dave’s for Christmas and for presents we got:

•    Jenga blocks.

•    Pool noodles.

•    A photo of a waterfall in the forest.

•    A plant.

•    A bathmat in the shape of a foot.

•    He got a work light and T-shirt.

•    I got a needlepoint and a manicure set.

•    We each got $50.

From my parents we got:

•    A nice denim jacket to go with my denim shorts, skirts and pants.

•    A denim pocketbook with belt loops and pockets.

•    Tom got a shirt.

•    An eagle figurine.

•    Two candles.

•    A small flower basket.

•    A music box of a mother dog at one end of a seesaw and two pups at the other end. It teetered up and down as music played.

Tammy, who still had a few years to go in medical school, sent a card and some pictures of the girls.

Tom’s mom told me an interesting story when we were sitting out in Mary's backyard one day. A guy that lived with his wife a couple houses down killed his wife and buried her in the backyard. A pool was later built over her grave. Twenty years later the daughter ratted on daddy, they dug up the area, and found the body.

Monday, February 8, 2016

1994

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

January

The 3rd - Took Andy to lunch, and next time he would treat me. We went to a place called the Elephant Bar, but it was only so-so, just like the Black Angus Tom and I went to.

Then we went to the Christown mall. He got a new pair of sneakers and I got bubble gum, red lipstick and blue nail polish.

The 8th – Got an offer for a free dance class and loved it. It was loads of fun. Decided not to bother signing up, though, cuz no one would be straight with me when it came to pricing, and I doubted we could afford it anyway.

The 13th – The disability people (SSI) had me meet with their clinical psychologist. He asked for current and past medical and mental info. Also did some memory tests.

Pissed off as the band across the street continues to annoy me, sometimes waking me up as well, and starting to seriously believe a noise curse had been put on me. It seemed I just couldn’t find any peace no matter where I lived and what I lived in. Excessive noise would follow me everywhere.

The 20th – Tom’s friend Geri, which he knew for several years, was to move back to Arizona with her daughter from South Dakota. I'd always gotten bad vibes from Geri and so I wasn’t looking forward to her return at all. Tom felt bad for her daughter, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered being friends with Geri.

Began doing “wall art.” This was where I would draw various designs on the walls using special markers. I mostly did trees and flowers.

The 29th - Got a really nice letter from my dad and called to thank him. My mother answered and reminded me that she only wanted me calling once a month and no sooner. I hung up on the insulting bitch.

February

Got a new sewing machine for $80 and hemmed a couple of shirts for starters.

Dad had stents put in a couple of blocked arteries.

Tom and I went out to get him a nice pair of black Velcro sneakers, which he needed badly. Then at a thrift store, I got a satin bodysuit for only $2.

We also went to Denny's and it sucked. The food was cold, it took forever, and the place was infested with rowdy kids.

Some of the shows I watched were: Cops, Tales from the Crypt and America's Most Wanted.

Watched the Olympics in Norway. This was when the scandal with Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan went down.

Kim and I were stunned to learn that Bob was in jail. He was being charged with giving alcohol to minors as well as the rape of a minor. It was the rape charges that shocked us. We could see him being stupid enough to be too nice to say no if some of the neighborhood kids tried to weasel booze off of him, but forcing himself on anybody? We just couldn’t see this, especially for a guy who was older and not very strong.

March

We removed some of the old, ugly wall paneling from the kitchen and repaired a damage spot in the ceiling.

We planted lettuce and carrot seeds in the backyard. I was never a fan of carrots, but I was sure our guinea pig would be.

One night we ordered dinner to be delivered to the house. He got a pizza and I ordered a prime rib dinner. It was supposed to be $19, but they screwed up and the whole thing only cost $11.

Decided to play around with watercolor paints. They were different than any other medium I was used to using.

The city came and spray-painted out the graffiti on our outer block wall. We were on the corner, so the back faced the alley while the side faced the street. Someone spray-painted the word Kraze on the side.

Kim visited Bob who had now been moved to a correctional facility near Boston.

We began discussing possible dates and places to be married. We knew we wanted something small.

Plans to eliminate Tom’s job at the company he worked at was underway, so he put it in for a job in another department.

April

My SIL, Evie, had a baby girl named Nickolena.

Bob called collect and said he was just trying to hang in there while his appeal went through, and keep his charges secret. His cellmate was in for robbery.

He told me he was locked down 22 hours a day. The other 2 were for showering, eating and making phone calls.

He said he’s soon expected to be moved to Gardner, and was depressed over Kim because he loved and missed her.

Andy and I were both receiving hang-up calls, and we wondered if it was someone that knew us both.

Tom didn't get the job he was trying to get at AMEX, so he would apply for another job.

For hours on end the kids next door drove me crazy one day when they were running through their sprinkler and screaming like little hyenas. I hoped to hell Lenore wasn't kidding when she said they were going to Idaho for the summer!

I was terminated from disability and saw it as a major turning point in my life. I was still covered by Medicaid but Tom assured me that if they stopped it the next day, he'd marry me right away. I thought this was so sweet of him, and I knew he had come to love me just like I had come to love him.

May

The weather warmed up and so did the pool. The only problem was that the constant screaming coming from next door made it very hard to get any peace within our own backyard. It went on for hours at a time, and I was never as glad as I was when they finally took off for Idaho for the summer. I understood the kids needed to be kids; I was just sick of hearing it on my own turf, and beginning to wonder why the hell I ever thought I wanted a kid of my own.

Kim sent stamps and envelopes for my letter-writing, and a couple of tapes containing funny outgoing messages for answering machines/voice mail.

Bob asked if I was interested in being pen pals with another inmate. At first I considered it as long as the person wasn’t a sex offender, but then decided against it. The guy he had in mind was in for involuntary manslaughter, a common plea bargain for murder. Not only that, but he was familiar with the area I lived in. The last thing I needed was for him to eventually get released and then return to Arizona and stalk me.

We fixed the one and only toilet we had which was rather sluggish.

I began typing up my handwritten journals and to worry about my weight… now just over 100 pounds rather than under.

Eldon gave Tom an old VCR for working for him one day.

I began to look into home jobs like sending mailing lists, stuffing envelopes, etc.

When I went for a check up it was determined that my white blood cell count was high and I was put on antibiotics.

June

On June 15th Tom and I were married in Vegas. A Limo took us to the Ex-Caliber Hotel from the airport. The room was done in a medieval theme, which I didn’t find very attractive, but it was spacious enough.

We enjoyed the casinos, gift shops, restaurants and more. For me it was so cool to see things that I’d only seen in pictures, like the lighted cowboy and cowgirl. We gambled at other hotels as well like the MGM Grand, Pyramid, Luxor and Tropicana.

We decided on a non-religious ceremony at the Las Vegas Garden Wedding Chapel. It was a beautiful place.

He wore black pants and a light blue dress shirt, and I wore a royal blue spaghetti strap jumpsuit that was short. I also wore my black pumps and the diamond earrings my mother gave me. My long hair was left down and flowed to my waist.

I had a bouquet of silk flowers and they also took pictures and videotaped the little ceremony we had. It was a very special day for us.

I got two packages from mom and dad after we returned home. One with jewelry and another with silver candlesticks.

Since I was getting older and keeping weight off wasn’t as easy, I decided to order Denise Austin's 1-2-3 Tone Up kit. It was an exercise video that came with weights you added to a holder that strapped to your leg. It also had wrist weights.

Andy's sister Marla and her then young son Timothy came to visit one day. The kid was surprisingly calm and nondestructive.

July

We built our guinea pig a huge wooden cage that was a lot like a rabbit hutch. It was long and narrow.

Never had I been more furious with Fran and forever done with him. First he billed long distance calls to us, which he did later apologize for, not that “I’m sorry” was enough after all the shit I had to deal with on account of him over the years.

Then the bastard called the Glendale Police Department, which contacted me to ask about a friend of Andy's that had stopped being pen pals with him. The girl stopped corresponding with him probably because she got sick of him, and Fran, being the insane asshole that he was, thought something bad happened to her. The woman I spoke to, however, was very understanding and said she could tell when talking to Fran that she was dealing with someone who wasn’t right.

I never spoke to Fran again after this incident. He tried to call Andy and I a few times afterwards, but we ignored him and he eventually dropped out of our lives for good.

I took his last letter and mailed it to the gigantic family next door as a joke.

Tom's parents gave us a wedding card and a check for $250. We also received gifts and money from other family members as well. Some of those gifts included a food processor and a deep fryer.

My parents sent us money as well as a couple of Florida T-shirts, a mug, a watch, sun block, a handbag, and a funny newspaper with O.J. Simpson jokes, gay jokes, and other jokes in it.

I closed out my checking account and we opened a joint account.

We went to an art store one day where I got some books on drawing, as well as some paints and figurines. They were about 10" high and one was a cactus while the other was a cowboy boot.

I got a nice floral sundress and white pumps for my sister-in-law, Mary's, wedding. She married a guy named Dave, a native New Yorker. I liked him. He had a good sense of humor. It was at Mary's wedding that I met her, Dave, and other family members for the first time.

Mary didn’t look like I pictured her to look. Since she was getting older I thought she would have short hair like most of the others had, but it was long. It looked nice on her and made her look younger.

Mary could never have kids of her own, but Dave had some from a previous marriage.

We got them a really nice wall clock as their wedding present.

The wedding and reception were nice. There were about 20-30 people and the reception was at Mary's house. I loved the layout of her three-bedroom house. Where we had a play pool that was shallow on the ends and only about 5 feet deep in the middle, she had a diving pool. Unlike us, she didn’t have a Jacuzzi. Her lot was also wider and shorter where ours was skinnier but deeper.

I ordered this thing called Phase-Out in hopes of quitting smoking. It punched tiny holes in the filters of the cigarettes, but it didn’t do me any good. If anything I just smoked more.

Andy brought over 50-60 hotdogs one day. He had a friend who drove a truck and delivered food, so they’d end up with lots of extras. I was never big on hotdogs, but Tom was thrilled since it was always one of his favorite foods.

August 

Had my second meeting with Larry at our house in Phoenix, and this time he brought his then 10-year-old daughter Jenny. Jenny looked remarkably like her mother. She was only two inches shorter than me and had hair past her ass.

I saw the inside of the cab of their truck in which they had a little dog with them named Brandy. The back of the truck was full of whip cream waiting to be delivered.

The only shitty thing was that Tom had to work, so he couldn’t meet them.

We were pleasantly surprised with late wedding cards and checks from Charlotte and Jim as well as Goldie and Al.

September

I received a pretty strange piece of mail in early August. It was a good luck chain letter mailed from Hartford, not that I ever believed in those things.

Tom speculated that someone who knew me and knew I got married sent it, but I was unable to think of who would send such a thing. There was no return address on the letter, and it was handwritten. It looked like a female's handwriting, though I didn’t recognize it. I wondered if it was from one of those home money-making jobs I so stupidly sent away for information on. But then Tom reminded me that I sent away for that under my maiden name.

My ENT told me that one of the reasons my bad ear might have been so sensitive at the time was because I may have had skin growth building up over the years. He wanted to do a CAT scan as well as some hearing tests, and asked if I could try to get my old medical records from when I had cosmetic surgery on my outer ear at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in the 70s.

Tom was very encouraging and supportive, but first we had to verify that our insurance would cover the possible five-hour operation to create the artificial ear canal.

When I received my medical records from my old PCP in the middle of the month, I was incredibly insulted and downright stunned when I read her personal notes. The older me would’ve called her and had something to say about it, but I simply blushed with embarrassment and ignored it. I hated to share it with my new doctors, thus giving them the wrong idea about me, but I didn’t see any way around it.

They say there’s a difference between basing an opinion on a belief versus a fact. Well, this one certainly based hers on either false beliefs or a very vivid imagination. Not sure which one it was. Nonetheless, she apparently took me a little too seriously when she quoted me as saying, "Am I gonna die? I have to live long enough to be a famous singer."

When I said this it was strictly a joke and nothing more. By then I had lost the so-called famous singer dream, though I did still enjoy singing to the radio and things like that.

She also wrote some bullshit about me supposedly saying, "I'm not nuts, just nervous over seeing a new doctor."

I could see myself saying I was nervous with a new doctor, but “I’m not nuts” was not something I would say, joking or seriously.

"She really hated the projects back east because of all the noise, even though she's deaf in one ear,” she included.

What, did she think I was making it up or something? Deaf in one ear doesn’t mean deaf all around, does it?

Lastly, it was “inappropriate” to call her with an emergency late at night.

Then what did she become a doctor for?

I realized when I read all the shit she wrote that you can never really know what someone’s thinking. I found it sad – even a little scary – that a professional such as a doctor could be so two-faced. She had always been kind to me and so I was surprised to learn what she was really thinking the whole time.

I painted Piggle's cage a variety of colors at the end of the month. It kind of came out a bit childish looking, but it still looked cool.

My in-laws gave me 5 different cactus plants that we planted around the pool.

Also, a drawing/drafting desk I'd always wanted where the table was slanted.

Tom talked with Geri and Eldon one evening. Geri wanted to meet me, and Eldon had a super fast computer brain to give us at the time.

I appreciated Eldon’s computer stuff, but I still wasn’t looking forward to meeting Geri. Not after all the nasty things she said to Tom about me in the throes of her jealousy.

October

We met with the doctor that would be operating on my ear. He looked younger than I expected. Tom made a good point in saying that he was old enough to have experience, but young enough to have a steady hand.

The first thing he said to me was that if he had to choose from a number of people to do this kind of surgery on, it'd be me. The CAT scans looked that promising.

He planned to do the skin graft under my arm. He was almost positive I'd be able to hear, and the risks were quite minimal. He planned to go in right where the canal was supposed to be, then find the bone and follow it, careful to avoid the facial nerve.

I learned that when you're an embryo your ear canal forms, then shuts, then reforms. Mine never reformed. The inner ear did, but not the outer ear.

I was to have out-patient surgery at Phoenix’s Good Samaritan hospital and I wouldn’t have to have my entire head bandaged as I did in Boston. Only the area operated on would be bandaged.

Andy and I became phone buddies with a girl named Karson. Karson was a little strange, but interesting. I don’t remember how Andy “met” her, but it would be quite a while before they’d actually meet in person. I never met her other than over the phone when Andy introduced us via three-way calling.

Andy quit his job as a waiter at Denny's. He got so fed up with his manager that it was the first time he quit a job before finding another.

One day my parents called and Tom answered. My mom said, "Hi Tom. Do you know who this is?" Tom guessed it was Andy as he could only pick out the definite northeastern accent.

Mom gave a quick, "I hope not!"

Tom was just as quick to explain how Andy would sometimes call and disguise his voice as a joke. After my no doubt embarrassed husband said he hoped no one was offended, I was cracking up over it as I figured my mother was, too.

Larry was no longer trucking so he could spend more time with his family. Instead he was driving a local gasoline truck.

November

We went to the state fair early in the month for a couple hours. It was lots of fun and a lot like the Big E back in Massachusetts. They even had the same wavy yellow slide. I got cotton candy and we both got ice cream. We also went on the ski lift and the Ferris wheel.

For only $12, I got a lavender crepe skirt with a matching top. The top had white lace trim with a tiny purple satin ribbon in front. It was very feminine.

We came home we ordered a 1,000-dollar camcorder through Fingerhut.

Got a letter from Minnie, a former friend of Bob’s. We’d become pen pals.

On another day, Tom and his parents went to the horseracing track. It was a family hobby of sorts.

I began to have bad sneezing fits unlike anything I’d experienced back east.

My parents were now selling decorative flags at their local flea market. They got a taste of Hurricane Gordon as well.

They sent us a variety package for the holidays that contained clothes, household items and decorative knickknacks.

This month from the Christown mall I got some lotion at Potions & Lotions in China Musk and April Rain. I also got some Chinese food, one of my favorite cuisines.

Andy went to visit friends and family back east. He stayed with his friend Mary.

Toward the end of the month I was surprised with a phone call from longtime friends of my parents’, Goldie and Al. They were to be in Sun City to move Al’s aging sister back east and wanted to see me, meet Tom, and take us both to the Olive Garden for dinner.

We had a wonderful time. I hadn’t seen them for about a decade and it was great to catch up on each other’s lives.

December

Other than the kids next door driving me nuts, and getting attacked by ants when hanging laundry on the clothesline, I would have two operations on my ear this month.

The first operation on the 7th to drill the ear canal lasted five hours, a little longer than expected. I was extremely sore afterwards and could barely move my jaw because the doctor took a piece of muscle from it.

After I signed some papers once I arrived at the hospital, they took us back to a little room, which was sectioned off by curtains and sort of looked like an ER. A nurse put my clothes in a bag, which she put in a locker, and Tom hung onto my purse.

The nurse also took my vitals and inserted an IV. Then she injected something into it that made me very woozy. I remember hugging Tom, and then that was it.

When I came to, the nurse was moving me from stage 1 to stage 2 of recovery. It seemed to take forever to get me up and going enough to get dressed, which Tom basically had to do for me, and then into the car so we could head home. I was immensely groggy and achy.

Things sounded weird and my head felt weirder. Loud sounds like airplanes flying overhead where especially strange, and many sounds seemed muffled and distorted like when you have a severe head cold. My face was swollen and I had a black eye from all the pressure.

Tom was wonderfully supportive and I was ever so glad that I never attempted to have this surgery while I was still single. It was definitely nothing anyone could go through alone. I was pretty out of it for the first week and in pain.

I got cards and flowers from some people, including my parents, and they also sent Tom a really nice watch to show their appreciation for his support.

Tom changed the gauze on my arm regularly where the skin graft was done.

I could already hear some sounds and looked forward to when the doctor removed the inner packing. Until then, dissolvable stitches and packing were present to keep the eardrum still until it healed.

When it came time to remove the packing inside the canal, we found that part of the skin graft didn’t take, unfortunately, and there was some exposed bone by the eardrum. I had to be sure to keep water out of it, but knew I would probably have to have a second surgery.

It was the first time in my life I could block the good ear, scuff my feet on the carpet and hear the sounds it would make! When Tom was on the phone talking to his mother, I could block the good ear, walk into the bedroom and still hear him! Larry used to joke that I could now tell people that what they said went in one ear and out the other. Over the years, however, I would lose a lot of hearing in that ear.

We bought 4 boxes of dye so we could tie-dye some T-shirts. We got neon pink, rose pink, mauve and fuchsia.

From his family for Christmas he got an electronic horse racing game from Dave and Mary, and a magnetic bowl for parts like nails and screws from mom and dad.

We both got a calendar and a chicken roaster from David and Evie. A Tupperware container of cookies and candy from Ray and Nora, and a glue gun from mom and dad. We each also got a $50 bill in tiny Christmas socks that mom made with our initials on it. His was red and mine was green.

I received one of those bags you use to cover clothes with in which mom made. Two 3-D posters from David and Mary and lots of other stuff mom had like a tie-dye book, various art books and supplies, and two journals.

I spoke with Andy several times that month and he told me how he felt very abandoned by his family and friends back east. He received no cards, calls or letters from anyone and this depressed him greatly.