Mr. Laughlin

In 1987, we moved into the current house. One of the first people we met was our neighbor, John Laughlin. At the time, there was a simple, four-foot fence or so, marking the line between our back yards. John had a dog.

One of the things we had told the boys about dogs was that in order for us to have one, we had to have a larger home and no one in diapers. Moving into this home, that was the case. We got our first dog, Freckles, a mix of Brittany spaniel and Shetland Sheep dog that looked very much like a Border collie. The biggest difference in this black and white dog was that she wasn’t as smart as a Border collie.

We all remember John Laughlin, a very quiet white haired man looking, not surprisingly, very Irish. Despite being very quiet and keeping a nice, neighborly distance, he saw our new puppy and offered us an extra leash and collar that he had. I remember that he reminded us all of the huge responsibility of having a dog.

John was quite the accomplished man, Notre Dame educated, a lawyer downtown, and a cool surprise later was that he was a great violinist. I used to enjoy hearing him in his family room, windows open, playing and practicing. We even once saw him play in a Lake Forest orchestra.

John was a complex and yet simply pleased man. It was years before he even got air conditioning, and never whole house air conditioning at that. He had one of those on the floor units with a hose put in the window area. His yard was a forest of pines and maples and a few more varieties. His house was lacking in amenities and it didn’t seem to faze him.

During the many years we have lived here, John stands out as the guy who walked his dog. The first dog we remember was Jake. The interesting thing about all of his dogs, including Tosca and Bailey, the next ones, was that they all disliked me. I never figured that out. It was especially rough when I had to help John with the visiting vet, Dr. Mel, who became our vet. Bailey was more than either Dr. Mel or John could handle, so I was called in.

For most of the years I remember, John was pretty much the only person we saw next door. In the beginning, his wife Ella was alive, but she was even less visible than John was. I remember seeing John’s son as well, the youngest of three kids, but they all pretty much kept to themselves, in a nice neighborly way. We would see his two wonderful daughters periodically when they came to visit.

We always tried to get John to come over for holiday events, to get a good meal. He would never do that. We finally got him to accept a plate of food every now and then.

For years we would hear John in the very early morning, talking to his dog. This was after his wife’s passing and the departure of the kids. You could almost set your alarm to the morning back yard event.

Not so long ago, John experienced a stroke. He went to Michigan to be closer to one of his daughters and lived with her and her family for a time. He passed away just a short time ago. He is and will be missed. Rest in peace, John.

Posted in Life in general, Loss, Neighbors, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

Instant Pot and other stories

The Instant Pot is set to go and preparing rice for the canine member of this family. He has had stomach issues for the past few days, waking us up and making a mess here and there, which is not like him. Apparently dogs are not untouched by winter illnesses any more than we are.

It is another crazy day, one in which I am not sure which side is up and which side is down. Our schedule changes every time I turn around and it didn’t help that my ‘Check Engine Light’ went on once again so we will be down to one car again.

Surgery in the family wreaks havoc with all and MK just left to take care of the kids, even if it is minor. We are going to bring them back here later. I stayed home because we need to take care of Lucky, the new family dog. He and Stewart are currently outside playing. I am hoping that they get tired out so that I can bring them in and perhaps get them to take a snooze.

At some point in time, we shall have the arrival of another granddaughter at our house and then we have to figure out whether or not one of has to go to her house to be there when her sister arrives. At this point, I am confused with the planning. I am not totally sure who I am or what I am to do next.

Due to the work in the house, there are still things out of place and I have about one hundred travel books to reorganize and put back into a cherry secretary that we have in the bedroom that was redone. We have to figure out what we are doing there. Are we buying a sofa with a sleeper or are we just doing a new Queen size bed? That remains to be seen.

Oh my, I will just sip my coffee and watch the dogs out of the window.

Posted in Cooking, Life in general, Thoughts and philosophy | 1 Comment

The Silent Butler and other thoughts

The Silent Butler is nothing more than a conversation opener; I have other thoughts in my head as I look back at familial chaos of the Koerner kind.

The Silent Butler is something I cannot get rid of. It matches the aluminum trays we have from the fifties. We got one from my mom and one from Mary Kay’s mom and have purchased a few others as we find them to be very practical and clearly, very light.

I have not yet figured out a real practical use for it. As a kid, this was to be found in the Recreation Room of our fifties house, a linoleum tiled, sometimes cold room that until the end of the previous millennium, was pretty dry. Before we sold that house, I had repainted its walls with hydraulic paint to seal it completely.

I used to take marbles and roll them around in it as well as on the nearby Duncan Phyfe oval coffee table with a rim and a piece of glass. Suffice it to say, I am just a weird character.

Now, on to the chaos, since that was a major part of the day. We had three grandkids and were at the end of a two day snow accumulation. That meant that the phone was ringing all the time for MK in her role as spokesperson and conduit for our son’s snow removal business. I shoveled our driveway and our son plowed in the morning, left the control of it to our chef-real estate-jack of all trades, younger son, and went with his mother-in-law to have one of the plates surgically removed from his badly broken wrist (from a year ago). That contributed to an extremely crazy day, one in which we were on pins and needles from one of our own going under the knife and in which we needed to take care of dinner and get him and the kids home and his kids to bed after his delivery to our house.

We survived. I even managed to help out our friend, Randy Casey, with his choral work in which his charges were singing in French. We Skyped. How I pulled this off with a granddaughter in my lap is beyond my comprehension!

Posted in Life in general, Music, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

It actually snowed!

I am inside the house to warm my hands and see if I can stop myself before I get too sweaty. I had been outside in the sixteen-degree weather, pushing snow around my driveway. I needed better gloves or mittens than I had so my hands got cold. I was on the edge of sweating. Rather than stick it out, I came in for a moment and plan to go out shortly.

MK’s phone is ringing off the hook as people connect with the idea that we have seemingly had more than two inches of snow and they want removal. Although it seems to be more snow in some places than others, the one place I did try on the driveway had exactly two inches. I had more in the front yard than in the back, I think that the fencing managed to keep some of it at bay.

It is very cold, and seems way more than the sixteen degrees I registered.

It certainly seems a bit more like winter now.

My question is, and perhaps I should check with the meteorologists, whether or not we shall be getting more.

Stewie was totally annoying outside. He wants me to throw the snow at him. I don’t like to since he gets too close to the shovel and I am afraid he is going to connect his handsome face with the tip of it. That would not be a good scenario.

I am warmer now.

I am warm enough to don my jacket and huge winter mittens to brave the back part of the driveway.

Stewie won’t be happy since he is staying in the house.

Stewie, however, will have more than enough outdoor time since it is hard for him to get dirty as the mud is frozen.

Posted in Life in general, Meteorology, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

Random thoughts on a really cold Sunday

The view of the icy cold outdoor room of the Koerner abode.

I have some random Sunday thoughts here for the reader’s perusal.

Yesterday, we saw ‘The Post.’ It did not disappoint. The performances of Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks were amazing. The story was just as I remembered; only even more fleshed out. To think that, according to the film, and it is true, that Presidents from Truman to Nixon were involved in a losing war in Viet Nam and unable to extricate themselves from it. They played the press until the owners got smart and finally did the right thing. To think that they continued to get the information that there was no good way to win, but to keep from admitting that the U.S. was wrong, they continued to send our young men to slaughter. It was a spellbinding time in the movie theatre and we truly enjoyed it. It gave me hope that despite the horrible predicament and régime we find ourselves dealing with, that perhaps it will end.

I woke up to freezing cold temps, hovering around zero, and decided it was a muffin day. I threw them together and we invited the three guys working in our house (yes, even on Sunday, go figure) to test them out. MK and I explained, in Spanish and English, how muffins are not what you think they are. We also got on the teachers’ pulpit and told the seventeen-year-old son of the floor finisher that he needs to go to college.

Today is our middle son’s birthday. It is hard to believe that he is thirty-six. We are going to celebrate his birthday and mine at our oldest son’s house, bringing all of the family together for a Koerner culinary event.

Stewart is in heaven, enjoying all of the people in the house and wishing that someone would find the time to throw the ball for him in the back yard. I think that that is not in the cards today.

It is sunny, beautiful, and there is hope. Hope is what we need to cling to.

Posted in Education, Equality for All, Life in general, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment