The Gazebo Group

When we moved to Tacoma, Washington, ten years ago today, we first lived in the Guest Cottage for several days, waiting for the truck with our furniture to catch up with us. As soon as the furniture arrived, we moved into an apartment in one of the buildings here. It was tiny (800 sq. ft.) – a living room with a kitchen/breakfast area, a hall, a bathroom (shower only), and a bedroom. We were “on the list” for a two-bedroom duplex, so we had to make do until somebody either died or moved into nursing care. We had carefully pared down our belongings from our 2400 sq. ft. house in Texas to fit in a 1500 sq. ft. duplex, but there was NO WAY we could fit everything into the apartment. Luckily, the apartment came with a cage in the storage room that we could put stuff in until we got our house.

One of the nicest things about the Garden Apartments was the brunches, and happy hours provided by the concierge. We met in the big living room downstairs for brunch (coffee, tea, sweet rolls, etc.) three mornings a week with the other residents of the building. Friday evenings we had Happy Hour with the drinks provided by the concierge. We would each bring potluck snacks to offer to our friends there. It was an excellent way to begin to meet the other residents.

After 9 months of living in each other’s pockets, we learned that our duplex was ready for us. Now we had a full kitchen, a laundry room, a BIG living room and dining room, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven as we retrieved all our belongings, and the many, many bookcases and books that had been in storage. That was the end of January, 2013.

Our house was next to a large Gazebo that had lawn chairs and an iron picnic table that had been given to the community years before. When the weather got warmer, we would see other folks sitting out there in the late afternoons. They would bring their cocktails or wine with them. It wasn’t long before Al started walking over with his hi-ball and sitting in the shade enjoying the cool breeze that usually comes up in the afternoon.

One of the first couples we became friends with were Marty and Barbara Neeb. Marty had trained as a Lutheran pastor and got his start In radio with the Lutheran Hour. Then he went on to be the executive producer of the Lutheran Hour on television and won an Emmy for it. When we knew him he had been the station director for one of the local PBS stations, and he had lots of stories to tell. Al and I started to make it a habit to go over when we saw them there. Their duplex had been built before central Air Conditioning was needed as often, and they got really hot on late summer afternoons that year – so they came to the Gazebo to cool off. Other folks would be taking a walk in the evening, and would see several of us sitting there, and gradually a crowd organically formed. We called ourselves the Gazebo Group.

Ruth Dougherty was a great conversationalist who had lived in the area all her life. She was also a fine gardener, and had a plot in the community garden. She would walk over almost every evening and harvest green beans, and lettuces for her supper. Her partner lived in Assisted Living. Her husband had died several years before we moved here and her partner’s wife had died about the same time. They traded places to sleep every other day or so. They didn’t marry because she was a service wife who would have lost all her military privileges if they had married, so their priest (Episcopalian) held a church commitment ceremony for them, instead of marrying with a marriage license.

Another of our favorite couples were Ernie and Marilyn Carlstrom. He was a Marine Biologist and had been a professor at Pacific Lutheran University. He spent a lot of time studying and working on the declining mollusk population in Puget Sound. He also helped in tracking the ecological recovery of the area around Mount Saint Helens after the eruption. They had lived on one of the islands in Puget Sound before moving to FTJ, and they were familiar with all the natural attractions. Ernie could always be counted on to educate us on things like “lutefisk” and other Norwegian delicacies.

We weren’t exclusive to the Duplexes. Anyone who wanted to join us was welcome in the evenings. After a couple of summers of doing this, we got our little informal gathering listed in the weekly calendar for the community – and the Gazebo Group was born. Marty and Ernie were both on the board of FTJ, so we became a “shadow cabinet” for things we felt could be improved.

By the fall of 2014, we began searching for a place to meet once the weather became too cool to meet outside. We prevailed on the powers that be to let us use the living room of the Tobey Jones building at 5:00 pm, because their dinner time was at 5:00. That lasted a couple of years, and then we outgrew that space. We met in people’s homes, and we met in the activity area of assisted living. During the pandemic we still met weekly on Zoom. We always returned to the Gazebo whenever the weather was possible.

Ruth died in 2015. Barbara moved to Memory Care, and Marty moved to the Garden Apartments in 2016. Marilyn died in 2017, and Ernie moved to assisted living.

Those folks were replaced by lots of others who filled the holes in our little community. I loved having all of them as friends, and I’m glad the Gazebo Group continues to meet once a week.

A Better Mousetrap

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.

Back in the first decade of this century (is that really only 20 years ago?) as Papa became less and less steady on his feet and had trouble getting around, we got a walker for him. You remember what they looked like – tubular metal frame with either wheels or tennis balls on the feet. Those are definitely still available, and are still being purchased for anyone who needs more support than a cane to walk around.

They were wonderful. They provided stability and additional mobility for folks who, for whatever reason needed a little extra help. They would also fold flat, and fit comfortably behind the front seat of a car without someone having to put it in the trunk. Papa’s walker gave him several added months or even years of happy life.

In fact, when Al had his spell in the hospital in November of 2020, we purchased one just like that for him to use to get around in the house – from the bed to the bathroom, or from the table to his chair. Part of his physical therapy after he got out of the hospital was with the therapist teaching him how to safely use the walker.

Living as we do in a senior community, we noticed that most of the people with walkers here had a different design. Bill noticed that Al’s walker was not “wonderful” like some he had seen. So he explored options, and discovered that someone had indeed invented a better mousetrap.

This one has brakes which are easily applied. It has a handy pouch for storing whatever you might want to carry around. The seat functions as a lid to the pouch. It also folds up, but not quite as flat as the old one (you have to put it in the trunk instead of behind the front seat of the car.)

Quite frankly, I don’t know what we did before we had it. I use it to unload groceries from the car and carry them into the house (including 2-liter bottles of Diet Pepsi). In fact, I brought 6 big bottles of Pepsi in a few minutes ago with no problem. I also fill the pouch with empty glass containers to put out for the trash pickup. Al stashes books, DVDs, his iPad and other sundry items there to refer to when he goes up to the Gazebo – basically, anything he wants to carry that’s too big to fit in his pocket.

When Bill put it together, and saw how handy it was he declared that he’s surprised that every soccer-mom in the country hasn’t bought one for herself to carry drinks, and snacks for the team and to use as a seat for herself. I absolutely wish I had had one in my days of following soccer teams around.

This is a better mousetrap!

Why I’m a Flaming Liberal

I was raised in a staunchly Republican household. My father worked for Richard Nixon’s election in his first run for the presidency against John F. Kennedy. Sometime during Kennedy’s administration, I started to think for myself, and I decided the tenets of the Democratic party more closely resembled those I believed in.

The tenets of conservatism consist of individual autonomy; society is based on the individual and primarily motivated by self interest. Implied is political equality, protection of individual rights, respect for individual choices, and using reason in making decisions. Religious toleration, popular sovereignty and consent, representative government, private property rights are key. Our Constitution acts as protection to the people and their unalienable rights.

Some folks say “our Constitution is not just a document to design the government.” I disagree. The Constitution is a document designed to do exactly that. It was conceived and written for that precise purpose – to form a government that would guarantee the rights we talked about above to the people – all the people – including those at the margins of society. 

This Constitution was written because all the separate states in the Confederation of American States wanted to do their own thing – and it wasn’t working. The only purpose of the national government was to represent the states internationally. There was no president, judiciary, executive agencies or tax base. The only way the national government had of paying off the Revolutionary War debt was by asking the states for money, and they rarely remitted any.

Throughout the history of this country there has been a good and proper tension between the Federal government and the individual states, and basically economics is at the root of the tension – who gets to decide who to tax and who gets to decide how to spend those taxes. Our taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society – a society that takes care of those who are unable to take care of themselves. Fortunately we have a Federal government that will ensure all of the people are treated fairly if the states and individuals fail in their duties.

As my aunt used to say “People are no damned good!” Left to their own devices, people are mean, chauvinistic, and selfish. Without the government to fairly and equitably distribute justice and privileges, the people at the margins – unemployed/underemployed, handicapped, children, LGBT folks, immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, elderly would fare very poorly.

The spending the government does is only what is necessary to keep the country running. I, personally, do not want to be responsible for raising a military, or providing the civilized benefits of national museums, national parks, educational opportunities, and response to natural disasters.

Tell me which 90-year-old widow you want to deny health care to.

Tell me which baby you want to keep food and housing from.

Tell me which soldier or sailor you want to leave without enough money to feed her family.

Tell me which college student you want to disapprove a loan for.

Tell me which unemployed 45-year-old college graduate you want to deny bare subsistence support to. 

Your taxes and my taxes are the way we take care of those members of society who are unable to take care of themselves. They are what make us civilized.

Tacoma and the Chinese Expulsion

Before we moved to Tacoma, I was unaware of one of the shameful periods in the city’s history. I was also unaware of the efforts that have been and are being made to repair some of the damage. This is the story of the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation.

In 1849, Chinese workers began to emigrate to the United States, lured by tales of “Gum San,” the Land of the Golden Mountains. They came seeking a better life for themselves and their families in China. They soon discovered that Gum San was not all they had been told. Oppressive taxes and restrictive legislation were enacted against them by white miners and other workers who feared a tide of foreign labor that would deprive white Californians of their livelihoods.

Additionally, during the early 1860s, ten thousand Chinese laborers were imported to California to complete work on the Central Pacific Railroad. After the completion of the project in 1869, many of the Chinese were without work and had to look farther afield for jobs. 

In 1870, two thousand Chinese were hired to work on the Northern Pacific Railroad line from Kalama to Tacoma. Many Chinese came north, and both legislative and popular persecution followed them. Work that had been available for the Chinese began to dwindle as projects reached completion and the national economy went into a slump in 1873. 

Tacoma residents were beginning to feel the economic pinch, and they looked for something or someone to blame. What better scapegoat than the Chinese: they wore odd clothes, ate different food, and, since they could “live on practically nothing,” sent most of their earnings home to China. 

Several local citizens who knew of California’s efforts to send away the Chinese met with the mayor of Tacoma and members of the school board, the legal profession, the local press, and other influential people. Together, they generated their plan for ridding Tacoma of its Chinese population: not a massacre but an expulsion. This, they concluded, would assure plenty of jobs available for the locals who were without work in a sour economy. Mass meetings were held for public debate on the subject. The rhetoric was passionately in favor of expulsion. 

Final plans were made on the night of November 2, 1885. 

On November 3, at 9:30 a.m., the whistles blew at the Foundry and other mills in the area. Several hundred workers assembled and began their methodical march through Tacoma’s streets where the Chinese had businesses – wash-houses, chop-houses, shops, and residences. On to Chinatown and the waterfront they marched. At each place where Chinese were, the crowd stopped, hammered on the door, and told them to assemble at 7th and Pacific Avenue by early afternoon, for they were to leave Tacoma that day.

About 200 Chinese – young, old, men, and women – were gathered and began the forced trek to Lake View, a suburban railway station just beyond the city limit south of Tacoma. The wind was bitter and the rain driving as the Chinese were marched through the mud.The station at Lake View had only a shed for protection.  After seeing the distress of the Chinese some local people brought food and hot water for tea. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed. 

When the 3 a.m. passenger train came through, some Chinese bought tickets and headed for Portland, Oregon. Later, when the morning freight train came, the engineer said, “Put ‘em aboard. I’ll take ‘em to Portland!” For several days, forlorn Chinese stragglers could be seen walking the tracks southward. 

There were no Chinese in Tacoma until the 1920s, for they were discouraged for decades from coming to town, and Tacomans actively campaigned not to allow Chinese to locate here. Today there is a waterfront Chinese-garden park that in design, signage, and location recalls the event and provides a significant space for both reflection and recreation. Small recompense for all the hardship inflicted on the Chinese.

Goals, Dreams, and Disappointments

A blogger friend of mine (read her here) is turning 70 years old this year, and has a goal of hiking 70 miles in the Pacific Northwest. She has already done so many things that I wish I could do. She has written and published a book. She has a house in the woods where she has created an Air-B&B in (thereby enabling her to stretch her retirement dollars). She has returned to the place of her childhood and is making a life among the memories there.

I didn’t know you could plan for a life after 75. If I had had any idea I would live this long would I have taken better care of myself. Both my mother and grandmother were completely non compos mentis by my age and Mama had already been dead for three years. I wish I had written down my goals for the end days of my life, but I never thought I would still be around to notice them.

As I approached my 75th birthday, I did accomplish several goals.

  1. We moved to the Pacific Northwest, and settled here.
  2. I lost 75 pounds and regained a lot of my oomph and get up and go.
  3. I visited Canada.
  4. I took on more responsibility in the church.
  5. I visited several mountains.
  6. I took several cross-country train trips.
  7. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary,
  8. I worked on several political campaigns.
  9. I took several creative writing courses, and learned to write a little poetry.

Now I’m almost three years out from that 75th birthday. I find I don’t have any goals that I have a reasonable chance of accomplishing. Part of that is the fault of the pandemic. Three years of enforced inactivity has taken a toll on me. I’m wobbly when I try to walk on uneven ground. I’ve not regained much of the weight I lost, but I haven’t lost any more (and I should lose another 50 pounds at least). My husband is even more sedentary than I am, and I’m reluctant to travel without him. My son came and took me on a drive up the peninsula for a day out several weeks ago, and that was the first time I had left this area in more than two years.

Starting NOW, I’m going to work on myself physically and mentally. By the time I’m 80 years old…

  1. I will lose that last 50 pounds (26 months = 2 pounds a month is doable.)
  2. I will walk daily again instead of getting my exercise on one of the machines.
  3. I will make an appointment with my personal trainer to work with me on balance, and strength.
  4. I will travel to see my sisters – if not this summer, then for sure next summer.
  5. I will maintain my blog and be very definite about writing stories of my memories – at least weekly.

I won’t neglect my husband, but I will quit using his reluctance to do and go as an excuse for me to just vegetate.

Those are my new goals.


When our family of four lived in England, we moved into 1/3rd of a Manor House that had been divided into separate living quarters. The house was in a village in the Cotswolds on the edge of Wychwood Forest. It was U-shaped, and our wing had been built in the 18th century. The base of the U was built in the 16th century, and the other arm had been built in the 19th century. We lived on a lane off the main road from Whitney to Charlbury. There were also two small cottages on the lane that were occupied by retired farm laborers from the Estate.

The boys were 12 years old and 6 years old. We joked when we moved that maybe we would share the house with a real ghost.

We settled in nicely – my older son took the school bus to the American Air Force Base because he was in Junior High. My younger son went to the village school. Al and I became regulars, several nights a week at the Plough, one of the two pubs in the village.

Some new people have moved into the big house. They seem to be nice. I wonder if they can see me.

My younger son became good friends with his classmates and began to learn how to play “football” or soccer. He taught himself ball control by kicking the ball against the stone wall that surrounded our garden.

There’s a kid who lives here now, and he’s learning to play football. I remember I used to be pretty good. Of course, the best part was the beer at the end of the games.

As we settled in to village life, I began to hear strange noises in the house – footsteps in the hall, and bumping downstairs. Occasionally, I would catch sight of someone, or something out of the tail of my eye, and the boys started to remark on noises.

“Never mind,” I said, “It’s only the ghost we hoped would live us. Let’s call him Fred.”

I love parties, and these Americans have great ones.

We had a tradition of hosting a Christmas party every year. We invited everyone we knew – from the base, from the village, from the bridge club, etc. They may or may not have had anything in common, but they all enjoyed the free liquor, and the pates and sweets.

I think I’ll go and see all the folks from the village at the Christmas Party.

The first Christmas, there was a knock on the door, and when I went to answer it, there was no one there, but a cold breeze blew past me. One of my guests said, “Who was at the door?”

I replied, “It’s only Fred.”

The room got deathly quiet, and the guest said, “Oh, you know about Fred, do you?”

I said, “Fred is just what we call the noises in the house.”

The guest replied, “Fred Pratley was killed in your lane trying to cross the highway, about 40 years ago.”

I guess since they know about me, they aren’t scared.

* * *

The time came to leave England. We packed up all the household goods and shipped them back to the United States.

The evening the movers left, Al and I walked across the fields to the next village. As we crossed the stile and started down the footpath, I thought I heard someone behind us. Al and I both tuned to look and there was one of the farmers from the village on the hill. He waved at us.

I couldn’t let them leave without saying goodbye…

We waited, but no-one ever joined us. “Must have been Fred,” Al said, and I nodded.

Social Media

I had planned to write a little story today about how social media had enriched my life. Then the news broke yesterday afternoon about ANOTHER shooting in a grade school by a disaffected teenage man (yes, according to the law an 18-year-old is a man – not a boy). One of my sisters asked “Is there a social media group of 18-year-olds that’s daring each other to perform a greater act of slaughter?”

Is the problem with social media that gives these gunmen a platform to “show off?” Is the problem with mental health services? Is the problem permissive parents? Is the problem schools who never teach empathy? What is the problem?

I was an early adopter of Twitter (2008) and Facebook (2009). I can remember connecting with far-flung members of my denomination the first time on social media. We talked about church business, mental health concerns, etc. Early in that time, one of my friends on Twitter, who we now know was bi-polar, committed suicide. The ripples through our little community touched all of us. Possibly the conversations with pastors there helped delay that dreaded outcome. Possibly not, we’ll never know.

I remember grieving with and for a young married couple, both active in church, who lost their newborn twins who were born too soon and, too soon, died. I defy anyone to say “you’re not really friends, because you don’t really know them face to face.” Virtual community is just as real, supportive, irritating, and comforting as “in person” community – sometimes more so.

Living all my life as nomad, I need the contact with friends who no longer live near me. Because of social media I feel like I have family all over this country and all over the world.

How did we let social media – this wonderful tool for friendship and community – become so corrupted that kids who need contact and help get sucked into the dark reaches of the internet?

What’s the answer? Shut it all down? Stronger regulation? More in-person contact?

I don’t know. If any of you do, please tell the rest of us?

I do know that I’m becoming a single issue voter – gun control, gun control, gun control.

The Cedar Chest

Under the double windows in my grandmother’s bedroom sat a cedar chest. It was broad and deep, shining with polish and elbow grease, with an air of permanence. It looked like the house might have been built around it. It smelled like the cabin built of cedar logs at Little River where we went in summers. 

When I was a small child, It held the most wonderous things  – old clothes from my mother’s childhood, some of her dolls, and extra quilts, blankets, and other bedding that were necessary for us to use when my sisters, cousins and I descended on the grandparents for summer vacation.

Most of my mother’s and grandmother’s friends had similar chests. I know now that the cedar was a natural way to keep moths and other bugs out of clothing and keepsakes when they were stored. I just thought everyone had cedar chests because they were really treasure chests in disguise.

We had strict instructions not to open it without having an adult with us. In the first place, the top was very heavy, and fingers might be smashed if it fell. Also, there had been stories about kids who crawled inside similar chests or trunks and never got out before they had suffocated. I don’t know whether those were just urban legends created to keep us from making a mess, or whether there was any truth to them, but I do know we never dared to mess with the chest without permission.

There were several purses of my grandmother’s – beaded and fringed – looking like they belonged to a flapper (and probably did in the 20s.) I loved the way the silver one felt when I let it slowly come to rest in my hand,

Mama’s Bye Lo baby doll was in there. We were never allowed to really play with it. It had a cloth body and a china head and it looked like a real baby. Later, Mama relented and let us play with it, and, sure enough somebody broke its china head. We took it to a doll hospital and bought a plastic head but it was never the same after that.

The quilts were all hand-pieced by my grandmother and her friends. One of them was made from Mama’s outgrown dresses. She used to regale us with what each patch looked like when it was a dress and how old she was when she wore it. It was like opening a window into my mother’s childhood.

When my grandparents “broke up housekeeping” they moved into an apartment and no longer had room for the cedar chest. Mama inherited it then, and she kept mementos of our childhood in it. After she and Papa moved into assisted living, I inherited the chest.

Fortunately, I still have it. It sits in the bay window in my living area. It no longer has any of the treasures from my grandmother’s and mother’s younger lives. I don’t have any of the treasures from my children’s lives – living the nomadic life we did, and having to remember that every pound might cost us extra in the next move. Now it holds pillows, blankets, and sheets ready for my sons and grandchildren to come visit. 

I don’t think either of the daughters-in-law wants the chest. I just hope one of my grandkids will want it, and will take care of it, like it deserves.

The Abilene Paradox

On NPR this morning Hidden Brain, hosted by Shankar Vedantam, had an episode called A Conspiracy of Silence. “But what happens when we take this deception a step further, and pretend we believe the opposite of what we really feel?” The episode focussed on the way people in fraught political situations or times, don’t let their neighbors know how they are thinking – they seem to be afraid to voice a contrary opinion.

When I was taking my Master’s courses, we had a case study called the Abilene Paradox. The story (from Jerry B. Harvey, Professor of Management Science at Washington University in Washington, D.C.) went like this.

The July afternoon in Coleman, Texas (population 5,607) was particularly hot— 104 degrees as measured by the Walgreen’s Rexall Ex-Lax temperature gauge. In addition, the wind was blowing fine-gained West Texas topsoil through the house. But the afternoon was still tolerable—even potentially enjoyable. There was a fan going on the back porch; there was cold lemonade; and finally, there was entertainment. Dominoes. Perfect for the conditions. The game required little more physical exertion than an occasional mumbled comment, “Shuffle ‘em,” and an unhurried movement of the arm to place the spots in the appropriate perspective on the table. All in all, it had the makings of an agreeable Sunday afternoon in Coleman—this is, it was until my father-in-law suddenly said, “Let’s get in the car and go to Abilene and have dinner at the cafeteria.”

I thought, “What, go to Abilene? Fifty-three miles? In this dust storm and heat? And in an unairconditioned 1958 Buick?”

But my wife chimed in with, “Sounds like a great idea. I’d like to go. How about you, Jerry?” Since my own preferences were obviously out of step with the rest I replied, “Sounds good to me,” and added, “I just hope your mother wants to go.”

“Of course I want to go,” said my mother-in-law. “I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

So into the car and off to Abilene we went. My predictions were fulfilled. The heat was brutal. We were coated with a fine layer of dust that was cemented with perspiration by the time we arrived. The food at the cafeteria provided first-rate testimonial material for antacid commercials.

Some four hours and 106 miles later we returned to Coleman, hot and exhausted. We sat in front of the fan for a long time in silence. Then, both to be sociable and to break the silence, I said, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?”

No one spoke. Finally my mother-in-law said, with some irritation, “Well, to tell the truth, I really didn’t enjoy it much and would rather have stayed here. I just went along because the three of you were so enthusiastic about going. I wouldn’t have gone if you all hadn’t pressured me into it.”

I couldn’t believe it. “What do you mean ‘you all’?” I said. “Don’t put me in the ‘you all’ group. I was delighted to be doing what we were doing. I didn’t want to go. I only went to satisfy the rest of you. You’re the culprits.”

My wife looked shocked. “Don’t call me a culprit. You and Daddy and Mama were the ones who wanted to go. I just went along to be sociable and to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in heat like that.”

Her father entered the conversation abruptly. “Hell!” he said.

He proceeded to expand on what was already absolutely clear. “Listen, I never wanted to go to Abilene. I just thought you might be bored. You visit so seldom I wanted to be sure you enjoyed it. I would have preferred to play another game of dominoes and eat the leftovers in the icebox.”

After the outburst of recrimination we all sat back in silence. Here we were, four reasonably sensible people who, of our own volition, had just taken a 106-mile trip across a godforsaken desert in a furnace-like temperature through a cloud-like dust storm to eat unpalatable food at a hole-in-the-wall cafeteria in Abilene, when none of us had really wanted to go. In fact, to be more accurate, we’d done just the opposite of what we wanted to do. 

I wonder how often we fail to get what we want because we are afraid to ask for it, or because we are afraid we’ll offend someone else. I always try to remember the Abilene Paradox when I’m in a group who is trying to make a decision.

Preparing for the inevitable

Al and I are both eldest children and we eventually became the prime caregivers for our widowed parents. After Al’s father died, we moved his mother to Dallas to be close to us – first in an independent apartment, and later. after a stroke, to health care. After Mama died, we moved Papa to Dallas, again to an independent apartment, and later, to health care.

Those experiences were one of the prime movers for us to come to Franke Tobey Jones – a continuing care community. We are currently living in a duplex – completely independently – but with additional care available if necessary. We are both realists and understand that nobody lives forever.

This last week we had both of our boys with us so they could become more familiar with our living situation and the plans we have made for our deaths. We wanted to reassure them that they would not have to upend their lives when one or the other of us had a health crisis or died.

When we moved to Washington we had our wills drawn up, along with durable powers of attorney, and health care directives – complete with Do Not Resuscitate order. While they were here, we got the legal documents out and had them read through them, so they were sure they understood what our final wishes are. We also encouraged them to “put their dibs” on any furniture, decorations, knick-knack, or art work they particularly wanted.

One day we went to Joint Base Lewis-McChord (the McChord portion), and met with the Casualty Assistance Officer. That’s the person who will help survivors (surviving spouse and/or children) wrap up our affairs including getting death certificates, notifying government entities, and getting any pay-in-arrears. If, by that time, we have decided to be in a National Cemetery, they will help us – including an honor guard for Al, complete with a 21-gun salute. If I’m the first to go, Al just has to swear that he will be in the same cemetery in order to for them to accept me (since I’m not a veteran).

On the way home, we stopped at the Neptune Society, a nationwide crematory, to find out what they offered. We were very impressed with their pre-planning, including the fact that we can make payments with the credit card. We can each have our body cremated very inexpensively (we know because our parents were cremated 20 years ago, and everyone knows prices of everything have gone up.) With monthly payments, we will have both of our plans paid off in 5 years or so. If one or the other of us dies before the plan is paid off, the survivor can just finish the payments in a lump sum.

The staff member who is in charge of resident placement at Franke Tobey Jones came and talked to all of us about what happens when we can no longer live independently. She went over the criteria for moving us around campus – assisted living, health care and/or memory care. She also gave us a tour of the other buildings (I was familiar with them already, but the boys had not seen the new Health Care Building).

All in all, I think we have done as much as possible to ensure that neither of us needs to worry about a family argument at the funeral. We have seen how those can split families, and we didn’t want that for the kids.