It was 11 in the morning when my granddaughter, daughter in law, and this month’s boyfriend of granddaughter showed up. I wandered out into the living room in my nightgown and barefoot, stepped in a pool of water by the dog’s dish (they like to paddle — don’t ask) and said “Hi,” while trying to wipe the sleep from my eyes.
I wasn’t actually asleep, but I also wasn’t awake. I had been plugging in all the rechargeable devices near my bed. The Kindle. The iPad mini. The Bluetooth speaker. The MacBook Air. I hadn’t arrived at the “getting dressed” part of my morning. I generally don’t get hospitable before I find my underwear and socks.
And coffee. And toast. And jam.
“Oh, I was sure you’d be up,” she said. I wonder what made her think that? I go to bed late and I read even later. And I’m retired. No matter. I am definitely up at this point.
“I was up, I said, trying to find my hospitality where I was sure it belonged. “I was unwinding wires. Trying to figure out where each wire went.”
I am always willing to be hospitable but I have to admit, I feel better about it when I have my socks and underwear on. Meanwhile, thunder was roaring, the dogs were barking, and I seriously needed coffee. Garry was asleep or, if he was smart, he was pretending to be asleep.
I cannot be truly hospitable without coffee. And an English muffin. These are the fundamental underpinnings to basic friendly openness. It’s not personal. It’s just caffeine.
Now it is quiet. The pouring rain has backed off. I’ve mopped up the water thrown around by the dogs. I’m dressed in clothing including socks AND underwear. I’ve written two articles and responded to comments and I’m pretty sure I need a nap.
I don’t know if that is hospitable, but a nap sounds good right now. Anyone want to join me? As a note, with all the telephones around? Consider calling on your way over. You know. Give me a brief shining moment to put some clothes on. I could just as easily have been in the shower or on the toilet. Just a thought.
Yesterday, I got a call from the Audiology Department of UMass. She said she wanted to give me the rest of Garry’s official audiological follow-up appointments — as opposed to the surgical follow-ups. I had already gotten the ones for pre-op and Surgery, plus surgical follow-up. Lucky for both of us, she didn’t expect to talk to Garry personally. This is the only medical place that realized he can’t talk on the phone.
As a deaf person, he can’t chat on the phone. That’s what the surgery is all about. Every other time I talk to a medical person other than our family guy, they insist on talking to Garry. I hand him the phone, shout “JUST SAY YES!” Which he does and the conversation can progress. They totally fail to have a grip on the “he can’t hear” issue. Either that or they think if they yell louder into the mouthpiece, that will fix it.
The cochlear implant is a surgical miracle and a lot of technological fine-tuning. Post surgery, he has a date for “turning on the equipment,” three more tune-ups, with a final official get-together after six months. If he needs more help or another type of help, like speech therapy, we can add those.
It’s just as well we aren’t trying to do this in Boston. We’d never survive the traffic.
The object of all of this? To bring Garry back into the world. To make him part of the conversation. To have him in it and not have to round it up and tell him about it later. To take him out of the enclosed space in which he now lives and bring him into the bigger world — the way he was. The way I remember him.
All those objects they will put in his ear and on them? These will change him. I have a feeling they will change him more than he expects. Maybe even more than I expect.
Easy times are not when we create solutions to problems. I was sitting here today thinking about the 1400s.
Not everybody sits around thinking about the 1400s, but I do and fairly often. It’s part of the pleasure and burden of a deep passion for history. Right now, I’m reading a series of books about the Tudors. The early Tudors. Owen, Edmond, and Jasper. And, of course, Henry who became the seventh of the many Henrys of England.
The 1300s were a horror show for the old world.
The bubonic plague hit the continent in the 1340s, arriving on ships from (probably) Constantinople. The Black Death swept Europe.
Beginning in 1346 and continuing through 1353, the number of deaths — from war, disease, or anything — is unparalleled in human history. Ultimately, the Black Death killed more than 25 million people in Europe. And the world was much smaller, so 25-million people were the largest part of the human race.
More than half the population of Europe died in the plague and in some towns, it was as much as 100%. In other words, everybody died. The forest grew back over lands that had been sown. Murderous gangs that had formerly been remnants of disbanded armies roamed through Europe. When most of the peasants died, everyone starved because there was no one to grow new crops.
A burst of invention occurred. The peasantry, always been the least valuable members of European society, suddenly achieved importance. So few people remained who were able to grow crops, it was not unusual for peasants to go from castle to castle to see where they could get the best deal for their labor. The middle class grew too, while more than half the nobility disappeared. Between death by plague and death by war, many families slid from the bottom of nobility to the center of poverty. By the 1600s, many former nobles were tilling their own lands.
The Wars of the Roses consumed England. The printing press arrived. Europeans took to movable type with enthusiasm. The press was created sometime between 1400 and 1455. Movable type swept the scribes away.
I’m sure someone was telling everyone that this whole “printing thing” would never last. It was probably someone running a school for scribes.
The 1400s saw the invention of:
The golf ball (1400)
The piano/spinet (1400)
The trigger/matchlock (1411) The handgun arrived in 1364. Before the trigger, it was ignited with an ember or another form of portable fire.
Oil painting (1420) The paint was invented long before this in China, but oil painting techniques (Rembrandt, et al) were 15th-century.
Hoisting gear (1421)
Spectacles/eyeglasses (1450) Possibly earlier.
Printing Press (1450-55) Johannes Gutenberg
Engravings (dry) (1465)
Muzzle-loaded rifle (1475)
Parachute (1485) Leonardo Da Vinci
The copyright (1486)
Bell chimes (1487)
The map globe (1492) This is also when Leonardo was pondering flight because he had a parachute, so you ought to be able to fly, right?
Sometime during this same period, the moldboard plow was invented, turning agriculture on its ear. Historians are still arguing this issue.
This might not sound like a lot to you, but the invention of the printing press was a bigger deal than the mobile phone or the computer or, for that matter, electricity and diesel power. It overturned the world. Made knowledge available to the many rather than the élite few.
And everybody drank the whiskey.
The point is that times were really bad in the 1300s and only nominally better in the 1400s.
These terrible old days gave the world a kick in the butt and triggered the arrival of central government among nations. It elevated the peasant and middle classes. It advanced banking and industry and art. Towns grew as guilds developed. The building industry changed and expanded. Bridges were redesigned to enable better roads. Better roads made it easier for people to take their goods to market.
Everything changed, including religion because this also was the birth of Protestantism, though it was not called that until later.
Hard times create a new world. Our two world wars were what pushed Europe into socialism and the caring world that they now (or used to) embrace. I think a lot of people forget that before the first world war, it wasn’t a caring Europe. It was a bunch of rich nobles doing whatever they felt like to anything and anyone.
The world doesn’t advance when times are easy. When all is well, we get lazy. Comfort doesn’t force change.
I’d like to think that the current awfulness is going to push us into a creative change which will ultimately improve our world. I don’t know that it will be true because I don’t think I’ll live to see the outcome of this world into the next, but I’d like to think that’s how it will go.
You are wrong if you think I forgot about July’s Pick a Word challenge. I’ve just been too busy to see the last week’s entries, but I will get to that soon. For now, here is the July’s mix for you: canicular, splash, feathered, marine, scenic
And here are a few pictures to go with it. Canicular reminds me a song my mother used to sing “Canicule, Canicular.” The song never made sense to me and still doesn’t. But I think it was about a small railroad that went up a mountain. It was hard to tell.
My mother never remembered lyrics, so she’d sing the song’s title over and over, but never sing lyrics that made sense. I remember all the melodies and some very odd words.
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