Every time I go down to Oregon to visit my folks they look older. I mean they're still in good health just a little bit more frail. At least they looked it this time.
2001 - 2003 was a rough year for employment, but not as severe as these past two years. I had two on call jobs one with Kelly Services and the other as a Substitute Instructional Assistant for six Yamhill County school districts. I was getting an average of twenty hours of work each month. I had an open unemployment claim for over two years. My weekly draws decreased after each UI cycle renewed. Also, during this period my GSL's went into default. I never could afford the thousand dollar per month payments.
At the end of 2002, I picked up a temporary retraining position at a McMinnville mental health agency. I got paid minimum wage,$6.50/hr, to work the front desk. At the interview, the office manager said, "we've never had a man working this job; we're not sure a man is capable of doing this type of work." I was more than capable, I excelled at it and when the period came to a close (February 2003) they wanted to hire me full time. In the exit interview, the office manager said they never encountered anyone as organized and efficient as myself when it came to filing, managing data, and clientele, but because of budgets and Oregon Health Plan dropping mental health coverage, they couldn't hire me. Also, due to the fact that it was a retraining program, the state paid half the wage.
Winter was on the cusp of sublimating into spring. Dad was spending his morning hours splitting wood and his evening hours cooking at Spirit Mountain Casino. Winter is not an ideal time to be sawing and splitting wood, but the landowner had countless dollars invested in timber lands and didn't want to have anyone there during fire season. They especially didn't want anyone up there during fire season with chainsaws, gasoline, and an old rusted out pickup truck that was a wildland inferno waiting to happen.
Since I was out of work again, I volunteered to help dad cut, split, and haul it out. The ground was mucky and the truck, even though it was a 4-wheel drive with dual wheels on the back, was always in danger of getting stuck. And more than once we had to use come-alongs and a winch as an assist to yard the truck onto more solid ground. After this happened twice in one week I suggested to dad that we build a plank road in there.
We borrowed old railroad ties from land owner to build a thirty foot road. It took about a week to do. It was fun. I enjoyed working side-by-side my father. It reminded me of being eight years old again
Normal father's around the neighborhood played ball with their son's. Not my dad. There were no football games, or baseball, or basketball, or pro wrestling on the television at the Lindberg house. And by the time I was in the fifth grade there was no tv at all. No. What we did is we worked. So, building that road with dad was fun. It's kind of like writing. It takes a lot of time and work to accomplish it, but it is fun; it is like a second full time job. This is why I've enjoyed being unemployed so much. I can spend a hundred hours a week on writing and the process of it and not get all bent out of shape about having my time wasted by employment.
Throughout this adventure, I kept noticing that he stumbled a lot and this disturbed me, because my father physically was a powerful man. Later, we learned that he had restless leg syndrome. Now, and for the past six years, his left leg twitches and jerks involuntarily. Often his meds do little to still the nerves from firing at random intervals. Before dad retired he was hoping to take extended backpacking trips and spend more time hunting in the mountains that surround their property. But by the time 65 rolled around these dreams became impossible. And seeing him weak and vulnerable, while we were working side-by-side disturbed me. And seeing my father, the superman, wither into frailty broke my heart.
Now, when I go down to visit, on the last day, I ponder on my parents eventual deaths. And what if this is the last time that I see them?
Also check out my new wordpress website. It's a literary journal called Randomly Accessed Poetics! Submissions are open. I will be publishing literary works, explicit language pieces, and eventually a journal a relative wrote in the late 1800's detailing their journey to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. And when I gather enough submitted works from other people, I will be cobbling together an e-anthology called Randomly Accessed Poetics.