David Bowie Is: Response

My daughter and I went to see David Bowie Is at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago this weekend. As soon as we entered the exhibit on the 4th floor of the MCA among hundred of other Bowie fans, my teacher-brain turned on and I started soaking it all in.

My daughter is a huge Bowie fan,

The Christmas Edition 2015

Vitauts and the Tree
Vitauts and the Tree

This is our Christmas letter for 2015. I usually send one out, but hey, I’m paying for this website. I might as well make use of it, right?

It has been an incredible year, and I say that without sarcasm or a single tinge of irony. Each year I live, I think that it cannot get better than this.

Vitauts has lived here for over a year now, and we are all doing well. Maija has her space in the basement, dad has his room, and I occupy the spaces between.

Maija is a senior at Westside High School where she is living

Maija and her friend Julia at a speech meet
Maija and her friend Julia at a speech meet

the dream. She is on the speech team and getting good grades. Her job at Justice, a tween girls’ clothing store, at Westroads keeps her very busy. She’s making friends and having a wonderful time. She’s three months away from turning 18, and it is so weird to see her all grown up with one foot out the door. As you can see, she now has blond hair and everyone thinks she looks terrific. I agree!

Vitauts has been the subject of most of my posts for the past few months, so if you dig a little bit, you’ll know all about him. We went to Rick and Susan’s party on Saturday night, and dad played solo with the gang. He kept saying, “How long has it been since I have seen Rick?” It had been about 4-5 months, I think. He had a terrific time anyway. He doesn’t want anything for Christmas, but he does appreciate correspondence. If you ever want to send him a card or letter, please feel free! Email me for the address or look us up. I’m sure it’s online somewhere!

Kyle and Me in the Caddy
Kyle and Me in the Caddy

Kyle is working at Hyatt Hotels as a customer service/booking agent. He bought some new equipment so he could work at home in his above-the-bank Ashland apartment where he still lives with his high school buddies. We have spent a lot of time these past few months at The Approach climbing gym near 72nd and L in Omaha. We both bought equipment and have memberships. He is a much better climber than I am, but we’ve both learned a lot and felt the pain and strain of rock climbing! He came by a couple weeks ago to test out the Cadillac and to clean up my yard. Fifteen bags of leaves, a broken lawnmower, and gutters that seem to work, and all is well at the old homestead. He’s still driving the Honda Civic with the green body and black hood. It’s the unkillable car. I think he’s tried, but it’s still holding on. He is the single nicest person I think I’ve ever met. I have no idea where he got that from, but I think he has a real talent for just talking and listening to people. It’s really neat to watch him just open up a conversation with Vitauts, or some random person at the gym and sincerely engage. It’s a gift.

I am still at Westside High School plugging away as Team Leader of Humanities and trying to wrap my head, heart and soul around Composition, especially AP Language and Comp. It has been a stressful but rewarding year. I am still coaching speech, and I have over 180 students on my watch. I wish I had a photo of Westside… our team or anything. It’s kind of weird to work at a place for so long, but really have no record of being there other than my speech team. Oh well. I work there. Trust me!

Fantasy Brackets #yourvotecounts @fantasybrackets
Fantasy Brackets #yourvotecounts @fantasybrackets

My new adventure has been starting a business with my brother, Alan. We are the founders of JAG Entertainment, LLC which is currently in the process of making our first gaming application called Fantasy Brackets. We’ve kept is a bit on the downlow because we don’t want our idea to get stolen. JJ Grinvalds is our graphic designer, and You can see a bit of his handiwork right here. Although the developers aren’t matching the screens exactly, I still think it looks pretty cool.

We plan on launching a public beta within the next month and the final release is scheduled for the end of February. It’s an exciting time to be alive and to feel like we’re involved in something beyond ourselves. Al and I are always busy and always worried and stressed about the process, but so far, so good.

We have a Facebook, Twitter, Intagram and some other social media sites as well as fanbrackets.com which is currently under construction. Please help spread the word when the time comes, and if you are interested in becoming an investor, let me know!

I have to go see Macbeth with Deron in just a few minutes, and I thought I could finish this before time ran out. I’m almost done!

The Grinvalds’ Annual Christmas Bonanza Smashtastic Party is scheduled for January 2nd. I hope we don’t destroy Sue and Glen’s lovely house!

Oh, what made this a great year? So much. Too much really. Lots I can’t talk about, but some that I can. I was able to travel across the country to meet and hang out with amazing people in San Francisco, Oregon, and New Orleans. I traveled to Colorado with the family. I overcame Achilles surgery and can mostly walk again! I turned 43, started yoga and saw Star Wars The Force Awakens twice already. I got a new patio swing. What more is there to be said? I have the best family in the world, including my extended family of cousins and friends. I cannot imagine living a day without knowing that they are out there!

Have a wonderful Holiday Season! We love you all!


Vitauts Take 26: Sunday Driving

IMG_1162After a few rather depressing posts about Gambling, I’m hoping to get back to the lighter side of life.

The day after acquiring the Cadillac DeVille, I woke up on Sunday and asked dad if he wanted to go for a drive. It was a gorgeous morning with the sun shining and the promise of an oddly warm December day.

“In the new car?” he asked.

“Yeah, of course!”

“Where would we go?”

“Everywhere,” I replied. My plan was to go to Valley, Yutan and Gretna to show all of my siblings the new/used car. I was kind of hoping he would want to drive, but he was more comfortable with me behind the wheel.

We set off for Valley. I brought along a couple of old mix tapes to test out the tape player.

Tape player
Tape player

The first one failed, but “One Part” created by sooz back in 1991 or so still worked, so Natalie Merchant’s beautiful voice was singing “Jack Kerouac” and we were on our way.

Our first leg of the tour took us down Dodge street all the way to Valley. Dad told me the story of how he got lost trying to find Andra’s house once. Apparently, he was driving to her house, and then he found himself on a “road in Latvia” and somehow ended up at Sue’s house in Gretna instead. True story.

This time, we came into Valley on the road by the old 3M plant, and dad recognized the road. Al used to live on the corner, and I pointed out his house. Then dad pointed out that there was a Latvian church around the corner. “Hmmmm,” I thought, but I didn’t correct him.

He soon saw a Lutheran church down the street and realized that’s what he meant to say. Vitauts’ favorite thing to do while driving is to point out all the places he remembers and how he has been on various roads “thousands of times” or “how many times have I driven on this road?” He did point out that Andra’s house was hard to find, and he was glad I was driving because I know where I am going.

Dad in the backseat
Dad in the backseat

Soon we were at Andra’s house on Church Street. She was surprised to see us, but happy that we showed up. I asked her to come with us to Gretna, and she was in. She took the front seat, and dad sat in the back like a boss. I felt like a chauffeur as we traversed the Nebraska highways toward our old stomping ground in Yutan.

Andra and I just kept talking about how smooth the drive was, and dad would interject a comment here and there about where we were and how he kind of recognized some landmarks. He always likes to se the St. John’s church in Yutan that he helped build.

The Yutan House
The Yutan House

Then we drove up the street to my brother Norm’s house, parked in the driveway and waited. For those of you who don’t know, Norm and his wife Lori bought the house on 511 Vine Street that I grew up in. It’s kind of weird and cool to go back to see the house again. Every time I go back it stirs certain memories.

We pulled up in the driveway and dad insisted that he wasn’t going to get out. So, instead, Norm and


Lori came out to visit with us and with dad as he sat in the back of the Cadillac. On the way out of town he commented on how sad it makes him to go back to Yutan because of all the good times he had there.

We left and headed toward Gretna for our final stop at Sue and Glen’s house. When we arrived, we were greeted by Glen and his youngest son Alaric. They were both impressed with the car and wanted me to go show Sue who was working at a church event in town. Glen invited us for lunch, so while he grilled burgers, I took Alaric for a ride to see his mom.

Sue loved the car and drove it around Gretna on the old brick streets. It glided like a champ over the rough roads. We all had a kick about the number of ashtrays, old lighters and other features from back in the day. The speedometer only goes up to 85 which, for me, was pretty normal, but kids these days just don’t understand it.

Alaric drives!

On the way back to Glen’s house, I let Alaric, who is only 14, drive around the block. He was nervous at first, but he did fine.

After a wonderful lunch of grilled burgers and a few shots of Fireball, we headed out back toward Valley. I stopped at an auto store and bought a plastic cupholder to compensate from the complete absence of these in the Caddy. I wonder, didn’t we eat and drink in cars back then? Why was the cupholder a novelty that took so long to become commonplace?

When we got home from our adventure, dad was all tired out, but I think he had a really good time. At one point, I shut off the new music and popped in one of his old Latvian folk song tapes. He started singing along with fervor in the backseat. Andra and I both listened joyfully as his off-key voice boomed from behind. Latvians and their folksongs... I tell you what.




Vitauts Take 25: Gambling III, The Casino

Across the River Shining Lights and Whistles
Across the River Shining Lights and Whistles

I have been saving this one for last because this is the most egregious of Vitauts’ gambling vices. While he spends a few dollars on the fraudulent contests and a few dollars on the scratch tickets, he spends hundreds at the casino.

I have idly sat by for the past year watching him go “Across the river” to “the boats” to get away for an afternoon. Again, when mom was alive, we used to joke about how they would come for a visit and then sneak off to the boats for a little fun. I thought that it was a once a month thing, but it must have been quite a bit more often than that.

I did the math on dad’s Mercury, the one we just got rid of. He bought the 1999 Grand Marquis in 2002 and it only had about 30,000 miles on it. When we got rid of this month, it was up to 230,000. He put about 200,000 miles on the car in just over ten years. A retired pastor who lived literally a block from his work place put on about 20,000 miles a year! Imagine that. How many of those miles were traveling in I-80 from Lincoln straight to Council Bluffs to play some slot machines? I have to think that it was more than we could have imagined.

When dad first moved in, he was getting overdrafts at the end of each month because he wasn’t tracking his spending. I watched his savings deplete then a few more thousand out of a CD and a few more thousand out of another savings account. When I would tell him he had a problem, he would get furious and tell me the story of how he never had any money, so when he retired and paid off all his bills, he and Liesma would go spend a “little time” at the boats. His point was that he had earned the right to spend his money any way he wanted to.

My point was that he was spending more than he was earning, and this was a problem. The lowest point for me was when he actually asked to borrow money from me because he was overdrawn.

I finally had it out with him, and I really thought I made a dent in his resolve. I told him that when I was little, I always looked up to my father, the pastor who was dignified and strong. I always believed that he had no fear and had an iron will. Now, I told him, I see this old man who can’t even keep track of his checking account. Who can’t go a day without driving to the casino to waste money that he doesn’t have!

But that kind of talk is like telling a meth addict how bad meth is for him. It just goes in one vein and out the other.

One day, Paul, Norm, Al and I all confronted dad to talk about this issue, but even that was a waste of time. Our collective hope right now is that after the accident he has been less prone to drive anywhere, so maybe, just maybe, the Cadillac won’t go “across the river” as often as the Mercury used to, but I am not really expecting anything to change.

The saddest part is that he will tell the same story about the casino every single time, and it’s almost like a mantra for him. “Your mother, my wife, and I would go to casino. She would go play some slots here, and I would go along, and we would spend a little money and have some fun. Sometimes we would win, sometimes we would lose, but we would always be about even.”

Then he will go on, “Now, when I go, it feels good to just be where other people are. There is a waitress who still remembers Liesma, and she brings me a drink, and I give her $20 and tell her to keep the change. She always finds me and comes to talk to me no matter where I am in the casino.”

Just like his other stories, I wonder how much of this is true, and how much is a blurry mishmash of many memories all rolled into one? Is there really a waitress who knows him and sees him every time? Or is that something that happened once twenty years ago?

A few months ago, he hit a jackpot, and he gave Maija and me some of his winnings. I told him to keep the money because he would need it, but he had this light in his eyes, and he was so happy. Months later, when we would talk to him about how much he was losing and spending every month, he would point to that one jackpot to claim that he was still, “a little ahead.” Vitauts, you have been so far behind for so long, that I wouldn’t even know what kind of jackpot you’d need to hit for you to be ahead again.

Most of the time, I just try to pretend that it’s okay. He has his time left on earth and his pension to do whatever he wants to do. He’s earned it. But hasn’t he earned more than this? His final years spent as a slave to an addiction? Is that the fate God intended when he set Vitauts on his path so many years ago? Is this the dignified end of life we all dream of?

I guess the good thing is that the dementia erases the losses. He doesn’t remember, by the end of his time at the casino, how much money he started with and how much he took home. Sometimes he thinks he won after he cashes a $500 check at the teller window because he has $200 in his wallet. Who knows the lies he tells himself to justify his actions? I can’t even really imagine how it works.

I have been to the casino during the day, and it is the single most depressing place I’ve ever seen. Elderly people come in on buses as soon as they get their Social Security checks or pensions and they sit and feed the machines until they have nothing left. I have seen the old men and women standing by as they wait for the bus to come back. They are out of money, and there really isn’t anything to do at the casino once your wallet is empty. Dad is one of these walking dead who can see only one path.

Again, what can you do about it? We have talked about banning him from the casino, cutting off his funding, taking away his driver’s license, but ultimately we have continued to let Free Will prevail. It is his life and his money, but it is just too depressing to watch him shrivel as his bank account is filled and depleted by the end of each and every month.

Sixty years working as a pastor with not a dime to show for it. Why? Probably because the casinos, keno parlors, lotteries and fraudulent contest companies have all of our “inheritance.”

Vitauts Take 24: Gambling II, Scratch Tickets

Scratch tickets. I remember when they first started in Nebraska. I was either in middle school or early in high school. I did a quick check, but the exact date isn’t readily available. I am trying to figure out why these kinds of gambling games are legal, while others are not?

Mom always enjoyed scratch tickets. Again, just as with my dad and poker, I just always thought this was a fun little distraction. We should have known that it was more than that. It was always more than that.

We would buy mom and dad scratch tickets for birthdays and other holidays joking about how much money they were going to win. No one ever won.

That’s not exactly true. In college, my friend Scott won $100. He even shared his winnings by buying us all beer or something. I think that’s the only time I’ve seen anyone win anything of real value off the Nebraska State Lottery.

So again, how much money have mom and dad flushed down the toilet on these worthless scratch tickets? A few moments of silly fun for most people has turned into an addictive habit for Vitauts.

After his bout with an illness earlier this year, he couldn’t drive for a month. However, he would dutifully walk up the steep hill on 90th street to the corner drugstore not for food or something important, but for his daily morning fix of scratch tickets. He spends about $20 a day minus whatever he “won” the day before. Do the math. $20 a day for say, 200 days a year? That’s $4,000 a year on these stupid little scraps of paper that if stacked end to end could probably circle the earth.

It is so weird how I used to think it was cute and funny, and now just writing about it enrages me.

I also wonder how long dad and mom were gambling like this. Mom also loved to go to play a little Keno at the bar, but was it really just a little and for fun? Looking back, she was probably just as addicted to gambling as dad is now, but we just didn’t see it. Now dad believes he is carrying her torch by feeding the beast each and every day in one form or another.

What I’m wondering is whether Vitauts is an anomaly in this gambling cycle, or if he is one of the many old, bored victims of these scams? How many elderly men and women buy a “few tickets” now and then at every gas station, grocery store and drug store in Nebraska? How many believe that they are winning a little bit or maybe just a little behind?



Vitauts Take 22: Gambling Part I, Mail Fraud.

Soulless Vampires
Soulless Vampires: This was in one day about 6 months ago. Keep reading to see how it just gets worse.

This is one of the harder posts to share with the world, but I think what I have to say on this issue is important. If to no one else, then to me.

Vitauts has always liked games of chance. From an early age, I watched him play poker, solo, solitaire and many other games for hours on end.

When you are little and you see your parents doing something “wrong” you don’t really know it’s wrong, right? I mean, how many kids grow up with parents who are doing drugs or other illicit activities thinking that it is just normal?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a saint, and I don’t see anything wrong with a little gambling here and there, but I have seen how what began as a little fun on a Friday night can turn into a debilitating habit. Luckily, dad has never really had enough money to really destroy himself, but he will spend every dime he has each month, and most of it goes to the casinos of Council Bluffs, the Nebraska Lottery, or these direct mail fraud letters that the movie Nebraska so prominently brought to bear.

The Prize Van

When I saw that Alexander Payne movie in the theater, I didn’t realize that it was about my father until he moved in with me, and then I saw how these mailings really work. When we would all visit mom and dad in Lincoln, we would see these envelopes of “charities” or “contests” asking for money. Mom, apparently, sent in some of these.

When I was little, I fondly remember her showing us the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. She would always buy magazines from them and joke that they would just throw your entry away if you didn’t. We saw commercials with them handing big checks to random strangers, and we would fantasize about what we would do if the prize van came to our house.

Just now, when I put in the link to the PCH Sweepstakes, I realized that the first hit on Google was a false link, some dummy site set up to collect information from unwary users. This just goes to my point about how much fraud is out there, and no one is doing anything about it.

The once-a-year magazine scam somehow perverted itself to mom and dad sending ten dollars here and there to various contests. These contests work like this. They send unsuspecting people a letter saying, “You have won!” with instructions about how to “Claim your prize.” Most of the time, the first letter is free, or they will charge a minimal “processing fee” or charge for “postage.” If you bite, then they send you a second letter saying that you’ve made it to “the next step!” Then they ask for $10 to “process” this entry, and this continues as they milk the person dry. They keep sucking on them like a tick or leech, just getting fatter and fatter off these poor, misguided fools.

And not only do they send these out, but they share the names of the hapless suckers, or these are all owned by the same company somewhere out there. Dad has literally been getting at least a dozen letters a day from all these different companies some disguised as charities, but most are contests asking for money.

In his quest for a gambling fix, or, as he claims, to honor his dearly departed wife, he continues to send in a few of these mailings each day. Sometimes I see them going out in the mail, and it makes me sad. Most of the time, he sneaks them to the post office, so I won’t even know.

All of my siblings and I have all had serious confrontations with him about these fraudulent letters, but still he persists. I throw them away when I see them, and I tell him to do the same, but he keeps sending them in. How much money has he squandered on these fake contests over the past twenty years?

The worst part is that he will joke about “winning big money!” Sometimes he has a specific amount in mind like $10,000. I ask him, “What would you do with this money?” but he doesn’t really have an answer. The money is completely meaningless to him. Even if he won a million dollars, what would he do with it?

My Precious!
My Precious!

The thought of winning has become this nebulous fantasy that he has stuck in his mind, and it is almost all consuming. I compare it to Gollum’s and Bilbo’s obsession with “my precious” in The Lord of the Rings series. And trying to get him to see this obsession is an exercise in frustrating futility. I feel completely helpless watching him throw away not only his money, but more important his dignity day in and day out.

Shouldn’t it be some kind of crime to take advantage of people? We know that dad’s mind isn’t working as well as it used to. He doesn’t remember things very well, and he really doesn’t know what he’s doing sometimes. I have tried to contact the post office and even our state senators asking about what we can do to stop this, and there doesn’t seem to be any solution. Apparently the law only helps those who can already help themselves.

Update, I got the mail today. 23 mailings. 23 junk mails in one day. Each and every day. Think about that! I am sending them all a cease and desist letter. Hopefully, I can intercept more mail. I found this website that may help: http://seniornet.org/blog/how-to-stop-junk-mail-and-prevent-mail-fraud/

I went through all of the letters, opened them, and replied with a strongly stated letter to leave Vitauts alone. Most of them don’t even have prepaid postage. Monsters! Look at this pile of evil! At first, I kind of snickered at the way these are set up. About 1/2 of them are “charities” that ask for a donation in return for some prize. Sometimes the prize is an even number, but sometimes it is really odd. The other letters (not sure which are more evil) are “sweepstakes” asking for processing fees. One one hand, the charities only ask for a donation. It’s not required, but they mask this crap in some fake charity… so that’s pretty horrible. But the Sweepstakes people ask for a higher set amount, and they have some really Orwellian sounding names like “National Fulfillment Advisors.”

I made a spreadsheet to keep track of all of these that I’m responding to. Feel free to send letters to these people! Give them a taste of their medicine. I know they are all owned by the same company, probably a subsidiary of the Koch brothers or Donald Trump. Most are in either some weird suburb of NYC like Babylon or in St. Louis. Most of the “charities” come with little cards proclaiming that the odds against winning are precisely 1,392,000:1. I wonder if that’s some legal number? All the cards are exactly the same size and shape with names like “Kids Wish” and “Little Shelter” which has a picture of a puppy and kitty on it. I tell you, it’s pure manipulation and as evil and sick as capitalism can get.

The 23 letters.
The 23 letters.
Fronts and backs of the "charity" cards
Fronts and backs of the “charity” cards
Dad has always played cards.
Vitauts playing cards with my aunt and uncle. Back in a more innocent time before all of this.

Vitauts take 21: Cadillac

The 1987 Cadillac DeVille
The 1987 Cadillac DeVille

After deliberation, Vitauts decided to let the Mercury die. I had to explain the insurance situation a few times. Basically, he had three choices after we found out that the fuel pump was broken. 1) He could fix the car’s body damage and the fuel pump and end up paying $1,000 or more out of pocket to repair a 22 year-old car with 230,000 miles. 2) He could use the body repair insurance money to fix the fuel pump. or 3) Take the insurance money, get rid of the Mercury and look for a replacement car.

He didn’t quite understand how the insurance company was going to give him money. This is one of the extreme disadvantages Vitauts has had in his life… he doesn’t get business. I think he’s pretty much been a consumer victim his whole life without a full understanding of commerce or sneaky sales people. We had a good time talking about all the lemons he has purchased in the past including the Ford station wagon that had bizarre electrical failures shortly after he purchased it. Paul is still mad that dad just got rid of it instead of letting him have it. Dad had some pretty terrible cars that he probably overpaid for. All of the kids pretty much ended up owning one of his hand me down Oldsmobiles, Fords, or Chryslers. Out of all the American sedans he had driven, he had never owned a Cadillac. A long time ago, I remember asking him what kind of car he would like if price weren’t an issue. He answered, “I would like to drive a Cadillac.” I never forgot that.

So on a lark, I decided to see what kind of Cadillac I could get in the price range that the insurance company was giving for the repairs which was just over $2000. I felt like I was making my own episode of Top Gear, the British Auto Series formerly starring Jeremy Clarkson. On that show, they have challenges where they are given a certain amount of money and a specific type of car, and then they need to see which of the three cohosts can find the best car in that category. I think Jeremy would be proud of my endeavors, even if I was looking for Cadillacs which are generally shunned by the automotive critics.

I first tried Auto Trader and found some decent Cadillacs from 2004 or so with about 150,000 miles in our price range. I extended my search to Craigslist where I came across a 1987 Cadillac DeVille with only 44,000 miles on it. It was light blue, and for some reason it just called to me. I have a little confession to make, one of my life-long fantasies has always been to find a car from my high school days and restore it to its original condition. My first car was a 1979 Oldsmobile 98. It was white and had a 403 c.i. 4 barrel producing over 200 horsepower. I had a love/hate relationship with it, but lately the reliability issues have slowly faded from my memory and mostly the warm fuzzy feeling of driving flat-out south of Yutan with the needle buried and loud music blaring have entered my mind. So there it was, a car from my youth in almost perfect condition.

IMG_1131I was able to take a look at the car and give it a test drive. I went to Bellevue and found it sitting on a driveway on an acreage with chickens and sheds. The car wasn’t much to look at. One of the tires was a little flat, it was covered in dust, but underneath the dirty exterior it was gorgeous. Once I got inside, I knew that I had to have this car. Everything was perfect. The interior was clean, no fading or cracking. The odometer read 44,537 miles, as promised. It started right up, and after I drove it, I was a bit obsessed (Christine anyone?).

Shawn, the seller of the car, was selling it for his father. He told me how he and his dad ran a yard service, and that they bought the car from a little old lady whose husband had died, and she didn’t drive. That’s why it had such low mileage. They thought that they would use it as a second or third car, but after a year, they found that they really didn’t drive it much, so they wanted to find a buyer to make back what they had paid for it. I ran a Carfax, and he was telling the truth. This car had been babied. Every Cadillac Dealer service was on file on Carfax, and it was clear that this was completely legit.

I picked up Vitauts (after going to the bank to get the money) and took him for a test drive. He didn’t really seem to believe that we could just go and get a car. To him, it was a process. You test drive. You get a loan. You get a check. Make appointments and on and on. I was trying to explain to him that he needed a car, and we could just pick it up today, but it was a bit of a hard sell. I wanted this car!

I called my brother and my sisters to tell them about it. Two were optimistic with Paul saying, “Go for it!” Sue was a bit more cautious because of her prior experience with a low mileage Taurus. Andra was the deciding vote with a clear and resounding, “Why not?”

Dad didn’t like the blue color at first, but as soon as he opened the door, the nostalgia kicked in. This was a perfect old-man car. This was clear from the moment he sat on those dark blue, plush leather seats. I got the key from Shawn’s mother, and we took it around the block. He kept flooring it and slamming on the brakes, “I want to test it out, you know?” And when we got back to the house, he said, “It is a nice car.” I asked him if he wanted it, and he was worried again about the money, insurance, this and that, but I just said, “I got this!”

So we bought it! He drove it home without a hitch, and he is now the proud owner of a 1987 light blue Cadillac DeVille with more ashtrays than cup holders, only 44,544 miles, and lots of miles left to go!

More on this to follow!

This is what Alaric (Vitauts 14-year old grandson) wants to do to dad’s car…


Vitauts Take 20: The Car… again

The Broken MercuryAs the mercury has fallen, so has dad’s Mercury Grand Marquis. After getting into his accident a few weeks ago, and as we wait patiently for the State Farm insurance people to call, the car has fallen into a state of disuse and perhaps a slow death cycle.

As you may know from other posts, dad loves to drive. His independence is fueled by his daily trips to the drugstore for his scratch tickets and his “occasional” journeys “across the river” to the Council Bluffs casino. However, this week, after a lovely Thanksgiving dinner and a Husker game at his daughter Susan’s house, he tried to start his car, but it wouldn’t go.

I watched and waited as he spent twenty minutes or more trying to start the car. He even tried to get the hood open, but for some reason it is jammed. I have noticed more and more that once he gets an idea in his head, he has a very difficult time shaking it. You might call it an effect of his natural stubbornness combined with his ailing memory. He wants to do something, forgets why he can’t, so then he tries again.

After a few futile attempts at starting the car, he finally, humbly asked me for help. “Ja, maybe you can pull your car out of the garage and you know, I have jumper cables, and maybe you can try to start it.” Then he remembers that the hood is stuck shut. “But first we have to get the hood open. I don’t know what it is stuck on.”

I explain that it’s either ice or, more likely, a problem caused by the accident he was in a few weeks ago.

He went out and tried again, and then came back to ask me for help. I finally asked him, “Where do you need to go? What do you need? Can I give

Nebraska Lottery Scratch Tickets

you a ride somewhere?” At first he said no, but then later, after thinking about it, he said he could use a ride up to the drugstore for his scratch tickets. He said he could walk back.

Unfortunately, I had to take my daughter to the doctor, and run some other errands, so I didn’t have time to give him a ride. When I got home later, I tried to start the car myself. It turned over just fine, so it didn’t need a jump start, but it wouldn’t start at all. I have no idea what the problem is, and I don’t know how him opening the hood would help the situation, but he’s still convinced that if he could just get jumper cables in there, he could start the car.

The PickupFinally, I just gave him the keys to Maija’s pickup and let him drive to the store himself, praying that he wouldn’t hit anyone or anything on the way. He came back with a big smile on his face and said, “That little pickup has some power! A lot more power than my car, I mean.” It’s the little things in life.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with the car, but hopefully soon! (Like a good neighbor…)