In a way I’m glad it’s over . . .

While crossing the northern tier of the country the week before last in “The Beast,” as a buddy has named our RV, I had too much time on my hands to think. Mist and Smoke were asleep on the floor (on a soft rug, one of two I’d put in just before the trip). And I was listening to iPod music while driving east on a two-lane highway.

It had been almost ten months since Di (Charlie) passed away, and I was thinking about her and our previous journeys. Looking to the seat where she usually rode, I couldn’t help thinking how different our experiences of countryside were.

I have never tired of gazing at people and animals, cars, trucks, license plates, roads, towns and cities, lone houses and other structures decayed by time, farms, fields, trees and forests, rolling hills, buttes and mesas and the plains which separate and, yet, tie them all together.

Di, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less about most of the scenery. She buried her nose in a book, or a dozen of them, and, in the last few years, her iPad and played games (primarily Candy Crush and Mahjong). Occasionally, when I spotted something out of the ordinary, I’d bring it to her attention and she’d look up, comment and go right back to her previous activity.

Even so, this trip was far, far lonelier than any I’d taken before; even lonelier than those I’d ridden, alone on a motorcycle, before our marriage.

As an aside, my iPod contains some 19,000+ songs and tunes encompassing most music genera. I cannot abide rap and hip-hop; although some of them appear due to Di’s Grammy award disks and movie soundtracks. Most of my music consists of classical, jazz, pop, oldies and country.

At any rate, while I was thinking of Di, Willie Nelson came on singing a song by Jan Crutchfield: It Turns Me Inside Out.

I know the song dealt not with life and death but with the end of a relationship, a love affair. So, maybe it was life and death.

It hit me.

In a way I’m glad it’s over,” begins the song, and I thought of all the reasons why I was glad: Di was no longer in any physical pain, her back no longer hurt; her arthritis and osteoporosis were no longer a concern. She was no longer confined to her chair(s) and dependent on me for fixing meals, bathing her, and helping her to the bathroom, even to use the toilet.

Parkinson’s had completely taken away the independence she had cherished her entire life. She couldn’t drive, couldn’t golf, couldn’t teach.

She’d been forced to retire several years previous after falling three times in as many weeks in her classroom.

Prior to that we both thought that when she retired she’d be able to go golfing several times a week. (Our home on Lake of the Woods sits on the 12th hole dogleg of the local course; almost a 500 yard back lawn.) I’d accompany her, if nothing else, to drive the golf cart. The illness robbed her of that.

I like to take long walks. And, occasionally, she’d meet me on my return route and we’d hold hands and talk about everything and nothing, the way old friends and lovers do. It hurt, and hurts so much, when I see other couples walking hand-in-hand, to think even that was denied us.

. . . and to continue a week later

I don’t have the words to describe my feelings over the last decade of watching her physical condition deteriorate to the point of being unable to take of herself. From a vibrant air of being able to handle everything, usually with a smile, to an inability to take care of almost anything and the realization that such was the case.

But her mind was okay; she was still here in every mental sense. But that was another kind of pain. We both knew what was happening, and was going to happen to her. (Her father died from Parkinson’s.)

Her world narrowed, not just physically, but mentally as well. She’d play on her iPad ignoring her books and TV shows; visits by her friends grew infrequent and, eventually, they stopped coming by at all.

She began to lose her ability to concentrate. She’d read a paragraph or page over and over; yes, sometimes without turning the page for an hour or more . . . and, sometimes with the book upside down.

A couple (?) of years ago she began to have “anxiety attacks.” I’d help her into the car, and we’d go for an hour’s ride which seemed to calm her. She liked the roundabout in Long Beach; it reminded her of England. She also liked to stop at Starbucks for a white hot chocolate or at Dairy Queen for a chocolate shake.

I, also, took her on “walks” at the beach or around the neighborhood, pushing her wheel/transport chair. As with the drives, a hot chocolate or shake was often included. And, of course, I always had a supply of humbugs, or other British sweets, with me.

I don’t know when I first noticed it. But Di began to make comments on our walks about the location of our house, or our “other” house and about neighbors having furniture like ours, even though we’d never been inside said neighbor’s house. A, yeah, . . .

It got to the point where a month or so before she died, she got her rollator (rolling walker) and telephone out in front of the house. (Yes, I was hovering over her every step of the way.) She refused to go back in the house as it wasn’t “her/our” house.

She called 911 and told the dispatcher that her husband was trying to get her into a house that was not hers/ours. She then handed me the phone and said the operator wanted to speak with me.

The dispatcher asked if I really wanted a police officer to stop by. I told her that it would probably be a good idea. A few minutes later a young HB patrolman pulled up to the curb and asked how he could help.

Di and I shared our points of view, and he was able to persuade her to enter the house. By pointing out the pictures showing us and other family members (and, of course, her cats), he was able to “convince” her that it was, indeed, her house and that we lived there.

A part of me died that day. I began to seriously look into options for her care, both part- and full-time care. . . . I knew I could no longer handle it by myself.

A month later she passed away. So, both expected and unexpectedly sudden. “Alone” in a hospital bed at one in the morning as I pulled into the parking lot after a doctor’s call that they were losing her; prevented from being with her by COVID restrictions . . .

So, yes, in a way I’m glad it’s over, but . . . in so many ways it turns me inside out.

And, on that two-lane highway headed east? Well, for the next few miles I just let the tears come.

Re-Opening Our Schools in the Time of COVID-19

Re-Opening Our Schools

Since we closed our schools back in March 2020, we have had an ongoing debate as to when and how to re-open our schools. It has been a debate involving economics, health and politics, about the needs of individuals, families, political and ideological needs as well as those of society as a whole.

What to do; what to do?

My proposal is serious, although a bit tongue-in-cheek, as I recognize the impossibility of its being implemented, even on a small scale.

I taught both shop and academic classes in SoCal public junior high/middle schools for some forty years, retiring in 2012. Yes, I do have some idea of classroom conditions in a system which places thirty-five to forty teenagers in a room with a teacher for about an hour per class five or six times a day.

Class Size

My History and English classes usually held thirty-six to forty students. Let’s take a class of thirty-six students and “social distance” them. We’ll place them along one wall and the back of the room, imagining that there need be no room between the student and the wall. Assuming six rows with six students in each, we need a class 30 feet by 30 feet; add six feet in the front and one side for teacher and student movement our class needs to be 36 feet by 36 feet = 1,296 square feet/a small 3-bedroom house.

If you believe this is doable, I suggest you go to your child’s school and measure your child’s classroom(s). If your child’s classes have more or fewer students, mark the floor with blocks or legos or tape, lay out student positions, six feet apart and then allow room for the teacher, any aides and movement into, out of, and within the room. See what you come up with.

Air and Water

Does your child’s classroom have good ventilation: door(s), windows that open for cross ventilation or any ventilation at all? How about the heating/air-conditioning system, is it adequate?

Does the classroom have a sink for washing hands? If not, how about the toilet facilities? Check them out. Are they adequate and clean? Would you use them? If not, your child shouldn’t have to either.


There are many other things I could touch on here: movement between classes, lunch, PE, choir and band, arrival and departure, recess/nutrition, custodial services, finances (in a contracting economy), but I’ll leave those for later. After all, you have an imagination — use it.


President Trump and Secretary of Education DeVos and other public figures are pushing for schools to re-open, regardless of the current pandemic.

They are correct in that we need to educate our children. We also need to care for (babysit them) so that their parents can go back to work. If you do not believe that childcare is a function of our educational system, you need to get real and open your eyes; perhaps, you can listen to those parents who cannot go to work because they have young children to tend.

OK, to the nitty-gritty. Our physical facilities (schools) are inadequate to meet the needs for the social distancing of our students and staff. So, let’s forget about social distancing — just send them back to school.

Sanitary facilities are inadequate, so, forget about them (after all, we’ve been doing so for decades) and give our kids their own bottles of sanitizer and hand wipes.

To make sure that things are okay, let’s have our political leaders send their children to our local public schools. After all, if it’s safe for our kids, it’s safe for theirs.


And, let’s make sure that those among us who refuse to wear masks send their children to school without masks and have them enrolled in classes with teachers who share their beliefs. Maybe, they can get jobs as substitute teachers for those teachers who are in high-risk categories or who simply want to be safe?

The rest of us can keep our kids at home and have them attend online classes until this emergency is over.

Child care? Why worry? How about we re-write parental responsibility laws so that parents can leave their underage children at home alone. That way the parents can go to work and get our economy working again. Maybe, we should re-write our child labor laws so kids could go to work rather than go to school.

How old does one have to be to flip burgers or operate cash registers with pictures for buttons? Place kids in jobs for unskilled labor that usually go to immigrants because we don’t want to go to fill low wage, high labor jobs. Childcare will be taken care of and we won’t have to worry about having those kids in school and fewer immigrants. Win-Win-Win.


Like I said, a bit tongue-in-cheek, but we really need to think and plan this re-opening before we send our children and teachers back to school. They are our future (as well as our present).


COVID-19 and us — 6.12.20

A Few, Not So Random, Thoughts on COVID-19, the Police and School

Yes, I’m going to keep wearing my mask while I’m in public and around people. If I get seriously ill, my wife is in trouble because her health issues mandate 24-hour care. If she gets gets COVID-19, she probably won’t survive.

This summer, we stay home and wear a mask in public. And, if you don’t wear one, STAY AWAY!

The Police

I believe that the police, or someone who performs their functions, are a necessary evil.

Given the above, de-funding the police will not accomplish anything positive. Are reforms necessary? Yes, most certainly.

What Reforms?

I’d like to propose two reforms.

First, there is a need to better screen those we recruit and train to be members of our police departments. We need to make sure that those who become policemen, and policewomen, are primarily, if not exclusively, interested in helping people. Those who, for whatever reasons, need to bully people must be weeded out. We must screen out those who are inclined to throw around their authority and hide behind its badge and who lie to cover up their mistakes.

Think lying is not a problem facing our police departments? Look first at the videos currently circulating on the internet, and then think of how many times your friends complained about a run-in with the police in which they claimed the police lied about what they did. (I would imagine most of us know someone who was given a traffic ticket they didn’t deserve because the traffic cop lied. Maybe, it’s happened to you. Did the cop actually lie? If the cop lied about something small like a u-turn, missed stop sign, unsafe lane change, what would stop him/her from lying about an assault or firing a weapon?)

We need honest police who believe that violence is a last resort, not a first response.


Second, we must de-militarize our police departments. Police departments are not armies and police are not soldiers. The primary purpose of the police is to protect a community and its people. The primary purpose of an army is to, using extreme violence, destroy an opposing army.

When a police department becomes an army, the people it is supposed to protect become the enemy. If you doubt this, look at any recent, or not so recent, video of police behavior at rallies in which people are exercising their rights to assemble and protest. Yes, like the right to bear arms, the right to protest is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

And, maybe, we should give the police a chance to become members of the community they are hired to protect. How about we subsidize their purchase of housing in the cities they work. Beginning officers aren’t going to be able to afford to live in high priced cities like San Francisco or Newport Beach. If they lived among those they policed, might they better identify with those they came into contact with? And, again maybe, have them park their cars and walk around the neighborhoods they patrol. Once or twice (or, maybe, more often) a year knock on people’s doors, introduce themselves and ask about the community. Make the police us and not them.


Ghads, the more I think about making schools ready for the 2020-2021 school year, the more I want to laugh or cry.

Social distancing? Take a class of forty students and set it up for social distancing and you have a class of fewer than twenty. If you give teachers the same 240 students, they must now teach twelve classes. (No, this is not a fantasy. During most of my forty year career, my classes had 35-40 students and I taught six classes each day.)

More classes? Or, shorter classes but teachers are still responsible for students learning the same material? Students coming to school every other day? On-line school on the other days?

Do you know any teachers who are looking forward to teaching under COVID-19 conditions next year? How about, do you know any teachers who have just retired and are breathing a sigh of extreme relief?

How about, do you know any teachers who are considering early retirement because they, belatedly, see what is coming?

Remember, the economy tanked and tax receipts will be down, school budgets will be down; teachers will get fewer supplies and salaries and benefits may, will, be re-negotiated.

More work, lower salary — they all have college degrees; do you think many of them may look for work in some other profession?

Can you imagine being a newbie, first-year teacher, just beginning his or her career under these conditions? I can and still cannot decide whether to laugh or cry.

California State Department of Education

Cal-Ed recently published a guide on how to open schools in the Age of COVID-19. What’s in it? A lot of educational and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. Don’t believe me? Read it yourself.

In essence it says local districts are responsible for everything, reasonably practical or not, with no realistic how-tos.

Typical response like Donald John: I take no responsibility; handle it at the local level. I imagine it will devolve to individual schools and teachers, like most things educational do. They have no real authority but have all of the responsibility and will take all of the blame when (not if, in my humble opinion) things don’t work out.

My take: by October everyone gives up and things go back to the way they were last October (pre-COVID-19), come heck, high water, illness and death.

COVID-19 and us — 5.17.20


Well, here we are in the middle of May and the novel coronavirus is still with us. Tens of thousands are getting it for the first time and some are getting it for the second (or third?) time. Thousands are dying of it every single day.


In fact, more than a thousand are dying of coronavirus in the United States every day. As I am writing this, Johns Hopkins University says there have been 89,399 deaths in this country. At the current rate we’ll be well over 100,000 deaths before June.

As America begins to re-open without a vaccine for the coronavirus the number of cases will probably rise. People who have been cooped up in their homes and apartments and not exposed to the virus will come into contact with others who have the virus (but not the symptoms). The virus will spread. The more people come into contact with others, the faster the spread.

One sees the videos of people crowded into restaurants and bars, without facemasks, and wonders who among them have the virus. There’s no “V” on the foreheads of those infected. You just can’t tell — it’s a crapshoot. Take your chances; get infected and take it back to your wife and kids (significant other, roommate, parents, etc.).


They think it won’t (can’t) happen to them. Hey, less than one-half of one percent of the people in the US have COVID-19. Odds are they won’t get it.

Well, that’s not quite the case. Only 1.5 million people have been hospitalized or tested positive for the virus. With the limited testing we have there’s no telling how many people actually have the virus and are capable of spreading it to infect others.

But, let us go ahead and use the 1.5 million figure. That’s about one of every two hundred people in this country. How many people do you come in contact with each day you go and eat in a restaurant, drink in a bar or sit in a salon, hairdresser or barbershop? Five, ten, fifteen, more?

How about we say ten? After twenty days, you’ve come in contact with two hundred people. What are the odds now?

You’re a barber and cut the hair of twenty people a day, none of whom wear masks; in ten days you’ve come in close contact with two hundred people. Of course, there are two other barbers in the shop and they also cut people’s hair. How many people, in total, are you in close contact with in our large and roomy barbershops.

Nail salons. My wife typically spends an hour to an hour and a half getting her nails, fingers and toes, done. The same at her hair stylist. Talk about close contact.

How many people a day does a bartender, supermarket checker, factory worker, coffee shop/sandwich shop employee come into contact with?


Perhaps, we should consider schools — elementary and secondary.

During my teaching career, my classes averaged thirty-five to forty students each. Not bad huh? Well, I taught six classes each day and it’s not much different today in middle/junior and senior high school.

You want schools to re-open? Deal with those numbers.

Schools — Thinking about next year

Schools — During my last decade of teaching, one of my classrooms was in a “temporary” structure. It was the kind of pre-fab you see dotting campuses all across SoCal.

I was teaching 7th grade History in that room. In terms of the number of students that meant forty desks with class sizes ranging from thirty-six to forty-two. Yes, forty-two with a couple of kids sitting in chairs until class schedule adjustments could be made to get the number back down to forty.

There wasn’t much room to move around, less than a desk’s width between rows, the last desks in the rows hard against the back wall. The room also included a teacher’s desk and room to enter (via the one door) and a half dozen free feet in the front of the class to get from the entry to the rows of desks and room for the teacher to move across the room and use the whiteboard.

COVID-19 spacing

Now, let’s assume that we take out the teacher’s desk and add eight desks to the room. That makes forty-eight student desks and very little room in which to move around. If we take out half of the desks, we will get about four and a half feet between students.

Since I cannot say that I remember the exact dimensions of that classroom, let us say that twenty-four desks, evenly spaced, actually gives us six feet between students and adequate room for the teacher to conduct ordinary instruction and other class business. We can now use that classroom, and others of similar size throughout the state, for teaching in a “social-distanced” educational environment. (My wife’s classroom in Santa Ana had a similar square footage with a like number of students.)

What does this mean?

If teachers have similar student loads to their pre-COVID-19 classes (total number of students for whom they are responsible), a typical middle/junior/senior high teacher (five or six classes, 200-240 students) will now have to teach eight to ten classes.

  • Ten classes per day?
  • Shorter classes and/or longer days?
  • Staggered, alternate day, schedules?
  • Hiring more teachers?
  • Building more classrooms?

How about K-6 classes where teachers have the same students all day long? They have similar size problems. When you space the students out, you decrease the number of students per teacher and class.

Do you now cut the classroom hours and have the teachers teach one group in the morning and another in the afternoon? You both increase the number of hours the teacher teaches and decrease the number of instructional hours for the students. Or, perhaps you introduce staggered/alternate day schedules, which also cuts the number of instructional hours for the students.

Of course, you could build more classrooms and hire more teachers.

This means more money: construction, salaries, health benefits.

No, I haven’t forgotten the hit we’ve taken to our economy with the shutdown and loss of employment — this means decreased tax revenues and school district budgets.


Donald John wants schools to re-open next month; Gavin thinks maybe July/August. Seriously? When are we going to have public discussions about the mechanics and financing of it all? Or are we just going to muddle through, schedule things as we did last year and see what happens?

If this doesn’t give you enough concerns, walk over to your child’s school and imagine it in a social-distanced world (at least, for next year).

Oh, yeah, almost forgot, we’ll also have to increase hours for classified employees in order to keep deep cleaning the schools — or do you think current standards are good enough?

And, how about pre-school?

Not scared yet? Think IEPs.