THE VILLAGE TIMES
Independence Village of Olde Raleigh Resident Newsletter
Meet Fox Johnston and Marilyn Morgan
by Pat Simpson
“I was born Tod,” says Fox Johnston, and after having my name decided and rearranged for me by two fathers, the biological and the stepfather, I eventually took control of my names and translated Tod from the Scotch language into Fox. My great grandfather was from Scotland but I was not named after him.
“I was from a working-class family. I didn’t want to be anything specific while growing up – I just wanted to fly. But my family was not supportive of this when I joined ROTC in junior high school.
“Not much support from family with regard school and career path. I did join ROTC and probably would have ended up in the military if I had not lost my sight in high school. One of the best things my stepfather did for me was get me started in Martial Arts at age seven. I did practice for ten years or so but I was a black belt in three years, the youngest in the State of Florida. By the time I was done, I had a 2nd degree black belt in Yoshukai Karate and a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu. This training had a large impact on my life.
“I was born in Maine but I grew up in Florida’s Vero Beach. It was there, while still in high school some 38 years ago, that I lost my vision due to an accidental shooting incident. I consider myself very fortunate because the bullet missed my brain by just a centimeter. Becoming visually impaired was life changing to be sure, but I bounced back very quickly,” says Fox. “Since then I have had an amazing life and experiences.”
“I finished school and left Vero Beach at age 18. Then I went to blind rehab in Daytona, Florida for one year. I then moved to Miami for two years at Miami Junior College, and then to massage school in Florida where I earned my state-certified massage license. I specialized in neuromuscular, chiropractic and doctor-ordered massage therapy. All told, I spent six years in Miami: from 1986 to 1992. Going blind has not changed the big picture of my life, just the small details of how to do certain things.
(Note: Fox is not the first blind masseur: the first is said to be the 8th-century Buddhist monk Jianzhen, who practiced the treatment after losing his sight during old age. There are currently over 100,000 blind masseurs in modern-day China. It is thought that the blind are hyper-sensitive: they have an unusual or increased sensitivity to touch.)
“When I moved to Raleigh in 1994, I suffered another accident: I fell off the back of the moving truck and broke my right arm in five places. This ended my massage career.
“What to do?
“Having an interest in psychology, I went back to school, earning an AA degree with psychology as focus. I began studying Buddhism sometime after the AA degree. I have been studying/practicing Buddhist’s core principles since 2004. It is more the sequence of martial arts, psychology and Buddhist practice that I am now primarily focused on heart, body, and mind.
* * *
Marilyn Morgan was born with the last name of Vosburg. Like Fox, her family was “re-arranged” when she was six years old. She was adopted by her uncle and his family of whom she now thinks of as her father, mother, and siblings.
“I had two brothers and one sister,” says Marilyn. “And we lived in a little town 25 miles southwest of Boston known as Sharon, Massachusetts. “I grew up playing kickball and other ball games with my brother who was the same age as me and all his friends and the neighborhood kids. I was also in the Girl Scouts and spent five summers at the Vineyard Sailing Camp on Martha’s Vineyard.
“I graduated from Sharon High School in 1973. I always wanted to be a nurse. I flunked out on one of the core courses my first try with a grade of C minus. (I needed a C or higher.) But I repeated the courses at summer school and ultimately graduated from Boston University School of Nursing. I went to Duke University to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree.”
“After working in many hospitals and settings, I spent 15 years as a nurse at Rex Hospital. I also worked for hospice in Henderson, NC servicing most of northeastern NC. Then I became a teacher myself, teaching nursing at Johnston Community College in Smithfield, NC until I retired in 2019.
You may ask: “So how did Fox and Marilyn first meet?”
Well, what began from humble beginnings at a chance meeting in a Harris Teeter store blossomed into a long-lasting romance. When they first met, Fox was engaged to someone else and Marilyn had been stuck in a “bad marriage” for eleven years. The foursome became friends until Fox’s fiancé split. Marilyn decided to get a divorce, rather than stay married and be miserable.
In 2008, after the smoke had cleared and eleven years had passed, Fox and Marilyn found themselves getting married in Florida. “We even had a piper at the wedding!” evoked Marilyn. “Much to the pastor’s surprise,” added Fox, “we added a ‘vow of laughter’ to our wedding vows – because we love to laugh with each other. We love to take walks and we are both readers: we read material on our own as well as together.”
“We try to do some exercise every day,” says Marilyn, “and we like fine dining. I drive, so we go to all kinds of restaurants from the Fearrington House Restaurant in nearby Pittsboro to Shorty’s Hot Dogs in Wake Forest.
“What’s really special about our relationship is that we complement each other, each helping the other to overcome our weaknesses. We consider our commitment to each other sacred and work hard to make this union an enduring relationship.”
Sidebar: Although Fox has a white cane, he does not have a seeing-eye dog. But, by using WAY-modern technology he can “see” with Microsoft’s “Seeing-AI” App on his iPhone. Seeing AI is a free Microsoft app for those who are blind or who have low vision. This camera app uses “channels,” or modes, to read printed text, currency, and verbally describe physical objects, product labels and colors. Seeing AI will soon support five more languages: Dutch, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.
Fox says: “I can use Seeing AI to go shopping (it reads bar codes aloud), identify currency bills when paying with cash, recognize friends, and describe people and the scene around me. Among many other things it can read hand-writing; I even used it to read all of the Village Times newsletters online!”
One Second – by Marilyn Morgan
On July 17th, 2008 at 10:45 a.m. the intersection of New Hope and Buffalo Road in Raleigh, North Carolina, a red Jeep missed altering my life by a second of time. It was pure instinct that took over and drove the car, or rather slowed the car enough to prevent the broadside collision. It wasn’t until the next intersection, at the red light, that the full impact of what had not occurred, hit me. It was then that Fox said, “I know it had to be serious when you weren’t swearing at him.”
Every time I drive through that intersection, I think about how one second can change the course of one’s life, and death – I think about death and how we never really know.
Three days at Sea with Hazel – by Carol Armstrong
In 1954 I was nine years old, the Navy changed my father’s assignment from Great Lakes, Illinois, to Oslo, Norway.
In late September, my father packed our car with our luggage, and a steamer trunk that held the bare necessities for living until we could settle in Oslo and retrieve our household goods. He drove to Washington D.C. To complete the paperwork for his assignment, then to New York City to check into a hotel and wait for us to arrive.
My mother took my two brothers and me on the train from Chicago to New York City. My father met us there and took us to the hotel. The next day we took a ferry to Staten Island and boarded the Navy troop transport ship that would take us, our car, and the steamer trunk to Bremerhaven, Germany.
We sailed for Germany the first week of October. The first couple of days were spent learning our way around the ship and how to do things when the floor kept moving. Then, on the third day, the floor started moving a lot more. The ship sailed into Hurricane Hazel, which was making its way north in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship spent next three days rolling back and forth in the wind and waves, tilting the floor 45 degrees in each direction.
We could not go out the deck; we would have been blown or thrown overboard. When we tried to play a game on a table, the cards or game pieces would slide off the table. My brothers and I find a way amuse ourselves. We sat on the floor on one side of our cabin, and when the ship rolled in each direction, we lifted our feet and slid across the floor to the other side of the cabin. Then we turned around, waited until the ship rolled back, and slid back across the floor.
Meals were a bit of a challenge during the storm. We had to go down one floor to the dining room. Sailors were posted every few feet along the stairs to hand us up and down so we would not fall.
In the dining room, the chairs were secured to the floor with steel cables under the seats. Each table had a 1-inch-high metal rim around the edge. The tablecloths were dampened so that the dishes would not slide across the tables. No soup was served during the storm.
I experienced being mildly seasick, and did not eat anything but saltine crackers and water for several meals during the storm.
My father thought he would have a nice 11-day vacation on the ship. But… as soon as he boarded, the captain told him that he was needed to serve as the safety officer in uniform for the whole trip. He found himself trying to keep everyone safe during the storm. And he had to write reports about a few broken bones, cuts and bruises, and smashed furniture (like the piano that slid across a lounge) that happened in the three days of the storm.
It was a relief for all of us to get to Germany safe and sound, retrieve the car and the steamer trunk, and continue our journey to Oslo.
What It means to be Southern – by Margie Lewin
I lived in the South most of my life so a lot of these quotes are familiar:
- To be Southern means to have spent a lot of your childhood barefoot.
- To be Southern is talking slower, telling stories and setting an extra place at the table.
- It’s resilience, strength, power and inspiration; it’s appreciation, gratitude and humility.
- It means to tell it like it is, to not shy away from your truth — to keep your fire but remain classy while doing it.
- Being born in the south give you a spark for life; you never seem to meet a stranger.
- In the South there is such an encouragement to gather together. This is where stories, songs and recipes are shared.
- We are haunted. We are spiritual. We are Sinners and Saints. We are drunkards and preachers. We create beautiful pieces of art and wonderful music.
We all define it differently, but the message is the same.
Far From Home – by Richard Smalto
The engine of my Cessna Sky Catcher faltered. I looked at the altimeter. We were going to crash. I knew there were several islands below us, on which one of them we could crash land. The only trouble was they were supposed to be uninhabited. Not much else was known about them.
A wreck from the crash landing, our plane was partially submerged in water and we had ended up on an island that not only looked uninhabited it looked barren and hostile. The passenger in the plane when we crashed was a headstrong young woman who thought we could have avoided it if I knew what I was doing.
On the plane, I had a flare and a first aid kit that could be used for survival but it did not bode well for me despite that because the young woman who was on the plane was not only headstrong, she was opinionated which, of course meant, as captain of the flight, I should have been better prepared.
I reminded her that on a remote island, four of the five things essential for survival could not be brought with us on the plane before it crashed; that we did have the one thing we should have which was a flare that could be used as a signal to help someone find you when you are in trouble or you are lost. And even though the batteries to our cell phones were dead I said we should leave them on until we were certain we were alone on the island. Telling her that the bottled water we had would not last long I was going to search for more of it and would build a shelter from wood I intended to gather while looking for it.
We had to build a fire and search for food but the fire couldn’t be built until I had gathered some brush – also that could be ignited by the lens from my glasses because the matches we had were wet from the ocean water we landed in when we crashed. Finding food we could eat could also wait because we had snacks we brought with us before we began our flight.
Miraculously, ten days later, after using our skills to survive, we were rescued by a fishing boat that saw the flare I used to signal them when they appeared on the horizon close to the body of land that had been our abode.
A Poetic Reverie – by Signe Marwede
I wander alone toward the beautiful church
Past the old and moss-covered stone fences
Soon I stand by my Love’s grave
Thoughts and memories I hold within me
How did they pass, those beautiful years?
The wind so softly dries away the tears.
A white-painted bench has been put out this year
I find a piece there and so quietly
So many dear ones in graves around
It was here my faithful husband wanted to be
The tree-lined road ends and the busy road starts
To the south paradise we shared once
So much to be thankful for
He said “we have such good memories”!
But where will life without him go?
How much further till I find the road?
When will tears give way to sun and smiles?
Will I see you again in your new realm?
The Uber Ride from Hell – by Phyllis Woolley
First, I need to make two statements.
- I am a strong advocate for the disabled who work in order to support themselves and their families!
- I am blessed to have a Health Insurance plan that will pay for a certain number of Uber rides to a doctor and home per year.
With that said, I recently used my health benefit for a trip to and home from the doctor where I had my pacemaker checked. I had a young lady take me to the doctor. Then I called for a ride back to the Senior Facility where I live. The instructions were to pick me up at the front door of the building.
I am 79 years old and use a rollator to enable me to walk without falling. I had a pleasant visit and hurried downstairs to meet my ride. I got a phone call from a gentleman who said,
“Mrs. Woolley? My sister was supposed to pick you up, but she isn’t feeling well. I am here in the parking lot.”
I was standing in front of the building where I was supposed to be. I am usually a quick responder, but all I could do was think, “Why would he go to the parking lot? If I were in the parking lot, I would probably have a car and wouldn’t need an Uber ride!” I shook my head a little and said, “I’m in front of the building where I am supposed to be waiting.” I sat down on a nearby bench and waited.
Within a few minutes a tan van pulled up. I stood up, took hold of my rollator and walked toward the back door of the van. The door slid open. As the door opened, I just stood there in disbelief. I mistakenly assumed that the driver would get out and assist me with lifting the rollator into his vehicle.
He said, “Oh, I didn’t know you would need help. I can’t get out of my car. I can’t walk.”
I should have realized that immediately because a large wheel chair filled most of the back of the van. Once again, I am speechless for a couple minutes. “I’m not sure I can lift this rollator to get it in the back!” I mumbled.
He turned his head to the back and said, “Why don’t you ask that lady sitting on the bench to help you?”
“Because I don’t know her!” I snapped back. After several minutes of maneuvering, I managed to get my rollator squeezed in behind his wheel chair. I looked at the seat where I might have sat, but there were several things already taking the space.
“I think you’ll have to sit in the front seat,” he said. I sighed and took the handle and opened the door. (I wasn’t exactly sighing. I was breathing heavily from lifting the rollator and getting it into the back.) Okay, it took a few minutes for my brain and my eyes to work in sync to figure out what I was seeing. The vehicle had been corrected so the disabled driver could drive without using his feet. The passenger seat was full of bags of trash, as was the floorboard. “You can throw those bags in the back and hop in.” He was quite calm as if everything was perfectly normal. I can only think that it couldn’t get any worse. WRONG!! I settled myself into the seat, and the van started rolling. “Hold on, I can’t find my seat belt.” I was moving around and reaching for the seatbelt. “Oh!” he said, “I’m sorry, the police had to cut my seat belt because the last lady who rode in here got caught in it.
“Oh my God, I’m going to die!” was the only thought I could muster at first. Then I had to debate myself if I should jump from the vehicle, but I knew I couldn’t get my rollator out with me. If I fell, I not only couldn’t get up by myself, I wouldn’t be able to walk but about 10 feet without help. I laid my throbbing head against the seat and wondered if my kids would bury me here in North Carolina or take me back to Louisville. We had discussed it, but hadn’t made a final decision.
One might think the end of this story would be that we made it safely back to the building. Not a chance of a snowball in hell!
It was in the low nineties outside and he had the passenger window down. “Could you please put the window up, and turn on the air?” I pleaded.
“I’m sorry”, he said. “It won’t roll up. I gotta get that and the seat belt fixed. The air doesn’t work very well as hot as it is outside.” I settled down in the seat and prepared to die.
So, I am not done! After five or six minutes, he turned on the radio. Yes, much to my dismay, it worked quite well. Then he began to sing “Country Roads” with the radio. I was looking straight ahead. “My dream is to by a small bar and have Karaoke every night,” he said and began singing again. The song changed and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” started to play. I wanted to mercifully advise him to keep his day job.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Harris Teeter. “Please God, just a couple more minutes,” I prayed. As soon as the vehicle stopped in front of our building, I immediately opened the door, got out and waited for the back door to slide open. The thought occurred to me to kiss the ground, but I reminded myself again that I wouldn’t be able to get up unassisted. I yanked my rollator from the vehicle and hurried through the doors. I was going straight to the activity room to get a cold coke. “Now who was it who said they had a bottle of rum in their room?”
UPDATE – two days ago I received a call from my insurance company and was told that Uber was addressing the issues and would be calling me. I can hardly wait!
Click – by Frank Howes
Seven clicks, and my Abilify, a mood stabilizer, is loaded into my pill box.
Click, click, click, click, click, click, click. My Finasteride is loaded.
Fourteen more clicks and my Lamotrigine is loaded.
Then my propranolol, my tamsulosin, Tylenol, and multivitamin.
A total of seventy clicks, and another week has passed.
Where did it go? After all, it was just yesterday that I filled this darn box. At least it seems that way.
My pill box has become the mile marker in my life. The minutes slip by so unobtrusively that I don’t notice them. The hours are sneaky too. And the days, the days creep past like a cat stalking its prey. Hardly noticeable. But the weeks, I notice the weeks. All because of this damnable pill box.
I think I’ll hire one of those pill dispensing services to fill my pill box. Then I won’t notice how quickly the weeks are slipping past. It would almost be worth two hundred dollars a month to be oblivious of the passing of time. Almost. Except that then I would be counting the years, instead of the weeks. And the weeks would be slipping past like the minutes, the hours and the days. And I really don’t want that to happen. I want to see and feel the weekly mile marker, to not lose sight of the elusive passing of time, to not lose sight of the passing of my life.
I’m Looking for my Keys! – by Janice Sapp
This morning? Primarily my car/house keys (aggravating), but other keys as well.
What is the key (and where can I find it?) to downsizing? – to getting things out of storage and selling furniture that I can no longer use?
What is the key to making my studio homey? It does depend on: finding my car/house keys to drive storage to the storage bins and get my things moved out and sold! Making my sweet pad homey and cozy, a nest of sorts.
What is the key……? (To be continued.)