29 Nov 1983

Dear Mom & Dad,

I didn't write last week because I was waiting to get a letter from you. I got one today, so I will try to write. I only got 3 hours sleep last night.

Yesterday was a hectic day. It seemed like 3 Mondays all crammed into one day. There was one problem after another.

The one good thing that happened yesterday is that we got our 2 telephone poles. Today, they wired the house. Now, all we need is a telephone to plug into the jack on the wall next to my side of the bed. Surely, we will get the phone by Christmas. We will let you know the number as soon as possible. We will rarely call you, because it is so expensive. I enjoyed talking with you at Becky's house but it cost about $36 for 11 minutes. You can call us and talk for three times as long for the same price. Life will sure be easier with a phone, especially when I am on call.

When my beeper goes off, most of the time I have to call rather than go in. In the middle of the night, I have to get up, get dressed, open the garage door, open the garage gate, back the car out, closed the garage door, close the garage gate (both are locked), drive about one mile, go through a gate (showing my ID card), go inside a building where I have to push a button (buzzer) and wait 2-5 minutes for someone to answer the door, show my ID & ask to use the phone, try several times dialing before I make connections. Then if I don't have to drive to the hospital (15 miles), I reverse the whole procedure and go home, back to bed. It takes at least 30 minutes. It is especially bad on cold, rainy nights. With a phone next to the bed, it will take less than 5 minutes and I will be back to sleep. Monday nights are the worst because I am on call for OB and get called 75% of the time. Occasionally, my beeper will go off and I can't understand what is said, so I have to go call just to find out. Sometimes, they just say they paged my beeper by mistake.

If I didn't tell you about the kids going trick or treating, I am sure I wrote Becky about it. I assume you read that letter at Becky's house. If not, let me know, & I will tell you about it. We will never forget the Italian kids that came to our house to trick or treat. Jeannie will tell that story as long as she lives.

I recently had new front disc brakes put on my car. The old ones were working fine, but were making a lot of grinding sounds which had been getting worse over several weeks. I am amazed at how quickly my VW can be fixed here. Anything big like that in Fort Smith took days to get the part. Here, a mechanic picked my car up at the hospital parking lot about 9 AM and had it fixed & back on the parking lot before 4 PM. The cost was 110,000 lire, which I thought was reasonable.

The story about the 19-year-old shot in Fort Smith was in our old neighborhood. We are eager to write someone in the neighborhood to find out who shot him. The boy was adopted. We didn't know anyone in the family but his little sister, who was really sweet. The man who found the body lived across the street from the boy.

On Saturday the 19th, Jeannie & I went with our archeology group to Ercolano (Herculaneum). Since we were with an archeologist, we were able to get into the area that is not open to the public where they are excavating a boat and a lot of skeletons. It was very impressive. The rest of the tour was interesting, but I thought Pompeii was better. Everyone else thought Ercolano was better. I guess it depends on what you are looking for. We took John & Faye with us, then went to a nice restaurant with them for lunch. All the kids were at their house.

From Saturday night at 7:30 to Sunday morning at 9:30, the 4 houses around us didn't have electricity, but we did. We couldn't figure out how it happened. Everyone acted like they were mad at us for having electricity. All our houses get electricity from the same pole.

We had a big crowd at church Sunday a week ago. Every member was there plus the hospital chaplain & his wife. Apparently, they are members of the Christian church. (There is no Christian Church here, so they will probably always be worshipping with us.) They have recently moved here.

As I said on the phone, we had 25 in our house for Thanksgiving dinner. All but one was a member of the church. It was a very pretty day and the kids all played outside as much as they did inside. Everyone was here from about 12:45 to 4:30. It wasn't quite the same as every other Thanksgiving I have had, but it was fun and there was lots of good food. Jeannie made broccoli casserole, but couldn't get Cheeze Whiz with jalapeña peppers. She made yeast rolls from her mother's recipe. She baked 2 hams, one with pineapple glaze and one with brown sugar.

The day before Thanksgiving, a repairman from the base came to fix our oven. He convinced Jeannie it was fixed, but later she discovered it was the same as ever. It needs a new thermostat & we told them that. I wasn't at all surprised that it didn't work since he didn't put in a new thermostat. It was a lot of extra work for Jeannie to cook when she had to keep checking the temperature in the oven and turning it off. Friday I went to the repair shop and told them what I thought about the idiot repairman that they sent out. They are coming next week to put in a new thermostat (-part costs $60). Boy, I will be embarrassed if I'm wrong about the thermostat.


Angelique was sitting in my lap and wanted to write something. She listened to your Christmas tape for the first time today and really enjoyed it.

Last Saturday we went to Caserta where we saw the Royal Palace, built in 1752. Also, we went to a big market. They sold just about everything. It reminded me of a flea market. Jeannie had fun bargaining and spending money. She bought some beautiful brass kerosene lamps. (I broke the globe on one the next day after filling it with kerosene.) We ate lunch at Capua. Caserta is 45 minutes drive from our house. It has a population of 60,000 or so. It looked a lot like downtown Naples, as far as the shops, but without the traffic.

Sunday was so humid, everything in the house felt wet. Fortunately, yesterday & today have been warm enough to open the house for several hours & now everything is dried out again. We will be getting a used dehumidifier soon which I hope will keep the house from rotting. I have spent a lot on books since we got here. I would hate to have any of them ruin so soon.

While Steven was playing with the garden hose outside this afternoon, I asked him what he was doing. He said, "I'm not trying to do anything."

The Cummings are going to the States tomorrow and won't be back till 6 June. They are leaving us their VCR so we can make copies of tapes. Now I have to see how many masters I can round up that we want. I already know of about a dozen & will find others throughout December. Many will be things for the kids like Walt Disney movies.

For the past 3 days the electricity has been going on and off a lot. By the time we light a kerosene lamp and a candle, it will come back on. The kids used to scream when the lights went out. Now they think it is neat.

You better take care of your back.

What is "Foxfire Light" about? Is it showing nationwide or just in Arkansas and Missouri? Jeannie has heard of Janet Dailey, but I haven't. A lot of her stuff gets condensed and put into Good Housekeeping, where Jeannie reads it.

I mailed Grandma's present today. When you see it, you will get a better idea of what our dining table looks like.

We have not yet received any Christmas presents from anyone.

We have not seen Debbie Stevenson.

Why did Grandma have a piece of rib in a jar? Whose was it? What happened to it now?

Procardia is a very good drug for Grandma's heart pain.

Send us an oil painting. Since you have learned to paint with oils, you will find the museums of Europe very interesting.

I hope you get to visit with David Campbell. What else did he see in Naples?

Jeannie seemed to learn slowly in watercolors, but now does a very good job. She had 8 classes. They are over now.

I need to go to bed. I am so tired.

Lots of love,

Michael, Jeannie,
Angelique, & Steven

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