Catherine Kaltner (pk’s Catherine the Great), Friend & Patron
Catherine was the widow of a WWI veteran! She suffered from polio at age two: one of the last of the living polio cripples, they disappeared around WWII. Notice in her walking picture, her left leg is doing 90% of the work, her right leg is just a twig, working along with the cane as another outrigger, not as a leg. But she got around: wouldn’t use a walker until past age 95! Passed at 96.
But she was no longer Catherine by then, didn’t even know who I (or anyone else) was!
Catherine is one of the few in this group that never followed support with betrayal.
I’ll also discuss how a male’s dependence of females is not normal, not normally respected, but has important precedents: Jesus of the apocryphal gospels for example. I’ll link to a discussion of how Jesus’ female supporters joined the male disciples in denying him once the Roman soldiers were prowling. It’s amazing how little of Christian literature churches pass on to congregation: the priests know, some of them, but they won’t tell; or, the pious simply won’t hear, prefer to support their “beliefs” with fiction.
I’ll string in some K. modules, then edit, streamline, delete repetitions, link images …
I’ve known Catherine since she was eighty-two, thirty years older than I the whole way.
Catherine had polio when she was one: that’s ninety-three crippled years.
People watch her walk with amazement.
Everyone wants to give her a hug.
I’m not the only one who does.
If you know Florida you know that the population “doubles” for the season and “halves” for the rest of the year. I no longer make any effort to know who comes and goes to and from the trailer park for the winter months. I made an exception the other day when Catherine told me that a “snowbird” had taken her picture. Tracking him down was how I got the print for scanning.
A day or two later she told me the following story. She’s walking in the road. She hears a truck.
She anchors herself, smiles, and is ready to apologize for impeding traffic, as the trucks’s driver-side window is lowered.
is crooned to her from above the red steel.
(The last time I drove up next to her, she anchored her self on her cane the best she could to the side of the road, smiled as I unrolled the window, and said, “I’m sorry,” as though she should scurry from the cars rather than have the cars avoid a very blind and mostly deaf old darling.
Notice: Not only could she not see me: neither did she know who I was! (Till I spoke.))
Catherine the Great
1908 09 20 to 2004 10 05
Catherine a couple of birthdays into her nineties
2004 10 05
Catherine reached ninety-six last month.
She’s not well now, but is back home, assisted by pk, assisted by Good Shepherd Hospice.
2004 10 05, 9:30 PM
She’s gone. Peacefully. She was laughing and smiling just the other day, knowing it was coming.
Damn me, I encouraged her to live too long, kept hoping her degeneration was reversible. She knew I needed her, never asked me to pull the plug: something we’d long agreed to do, irrespective of the law or public opinion.
2004 10 05
Catherine is a very private person. There are things I haven’t told (pk having long offered himself as a public person) because she’s hasn’t wanted them told. Now that she is ill: terminally, I am assured, I may soon tell some of it anyway.
One thing I announce while she’s still here: Catherine has been pk’s sole patron since 1990. pk has never been able to work without patronage. Catherine has been it: alone: without help.
I also reveal that Catherine has been a silent partner in PKImaging.com all along. That is, without her support, the company could not have formed.
2004 11 14
I’ll be sharing more Catherine stories now that she’s dead. I honored her wishes for privacy while she lived; now I’ll honor my own wishes and my sense of right. Therefore this and other sections mentioning Catherine will be rewritten, reordered.
I tell how we met: it’s significant for the whole relationship. In 1989 I was giving the public history and ecology tours in Highlands Hammock State Park. I was told that a baby queen palm was slated for destruction: an plant alien to the county and to the park. Then I noticed another baby queen. Having been assigned a community service worker as my personal slave, we uprooted the queens and trucked them to my trailer park, planted them in front of my travel trailer, along with a baby live oak I’d bought at the park for $1. We were watering and fertilizing the planting holes when an old woman stopped, holding onto her cane. Did I know anything about fertilizer, she wanted to know. She had a bottlebrush tree in sad shape. She pointed down the road. Right away I knew who she was because I had been assigned to knock on her door to enlist her for the tenants’ inquiry committee, looking into how many laws the landlord was breaking as he screwed us. Catherine Kaltner. She’d been out of state at the time of my canvas. I was seeing her for the first time.
Catherine’s bottlebrush tree, before Catherine’s house
“Sure,” I said, jumped on my bike with the fertilizer, and was back before she quite realized that I’d fielded the question and dealt with the implicit request. Let me add that that bottlebrush tree was doing dandy until our four hurricanes this year: now it’s split: and a little ragged. But for the fifteen years since the above incident and now, that tree has flourished: as did our friendship. I’ll also add that that bottlebrush tree has housed a community of bromeliads also rescued from Highlands Hammock: if they fall in a storm, they die. I don’t pick them, but I do pick them up, stick them somewhere outside the park. Our home is now covered with bromeliads, my studio also. I’ll also add that I now realize that the park’s policty with regard to aliens is far clearer in the policy than in the practice: if I’d left those queen palms alone I don’t doubt that they’d still be thriving right where they’d been born! (I’ve told elsewhere here how my own efforts with weeds in the park received little backing. Whatever I pulled just grew back: no follow up.)
Some time later I returned to my trailer after a storm and realized that I’d left the roof vent open: just enough for rain to have wet my precious new Yamaha Y22 synthesizer. What to do? I needed to dry it inside as well as out: if it wasn’t already too late. I knocked at Catherine’s door for the second time. This time she was home. Did she have a hair dryer I could borrow for a few minutes. She did. (Not that it saved my mother board, which I replaced.)
A week or two after that I was riding my Suzuki past Sebring Gardens’ resident Tom’s place. Catherine was sitting with him on his patio. They waved. I motored back and visited. Another week or two later I was on the Suzi going past Catherine’s. She and Tom were on her patio. They waved, I visited.
I said that I was looking forward to the French Open, being televised the following morning. “Oh, tennis,” Catherine said. She too was going to watch it.
Good gracious! a woman who watched tennis?! I asked her if she wanted to watch it together.
That morning I entered Catherine’s home for the first time. I entered it again the next morning for the rest of that weekend’s broadcast tennis. And I never again left for long. I would soon learn that very few people had ever entered that door in the seven or so years she had then been widowed. Catherine entertained on the patio; she didn’t invite people in.
(Together, we still invited very few people in: but some: when my sister visited, my son … a rare dinner for friends …) (Her husband, Jack Kaltner, was a champion chess player and had hosted matches in their mobile home. She would receive the wives on the patio.)
Now here’s the point of the story. I had just been to the dentist for an extraction. The dental assistant had taken my blood pressure, then taken it again. I absolutely loath having my blood pressure taken: hurts like hell. She did it twice. Then she wanted the doctor to take it. She seemed ready to have a heart attack. The doctor told me my blood pressure was two hundred something over one-eighty. Those numbers meant nothing to me. I needed to consult with a doctor, the dentist explained. I’d need to take blood pressure medication for the rest of my life.
I told the story to Catherine: probably on our second day of tennis. Catherine asked what the doctor said. “What doctor? I don’t have any doctor! I don’t have any money!”
Catherine left the room. She came back, handed me an envelope. She said, “Don’t look inside until you get home. No one knows I have that. No one needs to know where you got it. Take it. Use it. Forget about it. You owe me nothing.”
There were four one hundred dollar bills inside the envelope!
Now: Catherine has been the best friend I’ve ever had. “Soul mates” a nurse’s aid recently offered. No. Not at all. We were not compatible intellectually or spiritually. I tried to tell her about certain things, read her certain things. Nothing took. We had no common intellectual or spiritual ground: not in art, not in religion, not in philosophy, not in learning, not in interests. I cooked gourmet food for her for fifteen years, but Catherine ate to live, not to enjoy. On our second day watching the tennis together I didn’t think it was the right time to tell her what I thought of doctors: though I’ve told her, and we’ve agreed, plenty of times since.
Catherine was eighty-two at the time and had been injured by doctors for eighty of those years. Nevertheless, I felt that her gift obligated me to see a doctor at least once. Maybe I could get a lifetime’s prescription and would never need to go again.
I’ll insert here that the doctor told me that I clearly had a gross genetic disposition toward high blood pressure but also a high genetic resistance to that high blood pressure. The doctor found no existing damage. Medication since has lowered it on occasion to like one-eighty over ninety-five: pretty good for me. In any case, I’m still alive, no strokes that I know of: and, for all I (or anyone) know(s), I’d still have been just fine if I’d never seen the doctor in the first place!
I’ll also insert that Catherine didn’t seem to follow the tennis very knowledgably. I wound up having to explain the most basic rules: about the servies, about the lines; what was a “fault,” what “out” meant … So then I was all the more flattered that she was watching with me. Maybe she had some sort of a friendship as a motive. If so, it worked.
Anyway: Catherine wanted me to get medical advice. Catherine wanted to pay. Catherine did pay: for the doctor and the medication. (Without that obligation, I’d have used the money to live, to write, to try to get another couple of pieces written.
If I were told I had but six weeks to live, I’d just type a little faster.
Isaac Asimov, author of hundreds of books
2002 12 21
This evening Catherine gave me a pleasure I wasn’t expecting. She asked me to dial a number for her. I stayed on as she picked up the extension. “Happy Birthday, Helen,” she cried when her party answered.
That’s ordinary enough, right? I knew that Helen had been her friend for a long time. After the call she reminded me of details. She’s known Helen since World War II. They worked together at Republic Steel. It started to dawn on me: Helen must have been around for a while too. “She’s ninety-four today,” Catherine explains. Now: old folks wind up in retirement parks, nursing homes: “everybody” is old. So somebody ninety-something may know somebody ninety-something. They may even become friends. But how many ninety-four year olds do you know whose oldest friend is also ninety-four, still kicking, still living alone, and taking care of herself? Boy, they knew how to grow women in Ohio back then.
2004 01 07
A couple of days ago I split Catherine’s file in order to add a story plus comment. Today I take the new material down: at least till I can trust my interpretations. In simple: she’d said her mother had had eight children, then she said twelve. Never mind what I finally figured had to be the newly revealed truth; confirming the material at breakfast today, or trying to, I came up with siblings: not children: her mother had had twelve brothers and sisters, her mother herself making thirteen.
It’s hard to tell a straight story at any age let alone ninety-five plus.
Is Catherine my ideal woman? No. Better. She’s my actual
friend: my other self.
2004 08 09
Catherine is not well. I’m getting lots of bureaucratic runarounds, plenty of double talk, simple falsehoods, incorrect, sterile instructions, and very little help. A couple of weeks ago the ambulance told me that the hospital could help better than them, run more tests. I let them talk me into taking her to the hospital. Only when the hospital released her did I learn that the hospital had run none of the tests promised by the ambulance or requested, through the ambulance, by me. Neither was there any evidence that any messages had been received. “Oh, those tests would be done better by her private doctor.”
But though our communications are less awful with our personal physician than with any other health professionals I’ve had contact with in decades, they’re still not good. Doctors offices are set up to lose most of the message. It’s all the telephone game: you tell the receptionist, the receptionist tells the nurse, the nurse tells the doctor, and back around, till you receive proof positive that no one understood a word you said: unless you said something wholly conventional, predictable. “White bread, white bread, white bread …” That message will not get lost in a series of robots programed to iterate “white bread.”
Last Thursday hospice told me to take her to the hospital, from which she would be admitted to a nursing home where they would try to get her well enough to return home to me. I decided to try to hold out for Monday, today: hoping she’d be better, hoping I’d be able to reach our regular doctor, on vacation every other day this month, if she wasn’t. This morning the doctor’s receptionist told me to take her to the ER. The ER would not receive her, told me that that was the doctor’s business, to put her into a nursing home. So I drove to the doctor’s office. Oh there you are, said the nurse and gave me medication for her that would have helped several weeks ago.
So I put her back in the car, drove back home, carried her into the house, gave her the medicine.
Modern culture is designed to kill us, while patting itself on the back, give itself raises, for how helpful it’s being.
Last January I made an appointment for her. At the appointed time the doctor broke the appointment, refused to treat us, wouldn’t fill the prescriptions we needed: then sent a bill. Should that get his license taken away? Not in a society where the authorities only notice what they wish: and he’s one of the authorities. They help the tame (help kill them); not the indignant: especially not the righteous indignant.
2005 03 08
Wow! Catherine’s section of Knatz.com has gotten its own feedback. fury writes:
I am loving the stories you put up about her: you were right to tell them after she died.
I especially love, “Is Catherine my ideal woman? No. Better. She’s my
actual friend: my other self.” Wonderful.
I hope you will keep writing more of the stories. She seems amazing.
A bit more coming, and the editing.