Sunday, December 20, 2020

Back Home. . .

 Jenn came home yesterday.

Thank you all for your prayers.  She is about 90% of her normal ways.  She has basically had no exercise for a month, so even getting up to use the bathroom at night was exhausting.  But it was nice to feel her warmth next to me in bed.  And I'm sure that just being in the bosom of her family's love will go a long way toward completing her healing.

We were talking yesterday, and it seems clear that this has been, by far, the longest we have been apart in 40+ years of marriage.  Back when I was volunteering at Summer Camp every summer, that was eight days at a time.  A couple times, I went to visit my Mom in California by myself, for maybe a bit less than a week.  But this was 17 days; and we were less than a mile apart.

The road ahead is still a long one.  She'll be receiving IV antibiotics at home for another three weeks, and then checking back in for another set of X-rays, etc. while she rebuilds her strength and stamina.

But, My Beloved is home.  I can't begin to tell you how good it is to have her back.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Saga Continues. . .

 Sorry I haven't kept you all up to date.  I keep waiting for a convenient 'break in the action' at which to put things down in electrons, but there's nothing 'convenient' about this. . .

On Wednesday, December 2 (the day after my last post), I took Jenn to the ER.  A little backstory - I, and our kids, were all surprised that Jenn was hit so hard by the virus, whereas I, who have been much less robustly healthy than Jenn over the years, had a pretty mild experience of it.  Of all the possible reasons for this discrepancy, we noted that I have been loading up on vitamins and supplements since before the pandemic appeared.  So, I started giving Jenn the same vitamins and supplements that I was taking, figuring that, at the very least, they'd help moderate the effects of the virus.  But her condition didn't seem to change, and she even spiked a fever, which she hadn't done for the first week's worth of symptoms.  On the 2nd, she woke up at 4:30 AM with an extended coughing fit.  At that point, the realization dawned on me that what we were doing wasn't working, so I bundled her off to the ER.  They swept her away for her intake eval, and they shooed me home (I should note that Jenn packed her cell phone and charger in her purse as we were preparing to leave; good thought, that).

For the first few days, communication was confusing.  She texted me that it was a good thing that I took her in when I did (seems like the disease is going badly), but then also that she was feeling better (seems like things are improving).  I talked with her virtually daily, and her spirits were good, her cough seemed to be improving, and she was talking about coming home soon.  Yay!  Score One for the Good Guys!

Then on Tuesday the 8th (six days after I took her in), she sent a text saying that she finally had a definite diagnosis - she had the COVID, for sure, but she also had a bad case of bacterial pneumonia and sepsis.  What the hell? Sepsis?!?  That's scary as hell. . . and it took them SIX DAYS to figure it out?  Well, no; not really.  Turns out, she had coded for sepsis and pneumonia in her initial intake eval, six days previous, but hadn't bothered to tell that to Jenn - OR ME - for almost a week.  I mean, sure, I'm only her husband, her Durable Power of Attorney, and the one who stands to be widowed if she dies.  So, it's understandable that they wouldn't feel the need to communicate those things to me (that was sarcasm, just to be clear).  So I had a very anxious couple of days.  When I talked to her on Thursday, she felt much better.  The COVID and the sepsis were gone from her body (God is good!), and the pneumonia was on the run.  She was talking about coming home Saturday (the 12th).  On Friday, they were cutting the papers to release her on Saturday, but Friday night, her pain suddenly worsened, and by Saturday noon, it was clear that she wasn't coming home just yet.

Sunday, they did a CAT scan and discovered a sac on fluid on her lung, which was basically the last remnant of the pneumonia, maybe 3-4 inches long and an inch wide.  They weighed their options, including possibly poking a tube into the sac to drain it.  In the end, they decided to switch to a different antibiotic, and see what happens.  When I spoke to her yesterday, her fever was gone, the pain had decreased to the point that she was declining pain-killers (which just means that the pain was manageable, not that it was gone), and her voice was as clear and strong as I'd heard it in weeks.  So it seems a corner is being turned.  But having heard twice already that she'd be coming home soon, I won't believe it until they wheel her up alongside my car, she gets in, and we drive away.  Hopefully, that will happen soon, but at this point, I just want her to get well.

When she does come home, she will still be recuperating for an unspecified length of time, so Christmas stands to be pretty low-key, even if she's home.  And my job, once she's home, will be mainly to manage the chaos level in the house, what with three of our kids, and two grandchildren, living under our roof.

A couple thoughts - our family's experience of the killer virus was mainly pretty benign, except for Jenn.  And her situation seems to have been more about bacteria that she picked up out of the air, than the dreaded COVID itself (6F's husband had a similar experience - he somehow picked up pneumonia along with his order of COVID, so his recovery was more arduous than everyone else's).  I don't know if COVID makes you more vulnerable to stuff like pneumonia and sepsis, but hose of us who only had COVID to deal with, experienced it as something between a heavy cold and a mild flu.

I have not been happy with the communication I've gotten from the hospital (essentially, none at all).  You don't want me up in your COVID isolation ward; OK.  Even though I survived the virus and have the antibodies; I won't infect you, and you won't infect me; seems overly cautious, especially when me just being able to see and touch her would do us both a lot of good.  Plus, the aforementioned spousal status, Durable Power of Attorney, and all that.  At one point, Jenn told me that the chief nurse was going to call me; great! Let me talk to an honest-to-goodness medical person.  Then I got a text stating that the nurse didn't want to get any of the details wrong, and so she had asked the pulmonologist to call me himself.  Of course, you know, that call never came.  Mind you, I'm not questioning the competency of the medical/nursing staff; Jenn has nothing but the highest praise for the care she has received.  But the 'lockdown' status of the COVID ward seems to provide cover for saying nothing to other family members.  If she weren't 'locked down', I would be there, the docs could answer my questions, and we'd all be happy.  At least, I'd know what's going on, instead of getting texts from Jenn that become obsolete 3 seconds after they're sent.

On a deeper, 'existential' level, I've had to look square in the face of the possibility that my wife could die (and she assuredly will, someday).  We just celebrated our 40th anniversary this past summer, and this hospital thing has made clearer than ever that we have no guarantees.  I never expected that she could die before I do - she's just a healthier person than I am - but damn, you know, she could.  There's a part of me that's a little panicked by that thought, but you know, I do trust in God, and I've got plenty of people who love me, who would help me find my footing in a world without Jenn (which. . . may it never happen).  This whole thing just brings mortality and all that's attached to it, front-and-center in my consciousness.  Which has been happening more and more in the 3+ years since I had a stroke (which itself turned out to be blessedly mild).  As someone said (a song lyric, maybe?) - No One Gets Outta Here Alive.  As you get older, dealing with that simple, brute fact becomes an increasingly urgent task. . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Sharing the Experience. . .

 Our family has, for most of this year, cruised through the COVID-infested waters of life in Michigan/USA, without any of us getting infected.

No more.

Back the week before Thanksgiving, our doctor's office was sending us multiple messages of one sort or another, urging us to get a flu shot.  Now, for many years, I didn't get flu shots, but in recent years (roughly since I turned 60) I've started getting them, reasoning that the mild case I get from the vaccination could save me from the real thing, which becomes more dangerous the older I get.  So, I dutifully reported to my doctor's office on Tuesday afternoon the 17th of November, and got my flu shot.  Sure enough, the next day, Wednesday, I felt 'punky' as I often have after a flu shot; likewise Thursday.  Friday, I felt great, and figured I was on my way.  Saturday, I felt bad - body aches, a wet cough, and general fatigue.  I didn't have a fever, and I could still taste and smell, so I tentatively ruled out the COVID and resolved to get some rest.  Sunday, I felt worse; same symptoms, just worse.

Monday, I was feeling a little bit better - not well, by any means, but better.  But Jenn was complaining of the same symptoms I had - body aches, wet cough, and general fatigue.  That Monday before Thanksgiving, we also received the news that 6F and her husband had been tested for COVID.  At first, there was some confusion as to what the results were - her husband had pneumonia, and at first, that came across as he didn't have COVID, but when everything was clarified, they both had COVID.  Now, this was not happy news, because they had been at our house for several hours, several days/week, for the previous couple months.

Also that Monday, 3M (who has been living with us since August; long story) found out that he had been exposed at work.  He works for a reconstruction company, and they were working on a job involving a backed-up sewer.  Turns out the homeowner's wife had COVID, but he decided to conceal that fact from the company, not wanting to delay getting the shit cleaned out of his basement.  So Monday was not a good day at our house.

I was feeling incrementally better day by day, but it became apparent that Jenn was getting hammered.  She basically didn't get out of bed for 5 days, except for Thanksgiving.  We had originally planned on having 12 for Thanksgiving dinner, but when we called our putative guests to inform them of our status, they pretty much all backed out politely, so we ended up with 7 for dinner, all but one of whom already lived under our roof.  Jenn was completely blasted, and I was still less-than-fully recovered, so Thanksgiving, in the final analysis, kinda sucked.

Jenn went and got tested the Friday after Thanksgiving; she has a couple situations working for folks who would really need to know whether she has the COVID or not.  And meanwhile, she was getting hammered by whatever-it-was.  She has always been a robustly healthy person, and we both just assumed that, if COVID came to our house, I would be in much worse trouble than she would.  But she just spent hour after hour in bed, moaning through her lousiness.  While, by this past weekend, I was feeling about 85% 'normal'.

So yesterday, Jenn got her test results back - positive.  Which means that I had it, too, since she got it from me.  Woo-hoo!  Also yesterday, 7M and his wife, who live in our basement apartment (but who weren't at our Thanksgiving dinner) also got positive tests back.  So now, everyone under our roof, except 8M and our 6-year-old grandson, has either a positive test or an outside exposure (and of course, even they are exposed several times over just for living here).

I guess, all things considered, I'm just as happy to have gotten the COVID, given how relatively benign my experience was - somewhere between a heavy cold and a mild flu.  Jenn might disagree, although she is finally getting to the 'feeling-incrementally-better-every-day' stage.  But, given where she started from, 'a little bit better' can still feel pretty cruddy.  At least, she is identifiably on the mend.

So that's our experience.  Most of the younger folks are feeling kinda yucky, but they're already kicking it (6F's husband, with the complication of pneumonia, is having a rougher time, but he's mending)

So that's what we've been up to the last couple weeks.  Hope you all had a warmly blessed Thanksgiving. . .

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Two Things I Know For Certain. . .

. . . about every human being who has ever lived, myself included (and all of you who are reading this), no matter their 'gender', race, religion, age, ethnicity, national origin, sexual preference or any other thing incidental to the fundamental fact of their humanity:

1) They are a person made in the Image and Likeness of God, and therefore, possessors of an intrinsic dignity and worth not conferred on them (and thus irrevocable) by any other human being,  and

2) They are a sinner in desperate need of God's mercy.

It has long seemed to me that most, if not all, of the cultural/political quarrels of our day stem from emphasizing one or the other of these truths at the expense of the other, preferring to see their fellow-citizens (and themselves) as either only god-like, or only depraved.  And that those who agree with them are especially god-like, and those who disagree with them are wicked fools.

But the Christian knows (and I would submit that empirical evidence suggests) that he and his fellow-humans are neither all one, nor all the other, but both at once, holding these seemingly contradictory truths in tension.  As Solzhenitsyn said, "the line between good and evil runs through the middle of every human heart. . ."

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Consider. . .

This is a brief excerpt (very lightly edited) from an article by a priest of my acquaintance (not my parish priest), which captures, in a kinder way than I might be inclined to, a lot of my thinking. . .

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"I worry that we become so wrapped up in our opinions and ideas that we tie them to our identity.  So, any time someone disagrees with us, we get wildly angry because we've lost track of the fact that they are disagreeing with us, not attacking our value or worth.

"I also worry that we allow ourselves to be very useful tools for political parties.  Politicians spend a lot of time and money fighting each other and trying to get us to fight for them.  They convince us that 'those people' are the enemy.  I have friends with whom I completely disagree on politics, but I know that they love our country and want it to be a better place; we simply disagree on how it should be accomplished.  I urge us all to consider whether we allow people who don't care about us to convince us to hate those who do."

                         - Father Joe Krupp

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

We Are Born to Die. . .

The virus is raging, especially here in Michigan, which ranks third among states in the US in COVID cases (but only tenth in population).  The thing is, Detroit is getting hammered, and the farther you get from Detroit, the less bad it gets.  Just to set perspective, the City of Detroit has a rate of 85 COVID cases per 10,000 population (about one in 120 people); the three counties of the metro area (not including the city itself) are between 25-30.  Two other counties adjacent to the metro area are at about 15.  Other 'urban-ish' counties within 100 miles or so of Detroit (including the one I live in) are at 6-7 cases per 10,000 population (about 1 in 1500).  The rest of the state is 2 or less. . .

We have friends who live in Detroit; the wife/mom is a nurse, and daughter of good, long-standing friends of ours.  Their whole family came down with the virus, and their next-door neighbor died of it.  They are all recovered now, or well on the way to recovery.  For them, it was like a not-too-nasty flu.  Obviously, for their neighbor, it was considerably more than that.

Watching the numbers, it looks like we are at or just past the peak of the pandemic.  Which, of course, is the exact wrong time to relax.  No one wants to be the last soldier to die in the war. . .

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It is perhaps ironic, but these recent weeks have brought a lot of death into my life.  A man who filled a significant 'mentor' role in my life for several years, who helped me through some major rough spots with my kids (partly because he'd been through similar rough spots with his kids) died a couple weeks ago, just before the panic hit.  He was as wise and joyful a man as I've ever known.  He was 91.

About a week after that, a good friend's wife died.  I had known her for years, even before she married my friend.  She was kind and gracious, the kind of woman who made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.  She'd suffered from Alzheimer's for the past few years, and in her last days, she declined precipitously.

A week after that, my aunt, my mother's older sister, died.  Her family and ours had always been close, and we took several memorable vacations with them over the years.  She had been in declining health for a while; she was 88.

The thing is, none of them died from COVID (at least, COVID wasn't given as the cause of death).  It was just their time. With so much death swirling about the public consciousness, it all just reinforces the truth that we are all born to die, "as sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7).  To put it more crassly, none of us gets out of here alive.  My own advancing age, together with recent health issues, which are more like 'really annoying' than 'scary', have me thinking of my own mortality more than I used to. . .

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And yesterday brought the news that Al Kaline had died.

How do I explain what it means to me that Al Kaline died?  He was my boyhood hero.  In that way that boys do, he was the sun of my solar system for many of my formative years.  He was the best baseball player that I had the opportunity to see even somewhat close-at hand.  It was a long way from my hometown Up North to Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and I only saw a few games live-and-in-person that Al Kaline played in.  But I remember the first Tiger game I ever went to, as a boy probably 11 years old.  We walked into the stadium, and saw the great green expanse of the field.  As we walked along the concourse to our seats, some of the players were warming up - stretching and playing catch - and there he was - Al Kaline!  I was mesmerized to see the great man in person, playing catch just like I did in my Little League games at home!

Al Kaline had been the Tigers' best player for many years before I was even paying attention.  His first major-league game was in 1953, three years before I was born.  His breakout year was 1955, when he was the youngest player ever to lead the league in batting average, and I was in utero (at least, by the end of the season).  By the time I was really paying attention in '65 or so, his best years were mostly behind him, although he was the Tigers' best player even still.

In 1968, when I was 12, the Tigers won the American League pennant, and the World Series.  Kaline spent much of the season injured, and by the time the pennant was clinched, it was hard to find places for him to play, because the young guys who had replaced him were all playing well.  Even still, he scored the winning run in the bottom of the 9th against the Yankees in the pennant-clinching win in September.  And then, in Game 5 of the World Series, with the Tigers down 3-games-to-1 to the Cardinals, and trailing 3-2 as they came to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning, Kaline came up with the bases loaded and singled, driving in the tying and go-ahead runs to stave off elimination so the Tigers could live to play another game.  They went on to win games 6 and 7, and thereby, the World Series Championship, which is, to this day, still a high point in my young life.  Kaline had a terrific World Series, batting .379 with 2 homers and 8 RBIs in 7 games.

Kaline was a consummate defensive ballplayer, blessed with good speed, an other-worldly sense for reading the batter's swing and anticipating the flight of the ball, and an amazing arm.  He was a right-fielder, and so was I.  Of course, in the major leagues, the right-fielder typically has the strongest arm of the outfielders, since he has to make the long throw to third base, whereas in Little League,  right field is typically where you try to hide the slow, fat kid, because fewer balls get hit that way (the majors have more left-handed pull hitters than Little Leagues do).  But no-one ever made the throw from right-field to third base any better than Al Kaline.  In that same Game 5 of the World Series, Lou Brock was on third base for the Cardinals, with a chance to add to their lead.  The batter hit a medium-depth fly to right, which, especially with Brock on third, would almost always score a run.  Kaline played the ball in textbook fashion, lining himself up a couple steps behind where the fly was coming down, so he caught the ball on the run and fired a 300-foot strike to the catcher.  Lou Brock, to his credit, never even moved off third base, and his run never did score.  There is another story of a time Kaline threw out a runner while sitting on his butt in the outfield.

The thing is, as great a ballplayer as Al Kaline was, he was an even better man.  Quick to deflect accolades to his teammates, or even his opponents, humble, self-effacing, he was the epitome of quiet grace, and leading by example.  He hated drawing attention to himself, even years after his playing career was over.  All he ever wanted to do was play ball as well as he possibly could.  And that was incredibly good.

When I was in college, his son was a student at my university, and even lived in my dorm for a year.  From time to time, we'd see Al and his wife dropping off their son in front of the dorm, which was a special thrill, the few times it happened.

For a man, even an old man like me, his boyhood hero holds a special place in his heart, his soul, even his concept of himself.  I know that I have aspired to the same kind of quiet, gracious excellence as Al Kaline exemplified (it probably helped that my dad was cut from similar cloth; maybe that's why I latched onto Al Kaline).  The world will seem a poorer place without him.

Rest in Peace, Al Kaline; you were one of the best there ever was. . .

Friday, March 20, 2020

Interesting Times

Once again, I must offer my sincere and abject apologies to whichever ancient Chinese persons I have offended, to have been thus cursed to live in such Interesting Times. . .

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Life In the Time of the Virus

We are hunkered down, not quite sheltered-in-place.  We've made a few trips to the grocery store,and after the initial panic last weekend, we've mainly been able to get what we need (even toilet paper!). Other than that, though, we haven't been out much.  Not that there's much to go out TO.  7M is a student at the local mega-university, and all his classes went to on-line instruction last week.  Likewise, 8M's high-school has also gone all-on-line, and it is an open question as to whether commencement will happen as usual.  Our grandson's day care is simply closed until further notice.  Our church has been live-streaming masses said in an empty building.  Yesterday, the every-other-week Bible study I'm in met via Zoom; I was the only one who didn't have a webcam.

Cancelling the NCAA basketball tournament was a bit of a shock to the system.  Normally, yesterday would have been the first day, and the TV would have been tuned to hoops from noon til midnight.  And my Spartans were looking really promising, too (it's probably merciful that the Detroit professional sports teams get to recede from the public eye). . .

Jenn had been doing childcare for 1F's son (now five months old), but she (1F) decided that she didn't want to put Jenn and me at risk, both of us being over 60, and therefore, at 'elevated risk'.  It's a little odd, being the object of my kids' concern like that.

Jenn has made a couple of shopping trips for a friend who's less willing than we are to venture out of her house.  She leaves the groceries in the garage, rings the doorbell, and leaves.  Sometimes her friend will come to the garage door and talk with her, but she won't get the groceries until Jenn is safely in her car and on the road.  The same friend will also call Jenn three times a day to chide her for not taking 'social distancing' seriously enough. . .

Being confined to our house with other people who are also more-or-less confined to our house poses a few odd challenges.  Two sons who need quiet places in which to connect to their on-line classes places some strain on scarce resources of quiet places in our house.  Not usually a terribly difficult problem, but we've also got our 5-year-old grandson here, and he doesn't always keep close track of which rooms are 'spoken for', so he can't just roam freely (and noisily) through the house like he's used to.  There's more of a sense of the house being crowded than used to be the case.

7M has been burning off some of his nervous energy by doing projects around the house, and God bless him.  He gutted the walls in the kitchenette of the basement efficiency he's sharing with his new bride, and built new walls, replaced the grungy old basement window with glass blocks that instantly let in light that hasn't been seen in that space since we moved in, 20 years ago.  But his increased levels of activity also mean that space becomes even more scarce as he re-locates the contents of the kitchenette while the work is in-process.

My 401k has taken a beating, which could be alarming, as I'll need to start drawing on it about a year from now.  But I'm not panicking; hopefully, the market will recover once the pestilence has run its course, but it definitely makes the times even more 'interesting'. . .

I saw an article on-line yesterday, saying that some folks have started re-hanging their Christmas lights, as a way to reach out to their also-sequestered neighbors, to introduce a bit of cheer into the bleakness, and a tacit encouragement that we'll all get through this if we can just hang on.  I loved the idea, besides which, invoking Christmas ("God with us") seems to me the perfect note to strike.  So yesterday evening, 7M and I went and strung the lights around the porch roof (ours is not a gaudy or elaborate display).  We'll see if any of our neighbors catch on. . .

Hope all is well with all of you reading this.  Hunker down as best you can, and stay well. . .

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Return of the Prodigal

For about the past year-and-a-half, we haven't seen hide nor hair of 3M.  He disappeared, didn't tell anyone where he was (including the mother of his then-4-year-old daughter), and basically dropped out of our life.  The other kids would occasionally see something of his on Facebook, but never with any way of knowing where he was, or how to contact him.  That's how we found out that he had a baby son last July.

So, a couple weeks ago (before COVID came to Michigan), we were heading across the street to a gathering of friends at one of our neighbors' houses, and there, parked in front of our house, was 3M, with his new woman.  We sort of stared at each other for a minute, then ran through the obligatory "What are you doing here?" - type greetings.  We dropped our contribution to the potluck at the neighbor's house, then invited them to come in and have dinner with us.

We had a really good time together, and just basically got reconnected.  There's really not a whole lot more to say.  He seems to be in as good a place as he's been in a long time - working, clean and sober.  He's even doing a pretty remarkable job step-fathering his new lady's kids.  I'm sure it will take a while for comfort levels to come all the way back, but for now, we've got all eight of our kids back in the fold.

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Grand-girl at Ground Zero

Last Sunday, 4M and his wife welcomed  their new baby daughter into life in this world.  She was born in Seattle, which is basically Ground Zero for COVID in the US.  Which is kinda freaky, but you can't very well tell a baby not to be born until it's safer.  4M's mother-in-law is staying with them for a couple weeks. She got out of Michigan just before the initial wave of panic hit, which is probably good for her.  The bad news is that she went to Seattle, where the curve still hasn't flattened yet.  But on the other hand, she doesn't need to be in a hurry to return to Michigan, either. . .

I can say that our new grand-girl is a certifiable cutie (but honestly - if she were homely, would I tell you that?)  Photos we've seen, we see both her parents in her; she has her daddy's cleft chin (no idea how that got to him).

So, the grand-kid counter has been spinning wildly out-of-control for the last few months.  Let me see if I can make an accurate count. . .

- Two have been placed for adoption
- Three were born in 2014
- Three have been born in the last nine months

So, that's eight, counting just by DNA.

But there are also

- Three siblings to one of the adopted kids, with whom we have a relationship, and who call us 'Grandma' and 'Grandpa'
- 6F's 3-yr-old step-daughter (did I mention that 6F got married this past winter?)
- Two (and maybe three) of 3M's step-kids, who are young enough that they'll be part of our family moving forward.

So six, maybe seven more; and all of a sudden, we have 14 or 15 grandchildren.  Forgive us if our heads are spinning, just a little bit.  But the times, they sure are Interesting. . .


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Well, Here We Are. . .

When I'm Sixty-Four (John Lennon - Paul McCartney)

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine,
Birthday greeting, bottle of wine?
If I've been out 'til quarter-til-three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we could rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight, 
If it's not too dear.
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee - 
Vera, Chuck and Dave

I could be handy mending a fuse when your lights have gone.
You could knit a sweater by the fireside,
Sunday mornings, go for a ride.
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

You'll be older, too. . .
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

Send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating points of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say - 
"Yours sincerely, wasting away."
Give me your answer, fill in a form - 
Mine forever more;
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

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When I got up this morning, Birthday Breakfast was waiting on the table for me.  And there are rumors that my kids and grandkids (none of whom, oddly enough, are named Vera, Chuck or Dave) will be joining us for a celebratory meal, which may or may not culminate with pumpkin cheesecake. . .

Looks promising, indeed. . .  ;)

Friday, November 15, 2019

I'm Not Dead Yet. . .

You may have noticed that I've been pretty scarce around these bloggity precincts.  There are a variety of reasons.  I'l try to give you a decent accounting. . .

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In June (probably not long after my last post before Halloween), I woke up and couldn't get out of bed.  Not sure exactly what happened, but my back and my legs (especially the left one) were in excruciating pain, as bad as any I've experienced in my life.  I did eventually manage to get out of bed, but it was something like a 10-15 minute ordeal.  Life persisted in that vein for a couple weeks before I finally decided that, whatever it was, it didn't seem to be transitory, so I went to see my doc.

Turns out I had a couple of herniated discs in my lower back, which were pressing on my sciatic nerve, which responded by sending intense, shooting pain signals down my leg.  I got a cane for myself, which at least allowed me to gimp around and not be bed-bound, which was handy.  I started  throwing pain-killers at it; it turns out to be more challenging than you might expect to find pain-killers that will actually deal with the pain without killing YOU in the process (especially since I told my doc I didn't want any opioids).  I eventually got on a combination that would just keep me functional if I rotated them every four hours, but that wasn't a good long-term strategy (after a while, your liver and/or kidneys start to object).

Anyway, one of the features of the pain I was experiencing was that it was very uncomfortable to sit still for very long periods of time ('very long' meaning 'more than 5-10 minutes').  And at least for me, blogging means sitting.  Besides which, when you're in more-or-less constant pain, even if it's being somewhat managed, the creative juices just don't flow as freely as when you're not.  Among other things, I couldn't put my own shoes on; if I planned on leaving the house, Jenn had to put my shoes on for me.  So, those were not the happiest of days.

I started Physical Therapy, and got referred to an orthopedist.  I was fairly certain that back surgery was in my future (honestly, at that point, my basic attitude was like Rocky in the first movie - "cut me, Mick!").  But the doc suggested an injection before we went straight to surgery, which made sense to me.  So I got the shot, and almost immediately, I felt a LOT better.  I could get out of bed almost normally, and if I had a chair that was at least a little bit padded, I could sit for a decently long period.  After a month, the doc checked me out.  I was doing so well that he asked me if I wanted another shot.  I thought about it for about three milliseconds and said, "Oh, hell yes!!"  So I got another shot.  And the next day, I set my cane aside.  And put on my own shoes.

And it has continued to get better from there.  I quit one of my pain-killers entirely (the one that was most likely to cause liver damage), and started weaning myself off the other one.  It was prescribed for three doses a day, but for a couple weeks now, I've been taking one in the morning, and that's all.  I've had a few days that make me think that I can start skipping days pretty soon.  So my health is much better, and 'normal life' is looking pretty darned normal, indeed. . .

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We're also doing a fresh round of grandchildren, this time with married parents, which is a new thing for us.  1F and her husband welcomed a baby boy in mid-October, and he is a certified cutie.  Jenn is cutting back her work hours so she can take care of him three days a week while 1F goes back to work.  So we're entering a new phase of life, which carries the promise of being really delightful.

4M and his wife are expecting a little one in March, so there's that to look forward to, as well.  On top of that, he just took a new job, which will have them living in Michigan again by spring.  So, exciting times on that front, too.

We haven't seen or heard from 3M for a year-and-a-half, but we did hear 'through the grapevine' that he begat a little guy this past spring, who we haven't met (and likely won't for quite a while, if ever).  So, you know, we haven't totally gone out of the grandchildren-from-unmarried-parents business.  If you're keeping score at home, we now have eight grandlings (at least by DNA, counting the one due in the spring; there are other ways of counting that would say eleven or six). . .

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Besides all that, we finally got around to getting our bathroom remodeled.  We had some, uh, water issues with the old one, and the floor was getting mushy to the point that I worried about punching a hole in it one of these days.  Besides which, it was just generally badly executed (the previous owner was, to put it gently, a cobbler).  So, our remodel was down to the studs and floor-joists (which could be a bit of a thrill if you got up to use the non-existent bathroom at, say, 3AM).

Without going into tedious detail, I'll just say that the new bathroom is spectacular - an open shower, with no tub, tile walls and floor, two sinks and Jenn's piece de resistance, a laundry chute that deposits the laundry in a basket next to the washing machine in the basement.  It wouldn't even be an exaggeration to say that our friends have been asking us if they could shower at our place. . .

We went back-and-forth on whether we wanted a master bath for our 'private' use, or whether we needed it to be more 'public' than that.  We finally hit on what I think is a really clever resolution, involving a pocket door that we can lock, so it's a 'private' bath when we want it to be, and 'public' when we want it to be.

The whole project took two months to finish, but absolutely worth the wait.  The other day, 2F was over, and when she walked into the new bathroom, she sighed, and said, "Every time I walk in here, it just makes me smile."  I know what she means. . .

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We also paid off our mortgage.  And bought our gravestone (not, you know, that I'm more in touch with my mortality, or anything like that).  At least future generations will know that we were here, and when, and for how long.  Because, you know, genealogy. . .

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Four years ago, Jenn and I signed up for a Biblical School that was being offered at our church.  It was a four-year program, taught by folks with seminary degrees in Scripture.  I jumped at the chance to actually be taught the Bible, instead of just gleaning what I could on my own, and I loved the  program.  But that was in the days when I was still working, and still driving an hour-and-a-half there and back.  So when the first year was completed, and it was time to sign on for the second year, we just couldn't manage it.  But ever since, we've been on the lookout for the same school being offered at another parish close enough for us to get to.

So this fall, it's being offered at another parish maybe ten miles from our home, and my calendar is a lot freer than it was last time, so we signed on for another shot.  Hopefully, this time we can finish the whole four-year program.  So far (nine weeks in), it has been wonderful, every bit as good as the first time.  And this time, we actually have the time to do justice to the workload.  So our days are filled with reading and studying Sacred Scripture with real direction, and praying and meditating on it in deeper ways than we've had the opportunity to do before.  So that's been occupying us, too.

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So, that's what I've been up to, and why you haven't seen much of me around these parts.  I'm not sure how much I'll be posting here in weeks and months to come; possibly not much at all.  But I do still read your blogs (those of you who still blog), and even leave comments from time to time.

And may God bless you all richly. . .

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Blessings On Thee, Little Man. . .

A couple days ago was Halloween, our culture's annual ghoul-fest-cum-candy-grab.  Jenn and I have typically taken a somewhat detached approach to the festivities, but we'll play along good-naturedly, and have a stash of miniature sweets on hand to pass out to the costumed youngsters who make the effort to venture down our one-block dead-end street.  When the weather is nice enough (a relative term, to be sure; Michigan in late October is rarely what you might call 'nice' in any absolute sense), we'll flip up the lower pane on the storm-door and poke our heads out to greet the youngsters who come to our door.

This year, the weather was not even 'nice', much less 'nice enough'.  Temperatures were in the low 30s, the wind was howling, and spitting rain turned to snow as the evening wore on.  So, we wimped out.  Rather than greeting the costumed kids who came to our house, we turned on the porch light and just left a big bowl of candy by the door, with an invitation to the kids to help themselves.  Incredibly lame, I know. . . Of course, that approach has certain, um, vulnerabilities attached to it, but the weather was so nasty that we wouldn't have been surprised if there had been no trick-or-treaters at all.

Alas, in a fallen world, vulnerabilities like that are almost guaranteed to be exploited, and sure enough, at one point, we heard a ruckus from the front porch, and when we glanced out the window, the candy bowl, which had been full enough just a few moments before, was empty, and a rowdy group of revelers was scurrying away from our yard.  I went out to retrieve the empty bowl, preparing to turn off the light and pull down the curtain on this year's observance of Halloween, such as it was.

As I did, a young fellow, maybe 7 or 8 years old, was coming up our steps, his dad waiting back on the sidewalk.  He and I stared at the empty bowl, and I lamented that some greedy folks had bogarted the entire supply of festive candy (God knows who you are. . . just sayin').  As I surveyed the porch, I noticed that three pieces of candy had been strewn across the porch in the frenzy, and so, with an apology, I suggested to the young man that he could take those, since it was all we had left.

He bent down and picked up the three pieces, thanking me, and then placed one piece back in the bowl, "in case somebody else might want one."

There may or may not have been a tear in my eye as I looked at the dad in silent acknowledgement of a young man of exemplary character. . .

God bless you, young man. . . I wish there were more like you. . .

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It's five months since I last posted here (and more like six since my last 'substantial' post).  I might post something in the next little while, explaining my absence.  But, neither do I want to give anybody (possibly) false hope that 'I'm back'.  It is certainly not the case that nothing worth posting about has happened in our lives. . .