I don’t remember crossing the line, I’m sure it was a slow accumulation of things beginning with reading glasses and hairs turning gray. Now I am a grandfather, older and wiser; but the wisdom that comes with age seems to be discounted by occasional forgetfulness. No one really cares about what I have seen, done, or learned, because now I am old. As a young man, I remember hearing firsthand the observations of old men, observations that sounded like complaints about the growing disrespect and lack of morality displayed by my younger generation. I thought, come on, it’s not all that! But in my heart I suspected they could be right. Now we all know they were. Not wanting to sound like the crotchety old men I didn’t want to hear, I struggle to wait patiently for the day my son will ask for advice, advice I know he needs right now. I don’t know the proper procedure (I had no dad to advise me), but I’m holding some real pearls of wisdom for him. I don’t want to offer them up unsolicited because that guidance is never welcomed. I hope when the day comes that he does ask, I can remember these pearls of wisdom, or at least remember where I wrote them down.
I took my Radio Controlled car, a Losi Short Course Buggy, when I visited my brother at the coast. He has a Traxxas four wheel drive R/C gas truck. I love the big fat tires on it. At the beach, I was quickly putting parking lot dirt and debris in the air with the wheels of my little car while my brother was working at getting his gas motor started. When he got it running, we had a lot of fun speeding and skidding out on the sand. I challenged him to a straight line race from way over here to way over there. It was a clean start, neck and neck as I slowly began pulling ahead, but by the ¾ mark, he caught and passed me. I could feel it in my battery, I should have recharged between the parking lot and the beach.
I suggested a rematch, but he would savor his win for a year. When I got home, I ordered another battery, one with extra punch. Next year I would be ready….. And there would be no burning up half the pack before the race!
With my next annual visit, the grudge race was on. I had a C100 fully charged, and I resisted (most of) the temptation to speed up and down the sand until after my impending victory. My brother had his truck making smoke in his garage before we headed out, and shortly it was running again at the beach. Soon we were back on our imaginary starting line and he yelled Go! With the kindness and humility of a loving big-brother, I won’t go on about how badly I beat him. We’ll just say that it was my turn to savor the win.
The race was over and I still had a couple battery packs to burn up, and that wide open sand was enticing. We were Cat & Mouse chasing, drifting, fishtailing, and purely enjoying radio controlled fun.
Before long, I packed some sand against a baseball bat sized piece of driftwood for a jump. My brother had to restart his truck several times, and ended up replacing three glow plugs that day. Finally, it would not start, so I invited him to drive my SCB while I took pictures of it flying off the jump. He liked it enough to consider going electric. I can’t wait for the race next year!
This month I had my follow up appointment with my heart doctor’s associate. Going in, my question and reason for seeing the doctor was, “Why do I get so easily out of breath?” Does it have to do with the cancers, the treatments, or am I just getting old and out of shape? The diagnosis and official answer: My stress test showed the possibility of a minor abnormality, but before further investigation, they suggest I lose weight, exercise more (get into better shape), and come back in three months for more tests.
I also had my three month appointment with my oncologist. She used my favorite medical term (concerning the protein they test for because it’s a real good indicator of what the cancer is doing), “undetectable.” I can live with that.
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent into retirement, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and your Medicare application is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins.”
That’s kind of how it feels lately, like the calm before the storm. Or maybe it’s more like the proverbial “elephant in the room.” The presents of the impending retirement elephant is acknowledged, but is still a big unknown. It seems to be headed this way with the speed (and options) of an jetliner on final approach.
I went in for the EKG and treadmill stress test as the heart doctor requested. They shave your chest for that! Well, they shave stripes on your chest. The treadmill is a four minute rodeo, with the Arena Director and Flagman standing close by. My legs were getting heavy and my arms were getting longer, but I made it to the horn. I haven’t been back to the heart doctor, but his office called soon after the tests and seemed urgent about setting me up with a prescription. I looked it up online, to sum up its benefits: “It is also used to treat or prevent heart attack.”
My little brother turned 60 last month. I made some pictures to help celebrate the milestone.
The kitchen was the first room we remodeled when we moved into this big old house over 40 years ago. My wife, Diane, recently had a great idea, “Let’s do it again.”
I suggested that if we wait, wood grain Formica laminated cabinets and green Formica counter tops and back splashes will be in style again – and we will have the genuine article. But, we decided we will remodel anyway.
We enjoyed our excitement and the anticipation of a new project. We began listing great kitchen ideas. We can’t afford to contract it out, but if I do almost everything myself, (when I worked for my dad, we remodeled kitchens and bathrooms for a living) what money we have budgeted will stretch quite a ways. It wasn’t long, though, before I realized that I don’t have time to remodel a kitchen. I work full time, every evening is short, and every weekend is full. Every weekend has unfinished carry over (a life blessed is a life busy!). We don’t have the money to pay someone to do it, and I don’t have time to do it, but…….
I’m reminded by the daily pile of junk mail that I’m “nearing my normal retirement age.” It will arrive about a year from now and at the rate my clock is ticking, it will be here in no time. I’m tempted to consider working past retirement age, but cancer may be the deciding factor in that decision. If we could wait until I retire, I would have nothing but time. The new kitchen could be my new job. But, waiting does have a risk. If the cancer makes a move before I retire, I won’t be much good at remodeling kitchens for a while; but if it comes back and kills me, Diane should get enough insurance money to pay someone to make a new kitchen.
In March, my three month Multiple Myeloma cancer tests said no change, and I can live with that. At my 6 month visit with my Pulmonologist (my sleep apnea doctor) I mentioned how easily I get out of breath. I asked if it could be a result of the Chemo treatments, or the radiation treatments, or the cancer, or the fact that I went to high school with Moses? He recommended I see a heart doctor because of “my age and my condition.” I did, and he listened quite intently with a stethoscope and said he could hear a leaky valve. He asked if I’ve had radiation treatments. It appears the cause of my breathlessness could be heart related, could be radiation related, or, I could just be out of shape. He scheduled more tests.
Although our grandkids live far away, their parents generously include us in their lives through emails, pictures, videos, video chats, cards, finger paintings, and more. We get to peek into their activities and watch them grow. We get to celebrate achievements. I love to see the ways our kids love their kids.
I wondered out loud recently to my wife, if our kids, while enjoying a developmental milestone with their kids, ever realize that what they are feeling is the exact feeling we enjoyed again and again as we watched them grow from babies to children. “Will they realize through their kids, how much we loved and enjoyed them as our kids?” She answered, “No, why would they? Did you think about your parents when we were new parents?”
I grew up in a family that never said, never heard, never felt, “I love you.” I guess I shouldn’t say never. That day in 1962 when mom surrendered the five of us and transferred our custody to the Juvenile Detention Hall in Vancouver, Washington, she was crying when she said, “I love you,” and walked out the door. I’d heard of love, this is it? That was the beginning of another chapter in this life adventure. In a week, we were in a foster home, and in a couple more weeks we were in another where three of us served about a year. I would later brag that before graduating from high school, I lived in 27 houses including JDH and those two foster homes. That might be material for another posting.
I answered my wife, “Yes,” as a new parent in self training, “I actually thought about my parents once or twice.” I so loved our babies, I held, hugged and kissed, and told them so every day. It felt very natural to me, and caring for them became my highest priority. I would do anything to protect them. When I thought about my parents, I wondered why they didn’t feel the same.
I love my memories of Christmases past. The ones when our boys were little are the ones I cherish most. This Christmas, after a snow cancelled flight and driving a rental car through the night with friends we just made at the airport, Diane and I arrived for a week’s stay at our oldest son’s house in Michigan’s UP. It was our first reunion with our grown up sons, their wives and kids (is it a re-union if it’s the first time?).
One Christmas morning years ago, Diane gave me a 1957 Chevy (click here to read about that). That’s a memory that’s hard to beat, but this year was our best Christmas yet. Holding and interacting with our little grandchildren was priceless. Witnessing how our sons love their wives and kids was rewarding. Diane got to ski again after many years, and I got to take pictures with my new camera (shot hundreds, shoulda taken more). We played in the house and we played in the snow.
My younger son, Robin, gave me a flying camera, a drone. My first flying lesson began by launching it from the ice covered snow in the garden. I hope it’s a good memory for my three year old grandson, Kellen, when he hugged the gate for protection like I told him, as the nearly controlled drone buzzed over his head to awkwardly touchdown behind him in the back yard.
This Christmas could have only been better if, on top of being with our kids and grand kids, I received another classic Chevy. Well, actually, my oldest son, Brandon, did give me a 57 Chevy he made with his computer and router.
I hope this gathering was a preview of Christmases future.
A few weeks after returning home, I was in Portland to help my brother, Mark, prepare to move. Later, we drove over to see our brother Dan at his Alpha Stone Works shop. While Dan was showing me the new stone cutter (he went to Germany to buy) he asked how I was, and if my cancer was gone now. I explained that Multiple Myeloma doesn’t go away, but I’m doing okay right now, and that I get tested every three months to monitor the cancer. I told him, “I expect to do that for the rest of my life….. Get it? For the rest of my life?” Because next time the cancer activates, or the time after that – one of those times will be the last time, and the following result will be my life ending. Usually quite stoic, he let out a hearty chuckle. He appreciated that dark humor enough to recount it later at the restaurant with the five of us at the table. We all enjoyed a good laugh (though some politely tried to resist), not over the inevitable end of my life, but from stumbling upon a little sarcastic humor in the situation.
I remain thankful to God for a life full of blessings.
Most mornings, I wake before the alarm. My sleeping mind seems to already be in progress when it joins my waking mind. I give myself an hour before I must leave for work, but if I deviate from my routine, I’ll probably have to drive. I like to walk the commute, it’s not a race, but there is no time to stop and smell the roses. I usually have a few minutes to quickly check email and a news site before the clock strikes eight. I always try to work at a quick, efficient pace, there’s way more to do in a day than I can get done. My walk home could be more leisurely, but I hurry to get busy on my unfinished or my next endeavors. A life overflowing with God’s blessings is a very busy life. I hurry to get something done before dinner, and chip away at more until bed time. I might stop and join Diane for a little TV watching, then hurry off to sleep, and begin again. There’s much to do and time seems short. I’m too busy for Cancer, way too busy to die.
One day years ago, my job took me to an elderly man’s house. It was practically on the campus of the university in our town. The old timer seemed to know everyone there, and they all addressed him, “Grandpa.” I quickly learned that he was deep in the pursuit of Genealogy, and that he had much yet to discover, record, organize, and share. He was sure the Lord wouldn’t be, “calling him home” before this massive mission of lineage research was completed.
One day weeks ago, my job took me back to the Campus Grandpa’s house; to his vacant house. I wonder if he had enough time to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Nothing I keep myself so busy with would sway the Lord to let me make a later connection (I don’t believe it works that way). My projects, my list from top priority on down doesn’t even make a blip on the radar screen of life. The most important things I’ll ever do, have probably been done, and would probably be done better if done over, but that’s life.
My job took me recently to another house. There I recognized someone who recognized me. Our kids were friends in school. She asked, “How have you been – didn’t you have cancer?” I told her I’ve had three cancers, and one is incurable, but right now I’m doing okay. Her tone lowered just a bit, and in a reluctantly accepting voice she said, “Well, I guess that’s life.” I added yea, or maybe that’s death.