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Friday, September 7th was my last day on the job.  The Wednesday evening prior, I got a haircut, the first in about two years.  I was ready for a change.

Scott's PonytailI told the barber I wanted to keep the ponytail.  I brought it home and glued it into my work hat.  The co-worker sitting nearest me the next morning at the daily briefing looked suspiciously at my hair below the hat line.  He made scissors with his fingers and ran them near his ear (our local sign language for you got haircut?).  I turned my head.  He shrugged and returned his attention to the meeting when he saw the ponytail.  PW Retire_3701Our crew leader was telling us we could expect some real changes around here in the very near future.  I stood up and announced to all that I was ready for a change right now!  I pulled off my hat (with ponytail attached) and  I thought those guys were going to fall out of their chairs.  The faces before me expressed TOTAL SHOCK!  Jaws dropped to release hoots and gasps!  That was fun!

My retirement barbeque at PW, last day on the job

Clarification: Okay, it was a load, and it was in a dump truck.

The next day, my last on the job, I enjoyed a great barbecue lunch with soon to be former co-workers.  Along with cards and gifts, handshakes, hugs, and well wishes, I was presented a unique lamp made mostly from a water meter and meter box lid.  I also received a dump truck load of my favorite drink – Mt Dew.

The following evening, my wife, Diane said we were going out for pizza.  It turned out to be a surprise retirement party with family and friends.  The best surprise was my son and granddaughter flying here and attending both parties.  I enjoyed seeing everyone, and I sincerely appreciated all the cards and gifts, handshakes, hugs, and well wishes.

It occurred to me that the act of retiring is a bit like the act of getting married.  You can get married quietly at a courthouse, go home and say, “Okay, we’re married;” or, you can have an unforgettable celebration of a lifetime with family and friends.  When you retire, you can go home after your last day on the job and say, “I’m officially retired now,” or you can celebrate with family and friends and make it a meaningful occasion.

IMG_20180916_0001The second-best surprise at the pizza party was Diane’s gift: a lift.  Not a ride home – a car hoist.  I, a humble back yard mechanic, will be able to stand upright under a car to work on it (or just to enjoy the view).  Years ago, I came very close to buying a lift.  It would have cleaned out my hobby account, but I would have recovered.  Before I ordered it, I was diagnosed with cancer.  Someone asked me, “Do you want to leave that nice of a gift for Diane’s next husband?”

I saw my Radiation Oncology doctor today (Sept 18th).  The Aid who came out to escort me to the exam room looked confused when she approached.  She said she almost didn’t recognize me, “You shaved your beard…..  Wasn’t your hair longer?  Did you get younger?”  I had blood drawn and tested in advance; the doctor pronounced me (my PSA) “Back to undetectable.” Back to my favorite diagnosis.  He said to test again in six months.  Smiling, he affirmed reports of a most memorable radiation patient in Wonder Woman underwear.

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Wadja Say?

My grandson, Jory, along with his family visited us in July.  He seems quite intelligent for a two year old who will easily break into song about some guy named Bubbah…..  Bubbah Black sheep.

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Pondering the intricacies of his holstered Light Saber

WARNING: Parent / Grandparent Disclaimer: Every parent and every grandparent thinks their baby or grand-baby is the cutest, the most intelligent and most talented baby ever.

At first you might dismiss Jory as a baby talker because he has a little trouble getting his words out.  It’s like he’s communicating through a poorly programmed language translation app.

But when he has something to say, if you stick with him he will repeat his message over and over, determined to make you understand.  He knows the words he’s trying to enunciate, and he usually composes complete sentences.

One day he announced something like “Blabbagobbywaddahoobanichamuggabee-beewaaba!” I repeated in a questioning tone what I just heard and he said, “No – Ga pabbadu vue uh-duh ahhhhaaia haaaa  riggedraaaa muggabee  jain maaliiim!” I mimicked again the gibberish I heard again, and he said “NO” took a breath and repeated it again.  This time his words became recognizable, “The property values in your area appear to have risen dramatically just in my lifetime!”

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In July I caught a bad cold – actually eye infection and ear infection.  I was prescribed antibiotics and recovered, but with lingering plugged ears.  Oddly, for two or three weeks after mostly recovering from the infections, my daily – sometimes constant throat clearing disappeared.  I caught another cold with coughing, sneezing, and clearing, but it’s fading away….  will the throat clearing stay?  Or did that infection have a positive effect?

Hood Bird

2018 07 27_1411_edited-1“Grandpa, what’s that?” My four-year-old grandson asked as he patted the old, pitted chrome ’55 Chevy hood ornament mounted on my riding lawnmower.  “Well, that’s called a hood bird.  Come with me, I’ll tell you about it.”

K&J Here_0635_edited-1I lowered the open the hood of my ’57 Belair and pointed to the wind splits.

He stood on Uncle Larry’s wooden box stool and watched as I explained.

“This is a 1957 Chevy and these two things are called “wind-splits.”  The hood bird on the lawnmower is from a car that is two years older than this one, a 1955 Chevy.  It didn’t have wind splits, it and the 1956 Chevy had the hood bird instead and it 02APR05 003_edited-1goes right here,” I said as I patted the front center of the hood.

This is a special moment for a grandpa.  I was surprised at the rush of sentimental feelings it brought – sentimental about what?  My grandson may or may not remember details from this lesson, but maybe one day years from now when he sees a car of this vintage he will remember me.

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And For My Next Test….

Imagine a big, fat, horse tail hair stuck in your throat.  No matter how often or how hard you try to clear or swallow, it stays right there.  That might faintly resemble this test.

I’ve had allergy test after allergy test, throat x-rays, video throat x-rays, a stomach acid prescription, two visits with a speech therapist, and an upper endoscopy in an ongoing effort to discover why I daily, and in some episodes constantly clear my throat (and cough).  None solved the mystery or even began to.

These next tests (Esophageal Manometry/Motility Study and 24-hour PH & Impedance Monitor Study) took place in the sixth week of my daily radiation treatments.   It was presented as a 24-hour monitoring test involving a tube through my nose and into my stomach.  That sounds much less medieval than pushing a two-foot wire up my nose.  The test began when a nurse squirted a horrible tasting numbing agent up my nose.  You sniff it in and swallow.  In a moment, when you notice it has become difficult to swallow, it’s time to lube and push the first tube into the nostril.  It looks like a semi-rigid strand of beads.  The beads are pressure sensors and will measure the target depth for the next probe, the wire that will remain for 24 hours.

The first probe was unpleasant, the second was quite painful.  There is a sharp turn southwards early in the passageway from my nostril to my stomach.  The beaded tube made the turn without much resistance due partially to the fact that its dimensions are close to the dimensions of the tunnel it’s slithering through.

The second intrusion, the wire, having a smaller diameter and being more rigid, needs to ram its blunt head into that sharp turn corner a few times until it realizes the path of least resistance would be to JUST MAKE THE TURN!

2018 06 06_1074_edited-1Once in place, the exposed plastic covered wire was taped to my face.  I thought that was to keep it from accidentally pulling out of my nose, but I soon discovered that when I eat and swallow solid food, the ascending food pulls the wire with it deeper into my stomach.  The wire would draw annoyingly into my nose, trying to go farther in each time I swallow, removing any joy there might have been in the meal.  I had to pinch and hold it in place while eating, to win this tiny but extremely irritating Tug-Of-War competition.  Or, did I have a fish on?

The dry end of the wire is connected to what looks a bit like a game controller.   It’s worn like a shoulder bag and has numbered and symbol buttons of various sizes, and a digital back-lit display screen.  When I clear my throat, I push button #1, when I cough – push button #2, take a pill – button #3.  There’s a push button with an icon for I’m eating,  another with an icon for I stopped eating.  There’s one with a symbol for I’m horizontal and another for I’m vertical; and one more for I’m having sex.  “Really!?” my wife asked.  I tried to bolster my case by showing her the icon button that could possibly be misunderstood, especially if you looked at it from the proper angle.  “Come on, it’s a medical test” I assured.  I think she bought it for a fleeting moment.

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Here are the immediate test results: If you are annoyed by people constantly greeting you, making eye contact and smiling, speaking to you without invitation; if you prefer to be almost invisible, you should put one of these wires up your nose and walk around in public.  There might be an untapped market for something that looks like the real thing but would only need to go a short distance into your nostril.  Who would know?  Who’s going to check?  If anyone should dare to approach, just start coughing and throat clearing as you busily push the beeping buttons on the control box.  Maybe I could make and market these in my retirement.

Can I Get A Prescription For That?

I’m nearly six weeks into my seven-week series of daily radiation treatments.  I’ve met several fellow radiation patients as we rotate through the waiting room.  Everyone has a story.  Some have unhappier stories than others: Unhappy – “I got cancer.”  Unhappier – “My woman dumped me when I got cancer.”  I met a guy yesterday who’s treating for throat cancer.  His body is fighting the radiation by generating a super flem that adheres to the inside his throat.  He said mornings are the worst part of each day.  When he wakes he spends a block of time doing some serious throat clearing.  For him, it’s a matter of life and breath.  I didn’t realize until I was driving home that if there was ever an expert who might advise me on a product or routine that would clear my throat, he might well be the one.  Certainly, he would be on the cutting edge.  He may have discovered something that works for him that might quell my daily (sometimes quite intense) throat clearing episodes.  Our appointments are not always scheduled for the same time each day, so I was happy to catch him there today.  I told him I’ve had (endoscopy) test after (allergy) test and prescription after prescription trying to solve or determine the cause of my constant throat clearing.  “Have you found anything that works well for clearing your throat?”  I asked.  He answered, “Well, I really don’t like it, but what clears my throat the best is when I throw-up…  that really clears it!”

We don’t get treatments on weekends or holidays, so I got to make my annual trip to Brookings and visit my brother, Loren, over the Memorial Day weekend.  I hoped to help him organize his pictures (on three computers).  I’ve been sorting, tagging, naming, dating, and deleting duplicates of my picture files for years, and I can’t yet say they are completely organized.  I don’t know why I thought we’d organize his in one weekend, but we got a good start.

We also checked the rebuild progress on his custom three-wheel Triumph and attended a car show.

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He’s owned this trike for about 40 years

The owner of this glowing ’56 Chevy inherited it from his dad.  He proudly showed us how his dad detailed the back of the license plate so it could be read in the reflection of the bumper.

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We also visited a couple of Loren’s construction business job sites

Seven Weeks Minus Three

Tomorrow I will be three weeks into seven weeks of daily treatments.  That’s three weeks minus one day because they called one morning and said, “Don’t come in – the machine is broken.”  I imagined the unfortunate patient laying on that slab when it broke down, and then I wondered who would be the first brave Guinea pig to take it for a test run after it’s been “fixed?”

from Isabella

The mug shot we see daily when I verify my name and birth-date before each treatment

I printed the picture you see below (posted here on April 7th) and pinned it to the bulletin board in the radiation patient waiting lounge.  When the assistant who came to fetch me saw it, she said, “Oh, she’ll enjoy seeing that.”  “She’s here?” I asked.  Yes, right over there she pointed as we walked to the treatment rooms lobby.  My escort announced that I had just posted a picture of us two.  The radiologist looked at me as if to say, “and who are you?”  We went back to see the picture.  In it, I weigh 30 pounds less, have no beard and almost no hair.  She now has short hair and was wearing a technician’s gown.  She quickly inspected the photo and concluded she hasn’t changed all that much.  I agreed, “Neither have I.”

Each Monday after treatment, I consult with the doctor.  He always asks if I’m experiencing any side effects.  Last week, I answered no, and resisted suggesting he make sure the technicians have removed the lens cap (even though I’m sure he’s never heard that one).  Yesterday I answered yes, my legs feel very tired and weak, especially my upper thighs.  He said, “That’s not a side effect of radiation.”  We agreed it’s probably due to the parking structure stairs I’ve been working-out on daily.

Time In A Gigabytle

I loved that song Jim Croce sang in 1972 about saving time in a bottle.  I’m saving time in a virtual Gigabytle.  I finally finished shooting – copying – digitizing and archiving about 30 years of large, desk pad calendars.  I first mentioned the project here.  They were referred to as desk pads, but mine was always on my home-office wall.

Some of them flashed the month and year in LARGE FONT, like breaking news headlines, while a couple series appear to have had little interest in going public with the current month or year.  My personal, historical notations are the most significant inscriptions, but an extra treat was finding several ticket stubs.  They were tickets to events, now they’re tickets to the past.  They are, along with name tags, sticky notes, and other souvenirs, fastened to appropriate days or nearby margins.

When I put all the months in order, I found that some were missing.  January 1990 is missing, as is August 1995.  The entire years of 1998 and 1999 are missing.  Maybe we tried an alternative calendar then, but two random, single months?  My perfect alibi is shot.  Maybe in those missing months, I urgently needed some crushed paper packing materials, or something to quickly protect the floor under the cat-food dish.  I’m solid from September 1976 through 2007, except for those missing pages – those missing memories.  It’s not that they aren’t filed away in the database of my mind, it’s that the physical calendar pages turned out to be the “product code” that unlocks them.

CalComp

If anyone has been waiting for the opportunity to rewrite a little history, I’m accepting bids on a full set of like new, never marked, but naturally aged 1980 (20″ X 25″) calendar pages.