A DEATH IN OUR FAMILY


I learned this afternoon that my wife’s youngest brother, Jim,  has died. He was sixty years old. His death did not come as a surprise to us as he has been in increasingly poor health since his return from Vietnam. Yes, he was one of the many young men who experienced combat in Vietnam after being drafted into the U.S. Army. While in Vietnam,he was exposed to Agent Orange. This was used by the U.S. Army as a forest  defoliant to expose the Viet Cong. This chemical was essentially a nerve toxin and many persons were injured by exposure to it. Jim was sick for  most of his life after his discharge from the Army. This episode in out history remains one of the most shameful to have ever occurred. Every time I hear some politician opine on the subject of the V.A. and how well we treated our returning men and women, I almost gag.

2032! I”LL BE 100 YEARS OLD AND MY LIFE MAY END – – – – .


In the year 2032, I will be 100 years old and my life may end in a very spectacular way. Well, spectacular by Human standards; not so spectacular when compared to other events in our Universe. This is the gist of my thoughts after I read of a large Comet that is predicted to strike Earth in 2032 and this event, and the aftermath, has the potential to end most life-forms. The chance of this actually happening is estimated at  one part in a hundred, that is, one percent chance of a really bad day for Us. I have heard similar predictions before and We are still here. This time, however, the 2032 prediction resonated with musings of my own death and I am now wondering what I may experience if the prediction survives more analysis and the chance of a “really bad day” approaches ten percent and more. Upon approaching this level of certainty, I feel confident in predicting macro-level Human behavior will exhibit all the characteristics which make us Human – good and bad. However bad or good the macro-level becomes, it will affect my experiences during the run-up to the “really bad day” in ways which I will notice slowly over time. I, I am sure, will be more interested in micro-level behavior exhibited by the people who surround me now – friends and others – all of them.

SAME PERSON – MANY FACES


This is an assortment of images obtained at various stages of my life.

IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME AND A LOT HAS HAPPENED


It has been a long time since I have written anything. I have sat down at my computer to write but the words just did not make it into the computer. Maybe this time will be different. It is my present intent to write what ever comes into my head.

My most recent adventure is the addition of a pump to my arsenal of medical devices that I use to manage my Parkinson’s medications. Before I tell you about my pump I need to tell you about how Parkinson’s medications are administrated to the patient in general. There are many different medications that can be used to lessen the effects of Parkinson’s, but the main one is a combination of Cardiodopa and Levodopa. As I understand the history of these, Levodopa was discovered, by accident, to be a ‘miracle drug’ in that it, within minutes after taking the drug, it transformed a person from a bedridden and sick person to a person very close to being normal. That is why it is called a ‘miracle drug’. It was also found that the ‘miracle’ did not last very long – several hours – and it sometimes made you feel sick to your stomach. It was found that combining Cardiodopa with Levodopa  fixed the ‘sick to your stomach’ problem but the short duration problem is still with us today.

My personal experience with the combination drug, administrated as a pill, was much like I described above – a short lived miracle. My Doctor switched me to a ‘time release’ form of the medication. This was better than the ordinary pill that I had been taking, but not that much. I was then put on a ‘better’ form of time release – a capsule filled with a granular substance. By then my Parkinson’s symptoms had become more severe and as a result I was taking a lot more of the drug. I gradually became more aware of my ‘on’ and ‘off’ times, that is, when the drug was working and when it was not. The problem was that the capsule was taken by mouth into the stomach where it dissolved and the medication then moved thru the stomach into the part of the gut just below the stomach. This is where the medication moves to the blood  stream and thence crosses the blood brain barrier into the brain where it becomes Dopamine. This Dopamine replaces the Dopamine lost due to Parkinson’s. A simple process in theory but not so simple in practice. I am told that eating meat protein and/or fatty foods screws-up the absorption timing such that the actual time delay becomes unpredictable. You learn quickly that you must adhere to a strict schedule and not eat proteins or fatty foods in excess when using these capsules. This requires a log of when and what you have eaten and when the capsules were taken. The process associated this the use of these becomes increasingly tedious and hard to maintain over the long run. I expressed my frustration with this situation to my doctor and he informed me that a solution for my frustration problem was at hand. He then told me of the ‘pump’.

The ‘pump’ is a device that you wear on your body. It consisted of a battery powered medication pump and a renewable cartridge containing the medication, in gel form, sufficient for sixteen hours of infusion, administrated  continuously. The medication is delivered to the recipient thru a tube connected to the pump, running thru a stoma (a hole in your body), into your stomach and down your gut to a place just below your stomach. The idea is to deliver the drug, in gel form, directly into the gut at the place where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. The purpose of the ‘pump’ is to eliminate the frustrations associated with pills or capsules. Pills or capsules are still necessary during the eight hours when the pump is not in use, when you are asleep.

I have been using the ‘pump’ for five weeks and my experience is that it does indeed make my life better. I do maintain a strict schedule of pump usage and I must do what is necessary to maintain the small hole in my body, without fail. I no longer must cope with the difficulties associated with the capsules and my stomach related problems. My frustration with the capsules is long gone. Using the pump is working well for me. I believe I made the right decision.

 

 

 

DOES WRITING ABOUT ONE’S GRIEF LESSEN THE GRIEF?


I am still grieving over the loss of my wife; its been several years since that awful week in which my wife died and I still cry when I allow myself to ruminate about our marriage and what it means to me. Yes, I still think of myself as being married. After 66 years as Patty’s husband, I am permanently married! We were married when we were 18 years old, but our marriage lasted 66 years; our marriage was abruptly ended by a cancerous tumor that destroyed her brain. I have never before experienced the feelings of loss and  loneliness that I felt as I witnessed my wife exhale her last breaths. These were the most profound moments of my life and they have remained fresh in my memory. As she exhaled her last breath, the strained look on her face relaxed to that of a person that has finally found a peaceful place to rest. I cannot forget these moments nor do I want to forget! But, life goes on for those who survive. Since I am still counted as being among the living, I must act as though I have some reason to stay alive, beyond that of the primal instinct of self preservation.

Today I read an article which presented ideas on how to deal with one’s feelings of grief resulting from the loss of a love one, and I need ideas, that is clear. One idea presented was to write about your grief and, in that way, find your way to peaceful accommodations with your feelings of grief.  This an approach that has a good chance of working for me and I am going to try it. I enjoy expressing my thoughts by writing them down, so here we go, for better or worse.

I have been taking pictures since 1961 and I have accumulated a ‘collection’ of about 25,000 color slides. The main focus is my family, in the ‘extended family’ sense of the word, but I also extensively documented my interests in railroads, railroad history, the great outdoors, mountaineering, and life in general.  I generally took a quick look at my slides as I got them back from Kodak, put them into ‘limbo-like’ storage, and essentially forgot about them. A few years ago, I woke up to the fact that I had accumulated a ‘collection’ of slides which was a fairly good record of my life experiences. So, I bought a scanner and began to digitize my slide ‘collection’. I started by digitizing my ‘railroad slides’ and when that phase was completed, moved on to the digitization of the remainder, a process that is still not completed. The digitization of my images is a very personal process for me, that is, I am forced to relive all of the experiences that I shared with Patty as I view the images. Recalling the events and circumstances of my life is not usually a problem for me, but after my wife Patty died, I found myself in a quandary as I started to resume my normal life. l realized almost all of the images that I was looking at evoked memories of Patty. I realized that I was faced with the choice between continuing to process the slides, and in so doing add to my grief, or to avoid the reminders altogether by deferring the scanning and thus allow myself the luxury of lessening my grief mainly with the passage of time. I chose to resume the digitization of my slides and I set aside those images that showed Patty. That was a lot of images, and a lot of memories, as Patty and I shared many experiences. This was a difficult process for me at times but I managed to edit these images of Patty down to a final group. This group became the slide show which was presented at Patty’s Memorial Gathering. This Memorial Gathering of Patty’s family, and her many friends, was the most emotionally intense thing I have ever willingly subjected myself to. I believe the experiences and emotions of preparing the slide show were responsible for my being able to attend Patty’ Memorial and not experience a complete emotional breakdown.

Living in the home that Patty and I made for ourselves and our three sons has proved to be a blessing for me, but it does give rise to a problem similar to the one enumerated above. Everything I see or touch brings back memories of Patty and of the experiences we shared. We have lived in this house since 1958 and it contains a lot of memory jogging artifacts. The artifacts that trigger these memories are everywhere in the house. For  instance, every time I brush my teeth, I am reminded of her because her toothbrush is still where she left it. I cannot avoid seeing it. The solution is as simple as it is obvious; get rid of the toothbrush! Except that is not so simple (for me). Throwing away anything which  belonged to her is, to me, a bit like denying her place in my life. This is a huge problem for me as it renders me impotent in doing the things that I need to do to close her estate. Consequently, I am not making much progress in giving away her belongings to family and friends as she wanted. The severity of my problem is compounded by my nearly complete inability to dispose of my own stuff. Recently, I did resolve to go thru some of what I have accumulated over the years and rid myself of most of it. My son David eagerly helped and encouraged me by moving many storage boxes  and otherwise facilitate the work. So far I have rid myself of three boxes of books, looked at, reorganized, and returned an additional six boxes of stuff back into storage. In looking at the contents of the boxes, I found much minutia of the early years of our marriage. and I dutifully scanned many documents into the computer with the intent of disposing the originals. I made the mistake of reading documents as I scanned them and when it came time to actually throw them away, I found I could not do so. I ended up with much of what I started with; much better organized, properly stored on my computer, and once again, stored in the garage. However, I also experienced wonderful trips down memory lane as I processed all that stuff; I literally relived the early days of our marriage and courtship. I found photographs of the engine I built-up for my 1940 Ford sedan and these reminded me of the time I spent with my Father as he taught me the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of engine rebuilding. I was reminded of Patty and the fun times we spent together as a couple before we were married. Time well spent, but not very useful as far as downsizing my ‘stuff’ is concerned. Unfortunately, I am becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of just doing what little I can and not worry too much about the actual downsizing. My apologies to my sons who will have as much of a problem with throwing Dad’s’stuff’ away as I am having in doing the same.

Do I feel any lessening of the burden of grief that I bear? I really do not know yet. Will I continue to write? Yes, I will continue to write. Later!

 

 

HOW A LITTLE STUPIDITY BECOMES A MAJOR PAIN IN THE ASS


I have been getting junk phone calls to my house phone for years and I do not even bother to answer – I just let it ring. However, I am beginning to get these type calls on my cell phone. About a month ago I answered a call on my cellphone I suspected was junk call. I answered for reasons which escape me now. It was a call to inform me that the company making the call was contracted to make refunds to former customers of a company that I used to use to perform maintenance and repairs to my computer. In order to do so, I had allowed the company technician to access my computer. I never had a problem in doing so. My relationship with the company ended when they went into bankruptcy. This all happened several years ago. The call seemed legitimate but I was very wary. It did seem odd they wanted access to my computer to give me a refund. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I let the caller take control of my computer. (This was HUGE mistake!) The caller quickly made it appear that I owed him $10,000 and he demanded that I pay him immediately by withdrawing $10,000 in cash and send it to him with a money order I was to purchase. The person in control of my computer was very good at confusing and distracting me.  I came to my senses about this time and turned off my computer. My computer is password protected and when I rebooted, my password no longer worked. I had been had! I got on the telephone and reported the whole episode to the Police and the fraud department of the bank. The fraud people quickly assured me I had not suffered any monetary loss but I would be required to change all my bank accounts and have my computer ‘cleaned’ and certified as ‘cleaned’ before I would be allowed to use it for online banking. This was the start of my major pain in the ass. The police report went nowhere because the ‘crime’ could be properly categorized.

I arranged to have the computer ‘cleaned’ and the technicians assured me I would not lose any of my data files but my computer would be in the same state as a new one. All my files would be on an external hard drive that I purchased for that purpose. I would have to ‘build’ my computer from scratch. I was allowed to use my computer for banking business after I sent the work invoice to the bank’s fraud department. I have been slowly rebuilding my computer since it was certified as being ‘clean’. It is a process that has some positive aspects. Some of my do overs incorporate ‘lessons learned’ and are better than before. It is still largely a pain in the ass for me, however. New bank account numbers means that I have to change all of my direct deposits and get new checks. Another pain in the ass several time over.

I cannot complain too much as I basically did it to my self. I am motivated to not do it again but one never knows.

 

SOME POST ‘CELEBRATION OF LIFE’ THOUGHTS


I thought the ‘Celebration of Life’ event was huge success. It was a fitting tribute to Patty’s life and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, which by itself would be enough to render the event a success. I want to thank everyone for their participation and thank my son John for the work he did in coordinating the event and making sure the lunch itself went well. Thanks to those who made menu suggestions. Sue flawlessly managed the two mailings, perhaps the most critical task. Nick was kind enough to be the ‘Master of Ceremonies’ and I thank him for that. The choice of music for the slide show was the work of Patty’s friend Bea Saldana. I am sure Patty would approve. I am absolutely convinced that the enthusiasm and participation of the members of my extended family and our friends was essential to the success of the event. I thank you all.

Personally, I was overwhelmed the by the kind words and expressions of love that were bestowed on me. The memory of these will provide me with comfort for the rest of my days. Thank you all. My memories of the sixty six year long marriage, that Patty and I shared, comfort me each and every day. I miss her more than words can express; the pain of my grief will be with me always. I tried to set aside this pain as I endevoured to greet everyone. However, I suspect that I fell short in that effort. I was especially pleased to see so many of my friends there. My extended family has grown to such a large group that I am no longer sure of ‘who belongs to who’.

We ought to do this again to memorialize those members of our family who have departed this world and have some fun at the same time. I am willing to bankroll such an endeavor if a committee can be formed for this purpose and present me with a plan. As a resident of the City of Lakewood, I can rent a 150 person capacity park for a day. The park is less than a mile from my house and it is very nice. Something to think about.

I have 120 size B/w and 35 mm color slide images I took starting about 1962. These are nearly all scanned into files on my computer. There are thousands of them including about 8000 railroad images. I also have about 100 rolls of 8 mm color movies which I had professionally digitized. Copies of these are yours for the asking, but I caution you that my energy level tends to be low so it may take a while to satisfy your requests. This collection was the source for the pictures of Patty in the slide show. It would be a shame if this resource was lost to our family. Keep in mind that today memory on computers is cheap and plentiful.

 

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