Dale Says

May 20, 2013

On My Birthday 2013

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 4:45 pm

“When I was 5 years old, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
John Lennon

On my birthday I am 62 years old. It’s another “‘tweener” birthday, but this one comes with a twist; I’m now officially old enough for Social Security.

When I was still working full-time and doing that awful commute to Visa each morning I would envision an ideal life after working. It involved travel, and time with friends and family, and volunteering for projects that meant something to me. And it involved writing. Now, at age 62, I find that I am leading that life!

I have good health and enough energy to live life the way I want. I have enough freedom to do what I want every day of the week. I have a great marriage and a loving family and wonderful friends. I have a comfortable home in a terrific city. I should have enough money to live comfortably the rest of my life. And I have plenty to do; including writing, travel, volunteer work, and friendships. It’s a great part of life!

A Good Year

It’s been a good year. Most of my life has gone well the past 12 months, but there have been some hurdles, too. That seems to be the way life is at this stage.

The good things in my life start with being in love with a wonderful and charming lady. Patty remains the love of my life, and she supports me through thick-and-thin!

And I have a loving family and friends. My family rallied around my brother Ed when he needed them last fall, and their support made all the difference. I wound up spending 10 days with Ed in Colorado Springs, helping him through a very serious health issue that resulted from constant, long-term alcohol intake. He was very lucky to have a family that cares about him, a brother that came and forced him to get help, and a dedicated and caring physician who took the time to help him. My time with Ed was hard and I visually aged during it. I was glad I could be there to help him through it, but it turned out to be one of those excruciatingly painful duties that life requires of us. It had a good ending, but it left me exhausted.

Again my family rallied — this time around my mother in December when she was hospitalized for three weeks in Sidney with an intestinal blockage. I stayed with her the whole time, supported her, and cheered her on. I also consulted with her doctors and nurses, and I informed my family of her status each day. She nearly died when her intestine wouldn’t “wake up” after surgery, so she couldn’t be fed, and she was growing weaker. Then she developed pneumonia and her fever spiked. But the hospital saved her, she recovered, and I took her home on her 21st day in the hospital. She was a very difficult patient to be around, but she has improved over time to where she is only somewhat annoying. Being with my mother that three weeks was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I am very grateful I could help her.

I have terrific friends. The group of friends we share holidays and vacations and hang with are incredibly supportive. They help in so many ways, and it’s wonderful to have them in my life.

Freedom

Another absolutely wonderful thing in my life is the freedom to do what I want to do every day! That’s a tremendous luxury, and it’s one I don’t take lightly. I try to take advantage of it by making good use of my time.

So, how to spend those days? That’s the big question, and at this stage of life I find myself wrestling with it. The days stretch out ahead of you … each an opportunity to do whatever you want to do. In my case, I have divided that time into weekdays and weekends, and I save weekends to be with Patty. That’s important and rewarding.

Of the five “weekdays,” I dedicate a large part of three of them to volunteering for special causes. The other two days (Tuesday and Thursday), I concentrate on writing.

Mondays are spent with Norman, who retired last year, has many health issues, and needs a friend. We get along great, and we’re forming a good friendship.

Wednesdays I go hiking with Ruth, and each week we explore a different part of San Francisco. Those have been very rewarding for Ruth, for me, and for Ruth’s family.

Fridays are spent at Tel-Hi, helping serve lunch to the seniors. I have begun taking two of the seniors home after lunch (Bea and Ina), and I have helped each of them through a crises in their lives.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I research and write for a book I’m working on, and for articles I’m writing for myself.

Writing

The book project is for Lee Tyree. It’s a terrific job in that it is about a subject that I like (U.S. history) and about a very interesting man (William Pleasant Tyree). It pays well, and I can work on it whenever I want. What’s not to like about a job like that?

For my personal writing, I continue my blog (Notes) and am developing a collection of “Colorful Characters” that I hope to publish. I write and publish at least one travel article after each of our trips, and I have been co-writing (with Toni Wilson) a column for Competitive Intelligence Magazine,.

Bad News

The less-favorable events the past year center around poor health and death, as they have for the past few years. Life seems to be more tenuous at this age, and you have to be prepared for bad news.

The severe illnesses of my mother and brother set me back, and I found myself in a dark place for awhile after them. Maybe it was too much stress and bad news in too short a time. Maybe I’m not as good a caregiver as I thought. Or maybe I’m not quite ready to deal with my own mortality.

Whatever caused it, I carried a dark cloud over me for several months after those two incidents. It seems to be clearing up now.

And there were more deaths of people close to me over the past year.

My Aunt Trish had been ill for several years, and her Alzheimer’s had reached the stage where she often didn’t even know her own children. But she recognized my voice when I called, and she was always cheerful to me. I sent her a birthday card just before she died, and I hope she read it. She always said that she was born on St. Patrick’s Day, and that’s why her parents named her Patricia. Ironically, she died on her birthday.

Jeff Brit had been helping me take care of our garden for a couple of years, and he had done wonders with it. Jeff was a master gardener, and he had worked a career as an orchid expert (traveling around the world giving talks about orchids) and an executive for a local orchid grower. He had also become a good friend, and I looked forward each month to Jeff’s visits, and to the follow-up emails, when we shared our love of gardening and writing. Jeff didn’t have much time to prepare for his demise, as he found out in December that he had pancreatic cancer, and by February he was dead. There is a lot of Jeff in our garden, and I miss him.

Health

Except for one issue, my health has been good the past year. I started to have problems with my right shoulder last fall, and the pain got bad enough that I went to a doctor. He took an MRI and found a partially-torn labrum tendon in the shoulder. He injected it with cortisone and recommended physical therapy, which I did. I also had a personal trainer (Fran at my gym) design a set of stretching and strengthening exercises to help. Between them, I now have little pain and more strength in my shoulder, and that crisis seems to be over. I’m now a believer that at this age one should see professionals early into any serious health issue.

My mental health has also been pretty good. As I mentioned, I had a dark cloud over my head for awhile, and Patty and I have had some issues, but it seems to have gone away, and overall I’m happy and pleased with my life.

Travel

Our travels took an unusual twist last year. Normally, we take two international trips each year, but last year we didn’t take any. We had planned a trip to the Baltic States in June, but the trip became too expensive and too complicated, so we cancelled it, and instead signed up for a week-long bicycle tour in Maine. Cousin Tom, Allan, and Anne joined us. It was a terrific adventure, and we loved Maine!

We usually plan an international trip to the southern hemisphere in the fall. Last year, however, we decided not to, because of my need to stay here and help Ed. Instead, we went to two weddings: Denise Mange’s in New York in July and Monica Mange’s in Santa Barbara in September.

Special Friends

We continue to see our group of special friends several times each year, including all major holidays, Drakesbad, and DHSOS meetings. There is a very tight bond between us, and those friendships mean a great deal to all of us. Ruth’s illness has been hard on everyone, but it has been gratifying to watch the group rally around her and Bill.

Da’ ‘Stache is Back

I’m growing back my ‘stache, following a two-year absence. I never got used to my looks without it. I first grew a ’stache when I was in his early 20’s to make me look older. By the time I was 60, it was working, so I shaved it on my 60th birthday. Now, two years later, I’m growing it back.

Patty’s Red Sports Car

Patty finally got her red sports car!

It had been a long time coming, and she had been talking about it and longing for it for years. But she could never pull the trigger — until now.

She and her Mom used to talk about having a two-seater red sports car, and how fun it would be to pull up in it in front of a group of friends.

When Patty’s Mom died, Patty’s Dad remembered that she always wanted Patty to have a red sports car, so he found and bought her a car. It was red. But it was a sedan; not a sports car.

Patty loved her sedan (a 2000 Toyota Solara) because her father gave it to her, and she drove her red Toyota Sololá for 12 years. But for at least the past five of those years, she has been pining for a sports car.

It was a New Year’s resolution, as I remember it. She said she was going to make a decision this year.

In the end it wasn’t really much of a decision. She had fallen for the Audi TT years ago, and nothing else was really going to do. It was the sleekest of sleek and the coolest of cool and she wanted one while she was still able to get in and out of it. She tried all the other com parables, but none were quite the same.

Once she made up her mind, she put the right guy on it. Her brother, Allan, is a car guy, and he can find out anything about any car. He searched, and he searched, and he found her the perfect car — a low-mileage, immaculate condition, red 2011 Audi TT. He and his bunny, Sue, drove it across the country.
She’s been driving it about a month now, and she hasn’t grown one bit tired of everything about tit. She still tries to find reasons to go for a drive, just so she can sit in it.

Syria, Iran and North Korea

Each year when I write this I include at least a couple of trouble spots in the world that could erupt into war. It’s a sad commentary on how little progress the world has made in resolving its differences without killing each other. This year the trouble spots are Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

A civil war in Syria has raged on for more than two years, and countless thousands of Syrians have been killed. The people of that Middle Eastern country want new leadership, and those in power have refused to step down, so rebel forces have been fighting the governmental forces. No progress has been made in resolving it, despite the vast majority of the civilized world insisting that the leaders step down. Instead, those in power use their power to kill those who would overthrow them. Unfortunately, the United Nations is powerless to do anything about it, so it continues.

Iran and North Korea have (or are developing) nuclear weapons, which they have threatened to use on their neighbors and/or the U.S. Sanctions placed on those countries by the U.S. and United Nations have made the countries poorer, but have not persuaded them to change. Both situations are unsettling and either could erupt into a disaster at any time.

Boston Marathon Bombing

Two immigrants from Russia set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing four people and wounding 130. It set off a national outrage, and led to several days of panic and outrage and a search for those who did it. Video surveillance led police to two brothers, one a student; the other a former boxer (and staunch Muslim). They eluded police for a few days, and then carjacked a car, took the driver hostage, murdered a university security guard, and planned to head to New York City where they would set off their one remaining bomb in Times Square.

Fortunately, the care they hijacked was low on gas, so they stopped to buy gas at a service station, the hostage escaped and called the police. A gun battle ensued, during which the older brother was shot and killed; the younger brother drove the stolen car over his brother and escaped, and he eventually ended up under a tarp that covered a small boat in an area that had been placed on alert. The owners of the boat were in their house. When the lock-down was lifted, the owner went outside and noticed blood on the tarp that covered his boat. He notified the police, who captured a badly-wounded and bleeding second bomber. He was the younger brother, who turned out to be a student at an area university.

The bomber is no longer talking to police, but I believe this story will eventually be told. It is an incredulous tale of lives gone bad, and of hope turning into despair. Both of these young men wanted a better life, and it apparently wasn’t working out for them. One turned the desire into hatred, and the other went along. It’s tragic. A lot of lives were spoiled because of a very stupid act. It reminds each of us that life is fragile and we need make the most of every day.

9/11 Memorial

While in New York in August, we went with Marilyn and Marcie to the 9/11 Memorial. It’s a hauntingly-beautiful reminder of what happened there. The museum was not open yet, but the memorial pools were. Water flows over the edges of pools that occupy the footprints of the buildings that fell during the 9/11 attacks, and we walked around them and read the list of names of those who lost their lives that day. It brings to mind what really happened that tragic day.

Bay Bridge

We’re getting near the opening of the new and controversial eastern section of the Bay Bridge, between Oakland and San Francisco, This project has been fraught with controversy for years, but they have decided upon and built a fantastic new suspension bridge that is supposed to open this September. But now we find out that 32 bolts on the new Bay Bridge snapped after workers tightened them; bringing into question the safety of the bridge and the sanity of the people who built it. So which of our well-paid public officials are responsible for this colossal screw-up, which could delay the opening of the bridge and end up costing California taxpayers millions?

The finger pointing has begun, and CalTrans and the supplier (Dyson Corp. of Ohio) are trading public barbs. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Gun Rights

The right to own and use guns has been a major topic of conversation and controversy in the US the past year. There have been several mass murders in the US, including the slaughter of 26 children at a school called Sandy Hook in Connecticut, by a deranged man. Mentally-disturbed men now seem to delight in isolating themselves, playing violent video games, buying automatic weapons, and gunning down as many people as possible. Each time a state or federal legislature tries to enact laws that would make it more difficult for the disturbed to buy guns and ammunition, guns-rights advocates, led by the National Rifle Association, stop it, in the name of 2nd Amendment rights. Many of my relatives are on that side, fearing that their right to own hunting and defensive weapons will be taken from them. The NRA came up with a solution shortly after the Sandy Hook murders — “more good guys to stop the bad guys,” which involves posting an armed guard at every school in the US. I guess by that logic, armed guards would also have to be posted at every movie theater, political rally, and every other public gathering.

It’s all so incredibly sad, and there’s no happy solution. I’m not a gun owner, and I never will be. I don’t seriously think any US state or federal government agency really wants to take my relatives’ shotguns away, and I don’t think any of them really need to own an automatic weapon. So, because they refuse to compromise in any way, the mass murders by automatic weapons will have to continue.

Gay Rights

The issue of gay rights is also foremost in the minds of many legislatures, both internationally and in the US. France is the latest country to allow gay marriages, which makes 14 countries, and Minnesota is the latest state to allow it, which makes 15 states. One day people on this planet will not be judged by their sexual orientation, but it’s happening slowly.

Pt. Reyes

Pt. Reyes has become a favorite place for me to get away from the city and enjoy the real nature of California. It’s a very special place that’s little more than an hour away; a rugged coastal paradise that has been preserved for us to experience what California is naturally. We go with my brother John and his wife, and we stay in a lodge in Tamales Bay — a decent place in a beautiful setting. We hike some of the many fantastic trails; up into the hills, out to the coast, or to the lighthouse. This year we saw herds of Tule elk, fields of wild irises in bloom, grey whales on their migration to Canada, rabbits, a snake, and even a bobcat. We have now established a routine of favorite restaurants and stores, and we have a wonderful time together.

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