Must Take Next Exit

It was wonderful to have our son, Robin, and his family visit us in July.  In August, we drove across the country and had a real nice visit with our son, Brandon, and his family.  There we met and held our newest grandson, Desmond.

On our round trip – road trip, we encountered many (many!) road construction zones, each introducing themselves with bright signage:

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Every year at this time, my job duties include Large Water Meter Testing with the professional we always hire, Meter Dave with Oregon Meter Repair.  If large meters are not measuring accurately, they give away a lot of free water (they give away money).

I always look forward to working with Dave, but each time I put the meter testing schedule on the calendar, I see warning signs right there on the bottom left corner of August.  Signs cautioning me that summer is circling the drain and change is as close as flipping that time-table page.

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This year I found new signs on the highway of life.

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We’ve worked our last ten-hour work day (on our summer schedule).  Monday we’re off work for Labor Day.  I will work four more eight-hour days, take the Retirement Exit and end my working career.

Some ask if I’m excited.  Apprehensive might be a better word.

Some warn me not to sit around and get board.  There’s no chance of that.

Some might be concerned that I could become depressed.  If I haven’t encountered depression through three cancers (does a re-occurrence count as a fourth?) it probably won’t happen with retirement.

For years, I felt there was some kind of competition between Multiple Myeloma and Prostate Cancer (and a minor skin cancer), to bring about my demise.  It felt like a race towards retirement.  Retirement not being the finish line, but more like a reward for making it that far.

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Me and a goat – taking the exit

I was tempted to work a little longer, maybe a year.  I can walk to work, a monthly paycheck and insurance is nice, and I’m good at what I do.  But, I’ve reached my normal retirement age, there is no reason not to retire, and with Prostate cancer making a come-back, I’m choosing to take this exit.

 

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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 I clearly understood him to say, “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?

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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 ’56 Chevy hood ornament mounted on my riding lawnmower.  “Well, that’s called a hood bird.  Come with me, I’ll tell you about it.”

I 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 the02APR05 003_edited-1 lawnmower is from a car that is one year older than this one, a 1956 Chevy.  It didn’t have wind splits, it had the hood bird instead and it goes 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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Pelé is Now Accepting Applications

Rocky is off to his new home.  Maybe someone reading this would be a good fit with Pelé.

She is a pure white, fixed, 8-year-old female.  I named her Pelé (after the soccer player) because as a kitten she displayed excellent ball control slapping it left and right as she dribbled across the floor.  Also, because the people my wife got her from said she was male.  After several months, Pelé began acting strangely.  I took him to the vet who diagnosed him to be a female in heat.

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Who will blink first?

Pelé has been an indoor cat all her life, showing very little interest in going out of the house.  She’s always been a shy cat.  It takes her a while to warm up to strangers but once you make it onto her “nice” list you’re free to enjoy each other’s company.

She likes to sit on my lap while I watch TV and have her face and ears rubbed.  Her shyness disappears at bedtime, maybe because her human is horizontal and doesn’t seem so large.  That’s when she wants to nuzzle and purr.  She will slip her head under my hand to tell me this is a perfect time for fondling and petting.

She doesn’t wear a watch, but she knows the time.  She always has dry food available, but each day when I get home from work (about 5:pm) she will sprint past me on the way to the kitchen to “direct” me to her dish – as if she thinks I will wonder, “What’s all the excitement about over there near the cat food dish?”  When I arrive to investigate, she gets 1/3 can of tuna.  On the days I’m home early, she wants the tuna early.  If I give it to her, she’ll forget, or she hopes I forgot because she will direct me to her dish again in an hour or so (it’s worth a try).

We feed her 1/3 can of tuna daily, and all the dry food she wants.  Years ago, she broke out in a rash and was losing hair.  The vet said she has a condition or disease that causes that if she eats grain-based canned cat food.  She didn’t like the grain-free canned cat food she sampled, but she loves tuna, and since we switched to it she has not had a rash.  We also love tuna because 1/3 can per meal costs less than canned cat food.

Pelé is available free to a nice person who appreciates cats.  As a bonus, she will bring with her the long sought-after secret to eradicating kitty litter dust.

Let me know if you are interested or if you have questions.

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Royal Cat Seeking New Domain

This is Rocky:

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You may leave the room quietly as I ponder the answer to your question, “Why are you on my clothes?”

Possibly Royal Cat now accepting applications from domestic domiciles that may well benefit from his wise and patient supervision. 

He likes to sit looking quite regal but I doubt he has royal lineage.  I’m also a bit suspicious of his feline pedigree.  I personally don’t know any Ewoks and I barely remember them from the movies, but since I got to know Rocky, I’ve wondered if he isn’t part Ewok.

I wonder that because of his language.  He’ll often say, “Eyaht! Eyaht!” instead of, “Meow, meow.”  Sometimes he lets a word slip out in plain English – “NAOW,” as in “when can I get that for you, Rocky?”  “NAOW!  Ah, hrump-hrump…..  Meow?”

He could also be part dog because he dogs your feet, but in his case, he cats your feet.  As you walk across the room (if the mood strikes him) he will follow closely and slap at your heels, one after the other with each step.  I’m not sure of his purpose for this, maybe it’s a variation of his main compulsion.

His main compulsion, his primary purpose in life is: As you walk from one room through the next as in route to or through the kitchen, he will zig-zag in front of you, making only slight contact (counting coup?) with your ankles and feet.  In this process, he believes he is gently directing you (where you are already going) and when in range of his cat-food dish, he will dash to it and begin eating.  He’s done this for years and all I can understand from this daily ritual is that he wants you to watch him eat.

My relationship with Rocky began when he lived with our younger son through his college years and beyond.  From the day our son married and moved far away, Rocky has lived here with my wife and me (and Pele, the other cat seeking new domain).  My wife and I are retiring, hope to do some traveling, and have concluded the time is right for Rocky (and Pele) to transfer to another locality.

He uses a cat box, eats only dry cat food, and has been an indoor cat all the time I have known him, except for the few occasions he succeeded at his secondary purpose in life – escape!  When he enjoys that success, he’s not sure what to do with freedom, so he comes back.

We’ve cohabited with several cats over the years.  Rocky has the “most pronounced personality” of them all.

Rocky is available free to a nice person who appreciates cats.  As a bonus, he will bring with him the long sought-after secret to eradicating kitty litter dust.

If interested, please contact me by commenting on this post.

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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.

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Cancer Is No Fun, but I had a little

My first radiation appointment (in this series) had no radiation, it was a planning session.  While being mapped, I asked the two young lady technicians if they had a most memorable patient.  They said no, patients come and go daily, nothing has really stood out in the parade.  After a while, one of them remembered a tattooed patient who, for his final treatment had printed THANK YOU across his chest with a big felt marker.  He was the most memorable.  I told them my prostate surgery seven years ago was on the morning of St Patrick’s Day, and how I was going to tie a green bow on myself so when the surgeon pulls back the sheet to operate, he would say, “Oh – Yes… it is St Patrick’s Day!”  But, I confessed that I chickened out.  That doctor and team didn’t know me and could possibly suspect I was a weird-O.  One technician thought that was really funny and wondered if I would do something on my last visit here.  I had seven weeks to consider it, and they had seven weeks to determine the odds of me being any kind of weird.

My daily radiation treatments have gone as follows: allow time to get to my appointment considering traffic and parking.  Go directly to the radiation dispensary, remove pants and shoes, put on a hospital gown, visit in the waiting room until escorted to the machine.  Reciting the magic words (my birth date) gets me through the last door.  I lay on the slab, put my legs into the “don’t move” mold made just for me, and to expose my new hospital tattoo laser targets, I slip my underwear down to the borderline that separates PG-13 from RATED R.  The machine orbits my equator once while performing a scan, and once again delivering radiation.

I drove the 21.8 miles once again for my 38th and final radiation treatment.  In the changing room, I switched to my brand-new, carefully chosen, Wonder Woman underwear.  The technicians were properly dazzled when on the slab, I drew open my hospital gown and presented my colors.  They were even more impressed when I lowered them to reveal the message my wife had carefully inscribed just north of the border with a king size Sharpie, “THANK YOU x38.”  They said it made their day and would be talked about for a long time.

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My Temporary Tattoo

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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.

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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.

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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.

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