We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Mortal Yet

Spring                                                                Passover Moon

Ruth in the middle, red makeup

Ruth in the middle, red makeup

Snow yesterday and last night. Not a lot, maybe 2 inches. At most. But, all moisture is welcome. More rain and snow in the forecast for next week, too. Go, sky.

This week saw lab results and imaging results coming in over the threshold. Like getting final grades at the end of term though these matter, especially at this age, much more. All good for both of us, mostly. My kidney disease has actually improved some. No real trouble. Of course, there’s always the mortal yet that needs to be added here. But for now, still above ground and likely to stay that way for a while.

The weekend is grandkids. Ruth and her Destination Imagination team, the Jaw Dropping Crunchy Brains, compete in the statewide event tomorrow. We’ll be in attendance.

SamsMenuCOVER-621x1024Tomorrow, Earth Day, April 22nd, is Gabe’s 9th birthday. He wants to eat at Sam’s #3 and so we will. A good day to celebrate the grandkids.

Today I’m off to the Lego store to get a gift certificate for Gabe, then I’ll head all the way south on Hwy. 470 to Ikea. I’m picking up a chair frame and two stools. The chair frame is for a reading chair like mine. With it Ruth and I can read together in the loft.

Finally, I’ll swing by Dairy Queen for an ice cream cake for Gabe’s birthday celebration up here on Shadow Mountain. That should be enough for today.

Of course, all this driving will be in full view of the Front Range, making it seem like I’m really out here on vacation. Which is what it still feels like most of the time.

 

 

The Zen of Kate

Spring                                                                        Passover Moon

700 pixels- punta arenasMonday. Physicals back to back. We do things together, like our physicals and our dental cleanings. So sweet. Very romantic. And it is, in its way. Sort of like dates. We go out to lunch afterwards.

This week is the slow drip after as test results and imaging work reveal their information. So far, generally good news. The usual deterioration occasioned by 70 + years on the planet, not a surprise, but not yet deadly.

The zen of Kate. One of the imaging tests could have returned something bad, but even in the weeks after she learned a second test, a cat scan, would be necessary, Kate didn’t flinch. “Can worrying about it make it different?” she said. A wise woman, my Kate. Of course, that didn’t prevent me from worrying about it, but I’m trying to learn from her on this one.

She’s bouncing back from a three/four month bout of low energy and shortness of breath. Nighttime oxygen (we live at 8,800 feet) and more calories each day have given her more pizazz. She’s also just had her second infusion of Remicade, a drug for rheumatoid arthritis. RA can also produce fatigue so the Remicade may be helping her energy level increase, too.

2011 09 04_1258750The zen of dogs. Over the last few weeks I’ve paid special attention to how the dogs in my life live: Gertie, Rigel and Kepler. We share moments often during the day and at night. A dog is always in the now, ready to take a nap, run outside, eat, get a head or neck scratch, some petting. They remind me of the brevity of life and how precious each moment, each interaction is, not only with dogs of course, but with family and friends. With the mountains, too. The clouds and stars. The snow.

 

A Mighty Fortress is Our Family

Spring                                                                       Passover Moon

kogenateThis weekend focused in part on grandson Gabe though he was absent from it. Gabe has hemophilia.

Many diseases have their own subcultures. Think HIV/aids, Hepatitis B, breast cancer, MS, cystic fibrosis. Hemophilia has its own. On Friday and Saturday Kate and I attended a hemophilia education event in Lone Tree.

A notable defining characteristic of the bleeding disorder subculture is how misunderstood the disease itself is, and how much others don’t appreciate the demands on both those with the disease and their family. I imagine other disease focused groups share this general attitude. While it is certainly true that most folks have never heard of the clotting cascade or what can go wrong with it and we don’t live with the day-to-day strain of possible bleeds or other serious complications, these attitudes create an us against them mentality.

Physicians don’t understand. Friends don’t understand. Grandparents don’t understand. The only ones who get it are those of us directly affected.

FactorTrack3And, ironically, Big Pharma. One of the oddities of the bleeding disorder community is its relationship with big drug companies. In most, perhaps all, other instances, the choice of medication for a particular condition or illness is the physician’s responsibility, often in consultation with the patient, yes, but just as often not. The physician’s job is to understand the patient and, if needed, the application of a certain pharmaceutical to their situation.

Not so in bleeding disorders. Parents of afflicted children and adults with a bleeding disorder have a personal relationship with drug representatives from companies like Bayer or Shire or CHS Behring and Octapharma. They have to learn about how molecular structure impacts the efficacy of a factor product. Factor is short for clotting factors which are missing or weakened in bleeding disorders.  There’s also the issue of half-life. In recent time the choice about whether to use a product produced from human plasma or a synthetic product has tilted now toward the synthetic, recombinant, because human plasma derived products too often carried HIV-but they were all that was available. This necessity to choose among the various factors offered, taking on a role normally filled by a physician, no doubt empowers parents and afflicted adults, but it also makes the circle draw closer, tighter.

All of this reinforces a cult-like insularity. One couple spoke about their children’s grandparents as “clueless.” The laughter in the room indicated that most of those there shared that opinion. How could grandparents possibly understand? Now, you might imagine that didn’t sit well with me, Kate or Barb Bandel, Jen’s mother. There were other ageist moments when our commentary in group discussions were either ignored or diminished. We raised these very children who now see us as unable to understand issues that affect children. This is not only ironic, it’s damaging.

When the nuclear family becomes the stronghold against uninformed outsiders, a whole panoply of possible resources wither up. Parents don’t take time for themselves, at least at first, because who else could know what to do? Children don’t go away for the night, even to grandparents. The strength of the extended family is cut off to the detriment of all parties.

 

 

A Year and 7 Days

Spring                                                                          Passover Moon

Subway in Singapore

Subway in Singapore

It’s been a year and a week since Joseph and SeoAh were married in Gwangju, Korea. We were in Singapore on this day a year ago. We met Anitha, mentioned below, at Relish, a restaurant near Mary’s home and dined that evening at the Tanglin Club, a holdover of the British raj, a private club for owners of rubber plantations.

After coming home to a 46 inch snowfall, we picked up our dogs from the Bergen Bark Inn. Vega got bloat, was operated on the same day and died the next morning. A huge heartache, doubled by its surprise.

Passover 2016

Passover 2016

That May Jon and I dined at a Mexican restaurant in the heavily Latino portion of Aurora where his school is located. “Jen and I are getting divorced.” Oh. My. Still echoing today though the final orders for the divorce were read into the record in November of last year.

That same month I got a letter from a photographer accusing me of using one of his photos without a license. He had me. I was guilty, guilty, guilty. A negotiated settlement passed a thousand dollars to him and inspired a weeks long project of removing all photographs and suspect images from Ancientrails.

The Old Man of the Mountain

The Old Man of the Mountain

Last year was also the peak of fire mitigation work. The sound of the chainsaw was heard in the land for hours at a time. It was fun work and created a zone of safety around our house.  I’m especially grateful for that work this year since we’ve had very little snow and it looks to be a long and potentially hot summer.

In June Timberline Painting put stain on the garage, our two decks and the shed. It was in the same month that Kate and I began to attend the mussar sessions at Beth Evergreen. This was Kate taking up the law of return, re-embracing a decision she’d made 30 years ago to convert.

Too, the Presidential campaign was very much with us. Even though Trump made us shudder, his chance for victory, either for the Republican nomination, or God forbid, for the Presidency itself, seemed very, very unlikely.

20160925_133910That August buddy Mark Odegard, older than me, pushed himself to do prints of all the bridges crossing the Mississippi in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He finished and had a show of his work. That same month we contracted with Bear Creek Design to redo our downstairs bathroom into a zero entry shower.

In September I traveled by car to Minnesota, taking in a reception for Joseph and SeoAh at Raeone’s new home near Central High School in St. Paul. The Woolly’s were having a retreat day that same weekend, so I got to reconnect with my brothers in Stillwater, overlooking the St. Croix.

20161201_201051That driving trip convinced me that my left knee had to get better. Driving made it so painful that sleeping was tough and long stretches on the road difficult. After consulting with Lisa Gidday, my internist, I visited orthopedic surgeon William Peace. We scheduled the replacement for December 1st.

Kate and I observed our first Sukkot in a booth built on the grounds of Beth Evergreen. We continued to get more deeply involved there, attending High Holy Day services and some evening mussar events.

20161022_113629We voted by mail on October 19th. Didn’t help. Trump got elected. Joseph deployed to Qatar. Mark (brother Mark) continued to teach in Saudi Arabia. Final orders for the divorce were handed down and we celebrated Thanksgiving.

Then I had knee surgery. Ouch. I woke up about six weeks later. Only to discover that Donald Trump had, in fact, been elected and that, even worse yet, he would be inaugurated on the 20th of January. Not even the morphine, oxy and tramadol could repress the pain of that realization. And so it came to pass.

It was in the context of all this swirl and drung that I reached the biblical three score and ten. A new decade of life, a sense of completion and a feeling of a new beginning. Still seems odd, still living into that. Somewhere over the course of this time I joined Beth Evergreen, made friends there.

Ruth at Wild Game

Ruth at Wild Game

This month Ruth turned 11 and Gabe will turn 9. Jon’s begun to look for houses, to check out mortgages. Kate and I have our physicals tomorrow. She’s got some serious issues that will become clearer over the next week or so. I have some anxiety about them. My health seems pretty good, even though our time here in Colorado has seen me down a prostate and up a new prosthetic knee.

The year after Joseph and SeoAh’s wedding has been full. Maybe a quieter one coming up?

Meals

Spring                                                                          Passover Moon

Last night Kate and I went over to Marilyn and Irv Saltzman’s home, also in Conifer, but up King’s Valley Road out toward Bailey off 285. We had African themed food cooked by Marilyn, who went to Africa last year, and desserts made by Irv. The food was good and the conversation even better. Two of Marilyn and Irv’s friends also came over. We talked traveling, politics, Judaism and Christianity, those topics so often literally off the table at dinner gatherings.

It was great to have a night out with adult conversation. Though. Going to bed at 8 pm, my practice now since the knee surgery last December 1st, means staying out until 8:30, as we did, makes the next day difficult. I’m deciding I need a rest day after “late” nights like this one.

View of Denver from Mt. Vernon Country Club

View of Denver from Mt. Vernon Country Club

Probably will tomorrow night, too, since we have the Beth Evergreen community seder at Mt. Vernon Country Club over near Lookout Mountain. Passover is the defining holiday for Jews as Easter is for Christians. Both emphasize overcoming. And, due to the Christian formula for determining Easter’s date*, both come in roughly the same time period. Easter Sunday this year, for example, is the 16th of April.

  • In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.(*) From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox.  Easter is delayed by 1 week if the full moon is on Sunday, which decreases the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover.

The snow from last week is nearly all melted. The wildfire risk is moderate now, rather than high or extremely high as it was not so long ago.

Kate’s been to the cardiologist this morning for an echo cardiogram. Don’t expect any big news from it.

He’s My Lovely Husband

Spring                                                                       Passover Moon

And so, instead of Easter we look toward passover. It’s on two nights, this year April 10 and 11. On April 11th we will attend a community seder sponsored by Beth Evergreen at Mt. Vernon Country Club. The immersion continues and I’m learning a lot about this ancient faith and about myself. Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, believed that Jewish culture was a gift to the world that could be shared without necessarily demanding religious conversion. I’m glad. Beth Evergreen is easily the most interesting religious community of which I’ve been a part.

My workouts have gotten back to their former lengths, roughly an hour to an hour and a half depending on the day, but the intensity, especially in the cardio, still lags. Of course, I’m only four months out from my surgery, so I’m fine with where I am.

We haven’t seen the grandkids for two weeks due to their spring break, but they’re coming up here tonight. Will be good to see them.

20160406_134240Joseph and Seoah got married on April 10th, a year ago. With Joseph’s deployment to Qatar they’ve missed some of their first year together, about four months. He goes again in August and will be there until December. He says this may be the last one for a while. I hope so, but with Trump finding his gunslinger role, I wonder.

Here’s the capstone of the whole experience for me, a text exchange I had with SeoAh after I learned Joseph had been sick.

Me: Glad to hear that. (he was better.) I worry about him a bit.

Very glad he’s got you to care for him and that you have him.

SeoAh: He is my lovely husband. Don’t worry about him. I will care for him.

Me: Okay.

 

 

Scraping Sharp Blades Across My Soul

Spring                                                          Passover Moon

12003381_10153606920344267_720449957253601669_nModulating the call and response occasioned by Trump era politics in my own head has proved daunting. I’m not going on a “news cleanse” or planning to ostrich myself in the several inches of snow we just got. (though that last one sounds sort of good)

I did uncouple from the Idiocy of Donald Trump facebook group. It became too much though the posts were really funny. I also changed the name of my Evernote file where I save material relating to the Trump presidency from Fighting Trump to just Trump. Felt like I was scraping a sharp blade across my soul each time I saved an article.

All that feels right for me, so far. Yet. There is reading the Denver Post and the New York Times, both morning rituals. Today I noticed Trump doomed the planet by weakening compliance with the Paris Accord’s goal to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by 30% by 2030. That’s a key number because a global reduction to 50% by 2050, then zero by 2100 is the main hope the world has to stave off dire temperature rises.

There’s also the recent attempt by the GOP, with Trump’s assist, to kill 43,000 Americans a year by denying them even mediocre healthcare. Of course, as a cartoon I saw pointed out, bad healthcare is no problem if the planet gets fried to a crisp.

The lesson for me is this. Shut down the barbed rhetoric, Fighting Trump and the Idiocy of Donald Trump. No need to scrape those sharp blades across my soul. But don’t ignore, don’t forget. Stay aware and be ready. The danger is ever present as the climate change policy reversal makes clear.

 

In the Shadow of Finitude

Spring                                                              Anniversary Moon

700 pixels- punta arenasNo certainty yet on Kate’s malaise though the likelihood of something terminal has receded. Dr. Gidday is good at reassurance, no false cheer, just a reasoned confidence. I remember in the midst of my prostate cancer workup she looked at me and said, “We’re going to get you through this.” I believed her. She’s moving methodically through the possibilities for Kate’s shortness of breath and her fatigue, ruling out the most pernicious first. We’ll know more over the next month or so. I’m relieved right now and want to stay that way.

It was one of those medical days yesterday. After seeing Gidday, we went to Swedish hospital and played find the right lab so Kate could have her blood drawn. We found the lab and it was closed for lunch. We took the hint and went for lunch ourselves at the Beirut Grill. Shawarma, tabouleh, mint tea. Then, back to Swedish.

Kate and me1000cropped“You know, if we weren’t in our 70s, I’d say this move to Colorado was jinxed. But when you take 70 year old+ bodies and move them somewhere else. Well. Wherever you go, there you are.” Kate nodded. We’re in that time when the body comments on its journey in unpleasant ways. The way things are.

This does put us in closer touch with our mortality, but I find this invigorating, clarifying. Life has an end. We know it and it is precisely the thing makes each day so precious, so full-if we can remain mindful. I’m grateful for these reminders of our finitude and for our lives lived in their shadow. Weird, I know. But it’s so.

 

 

Delights and Horrors

Spring                                                                  Anniversary Moon

rumiThe third phase, that phase after the career and nuclear family focused portion of our life has come to an end or is winding down, has its own delights and horrors. Auto-didacts, those with pleasurable, but challenging hobbies, those with adequate funds, those with a close network of friends and family have a good chance of enjoying the third phase more than any other part of their life. It’s a time when the pressures of achievement and child-rearing recede. They may not disappear, but their initially critical significance shifts to the margins.

This leaves the possibility of centering on who you truly are, expressing the soul/Self, the unique you created when sperm hit egg all those years ago. A rich time, filled with creativity and exploration, can be the result. It certainly has been that way for Kate and me. We’ve traveled, gotten closer to our kids and grandkids, gardened, raised dogs, moved to the mountains. She’s quilted, sewn, cooked and finally taken up the spiritual journey she started so long ago with her conversion to Judaism. I’ve continued to write and study, my primary passions. We’ve both nourished friendships from our Minnesota life and begun to develop friendships here in Jefferson County, Colorado.

It is also in the third phase, however, when the body begins to signal its eventual end. Even if there are no presenting issues of the moment, the third phase, by its very definition occurs as our age passes into the mid-60’s and beyond. The implications of this becomes clear when we make the calculation about doubling our life span so far. At 50 it’s just possible to conceive 100; but at 60, 120 is a stretch. At 70 the notion of reaching 140 is ridiculous.

will-testament_audible-wisdom-org_CCWith prostate cancer two years ago and a total knee replacement last year my body has given notice that its sell-by date is approaching. Yes, both of those have resolved well, at least so far, but they are concrete proof that I will not live forever. Something, sometime. Now it seems to be Kate’s turn to face her mortality. She has a cluster of medical issues that are challenging, making her low energy and too thin.

The horrors I mentioned above are not these, these are normal, though disconcerting. We age. Our bodies break down, then stop. Hundreds of thousands of years worth of hominid deaths makes this all too common.

20170310_174900The horrors are the loss of the one you love, the person whose life has become so entwined with your own, not enmeshed, I don’t mean here a situation where life going on without the other is inconceivable, but the loss of a person whose life has been a comfortable and comforting fit with your own, a bond of mutual affection. Imagining life without Kate leaves me with a hollow feeling.

This loss, too, is common. Just read the obituaries and see the list of “survived by.” It is different from your own death because your life goes on with a big hole. I know this feeling too well. My mother died when I was 17. This is horror. Is it survivable? Of course. But life after the death of a spouse is a change none of us who are happily married seek. Yet, it seeks us. It is the nature of two finite creatures bonded through love. One leaves first.

These matters are on my mind today as we try to hunt down and fix what’s ailing Kate. I’m not ready, will never be ready, for life without her. May it be far in the future if it happens for me at all.

 

The Masque

Imbolc                                                                          Anniversary Moon

By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Franz Messerschmidt, sculpltor, (photo) Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0,

 

Masks. The sample session about kabbalah has had me focused on masks I wear. Here are a few: grieving son, angry son, abandoned son, skeptic, philosophical analyst, anxious son, anxious man, friend (I think each friendship might prompt a different mask), loving husband, anxious husband, devoted and loyal husband, protective husband, father, proud father, step-father, grandfather, cousin, brother (again, a different mask for Mary and Mark), dog lover, grieving dog lover, gardener, beekeeper, greenman, mountain man, 60’s radical, weary 60’s radical, writer, anxious writer, fearful writer, reader, blogger, Celt, German, Minnesotan, Hoosier, Coloradan, member of Beth Evergreen, anxious member of Beth Evergreen, hiker, traveler, traveler for fun, traveler for self-knowledge, meditator, translator, Latin student, mussar student, fellow traveler of Judaism, driver, angry driver, meditative driver, commuter man, docent, art lover, art critic, poet, exerciser, reluctant exerciser, healthy man, dying man, sick man, indulgent man, poor eater man, healthy eater man, home maintenance scanning man, home maintenance securer, worker supervisor (home maintenance), father-in-law, theater and movie goer, chamber music lover, jazz lover, politically dutiful man. Well, it’s a start.

maskThe idea here is to know your own masks without judgment, then order them from core masks to peripheral. What masks can you not take off without removing some skin? Those are core (actually near core) and the most resistant to change. The core itself, the I am, is pure awareness and has no mask. I have an issue here with the kabbalah, not sure how a soul, a self, the core of me, can put on a mask. The donning of a mask seems contradictory to pure awareness, how would the motivation to mask up occur? How could it be actuated? This is important to my philosophical analyst mask though, as Jamie pointed out, the practical application of these ideas doesn’t require an answer.

The ultimate goal is to be able to take off and don masks appropriate to each moment. To do this, of course, we have to be self-aware, we have to know what mask we have on. This will take practice.

 

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