2/1/02-Fri.-Fran left for teaching about 6:40 AM and Pepper and I for a walk soon after. We spotted three deer, fairly close to us, and then had several more sightings of them from a distance.
A buxom nurse, Brenda, arrived at 10 this morning to obtain lab-work and information for two insurance companies. She and Pepper hit it off nicely. She stayed exactly an hour, interviewed me thoroughly for an exhaustive and often redundant medical history, took my height and weight, chest girth at greatest expansion and contraction, waist and hip size, blood pressure, pulse, urine sample, and about a quart of blood. ("Six vials are just as convenient as one once I've already stuck you," said the closet vampire.)
She was so impressed and excited with all the vital statistics I was afraid she might proposition me. In my youth, I had wished I looked older and so more attractive to the ladies. Now that I am "old," sure enough, a man looks attractive, it seems, if he's just relatively healthy and has a (slow) pulse (plus low blood pressure or an organ - even if only a good set of lungs - that can get a lot bigger when needed).
She wondered if I were a singer, after the chest measurements, and ooh'd and aah'd as well over my low blood pressure and pulse.
Before the questionnaire was half filled out, she began coaching me on how to answer: "So you do not currently have any skin cancer, right? - And you have not had any respiratory difficulties in two years, correct? - And your enlarged prostate is controlled with medication? - That's good!"
I'll be very surprised if the urine/blood tests don't help the situation too, given my dietary habits in recent weeks.
With luck, I'll be insured for ¼ million bucks in a couple months. Then Fran can begin calculating, given projected ability to make our assets rise vs. assurance of an existing estate plus lump sum from insurance, etc., at what point the parabolic curve of my value to her alive crosses the one for deceased, and, at the right time, take appropriate action.
Later, I mailed in the mortgage check, deposited the retirement check, went out for lunch to reward myself for (hopefully) completing the term life insurance application process, did more digging and planting in the back, took a nap, and completed two hours of meditation.
At the bank, I briefly had a significant windfall! The teller apparently hit one extra digit on her computer without realizing it and, for my much smaller deposit check, credited me in the account and on the deposit slip with $14,568. (Unfortunately, I know the teller's records are audited at the end of each shift. They would get their pound of flesh back if I did not own up to the error; so I pretended to be just an honest citizen and pointed out the mistake, which was all too swiftly corrected.)
Fran had a short teaching schedule and was home by about 1:45. She and Don had The Baltic Buzzards' lively musical rehearsal at our place this evening. Pepper tried several times through the evening to lend her support by noisily howling along.
2/5/02-Tues.-There was some drizzle or light rain yesterday evening. Today we awoke to overcast skies, cool temperatures, and a steady rain. While Fran normally enjoys this kind of meteorological circumstance, I find it dreary and depressing, however necessary and welcome it may be from time to time.
In spite of how gorgeous that area is and that, when we began saving for retirement, it was with the idea of moving to Oregon or Washington State once we had enough money, my reaction to the "gloomy" atmosphere of dark days and frequent showers probably does not bode well for long-term happiness if we eventually do choose to live near the ocean in the Pacific Northwest rainforest.
Neither of us felt like getting out this early AM, as we normally would have on mid-week mornings, for an aerobic walking session. (After she'd gone, I went over to Barton Creek Mall and walked around in there for about forty-five minutes, instead.)
We were thus "cooped up" together in the house till she left, about ten after ten. She has a late morning plus all afternoon teaching schedule on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Whether because of the weather, the lack of our usual physical workout, that I'd not gotten enough sleep last night, or just due to the natural friction-stresses of our personalities at close quarters for several hours, we began to get on each other's nerves a bit before she departed.
It will be interesting to see how this kind of situation plays out once, starting in May, we are both retired. We could get a little preview next month when, due to spring-break at the schools, she gets about a week off.
On one of the last few days I got behind on my meditation, getting only about half an hour in. I've been playing catch-up since, adding about twenty minutes to my daily meditative experiments schedule till up-to-date. (Except for that one slacker day, am maintaining the regimen of two [plus] hours of meditative experimentation daily.)
Moving on, I heard an interview on "Fresh Air" of the successful young actor and formerly, for years, homeless, street person, Mark Webber. He had a most upbeat attitude, not bitter at all, advising folks to follow their dreams and saying "It's always, always, always about being in the moment..." He added that it is important to be honest, implying integrity toward both oneself and the actual facts of one's situation. It seems good guidance for most of us, most of the time, but particularly for people trying to do something with meditation
2/6/02-Wed.-Fifty years ago today, the reigning Queen Elizabeth assumed the throne as the British ruling monarch. Happy anniversary, your highness! Whatever is thought of the royals generally, she has been a good regent for her country and for the British Commonwealth in an extremely complex and difficult time. I personally also like a lot what I know of the lady, taking over from her father (who had himself seen the empire through terribly volatile times, including the Second World War, the independence from British rule of the Indian subcontinent, and the loss of much of British power in the world) when she was still quite young. Her mother, a formidable and terribly interesting woman in her own right, is 100 years old this year.
Am successfully continuing with exercise and meditation regimens.
Was distressed today on learning from calls by his nurse that my primary care physician (who, in our current system of "managed health care," is a kind of demy-god, in his official influence on a patient's medical status) is insisting on my having a complete colonoscopy, simply because I am fifty-eight years of age. This invasive procedure involves putting a device up to five feet or more into the lower intestinal system - all the way up to the junction with the small intestine - so the examining doctor can check for polyps, cancerous places, diverticulosis, or misc. hemorrhages and other abnormalities.
The procedure is major enough that it needs to be done at a hospital and with use of a sedative.
I reminded the doctor through his staff that I have no family history of GI problems, have never complained of any, have had no signs or symptoms indicative of ongoing GI difficulties, eat a healthy, high-fiber diet for the most part, and have never had any of the clinical, laboratory, or other medical indications for this type examination.
However, he now has an office right next door to a suite of specialists in GI diagnostics and surgery. Apparently they have some sort of reciprocal referral of patients thing going and hope I'll be their next guinea pig.
So, my doc is emphatic that this is what he wants, for my own medical good. This from a man who steadfastly refuses me annual cholesterol checks or chest x-rays or EKGs, all tests much more relevant to the major problems I am actually likely to develop as I get older. (Only about 5% of the population succumbs to colon cancer. The percentage who develop it when they have no symptoms whatever and no family history, no obesity, a good diet, and adequate exercise is much lower still.) Nonetheless, he claims that he can tell (intuition?) that I do not need those other diagnostics, but do need this one. Translation: he has some secondary gain from getting me to submit to a colonoscopy, but the health maintenance organization is very discouraging of doctors ordering the more basic, though appropriate, blood, echocardiogram, and x-ray exams.
I'm obviously rather cynical and pissed about this latest indication of poor medical care. I had reluctantly agreed five years ago, after he'd insisted on a less invasive GI exam (that looked at the lowest 40% of the large intestine - by the way revealing that I was in great shape [alimentary, Dr. Watson] for my age) to having another sigmoidoscopy at this time, just as a precaution, in view of my increasing years. His requirement, instead, with no medical justification, that I get the much more involved procedure, with an instrument about twice as far inside and for about three times as long, is in my opinion an outrage.
The only reason it bothers me much, and that I do not just immediately seek another doctor, is that with respect to the enlarged prostate difficulties he has been great, even suggesting a new, ultrasound procedure for which he can refer me in the next few months, that has the potential to significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms related to the genitourinary system. There is, unfortunately, no guarantee the next physician will be as accommodating about that. Still, at this point, it looks as if, to avoid a totally unnecessary thing being shoved way up my ass, I'll have to take my chances with someone new. God, how I love the current medical system! (As I said before, about managed health care, they surely got it right in the movie, "As Good As It Gets.")
2/7/02-Thurs.-I had nightmares during the night, on a theme of loss of control, blended with disaster. I suppose they were catalyzed by the recent communications with my doctor. Otherwise, today has been the most satisfactory of any since my retirement began!
Fran, Pepper, and I went for our usual early morning walk. The sun was just up, the light streaming through frost on the ground, grass, and shrubs, as well as a translucent mist lifting above. On one rise near our favorite walking place we saw several deer. At first they were just standing there, not too far away, watching us. In that setting, they looked a part of a living impressionist painting. It was stunningly, exquisitely lovely. Then they ran off, but without panic, retaining their grace and a nobility which they may not have actually had but which my eye and brain certainly conveyed upon them.
Later I went over to a new Albertson's supermarket, in the midst of their grand opening, and enjoyed free samples of fruit and cheese while doing my shopping. There I happened to run into a former state employee colleague of mine, Derrick. Actually, both he and his wife, Diana, used to work in the same department I did. She's still there, but he retired about two years ago. We had a good chat. Compared notes on what it's like being retired. We both agreed it's pretty darned cool! Like me, he's into investing, lives fairly frugally, and, with his wife, has saved as much as he could toward a comfortable time after they would both stop working. Anyway, we kind of hit it off and agreed we'll get together again later over lunch, to hang out and talk more about investments.
Am very much enjoying a couple of additions to my reading list lately, the newest issue of "Outstanding Investor Digest" (a publication I can heartily recommend for those wanting to maximize their equity purchase returns), and a gem of a paperback book, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Kafka, by William Hubben (a terribly interesting work on the philosophies of these seminal thinkers, grouped together under the term "existentialists," whose ideas have helped shape and interpret the present, all too confused age).
I can also strongly suggest the American Film Institute website. A movie buff, I cannot say enough good things about what these folks do to preserve and promote excellence in the film industry. To join, or just check out what's going on with them, click on the link. (But don't forget to use the "Back" button to return here!)
Today I also did a bit of phone research and selected a new vet for Pepper, her last regular one having retired too, so we were in need of someone good but cheap to take her to for routine problems and medications. I have an appointment at the new (for us) animal clinic in the morning.
Also made a little progress on plans for my next trip, to visit later this month with folks in the extended family.
Today, for the first time since I left the ranks of the employed, I felt energized, upbeat, effective, and relaxed, a pleasant combination.
The feeling rubbed off, it seems, on my meditation, which went very well, partly because I am now doing most of it sitting up without a back rest (and so am more alert!), using a pad and pillow on the floor, in the room set aside for the meditative experiments.
This evening, Fran and I both did some work in the yard, which was nice as we felt we were getting at least a little accomplished there.
Last but by no means least, I worked out how to (hopefully) take charge, in a proactive way, of my own health care, rather than simply leaving it up to imperfect systems and doctors who, obviously, have their own interests, not mine, uppermost in their priorities.
2/8/02-Fri.-Let the (Winter Olympics) games begin! While (short of another horrific act of terrorism) this year's Olympics are unlikely to be as exciting as in 1980, when we were thrilled to watch the U.S. hockey team beat out even the vaunted Soviets for the gold, there should still be much to enliven these competitions, providing many hours of pleasant viewing and punditry for live spectators, PC sports fans, and TV addicts alike. Certainly I'm eagerly anticipating the coverage.
As Fran headed off for work this morning before sunup, Pepper and I drove over for our constitutional, again seeing eight or nine deer in frosty fields, as the great, life-sustaining, reddish-orange orb lifted into view.
A little later I got a call from Fran. With a few minutes between music student lessons, she'd checked Google for its current listings for our family-and-investment newsletter. She was amazed to discover that my monthly essays on value equities and financial strategies are now in the top ten for online personal finance advice columns, according to one site listed by the search engine. Wow! I guess this is the Andy Warhol predicted fifteen minutes of fame.
A few minutes after nine, I took the mutt for her appt. with our new vet. The service was great, with convenience, low cost, and friendly, efficient, professional care. I can heartily recommend Oak Hill/Austin's Travis Country Animal Hospital!
On my way to a celebratory breakfast, I stopped at the Oak Hill branch (nearest us) of the YMCA, picking up a brochure.
I noticed an adjoining YMCA Pre-School Center and remembered that in years past I'd considered, after retiring, working part-time at a day care facility, as a way of having more association with youngsters, since I'll never have kids of my own. If I want to give it a try, this would be a good place to submit my application.
Am now having no trouble maintaining the daily rations of meditation and exercise.
The Baltic Buzzards are tonight again rehearsing at our place, this time with rousing tango tunes.
2/11/02-Mon.-As this is one of Fran's early work-schedule days, we got up at 5:50, and then left separately about 6:40. Pepper and I went for a walk over near our local Target shopping center. I stopped for coffee.
My locks having gotten rather luxurious in the past couple months, I bought a quite short cut at a nearby "salon." To judge by the results, the lady barber must have been a laid-off butcher.
Over the weekend, the weather here was superb, with blustery, cool winds pouring through and a dome of clear, bright blue sky each day.
Inspired by a fellow online diarist, I completed "A Brief Bio."
Yesterday, Fran and I went over to visit my brother, Ron, and his fiancé, Claudia. She is about three-fourths of the way through a lengthy course of treatment for breast cancer. It appears she's going to beat it. She hopes the treatments will end in the next two to three months, after which, before year's end if all goes well, she'll first have reconstructive surgery, to give her a new breast, and later marry Ron. He's been helping her greatly through this process and has been eager that they wed sooner. However, she wants to wait till everything physical is as normal as possible.
Ron, in turn, this morning had outpatient nasal and throat surgery, to correct (hopefully) his sleep apnea and loud snoring problems. I offered to drive him to/from the doctor's. He declined. Claudia said she also could have taken him but that he feels he'll be OK to drive, just in a lot of pain for several days afterward.
With a combination of walks, meditation, and/or yard work, I'm staying caught up with my daily regimens.
I gave Fran a long massage yesterday. She and I exchanged pleasant intimacies last night. About forty years ago, I might occasionally have been able to make love three times in one night. Now, at fifty-eight, three or four times a month is more the norm. Still, happily, we seem to have a satisfying sex life.
Later today I expect to be working on our investments and the next issue of our family newsletter. Fran made a good start on this yesterday.
2/12/02-Tues.-Recent hypnagogic imagery: A brief scene and sense of great precariousness, in which I'm clambering over a rocky outcropping above a deep chasm (aren't they all - deep, that is?). Fran is a little higher and has not herself ventured out onto the boulder or wall that stretches above this huge gorge. I am noticing the fine interplay of colors of the rock, in shades mainly of tan or brown, but here and there with a bit of yellow, orange, or red, perhaps from lichen patches, on the multifaceted surface. Just as I realize how easily I could lose my handhold or footing, sure enough, my feet slip off their bits of leverage and I am hanging only by my arms and hands, when a piece of rock I'm holding with one hand breaks free and falls, the depth so great I never hear it bounce or break below. At any moment my remaining hold could go. I call to Fran and she ventures closer, but not near enough to do me much good. She suggests I let go the rock and grab her hand or arm, which, however, are not very near. In any case, it appears to me that she is not herself heavy enough or sufficiently well braced that the sudden shock of all my added weight might not topple her over the edge too. My only chance would seem to be if she would lie down far out near the edge but with her body stretched flat away from it, so her center of gravity is as low as possible, and then wrap her hands and arms around my last clinging arm, so that, when I can hold no longer, she'll at least prevent my falling immediately, while also not then being in great danger herself. There is just a small possibility that, in this way, we can both hang on till more help might arrive. But I cannot explain all this to her or get her to agree in time. She must grasp, literally and figuratively, the entire situation herself or I am lost. The odds then of survival being extremely slim, I am just again noticing the beauty of the small rocky features, right next to my face...
Recent dream: I realize it is not really cheating on my wife if I am flirtatious, affectionate, and even intimately passionate with Cameron Diaz, or whomever is the current "love" interest, a mere micro-second at a time. In fact, that way, no one would even care or notice if we were making love. Thus, if I happen to brush past the person, a light touch or a certain look can convey all the significance that more time with her might otherwise have made graphically apparent. A thousand such moments may be equivalent to a half-hour of unbridled sexual stimulation and release. Indeed, due to the anticipation of the next such poignant closeness, this more prolonged "love-making" may be much better than an intense, but brief liaison. Through the long hours of darkness, this dream recurred many times, as if I had in this way just had a clandestine affair.
Today the war crimes and genocide trial begins of Slobodan Milosevic, perhaps the most significant such legal proceeding since the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II.
This afternoon I continued and completed my investment analysis. Despite the 9/11 terrorism and a recession, our assets stood at their target level by the end of 2001. But in the first part of this year, concerns over the wider implications of the Enron collapse have shaved 6% off our retirement portfolio.
Since I cannot control the reactions of "Mr. Market," my response will be, first, to assure good investment holdings, and, second, to manage our assets to provide (independent of short-term market moves) for a 10% or greater per year increase in the true value of our equities (based on any consistent measures of value: book, net current assets, reliable price to earnings ratios from two or more sources, cash flow, benchmark, reasonable but discounted growth projections, etc.).
Tonight we went to a new (for us) South Austin restaurant, Thai Garden. The food and service were good. But the atmosphere, like the neighborhood, seemed cheap and run-down. It had been well recommended by my former colleague, Sandy. Oh well!
I cannot account for the above dream. I've no conscious desire to have an affair. I suppose there is not that much correspondence between the morality of one's waking life and the fantasies of the dream world.
2/13/02-Wed.-Considering the significance of the date tomorrow, doing a little special shopping today.
Also stocking up some based on new cholesterol research, as reported in the latest issue of "Modern Maturity," the AARP publication. It seems that moderate amounts of a special kind of margarine, plus chocolate (1½ oz. daily), red wine, apples, and apple juice are all helpful with getting one's cholesterol in proper balance. (In my case, the wine will be limited to one approximately 6 oz. glass a week, though maybe a little more as I get older.)
We all slept late today, getting up for good about 8 AM. I feel so much better with proper rest. I think folks trying to deal with depression should always focus first on adequate rest, a good diet, and plenty of exercise. Besides those three, meditation and efforts to keep things simple should round out five powerful weapons in the mental health arsenal.
Am staying caught up and regular with my own meditation and exercise disciplines.
2/14/02-Thurs.-Valentine's Day. We had a low-key celebration, with Indian take-out food, then separately also played a bit with the dog, who'd been acting neglected.
Latest hypnagogic imagery: Seeing a grandmotherly lady, a trifle plump, seated peacefully, attired in a bright blue dress, and knowing it was she, now a primitive artist, who'd started out clinically, suicidally depressed, then, using herself as the only model, picture by picture, had painted herself into this calm, happy woman before me - an impish boy's face, Fran's picture image amusingly juxtaposed, with a live lizard on his nose - colleagues from my last work unit and wondering what they're up to, memories of the final times we'd been together, kidding and joking around, with light banter. We'd talked too of Sandy's mother-in-law, whom she'd visited almost nightly for six months in the old woman's nursing home, and who'd died in December, while I was in Florida. Sandy's husband, Clark, had still been sad when I'd seen him last month, though his mom had been ninety-two and could not recognize him during her last year. As he said, in a way she'd died some time earlier.
2/15/02-Fri.-Recent hypnagogic ideation: I'm watching hilarious scenes from episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond." In the first one, his mother has given Raymond and his wife a sculpture, for their front room. Everyone but she and her husband, Raymond's father, can see right away that it looks like a big "pussy." The others are all reacting to it and trying to figure out how to politely get across to her that they really don't want it in their front room, without letting on what they really think it looks like, and how they'd feel with a big one of those right where everyone can see it.
In the other scene, Raymond's parents are talking about how often they "do it." Raymond, who's sex life has been flagging some over the years of his marriage, at first can't believe what his dad says, that they still "do it" 2-3 times a week, and thinks this must be just bravado on his father's part, a typical macho exaggeration, till his mother, with some embarrassment, admits that they generally do actually have sex about twice weekly. (Now what's that about?)
I am continuing successfully with the meditation and exercise regimens.
Today I also made further progress with our investments and arranged to meet Derrick, a former colleague, for lunch next week to talk about such mutual interests.
This evening I'm doing some more on our new family newsletter issue.
2/17/02-Sun.-Oops! This weekend Fran and I have concentrated on getting out a rather complicated, lengthy issue of our family-and-investment newsletter. We have just successfully completed it, put it online, and notified friends and family about the new edition being available. Unfortunately, though, this effort took precedence over everything else, even sufficient sleep. I got up this morning, for instance, at 5:00 AM and immediately began working on the family news section of our publication. Yesterday was hardly any better. Most of the time then was spent on researching and writing an investment article. Thus, for the whole weekend, only about an hour of meditation was completed and only two miles of walking exercise. In a little spare time this evening, I tried to at least do a hypnagogic imagery session with notes on the results, but fell sound asleep before I'd noticed any! Over the coming days, I'll endeavor to do some catching up on both the meditative experiments and the exercise regimen. At least we think this is a pretty good issue of our newsletter!
We did get over to Best Buy. I wanted to get a portable CD audio recorder to use with a CD writer for our computer, to record, and then organize, conversations with my mom, who is eighty this year, then put out a CD with the recordings compiled, for her and the rest of my extended family, with her recounting memories of her life. Unfortunately, our computer system turns out not to be sophisticated enough for proper use with a CD writer.
While there we ran into Sandy and her husband, Clark. I introduced them, for the first time, to Fran. We talked about maybe getting together for supper one evening.
2/18/02-Mon.-Recent hypnagogic imagery: I'm living alone. It's night or evening and dark when I go into a stall, as if to take a shower. It is on ground level with no door or other enclosure on one side, like one of the shower stalls one might find at a campground. I'm barefoot, indeed presumably naked, though that's not part of the image. I step in and then realize there may be a snake in there. At first, without enough light, I can't tell. But then I realize there is a rattlesnake there. It strikes me, at least once, on one foot or lower leg. I am very startled. The pain and shock are intense. (In years past, snakes and snake strikes represented for me powerful emotions I was avoiding in my conscious life. I note this is the second recent hypnagogic imagery session in which there was a fear of something followed by the realization of that fear, in each case with possible mortal danger involved. Perhaps these are just anxiety ideations. "Go into a stall" also has an aviation meaning, of course. But at the moment I do not see how that would apply.)
Pepper and I took a long walk (over three miles) this morning, mainly in an undeveloped area. We had thirteen deer sightings. Also saw a medium-sized canine, about seventy-five yards away. He seemed wild and alone. I was not close enough to tell definitely what it was, and he quickly ran off into the brush after seeing me. I think it may have been a coyote.
Today I'm making good progress getting caught up with the exercise and meditation rations.
While doing chores in the kitchen this evening I discovered our sink faucet no longer works properly. We had it worked on four or five years ago. I called and left a message for a serviceman about fixing it tomorrow.
2/19/02-Tues.-Recent hypnagogic imagery: Floating downstream in a flat-bottom boat, enjoying the natural setting, ease of mobility, breeze, temperature, sunshine sparkling on the water, turtles, waterfowl - just a pleasant, peaceful feeling.
The above is ironic for today was one of intense emotional turmoil, with much anger and frustration. Fortunately, the combination of writing (including two pages later torn up), vigorous exercise (completed a two-mile walk in less than thirty minutes and later some digging/planting in back and a series of conditioning exercises plus working out with an exercise bike), and meditation helped bring things under control.
The faucet problem cost us $54 so far, just for the "service call," but the repairman didn't have the "discontinued" broken part. So it has not yet been resolved.
Fran and I went out to eat tonight and had a good time, putting the rest of the day behind us.
My lunch meeting today with Derrick was disappointing. He seems to have given up on managing investments himself. After hearing his description of what he's done in this regard, I must admit he's likely wise to turn the decisions over to someone else. But that makes for much less interesting discussion(s) between us.
Tomorrow I'll get ready for my next trip, this one from Thurs. through next Mon., visiting with relatives in Waco, Fort Worth, and Denton, TX. Will likely not update this journal till I'm back. Unless indicated otherwise, in the intervening period I'll continue with the meditative experimentation and exercise regimen.
2/20/02-Wed.-Up a little after 7 AM. Ran a computer virus scan, began morning ablutions, did a fast two-mile walk in the neighborhood (Fran driving over, instead, with Pepper, for hiking in an area safer for the mutt), and did a project Fran had wanted taken care of out back, demolishing an old doghouse (that the dog no longer uses) and covering the bare patch, where it had been, with fresh compost.
When I was almost finished breaking up the little structure with a sledge-hammer, I discovered an adult gecko trying to hide again in some of the wood. Alerted Fran, who took a couple close-up photos of it. Then I transferred it to an old woodpile. Later found another healthy adult and moved it as well. Two were victims. One received a head injury and likely will not survive. Another had been crushed to death before I'd known of its being there. Too bad.
After Fran left for her teaching duties (and to pick up the new, replacement faucet piece at a nearby plumbing supply store), I headed off for some shopping (for Fran's 44th birthday anniversary, next week).
I also prepared and mailed a "get-well" card from us for the father, Kenneth, of one of my sister-in-laws. He's just learned his lung cancer is advanced and inoperable.
2/21/02-Thurs.-Time, at least as we perceive it, marches on. Death looms or lurks, never distant. I'd like to think we persist beyond its ambush. But all that made Ralph uniquely my brother, his DNA, his brain activity, the particular way his personality had developed and learned to adapt to his surroundings, his special smile, his slightly odd-looking face, his fine coordination and facility with music, his almost brilliant mastery of chess and similarly complex situations in life - all of this would have succumbed to the ravages to his body that eventually killed him. Indeed, even before the final breath, illness had stolen much that was individual to him. If such attributes could not even persist in this world, how could they continue in the hypothetical next? It will be no different for me. If anything exists of us after our demise, it must be only that of us, if any, that is already universal, not limited by any of the trillion variables that go together to make us who we are at any given instant. This naturally goes against our wishes. But, religious notions aside, we've no more control of our circumstances after death than those into which we were born. In each case, inexorably, willy-nilly, time thrusts us along into the next world, come what may.
2/22/02-Fri.-On the road, about an hour out of Fort Worth (and Allen's place). Just checked the directions. They're pretty clear. But I've never been to this abode of his before and have forgotten his apartment number! Oh well. With luck I'll see him when he comes back from work.
Yesterday I got in about noon, after a trip from Austin to Mom's place in Woodway/Waco. Did some meditation till she arrived, after 1:00.
Later, after time for a short rest for each of us, I took notes while Mom did her best, with the aid of album photos going back sixty years, to give a few details of her early relationship with and marriage to my dad, a project I hope to expand into a series of biographical segments, to make available to folks attending her 80th birthday anniversary party this year. Unfortunately, till now neither she nor our technology have been very cooperative. So, in lieu of recordings, a strictly written (or perhaps written plus scanned-in pictures), approach is the way I expect to go - now that her tongue is beginning to get loosened! (Have been trying to get this "Mama's Memories" project off the ground for about a year now!)
It turns out she had broken off her engagement with my father, having some qualms, after she'd gotten to know him a little better, about their ability to get along and about her ability to live up to the social class expectations of being an officer's wife.
He'd been a buck private in the Army, making just $21/mo. (and so not offering very marriageable prospects) as the war was opening in Europe (1939-1940). This had been the best steady position he could get at the time.
For awhile he'd done temporary work for his father, the Nazarene minister in Waco, TX, for $1 a day. He was then helping to tear down an old church building, once the new one had been finished.
Indeed, both he and my mother met in that newer church and wound up often sitting next to each other in choir rehearsals.
He'd been married before but divorced by the other woman, for "incompatibility," and remained extremely shy around women. He'd asked his mother, Mama Rose, whom she thought might be a good person for him to date. It was she who suggested Mom as someone he should ask out.
He'd earlier taken the Federal Civil Service Exam and done well on it. But no jobs were forthcoming. While serving in the Army, not far from Waco apparently, he finally got word he'd been offered a position, based on the civil service exam and application, as a Texas border patrol officer, a position that paid $300-400 a month, an immense sum in those days.
At that time it was possible to buy your way out of active duty Army service. So he borrowed $300 from his dad, used it to get released from the Army (though he was still in the Reserves), and accepted the border patrol position. This job, in turn, involved quasi-military training. Much of his time in the new role, in fact, was spent learning the ropes. This pedagogy in regimental ways looked good on his resumé when, in 1941, the Army Reserves were called up, prior to Pearl Harbor but as the war was clearly threatening our borders as well. Back in the Army again, he was thus promptly offered Officer Candidate School (OCS). In a little over six months he was aged 28 and the greenest of green new second lieutenants when the Japanese bombed the hell out of Pearl Harbor and, in patriotic fervor, a few million American women, my mother among them, declared their love, over the following Christmas, for men who, for all they knew, in a few weeks would be off fighting in foreign lands, seas, and air.
Dad sent Mom bus fare and rented them a duplex in Riverside, adjacent his new duty station at Camp Ord, CA. At the end of January, 1942, she took her few belongings and headed west. On 2/3/42, the requisite three days after their blood tests, they were married in the home of the local Nazarene minister and his wife. Their only witnesses were the couple living on the other side of their duplex, whom they did not know but who kindly agreed to appear for the ceremony.
Dad was then extremely busy with his military duties, often not getting back in the evenings till very late. But his commanding officer granted him one day's leave for a honeymoon.
They took a Greyhound bus south to Los Angeles the evening of their wedding, stayed at the then famous and luxurious Ambassador hotel, and walked around Hollywood the next day, before time for their bus trip back.
If Mom for a time had second thoughts, and perhaps would later often have them again, such misgivings were not shared by her step-grandma, other relatives, or friends. As in the romantic ending to "An Officer and a Gentleman" when Richard Gere's character literally carried Debra Winger's out of a lower class life of drudgery and despair, my mom, with her marriage at age nineteen to an army officer and minister's son, and so into a family of successful teachers, preachers, and farmers, had left behind, seemingly forever, the shame and desperation of an adolescence marred by starvation, sexual abuse, abandonment by her father, and the frailty, poverty, mental illness, and some still darker secret of her mother. Like the character Scarlet in Gone with the Wind, Mom was absolutely driven and determined to triumph over her past, an imperative that would govern her life throughout the next six decades and more.
Less than ten days after they were married and settled in together in the rented duplex, Dad got new orders, to the Army Air Corps' Drew Field, at Tampa, FL. They traveled to the new post together.
It was there in Tampa that, in October of the following year, I was born. I have only one early memory of my home state. I was two years old. Dad by then was commanding an Early Warning Radar Unit in Hawaii. Mom would sometimes, in the hot Florida afternoons, take me with her for a movie matinee. On this occasion the newsreel showed a large bomber loudly taking off toward the camera. As the plane's image approached, its engines' roar reached a crescendo, and it left the ground, my scream rose even higher, till my embarrassed mother had to whisk us hurriedly out. To me, flight from a flying monster seemed only rational.
2/24/02-Sun.-Did not get to sleep till the middle of the night (temperature problems at Allen's). We went for a brief morning walk, the cold refreshing, in the 40°s F.
Shared a snack breakfast. Did teeth, shaving, and shower stuff, then chatted some while waiting for time for him to go to his Lifestream Way association meeting.
I loaded my car back up and headed off for Denton, about an hour's drive north, by a little after ten. He'd said this was a good time for me to go. Just as well. Though I could have used more sleep while he was at his meeting, our mutually introverted natures would create a strained situation, after already forty-one hours together at close quarters, if we'd tried to add a few more. I was tired of channel-surfing, his preferred activity at home even though I'd suggested chess, cards, etc. Our visit actually went well, all things considered. It was definitely time, though, to hit the road!
Once in Tess's current community, I easily found her dorm at Texas Women's University and then went in search of a movie theater.
I was reminded of Walter Percy's The Moviegoer, in which the protagonist did not feel comfortable in a city new to him until he'd gone to a movie there.
I drove in all directions through the college town without success. The only theaters were for live plays. Finally I asked a retail clerk. He helpfully gave concise, explicit directions to some mall movie houses a little outside of town.
Zipped over there, people-watched, and had coffee while waiting, then took myself to see "Black Hawk Down." Terrific action movie.
Drove back into Denton, still over two hours before the rendezvous with Tess. Spent most of that time in a shady parking spot, resting and meditating.
2/25/02-Mon.-Got in at Mom's in Woodway/Waco before midnight.
Had a pleasant enough couple hours with Tess last evening. A commitment to keeping up with nieces and nephews with such visits, however, involves a dedicated use of time and energy often in excess of what may seem warranted on the basis of short-term gain.
I am not so sanguine about my influence as to think it likely a little time with me once in a while will have any significant positive effect. Yet the notion is not to be totally dismissed either. Pastors' and an assistant Scoutmaster's experiences with me in my early teens, Mom's involvement in a mentoring program, Fran's in private teaching, and my own visits over the years with Jim, as he was growing up without a father, all arguably demonstrate that the quality time of a youth with an adult may have benefits out of proportion to its duration.
Later. Have stopped for coffee, about forty miles north of Austin. I'm feeling exhausted and still a little stressed-out (over the big and little frictions of interacting with several in the last few days, crazy drivers, medical care concerns, retirement account folks not getting my distribution schedule straight, and difficulties re-establishing a social network after, with retirement, losing my assured, interpersonal connectedness).
In transition, at the moment establishing and maintaining a new and sufficient level of involvement with others seems to require more conscious effort than that with which I'm comfortable. I feel I am stumbling about, making mistakes, gaining little for efforts expended. But it seems likely, if I keep at it, the results will ultimately prove worthwhile.
Recent dreaming: I kneel down to give Fran a massage and find, instead, that my hands, extended to cover the base of her back and smoothly but firmly press upward toward her head on both sides of the spine, are massaging with equal vigor an enormous vulva, perhaps ten times normal size.
2/27/02-Wed.-We had a hard freeze last night. The cold weather blew in with blustery winds, gusting up to 45 MPH, over the last couple days.
I came home Monday, greeted Fran and Pepper enthusiastically, had a short nap, and then got my things unpacked and put away from the trip.