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January, 2002: 1 2


(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

Mansfield Dam on the Colorado River

1/1/02-Tues.-New Year's Day-As Fran points out, for those into palindromes, 2002 is the only one left in our lifetime (the last, 1991, but the next one not occurring until 2112).

The temperature is in the thirties today, with light winds and overcast skies. We missed seeing Jupiter at its closest, at midnight last night, due to cloud cover. (Pepper was traumatized as usual, however, by the New Year fireworks celebrations in our neighborhood.)

This seemed a good morning for sleeping late, the blankets feeling great till I struggled out of their cocoon about half past seven.

I had a dream in which fantasy and reality were blended. It's late at night and I have gone over to Maria's apartment. She seems pleased and surprised, yet curious, to see me. We embrace and kiss, chastely on the cheek, in greeting. She asks why I'd come over. The situation in her small residence is very intimate. There is a chemistry, electricity, or sexual tension immediately apparent to both of us. I suggest sleeping over. "But you're still with Fran, aren't you," she asks. "Yes," I admit, "I'm still married." Her bed is close by, and she is in her night clothes. The potential for passion seems almost overwhelming. "Well," she sighs, "See me when you're not. I think you'd better go." She sees me out. "You're right," I say at the door, "Sorry I bothered you." (In reality, I'm unaware of any wish to not be with Fran, and Maria has her own boyfriend already. Meanwhile, Fran had gotten up earlier than I today. Maybe I was just horny.)

After we'd both been awake a little while, Fran and I took Pepper with us for a walk in our favorite deer area. We saw none of them this time, though, and fear the developers and new home owners around there may have finally driven most of the creatures away. We did see a large hawk in flight, then landing on a tall live oak tree.

1/2/02-Wed.-Today my last check for regular earnings was electronically transmitted from the state to my bank account. From now on, at least unless I later get some new position elsewhere, most of my income will come from a monthly retirement annuity. This pre-retirement version of "Steps" accordingly is at an end, effective with this entry.

The journal, begun in December, 1971, will continue, though, here at The Vintage Diarist, in its new format, under the title: "Dove Feathers and Dog Hair," a retirement edition.

I hope today will not be in any way an omen or indication of the future. Fran and I were at times this afternoon extremely angry with one another, as, indeed, has been an unfortunately frequent factor in our leisure time together. If we were to judge by our relations when on vacation, our increased time together now is likely to involve the greatest challenge yet to our marriage. (Of course, Fran always says I make too much of our disputes. Maybe she's right.)

At the same time, the limitations of the available health care system was frustratingly apparent this morning as I attempted, ultimately without success, to simply learn what were the treatment implications of a biopsy I had on December 12, at which time I was told I'd get the results within a week. Right!

Ten calls later, I still have no clear idea what treatment I'll need. And the pathology report, involving two specimens, gives exactly the reverse set of conclusions one would have anticipated, based on the clinical findings and the doctor's earlier comments, leading to the suspicion that the labels on the specimens got mixed up and that the physician, even after the discrepancies were brought to her attention, may not recognize or acknowledge the error.

Treatment based on a mistaken identification of a benign growth as cancerous and of a cancerous growth as benign is, of course, worse than no treatment at all.

I am told that I may have a "consultation" later this week with my dermatologist, at which time she will tell me, at last, what treatment is required and, presumably, why it must be not applied to the large spot of apparent skin cancer but to a tiny, not symptomatic, and completely healed bit of apparently healthy flesh.

Meanwhile, we did accomplish a few things right on this date. We got all our holidays thank you cards and notes completed and mailed, arranged my next medical appointment, did about half of our 2001 end-of-year investment analysis, and took care of some business at the bank. We also took a walk, in the frigid morning air. I got a haircut. I made several calls and coordinated a visit Fran had first suggested, for she, my mom, Pepper, and me to visit my surviving aunt and uncle, on my father's side, Kim and Randolph, who are disabled and in their eighties, yet still living independently in a tiny community in far northeast Texas, about an 8-9 hour drive from here. They have, as of 11/30/01, been married 68 years.

Despite all their daunting physical difficulties and differences of personality - for they too are both very strong-willed - they stand as an impressive, inspiring example of the triumph of determination over adversity.

I have visited them in the nineties a couple times, but Fran has not done so till now. Nonetheless, they have, through the years, kept up, as best they are able, a correspondence with us and have several times encouraged our going for a visit, this time including Frances. Quite intelligent themselves, and with eclectic interests, they have heard of Fran's talents and wish to meet her, I think, as in some ways a kindred spirit, and not just because she is my wife.

We shall leave after my doctor's appointment on Friday, getting back late Saturday or by mid-day on Sunday.

Kim and Randolph are an example for us in another way as well. They've turned a modest initial investment into a several million dollar portfolio.

Frances is making a little bound booklet to present to them as a token gift, a portfolio of twenty original horse drawings she recently completed.

Later. I just got a call from my sister-in-law, Mary, responding to a short e-mail I'd sent a few days ago, in which I'd joked about maybe needing a new nose. She had correctly read between the lines and intuited anxiety and frustration. She was nice enough to make the contact and even encouraged ventilation about the overall circumstances. I take back all those frustrated, negative things I've written here about HER. She's terrific! Ha. But seriously, just when you think you have people pegged as this way or that way and so can dismiss them or judge them, doggone it, they surprise you with being nice or, like Fran spontaneously embracing and kissing me tonight, so sweet.

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