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(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

6/2/99-Wed.-Slept a little more last night and am not feeling quite so exhausted this eve.

Some good news, for a change, from my hard-labor confinement at the state work-farm. It seems that, beginning with the new fiscal year (first paycheck reflecting the change: 10/99), well be receiving an extra $100 in gross pay, raising my total compensation then to about $40,000, or, in other words, about a 3% cost-of-living increase, our first in many years. Well, better late and some than never and none!

In addition, the statistics are out for the first eight months of the current federal fiscal year. Although earlier I had been behind in production (thanks to some poor computer equipment and the transition from my old unit to the new one, with different requirements) I have now caught up. In addition, my quality remains excellent and processing time good. These are the main criteria on which I am judged there. Today I received a token award for the overall correctness of my casework (in lieu of a promotion), my third in eight months.

Once home this evening, I mowed the back half of our one-third acre, fighting off hoards of hawk-sized mosquitoes along the way. I checked out the car for routine maintenance, played with the dog, did the dishes, prepared and sent messages on the internet, did the usual stuff to get ready for the next day, and, finally, retired to the computer room for this entry. Now must get on to bed.

6/3/99-Thurs.-The night of 5/31-6/1 was the first time I have had any remembered dream involving my colleague, Larry. I did not think anything of it, except that it was unusual.

Many years ago I used to have a number of dreams or meditation experiences that Id jot down in the journals I kept then. Every now and then there would be an interesting coincidence, as when I "saw," in meditation, my newly born nephew, Hank, and that there was something wrong with his neck, later learning that when he had his first checkup after going home from the hospital, it was discovered he had a minor problem with a neck muscle, tending to draw his head more to one side than the other. His parents, Eve and Ron, were told he would probably grow out of it and that simple exercises with him to strengthen the weakness would likely make him right as rain, which is what happened.

Such seemingly "precognitive" or "clairvoyant" things were likely actually just a matter of chance. Similarly, by an interesting coincidence, on Larrys return today, after what Id thought was just an extended Memorial holiday, I learned that over the weekend he and his family had experienced a tragedy.

His mother-in-law had been staying with them in their two-story house. His daughter, Rachel, was homecoming queen in her high school's graduation ceremonies. He was the proud father, ushering her onto the stage, etc. Of course, her grandmother had wanted to be there too. Anyway, though only a couple years older than my mom, who still seems pretty fit, his mother-in-law is beginning to be somewhat frail. So, they had her staying in the downstairs bedroom, which has its own bathroom, and emphasized to her that it was best she not try going upstairs. As she was reluctant to give up any of her independence it seems this issue had been a small bone of contention between her and her son-in-law.

For whatever reason, she chose to use the upstairs bathroom, and, on trying to return, lost her footing and fell, in the process rupturing something in her stomach and breaking her neck. She appeared to be dead when the family members rushed over to her. But they administered CPR during the long ordeal of waiting for an ambulance to get out to their house, which is way out in the country. Though she regained consciousness, she now requires a ventilator to breathe. The lady remains in ICU and, unfortunately, is not expected to leave there alive. It has been horrible for all concerned.

Larry, feeling terrible, almost in tears, tried to be his usual philosophical self today. He said we should try to appreciate everything we can while we may, for all we are sure of is this very moment. Meanwhile, for him and the rest of his family, this is a gruesomely sad time.

Fran returns tomorrow.

6/6/99-Sun.-Its been a full weekend! Fran was waiting when I got home from work Friday. As usual, Id had to stay on the job late, trying to get a lot of work out before our upcoming vacation. It was nice spending a lot of time together in the last couple days. Wed missed each other and found it pleasant to catch up on what had been going on since wed last been together. We found a lot of things interesting and/or funny to relate and kind of got turned on by being close again too, which had a not disagreeable result.

Otherwise, it was a normal time. I mowed the front yard. We went to the bank. We had a few computer hassles, but solved them. I had a problem with a brake light on my car; and Pep Boys kept the car almost all day Saturday and then, eventually, actually fixed it, something about a ground wire. We ate out at good restaurants.

Fran designed an original insert, and did an excellent job, using a poem of mine, pasted into a Van Gogh painting greeting card, for Larry and his family.

I gave her a massage. She did some yard work too. We went to Zilker park, where I walked Pepper for four miles while Fran gathered seeds and/or photographs of flowers (or small animals).

I called my mom. Shes having some anxiety, knowing that Fran and I, as well as Alice and Ed, plus Pete and Ernie, will all soon be away on trips. She keeps imagining something terrible happening to one or more of us, or to herself, while we are all away. Then she has bizarre nightmares about such things. Also, she has been feeling tired and lonely, meanwhile obsessing over just how tenuous life is anyway, especially at her age. I tried to be cheerful and upbeat. She did too, but not so successfully. I may call her while were in Colorado.

6/7/99-Mon.-A very challenging, frustrating day at the salt mines. I didn't get away from there till about 6 PM, after arriving at 7:15 AM, par for the course in recent months.

Fran was busy with a variety of chores and special projects around the homestead today, and getting things ready for our vacation, which starts in just five earth rotations! She did report a rabbit-sighting on a walk with Pepper this morning.

My boss caught a typo in one of my official case documents today, part of an explanation for ordering a certain test. I meant to write "...does not..." However, my brain wasn't entirely there and created "...doe snot..." instead. He made a joke of it and suggested I try to get a picture of some of this interesting phenomenon while on our trip in Colorado. He laughed and laughed and repeated the joke for all and sundry. Har, har! Well, it was funny. And it is better to be enjoying such fun, for a change, than how it usually is on that job!

Nothing special is going on this evening, except I received a message from Bro Ron, his first successful e-mailing to us. He has little money available and has put together a secondhand computer system from components he bought at Goodwill.

6/8/99-Tues.-Today was another taxing one at work. We did have a nice luncheon, for which I took some of Frans famous fruit salad. I got there about 7:20 and was able to get away about eleven hours later. Of course, I'm only paid for an eight-hour shift.

Another of my colleagues has had all he can take and is leaving, with no retirement benefits, next week. This makes over half of the units caseworkers who will have departed within less than a year!

Am having some dental problems, with mild pain around/under a molar that had earlier had a root-canal and been capped. Now it seems to "float," instead of just staying in one place like the other teeth. In some positions it is more painful, in others less. I surely hope I do not have to lose that tooth entirely. The pain may represent an abscess in the gum.

Tonight Fran and I took ourselves and Pepper for a walk in the neighborhood and then to a TexMex restaurant. We talked mainly about the upcoming trip.

6/9/99-Wed.-Last night, on the way home from the restaurant, I saw a neat, deep red sun falling below the horizon, just glimpsing it briefly, though, through the trees. Fran did not see it at all. Anyway, this image stayed with me. Tonight I embellished it a bit and came up with poem #14 in my End-of-the-Millennium series for Fran: "Rage." She helped me fix it up, nicely centered and with an appropriate font, and a red "rage" title. We both liked the result.

Two days left on the job before CO. Unfortunately, Im beginning to panic a little because, try as I do, day after day the workload is just barely going down.

6/10/99-Thurs.-While I was at work, Fran and Pepper went for a long walk this morning and saw both a rabbit and a deer. The mutt, as usual, was quite perked up by such encounters.

6/11/99-Fri.-Had a very bad night, up about every hour, feeling often too hot, once too cool, having a painful cramp in my left calf, needing to go to the bathroom too frequently, and worrying some about getting enough done at work today. So, I was up, exhausted already, by 5:15, then at work by 6:30 AM. I put in a rather full day, having consumed vast quantities of sweets and caffeine drinks to barely keep going.

The gain, though, was that I finished most of what I wanted to on the caseload and got my backlog down to the lowest it has been in many months. Alright!

I haven't had a chance, though, to pack for our trip, which begins bright and early in the AM. My sore gum is still painfully reminding me that there are things rotten both in Denmark and my head. And I'm terribly tired. But who cares!? Tomorrow we are off on our first long vacation in a number of years!

Matt and Sam came by for their Baltic Buzzards practice tonight; and I shared the rest of the port (that Ed and Alice had given me) with them.

6/24/99-Thurs.-Still on vacation, but back from the high country. I return to work this coming Monday. In a few days or weeks I'll have a CO trip report ready.

Had a dream last night of seductive theme and power. In a dark eating-and-drinking establishment, late in the evening, a young and winsome waitress, dressed only in a sheer negligee-like cloth wrapped suggestively about her torso, attended my table. Although we had engaged in the most normal and casual way in conversation about the order, I sensed, as I heard her approaching from behind me, an electric sensuality between us. When she set down my dishes and our bodies nearly touched, it was clear she felt the same. I pulled shut the large booth's privacy curtain, soundlessly drew her to me, took her passionately in my arms, and breathlessly kissed her. Our sex was intense, all the more so as we were in so public a place and might be discovered momentarily. Afterward, restoring her garment and without a word, she simply left and returned to her duties.

6/25/99-Fri.-I had another interesting dream last night, though, at least on initial interpretation, also a sad and disturbing one. In it I am, somewhat against my will, a part of a very structured, stifling community and environment. The life we lead and the tasks we must complete here are at once boring and onerous. I have made a secret arrangement or liaison, all preparations for it finished, for an attempted escape (during the early hours of morning, before most others are awake), in the company of two passionate, personable, intelligent, and pretty younger women. Each dream female is like a blend of women I know in reality and with whom I work or have worked. One is like Michelle. She was a fellow employee at a vegetarian eatery, in 73-74. The Michelle-like dream character is about her age then, in her twenties. The other is like a mademoiselle with whom I work now, seen often each day, Maria. At one time or another, a lively imagination may have expressed itself in a possible romantic involvement with each of these ladies. Certainly I have considered them both very attractive. Like the lasses, I too am, in the dream, younger than my present age, by a number of years. In the wee hours, toward dawn, our plan is to slip into swimming trunks (myself) or bikinis (my companions) and, taking with us only the barest essentials, begin a swimming retreat from this place and from our life here, casting our lot together upon the waters of a great bay that separates us now from a distant shore, in the hope that, if we are successful, we may begin anew, still together, free of the stultifying life we have now. During this last evening, I encounter two acquaintances from this place who have heard, through the grapevine, of our planned exploit, Bill and Larry, both men I know from work in real life. Bill simply expresses surprise at what I am about to do, saying he had thought I was more level-headed than that. Larry is both more concerned and empathic. He asks if I am a good swimmer. I admit that I really am not. He points out that it will be dark, or almost dark, and easy to become disoriented and to lose ones way. He adds the bay waters are cold and full of treacherous currents and suggests as well that it does not appear I have made adequate provision for the far shore. I agree with him that all these things are true. However, my feeling is that it would just be too depressing, after all our hopes and excitement about the escape, to now simply stay here. "You may be killed," Larry says. I admit this is certainly the case. But I point out my friends are counting on me, that I do not feel I can let them down, though it may, indeed, be foolish for us to go ahead with our plans. About then, one of the women comes over to where we are and greets me warmly and excitedly, showing no misgivings whatever. I am trying to decide whether to go or not, and whether even to mention my misgivings, when I wake up.

6/27/99-Sun.-As I type, its 2:30 AM. I cannot sleep. How often this has happened in the past! Yesterday, I was very tired and could hardly keep my eyes open, despite lots of coffee, as I tried, successfully as it turned out, to complete the latest (7/1/99) issue of our monthly family & investment newsletter.

Fran and I finally exchanged gifts/cards for our 14th wedding anniversary (6/22/99) today. Fran had wanted to wait, and completed some shopping this afternoon.

I must admit to being somewhat disappointed. My promised gifts to her involve some time and expense. At her request, I had given her suggestions for what I had wanted. They included major projects: helping me set up a web page on the internet and/or a new newsletter using Microsoft Word. Earlier she had expressed enthusiasm and said she has learned enough on her own PC projects to be able to assist with such things.

As it turns out, however, she got me a T-shirt and some used books. They are nice to receive, but less than what I had hoped. In the past she has certainly given some exceptionally neat presents. Her personality is such that she must really get "into" something before she makes it a big deal and goes all out. Clearly, she is not as keen on a new newsletter as I had thought.

Oh well. It is far from the end of the world. I do not even need to have any newsletter at all to feel OK about things. Still, it could be as important as the last family letter, "The Mark," had ever been, longer-lasting, and more rewarding. If it is to be so, I must make it happen!

Well, time to try to get to sleep again

6/28/99-Mon.-At work today I told Maria the gist of my dream involving an arrangement with her and Michelle to swim across the bay, etc. She said it would not have been a good idea: she cannot swim at all and is afraid of the water!

It was a "blah" shift on the job, but much better than Id expected after two weeks away. There was plenty to do; but, nonetheless, things were under far better control than usual on a return from extended leave. I was able to depart on time, with a clear conscience.

Fran fixed a chicken-spaghetti sauce pasta meal tonight, served with wheat thins, olives, and cherries! Very good.

I wrote a short letter to my mom this evening, the old fashioned way, and am enclosing some of the CO trip pictures.

Allen had given me a tip on a new way to send Microsoft Word documents, as with the family letter. He calls it "rtf." Anyway, I tried it. He said he got the text fine, but that the graphics came out funny. Too bad.

Ernie sent a twenty-one page report on a mission trip he took recently to NC. He certainly is into the church and working with young people. It obviously is as much his "cup of tea" as it is not mine. But I'm happy for him that he has something so meaningful and in which he can feel very worthwhile. I recall how involved I was in the church, in a similarly zealous way, when much younger. Later, that kind of devotion seems to have been transferred for me to the Lifestream Way meditation path. Now, I just see all these things as ways we get through this life until we die. Im rather existential about it at times, somewhat cynical at others.

6/29/99-Tues.-As I calculate it, I have about nine hundred fifty days of actual work left on my state job. Can't wait for them to end! Of course, the catch is, I'll then be nine hundred fifty days closer to my death.

"The central fact of my own life is my death. After awhile, it will all come to nothing. Whenever I have the courage to face this, my priorities become clear. At such times nothing is done in order to achieve something else. No energy is wasted on maintaining the illusions. My image does not matter, I do not worry about how I am doing. I do what I do, am what I am. Thats it. The imminence of my own death is the pivot around which things turn. This makes what is going on now all that counts." If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him! by Sheldon B. Kopp, Bantam Edition, 1972, p. 42.

" Sorcerers understand discipline as the capacity to face with serenity odds that are not included in our expectations. For them, discipline is a volitional act that enables them to intake anything that comes their way without regrets or expectations. For sorcerers, discipline is an art: the art of facing infinity without flinching, not because they are filled with toughness, but because they are filled with awe...Discipline is the art of feeling awe. " From "Homage to a Sorcerer" (in the 7/10/98 issue of "The Austin Chronicle"), an article on the late author, Carlos Castaneda, who died about three months before that piece, of liver cancer.

6/30/99-Wed.-Another hectic workday.

Fran fixed us a great supper!

Checked e-mail. Nothing special there, though Ernie was happy about how busy he is now with his self-employment business; and Pete circulated something cute about becoming officially licensed as a pilot. Thats pretty neat, actually! He added that he and Ernie should limit the alcoholic intake before their upcoming CO flight/jeep/raft trip, due in the next week or two, so as to see only four mountains at a time.

Speaking of pleasure about how wonderful and successful one is, I realize that at times I get carried away with mention of our investments. Probably there is, in any case, never any reason for pride, boasting, or arrogance of any kind. Too many variables are outside our control. And there will always be many who do much better in any given arena or endeavor than oneself, just as there will be many who, despite their best efforts, somehow do worse.

Who am I to be so full of myself, anyway!? Literally, who am I? What is this artificial "thing" called "I?" Where does one find it? Even if I call "myself" by name, it is at best a convenient fiction that I exist at all. In each moment, that which was "I" an instant ago has already disappeared, never to return! Catch it? You could more easily arrest a moving shadow.

All for now of wisdom's amateur-hour!

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