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August, 1999: 6 11 13 17 20 21 22 24 26 27 31


(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

8/6/99-Fri.-It's been a hectic seven or eight days since the last entry. As usual, the past weekend went all too quickly. (I completed, and Frances helped me mail off, the latest Mark issue. Just two more months of that newsletter remain.)

Then the new workweek was again in full-swing. I managed to keep my caseload still at no more than eighty-nine, and under relatively good control.

This morning, I was off work about three hours due to an annual physical, along with lab-work and x-rays. Another apparent skin cancer lesion, on my back this time, was discovered. Also, a bony prominence on top of my skull was assessed and found to also be a lesion, with no certainty as yet whether it is benign or malignant.

I checked out real estate on the web tonight, discovering that the Pacific Northwest is probably already out of our price range for the foreseeable future. However, in central to northern New York State, there were promising prospects, including a place with eighty wooded acres and a 2000 square foot Colonial style house, which, however, was rather old, undoubtedly a fixer-upper. The whole thing was selling for $150,000. Even given that we'd have to spend quite a bit to make the house nicer, this would definitely be affordable by the time we retire. Of course, we'd have to consider that utilities will probably be more expensive there, among other interesting and challenging factors. Still, we are encouraged.

Fran and Pepper have recently been continuing with three or four morning walks each week, usually seeing interesting wildlife, such as deer and rabbits.

8/11/99-Wed.-Up today a little before 6 AM, as usual for a working day, after having gotten about five hours' sleep. Got through the shift OK. In fact, I worked some extra, to stay caught up.

Over the past few days, Frances and I, mainly she, have been working on a special poetry project for Pete, as a going away present for him, since he's gotten a new job, in California, and will be moving his things out there later this month. He plans to visit us, with his seventeen year old girlfriend, Molly (whom he hopes to convince to join him in sunny CA, and whom we have yet to meet), this coming weekend, which also, primarily, is his last opportunity to say "Goodbye" to several dance friends he's made here in Austin during visits for tango workshops in the last two or three years or so.

In fact he met Molly when she was only fifteen (while he was just a few years shy of forty), through one of his dance groups. Their relationship has not been strictly platonic. Even if she first came onto him, strictly speaking it is statutory rape.

Anyway, Frances, with my encouragement, has put together a collection of my poems, which I'd selected specifically for this project. She also arranged each appropriately on a page, with font size and type to suit the poem and so that they all are centered and do not extend beyond a single page, has ordered and numbered them to provide a good mix among the "light" vs. "dark" ones, and, after we had both carefully proofread them all, has added a table of contents as well as the title and dedication pages we worked out.

The end result, once reduced in size, reprinted onto thick paper, and bound lightly with a dark blue cover and a plastic spiral binder, is a real gem, a work of art! I was so impressed and pleased that Fran felt quite appreciated, so much so, in fact, that, in a gesture of great generosity, today, while I was at work, she made another one, with a sweet, personalized dedication page, just from her (as the designer), added for me!

8/13/99-Fri.-Yes, it is Friday, the 13th, for those who take notice of such things. But, more importantly, it is Pepper's 10th birthday anniversary! As can probably be understood from many references to her in Steps, she is still very much "going strong." Today, we began a weekend-long celebration of this august (pun intended) landmark in her life. As soon as I had left for work, about 6:50 AM, Frances took Pepper to one of her favorite hiking places. They spent about an hour and a half traipsing around in the weeds, mud, and field paths. She got full of burrs but had a great time spying and chasing after or sniffing at many rodents and a rabbit. (Fran had a lovely time getting those burrs out once back at the house!)

With things a little cooled off again this evening, we wetted the mutt down and then took her over to PetsMart for some neat chew-thing purchases, followed by a two-mile walk, again in or near her favorite area. This time we saw about eight deer, including some very close, and which Pepper was able to smell and/or see even better than Fran or I, as her eyes are great for dusk viewing, and her smeller is much more efficient than ours.

Last night, Fran and I each, separately, saw a meteor, presumably among those in the much heralded Perseid meteor shower. We had, between us, checked out the skies on several occasions in order to see these two, far from the sixty to a hundred an hour we were told we could expect to see during their peak, even though two of the attempted viewing times we chose were in the supposedly best period. Two were better than none, and actually pretty neat!

8/17/99-Tues.-This evening Frances and I treated my brother, Ron, to a dinner and birthday cake at The Olive Garden, and we had a nice, chatty visit. He seemed in rather good spirits, overall, though apparently disappointed not yet to have started any new romantic relationship since his divorce from Joan became official. It is probably not the best time for him to be beginning a serious relationship, so no harm done.

Last night I dreamed of our Dad, that he was in bed in a private room at a hospital or hospice and we both knew he was dying. He was still mentally alert, but weak and barely able to speak. He was nude under a single sheet, or perhaps in one of those silly hospital gowns, the next thing to completely nude vulnerability, as medical staff perhaps intend. My impression was that he had only an hour or two left to live and realized this himself. I was expecting to just talk in a superficial, polite way, as we often, in fact, did in the last months of his life and, for that matter, in most of our interactions since I'd grown and left his daily, often oppressive influence.

But this time, with a look and a patting of his hand next to him on the wide bed, he conveyed that he wanted me to lie down there with him, which, once I'd understood, I did, stretching out so we were facing each other but not quite touching, except that he reached out and put his hand on my arm in a tender way. It seemed then that he was on his back but able to keep that contact, and turned so he could look at me, a look of poignantly deep love and affection. He tried to say a few words, but did not need to.

Somehow his gestures and eyes conveyed everything, all the caring I had missed from him, had hoped was there but never for long had been convinced lay behind his blustery persona. And I, resigned, as he apparently now was as well, to his imminent dying, could but savor that warm look and touch, letting the moment linger, and conveying back, eye to eye, a deep, affectionate respect of my own. (Would that we had had such a moment together! The vivid dream-thought of it is neat, but, unless one believes in ghosts, comes too late.)

8/20/99-Fri.-Today's was a fairly typical (and therefore challenging, humiliating, and frustrating) shift at the salt mines.

I had to call my clinic today in order to finally, after quite a delay this afternoon, and two weeks from when I'd seen my main doctor, get a verbal report on the x-rays taken of my skull, with its intriguing bony growth at the top. The report was good. I was informed that it is something which really, in the normal course of things, should not be there, but for which, because it is not considered malignant (per x-rays alone), my HMO will not cough up dollars for more diagnostics.

This evening I did our investments analysis. We are now up to $530,000. The equities portion of the portfolio has increased 10% so far this year. Our year-end goal is $538,000, with equities then at $345,000.

Frances is working on a second pond project, making use of a hole I'd dug this past spring, intended for a raised-bed vegetable garden, except that I ran into almost solid rock, likely where there used to be an old creek bed, about eighteen to twenty-four inches down, so that a pond there seems much more practical. It should be very nice once it is finished.

Fran went for her Baltic Buzzards practice tonight and seems to have had a good time. Pepper and I went for a walk, though we waited till after 8 PM, due to the extreme heat. The temperature got up to 106 degrees F in Austin today.

Tomorrow I'm off to Waco, to help Pete celebrate his new job, for which he'll be moving (with our brother, Ernie's, help) to the San Jose/Palo Alto/Santa Clara, CA, area later this month.

8/21/99-Sat.-I've stopped for coffee and a breakfast taco in Georgetown, on my way up to Waco for the weekend, to visit with Leila, Horace, and their family and to help give Pete a send-off.

Last night, I dreamed of hot, steamy, thick, freshly-baked, homemade, buttery, whole wheat rolls, with delicious, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth textures and flavors, a sensual, sensory feast.

Again today in central Texas the weather should be dry and sunny, with temperatures above 100°F, while residents look longingly at the maps showing the first gulf hurricane (Bret) of the season bearing down on our state coastline. While the meteorologists tells us the odds of this affecting us are not yet great, we could just possibly get some effective cooling and precipitation from the fringes of the storm.

8/22/99-Sun.-Had a generally good time over the weekend, returning about 2 PM, but feeling very tired. After back, I unpacked and gave Frances a massage. I found a neat web site for following the progress of Hurricane Bret and have been checking it periodically, ever hopeful that we'll get some weather changes here.

Mom remains in CA, where she's attending a family reunion this weekend, among several of her maiden name relatives, in Los Angeles, and visiting with a cousin and his wife near San Francisco.

I still do not have Hank's new address, from after he had moved out to CA several months ago, ostensibly to go into business with his second or third ex-step-father (his biological mother, Eve, and his step-father having recently gotten a divorce, her third or fourth). On Saturday, however, he was calling Mom's place in Waco to reach someone who could give him a phone number for her while she's in CA, so he can ask her for some more money. It seems he's been doing nothing to support himself since going out there. He usually runs up new debts fairly soon after Mom or someone else has made good on the most recent old ones.

I believe the latest circumstance arose from what he claims was a "$1500 speeding ticket" before he had gotten out of Texas, about which Texas authorities are likely to take further action if he does not soon square things with them. The only way I can imagine such a large motor vehicle ticket is if he failed in an attempt to outrun the police. Of course, it may simply mean he was arrested for other things, after being caught speeding, and then got out on bail, but owes this much to the bail bondsman.

Hank leads a colorful life. So far he alternates between unrealistically high hopes, with extravagant claims of the latest hugely successful ventures, and severe clashes with reality once things inevitably do not pan out. It is a tragic cycle. His second or third step-father seems to encourage him in unrealistic goals and aspirations, tending that way himself. There is evidence for his having been seriously physically abused as a child, mainly by his first step-father. Sigh.

8/24/99-Tues.- A better than average workday.

Back home, Frances and I went for a walk, with Pepper, after I'd rested for awhile, reading to the end of a Dick Francis mystery, Longshot.

We received disappointingly little relief from Hurricane Bret. We did have some extra cloud cover, which lowered temperatures by five to ten degrees during the warmest parts of Monday and Tuesday. However, uncharacteristically, the storm just kept heading west, after landfall to the south of Corpus Christi, rather than turning northeast, which course might have brought its remnants over us here in central Texas. The storm did bring a lot of rain to parched places in southern Texas.

8/26/99-Thurs.-Fran and I went out for Chinese food this evening. We both had gotten up late this morning. However, it worked out OK, despite the fact that she has resumed full-time teaching, seeing seventeen students today, at $9 each lesson. She'll probably be seeing sixty to eighty students a week for the next several months, until Christmas break.

Frances and I talked, over dinner, about the gifts I intend giving to nephews and nieces, starting with Jim. She is still set against this and does not understand at all. She won't consider being a party to a trust for each one, which would allow for a more gradual dispersion of the moneys involved, over a longer period of time and/or which would be binding even in the event of my death. She sees it strictly in narrow terms, having fixed on the viewpoint that, even though this was completely my idea, and I want nothing out of it other than the satisfaction of contributing something to their lives, a feeling I cannot cultivate with our own children, since we shall not be having any, somehow it is an example of how others are taking advantage of me and, in the process, depriving her of as good a retirement as she might otherwise have, ignoring that she would not even be able to retire at age forty-five if it were not for me. Anyway, we have "agreed" to disagree on this one. Fran just wants any giving of this type to be without her knowledge or at least so she is aware of it as little as possible.

8/27/99-Fri.-The last two days at work were relatively productive. I'm now well caught up. It is important to be quite up-to-date on the cases before my anticipated week of annual leave, the middle of next month.

This evening, Sam came over to our place for their group's rehearsal. Pepper was her typically clownish, frenzied self in his presence, acting like a complete idiot, on the one hand streaking around the house to rid herself of excess energy over his being here and, on the other, not wanting the exquisitely pleasurable "torture" of his touch, if he attempted to pet her.

Tonight I found a web site that allowed me to calculate our assets, given our savings rates and likely expenses and returns over the next few decades, into and through retirement. I tried to be as conservative as I could and asked Frances to check the assumptions as well, to be certain they were not unrealistic. The results were disappointing, if this cautious scenario pans out, in that it leaves us with only a fraction of the asset amount I would have hoped for by my age ninety (if I make it so far).

However, it was gratifying and reassuring for both of us too, since it shows that, even with pessimistic expectations of future returns and expenses, we are likely to not outlive our assets. Indeed, even with the above-mentioned gifts to nieces and nephews figured in, and without considering any inheritance from either my mom or Frances' folks, we should have an income in retirement (after adjusting for the effects of inflation) averaging well in excess of what we use for expenses now, and still have a tidy nest egg to pass on to the heirs or charities of our choices, just not nearly as nice an "egg" as I might have wished.

I took note today that, though they were both giving me not insignificant problems a few months ago, particularly on our Colorado trip, both my earlier gum problem and my lower back pain have now all but completely cleared up. Even these old fleshes and bones eventually do mend, if treated with care.

Tonight Frances, who is but forty-one, thought it optimistic that, in our financial calculations, aimed to assure we do not outlive our wealth, I had indicated we would expect to live to age ninety. Of course, the odds are probably against it. However, it is not at all out of the question, just based on the actuarial tables. My father lived to eighty-three and did not even take good care of his health in later years.

I suspect too that the challenge of "keeping up" with my younger wife will be an extra encouragement for me to add a bit to my longevity, unless accident or unforeseen disease should intervene.

8/31/99-Tues.-The latest torture our esteemed employer has chosen to put us through, having increased our workload to the point that most everyone, sooner or later, must work overtime without pay in order to keep up, is to now decree that if we work overtime without authorization, which seldom comes, then we shall be fired, without further warning than the little pieces of paper they had us sign to this effect yesterday. In this fashion, our best of all possible agencies protects itself from liability or trouble with the Fair Labor Standards Act, but not, of course, in the reasonable fashion of reducing our workload to the point we can accomplish it in an eight-hour shift. Instead, as so often, the workload keeps creeping upward, but the conditions of work keep deteriorating. We must simply work faster, faster, ever faster! Hop, hop, hop!

The deer around here are getting rather desperate. Fran and I saw a doe and fawn at an almost dry cattle pond, only a few feet from the road, in broad daylight, late yesterday afternoon. This is the second incident in only two or three days of deer proximity, right here in town and near the highway. If we do not get a lot of rain soon, many of these animals will die over the next few days and weeks. The fields and vegetation are now terribly dry. About the only water available is from people's sprinklers, the use of which is itself now being rationed.

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