From the Down Hill Slope

Aging is patching and hoping.

Since our return from Florida, David has been living with more and more back pain .  We thought it was sciatica, but what had helped that in the past,  no longer seemed to work.  An  MRI was suggested.  It revealed an abdominal mass.  David has always been unique and about twenty years ago discovered that he had been born with one kidney—a super large and highly efficient one, however, this particular  fact of his being also meant a space where the other kidney was not.  It is there that the mass has grown.

It is to be removed Wednesday, May 19th, so I am asking all for good thoughts and prayers.  The surgeon’s best guess is that this is a fatty tumor and nothing more, but as it presses on other organs, it  must be removed.  The surgeion  has no idea if the mass is the cause of David’s  back pain–could be, could not be.  We are all hoping it  that after the surgery and recovery, David can start enjoying walking the hills of Colorado again.

This to explain that  my emotional status hovers between 3—not so hot and 6—pretty good.  Not so hot is mostly fear pulling me down and knowing that the older we are allowed to grow, the more bumpy the physical road becomes.

Then, of course, there is guilt for any angry thoughts—a human constant I guess.  Both the angry thoughts and the guilt.  At least so it seems in many I know, my own being included.  Thoughts don’t hurt, but when someone we both love and get annoyed at gets hurt or ill those angry thoughts can haunt..  Any yes, David and I have our angry moments and fights.  I don’t post about them, but they are there as I suspect they are in most relationships.

I never  thought the true measure of a relationship was the accumulation of good times, although they are extremely important.   Relationships seem to  endure or fail depending on  the way bad times and angry moments are handled and hopefully gotten past.  We have been together for 40 years and as painful as the our disagreements can be, we have endured and learned to keep our relationship more healthy than not.

One thought of many psycho-analysts is that there are only two negative emotions—fear something bad will happen; pain when something bad has happened.  The countering positive emotion  for both is hope. So a bad thing is facing us, but we are hopeful there will be a good outcome.  Knowing what we have come through during our marriage, I am know we will stay strong, and have hope the outcome for David will be an end of pain.

Children and grandchildren are called hostages to the future.  I prefer to think of them as humanity’s hope.  How grateful I am for ours  and that we have weathered the rough years of adolescence and been able to offer each other love and support..  A New York Times article about when parents and children don’t maintain contact:   When the ties that bind unravel  reinforced my belief in how much we as a family have to be grateful for.  Through all the inevitable ups and downs that growing up and parenting necessitate,  we have been blessed that no one has ever given up on the other.

The article also made me particularly grateful that we have been able to be with Benjamin during this first months of his life.  We were not so able to be with Max and that lack is now more keenly felt as  moving West has meant not seeing him much at all.  We do have a loving if long distant  relationship with Max and his Dad.  We are also hopefully life will enable another face to face visit soon.  The surgery has postponed one we were planning for the end of May.  David will still be recovering then and is hoping by summer’s end to be able to walk without pain and swim and lift and carry Max.

Besides hope, one of the buffers against the pains that cannot be avoided as one marches through life  are the good memories.  We added to those memories during this past month with a four day whirlwind trip.  We traveled over the Rockies, through a snow storm (around Vail, I think). The first day,  we saw  why the Rockies are called the Rockies,  had a brief look into  Zion Park and  breath taking glimpse of the Virgin River Gorge as we headed into Mesquite, Nevada.  We spent two nights in Mesquite. I had planned to waste $20 playing video poker at one of the Casino’s, but never saw the inside of one.  We spent our time traveling, traveling.

The second  day we toured the deserts and canyons at the junctures of Utah, Nevada and Arizona.  We felt a bit like the proverbial camera clicking tourists as we drove around.   This was the longest of the days spent in the car.  We traveled to the Hoover Dam on our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon,  around the Rim, stopping at all the viewing points, on the way back to Mesquite  by the back roads around the canyon.

Unfortubately, the North Rim viewing spots were closed—next time.   Even without the viewing of this part of the  canyon the trip back the motel was inspiring.   We traveled through parts of the  the Vermillion Cliffs,  as breathe taking in their own way as the Grand Canyon.

That night held one of the two scary moments on the trip.   We were traveling back to Mesquite on a lesser traveled road, forget which one, but one of my sight seeing goals is to not travel the same roads.  Anyway, it was about 10 at night, no lights, few other cars on the road—then ahead a huge black beast—look like the biggest bull ever created, but I suspect it was just a cow blown out of proportion by surprise and fear.

S/he was lazily ambling across the road.  This was in a hilly twisting area with what looked like steep drops on either side of the road.  Nor did we seen any signs saying we were in open range.   Certainly we did not expect to run  into a  cow there,  and fortunately we didn’t.    David magnificently swerved around the beast without running off the road,  and we went safely on.
Recovering our  hearts took a while and we spent quite some time counting  our blessings.  If the cow had just been entering the road—crash.  If David had been going faster, crash.  If I had been driving,  probably crash.  Fortune or G-d or the cow’s God smiled on us all.  We cautiously crept the rest of the way safely back to the hotel.

Next day, we  headed home via Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon and routes 12 and 24 back to 70 East.  Magnificent country. Those of you who have not been west cannot imagine the glory of this land that is our land.  Come and if at all possible hike, minimally, drive  the back roads as well as where the tourists are.  Here are pictures from the Canyons with some a desert shot in the background.  The pictures only hint at the beuaty.  
One  future hope is a stay at a ranch where I can ride some of the trails or maybe take a quiet rafting trip down the Colorado.
My future hope is a stay at a ranch where I can ride some of the trails or maybe take a quiet rafting trip down the Colorado.

On this third day we had planned to stay at Green River—at a dog friendly Motel Six and divide the trip home into two days.  Driving to Mesquite in one day was okay, trying to duplicate it on the way home after being mainly car bound,  seemed too much.  Driving through Zion Park became our favorite of the three canyons.  The Grand and Bryce are spectatcular, but you can only drive around the rim.  If time is limited and you can only do one and have to do it in a car, Zion is the one.  You drive into,  up the sides, through some tunnels and everywhere so are stopping to take in the view.

Then we went onto Bryce and it is spectacular, but you are mainly looking down in to its beauty.  Saw lots of hikers–looking like ants on the canyon trails, but time and age kept us on the rim.    Thanks to the man at the entrance gate we knew the route to take and the places to stop given our time restraints.   He also kept us from taking what looked like a through route to Route 12 that we thought would connect us to Route 24.  Apparently, it is only a foot trail or not open until summer.   Those manning and womaning the gates are incredible patient and helpful.  My kudus to them.

After leaving Bryce,  we drove up route 12 viewing parts of what is called The Grand Stair Case.  We stopped for dinner in Boulder, Utah at The Burr Trail Grill and Deli,  Definitely,  a high light of the eating part of the trip.  We stopped here because we feared it would be empty country for awhile after Boulder.   And David was starving.

Although there were other places to eat  in Boulder,  my bet is this is one of the best.  David was not only starved, he was meat starved–our diet through most of the trip was fast food vegetarian–meaning mostly french fries or yogart or tuna fish supplemented with the hard boiled eggs,  P&J  sandwiches, granola bars and the motels free breakfasts.  So asking for G-d’s forgiveness, David  ordered a non-kosher rib steak.  I had a hamburger, trying to be thrifty.  Should have gone for the steak.  Nevertheless the food was better than many NYCity restuarants.  Better than the Four Seasons in my book.

At dinner’s end, David insulted me by saying it was the best rib steak he had ever eaten.  It was hickory smoked.   He made amends later saying maybe it was just that he was starving.  I accepted that but am now trying to find hickory smoke marinate.
The cook was a scruffy looking hippy kid, back packing type—I swear he couldn’t have been more than 13.  The bus boy dishwasher looked to be about 15 and both worked super hard. The owner and manager seemed to be just hanging around and loafing, but as David pointed out when I was critical, he had probably done his necessary work with the menu, the food planning, and the training.

There was one waitress and she was bottled sunshine and  assistant manager par excellent.  Think she was also a reason the owner could just sit around.  I couldn’t read her name tag, but if any of you get to that area, eat and bask in her smile, her kindness,  inner radiance and efficiency.  I told her as we were leaving if her essence could be bottled, there would be peace on earth.

Reality checked in before we had gone three  minutes down the road from the Burr Grill.  David saw in the review mirror that a truck  whizzing  by us ended up hitting a deer  and killing it.  We didn’t know what to do.  By the time David stopped,  the truck’s driver was out of his truck, talking on his cell phone, the deer had stopped moving.  We hovered, wringing our hands, and then  made the easy decision and drove on.  Now, I wish we had backed up and offered help.  Next time will do better,  but I hope there is no next time.

Cautioned by this event, we drove slowly and indeed there were deer all around us up and down the road and we just missed colliding with a few.   We finally decided to give up on Green River as a destination point and stayed in Torrey.  We were amazed that  the many motels  in that rather small town were mostly filled.   We landed at a place that was supposedly cheap, but was not.  So it goes. It was dog friendly and the beds were comfortable.

Next morning was Mother’s Day and while David, having had his breakfast,  stayed with Whisper, a fellow aging  traveler named Chuck T made my waffle for me and listened to my ramblings.  He is from Michigan and he and his wife were traveling as we were to see the country.   He likes the meeting people part of the journeying and kept me company and not only made my waffles, but give me some of his strawberries. Thank you, Chuck, hope you are reading this.

Let me add here that traveling at our age means seeing your past and your future.  It really is impossible to guess ages, there were lots of silver haired men and women on the road, both in the West and as we traveled to Florida and back.
Most of our fellow aging  travelers seemed  physically fairly able.  Many like us to creak and groan a bit from stiffness when first exiting the car, but soon seem to shake it off.   A few, here and in Florida ware less able and being shepherded by family and lucky to have loving families.

At the hiking trails there were  the really fit of the silvers,  and these commanded my  deepest admiration as they strode  down the paths that David and I slowly ambled down.  Because I am on a blood thinner, I have a walking stick and was grateful for its added stablity.  Families also abounded reminding me of the past and the camping we did when Zach and Dan were younger—mostly at Lake George, but also in Maine.

As we headed home.  we were grateful that life had lead us to spending the night in Torrey instead of Green River.  Otherwise,  we would have missed the Capital Reef.  Inland Reefs  are stone captured memories of the time our land ended in a huge ocean before the Pacific Island Rim decided to come calling and pushed against the then coast line of what we call America.
I hadn’t caught on to the fact that these have become immortalized as viewing sites for tourists, but was grateful to add to my knowledge this trip.  The Capital Reef was why the hotels and motels in Torrey were full.  Go there if you can.  Truly an awe inspiring area.

Once and for a long while occupied only by members of the  First Nation, next  mainly by prospectors and in time, some ranchers.  There were also the remains of orchards probably planted by Mormans.  Today,  there are still some ranches, not many and mostly catering to tourists.  There were cattle and it was free range, but no animals crossed our paths.  No that’s not true.  We almost hit a wild turkey.

When you Easterners plan a westward ho journey  include some of the reefs.  Worthwhile. The  first  reef we encountered was on the first day of our trip as we headed  west along Route 70.   I have spent almost 40 minutes trying to find its name, it was a viewing area off  Route 70.  It is not, however, one of the ones  listed in blog of the state roads and highways.   Sigh.  Think it was near Glenwood Canyon but could be wrong.  Moreover, my pictures of it did not turn out. Sighing again.  Next trip.
As should be clear by now, we had a marvelous trip.  Whisper is not in agreement as she got tired of riding in the car and on a few of the stops had to be ORDERED back in.  Can’t keep all happy.  Our old Camry, however, had no complaints and just keeps purring along.

My health update.  I have completed all my many tests and physicals.   All chronic conditions are stabilized and doing well all things considered.  As I often say, given that better alternatives to this life are matters of faith and not proven, I am content.
Adjusting to a new hearing aid and am finding it extremely helpful.  However,  first night I had it, I lost the thing-a-ma-bob that fits in the ear—probably  I pushed it in too  far.   Learned and haven’t done that again.   David fished it out with no damage to me.  So it goes as I said, patch, patch and hope.
Here is an a collage picture of Ben mostly at four months.

Keep good thoughts for David and I will update following the surgery
Katherine, Kat, Kathie, Grannykat, Vaughan

One Comment

  1. Hi Vaughn. What a lovely trip. I do hope David’s surgery has gone well and he will soon be on the road to recovery. I am fine but i do relate about the failing body parts. Two metal knees, metal rods in lumber spine and eye implants for cataracts. Oh well, the good news is these things are available to us.

    Please keep me informed. Love your narrative on your trip.
    Eileen (Spanier) Moore has been visiting the N.W. again this past week. Seems to do very well.
    My best to you and your family.
    Mary Lynne

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