Monday, August 29, 2011

I am so blessed.

Not just with my family (and family to be)… not just with the fact that this treatment seems to be working thus far… not that I am comfortable with my life and the way I’ve lived it to this point… but also for the “force” that led us to this house in this neighborhood and with the neighbors and friends that we have here; and for their support and concern especially over the last two years.

When we moved here a little over four years ago, we met our neighbor on the left and the part-time neighbor on the right… but that was all. When Father David announced from the pulpit at Mass that there was a parishioner that needed transportation we were introduced to the “Posse”. Those friendships have grown over the past two years and have expanded to the other neighbors we hadn’t met. There was Bunko Nite and the Bunko Husband’s dinner… the quilting relationship that developed for Ruth Ann and the woodworking relationships that developed for me. Ruth Ann found other teachers, too. Others to commiserate with!!!

But the outpouring of support and concern that I witnessed on Saturday afternoon was beyond all expectations.

These neighbors… no, friends… from this neighborhood put together a “Welcome Home, Don” picnic that blew us away. To begin with, everyone there when I got there had surgical masks on so I wouldn’t feel out of place with mine! With food, a craft sale, bake sale, a huge water slide for the kids (oh, and for Gus and Karen), face [painting (for kids and adults) it was a complete success. My lawn guy, Juan Carlos, donated a popcorn machine,  a sno-cone machine and a bunch of the tables and chairs. The neighbor ladies had been sewing up a storm and baking up a storm. Everybody pitched in… even Rod Stout. Rod is a medivac pilot currently serving in Afghanistan. His wife Linda (a young Vietnamese woman, ironically) brought along to the picnic, a flag that Rod sent. The flag was flown from his helicopter on the 4th of July this year. It came with a certificate signed by all eight crew members. I can’t tell you the wave of emotion that came over me and Ruth Ann… I was absolutely speechless.

Even the weather cooperated: We were completely ignored by Irene and we had about 5 minutes of heavy rain and wind about an hour before the festivities started… and some wind during. But the air was downright cool and with no humidity… pretty atypical of August in Florida!

But we’re back to heat and humidity, and Ruth Ann is back to school. We still have Nittany. Becky and Sean got back from Hawaii this morning at 7:00 AM. And I have to go for some sort of inhalation therapy this afternoon… busy day. I’ll probably end up cooking tonight. Made a great pasta last night: I made some fresh pesto the hard way, by actually chopping up all the basil with the garlic and pine nuts. That was some back-breaking work! Cooked up some penne and before the penne was done I threw in a slew of fresh string beans. Mixed the penne, beans, some fresh chopped tomatoes, fresh mozz cubes… WOW, what a feast!

I’ve been a hurtin’ cowboy the past couple of weeks: the lower back pain is still here and I’ve got some really stiff joints and muscles. Fortunately, the stiffness has abated  a bit and except for walking stooped over for the first hour I’m awake, I’m doing OK. Finally got back to exercising and walking, but I have to be careful not to overdo it.

Geesh… lostsa news. The chair that I was making for the church has been finished and is now being used for Mass. I remember, right after I was diagnosed this time, I went to Greg Wolter’s house to pick up the wood (Florida Cypress) to build it. It took a while to come up with a design that would work with the altar and ambro that Greg and Terry Robinson had built. With the help of posse member Gene Clark and the keen eye of another posse member, Mike Callinan, it was finished, save for the application of the finish, just before I left for Tampa back in April. The finish is a special beeswax and it gives a really nice natural sheen to the Cypress.

Yanks are two down to the Sox... but, heck, it's almost September! UConn's recruiting efforts landed a really talented kid from Middletown... Life is good.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I’m in a New York State of Mind… Day +131

It couldn’t be better… here we are in the latter part of August and the Yankees and Red Sox are in a virtual dead heat for first place, with the Bronx Bombers holding a slim ½ game lead! I’m having a tough time thinking of a sports rivalry that is any more intense or that has any more rabid fans than this.

I grew up in a Yankee household… my Dad and his brothers were all Yankee fans and all played baseball. Uncle Bobby played softball well into his 40’s and I was a batboy for his team, the North End Democratic Club. Uncle Pat and Uncle Dom were Yankee fans, too… but Uncle John, Uncle Tom and Uncle Bob were Red Sox fans. As a result, I had some (actually many) cousins who rooted for the dreaded Red Sox. Oh, what shouting matches we had… Williams was better than Mantle… trade Mantle for Williams? Through the 50’s 60’s and even the 70’s the Yanks had the edge, winning the pennant and World Series many times.

But when the Red Sox started winning earlier in the last decade, all heck broke loose. So now the BoSox have two World Championships and haven’t let up since (BTW, the Yankee count is 27!). While Florida residents are well into the football season already, baseball, for me, will last until the beginning of the college basketball season (GO UCONN!!).

On the health front: neuropathy is still an issue, but it seems to be abating, albeit at a snail’s pace. Of bigger concern is the muscle and joint pain… a consequence of lowering the dose of the anti-rejection drug. Marie’s cells are goin’ crazy. The swelling in my right leg is getting better, and looked almost like my left leg earlier this morning!  Sometimes it gets so swollen that my skin hurts, but no pain now. If we could only speed up the fixing of the neuropathy, things would be just fantastic. I’m going to see my VA doc tomorrow… I haven’t seen her since February. I was using a walker back then, so my improvement should surprise her.

We have a cat in the house with some problems: a messed up thyroid gland. We had Eli on meds to control it, but the meds aren’t working at the dosage we were giving him. We were going to do a thyroid irradiation, but his kidney function is only at 65%. We humans can live with only one kidney, but cats need much more than 65%. We’re moving from a trans-dermal (through his ear) to a pill… better control and the expectation is that he’ll do better. He’s somewhere around 12 or 13… he picked us back in ’98.

I was working in my office one day when Maggie (my Black Lab) started barking like mad. I went into the dining room and there was this little cat sitting in the middle of the driveway just driving Maggie crazy. He hung around for a couple of days and Becky came into town on her way to the Cape for the summer. In a few more days, this cat weaseled his way into our hearts. Becky threw him into a carrier and brought him to the Cape… had him neutered, got his shots and a bath… now we owned him. September came and Becky went back to Savannah… and left Eli with us. UGH, two cats and a dog! Eli became my Father-In-Law’s cat and lived in the apartment we built for them. When my FIL passed away, Eli mourned for about three months… wouldn’t groom himself and just moped around. He’s a real love… we call him Mr. Snuggle Bunny.

I not getting bored sitting around… seems the days fly by. There is always something to do. Today I’m doing a few loads of laundry, packing some packages up for mailing, planning dinner (chief cook and bottle washer here), reading, napping, etc. I read a great article yesterday, in a magazine called “Saveur”. Becky’s good friend, Courtney is production manager for the magazine and thought I would like the article on Pesto. I did! In fact I picked up some useful information about growing basil and making pesto. Last night I made a nice fresh Pesto Genovese over Cappelini with some string beans.  Ruth Ann had a glass of wine… I had some cranberry juice. The hardest part of a meal like that is cleaning the food processor! I knocked the meal out in about 20 minutes, And it took a half-hour to clean up!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day +124 "Come Rain or Come Shine"

Rainy and dreary day here in Orlando. Heaven knows, we need all the rain we can get to refill the aquifer. In some areas, even here in Orlando, huge sink holes have appeared (sometimes swallowing houses!!!) where the limestone has collapsed because there was no water to hold it up.  I’m also alone this morning as Ruth Ann has left with Artha for a sewing thingee (I don’t ask). She left with her sewing machine and a tote bag full of stuff. This gives me a chance to do some writing and also to listen to Bizet (Maria Callas – “Carmen”).

A little medical update: I saw my doc in Tampa the other day. We had reduced the anti-rejection drug and the result was a little Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD). It can manifest itself in many ways and in my case it’s muscle and joint pain… yesterday morning it was downright crippling. Better today, but I took half a pain pill. We’ll be looking for my body to adjust to the change in dosage over the next two weeks when I see the folks in Tampa again. Blood work was OK… with just the platelets down (another indication of GVHD). A little GVHD is good… stirring up some action in the new cells to attack the few “hot spots” left.

I’ve been out to lunch three times… what a challenge to get water with no ice or lemon… for gosh sakes just open the tap! Navigating the menus is challenging also… no fresh stuff – salads, L&T on a sandwich, etc. But as long as everything on my plate is cooked we’re safe… just yesterday at the Boston Fish Market, here in Orlando, I had baked scallops, fries, and corn on the cob. The scallops were absolutely dreamy… I could have stuck my face right in the dish! By the way, if you are ever in East Orlando, make a point of hitting this restaurant. There are however, Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots stuff hung all over! Next time I threatened to wear a Yankee hat.

I promised a couple more “Tony” stories, and I won’t disappoint: remember that Tony gets really obsessed with stuff… like the slices of ham, etc. Well, many years ago he really got into “Dallas” and the other show with the vineyard. These were the days before the VCR and DVR. We (Ruth Ann and I) would call him on Friday night’s right in the middle of Dallas and keep him on the phone for as long as we could…. We knew he was chomping at the bit to get off. What a pisser!

Speaking of phone calls: years ago, the Connecticut Posse would do New Year’s Eve together. There was always a party somewhere… churches, etc. (St Margaret’s Church had some of the best… music, great food and BYO… cheap, too). Anyway, one couple in our group had moved to Needham… Eddie and Mary Lou and didn’t want to come to Connecticut for the festivities. They went out with their friends in Massachusetts, but had to get a babysitter for Melissa.

We would call the baby sitter “collect” and the unsuspecting teenager would accept the charges! This was when it cost a bundle for a long distance call… especially a collect call!  We would keep her on the phone forever; leaving a long detailed message for Eddie and Mary Lou… making sure the spelling was correct for ALL of our names, checking grammar, punctuation, etc. Everyone got a chance to talk… Ruth Ann and I, Joe and Joanie, Tommy and Laurie, Pam and Russ! It was usually a 15 minute call and when Eddie got the bill he freaked! (Oh, did I mention that Eddie has short arms and deep pockets?). After a couple of years, he got smart and told the babysitter NOT to accept collect calls, and Eddie and Mary Lou started coming to Connecticut for New Year’s Eve. It was cheaper… he mooched a room from Joe and Joan and drank their booze… what could be better?