Sunday, March 9, 2014

No doubt

Rain-washed morning sky
Here are some more excerpts from the journal I have been keeping since returning from the hospital after brain surgery. Last week, I started calling my journal “Dodging Bullets,” which is what this all feels like some days. I said that next week would no doubt be different again. So, “No doubt” it is.

2/14/14. And life goes on. There’s no stopping it. I wake at dawn and take coffee outside with my roller-walker to sit on a fat rock near the front walk and watch the eastern sky, traced with vapor trails, listen to the neighborhood doves coo-cooing, my neighbor’s flag flapping softly in a light breeze from somewhere. I’m noticing the flowering plants in the yard, trimmed back and ready for the spring’s burst of growth. I’m thankful for Manuel, our “tree whisperer,” who has taken such expert charge of all things growing around the house now that I am scarcely able.

Morning walk
2/22/14. The New Age music channel on satellite TV has been soothing over the past weeks, but alas, deep down it’s often pretty shallow fare. It runs out of ideas and starts repeating itself. At moments I find my spirits lifted by what is on the other channels. Like since watching Treme, I have a fondness for New Orleans funk—but then only in small amounts, as the energy level overloads my otherwise compromised circuits. Same for bluegrass, with its incredible musicianship and the up-tempo treatment of songs typically of misfortune, loss, and hard times. On the CD player in the kitchen I’ve played and replayed the cool Nordic jazz of Tord Gustavsen and the MJQ’s Three Windows, a sound and a range of moods I wish New Age would aspire to.

As in even the best of times, somehow it helps to have a jukebox heart. I’m remembering getting a post-op MRI and the radiologist putting a headset over my ears, tuned to a local classic rock station playing Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4.” As I was coming home after a week in the hospital, I was singing along through the tears with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s version of “Pancho and Lefty.” And I know “Bolero” is probably the most over-played piece of classical music ever, but I still love it. As it builds and builds, I can’t suppress a grin.

Pill dispenser
2/23/14. I now have one of those 1-week pill dispensers with compartments for each day for “Morn,” “Noon,” “Eve,” and “Bed.” I should not be confused or forgetful again at least about intake of the drugs I’m now on. For someone who hasn’t taken anything daily except vitamins for many years, this is not a feel-good development.

An old college friend, now retired, came over for a while yesterday from Palm Springs riding his shiny new motorcycle. I, who have not kept friends from school years, am grateful for his presence now in my life. It’s easy to lose one’s ballast when good health deserts you, and a connection that runs so deeply into the past provides a sense of mooring. And the past is so freely accessible, which I realize as he pulls up old youtube clips of Beyond the Fringe on his iPhone.

There is something to be said for having friends who are growing old along with you. So much is understood without being said. He has health issues of his own, and it’s good for me to allow a concern for his welfare to dim the focus on my own. Shared memories, even old riffs from The Firesign Theater, and the awareness of the passage of those times into a long ago past, help keep one from drifting in the uncertainty of the present.

Zoe, the little min pin we share our home with returned from where she has been staying with a foster family in Mission Viejo. I expected her to rush through the door and jump all over me, as she’s done in the past after an absence, but she hardly seemed to notice me in the excitement. I don’t seem to be a stranger to her, but I have for the moment dropped on her list of favorites. Last night, after bed, she was often up and pacing the house, maybe looking for the other dogs she’s been living with. This morning, however, when she came for a walk with us, our little family unit seemed complete again. 

I have posted another blog update of my progress, and many have kindly responded, all of them hopeful and encouraging. And there have been emails and cards from friends expressing thoughtful caring. I realize that I am witness to how one is held in the embrace of human community. Words from friends and family, even strangers, reassure me that I am not alone. Yesterday, an acquaintance from decades past remembered how I had sold him a car, an incident I had long forgotten. And so I learned that I have not slipped through  this life without leaving a trace. People don’t let you. Lives connect and entangle. One is not pulled up without uprooting others. And so the reaching out and the reaching back, for as long as it lasts.

Previously: Dodging bullets

Coming up: The Painted Desert (1931)


  1. Ron, thank you for sharing excerpts from your journal. I'm glad I've been able to reach out to you, through your fine blog and excellent writing, and will continue to do so for many years. It has been an enriching experience. Best wishes, Ron.

  2. New Age music mixed with bluegrass and funk, Firesign Theater riffs and classic Chicago. Good friends and a journal with wonderful depth. Can't imagine better contents for a medicine bag. Keep going.

  3. yes, the connections we make and the moments when we pass through each other's lives. In the past few years I have been writing more memoir material, something I never did in my first fifty years of life. I am glad you are still sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

  4. Ron, cool post, and much appreciated.

  5. Thanks for these quiet, contemplative, rich thoughts about yourself and life. I have discovered something I didn't know about old age: it, and its attendant diseases, are giving me a sense of who I am, and not always pleasantly. But it is all good: if we are accepting and open, we know who we are at last.

  6. I think you've surpassed me in the number of medications, Ron, but not by a heckuva lot. Keep up with the positive thoughts and laugh a lot, it's good for the health and soul.

  7. Hang in there and keep on writing. It's good for the heart and good for the soul.

  8. I ran across a new term today doing research on logging. Apparently a mule bitch was pounded into a tree, which grew around it over the years. All I could think of was an iron ring to tie a mule to, but why was it called a bitch. Can't find a definition online. You're a lyrical writer, Ron; every blog a gem of one sort or another.

  9. I will have a virtual cup of coffee with you this morning, Ron. And enjoy the scene.