Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weather or not...

We had planned to leave the Tropical Tip today, but Mother Nature had other ideas: the wind is gusting above 50, the wind is carrying dirt and sand... it is an ugly mess here. I tried to wash the car before putting a cover on it... my neighbor came by and asked if I was familiar with the story of Sisyphus. "Yes, pushing the stone up the hill through all eternity," I replied.

"You do know that's what you're trying to do here, right? There is so much dirt in the air, that you can't clean it fast enough to get that cover over it."

Of course, he was right. I finally had to settle with getting the car covered, period - the wind was blowing so hard, it took both of us and it was still a struggle. Heck with the dirt. We decided to scrap our plan to head out this afternoon, and will try again first thing in the morning. Heading north, we are trying to dodge thunderstorms in the Dallas area... timing is important, considering the awful weather much of the country has been hit with.

When I came back to the coach, Joan wouldn't let me sit down until I changed my clothes and washed any exposed bare skin... yes, I was that dirty.

After cleaning up again, we stopped to drop off books with our friends Skip and Nancy; they were on their 42' boat, taking down their eisenglass on the flybridge. They had tried to clean each piece, but ran into the same "gettin' dirty faster than you can clean it" situation. So, even though the wind and blowing dirt was unpleasant, the conversation was nice. Of course, we all talked about where we'd rather be.

Assuming the slides will close, considering all the dirt and grit, we will roll when Mother Nature cuts us even a bit of slack. I think we will pull the slides in before we turn in for the night... try to clean them off a bit before bringing them in. The forecast for tomorrow is less windy, in the 20s out of the SSE. It will be a crosswind for the first half hour, then should give us a little push when we turn north.

Friday, April 29, 2011


I checked all the lines and tanks - all seems to be sound and dry. I've sanitized the fresh water tank and all the lines, flushed with fresh, the water is good to go.

We have about 3,000 pounds of useful load, and it feels like I carried at least that much to the coach. Roll Eyes Joan is the most incredible organizer... I am just the pack mule. The coach swallowed up everything we carried in, with Joan carefully putting things away as I brought them. If the house would sell, we could eliminate all this loading and unloading effort. We know how to travel light - the boat has less storage space than the HH. Joan said something that did influence what we took: this hurricane season is supposed to be significantly more active than last year - "Take anything you can't live without."

The house is nearly closed down. Nothing can be left outside (could become a missle during a hurricane); most of the hurricane shutters are closed. I need to use the jacuzzi tub another time or two before we head out. We'll be in the coach tonight; will do some last minute stuff tomorrow and probably roll on Sunday. It's nice to spend a night or two by the house to make sure we haven't forgotten anything.

Little Izzy has been staying close by her carrier - with all the activity, she knows we're about to head out again. smiley

I was just informed that all the ice cream will not fit in the freezer in the coach... looks like I will have to sacrifice my boyish figure to make sure it doesn't go to waste (waist?). grin

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Love Shack is out of storage and ready to be loaded. A quick check out showed that it endured 3 months of storage reasonably well. One tape stripe in a prominent location is starting to shred... that looks bad, so I'll need to address that as soon as I can.

Photos from the Tetons show that they are still butt-deep in snow. Sure hope that melts off fast - at least before we're scheduled to be there next month.

Lots to get done before we head out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Frontal passage and random thoughts...

The weather weasels said there would be a frontal passage today that would lower the humidity... they were right... sorta. When the never-ending wind changed from the SE at 25 to the NE at 15, the humidity dropped from around 300% to about 278%. Maybe it's the fact that I've been up north for most of the last month, but I sweated through two shirts today. The truck is ready to go get the 5th wheel out of storage, the cargo trailer is loaded and ready. This will be a fairly "quick turn." It is rare that I look forward to heading north, but we are both ready.

It is terribly dry here in the Tropical Tip. I washed the car yesterday, it is already filthy - lots of blowing dirt/sand in the air. Unlike much of the country that has been getting inundated, south Texas is in the middle of severe drought conditions... no precip in months.

I have had to bite my tongue as we have fueled up the past few days... it's hard to not use the term "dirty, thieving bastards." While at my Mother's apartment, I saw a nearby station go from $4.09 to $3.98 to $4.19 (for diesel) in a 24 hour period.

Some folks have heard me talk about very humble beginnings. I had to laugh when some people in my industry said I was able to retire early because of an "inheritance." Here's a look at the house I grew up in, and where my Mother lived until we moved her into an apartment 7 years ago...

Those three ladies in the photo are: our daughter when she was very young, my Mother, and the Blonde. That black strip across the middle of the house is where the front porch fell off. It wasn't on the wrong side of the tracks, it was about 100 yards from the tracks. I found this photo while going through Mom's stuff. Even though she had it fixed up over the years, it was a delight to get her out of there when she finally consented to the move.

There is a lot of news coverage about a wedding on Friday. One of the news services had an on-line poll: "Will you get up early to watch the wedding coverage?" Um, no. But, I hope to take a break on Friday to watch the Endeavor space shuttle launch for its final mission.

We are looking forward to a great summer season in the mountains. I should be getting plenty of boat time in, and Joan will be booking passengers (and doing lots of other manager stuff).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The plan...

The plan was: not be crazy about getting home. The tow dolly has a 6 day rental; we planned to be home well before that... driving 500 mile days, it's at least 3 full days. After the first day, with a night in a motel, we changed the plan. First off, I do not like motels - I like my own bed, chairs, and potty. You get spoiled traveling by boat or RV: you always have your stuff with you and you don't have to pack and unpack everyday. And if you have a furry family member, you don't have to pay extra or hunt around to find a place that will take you. And after her first night in a motel, little Izzy agrees with us - maybe she could see things at floor level that she was less than enthralled about?

We left Chanute in a thunderstorm... and it went downhill from there. We decided to push on and do 1,000 miles to get home. The first 500 miles was through some gawd-awful thunderstorms: hail and rain so heavy we were occasionally slowed to 20 mph. As we drove out of the massive area of thunderstorms, Mother Nature gave us a strong headwind. Driving up, Joan got 22 mpg with a relatively empty truck. Heading back, towing a car, our mileage dropped to around 18 mpg. Bucking the headwind, it dropped to 15 mpg. On the bright side, Joan commented about how much better the truck rode with the bed full and a towed load.

We took turns driving, and covered the 1,000+ miles in 17 hours... along the way, I tried to educate Joan on the advantages of a really BIG truck (as in: semi-tractor, something with a sleeper cab that would allow us some sleeping room, a fridge, microwave, and potty. I don't think I convinced her... she loves Big Red.

It's been a long time since I've done "1,000 in 1"... that's a motorcycle term, and we only did that once, and it was MANY years ago. Joan, of course, is much tougher than I am, since she drove over 1,500 miles in 25 hours to get to Sioux City 10 days ago to be by my side. So much for the "2/2/2 Rule."

It was 1:00 am when we rolled onto our island, and then had to drop the car off the tow dolly to get it in the driveway. We were especially quiet, trying to not disturb the neighbors.

Time is growing short before we will need to head out again. This morning, we unloaded the truck and car... not easy to find a place to put things in this little house, but the CEO (Chief Efficiency Organizer) will make it work until we are ready to load things into the 5th wheel in a couple days. I gotta tell ya, I am damn tired of moving, loading, unloading, and moving.

The past month has been a wild ride of highs and lows, and we are preparing for the next chapter.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


We left Mom's apartment at 7:30 this morning - it was sparkly clean. We put the "Grandma car" on a tow dolly and headed south. A stop in Kansas City to leave off some stuff for my sister, then made it as far as Chanute, Kansas - home of NuWa Industries, the manufacturer of our 5th wheel. We have stayed here several times, but always while towing our 5th wheel, not having to be in a motel. Not quite the same.

Sidebar: I REALLY don't care for motels/hotels any more. But, we have a lot of miles to do and it is going to require a couple motel stays. Some of them don't want little Izzy, others charge extra for this sweet little cat who will have NO impact on their room. We found one in Chanute that only charges $10 extra for a cat. For that price, I told Izzy that it is OK if she craps on the floor, but she is way too classy for that. ;-)

We considered rolling on further, but we are both tired and felt an early night would be good right now. I was hoping that our favorite Mexican restaurant in Chanute would be open, but no. Fortunately, Joan planned ahead and brought food. The motel room has a fridge and microwave. I plan to go to bed real early tonight. About 1,000 miles to go yet to get home.

On the bright side, diesel here in Chanute is $4.19... 20¢ per gallon higher than any place we've come across since we left Iowa. Over $1 per gallon higher than we paid last fall when we came through here.

On the really bright side, we saw some sunshine today for a few hours - the first in over a week.

Not much traffic on the road today; I read that fuel prices would put a crimp in holiday travel. There are only a few cars in the motel parking lot. Hope that's not a sign of things to come for the summer season.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wrapping up...

The furniture is gone, the closets are empty. The lovely apartment that was home for my Mother looks like any other empty dwelling. This morning, we will take our daughter to the airport... once again, she has been tremendous support. For many years in the studio, the three of us were a team; everyone pulls together... and together we got through this. There are always some tears when say our good-byes, and this one will certainly be tough.

When Joan and I get back to the apartment, we'll have another day of cleaning and then packing up our truck. Then, the long drive back to Texas, but we will be together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A hidden past...

Nothing like going through your Mother's things to find out about a hidden past. Now, I know my Mother had a wild side in her younger years, but this was not so long ago. And she knew she was likely to run afoul of the law, because she tried to hide the evidence. We are up to our armpits in shredding, moving, stacking, sorting, and my daughter found it... hidden in the bottom of Mom's underwear drawer... in a sealed envelope.

Was it evidence that I was left by Gypsies? Someone she was blackmailing? Even worse: a signed confession to some dastardly deed? No, no, and kinda. When we opened the envelope, my daughter gasped - right there for all of us to see: the tags off the mattress and pillows! Even though it says, "Do not remove under penalty of law."

She had every Mother's Day card I gave her, since first grade. Every business card from anything I ever did. She still carried the clipping from Joan's and my wedding announcement in the newspaper. Baby photos of me that I've never seen before... as the third kid, I always thought there were more photos of the family dog than me.

The mortgage payment book from her first and only house - all $5,500 of it. Insurance records. Bank statements going back many years. So many books.

The task of emptying the apartment is underway... trips to the food bank, the church, etc, etc. The detail stuff is pretty well done, tomorrow we start the heavy lifting.

I have to wonder - are the children responsible for the sins of the parent? Will we be getting a visit from the mattress-tag police? I'm going to stash the evidence.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Memorial Service...

Today is the memorial service for my Mother. In typical Iowa/South Dakota fashion, it is cold, rainy, and windy, with a snowy mix.

Three weeks ago, we were gathered for her 90th birthday celebration; I expect to see some of the same friends and family. I have carried out Mom's wishes, and soon the final work will get underway on emptying her apartment. This part has been just as tough, but I am fortunate that my wife and daughter are with me to tackle this.

The circle of life.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I need a chuckle...

Seeing my Mother through to the end was heart-wrenching. We all know what details I'm working with now, and the arduous task of emptying her apartment. Thankfully, Joan is by my side; she is the best detail person I know. Our daughter, Steph, we be here tonight, and the three of us are a team... we will get through this.

If you've read here for any length of time, you know I have an odd sense of humor; I enjoy the absurdity in day to day life and try to find the humor in all I do. I haven't found much humor in the past 10 days.

My Mother was a product of the Great Depression. We were poor when I grew up, but there was always food in the house... often not the "fun" food, like sugary breakfast cereals or soda, but we had canned goods. It is obvious that some of those traits are life-long. Going through cabinets, we found 25 cans of mushrooms. Her doctor told her to drink cranberry juice, and it comes in heavy bottles. Whenever anyone would take her shopping, she would have them pick up 4 large bottles of cranberry juice... just in case. There are a LOT of big bottles of cranberry juice here.

Yesterday, Joan and I went to pick up a few groceries. I asked what she needed, and she replied, "A few cans of mushrooms and a couple large bottles of cranberry juice." It was just the laugh I needed. We bought a couple lottery tickets, because that was Mom's routine. Yeah, just one number... same as Mom's years of lottery ticket experience.

She said a few things in the hospital that made me laugh out loud. Like trying to sell my book to the nurses. When a doctor asked her if she could see his finger while checking her peripheral vision, she asked if he could see "this finger." A nurse in the Stroke Unit told me that sometimes a stroke affects a person's inhibitions... I agreed that this must be the case. It seemed more proper than saying, "Don't get her Irish up."

Looking around the apartment, I see much work to do... and things that make me laugh and cry, often just a few moments apart. The stuff that was the little treasures in her life will go away, but I will carry the memories and the smiles with me always. She loved this apartment - the sunny bay windows, the views of kids playing in the church yard next door, and the fact that it was new when we moved her in here 7 years ago. It is much nicer than the old house in the tough neighborhood where I was raised. She was content. Felt secure.

During our nightly phone call, I always tried to have something to get a laugh out of her, and she often made me laugh. I know there will be more tears, especially considering the tasks at hand... but, laughter is healing.

Friday, April 15, 2011


My Mother passed today; I was holding her hand when it happened. The number of people who have said to me, "She was like a Mother to me," is indicative of how she affected people. One very special lady.

Rest in peace, Nellie.


You can tell from that title that things didn't go as hoped after Mom had that terrible seizure. I have cried endless tears since I got the call that she had the stoke. She has been through a lot in her 90 years, but this thing was too much to overcome. Yesterday, I turned to Hospice services. I can't say enough for their kindness and compassion. I have been right beside Mom through all of this, and the Hospice floor in the hospital has allowed that to continue; she is comfortable and being kept painfree. There is a hide-a-bed in her room, so I can stay right with her. After the noise and commotion of the stroke unit and ICU, this is quiet. It might be a stretch to call it peaceful, but they do all they can here to make it less stressful.

Mom and I discussed this in the past, and I am carrying out her wishes. I will help her through this last ordeal. Hospice allows that to happen with compassion and comfort. They answer questions. The nurses are very special people. Nothing about Mom's life has been easy since she had the stroke last week, but we are on the path to peace.

Thank you for the kind words, phone calls, and private messages. This little 90 year old has a frail outward appearance, but incredible determination and great heart. Her spirit has touched a lot of people, even since the stoke. The concern that family and friends have shown is evidence of how she engaged people. I can't count how many times I've heard people around her say, "She's so sweet," or "Aren't you the spunky one." One of the physical therapists said, "Oh, you're going to make this fun, aren't you?"

Yep, that's my Mom.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Can't get a break...

On the first day of physical therapy rehab, Mom was doing well. Tired, but she seemed determined... I hope for her sake, not mine. As she was being helped up from the very last exercise, she had a seizure. Serious. She is now in ICU; they haven't been able to wake her. They allowed me to stay by her all night... I talked to her, read to her. I don't know how she keeps going.

This isn't the first time I've been told that she isn't expected to pull through. Hell, it's the third time this week. If will and determination could overcome, she would be up dancing right now.

Frail and tough at the same time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A shot...

No, not the kind with a needle... I went around the doctor with "no hope" and visited with the doctor who does admitting for the rehab part of the hospital. He came by to evaluate Mom, saw how we were working with her, and said that she deserves a shot. He didn't paint any pretty pictures, and this may mean a couple days or a couple weeks... but it could mean the chance for her to have better quality of life. If she can help with moving or dressing, it is better than giving up. So, instead of a nursing home with skilled care, we are going to start rehab in the hospital. I am hopeful, but realistic.

My wonderful wife got our boat pulled and put away. She is working hard at home so I can be here. We will be together soon, and that will be easier for both of us. And together, we will face the challenges. My daughter got me through to this point on this front. Those two have amazing resolve. This whole situation is tough, but I have support. Now, it's a matter of how the therapy goes, and what the situation allows.

Keep those positive thoughts coming.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kindness and improvement...

The doctor gave me no hope this morning. He said that my Mother has no chance of recovery, she will continue to fail, he is not recommending any further therapy, and I should put her where she will "have peace." Then, he said the nursing home will talk to me about hospice.

Not what you want to hear first thing in the morning. Mom showed every indication of proving him correct. I made the decision and arrangements with a nursing home. There were a lot of tears.

Later in the afternoon, I took our daughter to the airport, after she had a chance to say good-bye to her Grandmother. Emotional doesn't begin to describe the situation. I asked the nurse if she would let me feed Mom when I got back, knowing that it might be a few minutes after her scheduled dinner time. I hurried back to her room (they moved her out of the stroke unit and into a regular room); when I came in, she looked at me and said, "I'm hungry." I got her meal (that the nurses were holding for me), and Mom ate it... being fed, but able to swallow. The swallowing is a very big deal. She ate the whole meal - a first since the stroke. Her eyes were bright, she was conversational. Family came to visit, and she engaged them.

She went from looking like she wasn't long for this world this morning to something close to chipper this afternoon. I was stunned... and hopeful. When I was done feeding her, I realized that I hadn't eaten since this morning... I was going to go to the hospital cafeteria and then realized that it was after 7:00 - they were closed. A niece asked if she could go get me something, but I said I'd pick up a sandwich later. A few moments later, one of Mom's nurses brought me in a food tray. I felt the tears welling up. All that these folks deal with on a daily basis, and they still have that kind of concern within. When she opened up the tray and I could smell the food, I realized how hunger I was, too. While Mom visited with the relatives, I ate... ate like I haven't since I got the call in the middle of the night.

When I went out to the nurses station to thank them again, one of them said to me, "I felt bad for you. I've seen you here day and night, you're always encouraging your Mother. You needed a good meal." And, it was good.

When the visitors all left, I was about to cash it in when that nurse came in to do another neurological test with Mom. I asked if I could stay to see if there was any change. Towards the end of the exam, when she asked Mom to try to move her left leg, there was a tremor... then a muscle flex at the knee... and a wiggle at the ankle. The nurse looked at me and said, "Did you see that?"

Yes, I did. She won't dance, but there is hope for improvement, and reason to try therapy. I know there will be days of ups and downs, and we sure aren't out of the woods. But, that doctor was wrong - there is hope.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tough decisions...

My darling daughter arrived last night, and her presence has been a godsend. Amidst all the miserable news the doctors give us, there are moments when Mom's great personality comes through. We take whatever little victories the situation allows. Tough decisions ahead.

My heart aches for that frail little lady who has overcome so many other challenges when the doctors didn't give her much hope. She worked so hard to recuperate from the broken pelvis last fall, only to be dealt this awful situation.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ups and downs...

I haven't been able to get time on the computer until now. Again, my sincere thanks for your comforting words, friends. Yesterday was a day of ups and downs, mostly downs. I have come to realize that this is the new norm. I won't turn this into a report of "she did this, they did that..." Dealing with an ever-changing cast of medical personnel is challenging. For most, gone are the days of one doctor, helping you through the different medical situations of life.

Please know that your kindness helps.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I could use some positive energy...

We got the call in the middle of the night that no one wants... my Mother has had a stroke. Yes, that would be the same lady who celebrated her 90th birthday just over a week ago. I am back at the airport, ready to board again. Somehow the TSA stuff seems less significant this morning.

I spoke with the doctor who treated her in the ER and the nurse at the Stroke Center... not encouraging news. My Mother spent 6 months in a bedside vigil, watching her sister whither away years ago. Being in a similar situation is her worst fear.

If you have the time today, a positive thought, a prayer, whatever works for you, sent out to Nellie would be greatly appreciated. I hold her medical power of attorney, have discussed this before hand with her, and have communicated her wishes to the medicos. I had to give her some "tough love" to get her out of the nursing home a few months ago when she fell and broke her pelvis. "Toughing this one out" isn't an option.


On edit:

My last flight into SUX is delayed over an hour. The young lady at the counter can't say why, or even if the flight will go out. I've been calling between flights for updates. I am told a slight improvement... and anxious to get there to assess the situation in person.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting better...

This cold (or whatever I've got) really kicked my butt the last few days. Today was the first day that wasn't worse than the one before, and Joan suggested an easy outing - we had lunch on SPI at an open-air place on the bay, then came back for some boat time. Before we left for lunch, we washed the boat; the wind has been blowing like stink again the last few days, and everything we own is covered with dirt.

We didn't have to go far to get a dolphin show today - about a mile and a half from the house, and we had them playing all around the boat. We drifted along with the dolphins for a while, then took our time coming back in. I was feeling up to one more task.

Big Red was looking more brown. I washed the truck and cargo trailer, then decided to hose off the siding on the house since I had the hose out. After days of hot and humid with LOTS of wind, today was cool (in the low 70s), sunny, and very low humidity... it just felt great to be outside. Heck, it felt great to be upright.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Once around...

Somewhere between SUX and South TX, I picked up a cold. As you know, any cold you currently have is always the worst one you’ve ever had. I feel lousy. Since I’d feel lousy no matter what, I asked Joan if we could take the boat once around the island. Little Izzy went with us. At first, she wasn’t happy about being on the boat, so Joan made a “tent’ for her.

Here she is under that tent. And just for the fun of it, below is a close up of that cute little kitty...

It was a beautiful day - hazy but not humid, very light breeze, temps in the mid to upper 70s. We took our time cruising around - always better for some dolphin watching.

Check out the photo above - see that little fin in front on the left side? Yep, that’s a baby dolphin.