Chris Alan Foreman
Back to 2019   forward to 2021

~ Months of the year ~


~ On the Road in 2020 ~

March ~ Road trip to Death Valley
March ~ Flight to Palm Beaches, Florida
July ~ Triangle to visit Zachary & Simon
August ~ Road trip Northwest to visit family
September ~ Road trip Great Basin with Meet-Up
November ~ Road trip Northwest to visit family
December ~ Flight to Palm Beaches, Florida

TOTAL Words for 2020 = 8553       Photos = 94         Video Clips = 31


On the first day of the year, I posted online "Happy New Year! Seventieth Birthday + 8 days = 7th Anniversary." For Liz and me, our special day was low key, as we were recovering from our hectic week in Portland. With his kids onboard, the new year found Simon in the midst of a six-hundred-mile road trip from Turner, Oregon, to Mill Valley. My son stayed a few days with his buddy, Danny, before returning the Prius to me on January 3. Liz and I celebrated a belated anniversary meal at Rainbow Pizza enjoying the company of Simon, Lorenzo, and Gia. After this luncheon, I dropped off the three Floridians at SFO for their flight home.

I soon re-engaged with my three calendars: daily, weekly, and occasionally. My daily routine included: a morning Bible study, newspaper reading, and dog walking; an afternoon of a gym workout or swim then puzzle-solving with Liz; and concluded with a five-o-clock dinner followed by an evening of writing. I was now composing Chapter 9 (Launched) of my narrative. This shift in my story slowed my progress and brought tears to my eyes because it addressed my years in Korea. From 1972 to 1974, I had filled six binders with hand-written text. I wanted to ruminate on these thousands of words before re-imagining them.

My weekly schedule included Sunday at CPC, Wednesday walking with Steve Wilson, Thursday leading Table 1 at Men's Fraternity, and Saturday morning with a men's fellowship at the Presbyterian Church in Burlingame. In addition to this, I volunteered at the USO@SFO every two weeks and on occasion at the San Mateo Public Library.

For the month of January, my occasional calendar showed a quick trip to Mill Valley to inspect the re-build front deck of the Ashton Lane property. (That work eventually totaled $55,000.) Liz and I joined Allen to celebrate his 62nd birthday on January 18 along with his girlfriend Roz, Carolyn, and Greg. Finally, I camped out at Francis Beach/Half Moon Bay from January 20 to 22. Rather than the camper, Jody and I spent two nights in the little red tent along the edge of a sandy strand of beach.


On Groundhog's Day Liz and I watched TV as our SF 49ers lost in the Superbowl to the KC Chiefs -- 31 to 20. I joked to Liz that our team did not see its shadow and had to return to its hole until the next football season.

Then the political circus crashed upon me. On February 3, Iowa held its caucus. The Republicans appeared united behind Donald Trump while the Democrats showcased a dozen candidates. Could any of these clowns actually become my next president? On February 4, Trump delivered his State of the Union address, while House Speaker Pelosi, dramatically ripped to pieces a copy of his speech. On February 5, the U.S. Senate found the impeached president not guilty on the two House-charges brought against him. I was hooked. From that point until the November election, I followed partisan politics obsessively.

I spent long evenings rapt in my favorite podcasts - all right of center and all predicting a second term for the incumbent president. I remember watching Ben Shapiro on The Daily Wire. He contended that the Democrats were so out-of-touch they could never field an electable candidate and Trump had more than even odds to win. Ben went on to say, "only two things could trip him up: an economy that crashes or a massive outbreak of the Corona Virus." I thought to myself, A wrecked economy I believe, but that spooky virus is contained in China. Isn't it?

In mid-February, I attended a funeral service for Ken Hillard at Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward. Ken had been my associate pastor in San Lorenzo. He was a fearless evangelist and officiated at my 2013 wedding. At the conclusion of the graveside ceremony, his children offered me a caged dove to release into the sky. I imagined Ken's soul as the freed bird winged heavenward.

I continued to plug away at my Narrative. On February 21, 2021, I read from my fourth Korean journal words I had written 47 years earlier on February 21, 1974. "I can now peek behind at all the marvelous things God had given me in the past 77 days. The inconceivable has happened and in an inconceivably short amount of time. At the beginning of this book, I only knew her last name; now she is my wife. Lord, I will always sing your praises."

On February 23, I attended a Men's Retreat at Mount Hermon leading a discussion group of ten, and on February 25, I strolled through Filoli with Liz, marveling at God's handiwork and snapping photos of the lush gardens.

The month ended for me at the West Coast Writers Conference at Cornerstone Church in Livermore. I tried to motivate myself; to build a tribe; to create a platform, but I left discouraged. I did talk with a few people about my project to write about Rwanda and Simon Bikindi -- the only musician ever found guilty of war crimes. My audience was intrigued by this first-hand story.


The Wuhan Coronavirus leapt to front-page news on March 1. Headlines screamed of American infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. I didn't grasp the seriousness of the situation until I saw referees cancel a Warriors basketball game a few minutes after tip-off. "I guess this must be for real", I mused to myself. A day later, the stock market crashed and the panic of the pandemic was upon us.

On Thursday morning, I drove my camper to Men's Fraternity. I had been long-planning a six-day road trip to Death Valley. All the talk at Table 1 concerned the Coronavirus. Events were moving fast. The leadership was unsure if our group would meet the following Thursday.

~ Road trip to Death Valley begins ~

After the morning session, Jody and I headed to San Luis Reservoir just a few hours south. I passed a quiet day walking the dog and listening to audible books. The next morning, I relocated a few miles down the road at Los Banos Reservoir. About noon I was joined by Dan and Myra Clary. Dan - an acquaintance from Men's Fraternity - had retrofitted his new van into a camping vehicle. He wanted to test his retrofits. We four spent the night camping by the water, then the next day headed south. We camped one night at Red Rock Canyon, marveling at the layer-cake landscape of pink and vanilla sandstone.

We moved on to Death Valley at establishing a campsite at Furnace Creek. The big digital display showed 85 degrees. We drove to the lowest point at Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level. We continued driving along the desolate roadways to Zabriski's Point. I loved the picture which Myra took of me standing with my back to the camera and with Jody poking her head over my shoulder. Dan and Myra were great company. The next morning, we headed north on Highway 99, parking one night in the lot at Tachi Casino. The novel corona virus lurked in the background of all activities. I noted posted signs of social distancing and perceived anxious faces on casino employees.

When I returned to San Mateo on March 11, the headlines screamed "Coronavirus Pandemic - STAY AT HOME - 6 Bay Area counties order nearly 7 million people to shelter in place". My athletic club suddenly locked its doors; CPC shuttered for both Sunday church and Thursday men's fraternity; the Presbyterian men's group did not meet; and I received a message advising me that all USO@SFO volunteer work was cancelled. I learned the public imperative was to flatten the curve that is avoid physical contact so as not to overload hospitals with COVID emergencies.

Panic set in. Toilet paper vanished from shelves and house-cleaning material became scarce. I was fortunate in that just a week earlier I had stocked up on a 12-pack of TP and a large squirt-jar of hand sanitizer. Liz parked at Safeway at 5:00 a.m. and joined a line of ten. She said every shopper filled their cart to the max. Virus transmission by hand became the big concern and sanitizers appeared ubiquitous. Liz even wiped down incoming groceries.

I downloaded something called Zoom and on March 14 joined the men's fellowship via my iPad. The joke was we appeared as the Brady Bunch with one face in each of nine squares. All the state parks shut down for lack of toilet paper. (It had been stolen). Wanting to escape the lockdown, Liz and I drove to Stanford and walked through the cactus garden. The shopping mall and university were closed for business, but the outdoor plants provided a sense of Springtime relief.

I wrote these words in later retrospection: "Over the first seventy years of life, terms like 'pandemic', 'facemask', and 'quarantine' were mere words to me. 'Covid' and 'social distancing' meant nothing. As the year of 2020 progressed, I discovered the reality and the unreality of these words.

~Flight to Florida begins ~

Back in January, I had purchased a flight to visit Simon in Florida. Liz voiced opposition to my air travel but I was determined (reckless?) to go. On March 18, the terminals of SFO were nearly deserted. I had to wear a face mask which was something new to me. Only a dozen people were aboard my United flight as I touched down in West Palm Beach.

Lorenzo and Gia were on a Spring break so I got to hang out with my grandchildren. They wrote out a daily schedule for me and stuck it to the fridge:

9:00 -- Eat Breakfast & clean up
10:00 -- Study and reading
11:00 -- Outside at Playground
12:00 -- lunch at Burger King or Dunkin’s
1:00 -- Screen Time
2:00 -- Board game / Guess Who?
3:00 -- homework & snack time
4:00 -- Tic Tok & Fortnite
5:00 -- Outside to dark
6:00 -- Dinner & playtime
7:00 -- TV and wind down
8:00 -- lights out

Simon had a full schedule of on-line meetings so he appreciated my care for the children. Lorenzo showed me his eight Nerf guns. He and Gia got into a gun battle which progressed into a wrestling match on the black mat, then ended in the tears of he-said/she-said.

Simon's bosses asked employees to write a brief note on how they were surviving the pandemic. My son wrote: "Winters are great, but it's going to be 92 degrees and humid. MCD operations here are fortified with a 2019 MacBook Pro, land-line with multiple audio redundancies, trusty Wi-Fi, and impact windows."

Simon wanted to keep Lolo and Gia away from screens as much as possible. To facilitate this, I walked with them to the East Olive playground twice a day. The monkey bars and slides were cordoned off with yellow tape: "Park closed until further notice. Doing our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19." Sometimes we walked Dilia's dogs. Simon joined us once and I videoed the kids challenging their dad to basketball. Gia latched on to Simon's ankle while LoLo held his arms.

On a walk to the shoreline, Gia discovered a derelict rowboat - washed up from somewhere. This became their play project and for two days they pushed and pulled the boat around the shallows. We christened the abandoned vessel with two names: "Tic Tok Girl" for Gia and "Best Fortnite Streamer" for Lorenzo.

On my last day in town, we all drove to Lake Okeeheelee, about twenty miles inland. We rented kayaks, propelled ourselves to the little island, romped in the woods, and frolicked in the water. The kids loved to run full speed and leap off the end of a wooden pier. Simon also drove me around the neighborhood to look at property for sale. He told me it was time to make the leap. He had job security, intended to remain in Florida for a while, and the pandemic had depressed home prices. All to soon it was time for me to return to California and endure a life under quarantine.


I celebrated when March ended, believing the lockdowns would end in April. However, the craziness continued. Donald Trump stated in a news conference that he wanted churches to be open for Easter services, but to no avail. CPC remained shuttered so I attended their Easter service on my iPad.

Because I had flaunted travel restrictions in March, I pleased Liz by sticking close to home in April. I paid for the premier version of Zoom and began to meet virtually with Table 1. I was soon meeting with Steve, Dave, Gil, and Wendell at 7:00 a.m. on this digital platform. This version of meeting held some advantages because it was convenient and safe. However, it could not measure up to a face-to-face gathering around a genuine table.

April was supposed to include a mission trip to Rwanda, but the pandemic nullified this plan. International travel was just not possible. Liz and I also dropped plans for a trip to Vancouver B.C. She cancelled our May reservations at Butchart Gardens as well as our European cruise in September. The termination of all travel plans added to our Covid misery.

At mid-month, San Mateo County issued orders to shelter-in-place and prohibited nonessential travel more than five miles from home. The sheriff's office issued more than 650 verbal warnings and more than 300 written warnings for violations over the weekend of April 10 to 13.

Lauralwood Park posted the following sign "We ask for your cooperation during these times by observing the following: All playground areas are closed; be prepared for limited access to park restrooms; observe six-foot social distancing guidelines when using park facilities." I continued to walk Jody down the trails, but poop bags were no longer supplied.

Because I could not swim or exercise at SMAC, I joined a Zoom work-out class called Fish out of water. I also lifted weights in my room, augmented by sit-ups and push-ups.

The queue to enter Costco was crazy. Car followed car bumper-to-bumper encircling the gigantic parking lot. I sat for a several minutes, then left in disgust. Trader Joes wasn't much better. An usher with rubber gloves and mask greeted people, wiped down red cards and handed them out to patrons waiting in line. Of course, we were all socially distanced at six feet. The store allowed only thirty shoppers inside at one time. As a few exited, a few were granted entrance. Along with groceries, I bought a dozen red roses to cheer up Liz.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown impacted unforeseen corners of life. Al Thornel was my head deacon at First Baptist Church in San Lorenzo. I counted him as a faithful friend. His wife, Jane, died suddenly in April. When I got word of her death through Diane Varaday, I understood at once that I could not drive to Hayward and provide Al with pastoral comfort. Nor could I attend Jane's funeral. All of these functions were locked down because of Covid. In the midst of this quarantine, Liz took pleasure in watering her plants while I taught a few lessons via Zoom to my Presbyterian men's group.

I did escape lockdown twice. Jody and I camped for two nights at prayer mountain. It was the only place open to us and offered great respite. In April I also drove to Half Moon Bay, ignoring the flashing signs that cautioned drivers of straying more than five miles from home. As I walked Jody down the beach, I kept one eye out on the Covid cops.

Liz stuck around the house more than I. She gardened in the side yard and zoomed with several groups. I termed my wife Covid cautious and myself Covid cavalier. Of course, there were daily quarrels due to our different attitudes to lockdown and our confinement in the same space. One of the big issues was personal grooming. All barbershops and salons were shuttered. Liz was able to receive her cut-and-color, but it like a speakeasy with windows blacked out, cash only, and one person at a time. I just let my hair grow crazy.

I face-timed with Zachary in Pittsburg and Simon in West Palm Beach. In its dictates of shutdowns and mandates, Florida did seem less draconian than California. The sheltered time focused my writing and enabled me to whiz through Chapter 13 (Relocated) and Chapter 14 (Commissioned). I really thought that April would mark the last month of the pandemic.


On the first of the month, the Chronicle reported its Coronavirus update: "Bay area -- 8144 cases and 293 deaths; California - 50,351 cases and 2036 deaths; United States - 1,069,826 cases and 63,006 deaths." The news was relentless and disheartening. The pandemic seemed to take on a decidedly political twist with liberal media using the virus as a cudgel to bash Trump about the head. However, according to my conservative podcast sources, the president still appeared on path to a November victory.

On May 4 I posted "May the 4th be with you" and on May 5 I visited Eileen via Zoom to celebrate her seventy-sixth birthday. As the lockdown persisted, I double-downed on my memoir, completing Chapter 15 (Deployed), Chapter 16 (Higher-educated), chapter 17 (Re-deployed) and Chapter 18 (Derailed). Liz commented that I was living too much in the past. She was propably correct.

On my walks with Jody, I listened to eight audiobooks by Zane Gray. I can see why my mom liked these Cowboy romances. I also walked with Jody along the ocean shore and with Liz at Edgewood Park. She was happy to greet two of her wild friends: Ethereal Spear and Tidy Tips. Jody and I also checked on the Mill Valley house. We were surprised to goats chewing the greenery behind the back fence.

As the month slipped by, I recorded my dog attacking the vacuum cleaner and a visit to Ashton Lane, complete with grazing goats. I celebrated Zachary's birthday via FaceTime and on Instagram followed the house-hunting progress of Simon. I lamented the death of apologist icon - Ravi Zacharias and facilitated a C.S. Lewis lesson for the Presbyterian Men's Fellowship.

I also began work on a children's book called Spitting Beans. It was loosely based on one of Franc Murenzi's stories from his childhood experience in a Ugandan refugee camp. I worked with Believer's Press and contracted with an illustrator to put together this thirty-page big-print book.

I ended the month with a three-night outing at Prayer Mountain. This location certainly became my outdoor refuge during the pandemic. All the campgrounds were closed. The hours passed leisurely and the weather was pleasant. I walked Jody about 15,000 steps per day. On Thursday, I held my Men's Fraternity zoom meeting under the awning of my camper.

I returned home along Highway 1, stopping at a road-side vista for a camper snack. I was relieved there were no Covid-19 cones or placards posted. However, while I was munching a sandwich, a Caltrans van stopped near me to set up no-parking markers. I hoped I would not get cited by the Covid police.


As the new month began, new troubles brewed. Earlier, on May 25, a Black man died in the custody of Minneapolis police. In cities across the US, thousands of people swarmed the streets to express outrage over the death of George Floyd. Shootings, looting, and vandalism soon followed. An organization called Black Lives Matter (BLM) became a cause celebre. I spent hours listening to podcasts about the pandemic and the riots. Soon there were tent cities in Portland and an autonomous zone in Seattle.

On a trip to check out my Ashton Lane property, the Golden Gate Bridge was packed with marching protesters. I was delayed an hour in getting home. At that time, Contra Costa County posted this bizarre update of its Stay-at-Home order which limited the size of gatherings: "Social outdoor gatherings are limited to 12 people; childcare, camps in groups to 12; Protests are permitted up to 100 people." I re-posted this graphic with the words, "It's official. In the Bay Area, the inmates have taken charge of the asylum."

Both Liz and I spent much of our time indoors. I managed shelter-in-place by resting at zero-gravity with a dog under my arm and screen in front of my eyes. I completed Chapter 19 (Restored) and Chapter 20 (Nestled). I felt like I was re-living the 1990s. Where did that decade go? My sons were in high school then suddenly out in the world.

The gym was still closed so I continued with the Fish out of water Zoom class. I followed the leader a few times a week, but found exercising in front of my iPad screen non-motivating.

I did manage to camp at my go-to place, Prayer Mountain, staying for two nights. During this emcampment, I watched as a few giant redwood trees were cut down. In Scotts Valley I got my first haircut in 100 days. Jody and I also managed a beach walk and BBQ at Half Moon Bay. Liz received notice that Filoli was open to members limited to twenty patrons at a time for one hour. She signed us up and we walked the premises masked, and socially distant from other guests we encountered. In spite of this, we had a great time.

In June I added twenty new hymns to my YouTube collection and received great pictures of Lorenzo, Gia, Zélie, and Zosha. I thanked God for the media that is able to keep me in touch with my offspring.


This month began with a reinvigorated coronavirus. Things that were once loosened up became tight again. Just as I headed to Florida, the virus was spiking in that state. But I had to see my grandkids.

~ Triangle to Zachary and Simon begins ~

I flew the triangle in six stops; from SFO to ATL to PIT to visit with Zachary; from PIT to CHAR to PBI to visit Simon; then from PBI to DC to SFO home. This was my pandemic-delayed journey to visit my two sons and families. Traveling in the midst of Covid-19 was strange-odd-eerie. I was in the air one night on a red-eye, in Zach's cool basement for two nights, at a PITT airport hotel for a single night, at Simon's house for five nights, and at Bonita Springs hotel for a final night.

In Pittsburgh, we celebrated an early third birthday for Zélie on July 4. Ruth posted this message: "We will be hosting a Frozen-themed virtual Zoom party with optional Zoom-drive-by birthday for any locals to help celebrate our sweet little girl! Frozen theme and close family at the home only 11-12. Pinata and soccer at Koenig field 12-1 (open to all). Feel free to drop in via Zoom or drive by the house at 11 a.m."

Of course, Zélie was dressed as a princess with gloves, scepter, necklace, and tiara. One-year-old Zoshie squirmed in my arms. Ruth's mother, brother, and his girlfriend joined us at the house for cake-eating and game-playing. A few cars honked horns outside the front door, leaving a gift on the front steps. The house party then moved to the local park where of few couples joined us for celebration.

A day later, after church, we five drove to a local farm market to pick blueberries. The adults filled buckets while Zélie's lips turned blue. It was a delicious slice of life with Zachary, Ruth, Zélie and Zofia.

After a short night in an airport hotel and a 6 A.M. flight, I landed in West Palm Beach. Lorenzo and Gia were out of school so I was able to spend quality time with my grandkids. I shot hoops in the driveway with Lorenzo and followed Gia upon her makeshift cardboard-clad skateboard. She propelled herself with ski-poles. I helped both kids with summer homework and posted a Gwampa Tik-Tok complete with hand gestures. (I didn't gather a following.) We swam in the ocean on a sunny morning. The water was calm and crystal clear to my toes. The kids gathered shiny stones and seashells.

Simon had been in the market for a home since the first of the year. He looked within a few miles of his current rented residence and latched on to 7911 Flagler Court. It was a fixer-upper but had good bones, he commented. We talked with the older couple who had occupied the place for a few decades. The deciding factor seemed to be that the property was located just a few blocks from where Dilia had earlier purchased her own home. Simon had just about closed on the house on the day I departed.

On my last night in Florida, we traveled to Bonita Springs for some fun. We spent much of the time circling the pools in tubes on the lazy river. I took a lot of great underwater pictures and a video of Lorenzo and Gia doing an underwater video Tik Tok of the hip hop hit called Pyung Hwa. The next day Simon dropped me off at PBI for my long flight home.

When I returned to California, the pandemic continued and evolved. I spent hours sheltered-in-place, writing, reading, playing word games, and viewing podcasts. I completed Chapter 21 (Rerouted) and Chapter 22 (Ordained). The whole process of autobiography allowed me to re-live my lifespan - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Was the protagonist of these thirty chapters really myself? I often had dreams of the long-lost Kim, accompanied by past iterations of my two sons.

The San Mateo Athletic club re-opened on a limited basis. Work-out equipment was set up in a nearby courtyard and swimming pools opened by appointment only. I scheduled an hour swim every few days. Liz and I sometimes worked the weights together, wiping down machines with alcohol after each use.

Simon closed on his Flagler Court property; Liz went on hikes with Carolyn and Allen; Zachary posted adorable pictures of Zélie and Zoshie; Liz chased away bunnies from the back yard; and I continued to obsess with politics, thinking the pandemic meant a "dem-panic". In my echo chamber, I considered Donald Trump on a flight path to re-election. The month closed with three hot days at prayer mountain. I parked and re-parked the camper to avoid direct sunlight. I wrote, studied, walked Jody, and listened to Audible books. The time out of the house and outdoors always seemed to nourish my soul.


Liz got word on the first day of August that her Aunt Dix had died in Massachusetts. At ninety-one years old, Dix was two years older than my mother-in-law. In these times of pestilence, there was no thought of air travel East. I did tune in to a funeral mass on the sixth.

As the lockdown continued, I was able to complete large sections of my memoir. Chapter 23 (Actualized) addressed the four years I ministered at FSBC with Kim at my side. I reflected on these days as the zenith of my life story. The pages were difficult to compose because I knew where the chapter was heading and I had no power to divert the impending castrophe.

August was a hot month with wild fires breaking out throughout California. Some of the smoke lingered in the sky above San Mateo. I continued my cyber dialogues with political opposites and enclosed myself in a bubble of conservative podcasts. I concluded my Greek Bible study of Romans and began to translate the Gospel of Matthew at six verses per day. This one-hour routine became my favorite part of the morning.

The Democratic Party held a convention in Milwaukee. As expected, Joe Biden won the nomination. As halfway expected, he chose Kamala Harris as his running mate. A week later the Republican Party held its convention in Charlotte. As pre-ordained, Donald Trump and Mike Pence headed the ticket. The race to the White House had officially begun.

~ Road trip to Northwest begins ~

On August 17, I began an eight-day road trip to the Northwest. My calendar read: Sims Road-Jeanne-Eileen-Eileen-Frank-Frank-Jeanne-Crescent City. Wanting to see the family was the PULL north. Escape from a house floor remodel, excessive heat, and wildfire smoke provided the PUSH.

My first stop was Mill Valley to check out the property. The street of Ashton Lane was still crumbling. I talked with the occupants. Diana Byers was struggling. She was a laid-off waitress, unable to pay rent. Her co-occupant, Mike Vipham, was working from home as an accountant. His salary was meager as well. Both were waiting on government pandemic checks. I allowed them to skip the $4000 rent in May, applying their $4000 deposit to cover that loss. There was little else I could do. New California laws permitted renters to defer paying rent if Covid proved to be a factor. For this and other reasons, I determined the time was ripe to sell the house.

I continued driving north, stopping for the night at Sims Flat Campground near Dunsmuir. The next morning, I sped north along Interstate 5 to stay with Jeanne in Canby. My sister always seemed to appreciate my nights on her couch as did I. We typically watched a cable-channel movie and talked about old times. I took Jeanne shopping and shared a lunch with her and Don John. My nephew was a complete Covid scoffer and refused to wear a mask at any time. With his compromised medical condition, I thought his attitude unwise.

Next, I drove to Longview to reside in a spare bedroom of Eileen. I could always navigate to her place by spotting her seasonal Snoopy banner. Her Schipperke dogs greeted me and Jody as we entered through her front door. While staying with my sister, we paid visits to Jim and Charlotte as well as to Joanna, her husband Mike, and their two kids - Liam and Zoe. I managed to procure an overdue haircut on the way out of town.

I stayed two nights with Frank in Vancouver, walking the neighborhood and talking of life. We called upon Stephanie and her nearby family. I was sad to hear Shea had been diagnosed with something called a Chiari Malformation. This condition presented her with unusual symptoms and severe headaches.

I stayed with Jeanne over Saturday night and accompanied her to the Canby Four-Square Church on Sunday morning. Of course, the attendees were masked and distanced. I appreciated the pastor's sermon as he preached about the divide between the Covid cautious and Covid cavalier. How can a society or congregation maintain peace between these sides and promote respect among all who call upon the name of Christ?

After church I drove south along Interstate 5 to Grants Pass where I headed southwest on Highway 199 into Crescent City. I got to the Walker house in time for supper. James, Valarie, and I paid a visit on the Hawkins family- -Kevin, Jael, and three little boys. I parked for the night in a construction lot near a house that they were building. I spoke with Jael about her Catholic faith. They surely seemed to be on an extreme wing with a tight-knit group of thirty like minded devotees. Kevin talked about guns, religion, and of course, the pandemic. I appreciated their commitment and family values. Driving down Highway 101, I arrived home late in the day on August 25.

I wasn't around for Lizzie's birthday on August 20. However, she explained the prairie dog digital greeting which I sent her was her very favorite gift. She laughed as we viewed it a second and then a third time. I ended the month by completing Chapter 24 (Devastated). So much of this sad story I had already related in Forgive Like a Rwandan. To create this chapter and also the following two, I condensed, omitted, added to, and repurposed my pre-existing text.


There seemed to be no end to the downward spiral of news. Riots and violence continued across the USA. I found the mainstream media to be so bias. I screen-captured the image of a CNN reporter standing in front of a raging downtown fire with the sub-title "Fiery but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting". It appeared Orwellian to me.

On September 9, the Chronicle headlines read "Shut-offs add to our woes". PG&E had cut power to our house on several occasions to battle excessive heat. Numerous forest fires within a hundred miles caused our skies to turn yellow. I went to Costco to purchase an in-home air purifier, but they were sold out.

~ Road trip to Great Basin begins ~

To seek relief from this mix of misfortunes, Jody and I went on a seven-day road trip to Great Basin National Park. California state parks were still closed but those in Nevada remained open. I headed east on a Tuesday morning and arrived at Fallon, Nevada, five hours later. Churchill County Fairgrounds was inexpensive but wet. After the prolonged drought, park officials were soaking the fields with five inches of water. We traversed the great basin along Highway 50, arriving at Ely in the late afternoon. The KOA provided an opportunity to swim in a pool and shower.

From that point it was just a short drive to the Upper Lehman Creek Campground. I hooked up with Ken and Linda Napier who had paused for a few days on their own trek to Glacier National Park. For days 3, 4, and 5 of my road trip, I camped beneath pines at an altitude of 8000 feet. It was warm in the daytime, but frigid at night. One day Jody and I went on a local hike with the Napiers and on the next day I left my dog in the camper while Ken drove me to the Bristlecone-Alpine Lakes Trail head. At 10,000 feet, we followed an interpretive trail, posing for pictures beside ancient trees reputed to be 4000 years old. We stood near Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the great basin. The views to the east were fantastic, but to the west smokey.

The term "great basin" refered to a huge swath of land which includes most of Nevada with significant parts of Oregon, Utah, and Idaho. This basin lies between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Rockies. Water that falls into the basin does not find its way into to the ocean, but settles and evaporates.

On Sunday morning, we three held a church service with a family of four joining in with us. That hour was special as I spoke with two high school girls, passing along a copy of Forgive Like a Rwandan. I had planned to accompany Napiers into Utah, but my check-engine-light flashed on the dashboard. I wasn't sure what that meant, but since my engine had blown just a few years earlier, I didn't want to take any chances. After thirty downhill miles, I stopped at a car parts store where a computer analyzed my flashing light. The problem turned out to be one of altitude. The light was re-set and behaved itself for the remainder of the journey.

I retraced my route back to the Ely KOA where I took my first shower in four days. The next morning, I paused at Hickison Petroglyphs to walk along a short interpretive trail. I viewed a dozen obscure carvings made by unknown people centuries earlier. I could just make out images of birds and beasts. Soon I was back at the Churchill County campgrounds. The western sky was orange with smoke. I arrived home the next day at 6:30 p.m. After a few words with Liz, I showered and hit the hay. Another camper adventure had passed.

The second half of September passed without adventure. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and Trump nominated Amy Barrett in her place. That precipitated a lot of cyber fireworks. I finished up "Spitting Beans: A Tale of Refugee Life in East Africa - as told by Frank Nkusi and illustrated by Sarah Grace Wright." Soon I received two big boxes of twenty books each.

Simon sent me videos of his massive house overhaul and Zachary provided videos of his family's overnight to Lake Erie. I was constantly in touch with my family.

Nancy Jo was remarried; I began Men's Fraternity Table 1 via Zoom; a local wildfire shot up a lot of smoke, but not much fire; My iPad reported my screen time was up to an average of nine hours per day; and Liz published and article for Fuller Legacy called "Planting Seeds for the Future". Thus ended the first seven months of pandemic lockdown.


On October 1, I acquired my first mobile phone in eight years. I had been resisting the purchase because I had a talk-a-tone app on my iPad. But this work-around was proving unreliable to both send and receive phone calls. Also, new-fangled two-part authentication was impossible with my single device. After a week of research, I settled on a Jitterbug Android phone. The gadget was marketed to senior citizens as having a big display, a special emergency button, and a low price of $27 per month.

I also spent $1000 on a new iPad Pro. The look and sound was much improved. I mailed the old device to Zachary along with several covers. I didn't feel guilty about spending so much money, because the enduring pandemic forced frugality upon me through cancelled trips and sheltered living.

As the lockdown dragged on, a mask became required face wear for all indoor activities as well as for large outside gatherings. I mail-ordered a dozen custom masks emblazoned with the words "Virtue Signaling Device". I wore my new mask to a CPC parish meeting at Leo Ryan Park, noting nods of both approval and disapproval.

I celebrated a Zoom birthday with Zofia on October 4 - her first; I completed Chapter 27 of the narrative (Re-Wed); and I joined the Snap Fitness club at the Laurelwood shopping center. The dozen exercise machines were an improvement over the outdoor SMAC set up. I walked the half-mile to Snap Fitness a few times a week. I had an entrance key and was often alone in the facility. My hands smelled of ammonia because that was Snap's sanitizer of choice.

Who said "you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" At eleven years old, my dog Jody learned how to push open the door to Liz's office with her snout. I think she had been hesitant, not wanting to abuse her sensitive nose. However, she managed the feat by poking with her clenched teeth.I tested her by leaving open the door just a crack and sure enough, she poked it open. Liz and I also visited her mom's place with Jody in tow. Becky was always fond of my dog.

I managed two outings during the month: October 12 to 14 at Lake Chabot and 21 to 23 at Prayer Mountain. Both locations were eerily quiet. Jody developed some kind of cough, so I scheduled an appointment for her at the vet.

Because of Covid and unemployment, my tenants had skipped paying rent for a second month. I was motivated to unload the property. I contacted a real estate agent in Mill Valley named Linda Tull and explained to her I would likely sell my house in April of 2021. She mailed me information about her company called COMPASS.

As president of Come & See Africa, Frank had contracted with a fellow named Paul Jackson to visit the Lighthouse in Rwanda. Maybe Paul could help CASA by becoming the resident missionary I was looking for. I met with Paul for an hour on October 27 as he passed through SFO waiting for his international connection. I gave him six copies of the book Spitting Beans to pass along to Franc.

Halloween events were canceled in many localities because of virus anxiety. But both Zachary and Simon sent me pictures of their kids decked out in costume. My grandkids limited their trick-or-treating to the homes of a few select friends.


The first Tuesday after the first Monday of November fell on the third. That was election day 2020. I had mailed in my ballot weeks earlier with a big check mark for the Trump-Spence ticket. I realized Republicans had no chance of carrying California, but I felt confident Trump would win a second term. The final poll on November 2 showed him ahead of the Biden-Harris ticket 290 to 248 electoral votes. At least that's what my Red Eagle podcast had predicted.

I agreed with a Chronicle article: "Stress crossed party lines around the Bay area on Monday, as Democrats and Republicans alike lost sleep, binge-watched cable news, and hit the refresh button on political polls on the eve of election day. Anxiety levels raised to nearly unbearable heights." All that described me.

Liz thought Biden would win and we bet a nickel on the outcome. Election day looked okay for Trump, especially early. But as the evening wore on, several toss-up states fell to the Left. The pattern was for Trump to win outlying counties while Biden captured big cities. And so it went into the next day - and then to the next. The results were still under dispute when I gave my nickel to Liz on November 10.

I FaceTimed with both Zachary and Simon to discuss election results. I admitted to myself that I was overly fixated with partisan politics to the point of stress. It was not healthy. I abandoned all my conservative podcasts and news sources. Whatever might happen in the USA, God was in control. I put it all in His mighty hands.

Beyond politics, November progressed as just another lockdown month. I completed Chapter 28 (Retired); hiked with Liz at Bair Island and at Half Moon Bay. The beachside poster read, "Unless you're a whale, cover your blowhole." Liz bought a new couch and ottoman on which Jody was forbidden to lie; and my morning Bible reading moved on to the Epistle of Romans. Dr. Margaret Hoppe at Crystal Springs Pet Hospital diagnosed Jody with a shallow cough and prescribed a bottle of meds. After a few weeks, the cough diminished.

~ Road trip to Northwest begins ~

On November 13, Jody and I headed to the Northwest for family time. We spent Friday night at the Weed rest stop parked among the tractor-trailers then arrived in Canby to visit Jeanne on Saturday. At that time Don John and Julie occupied the sewing room (spare bedroom), so I slept on the couch. My concern was not on my comfort but on my sister.

I carried out a kind of intervention for Jeanne. After returning with her from Fred Meyer, my sister could not fit her meager groceries into her refrigerator. As I investigated, I noted every nook was stuffed with old and spoiled food. Jeanne told me most of it belonged to DJ. I said, "Let's make some room and clean up this fridge." I proceeded to empty the entire appliance, throwing out a portion, keeping about half, and passing on some frozen meat to the neighbor. DJ showed up, made some protests, but then helped in the triage. He explained he was able to acquire boxes of free food and could not bear to cast it out.

After a few hours of hard scrubbing, Jeanne regained use of her refrigerator. She also reported that - like the fridge - DJ had slowly taken over the entire house, not only the sewing room, but also the garage and backyard. I spoke with him, felt sorry for his dreadful medical condition, and prayed with Jeanne that her living situation would improve.

On Sunday after church, I drove Jeanne to Longview for a family reunion at Eileen's. It just happened to be Charlotte's precise birthday, so we all sang to her, presented small gifts, and consumed birthday cake. As always, it was a riot to talk with Jim Francis. He would begin sitting, then rise to his feet, first going through motions, then in two voices speak two sides of a long-ago conversation.

I stayed the night with Frank, then headed south the next morning for home. To avoid possible snow, I drove Highway 101 down the coast and struck camp along the oceanfront just before dark. The sound of wind and waves provided a tonic to sleep. I felt especially blessed to have ever-faithful Jody as my traveling companion. I feared I loved that dog too much.

I arrived home on November 20 and resumed my daily and weekly activities. On Thanksgiving Day, I shared a microwaved Marie Callender turkey dinner with Liz. In the evening, both sons greeted me via FaceTime. All four grandchildren danced before my eyes over the miles. We had much to be thankful for.

As the month drew to a close, I received disturbing news from the Zelen family. Shortly after I returned home, Jeanne and Don John got into a shouting match concerning a business deal gone sour. DJ screamed some very mean things at his mother. Just as this dispute climaxed, Don John experienced a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. After life-threatening surgery, he remained in recovery for several days. When the hospital released him, Julie transported her husband to Eugene to take personal care of him in her own home.

Jeanne's five other children - Debbie, Susie, Nancy, Nathan, and Ben - got wind of what was going on and did some investigating. The five agreed their mother was being emotionally and financially abused by Don John and all signed on to a complaint with the state of Oregon. An Elder Abuse case worker called upon Jeanne. She then became upset with her children, saying she felt the misuse of the five more upsetting than the abuse by the one. She interpreted their intervention as an accusation of mental incompetence. The situation calmed as DJ recovered in Eugene and Jeanne regained control of her cluttered home. However, Julie and DJ terminated all communication with his family.


I started something new in December. The Senior Center on Alameda de las Pulgas began offering six-dollar meals to seniors because the facility was closed to drop-ins during the pandemic. Liz began a twice-a-month routine of picking up a noon lunch and soon I joined. I tended to go for the beef dishes while my wife preferred the fish.

I completed Chapter 29 (Sustained) and began composing Chapter 30 (Resolved). Because so much activity had taken place in the years 2015 to 2019, these two chapters grew to be longer than any of the previous ones. These recent times were also fresher in memory. I included a favorite quotation from Henry David Thoreau.

Jody and I camped at Prayer Mountain from December 6 to 9 and enjoyed an unexpected rainstorm, the first significant precipitation of the season. Liz and I continued to attend CPC Live Stream church on Sundays as another pandemic month crept by. The SMAC pool provided some relief and I swam laps three or four times per week. I received beautiful photographs of my granddaughters Zélie and Gia. I scheduled my first Covid test for December 21 at the KP parking lot in Redwood City. We would be visiting my mother-in-law and at 89-years-old, we wanted to be prudent about her health. Liz and I carried out a Christmas lights drive through the neighborhood on December 23 and on my seventy-first birthday Liz treated me to a Roundtable pizza. We visited Becky on Christmas Day, sitting on her back deck. She seemed resolved to move out of her grand three-story home and move into assisted living. I had been suggesting this on many of my visits. "It's better to walk out of your house upright than to be carried out feet first."

~ Flight to Florida begins ~

On the day after Christmas, Liz drove me to SFO where I caught a flight to West Palm Beach. After a layover in Houston, I arrived at Simon's home about 10:00 p.m. His place looked amazing. 7911 Flagler Court had once been oceanfront property. A sea wall still abutted his back property line. However, a few decades earlier, developers filled in enough ocean to erecta few dozen mansions. Still, Simon lived in a great location and for $600,000 he got a great deal. My son was confident he could upgrade the property to a value of over one million. I had packed a few old items to distribute to my two sons. I gave each their baptism certificate that I had discovered in a patch of un-sorted papers.

When I arrived, much of the inside work was complete but more was in the offing. The pandemic had slowed the construction supply chain and my son was waiting for kitchen appliances, new windows, doors, bathrooms, and a host of other desirables. Being an artist at heart, I figured Simon would transform his first real home into a genuine work of installation art.

I took over Lorenzo's bed room while my grandson shared space with his dad. I hung out with the kids while Simon carried on his work-a-day world. Lorenzo showed me how he was progressing through the Legend of Zelda while Gia shared a few of her Tik Tok hand gestures.

A day after my arrival, Zachary and family showed up at the house. They had landed at Orlando, rented a car, and made the two-hour drive south-by-southeast. It was wonderful to be with two sons, one daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren. What more could a grandpa ask for? After leaving the snowy city of Pittsburgh, Ruth was thrilled to walk a few blocks and romp barefoot in the sand. Zélie collected bits of shell while Zofia grabbed handfuls of sand to thrust into the air.

We paid a visit upon Dilia in her new house which was only a five-minute walk down a short-cut trail. She seemed happy with her new home, her job, and the relative ease with which she and Simon were able to co-parent their two children. My son and ex-daughter-in-law certainly had challenges, but both put their differences aside to function as a team on behalf of Gia and Lorenzo.

After an eight-person breakfast, we went to Target. I allowed each grandkid to purchase their own gift for twenty dollars. (Ruth chose for Zofia.) Zachary distributed four Rubic Cubes as Christmas gifts to Simon, Lolo, Gia and me. He then tried to teach us the secret strategy to solve the puzzle. Lorenzo proved to be the only eager learner.

After two nights in town, the Zachary four returned to Orlando to check out Disney World. Zach talked as if that amusement resort might become their yearly vacation spot. After another night in Lorenzo's room, it was my turn to leave sunny south Florida. I arrived in San Mateo on the last day of the year and - too exhausted - never heard the midnight rockets welcome in 2021.

Move on to 2021