~ Months of the year ~
~ On the Road in 2021 ~
On January first, Liz and I celebrated eight years of marriage. My e-card read: "Opposites attract, similarities endure, and a little variety keeps things spicy." Sadly, I learned that Judy, the wife of my friend Steve, had died on that same first day of the year.
The new year did not bring new cheer. The incidence of Covid-19 seemed to spike and chaos reigned in politics. On January 6, the Trump-Biden conflict came to blows in the nation's capital when the halls of congress were invaded by protesters. On a more cheerful note, Zach sent me a video of Zélie sledding in the Pittsburgh snow.
On January 9 two events of note took place. First, I completed the final chapter of my massive autobiography. At 300,000 words, Three Score and Ten: A Narrative of My First Seventy Years still required editing, but the grunt work was behind me. However, as they say, "All writing is re-writing".
Second, I received this email from Michael Vipham. "Diana has been actively pursuing a job opportunity, which as of today, has been offered to her and accepted. The job comes with housing, which is a blessing as the clock is ticking at Ashton. With that said, we are submitting our 30-day notice as of today with our final day of residence being 2/10."
Yikes! That was three months earlier than I had anticipated. I would have to scramble to sell the place! I contacted Linda Tull, my real estate agent, to jump start the process. Over the next month, I purposely stayed away from Mill Valley, giving my tenants space as they began cleaning and downsizing. I did arrange with Mill Valley Refuse to drop off a debris container in the driveway. They appreciated that gesture.
The remainder of January seemed to race by. I completed my morning Bible study in Romans moving on to Revelation. I continued to lead Table 1 via Zoom every Thursday. There were eight faces at some meetings, including Franc from Africa. I spent two nights at Prayer Mountain and walked Water Dog Trail with Liz. Anticipating the sale of my property, I met with Joe Dalli from H&R Block. I wanted to get things perfect with the IRS, so I forsook Turbo-tax and asked Joe to process my taxes for the past year (2020) and the current year (2021). I got into the work-out routine of the outside exercise machines. Sometimes Liz and I were there together.
On January 20, Joe Biden was inaugurated president and on the next day I posted this: "Let's give our nation a 21-gun salute at exactly 9.21.21 this Thursday evening when it will be the 21st second of the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century."
Late in the month, I met with Linda at the Mill Valley house to talk things over, then I drove to see Jim and Val in Napa. My nephew interceded by phone with my trust lawyer from the Baptist Foundation. Both assured me I had clear title to sell my property. I was relieved.
In January, my camper ran into a major registration issue. I tried to smog the engine but the test failed. I drove it to Harry at the Union76 Station but the camper failed again to smog. The fix proved to be tricky and time-consuming. This tweaking of the evaporative system cost me two weeks and a thousand dollars.
The pandemic remained front-page news, providing an unceasing drumbeat of inescapable gloom. Throughout February I stayed close to home with occasional forays to Mill Valley. I avoided cabin fever by swimming three days per week at the SMAC Olympic pool, making it a point to hop into the chilly water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. My strokes were not vigorous, but deliberate, swimming on my stomach one way and on my back the other. I tried to gyrate every muscle and joint in this old body. The SMAC locker room was closed, but I snagged a shower stall nearby and in the brisk weather I got washed and dressed as quickly as I could. Pictures of my grandkids also bouyed my spirit.
A Covid-19 vaccine had been available since December, but health workers got priority for the jab. It was a crazy time. Both Liz and I trolled the internet, seeking out spots that offered the vaccine. At my wife's urging, I kept searching and refreshing possible sites. Luckily, a spot opened up at a CVS drugstore in Palo Alto. I pounced. On February 13, Liz accompanied me as I stood for an hour in line, signed my name, got my Moderna shot, sat still for ten minutes, then received my official COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card; one down and one to go. Poor Liz also scheduled a vaccine, but she ended up driving an hour to Watsonville.
The big event of the month was putting 306 Ashton Lane on the market. After a series of delays, Mike and Diana finally vacated the premises on February 17. After that, it was decision time. On the advice of my agent, I agreed to make the house "move-in ready" rather than a "fixer-upper". The February guess for upgrade work was $30,000, which grew to $55,000 in March, and ballooned to $78,290 by the end of April. Linda Tull assured me that I would get back that investment at sale time. Of course, I didn't have that kind of cash on hand and ended up liquidating investments and borrowing $30,000 from Compass Concierge. I began once-a-week visits to the property to check on progress and consult with Linda.
Over the course of sale, I rented a debris box on five occasions. Most of this was for plant waste and rotted wood. Titus-my Kenyan yard worker- also chopped up my old hot tub and disposed of it into the bin. So many happy memories, I was sad to see it go. I ended up paying Titus $9,400 for his outside clean-up work.
I stayed overnight with Jody on February 24. I had stuffed the camper with ten cardboard boxes filled will old documents and photo albums. I sorted and reduced my keepsakes from ten boxes to three. I used the debris bin as an outlet to dump my clutter. I took digital pictures of several travel albums before tossing them out. In my old house which I had occupied for fourteen years and owned for twenty-nine, the ghost of Kim was present. I stared into two empty bedrooms once occupied with teenage boys named Zachary and Simon. Tempus Fugit!
On February 20, I drove across the bridge into Hayward to visit Kim's grave. I placed my own "70" birthday card on the granite slab next to her name. I wondered if Kim would approve of me selling our house. I explained to her why it was a sound decision. I remembered how happy she was to lounge in the hot tub.
I began to walk with three men per week: David Alexander on Monday at Laurelwood Park, Steve Wilson at Seal Point on Wednesday, and sometimes with Dan Reid at Laurelwood on Friday. Jody assisted me in achieving 10,000 steps per day. I also accompanied by wife on a walk through Filoli.
The month ended with little visible improvement on the house. Linda said during this season of Covid all the painters, electricians, plumbers, and handymen were booked solid. Fortunately, she had connections and could help facilitate the upgrades needed to sell the property at the highest price. It would take time which translated as "no rental income" to me.
Zambrono Painting Company showed up at the house on March 1. They sanded, patched, and painted all the inside surfaces. Of course, I belly-ached about the $16,000 charge, but that appeared to be the going rate. I kept telling myself, "I'll get this back when I sell".
I didn't think the exterior paint was too bad, but Linda convinced me otherwise. The sun-facing side was peeling and faded so I paid $13,000 to scrape, repaint, and replace bits of rotted wood. It was a month-long process. Morris Structural Pest charged $440 and found wood-boring beetles; Hacienda Structural inspectors charged $650 and found lots of rotting wood; a lateral line inspector found sewage pipes faulty ($180), and window cleaners worked inside and out ($260).
Incidental to the home sale, I continued to toss out much of my own memorabilia into the debris bins. I didn’t want to burden my children with high-school yearbooks and photo albums so over the course of several days I scanned and photographed these old memories. I disposed of the albums and donated the four Powder Horns to Jimmy Francis. I sorted many of my boxes in the Denali Parking Garage. My desire was to pass on a digital remembrance of my life. Zachary and Simon didn't need hard copies.
Simon was helping me with the graphic inserts for my memoir. He had acquired software with artificial intelligent that would animate old still pictures. I loved what he did with my grandmother, mother, and brother Jack. I also loved the video clip Zachary sent me with Zoshie fetching like a dog.
Although the upgrade of the Mill Valley property occupied the bulk of my attention, life continued to flow. My mother-in-law moved from her three-story home in San Mateo into an independent living facility located in Burlingame called Sterling Court. We visited Becky in her new digs. I wished I had such accommodations. I got my second Covid vaccination on March 13 at the same location as the first. I continued to walk with Dan, David, and Steve also meeting via Zoom with my Men's Fraternity Thursday group and my Saturday Presbyterian group.
Linda Tull suggested the house required new appliances. More money! She said the first place a woman buyer might look is in the kitchen. I decided to cut out the middle man and buy the stuff myself at Home Depot. That took hours of research, but I saved ten percent on my purchases with my military discount. I paid Titus $1000 to install the four items: a gas burner top, dishwasher, oven/microwave combo, and a refrigerator.
On March 23 Jody and I headed north on a road trip. I stopped off at Mill Valley property, verified measurements, then went to the Home Depot in San Rafael. The Kitchen quartet cost me $5500. I made arrangements for the deliveries to take place when Titus was present.
I drove up Highway 101 and spent Tuesday night with Jim and Val Walker. They had just re-located from Napa to be closer to their three grandkids. After talking politics, religion, and Covid complications with my nephew, we enjoyed a late dinner with Jael, Kevin and their three kids.
The next morning, I cruised my camper up to Canby to stay an evening with Jeanne. She seemed happier with DJ out of the house, yet sadder because her oldest son was not on speaking terms with her. Eileen hosted me the next three days and we paid an evening call upon Jim and Charlotte Francis on Friday night. We looked through my old year books, remembering old times and old friends. Frank drove Jeanne up to Longview on Saturday and the four of us got together. Charlotte skipped the event saying she was too fatigued from the evening before. We sat for a few hours on Eileen's sofas and shared our lives, ending in a circle prayer.
I was with Frank for Sunday and attended his church via Zoom. In the afternoon we paid a visit on Sobbottkes just down the road. Shae was recovering from brain surgery, but was well enough to join us. Because it was Palm Sunday, Stephanie baked a coconut covered lamb cake, using Jeanne's old aluminum oven mold. I stayed a quick night with Jeanne, changing out some lightbulbs for her, then took to the road. I pulled over at the Weed rest stop for a chilly six-hour pause, then made it home on the last day of March.
I returned to the empty house as the new month began. The parquet flooring was ugly and discolored. Carpet seemed to be most economical solution and so I paid $15,000 to an outfit called Pegasus to cover all the wooden floors with beige middle-grade carpet. A handy man also appeared at the house to fix a laundry list of last-minute items.
Of course, by the time all this fix-up was accomplished my Ashton Lane house looked fantastic. I almost didn't want to sell it. Linda explained that the pandemic had complicated most aspects of home sales, but it did make one part easier. There was no longer the traditional Open House. Potential buyers would be vetted first and only one qualified suiter at a time would be permitted through the front door.
Finally, by mid-month all the little items were repaired and the house was ready to be staged. Again, Linda said staging would result in a higher sale. I followed her advice and the house went on the market at $1,495,000. We had cast the net. It was now time to wait for our catch.
Other things happened during the busy month. My optometry appointment at KP verified I had cataracts in both eyes. I began the long process of cataract eye surgery. I filed my 2020 taxes with Joe Dalli and was expecting a $7000 federal and $1000 state return; Liz and I celebrated a low-stress Easter, watching the CPC service via Zoom; Liz and I walked through Filoli together; and I hobo-camped for three days at Prayer Mountain, stopping off at Bonny Dune Beach on the return drive.
I labored many evenings editing and rewriting my tome of 300,000 words. I would highlight a page of text then listen to the words as a computer voice read them to me. This method proved fruitful as I repaired text and relived seventy years of life. The title of the book had been Three Score and Ten: A Chronological Narrative of My First Seventy Years. Simon suggested the subtitle duplicated the title. He was right. I returned to my original title The Dash Between the Dates. Jody kept an eye on me during all this computer time.
Before leaving on a triangle flight to Florida and Pennsylvania, I packed to fifty pounds a suitcase with memory-box items of Zachary and Simon. When I arrived at PBI on April 22, I was surprised to see Dilia functioning as my Uber driver. She graciously drove me and the kids to Simon's place.
My five days with my number two son passed quickly. Lorenzo and Gia marveled at the items I unpacked which once belonged to their dad. They posed with the three chipmunk stuffies - Theodore, Simon, and Alvin. The Flagler house was slowly coming together. The kitchen was complete, impact windows were installed, and the garage door was upgraded. As a house warming gift, I presented Simon with a weather station. I enjoyed my time working shoulder to shoulder with my son to attach the wind-gage to a pole and anchor the pole with twine to the front fence.
I played board games with Lorenzo and helped Gia color her fingernails. I sat in on a tek-wan-do session in which Lorenzo demonstrated his skills, broke a board and earned a green belt; I walked with Gia as she propelled herself through a skateboard park; and I visited Home Depot with Simon and bought him a $1000 tool-storage unit. We had more good father-son time as we assembled and filled the large push cart.
I was exhilarated to see my grandkids rush into the house shouting that the backyard was filled with butterflies - in every cycle of life. Some were still caterpillars, some were emerging from a chrysalis, and some were wet-looking wierdos. It was such a good biology lesson. Gia relocated some of the wet and emergent insects into the sunshine to dry more quickly. I was happy to get much of it on video. It was soon time to catch a jet to Pittsburgh.
When I arrived at the airport, I was met by Zachary, Zélie, and Zoshi. As I sat in the car talking with my son, I realized the time had passed when we should arrive at his house. He chuckled, "Ruth had to work all day, so I thought we'd go on an adventure. We're headed to Bellaire, Ohio. It's only an hour away." What a thoughtful son!
We drove west on Interstate 70, crossed the mountainous panhandle of West Virginia then the wide Ohio River. This was my Bethlehem - the place of my nativity - but I my nostalgia was psychological not physical. I had no sense of the place. We drove to Union Park for a picnic lunch. We strolled the grassy pathways and posed in front of Bellaire High School where my parents graduated in 1933.
I stayed two nights in the basement bungalow. My grand-girls were fun to be around. I was able to relieve Zachary of daddy-duty by pushing a double buggy around the neighborhood. On two days I pushed the two kids on two-hour expeditions to the two local playgrounds. Sometimes Zélie chose to walk along side of me. She was often dressed in one of her many princess outfits.
Zachary took us on outings to the Frick car museum, and along with Ruth we shared lunch aside the Monongahela River. On April 29, I had an early return flight, so Zach and the girls enjoyed my hotel room for a few hours. We splashed in pool for several minutes. Zélie said goodbye to me with a reenactment of Princess Rapunzel loosing her hair. Soon I was home and reunited with my wife and my dog. I felt so blessed to find love and acceptance at all three corners of my travel triangle.
Upon my return from east-coast travel, I resumed the process of house sales. After consulting with my real estate lady, we determined to accept offers on the house from April 27 to May 5. During that one-week span, Linda reported that several prospects dropped by 306 Ashton to ask serious questions. I stuck by my phone on May 5 as five bids came through before the 2:00 p.m. deadline. I reviewed them all. The bids ran $1.585m, $1.515m, $1,775m, $1.710m, and $1.616m. The highest and winning bid was offered by Kirk and Aubrey McConnell at $270,000 above asking price. Perhaps the cash investment to upgrade the house as move-in ready actually worked. They wrote a nice introductory letter. The deal was not yet consummated however. The contract included a 14-day loan contingency, so my wait for cash proceeds continued.
I carried on with my daily routine: Bible study in the morning, followed by a dog walk through Laurelwood Park; next pool followed by puzzle time with Liz; then polishing up the memoir, then dinner at 5:00; and sometimes a Netflix movie. Liz called 7:30 p.m. "Final pee-pees". That's when she would walk Jody into the back yard for relief, then back up the stairs and into her bedroom for anxiety therapy. (For about a year Jody had worked the "night shift" by cuddling with Lizzie all night.) I typically stayed up for two or three hours after Lizzie turned off the house lights.
I was walking with Steve once a week and made an effort to visit Becky at Sterling Court every few weeks. As our Men's Fraternity calendar wound down, we met several times at the house of Wendell Samson in Foster City - what a nice setting along the water!
I was finally satisfied with the art and text of my Narrative and sent the files to Believers Press. I included about thirty pictures that expanded the final book length to 690 pages. I also created a video remembrance of the Ashton Lane house and shared it on social media and with family. ("Our house is a very very fine house").
I began meeting with bankers from Wells Fargo and opened a Trust Investment Account to receive the million-dollar check that would be arriving soon. The name on the account needed to match the name on the Title check. That was proving to be a problem since the title of the property had shuffled names four times (Chris & Kim to Chris & Kim Trust to Chris Trust to Chris Survivor's Trust).
I had planned a long road trip to Pinnacles then on to Morro Bay lasting from May 17 to 27, but I returned home for a few days to attend a memorial service for Judy Wilson. I was glad to support my friend.
At Pinnacles I hung out with Ken and Linda Napier and hiked with a few of the Meet-up crowd. The days were hot and I had to park the camper in the shade with plenty of water for Jody. At Morro Bay, I connected with Robert Halpin from Table 1. He had been faithful at Men's Fraternity for a few years but had just moved to Los Osos near Morro Bay. I enjoyed an afternoon with him at his new address. During this time away from home, my mind returned again and again to the sale of the house, the old memories of Mill Valley, and the completion of my Narrative. They seemed to merge into a single impression.
On May 28, I met with Kirk and Aubrey McConnell to do a walk-through of the 306 Ashton. I spent a few hours walking through the outside and inside and sharing my thoughts. They seemed like a nice couple with two young kids and a nice fit for the house. But even with a pocket full of cash, I was sad to officially hand over the house keys.
The month came to an end with a senior center meal on Friday, a Zoom meeting on Saturday, Church and a pool swim on Sunday, and a Memorial Day walk on Monday with David Alexander.
On June 1 we celebrated Jody's thirteenth birthday. I noted her sporadic coughing had resumed, so I scheduled a vet appointment for her on the 16th. My dog remained frisky and leaping, so I figured it was just a passing sickness.
Also on June 1, I met with a notary at the Crystal Springs Starbucks and signed official papers deeding the house to the McConnels. On June 2, the Chris Foreman Survivor's Trust was finally established, and on June 3, escrow closed. A check for $1,486,032.68 landed in my trust account. I counted June 3 as the official end of my real estate adventure. After 137 days of dashing through obstacles, I finally danced the touchdown tango!
As I studied the final escrow statement, I noted the $289,000 which was subtracted from the sales price. I had repaid my Compass loan of $30,000; $44,000 went to Linda Tull, my listing agent, as well as $44,000 to the selling agent. The mortgage lien of $167,000 was now payable by Frank directly to me - not to Union Bank. I pondered how to graciously handle that brother-to-brother repayment.
On June 4, I began a long-anticipated road trip. This brotherly adventure began on Friday and looked like this:
On Friday, June 4, I walked with Dan Reid in the morning, and hit the SMAC pool in the afternoon. I kissed Liz goodbye at 6:00 P.M., loaded Jody into the camper, and headed across the San Mateo bridge to the Oakland Airport. My brother was a bit late in landing so we didn't head out until after nine. It was a ninety-minute drive up Interstate 580, across the Richmond Bridge, north on 101, then west on Bodega Avenue. Our adveture had begun.
Frank and I needed our military IDs to enter the post and to pick up our camping reservations at the rec center. The Coast Guard Center was just a way station on our trek north. We got to bed about eleven and headed out the next morning about nine. We had a great breakfast at the William Tell Inn, then cruised up Highway 1, pausing to visit a few lighthouses.
Our twelve-hour stop at Westport Union Landing State Beach was a wonder. The wind howled, the waves crashed, and the yellow-orange-red sun altered its colors moment to moment as it sank into the blue Pacific. Frank and I enjoyed the setting as we sat by a roaring fire. Jody ran in the sand, but preferred to rest under blankets in the camper. Frank thought my frisky dog appeared lethargic.
We resumed our road trip on Sunday morning, pausing at the Chandelier drive-thru tree near Eureka and for a salami-sandwich lunch stop near Klamath. We arrived at the Crescent City home of Jim and Val in the afternoon. After talking religion, politics, and family, we headed out to the new homestead of Jael and Kevin Hawkins. It was joy to talk with them and observe the interaction between Kevin and each of his sons. They were shooting arrows at a hay bale. (The fourth boy, Davy, was just a few weeks old). We feasted on a specially prepared steak dinner and conversed until dark.
After an overnight with Jim, we hit the road again, sticking to the coastal roadway and pausing occasionally to take in the sea breeze. We pulled into Harbor Vista Campground about three and walked down to the beach. The sandy hills reminded Frank of the Indiana Sand Dunes. We talked about long-lost days of youth. The next morning, we headed inland for a visit with Laura Umfleet in Newberg. I could not recall ever visiting her place although she had lived there twenty years. After that pleasant interlude, we continued on to Vancouver where I stayed overnight in Frank's upstairs guest room.
Frank thanked me for the four-day adventure and posted his positive comments on line. He reported the tenant situation was tense since one of his female renters was a troublemaker and refused to vacate using Covid-19 as an excuse. We sat across from each other to sign an un-official contract for paying back his bank loan. Frank appreciated my generosity in charging him $2200 per month over five years for a payout of $132,000. There was no interest and the principle was lowered from $167,000. He commented, "This $35,000 is a gift to Lucinda." That was one way to look at it.
Jody and I then spent one night with Jeanne sleeping in the room that DJ had vacated, then two nights with Eileen in her guest room. I always appreciated the hospitality and charity of my sisters. Five of us siblings gathered at Eileen's for celebration and birthday cake. Jeanne, Eileen, and Lelia each blew out a single candle.
A highlight of this road trip was the time spent with Jim Francis. He greeted us with an animated conversation about Marlon Brando, star of The Wild One. He projected Brando images on his TV screen, explaining how he was trying to capture that macho image with his own motorcycle and wardrobe. When I suggested I could help with my iPad and video skills, he leapt at the opportunity. My best old friend/brother-in-law was certainly kookie but in a genuine and amusing way.
Jim donned his leather jacket with special cap then mounted his red Triumph - tricked out to imitate Brando’s. Just outside the house, I directed and filmed Francis-Brando while Frank encouraged and posed the motorcyclist. The three of us guys had a great hour together. The still-shots and video-short turned out to be just what Jim had imagined a seventy-year-old Wild One might look like. He immediately posted his new image as his Facebook profile picture. What a hoot!
After that afternoon with Jim and Charlotte, I drove Jeanne back to her home in Canby to spend another night with my oldest sister. She shared that her living situation was better, but her relationship with the six kids was difficult. I attended the Four Square Church with Jeanne, then Jody and I headed south. I stopped at the Sims Campground for a quick overnight, then continued south along I5.
The day after I arrived home, June-fifteenth headlines announced "Grand reopening day as virus loosens grip". The Chronicle article opened, "After fifteen months the long lockdown ends today with experts hopeful". Was it really the end of the pandemic? Was my chapter of quarantine complete? Could I now stuff my masks in my sock drawer? Many thought so.
I knew two things about Jody: She had a level 2 or 3 heart murmur out of 5, and she had exhibited a strange cough. These two came together at her veterinarian appointment on Wednesday, June 16. After viewing a video clip and listening through a stethoscope, Doctor Hoppe broke the bad news. Jody was suffering from severe heart disease. She was given a complete exam, blood test, and X-rays. The bill was $527. On Thursday night and Friday, she took her Pimobendane for the heart and Furosemide as a diuretic.
Jody had a severe reaction to the meds and didn't eat on Friday morning. Liz and I dropped her off at the Vet Hospital and she was given an off-site echocardiogram which confirmed her "severe left-sided cardiomegaly - chondromalacia." All that cost over $800. When I picked her up at 4:00 p.m., she was a doggie zombie from all the EKG drugs. She looked so bad on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I despaired for her life. I posted on FaceBook that my dog had only a few days to live.
Jody began to recover on Monday starting to eat and drink again. I re-read the drug label which stated: "Pimobendane is considered to be a relatively safe drug. In some cases, higher doses may cause a fast heart rate and vomiting, but this wears off quickly and can be prevented by reducing the dose. In rare cases, diarrhea, lethargy and inappetence have been noted, but these are usually transient and improve on their own." - Jody had exhibited all of these side-effects.
When I visited Dr. Hoppe on Wednesday, June 23, my girl was much better. I still had a sick puppy who was taking four pills per day, but she survived as part of our family - every moment a gift from God. Jody began a new diet of canned dog food with occasional roasted chicken. The drugs seemed to work wonders but the heart cough never went away entirely.
With one-point-five million dollars in the bank, I made some decisions on how to spend my windfall. I gave the maximum gift to Zachary's family ($60,000) and to Simon ($45,000 plus a $15,000 house loan). I donated several thousand dollars to CASA and parceled out a few additional thousand-dollar gifts. I left the rest in the Wells Fargo trust account, invested in mutual funds and stocks. I expected to pay a considerable amount of my house sale in federal and state taxes, so actual proceeds from my Ashton Lane house would not be clear until April 2022. I later loaned Simon an additional $100,000 to finish the upgrade of his property. I would expect that loan back in an emergency.
The month ended with a new routine for Jody - meds twice a day, special food, and careful walks. She really seemed to improve and I prayed my little dog would survive into 2022.
I began the new month with two nights at Prayer Mountain. It was hot, so Jody and I went to the oceanside near Santa Cruz. Mentally, I was already grieving the loss of my companion. I wondered why God had constructed the world in such a way that man could live to be eighty years old, but man's best friend left the world at only fifteen.
I resumed monthly activities; pool swims, walks, zoom meetings, senior-center meals, and a day trip to Half Moon Bay. I enjoyed participating in the backyard Bible Studies with the Saturday Men's group. After being slighted by my alma matter, GGBTS, I contacted Fuller Seminary to talk about funding missionary trips to Rwanda. They appeared more amenable, so I began the negotiation to underwrite a scholarship. Our good neighbors, Larry and Nancy Lewis, held a going away party. They would soon be moving to Texas. Liz really liked the couple and it was a true loss for her.
I was looking for ways to minister the Gospel, so I visited my old church - Western Hills. Karl Ortis was long gone and the church was kept afloat by the California Baptist Association and visiting preachers. Several folks seemed pleased at my entrance. I provided my contact information, attended a second Sunday, but I never heard back. Such are the vicissitudes of life. I would have to seek for ministry elsewhere.
I joined in with Zélie's birthday via zoom on July 17 and I received photos of Lorenzo and Gia while they were in Costa Rica with Dilia. I was corresponding with Believer's Press and my book was just about to go to print (30 copies). I had no desire to market my narrative. The book was written for family and close friends. I began the follow-up task of re-fashioning the Word Document into HTML, adding hundreds of hyperlinks to photos, videos, and songs. I recorded a reading of the dedication.
I wanted to reduce my huge tax liability for 2021 and talked with Zachary about it. He suggested I donate appreciated stock rather than cash to CASA. This way I could avoid paying capital gains and, as a charity, CASA would not have to. And so, after much conversation with Wells Fargo Advisors, I donated a single stock purchased at $10000 and now appreciated to $45,312.
The big event of the summer was my ten-day vacation in the Smokey Mountains. Liz and I debated about whether to leave Jody with her in San Mateo or with the Varadys in Hayward. My wife was anxious because, although Jody was stable, she was still one sick puppy. Liz finally agreed to care for my dog, manage her meds, and take her for short walks. I know Lizzie loved the dog.
On July 21, I flew into West Palm Beach and hung out with Simon's family for two days. I helped him with his humongous art project - his own home. While I was with him, he sold an old carpet and picked up a new one. We spent an afternoon at a place called Defy, where I watched Lorenzo and Gia swing from ropes, jump into foam blocks, and dodge nerf balls. They had a sweaty blast and drank down their slurpies.
On July 23, we headed north in Simon's Mazda CX-5 to hook up with Zachary in the Great Smokies. We spent one quick night at a hotel in Macon, Georgia, and the next at a KOA in Cleveland, Tennessee. We rented a small cabin, enjoyed a swimming pool, and Gia and Lorenzo helped Simon set up their new giant tent. It was a Sunday morning so I gathered my congregation of three together and preached a mini-sermon with the tent as my chapel.
On Monday we continued north and located our tiny cabin at the Twin Mountain Outdoor Resort. Simon and I were just settling into our place when Zachary, Ruth, Zélie, and Zofia showed up. They occupied a cabin a few doors down. It was already late afternoon so we hung out at the pool, sharing stories about the road trip so far. We gathered around a fire, celebrating a belated birthday for Zélie. Ruth brought along a small slice of cake. It was wonderful for the eight of us to commune around the fire as darkness fell.
Tuesday was a full day of activity at Dollywood. We arrived early and stayed late for the fireworks. I hung out mostly with Zachary and family for three reasons: I had already been a few days with Simon; the pace was more grandfatherly, and I was useful keeping an eye on Zoshie. I watched the little ones go on all the kiddie rides, joining them aboard a river-raft and for a circuit train. Simon followed Lorenzo and Gia as they attempted all the gut-fluttering/head-spinning amusements. (No thank you.)
I got the most kicks out of seeing Lorenzo & Gia mixing with Zélie & Zoshie. I am so blessed to be close to my two offspring and to see the two of them so close to each other. I would do anything I could to facilitate this. The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks and drone performance, with the sparkling visage of Dolly Parton dancing in the sky.
We caravanned to a massive Air B&B cabin on the outskirts of Asheville, where we lounged for three peaceful nights, partaking in a variety of activities like walking local trails and making side trips to Mount Mitchell, Elijah Mountain Gem Mine, and the Craggy Gardens Trail. The kids especially enjoyed a local creek bend, jumping off rocks and collecting stones.
On July 30, Simon took off for home while I relocated to an airport hotel. Zachary and family stayed the night in an adjoining room. We shared a last meal at one of Zach's favorite restaurants, Bojangles. Early the next morning I caught a shuttle to the airport and boarded a flight to Dallas.
I ran into a problem at DFW. The second leg of my flight to SFO was first delayed then cancelled. I was told American Airlines was running short of personnel because so many workers called in sick due to a resurgence of COVID - this time in the form of something called the "Delta Variant". But the delay turned into a blessing of sorts. The airline put me up for the night at a local hotel and provided a meal voucher. Also, I contacted Barbara in nearby Colleyville and shared a Denny's Breakfast with Jay and my one-time sister-in-law. It was great to touch bases and share past memories, especially of brother Jack and our days in Berlin back in 1967.
I enjoyed the first few days of August putting together my memories of the Smokies vacation to the theme of Summertime. In my days away, Jody's cough had worsened, yet she was still strong and able to scamper around the house.
Frank called me to report that Don John had been released from the hospital because his condition was no longer treatable. My nephew was bedbound at home, barely able to speak. On a visit to Eugene, Nancy Jo and Julie (DJ's wife) shouted profanities at each other as DJ lay dying. Sadly, all family ties were ruptured.
In an unhappy digression, the Covid-19 pandemic surged with outbreaks of the Delta Variant. We returned to masks, shutdowns, and social distancing. I cancelled my plans to camp for a few days in the High Sierras because Jody was coughing and wheezing and I didn't want the high altitude to complicate her condition. Instead, Jody and I spent some quality time at Prayer Mountain. I sent a picture of my dog to Liz which was captioned, "See mommy, I'm eating my food."
I filled my evenings with the task of transcribing my narrative into an HTML hyperlink format. I was cruising through it at about ten thousand words a day. The pictures and sounds brought daytime tears of remembrance and nighttime dreams of years gone by. My thirty books arrived at the doorstep, but I set them aside. I wanted to distribute the hardcopy book when its companion website was complete: chrisalanforeman.com/lxx. In addition to my memoir books, I was working on Spitting Beans books in the Rwandan language.
The month of August continued in routine. A vote to recall Governor Newsom failed; I continued to attend the Men's Group, now in the back yard of an attender named Rubic; Kabul fell to the Taliban; Liz celebrated her sixty-fourth birthday; and I met with Joe Dalli concerning my 2021 tax situation.
The month of August ended in tragedy. My nephew Don John died on August 29. I wrote this:
Thus ended the month of August 2021, as also ended an eleven-year era. Jody Teardrop was such a sweet dog and now she was gone. How she will be missed!
I woke up on September first without my beloved Jody. Liz and I agreed to empty the house of her reminders as a way of lessening the grief. Her half-empty pill box reminded me of a stopped clock. I stuffed her three beds, two mats, three dishes, with odds & ends into a garbage for later disposal. I donated two containers of shampoo to Scrub-a-pup, poured kibble into the green bin, and donated cans of dog food to the humane society. It was all difficult. I received sympathy cards and messages from many of my family and social media friends, especially heartfelt were Dr. Hoppe, Diane Varady, and Dilia. Zélie sent me a hand-made sympathy card.
I talked with Frank on the phone. He voiced my guilty sentiment, "I hate to say this, but I grieve more over Jody's death than Don John's". He added a line from the song Mister Bojangles, "The dog upped and died and after fifty years he still grieved." For several weeks, at every peripheral shadow - at every subtle rustle, I turned my head expecting to see my beloved Jody.
A funeral was held in Eugene for Don John on September 3. From my family, only Jeanne, Debbie, Susan, Nate, Stephanie, Dan Walker, and Eileen attended. Julie, sensing there might be trouble, asked them not to speak. Jason Francis was once a rock musician with DJ. He did speak, representing the family. Sue snapped a single picture of Jeanne at the side of DJ's coffin. Don John Zelen was the first of my parent's blood grandchildren to pass away.
On Labor Day, Liz and I paid a visit at the Starbucks where we first met. We sat outside, Liz with a mask and me not, reminiscing the three-day weekend ten years earlier. I went to Prayer Mountain for a few days and broke my heart at the absence of J-dog. She had been such a constant and comforting presence. My neighbor, Calvin, had given me a plaque and I placed it in the stump of a redwood tree. "Beloved Pet, our time was precious, we knew from the start the Journey we took left your paw prints in my heart."
Liz and I made a quick trip to Portland to celebrate Frank's seventieth birthday. We flew into town on Thursday and on Friday I visited Frank at this Dental office while Liz drove to see Tricia. I left four of my biography books with Frank - for him, Eileen, Jeanne, and Charlotte.
On September 18, we planned to go to Jenny Brotherton's house in Longview for a birthday celebration. An unfortunate thing happened. Just as we were preparing to leave the hotel, my phone rang and Eileen reported that Joshua Brotherton - who was living in Jenny's house - had tested positive for Covid. I still wanted to join the party, but Liz overruled me. Reluctantly we cancelled all plans for a grand birthday party. A smaller gathering did take place at Eileen's house and I got the video.
The month ended with an ophthalmology appointment on September 21. I met with Dr. Zhu and we determined my left eye would be fixed at distance vision and my right eye at arm's length vision. My first cataract surgery was scheduled for October 7. Liz and I welcomed new neighbors to our right where Larry and Nancy once lived; I stood in line for a new VETERAN driver's license; and we drove to Stanford to walk through the cactus garden. I couldn't help but mark September 30 as the one-month anniversary of Jody's death. A void still possessed my life.
On the first day of the month, I drove up the coastal highway to Crescent City. I missed my canine companion and so decorated the rear-view mirror with the loop of her pink dog collar. I drove all the way to Klamath Falls parking overnight on a patch of grass near the Klamath River. I rocked in my chair near a roaring fire watching the trees sway, water flow, and flames flicker.
I stayed the next night with Jim and Val talking about life then visiting Jael as she looked after baby Davy and Keven chased the three older boys. The talk centered on relocation. Kevin and Jael, being involved in their Catholic sect, considered a cross-country move. The push was the crazy politics/Covid restrictions in California and the pull was a cluster of like-minded believers in Texas. If the grandkids moved to Texas, Jim and Val would follow. But would the cost be greater than the gain?
I continued to labor on my cyber-book, linking words with links. The last three chapters of The Dash between the Dates were the longest and over-packed with videos and photos. I plucked most of these links from my Photo Journal pages.
Cataract surgery for my left eye finally occurred at 10:30 on October 7. Liz had to accompany me to the Redwood KP and wait for me because she provided my ride home. While lying on my back, hooked to wires and tubes, I received shocking news. The technician diagnosed me with an irregular heartbeat! My procedure was delayed an hour because I needed an okay from a cardiologist to proceed. The delay time was agonizingly long, but the surgery itself was quick. I wore a patch over my eye, but on the ride home, I peeked past the gauze and was amazed to find the road signs clear and crisp.
I began to drip four kinds of eye drops - some four times a day, some twice a day - some for one week, some for four. I managed the eye drops by marking a piece of construction paper with four circles: morning, noon, evening, night. I moved the tiny bottles like chess pieces. I returned to Dr. Zhu a week after surgery to have a single stitch removed. I also made an appointment with a Kaiser cardiologist.
Our new lead pastor at CPC was Kevin Sneed. He announced from the pulpit that he would be presenting a sequential expository sermon series on Paul's letter to the Galatians. I figured I might piggy-back on this series and facilitate a small study group, so on Sunday, October 10, I began a once-a-week Zoom meeting, parallel to the 10-week sermon series. The flyer read:
On the launch Sunday afternoon, three people attended. A few days after this first class, I found myself in the Walmart in San Lorenzo. There I encountered an eager hustler for a Christian cult called the World Mission Society Church of God. After heated discussion, the words of my Zoom meeting came to mind. I asked the fellow to read these words on his phone Bible:
"That's you," I said; then walked out the store.
On October 19, I consulted with Dr. Felix about my heart. He confirmed my A FIB. However, since I was generally fit and presented no symptoms, he did not prescribe meds, but scheduled me for a full echocardiogram. After my doctor visit, I began a 3-night road trip southward to Pasadena.
I was hopeful that Fuller Theological Seminary would buy into my vision. I formally requested Fuller to establish an outpost in Rwanda and send missionary students to the Lighthouse as externs. I proposed to underwrite the cost of this program with $20,000 per year.
After leaving Kaiser Hospital I drove the camper to Oak Flats Campground about an hour north of Pasadena in the Angeles National Forest. The area was rustic, the weather cool, and the mountain air fresh. The next day I drove to the Fuller Campus to meet with Dasha and John from the Fuller Foundation as well as with Dave who was on faculty. They all expressed interest in my endeavor and Dave tentatively agreed to accompany me on a mission trip in May 2022.
Oak Flats was so camp-worthy, I stayed a second night on my return drive. Wanting to prolong the road trip, I camped a bonus night at the Los Banos Reservoir. Once again, I thought about Henry David Thoreau hobo-camping by Walden Pond:
I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner and reduce it to its lowest terms.
As the month wound down, San Mateo received buckets of rain and I listened to hours of audible books, mostly about the Civil War. I met with my intrepid Table 1 at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday morning and virtually celebrated Zoshi's second birthday. On the final day of October, I Facetimed both of my sons simultaneously. Each was walking down a street, each followed two kids who were trick-or-treating. Zélie preferred being a princess while Zofia liked being a nurse (or was it her mother's choice?)
On November 1, Liz drove me to KP in Redwood City for cataract surgery on my right eye. I felt more comfortable because I knew what to expect. The next day I had a follow up appointment. Again, I went through the regimen of daily-dose eye drops. My right eye never seemed to match the acuity of the left. Was there a problem?
I continued my walks with David, Dan, and Steve at Seal Point amongst all the pigeons. I hung out for a day at Half Moon Bay using my Golden Bear Senior Pass. I walked the beach and barbequed a steak. In the rain and cold, the Saturday men's group could not meet outside, so we returned to Zoom video conferencing.
On November 11, after Men's Fraternity, I headed north on a road trip to visit family. I drove my Prius this time, because gas prices were high and the visit short. I stopped overnight at the Valley of the Rogue State Park inhabiting a yurt. I listened in on a Zoom missionary conference facilitated by Fuller.
I stayed Friday night with Jeanne, Saturday night with Frank, and Sunday-Monday night with Eileen. It was always good to touch bases with my brother and sisters. I met Eileen's new schipperke named Mitzy, an active puppy who kept my sister busy and entertained. We held a birthday party for Charlotte with five siblings and two in-laws in attendance. On the way home I passed the night at the Cedar Lodge Motel in Dunsmuir. At fifty bucks, it barely met my low expectations.
The bruising on the back of my two hands was looking worse. I viewed it mostly as a cosmetic (ugliness) issue, but at times my hands ached and little cuts on my waxy skin never seemed to heal. Two dermatologists at Kaiser said there was no medical treatment for my purpura senile. Before letting the issue pass, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Nikolajs A. Lapins, a dermatologist that Liz liked. On November 18, I visited his San Bruno office. The doctor examined my entire body with a magnifying glass, but could find no blemish worthy of removal. After examining my backhands, he said there was no treatment for my purpura. After that $250 consultation, I decided to cope with my purplish hands as best I could.
When I finally concluded that my left eye was not healing as my right eye had, I made an emergency appointment with Dr. Zhu. After a retinal scan, she explained my visual impairment was due to an irritated right retina. Oh Boy! I was put on a regimen of three eye drops, four times a day.
I talked with Zachary then with Dasha about establishing something called a "Donor Advised Fund". Fuller could set up such an account for me. I learned that I could reduce my tax liability by donating to charity up to 30% of my adjusted gross income. For me - in 2021 - that amounted to about $400,000. I paid a visit to the Charles Schwab office in San Mateo to transfer an $80,000 fund to my new Fuller account. I then closed out two older Wells Fargo accounts pushing that Fuller Lighthouse fund up to $241,000. All this financial activity kept me hopping.
My Thanksgiving Day was a non-event, but my two sons got together in Florida for an eventful time.
My tax accountant at H&R Block was Joe Dalli. He had retired in the summer and suggested I work with an associate named Snehalata Amalkanti, or "Lata" for short. After a few conversations, she agreed to do my 2021 taxes.
On the last day of November, Liz and I received a Covid booster at a local CVS drug store. I was now vaxxed to the maxxed! I looked back on the nine medical appointments I had scheduled for this single month. November 1, 2, 9, and 29 with the ophthalmologist; November 5 for the echocardiogram; November 18 in a video conference with Dr. Teng to talk about my heart; the same afternoon with the Dermatology consult; a blood draw on November 23 in preparation for an annual physical; and now on the 30th for a Covid-19 booster. Growing old was not for sissies!
The month began with another doctor appointment. This was the first time Dr. Teng had seen my body in the flesh since the onset of Covid-19. He tapped. I talked. I voiced complaints about purple hands, an irregular heartbeat, a bum right eye. But as an optimist, I still felt pretty good, walked my 10,000 steps per day, and took no medications.
Liz and I managed a getaway to Capitola from December 5 to 7. The sun was out for our walk at Wilder Ranch. Our favorite place continues to be the Fern Grotto. We walked the town and along the beachfront. The contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19 closed many of the restaurants, so we carried our Mexican food back to the hotel lobby.
I gifted one more fund to CASA valued at $55,000. This brought my total charitable contributions for 2021 to $384,000. As president of CASA, Frank said he intended to pay off the Lighthouse mortgage loan.
I prepared four gift books for my grandchildren. I wanted Lorenzo, Gia, Zélie, and Zofia to learn about my dash between the dates. For each child I placed my 692-page book into a specially prepared box along with a tiny digital card containing eighteen gigabytes of pictures, videos, and songs. I sealed the boxes and plastered on each cover, "Heritage Book: Do not open until you are 25 years old." I cast my story to the wind. What might become of such vanity? I will never know. I tossed my stone into the pond. When would the ripples cease?
I had a great time compiling six videos from the life of Lorenzo and Gia - 2009 to 2021. I wanted to ensure my grandchildren would retain these three hours of video, so I added the six files to the digital micro-cards.
On December 15 my friend Jeffery drove me to SFO late in the evening to catch a redeye to Florida. Upon landing, I was frustrated not being able to get an Uber ride to Simon's house. After cooling my heels for an hour outside the PBI airport, my son arrived to pick me up.
We drove to his Flagler Court home just long enough for me to drop off my luggage in my guest room (Lorenzo's bedroom), then continue to a grassy field to see Lorenzo play flag football. That raised my spirit. With about six boys on each team, Lolo passed the ball on offence and plucked waist flags on defense. He was a gifted athlete. Dilia showed up with Gia because it was the hour to alternate childcare.
Every time I visited Simon's place, there was a new upgrade. This time it was a glass front door along with a just-completed driveway and sidewalks. The kids were still in school on this Friday, so I rested and communed with Simon between phone calls as he conducted official business at his work station. About three o'clock we met Gia at East Olive then walked to the adjoining soccer field to watch Lorenzo compete in another sport. His volunteer soccer coach sported a fantastic hairdo that reminded me of something out of Dr. Suess.
That afternoon Zachary and family showed up for a Christmas gathering. It was only a side trip since the focus of my son's vacation was Disney World in Orlando. Lorenzo and Gia mixed with Zélie and Zofia in such a loving way. It made my heart thrill to see the cousins interact. Lorenzo played the Baby Shark song on his slide trombone, while the other three ran in circles. I handed over my heritage books to my sons and asked each to keep them safe until their children grew curious about their roots. Way after dark, Zachary and Ruth strapped their drowsing kids in the rental car driving the ninety minutes to Orlando. I appreciated the effort Zachary put out to make the short visit possible.
Over the weekend, I enjoyed quality time with Lorenzo and Gia. We shopped at Target where each received a fifty-dollar Christmas card. The two were into Japanese manga and so bought wall posters of their favorite characters. Gia's tongue turned blue as she savored her icy. On Sunday we met Dilia at a downtown church called Family Church - I think it was of Baptist origin. All four seemed to like it, as did I. I explained to my grandkids that I pray for them daily.
On Monday while the kids returned to school, Simon and I did some minor work around the house and hung a string of Christmas lights along the front of the house. This was a challenge since the storage lights were insufficient and the ones we bought didn't match. On Tuesday after school let out, I drove Simon's CX-5 to pick up Lolo at his middle school and Gia at the elementary school. We stopped at the soccer field for an hour to let my son get caught up on work. Late that evening, after dropping off the kids with Dilia, Simon and I headed south to Orlando.
This was the grandpa hand-off. By coincidence my brother Frank was also at Disney World to vacation with his son David. We intersected at Zach's hotel. The hour was late and the encounter brief, but the photo shows me with Frank, Lelia, Simon, and Zachary.
I spent one night at the Shades of Green (military) hotel and two at a Hyatt Regency. All of these resorts turned out to be Disney properties. It was like Walt Disney had taken over this entire corner of the planet.
The time was grand. Zachary ran a tight schedule of site visits and restaurants. We even ordered Rwandan food at one place. We frolicked in pools and walked through parks. Zélie had her hair extended. Zélie and Zofia posed with a variety of princesses and cartoon characters. These two grand girls were the perfect age to drink in the magic, so Ruth and Zachary planned to purchase a Disney time-share to make regular visits to "the most magical place on earth." I caught the airport shuttle at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, my 72nd Birthday.
With the non-stop flight and time-change, I arrived at a rainy San Francisco airport around nine. Jeff picked me up and I rested for a few hours at home. Liz provided a traditional Round Table birthday pizza and gifted me with a pair of thin sun-blocking gloves. On Christmas day I rested but, in the evening, Liz and I made our neighborhood jaunt admiring the Christmas lights. We carried umbrellas to ward off the rain. We cancelled plans to visit Becky at Sterling Court because Covid was still a concern.
Our caution was propitious, because on December 26, I began to feel congested. I think my voice lowered an octave. I still managed to buy myself a Fitbit watch as a combo birthday-Christmas present. The new gadget replaced my old Timex watch and my hip pedometer. I frittered away the rest of Monday personalizing my new technology. I also created a video of my adventure in Florida.
On December 27, my retina was re-scanned at Kaiser and I continued on my eyedrops to combat inflammation. My various flu symptoms persisted so on December 28, I took a COVID test before heading to Prayer Mountain for a short retreat.
On December 30, I got the sad results. I had tested positive. Instead of spending two nights at Prayer Mountain, I extended my stay to five nights. Liz was not a happy camper, to say the least. And so, the year of 2021 ended in a self-imposed isolation nestled among the redwood trees in Scotts Valley.
Move on to 2022