Showing posts with label My Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My Family. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Throwing In The Towel

Things have been going very badly here since mid-April, and Di and I have decided to put our condo in Corpus Christi for sale and move.

When we first moved into our condo development over a year ago, we were impressed by the homeowner association rules. They were (and are) written to encourage occupancy by owners and discourage renters; for example, the rules forbid rental occupancy of a unit by two adults who are not related by marriage or blood. The intent of this is to discourage rental to students at nearby Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who tend to be party animals.

But in February a new slate of officers was elected, and since then things have fallen off a cliff in our development.

In mid-April, the unit adjacent to ours was rented to two young women who are not related to each other, a clear violation of condo association rules. But that was not what bothered us about our new neighbors. Instead, it was the loud crashing, thumping, and bumping sounds that we started to hear late at night from their unit. These sounds were not just annoyances. Instead, they were loud-----I compare them to dropping a boxload of books, or someone jumping off a bed and hitting the floor with both feet-----and would wake Di and I from deep sleep. And most of these sounds would happen from 11:00 pm to 2:00 am.

We complained to one of the board officers----a person for whom the term "feckless" would be high praise indeed----who spoke to our new neighbors. Their response was to amp up the noises and they made several false charges against my wife in response. What really pissed off Di and I was the eagerness with which that board officer believed their outrageous accusations.

And the thumps, crashes, and bumps continued. I'm dying of cancer, and I have enough trouble sleeping through the night as is. All In want is to be able to spend whatever time I have left in peace and quiet. Apparently this is too much to ask for our neighbors and certain board members.

However, there will soon be a resolution in our favor. Our neighbors made the big mistake of putting their libelous accusations in writing. That document was addressed to their leasing agent, the unit owner, and the condo board. We were not sent a copy. Not only was their document libelous, but it also contained several statements that could be easily shown to be false, including a real whopper where they lied about what a police officer supposedly told them about Di and I----I spoke to the officer about what he supposedly said, and the officer vehemently and angrily denied making the statement. (Unfortunately, the lie by our neighbors triggered an internal affairs investigation by the Corpus Christi police department; I expect the officer's denial to be fully upheld.)

Some people were involved in circulating our neighbors' document, and the highly libelous accusations in them, to third parties. Suffice it to say that lawsuits for libel and defamation of character will soon be filed against responsible parties. I'm sure some of the affected individuals think it's all a big joke and these are empty threats. They are about to learn a hard, painful lesson.

But the entire experience since mid-April has really soured us on remaining in this condo development and Corpus Christi. The strain on Di and me has been terrible; we're often cranky, short-tempered, and get into arguments with each other over silly things. As for me, it is pushing me toward a dark place where I feel like completely giving up and just dying. While we have met some outstanding people here (like our neighbors Sue and Tom), that is offset by an increasing disgust and contempt for other people who have refused to help us with our neighbor problems. We don't feel welcome, comfortable, or even safe here any longer-----and, to be honest, we are seeing signs of anti-Semitism being directed toward Di. (If true, that would explain certain things.) Regardless, when you can't help but see people each day who you genuinely hate, it's time to leave that place.

The condo is for sale and Di will be returning to Las Vegas. The move makes sense for a lot of reasons. Las Vegas real estate is an amazing bargain now, and Di has friends and professional connections there. It will be a perfect place for her to re-start her life after my death.

I will accompany Di to Las Vegas if at all possible. I'm not trying to sound melodramatic, but I am slipping fast and I don't know how much longer I'm going to be around. Las Vegas is where the the story of Di and me began, and it would be a perfect place for it to end. I hope it can.

I will be posting only rarely here in the future. I feel like I have said about all I feel like saying.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

This is the third Mother's Day for me since the death of my mother, and, as has been the case on her birthday each year since her death, I have this hollow, empty feeling inside me.

She taught me to read and write before I started school. I didn't get every toy I wanted, but if it was something to read-----a book, a magazine, etc.-----she always bought it for me. There is no doubt my writing and editing career was a direct result of her efforts.

And she loved me truly and unconditionally. I am glad that I was in remission-----which, to her, meant "cured"-----when she died and she never knew my cancer returned.

When I was a kid, my favorite meal was Mom's baked macaroni and cheese. She would use real cheese which would melt and flow through the macaroni; the top would harden into a crunchy crust that I loved to bite into. She would serve it with a green vegetable and some of her sweet yellow cornbread.

Years after I moved away, she would always make baked macaroni and cheese when I came to visit. I always knew it would be waiting for me when I arrived at the airport in Charlotte.

I would give everything I own to taste that meal again.

In a a world that is often dark and angry, mothers are beacons of light, hope, and love. I hope every mother out there today receives the love and honor they deserve.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Closing The Circle

I spent February 15 to 20 back in the Carolinas visiting my relatives, and in a very real sense it was the summation, and completion, of my life's journey.

Sometime in early childhood, maybe around three or four, we start to develop an awareness of an outside world of other people and different places. We start to explore it. It's as if our lives are a gigantic whiteboard and we take a marker and start tracing the path of our lives on that whiteboard. We go through childhood, then adolescence, then young adulthood, and into middle age and beyond. The line made by my marker on my life's whiteboard has often been a dizzying series of loops, swirls, starts and stops; sometimes I took two steps forward but then a step back. It would include stops in places like New York City, Dallas, San Diego, and Las Vegas along with various wives and significant others, assorted writing and editing jobs, flings of entrepreneurship, and periods of obsession with different interests and ideas.

I don't know if I'm typical, but at this point in my life I need to make sense of that line I drew on the whiteboard. It's not that I'm looking for the great cosmic meaning of it all, but I do want to see if there is some common theme, some coherence and sense in all those squiggles.

It was very emotional arriving in Charlotte on the afternoon of February 15. My condition is rapidly deteriorating, and I wanted to make the trip while I was still able to travel without special assistance. I also knew this would be my last chance to see my childhood home and relatives. As with all visits back to the Carolinas over the past two decades, the impact is disconcerting. Everything is so familiar, but everything is also so different. At times, I feel right back at home but at other times I feel like a total stranger.

I said goodbyes that week to many people and places. I visited the graves of my parents and grandparents for the last time and took soil from each; I will have that soil sprinkled on my body when it is cremated. I also got to see almost all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins together on Wednesday night when we all gathered at my Uncle Grady's house. That night, I was able to do something that I needed to do while I still could, and that was to take each of them aside and tell them to their face how proud I was to be related to them, how much I appreciated all the love and support they had given me over the years, and how much I loved them. It was an emotionally wrenching thing to do, but I had to do it and I'm glad I did.

Departing Charlotte on the morning of February 20 was depressing and heartbreaking. In fact, the only time I think I have felt more emotional pain was the death of my mother. I knew that morning I would never see my relatives and the Carolinas again. And I was in a very dark, anguished place as I waited to board my flight to Dallas.

But then I thought back to the gathering with my relatives on Wednesday, and how so many of the stories told were about other family members who had died. The stories were told with great love and affection; the virtues and good points of departed family members were suitably exaggerated while their shortcomings and failures were conveniently forgotten. There was much laughter as what the late members said and did were recounted, and for many minutes those departed members were once again alive and with us. It's on evenings like that you realize you can indeed live on forever in the memories and hearts of those who love you.

And then I also realized that one day they would be swapping stories about crazy cousin Butch----or "little Harry," as some still call me------and that on those evenings I would once again live in their hearts, with all my virtues enhanced and my shortcomings ignored.

That was the moment when I realized the marker I was using on my life's whiteboard had returned to the point where I first started drawing over five decades ago. That crazed, demented circle was finally closed, and I understood the message in all those loopy lines: the love of your family and friends is what makes life worthwhile.

I felt the sadness lifting as I waited for the plane to take off. Yes, I would never see my relatives or the Carolinas again, but they will always be with me in my heart. Things are playing out as they were meant to play out. I have no idea how the end will be, but I do know things will happen just as they are supposed to happen.

Oh, I know this must be confusing gibberish, especially if you are healthy or otherwise not looking down the barrel of a gun. But the world looks different to me than it did just a few months ago. Your perception changes radically once The Beast has you in its deathgrip. But thanks to that trip I made last week, I feel an acceptance of my fate and an inner peace about the sum of my life that it is both wonderful and liberating. And it is all because of my family and friends, and I love and thank all of you.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Di!

Today is the birthday of my wife Di. Above is one of my favorite photos of her, one I took at dusk on the observation platform of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. Back in 2003, I swore I would never get married again, and I sure as hell was never going to live in Texas again. And then I saw her, with that fiery red hair against a clear blue desert sky, I was immediately stricken by the sight, and suddenly all of my plans and vows went out the window. And I'm glad they did.

Since we met, she has been both my parole officer and game warden and, since I got sick, increasingly my nurse and my reason for trying to hold on as long as I can. She has shown courage, strength, character, and patience. There have been times she was the only light in my darkness.

Happy birthday, baby! I love you!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Say Hello To Stanley The Cat!

Di and I have a female cat named Sydney, and she seemed a little lonely in a household dominated by three dogs and a rabbit who thinks she's a Doberman Pinscher. We resolved to get her a feline companion, and as a consequence the newest member of our household is a cat named Stanley.

We didn't choose Stanley. Instead, he selected us. We went to the Coastal Bend Humane Society in Corpus Christi looking for a female Siamese cat. We tried our best to ignore Stanley----then known as "Casanova"-----but he refused to be ignored. He kept poking his paws out of his cage and touching us. He made lots of noises and rubbed up against our hands when we reached into his cage. He had decided he wanted to go home with us, and so we came home with a male muttcat instead of a female Siamese purebred.

Another problem was his name. We originally wanted to call him "Sheldon" to match Sydney's name (yes, our cats were going to be a tribute to the famed 1970s author of trashy novels) but he refused to acknowledge us when we called him "Sheldon." By mistake, I called him "Stanley," and he immediately responded to me. And that's been his name ever since.

Stanley is very playful and loving-----every night he has climbed onto the bed and slept with me and Di. He's very curious, likes to chase his own tail, and thinks the desk in the home office is a terrific place to take a nap. He's very much at home here and he's going to be a big part of our lives from now on!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Our New Home In Corpus Christi, Texas

Today marks ten days in our new home and it already feels old and comfortable, like we've been living here for a long time. That's a good sign.

Our new address is 32 Rock Creek Drive, and it's part of a condominium townhome development. Here's our front door:

The view from our front door is really nice, as we're on a small artificial pond with landscaping. The pond is home to fish, several ducks, and at least one blue crab we've spotted. Beyond those trees is the Pharaohs Golf Course and Oso Bay:

Here's the front view of our unit and adjoining townhomes. To the left of our front door (and that tree!) is the window of our media room, the upper left is the window of our guest bedroom, and the window to the right above the front door is the window of our home office. We'll be taking a look at those rooms next:

The media room is where we've been spending a lot of our time. It has our big HDTV set and two sofas and is adjacent to the kitchen. Di did a really great job decorating this area; as you can see, she has a taste for oriental themes and items.

While I'm no longer formally working-----I'm considered "medically disabled" these days-----Di and I did set up a home office complete with two computers, wireless broadband, a separate business phone, file cabinets, etc. We still haven't unpacked the scanner, laser printer, etc., so this nice open room will soon get a lot more cluttered!

My favorite "work room" is turning out to be our guest bedroom shown below. It is light and airy, and I like listening to the sounds of the fountains and ducks outside. You can see my laptop computer in the photo below, and I'm using it right now to post this to my blog:

The large windows in the guest bedroom let in a lot of light, and I enjoy sitting in the rocking chair while reading.

This is the view I have from my side of the bed in the master bedroom. The wall decorations are a little sparse because we still have several framed pictures and prints to hang, but it already feels very "homey" and familiar:

Lucy the wonder rabbit even has her own room, a former storage area with a tile floor and plenty of room for her to play (yes, that's a litter box, and, yes, she is housebroken, just like a cat):

Several ducks call our condo development home, and I get a lot of laughs from watching their antics-----"duck politics" are almost as confusing and absurd as human politics!

We're less than a mile from Oso Bay and the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the adjoining golf course is the perfect place for pleasant walks in the evenings. Our neighbors all seem friendly and sane; the "vibe" here is right. I think this will be the perfect place for what I need at this point in my life!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Finally, We're In Our New Home!

It's been a whirlwind few days! Di and I closed on the purchase of our new condo last Tuesday, our stuff was unloaded on Wednesday, and we've spent the last few days unpacking things, hanging pictures and prints, getting new furniture delivered, getting ourselves acclimated to our new surroundings, etc. Getting my AT&T wireless broadband network configured has been an adventure all to itself-----if they require you to use Internet Explorer instead of Firefox for on-line activation and configuration, why don't they mention that in their customer documentation and system requirements??-----but things are finally coming together.

For those of you familiar with Corpus Christi, we're off South Padre Island Drive next to Oso Bay and the Pharaohs Country Cub
and Golf Course. We're less than a mile from the water and three miles from Ocean Drive and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. It's a feeling very much like the one when I lived in San Diego; when you live in a place where people go to vacation, every day feels like a vacation day. There will be a lot to see and do here, and I'm anxious to get started!

Normal blogging will resume shortly!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Farewell To The Bar Nothing Ranch

I haven't been posting much lately, and won't be for a few days more. Di and I are in the process of moving from the "Bar Nothing Ranch" to our new home in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico.

This move has been in the discussion stage for several months aince it became clear my
deteriorating physical condition would eventually make it impossible for us to maintain the property (try keeping 5+ acres of clear-cut horse pasture in grazing shape!). I also need to be closer now to hospitals and other medical facilities; each trip to my oncologist in Austin is an 80 mile round-trip, and that gets tiresome really quickly.

We were initially thinking of moving to San Antonio. But that's where Di's younger sister died from bone cancer and so that city has too many unpleasant memories for her-----Di didn't want to have to take me to some of the same medical facilities where she took her sister, and I understand that fully. We started looking around for another place, and after a couple of trips there we settled on "Corpus."

We'll have a two-story townhouse about a mile from Corpus Christi Bay; it has three bedrooms and three baths, so it will be plenty large for two people. Corpus has a population of about 250,000, with all the basic amenities I need. My new oncologists, Coastal Bend Cancer Center, are affiliated with the M. D. Anderson Center and follow the "Anderson protocols" in treatment so I won't miss a beat. There are some great beaches in the area, especially Padre Island National Seashore, and I'm looking forward to living near the water again. I was born by the ocean in Warwick, Virginia, and the places I have most enjoyed living in-----New York City, San Diego, and Alameda Island in the San Francisco Bay-----have been by the water. The offices of HighText/LLH were in Solana Beach, CA, and I enjoyed the "executive meetings" Carol, Jack, and I had on the sand there at Fletcher Cove. It's only natural for the last part of my life to be spent at the shore!

Corpus Christi is on approximately the same latitude as Tampa, Florida, so it's warm there almost all the time. It has some un-Texan things-----like palm and orange trees-----along with some of the usual things, like oil wells. We'll also be about 100 miles north of the Mexican border. There are two large and active synagogues there as well, and I'm glad Di will again have a local Jewish community to participate in.

The only real downer is having to give up our horses, Dubya and Buck. Fortunately, we have found marvelous new owners who are taking both and keeping them together, this time on over 120 acres! Di and I both will really miss them, but it's a relief to know both will be well taken care of in the future.

I won't be posting for about another ten days until I get settled into our new home. I'm excited about this new phase of our lives!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Tomorrow marks the fourth wedding anniversary for me and Di, and we're off for a few days in Corpus Christi to celebrate and relax. We got married on February 13-----a Friday, no less----at the Little Church of the West in Las Vegas. Students of fine cinema will remember that as the locale where Elvis married Ann-Margaret at the conclusion of Viva Las Vegas.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of my illness has been the impact it has had on Di. We've spent almost half of our married life with me as a cancer patient, and the toll on her has been tremendous. When we moved to Texas in the fall of 2004, we had dreams about our horse ranch, the places we were going to see, the things we were going to do, etc. It was such a blast in 2005 to have little impromptu races on our horses around the riding trails out here; in early 2006, we enrolled in a refresher conversational Spanish class at a local community college in preparation for some travels we were going to do in Central America. And in April, 2006 the bottom abruptly fell out of my world.

Like many cancer patients, I am often filled with guilt over having the disease. I feel like I'm doing something wrong by being sick, like I'm letting Di and others down because I'm sometimes in a state where I can barely function. I find myself wishing I had never met her so she wouldn't have to go through all of this. Even though I now know such feelings are normal when you have cancer, I still sometimes feel them with great intensity. Thankfully, Di has taken things with remarkable grace and courage and not a trace of complaint or regret. There have been times when I've felt like saying to hell with everything and discontinuing all treatments (especially the chemo), but I then realize Di is hoping desperately that I'll get better and live, and I know I have to do everything I can to fight on, not for me but for her. When someone loves you that much, you must show you love them in return by trying your damnedest to hold out against the disease.

I have been extraordinarily lucky in my life, and having Di in my life is the biggest lucky break I've had in a long while. The photo below is one I took of her one morning at our house in Las Vegas shortly after our wedding; it captures her in her natural state and is one of my favorite photos of her. At any rate, I'm going to try my best to be around for our fifth anniversary; in the meantime, we're off to the beach!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Birthday To Di And Tina!

Today is the birthday for both Di and Tina. I'm a gentleman so I won't mention the years in which they were born. A birthday of November 29 wasn't one of my criteria for choosing a wife; it just worked out that way!

Both had traveled to the USSR/Russia before I met them. Both collect Russian lacquered boxes and Thomas McKnight prints. And both love pet rabbits. Somewhere in those coincidences must be clues as to my taste in women, although I'll be damned if I can make sense of it!

At any rate, I am grateful that both have shared part of their lives with me, although both should have really found a husband more deserving of their love. They are extraordinary women, and I love them both.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back From Visiting The Home Folks

Di and I celebrated November 1 by heading out on a long driving trip back to the Carolinas to visit my relatives. It was a physically exhausting but emotionally exhilarating trip; it was an absolute blast. It was interesting seeing my old home through Di's eyes. She marvels at things I take for granted, like kudzu, red clay, towering pine trees, and----at this time of year----an east coast autumn. Myself, I marveled at how much Charlotte has grown and the astonishing real estate prices there----$500K for a two bedroom condo in downtown Charlotte??? (I think that housing bubble will leave a nasty mess behind when it finally pops!) It was great to be able to pull into a convenience store and walk out with a cold Diet Cheerwine and a double-decker Moon Pie (I returned with six 12-packs of Diet Cheerwine, which will probably do me more good than all that chemotherapy did). I was also fortified by plenty of Bojangles fried chicken as well as Krystal burgers while on the road (all Krystal restaurants now offer free WiFi in addition to those cute burgers-in-a-box.)

On our outbound leg, we took Texas highway 79 through northeast Texas, passing through several colorful small towns such as Thrall, Hoerne, and Palestine, and joined Interstate 20 at Shreveport, LA. We then followed Interstate 20 to Atlanta and picked up Interstate 85 for the trip into Rock Hill, SC, which was our base of operations. The return leg involved taking Interstate 85 again but this time following it southeast past Atlanta to Montgomery, AL and then south to Mobile, AL, where we picked up Interstate 10 and followed it along the Gulf until we crossed back into Texas at Beaumont. We continued westbound on Interstate 10 until we exited on Highway 304, which took us home after 20 more miles. By taking this route, Di and I can now boast we have driven the entire length of Interstate 10 through Texas----El Paso to Beaumont----a total of 877 miles.

I brought along my camera, and here are some of the photos I took, beginning with my Uncle Grady:

And here's his wife, my Aunt Betty:

My Aunt Polly and my mom were sisters, and you can prove that by taking one look at Polly:

I also got to see my Uncle Hubert and Aunt Floy:

My cousin Cheryl has long been a contender for the title of "Weirdest One In The Family." While I have a deathgrip on the gold medal for that event, she easily beats out the competition for the silver. Here she is, explicating about. . . . . . . . well, something:

I also got to see my cousin Marilyn while I was there:

My cousin Susan seemed inexplicably happy to see me again; she was probably just gooned on Ny-Quil:

I have been very, very lucky to have the family I do. It is very easy to do some of the things I have, to walk that tightrope, when you know underneath you is a net of people who will love and care for you no matter what.

I wish I could find the words to accurately express how much I love these people and how much they mean to me.