Holiday Letter 2011

Well its been a tough year on Leslie Lane but Fido and I are resilient if nothing else and still found some joy worth sharing this holiday season as we recount the events of the year for our family and friends. I use the “we” pretty loosely as Fido is sacked out on the love seat with his head on a pillow as his cousin Shadow, “a little human in a dog suit” taught him to do. He rarely much to these narratives so I will plunge ahead without his active input.

Currently I am sick; scratchy throat, sore, chills and tired. Came on last evening, I couldn’t sleep for the congestion, got up and took some Nyquil and almost slept through the time to call in. As I alluded to in my last post and if your a new reader you may not know but we had our share of tragedy this year, Fido’s man died in April and if being sick brings a little solemnity to the narrative, its entirely appropriate; snot riddled and a little tearful looking back on the year that was.

Dad and I celebrated the holidays at home last year. Usually we travel and the year before in a hotel in Monroe Michigan it struck me that I have a perfectly good house with a lovely Christmas tree at home why am I spending Christmas in hotels and campgrounds year after year. I worked Christmas Day and came home to celebrate with Fido and the Popster with the exchange of gifts and holiday cheer. We celebrated the New Year with Dad making a pork roast in the slow cooker, you have to eat pork on New Years to” root ahead” as Grandma Trapp would say. If you eat chicken you’ll scratch all year and beef leaves you standing still chewing your cud.

We had a bad Winter with lots of snow and cold. Since I live only a block from work I was one of only three that made it in and one of two that stayed. We had fun doing all the groups and accommodating ourselves to the weather. I walked Fido a lot. He would have a good time even when the snow was deeper then he was tall. He kind of jumps and swims like his moves to get through tall grass. We owned the Bear Creek Trail that winter.

I made my first road trip of the year in early Spring when Dave Smith won some free tickets to see The Pogues at the Royal Oak Music Theater. It was nice to reconnect with Dave and see his new place and visit family and friends who I’d missed on the holidays. The green  truck did not survive the trip however with the timing chain rubbing its way through the engine case. I landed on my feet and Betty and Bill were kind enough to loan me there car for my stay and rented one for the drive back.

I brought back Johnny Watson for a working vacation here in CoMo. He put in a new floor and tile in my kitchen to replace the crappy linoleum that was cracking even though it was new when I bought the house. The disruption and dust was hard on Dad and it was only a little before that that I saw Dad was struggling to get through his routine and that I was going to have to step up my game and start helping him with laundry and making his bed and real basic shit like that. I cried when Sarah asked me how I was doing the morning I realized Dad couldn’t make his bed anymore. I wondered how I would manage the house on my own and caregive for Dad and work all on my own.

In early April Dad couldn’t catch his breath and I took him to the ER. They gave him a breathing treatment, which eased him up and they almost sent him home, but decided to admit him. I went to work and came back after and he was struggling to breathe. I got on the nursing staff to get him some breathing treatments ordered and went home since he couldn’t visit. I missed a call in the middle of the night and awoke to a voice mail they had Dad on a ventilator.

I called family and pretty much moved to the hospital. Bob was on the road within hours and bedside that night. What a blessing family is. They took Dad off the ventilator to see if he could breathe on his own and we were instructed to get his final wishes. As he was coming out of anesthesia I said “Dad, Dad its Mickey [my childhood nickname]”. Dad licked his lips and said “Mickeys in the wide mouth green bottle, Rolling Rock…” and I could tell he was thinking of beers in green bottles and after a pause he said “I’m not an alcoholic”.

Well he couldn’t breathe without mechanical assistance and that’s a shitty life my friends so we stopped the machines and started the best friend of the dying, good old Morphine. Morphine relaxed him and got him some lung action so he could push out carbon dioxide again and gave him a few good days, to visit and say goodbye and give more family time to come and make peace.

My friends went into action, hosting my family, cleaning my house, walking my dog so that I could be at the hospital full time. They visited and offered support and got us the things we needed. Boone Hospital Palliative Care were beautiful. We drank rum and cokes, Dad had lost the taste for beer with his gluten free diet, but enjoyed a good drink with family and friends and was his charming and engaging self. We snuck Fido in one night and he lay at Dad’s feet while he slept. Dad woke and said “I’ll be damned”.

It was good for Fido who had never been apart from Dad for more then a few hours in his whole life and he seemed to figure out what was going on. Dad hung on for a few days, the price of doing business when your tough as nails. One of the last things he enjoyed was listening to the first two chapters of “Last Stand at Papagos Well” by his favorite author, Mr. Louis L’amour, read by yours truly.

Dad passed and family returned home and Fido and I were alone in our grief. I decided to do the funeral service myself out of respect I didn’t want to hand the chore over to a stranger. I had a small memorial service in the backyard that weekend and sprinkled a little of his ashes on Fido’s predecessor Myrtle’s grave. I wanted to make sure I could get through the thing without breaking down before I did it for the full funeral the following weekend. It went well though my progressive friends wondered how it would go over in the heartland.

It went over really well, people liked hearing his story and having a theologically unique approach was validating to many and offended few (at least they were quiet about it). It gave me a chance to connect with a lot of family as I am normally quiet at such affairs and no one knew I could write and deliver a speech. I submitted the service to the New Yorker but ultimately just posted it on my blog.

I thought I would be alone in the house but this guy Kevin who used to live in Columbia contacted me about renting a room and John came back to stay with me for close to six months which was great having him around. John got some projects done putting in a dog waste compost system in the back corner and building a raised bed frame and a cold frame out of some of the old windows.

The garden was largely a bust this year, tough weather with lots of rain early and then a month long hot and dry spell. Ultimately it got nice but green tomatoes were about the only thing I had in abundance. I fried some, made and canned chutney, and ripened a bunch for homemade tomato sauce several times. Put the last of them in my turkey soup yesterday.

It was a good year for floating, though not on The Big Muddy which was closed for much of the year because of flooding. Michael, Trevor and I floated both the Lemine and Locust Creek. The Lamine was slow and Locust Creek involved a lot of portages due to debris which was new to me. I floated the flooded Overton Bottoms twice. Nothing like canoeing through the woods. My best float though, John put together a full moon night float on the Gasconade on my birthday. That was incredible.

John and I also vacationed in the Appalachians. We stayed in Sieverville for a couple days and daytripped into Great Smokey National Park. The hike to Laurel Falls was probably my favorite but we also watched a mama bear and her cup snacking and lazing about in a gum tree. It was very cool. We dropped south of the park and did some guerrilla and dispersed camping in the Nantahala National Forest. We hiked in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Grove and saw some great old growth trees and hiked to some more waterfalls including another Lauurel Falls. On the way out we camped in the Pisquah, pretty much skippable. It was a great trip though and I got another mile of the Appalachian Trail and my total stands at 157. I pledged to go back and start north just north of the park, but not this year.

Ultimately John moved back to California and my housemate Kevin bought a house and moved out yesterday, so as of today its just me and Fido. We’re content with that, though the house seems big for me and a little dog. In the Spring if a housemate hasn’t turned up on their own I’ll start looking. I expect someone will just show up, its worked so far.

Lets see, entertained less, but some. Had a nice blow out for Thanksgiving, with a local pasture raised heirloom turkey and Kevin made some excellent sides. We had a collection of strays from my neighbor Henry, my buddy Harry originally out of Toledo, Kevin, his new girlfriend, and a couple of professors from the university from way out of town (Italy and Estonia). We had lively conversation and drank some good wine and enjoyed our lovely meal snug and grateful.

Work continues to go well. I was demoted to counselor after a minor screw up. Best thing that ever happened to me. I got a more responsive boss and a more reasonable work load. I continue to do staff trainings, education groups (added self control and dreams to my repertoire), therapy groups, and am getting to be a better counselor. I am a more confident public speaker and am even more motivational. I came to realize people need more preaching then teaching.

I continue to eat more local food and now that I’m buying all the groceries my local content should do nothing but climb. Lets see, I also joined the Odd Fellows and I’m glad to be a part of something both storied and ready to play a more important role as our government slides further into dysfunction.

In October I got into the post a day challenge a little late but upped my blogging game considerably. It challenged me to have something meaningful to say daily and I started picking up more subscribers and “Likes” from strangers. I cancelled my Directv and will likely drop Netflix as I blog more and watch TV less. I hope to get into an exercise routine in the coming year. Still single but feel closer to changing that but am still not feeling rushed. Have a couple folks that I think are interested but haven’t followed up on it. I may, or I may not when it comes right down to it.

All in all some good things happened in a tough year. I am not sorry to see 2011 go but it was a time of growth and change and I am not ungrateful for the experiences I have had. 2012 promises to have more joy and less pain and I look forward to building on the gains I have made, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

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