Thursday, October 30, 2014

As seasons change

The leaves have turned golden.
And things have begun to change.
I remember just a few years ago when I heard my kindly spouse say these words,
"Hey, not bad. I even kind of understand what you're talking about."
Surprisingly, she was talking about me.
I had, you see, picked up a writing gig with the Star Courier and I was stumbling through my first volleyball season, an assignment most horrific for a guy with no female children and no personal experience in the game.  It drove me all the way to Googlesearch, looking for handy v-ball terms and rules, just in hopes that I might look (and sound ) a trifle less, well, dumb.
Time passes.
Now it's my son, Patrick, who's working the sports beat for the SC. And, sure enough, it's dear old mom who uttered those loving words.
"I even kind of understand what he's talking about."

Grandson fun.

I think my grandsons get it this year. From the North Carolina pirate outfits they'll be sporting to the school parties and special plans they are looking forward to.  For us, it's just the sheer joy of having them on our doorstep.
Truly a treat, not a trick.

Take me out to the ball game.

And the World Series.  
I remember watching and listening
and sneaking a radio into school.
I remember knowing
exactly what was going to happen next,
then realizing I was absolutely wrong.
That's why I loved it. That's why we we love it.
It's baseball.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A long drive north

It's a promise we've been making ourselves for a few months now.
"Let's head north."
To me, "north" means the Lake Superior basin located near Marquette, Michigan. My sister and her family have lived there over 45 years, right on the shores of the largest of the Great Lakes of North American.  It's an amazing place, surrounded by deep, piney woods, cold inland lakes, and rushing rivers and streams.
To me, "north" has meant my first trip to that historic football haven called Lambeau Field, where my dad introduced me to my first-ever glimpse at NFL giants with names like Starr, Taylor, Hornung, Kramer and Lombardi. We did it again this time, as my own son and grandsons got their own close-up look at football history and those guys who wear the green and gold.
You can't talk "north" without talking about that great big lake.
Lake Superior has always been an astonishing place for my sister and family to live.  Pretty darn special for my own blushing bride and me, too, as we spent our first wedded days in a shabby log cabin on the beach, where we battled the mice and struggled to keep the pipes unfrozen on a daily basis. We walked the beach, skied its rugged dunes and watched glorious sunsets nearly every night.
This visit was extra-special, as our own beloved niece announced her upcoming wedding to Jeff, an Upper Peninsula hockey player who loves the lakes, hills, rivers and ice nearly as much as she does. Both my sons, along with my youngest grandsons, plus most of my sisters' family were in attendance.
And my youngest grandson even lost a tooth.
"Let's head north."
It's a promise I'm glad we kept.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Car wars

Root canal.
Clothes shopping.
Sorting socks.
Adjusting my rabbit ears.
Putting away silverware.
Buying a car.
These are the things I hate more than any other.
Happily, my teeth have been just fine, thank you. My wardrobe, while a trifle limited, contains enough pairs of corduroys and khakis, t-shirts, sweatshirts and baggy sweaters to maintain my natty sartorial look. I don't care about socks. TV is dull anyway. Ditto forks and spoons.
But the car thing just about took me to the edge.
After our recent "thousand miles through hell and back" journey from the friendly wilds of North Carolina, I went through a sudden change in attitude regarding our trusty, eight-seat kid-hauler. From a dependable vehicle that I just assumed would start, run and perform all those expected little jobs, the handy old car went suddenly bad, consuming time and money like a junior in high school. It took time. but by the time we got the old girl running again, my attitude toward her was mostly like that expressed towards a cheatin' girlfriend in a bad country song.
We needed a new car.
Now, buying a big-time purchase is no small thing in the Sloan household. We don't do it very often, and when we do, "Duck!"
We scanned newspapers, drove slowly through car lots, and searched the internet like a pair of crazy people. We called dealers and visited dealerships, walking through miles of shiny cars, trucks, vans and SUVs looking for the perfect vehicle designed to meet both our needs.
It didn't seem too tough to me.
She wanted an eight-seat grandma-mobile.
I wanted a sports car.
"What about the grandkids?" she cried.
"What about the little !@#!!#," I muttered.
But yes, I understand.
I understand that a family that often consists of at least five, and often upwards of seven or eight, needs room.
So we looked. And we test drove. And we looked some more.
Finally, we decided. Son Patrick found something that caught our collective eye via an internet search of his own. Finally, there will be something to put into that new garage.
A late-model eight-seat SUV-kind-of-a-thing that we both like enough to drive in public.
Plus, we both kind of liked the price, even.
It was a long, long day.
By the time we got home, I was feeling pretty puny. She worried, as she always does, that I had overdone it, what with the whole cancer thingee and everything else that's going on.
"Shoot, honey-pie," I said. "Car shopping is enough to kill anybody all by itself."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A new road to travel

Here's a scary word for you.
Like most folks, my understanding of that term has alway been a trifle gloomy.
Then I found out something else.
It's not, really.
According to the free Merriman-Webster dictionary, it can be defined several different ways.
One, "A place that provides care for people who are dying."
Another, "A facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill,"
But there's another, older definition of the term that really hits the mark for me:
"A place where travelers can stay."
Now we're talking.
Because, as far as I'm concerned, life, more than anything else, is a journey.
When the clinical trial I made a run at in an effort to sideline the mysterious, aggressive cancer I've battled for the past year or so failed, there were different roads to take.
I could have resumed the chemotherapy treatment I had been undergoing, though its effectiveness had begun to wain.  I could have tried a different version of chemo, but with little hope that it would do much more than set me up with a whole new range of treatment side effects.
Or I could do what I have now chosen to do: Undergo a program of aggressive palliative care that will hopefully work to ease some of effects of the disease itself, while giving me the best possible quality of life.
They call it hospice.
And, yes, I call it life.
And the fact is, life--and living--is what it's all about.
My decision has nothing to do with giving up.
Rather, it has everything to do with taking the road that has always been the one path for me.
A road that is lined, from start to finish, with love, with faith, with truth, and with hope.
I'll see you along the way.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

C'mon in, the door's open

"Anybody home?"
It's been like that lately, as we have received any number of visits from both some of our dearest friends and some new acquaintances recently.
Some were long-planned and entirely expected.
Others were spur-of-the-moment and a complete surprise.
All have been purely wonderful.
Stopping by for a visit, like letter writing and unexpected front-porch rendezvous, have become something of a rarity nowadays. We're all so very connected, whether it be via text message, the zillion variations of social media, email and even the cell phones we all seem required to pack on our hips anytime we leave the house. Ergo, the idea of pulling on a pair of shoes and walking down the street to a neighbor's house seems tantamount to packing up for a trip to the South Pole.
Or to put it simply, we just don't do it very often.
I suspect it's the pickle I currently find myself in that's changed all that. And I truly appreciate both the thought and the action. But I also hope the sudden urge to see one another is purely borne out of a desire to rekindle and enjoy the special ties that have made us friends all these years.
Both my older son and my brother have made the list of planned visits, while others, like a much-loved cousin and an old college pal simply appeared one day. Another set of cousins are expected in the next few days, as well, along with the friends and neighbors we've been happy to welcome to our door. We've shared memories, caught up with what's new, and simply enjoyed the old friendships we've enjoyed all theses years.
In any case, it's been a treat.
A real treat.
They say it's your birthday
It seems the advent of social media has created an all new kind of celebration.
The Facebook Birthday.
It is, put simply, a holiday tradition that sees greeting marking the anniversary being celebrated appear a good week earlier than the actual date. Ergo, I started receiving "Happy Birthday" wishes on the 20th of September (and earlier) despite the fact that Keith and Alice Sloan didn't greet their bouncing baby boy on the 27th of the month. But somehow, the Facebook phenomenon has transformed the one-day birthday bash into what's become an all-out birthweek blowout, or longer, even.
OK with me.
Bring on the cake.