Friday, July 11, 2014

21...

for dinner and fireworks. The most people we've had here at once in the 36 years we've been here! A bit worrisome as the day approached, because it is a small house, only one bathroom, etc.; all the things that make you "sweat" ahead of time.

But it came off well; Dottie had things planned out well; everyone brought food and my younger son grilled (I kind of stay away from the grill now, with my plastic O2 line and bomb of an O2 bottle). Last year I bought a good 3M respirator with charcoal filters that were rated for sulfur fumes (black powder) and slipped the O2 line from my concentrater out the door to my chair and under the mask. It worked well-a year ago I never figured I'd get a chance to use it twice!

Bill and Laura made it in from Colorado so I got to watch Liam as he watched his first fireworks; as wonderful a year as I've had to this point, that was among the highlights so far!

Now the weeks until school starts again are growing short, so we're trying to spend as much time as possible with the grandchildren here (though their schedules are still hectic). We've been making day trips with each of them as they've had time, and have perhaps time for one more round with each of them before their schedules get really busy.

If I'm still doing OK then, perhaps another cross-country trip before winter sets in...

May the weekend be kind to you all!

alan

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Such a lovely high!

Home from some of the most wonderful 8 days of my life, never having thought I could string together so many in a row! Despite the logistics of my support systems, Dottie loaded up my oxygen concentrater, the compressor that refills some of my bottles, the CPAP, wheelchair, shower chair and a dozen non-refillable bottles in the new shell on the back of my pickup, and she drove (it's not that I can't, but since November, she insists) from here to Dayton. (After she changed the oil in it and did all the other things I always did before we set out on the road, plus mowed and caught all the laundry up!)

My older son and his wife set up rooms for our trip, and I allowed for 3 days at the National Museum of the Air Force, a day of rest, and then a day to visit some Wright Brothers sites that are there in Dayton as well. There are a group of "old-timers" I've chatted with off and on for years on a message board for veteran's who flew the B-36 who had told me it would take that long to do it justice, and since the admission was free, I planned accordingly. For years I've driven by it as we made the trip to Vermont to visit family, always intent on getting there and never taking time to do other things along the way. Last year, thinking it was my last chance, she suggested stopping for a day either going or coming home, but I knew that would only break my heart as I'd know how much I hadn't seen...

Being in the shape I'm in and dependent on others for mobility except for short distances, I knew I shouldn't be dragging my Nikon and lenses and a bag. When Nokia started offering a cell phone with Zeiss optics (Zeiss as in lenses like the Rolleiflex I shot years ago; like the good lens that was in my 4X5 Graphic, or on my Dad's Hasselblad) I started doing some research and liking what I read, got one. Though I miss my other lenses, I got by pretty well with my new Lumia and it's simple enough that Dottie can shoot it as well, and did a lot as she could shoot angles I couldn't, and get to places I couldn't in my chair.

Allowing the extra days at the Air Force Museum was the perfect call; we took 4 days and still didn't quite manage the whole thing! A million square feet of aircraft, engines, related systems, memorabilia...I didn't read every card, but probably 85% of them, photographed most so I could come home and look up more info on the ones I wanted, and we photographed almost every aircraft, missile, space capsule, engine...I was in mechanic's Heaven!

A plane I've loved since the first photo I saw at about 11, the Boeing P-26.
Divided into galleries by era, we spent the first day in the "Early Years" gallery; the 2nd in "Air Power" (the build up to WW2 and through it to it's conclusion). The 3rd day we started in the "Missile Gallery" (I finally understand the theory that makes geosynchronous orbit work!) and moved out into the "Cold War" because they were the furthest from the entrance, and I was feeling very guilty about Dottie wheeling me through this wonderful place. At the end of the 3rd day we came to the training mock-up of the Space Shuttle, and I told her to go ahead and go up by herself because I didn't want her pushing me up the ramps for it. It was late in the afternoon, and she said we'd see how she felt in the morning.

Notice, that was the end of the 3rd day, and my wonderful wife didn't even question whether we were coming back for a 4th!


So the next morning, she did take me up into the trainer. I was grateful for the 5 flat stops on the incline going up, though they didn't really lessen my guilt. After learning and talking to the two docents who were there, we went down the other side and on to the "Korean War and Southeast Asia" gallery, via a corridor filled with much info about the Berlin Airlift. I'd read much about it through the years and still learned things; Dottie was saddened by how much she didn't know, as it was just a footnote in her history class.

There is a very nice cafeteria there with reasonable prices where we ate each day, then went back to the motel so I could take my meds and refill my O2 bottles for the next day. I averaged 5-600 photos per day, and killed the battery in my phone 2 days out of 4 there. (I've since bought a battery bank for my next trip!)

That last day, we didn't get out quite in time to visit the 8th Air Force Control Tower and Nissen hut they have set up outside, a recreation of the ops centers from WW2 and an actual hut brought there from England.; it closed an hour before the Museum itself. We visited the aircraft they have stored outside, and called it a day.

The next day we were supposed to move to Indianapolis, but since it was only a 2 hour drive, Dottie loaded everything up again and we went to the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in downtown Dayton. I thought I knew much of Wilbur and Orville, but had no idea of their connection to Paul Laurence Dunbar. (I have books of his poetry that belonged to my grandmother, along with ones of Countee Cullen.) Along with a museum dedicated to the history of the parachute (again, learning much I didn't know) we crossed over to the  "Wright Cycle Co." shop. Viewing their machinery with their creations in mind only heightens my respect for them.

The night before, as I was planning out our day, I ran across a note about Packard museum that was a few blocks from the Wright Cycle Co.. I have memories of being not much more than a toddler and my Dad working on a Packard at a distant relative's house (something Dad didn't do often; cars usually came to him) and what a beautiful car it was and his reverent tones when talking to the owner about it. With that and their history in aircraft and marine engines, I took a chance and asked her to take me there.

(I should mention at this point that my new phone also does navigation, and proved useful for times like this!)

We parked, she wheeled me across the street and then I had to step up into the showroom of the old dealership building-the real, original dealer's building-and was never so glad I clicked a link! Car after car; engines, a truck, a WWI Liberty aircraft engine (turns out that besides building them, Packard was in on the design), a WW2 PT boat engine...limos, racers...it was a wonderful afternoon!


We got to Indianapolis just before dark that evening and settled into our room with my head swirling with the images of the last 5 days and my heart smiling as I looked back through some of the photos, adding "favorites" to my phone and texting her ones she liked to add to hers.

The next day she took me to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where I had planned to visit the Hall of Fame Museum. As she paid our admission, they told her about a "behind the scenes" tour that was available. I told her no, that was OK, I didn't want to slow anyone down. They said their van was equipped with a chair lift, and she told me I was going...

And go we did! The grounds, the garages, past the medical facility I've seen so many drivers sent to; on to the "Pagoda", where all the reporters work from, the press conference room, timing and scoring then on up higher to the Hulman family suite (the owner's of the track). Then back down and to the podium, where the drivers receive their trophies (a bit of walking for that, but not much).

Finally, they took us down to the "yard of bricks", the finish line; the only remaining pavement that shows from "The Brickyard" of 1911.

From there it was back to the Museum where I spent the rest of my day among 75 or so of the cars that have won through the years, the Offenhauser engines my Dad used to think the most wonderful ever built, along with a special display of all the turbine cars that tested or ran (some with the same engine that was in my Navy helicopters). Again I was in "motorhead Heaven" and again I killed my camera battery.

Between Dayton and Indy, I'd seen a sign for the Model T Ford Club of America's Museum at Richmond, Indiana. It wasn't far from Indy, so the next morning found us heading east again. Again more delight, more learning, more smiles. At least the camera battery got to charge on the way back to town, because I'd read a blurb in the tourism booklet the night before about Rolls-Royce Heritage operating a museum of Allison engine things (what my helo engines were, among many others). We found it, and I spent the rest of my afternoon in bliss.

The next morning we were supposed to head home, but wanted to mail one last set of postcards with Indianapolis cancellation marks, so I found a Post Office and put it in my GPS. A familiar street name from some research I'd done came up and meant one more stop on our way back towards the freeway.


Though the Andretti Autosports shop wasn't doing tours at the moment, they were kind enough to let Dottie take me in and spend some time among the cars, get some photos, and some autographed photos.

I've been home and rested up some; I'm still picking through photos, because I keep reading up on more things as I do. I've also put away a book that came in while I was gone: "There's Not a Bathing Suit in Russia", a Will Rogers volume from 1927 I picked up. Written about his visit to Russia 9 years after their revolution, Will chiding Congress for letting Russia get ahead of us in aviation fit in nicely with this past few weeks!

I had a doctor's appointment on Monday. He thought I was doing wonderfully, and said keep doing what I'm doing. He also said something about no sign I was ready for hospice, which took me aback, as I wasn't really thinking about it, though I know it will come. He did say that any further chemo would be a real "Hail Mary" because I've already been through so many rounds. He is checking on the Pirfenidone that has finally been released for compassionate use to see if it might keep my lungs from slipping as quickly and not react with the cancer...

So I'm plotting out some day trips for now and getting ready for the 4th of July! A year ago I figured that was my last one, so I'm truly planning to enjoy this one! After that, perhaps another road trip...

May the week, the world, and life be very kind to each of you!

alan

Friday, May 30, 2014

So far it's been a lovely spring!

I spent a few days recovering from the road, then my oldest and his wife came to visit for a week and a half with the "new" grandson. At 6 months, he's 95th percentile in everything except head size, and there he takes after my side of the family, so he's off the chart, but the doctors are finally not worried because he's been consistently there, lol!

They split days between here and her parents. On one of their trips there, they went and had some baby pics taken by a professional photographer that will soon be hanging all around the house. We got the family together once for my nephew's college graduation (a teacher-to-be, hurray) and again just so my sister got some extra time with her newest nephew.

Since Dottie quit work I've had the longest spell without catching anything that I've had since I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis 18 months ago. It seems she was right, that she really was bringing things home from work! I'd been trying to convince her it couldn't be that and that I'd end up being sick whether she was working in a nursing home or not...shows what I know!

Though I am knocking on my head as I write that!

After Bill and Laura went home, we picked up the John's youngest son and brought him home for a few days-since she's not working and he's out of school, we can do that on weekdays now! He's always very happy to come hang out, watch movies and play video games...the art museum we took him to yesterday wore on his patience a bit, though there were parts he seemed to enjoy.


 Dottie's returning him right now and I'm waiting to see if she comes home with our granddaughter...the one who's 13 and going on 24, I swear! Last fall she was still a little girl, and a few weeks ago she came around the corner with a towel wrapped around her head after a shower and it was like she totally grown up in just a few months.

I've finished 3 of the books I came home from Claremore with; one written by Will's great niece; one a history of the ranch where he grew up, but so much more a history of the land, the people, the territory...a sociological study...a time capsule...from when someone could ranch 60,000 acres and run 10,000 head of cattle and have other ranches almost as large in every direction, through the break up of the ranches into farms and statehood for what began as Indian Territory through the arrival of the railroads and the beginning of the citification of things.

The 3rd book was about a different Will I've always had an interest in-William F. Cody. Years ago I read a book written by Cody's sister that was reprinted with a forward by Zane Grey when Cody died; I'd bought several more about him since. This one was written by someone who formerly ran the Cody Museum in Colorado at his grave site, and besides having access to a lot of memorabilia and photos I'd never seen, he also had access to court documents and things that are making me rethink the stories I'd read until now (about how Cody ended up being buried in Colorado instead of Wyoming).

After the docents at the Will Rogers Memorial pointed me in the direction of some collections of Will's daily telegrams and weekly columns (cross indexed so they are searchable) I picked up the first volume of each of them to fill out the sets I've acquired, and picked up a few first editions of his books that lept from eBay into my mailbox as well. I unwrapped one from 1924 yesterday and it was so perfect that my eyes misted...when a sawbuck can bring a pristine first edition to my door, it's hard to pass up!

I'm plotting out a few more trips for this summer, hoping that my good fortune continues and life keeps letting me play!

May it be kind to each of you as well!

alan



Saturday, May 10, 2014

My 2nd childhood...

I've had a lovely week, though it didn't really start out to be. I got my reading of the P.E.T. scan from the cancer doctor on Monday-after the 6 month gap since my last chemo treatment, the cancer is growing again. The tumor is up around 30%; the lymph nodes are showing activity, though not growth. He said it's too soon to start chemo again, that it would weaken more than the result would be worth.

So we decided to try to take a road trip. I couldn't get a portable concentrater, but got some extra bottles from the O2 company, took my machines from here so I could refill the 4 bottles they gave me with it, and we loaded up all of that stuff and my wheelchair and headed south.

I've been wanting to revisit the Will Rogers Memorial since I was a kid; Dad took us there in 1962 (I was 6) and I bought "The Autobiography of Will Rogers" and read it before I was much older, as well as numerous times since. You've all known me to quote him...he's been a big influence on me. Yet, vacations were always about visiting family and we never took them to go places  for "us".

But Dottie made a point of getting me there, and it was wonderful! They've almost doubled the square footage since I was there, very tastefully done architecturally, I might add; the exhibits are fantastic and they have several of his movies playing constantly. I spent far too long in the gift shop after, as well!


The next day we visited the J. M. Davis Firearms Museum (an amazing collection) and had dinner at a Claremore restaurant that was one of the best meals of my life. Friday we headed home, via Oolagah (the town closest to where Will was born) and visited the Will Rogers Ranch, where the house he was born in stands. It was moved uphill about a 1/4 mile to get it out of the area flooded by a lake they filled in the 60's and when I saw it back then it was still sitting on timbers and jacks from the move. Now it sits on a lovely homestead with a period correct barn and furnishings provided by his sisters, some original and some replacements, but correct.


I was very exhausted by the 3rd day, but had a great time. I slept 14 hours last night and I'm still tired, but so very glad we went!

I hope each of you are doing well!

May the week be kind to you all!

alan



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lovely weather we're having...

as thoughts of an old Louis Armstrong track play in the back of my mind...

The last few days have finally seen me winning my battle with that last round of pneumonia. 4 rounds of antibiotics and, after a visit to the cancer doctor last week, his suggestion of a taper dose of prednisone seems to given my body the "oomph" it needed to fight back...this time. As always, foreshadowings of what lies ahead linger, but it's warm outside and I can get out and about again (with assistance) and it's time to enjoy things for a while!

My sons both approach the mid-point of a "normal" life span this month; in their mid-30's, I couldn't be prouder of both of them or the choices they've made in life or their families. Next weekend (weather permitting) will be another of those family gatherings to celebrate their birthdays, along with a nephew who graduates college this year. The years seem to leap by now! My oldest grandson got his "learner's permit" to drive the other day and has been texting me all about the Porsche he has his eye on for his first car...a bit poignant for me because I'd planned last year to buy a set of frame rails and start building something I'd have been putting a body on this summer with his help. Instead I've sent my last stash of magazines and parts catalogs to him because they're a bit hard to look through. I'm still reading "Hot Rod Deluxe" (reprints of things from the "old days" and ones found from then) and a couple of aviation magazines, but much more "then" than "now" things. There is more than enough in the news for now and when I want a break the NASA channel is nice!

As I write, the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach auction is playing; it always "knocks me out" to see the cars from the high school parking lot, that the neighbors drove or things that Dad and I worked on selling for multiples of what my house is worth!

Dottie gave her notice at work; partly because she's tired of bringing home "bugs" that may or may not be part of what have been "getting to" me as well as fear of bringing home one that really will; partly because there are probably 3 or 4 months of time left that I'll be able to do things before we won't be able to take enough oxygen for that and I become housebound, at which point I won't be able to stay alone anyway. If I can stay healthy we plan to have a fun summer until that time comes. We've bought a "shell" or "cap" for my pickup so we can load up all my accoutrements and perhaps slip away for a few days at a time; beyond that there's going to be as much family and grandkid time as we can manage!

I'm still going to pop in here from time to time, but with her home 24/7 and her "anti-social-media" stance, I'll be looking over my shoulder, lol!

Something that I came across the other day, as I was scanning things...


I'd been taking pictures of the boys and Dottie and she picked up my 35mm. She says I was making comments about her abilities with it...it wouldn't surprise me, I guess!

I hope you each are having a wonderful spring and that summer is kind to all of you!

alan

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Finally! A hint of green outside!

I only wish my lungs weren't so jealous that they'd decided they needed a bit of green of their own! I'm in the 2nd week of a battle against a "mild" round of pneumonia they caught in a chest x-ray I had done two weeks ago tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm in for bloodwork and another x-ray and, since there's still a bit of color coming up, a refill on that antibiotic.

We had a few days of 70's last week, but then dropped back into the snowflakes yesterday. They're saying we finally have a warm weekend coming up so maybe we can finally get the front hub put in the Malibu and get it back on the road. The list of things I'm unable to just "go do" now rather irks me sometimes, not only because I can't, but because I have to ask others to, be it my wife or my son. I've had to concede though, because a few weeks ago when "we" put the car up to diagnose it, I got under it at one point (which was easy enough) and getting back up took about 15 minutes as I sat up and recovered, then turned over onto my hands and knees and recovered, then straightened up and recovered, then finally stood up and recovered before I managed to walk 4 feet back to the lawn chair.

So from here on I read the manuals and "supervise" and perhaps hand off a few tools, but my days on the creeper are done, lol! I now know how a turtle feels when he's on his back!

I finally got far enough ahead on last year's leftover medical bills to update the scanner software I needed to make it work with Windows 8 and have been scanning my way through the family archives these past few weeks, trying to get them digitized and backed up along with "cleaning up" a select few in Photoshop as I do. I'm starting with the slides because they're easier than the negatives-at least they're all a uniform size, though I do have some 6x6 ones running around somewhere after I finish the 35mm. Film will be fun when I get there-there's everything from 110 Instamatic stuff running around to 8x10 transparencies. I'm rather curious to see what the meg size on that one will be...

May life be kind to each of you!

alan

Monday, March 03, 2014

Crossroads...

I spent the weekend at one...sadly I wasn't smart enough to bring anything to "conjure" with.

I saw the radiologist on Friday. He seemed to think I was a great candidate for stereotactic radiation, though there was a "small" chance I might react to it, a slight chance that with them doing 5 doses because the tumor is behind my rib that the rib might become brittle and be easily broken or "cracked". I told him that life wasn't exactly easy right now, and that I couldn't imagine what it would be like if I lose any more lung capacity.

He said he would contact the pulmonologist this morning (her first morning back after a spring vacation) and would call me on Tuesday.

After telling both boys what was going on, I did a bit of research on line and found a case history of someone they tried this on in 2008 who was in the very early stages of IPF. He had been through chemo, his lungs were just beginning to show the scarring from the fibrosis and he seemed fine after they did their radiation treatment. When they did the follow up he had developed radiologically induced pneumonia and that kicked off the fibrosis; he went from not being on oxygen at all to where I am now.

So I didn't have a good feeling about it after reading all that!

This morning when the phone rang, Dottie was getting ready for work. I was still in bed, only vaguely noting the ring and that she had answered it. A few minutes later I heard her in the bedroom doorway as I turned over and snuggled back down under the blankets (it was below zero here this morning).

She said the phone call was the radiologist; he had called the pulmonary doctor and she told him "hell no he couldn't do radiation on my lungs", it would kill me.

So now their consensus is that I should go back in 3 months and have another P.E.T. scan so they can figure out if the cancer is spreading again or not.

Though life isn't "easy" at this point, I'm not really ready to "give up". I do dread where it all goes from here...

In the meantime, I've done what I need to this morning and I'm going to heat up some chili for lunch, then crawl under a blanket on the couch and watch a movie or play a video game. While I dealt with the first of the month stuff this morning I caught up on the latest on Ukraine/Crimea/Russia and it's time to escape for a while!

I hope each of you are warm, and that the week is kind!

alan