It has been six long months since my last post. What the heck happened? How did so much time go by? Has it really been half a year?
The answer to the last question is a simple “yes.” The other two queries require a longer explanation, one that has less to do with big adventures, and more about this adventure we call life.
2018 ended with me recovering from my third angiogram in three years. On the bright side, no new stents were added to my budding collection. The downside is my doctors have been unable to provide an explanation for the symptoms which necessitated the latest procedure. Said doctors have pointed out I should be happy for a clean bill of health, which is true, but I’ve never been someone who has embraced ambiguity. (I want to know why!) Also, I was suffering from plantar fasciitis, which made getting out for more than a moderate day hike rather painful.
In January I used my ‘writing time’ to pen a series of posts about Facebook and Social Media, and posted them on Facebook. I intended to cobble together these thoughts and create an extended article for Adventure-to-Adventure, but eventually decided against doing so since my goal for this site is to focus on adventure; commenting on the ills of social media was, at least for me, too far off topic. I’m glad I wrote the polemic; it forced me to come to grips with my relationship with Facebook, Instagram, et al., but it meant this webpage was, again, neglected.
February was when life happened in earnest. My father-in-law, Lew, had been in declining health for some time, but he reached that point where there wasn’t more that could be done. He needed to have a procedure, but he was too weak to go under general anesthesia. Lew and the rest of the family made the difficult decision to begin hospice care. Lew passed from this life to the next the end of March with his wife and children by his side.
A couple of days after Lew was laid to rest in a solemn service at Riverside National Cemetery (Lew was a WWII Veteran), my wife Ruth and I traveled to the East Coast to visit friends and family, and to attend the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta Georgia. With the strain of the past couple of months, time away was just what the doctor ordered. Little did we realize how fleeting our respite would be.
We returned home on a Saturday afternoon. The next morning, Palm Sunday, as we were returning home from church, Ruth received a call from her sister. Ruth’s mom had fallen and couldn’t get up. It turned out she had broken her femur, and she had surgery the same day. Recovering from a broken femur is not easy at any age; however, for a 91-year old woman, it can be especially difficult.
We decided early on I would attend Estella’s physical and occupational therapy sessions to provide emotional support for Estella and to help the therapists interact with her. Put yourself in Estella’s position, you are in a strange place with people you don’t know poking and prodding you, your husband of sixty-six years, who passed away less than a month ago, isn’t there with you, you have trouble hearing, you’re on pain killers which exacerbate your confusion and disorientation, and there are therapists you’ve never seen before trying to push you to perform painful exercises. This isn’t a recipe for a successful recovery.
Having a familiar face, someone she trusts, by her side, who she knew has been through rehab before, gave Estella the incentive to push through the tiredness and pain and give it her best. If Estella was putting in maximum effort every day, so would I. Six days a week I drove to Fountain Care in Orange to be with her; Estella’s daughters visited every evening.
Things were going well for a while, then Estella suffered some complications and had to be admitted into the hospital. She was in the hospital for over a week before going back to Fountain Care.
When we returned to Fountain Care we learned the facility was under new ownership. The therapists we had worked with before were no longer there. Initially, we were worried, but our concerns were unfounded. The new team at Fountain Care was even better than the previous folks, and Estella made consistent progress. (I left a 5-Star rating for Fountain Care on Yelp.) Thanks to the caring staff at Fountain Care, Estella was able to return home the beginning of June. She’s not 100 percent; more in-home PT is needed, and she’ll need to continue with various exercises for the rest of her life, but she’s cleared a major hurdle.
All this was not without sacrifice: nothing of importance ever is. The family is exhausted. Ruth and I dropped the ball on so many things that I’ve lost count. We canceled our anniversary trip to Maui. Other than posting an occasional birthday wish, I haven’t checked my social media accounts since early April and have only been slightly better with my email. As I write this, one of our cars is in for repairs, and the other car also needs work for things which should have been dealt with well before now, but we put them off until Estella was back home.
And adventures? I was able to break away for a full day when Estella was in the hospital and one of Ruth’s sisters was visiting from out of town; my only other outings were had by me leaving the house at 6 am to go to El Moro Canyon in Crystal Cove State Park for, at most, a two-hour hike before driving to Orange for Estella’s sessions. The rest of my time was doing whatever I could to take items off Ruth’s plate to try to reduce her load.
Lest anyone think I’m a selfless son-in-law, I bemoaned to Ruth on multiple occasions that I had ‘lost’ the first half of the year, I hadn’t been on a single backpack or made it out to the desert even once. All my outings were to urban and regional parks, no actual wilderness settings. Still, those brief jaunts were rejuvenating and helped to keep me going.
I tried not to wallow in self-pity for long. The truth is, while I was working with Estella, I couldn’t have been happier. Here was this sweet old lady, giving it her all, grateful for my encouraging presence; how could I not have a smile on my face. I was reminded of the Greek legend of Cleobis and Biton (though I would prefer to forgo their ‘reward,’ at least for now.) As a bonus, I was blessed to interface with some wonderful caregivers and healers.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned: “this adventure we call life.” Life is indeed an adventure, and though I long to have many more adventures while my heart still beats, my ultimate purpose in living an adventurous life is to bring home the experiences and lessons gained, to share them with others, and incorporate them into my soul so I can lead a more selfless and fulfilling existence. For while being on an adventure can be fun and exciting, helping others is what brings true joy and satisfaction.