Monday, October 29, 2007

Indian Summer

The weather the last few days has been beautiful. The skies have been that blue, so intense and so clear that it can make your teeth hurt. The forest has turned to gold, rust, orange, and pale yellow green. At this latitude, the leaves are still about half on the trees, though that is changing fast. A few days ago, we had a frost overnight and that morning I stood at the kitchen sink and watched the large oak outside the window shedding its leaves. It was the only tree doing so. I don't know why. There was no breeze. The other trees were motionless and not losing leaves. Just that one. It was a bit of magic.

I went north overnight a few days ago to go over some business there. It was a quick trip. Just overnight. I listened to a book on tape up and back, driving the back roads, taking my time and watching fall progress the further north I went. I stayed at my mother's that night. She was away to the west coast with one of my brothers for a memorial service. There was a poker game that involved much hilarity and too much wine. I came away with a pocket full of change but missing several bills. It wasn't until yesterday that I counted out the coins that I had stashed in a zip lock bag and realized that I had actually come out ahead. Actually, I always come out ahead because it is not the money that I play for. It is the company that sits at the table and the tradition that has grown up out of a shared activity over forty years. You can't buy that with money.

As I was driving home the next day, I got a phone call from my daughter saying that she had hit a deer on her way to take her ACT college exams for the second time. I remember feeling a sense of shock and sadness, both for the deer and for the girl who had to decide to stop or go, who had to undertake a long and grueling exam after a shock to the system like that. She appeared to come through it OK. The car took a hit, but does not look too bad and seems to drive fine. The deer - well, that is more uncertain. It is not known what happened there. It was not in evidence when my daughter returned by the same route after the test. One can only hope that it either suffered little or recovered without serious injury, but we can not know for sure. I have to content myself with the knowledge that my daughter came through it in one piece.

Other that that, we are doing the normal things around here - going to school, homework, groceries, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. The next semi-big thing is Halloween, which this year will most likely see me getting costumed up for a night at the local pub and the two kids staying home in case someone gets lost and shows up at our door looking for directions and an emergency candy bar.

After that, it is Thanksgiving when we will travel north to be with family. Both events are looked forward to.

For those who are keeping track, my health seems to be holding up. I go in every four weeks for chemo and aside from the few days immediately following the treatment, I do pretty well. My blood counts are holding up although the platelet levels were right at the bottom cutoff last time in. I hope that I don't get sent home packing when I go back. It's a long drive just for a needle stick and a blood draw. I'll let you all know though. So, till then.


Monday, October 22, 2007

College Visit Part Deux

What happened to Part One you might ask. The answer is that it is off in the celestial bit-bucket somewhere. It was on the screen when I left the house last night for a little blue-grass break, but MIA when I returned home. Of course, my laptop was MIA as well, having dissappeared into the troll-hole known as my son's room. Upon being returned to my room later last night, the post had been mysteriously expunged.

Oh well. Hemingway it wasn't.

I had been writing an account of how my daughter and I spend the long weekend visiting a university in the adjoining state as part of her college selection process. While we were doing that, my son was up north with his uncle, supposedly helping to close up that family's summer cabin, but in reality was submerged in marathon movie watching as the skies emptied and deluged the countryside.

It was a weekend of rain throughout this part of the world, which, while putting a damper on some things, is actually a good thing for the land in general due to the effects of an ongoing drought that had stuck around like a bad relative all summer.

So it was that Number One and I set out early last Thursday for a five-hour drive to the southeast. We were in monsoon conditions for the first half of that, after which the skies partially cleared and the rain turned to intermittent.

The visit itself was conducted in two separate paths - hers and mine. I dropped her at one of the student dorms upon arrival where she was going to stay with friends and then I went off in search of my luxury, 3-star hotel room that I snagged on priceline. I was a bit underwhelmed with the result - a rather worn looking room in an aging concrete structure bearing the name of a major hotel chain, with a view of a railroad track, a parking lot, and a mysteriously shrouded RV towing a trailer parked off to one side. Plus, I had to pay extra for internet connectivity.

Oh well again. I still paid quite a bit less than the advertised rate, though I suspect they keep a whole flock of such rooms just for the priceline cheapskates like myself. As it turned out, I spent a relatively small amount of my time there, returning only slid into my coffin for the mandatory rest periods. Otherwise I was out and about, exploring the city, sampling the available cuisines, quaffing the occasional adult beverage, and even snuck in a movie (an excellent Michael Clayton).

I did hook up with Number One each morning as she requested the availability of a shower and a few early worms to be dropped into her open beak. After said operations, we joined the mass migration toward the campus and the hunt for one of the dwindling parking spots prior to queuing up for our orientation video followed by a guided walking tour of the campus.

We spent the afternoon hiking up hill and down dale, through buildings and even, one one stop, packed our entire little tour group into a model dorm room which reminded me of several similar occasions in my own past where a dorm room was filled to overflowing, except this time I was an adult and extremely conscious of my personal space boundaries being invaded and how the temperature of the room quickly rose into the parboil range as we all stood around in our wet heavy jackets marveling at how little dorm rooms had changed over the past half century.

In the time it took to complete the walking tour, we saw a representative portion of the campus. This particular university is quite large, and though it is contained within a contiguous campus area, it is far too big to be seen in one walking circuit. That being said, I think that making this visit was good for us and the information gained will prove useful.

Number One was fairly circumspect however when later asked for her opinion of the process. She seemed a bit pensive (or comatose from lack of sleep due to the previous night's festivities) as we were having a spot of early dinner after the tour. I found myself wondering whether she was seeing this upcoming transition in her life in a new light. Until now, she has been completely submerged in her high-school experience and college appeared (at least to me) to be a rather unsubstantial extension of the same, but off in the foggy future.

Last weekend however, it was very real as we joined thousands of other prospective college families who were gathering information, reviewing prospects, and giving the various campuses and surrounding communities a calculated look-see. One of the things we did following the walking tour was to attend a small group session conducted by an assistant dean of the College of Letters and Science, the college where N.O. would spend her time. The presenter was a particularly entertaining individual who clearly enjoyed his work and managed to convey quite a bit of pertinent information in a short period of time while keeping his audience laughing and engaged. I particularly liked the messages he was passing to the prospective students about the seriousness of their upcoming endeavor and the potential pitfalls they would face along the way. I wish that I had been exposed to the same information before I set out on my own flawed college journey oh so long ago. I could tell that it had an impact on my daughter. I wonder if she were not having to rethink her perspective a bit.

All of that serious stuff quickly disappeared as her cell phone signaled incoming text messages outlining the plans for the upcoming night and I then dropped her at the dorm for another night of her personal investigation of college life.

I went off to see a movie, tour the scene around the state capital building, and indulge in a really excellent habanero relish condiment for some mahi-tuna tacos found at a corner brew-pub.

The next day, the sun shone through a cloudless sky and we began our drive home - round one of the college visits completed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back From the Undead

No - I have not dropped off the face of the earth, nor have I been bound and gagged and tossed in the store room by my children (but if any of you give them that idea, I will seriously haunt you).

I have simply been living my normal, everyday life (if somewhat lazily).

We have had many large and small events in our collective lives since my last post (what year was that?). Homecoming has come and gone. Both larvae had dates and the photos are up on Flickr to prove it. It was all very cute. I don't know who the father of these two is, but he must be a handsome devil if the offspring are any indication.

We are fast approaching a long weekend school break here and the family is splitting up to enjoy it. Number Two is off to the north woods with his uncle for a rainy weekend of movies and music. Number One and I are heading to an adjoining state to look at their major university. It is a good school despite it's top 5 ranking on the all time best party school list. Not that Number One would give any credit to that.

Then it's Halloween, and then Thanksgiving, and then a possible ski week (for moi), and then Christmas, and then - who knows. It is non-stop party time around here.

I don't want to give the wrong impression however. We do have our serious moments and tomorrow is one for me. Tomorrow, I go in for one of my now regular chemo sessions. It starts with an early morning visit to the clinic (unfortunately located across town, a drive of 45 to 60 minutes depending on traffic, collapsed bridges, accidents, etc.) with a lab stick first on the agenda. Then I see the doc or the PA depending on who's available and they review the lab results, give me a poke or two, and hopefully give the OK for treatment. Mostly it is my blood counts that they keep an eye on. I am holding my own (so far), but you never know.

Assuming that I get the go-ahead, I either head for the in-house treatment center for six-hours in a plastic barco lounger, or I make a short drive to the associated hospital for six hours in a plastic coated bed (but there, I get lunch). So, tomorrow, it's the hospital.

Then I drive home feeling like puke and spend the next 48 hours in a state akin to a massive hangover. Not fun. But, not as bad as the other alternatives available. All said and done, I'll take this.

Sometime in the next couple of days, I need to get my car up on ramps and change the oil. I also need to do a timing belt and other related bits, but I think I'll wait for that.

In addition to all of this, I have a plate full of other things going on. I am trying to get back up north to the old home site on a more frequent basis. My folks are getting on and I want to spend more time with them. I am also thinking of relocating back up that way.

I have talked to the kids about it and although they are not crazy about the idea, Number One is off to college sometime this summer, and Number Two is mulling it over. It is a beautiful place in a savage weather kind of way and it would certainly put us closer to the country's best canoing territory and lots of woods for me to walk in. Plus, half of my family still lives there and that counts for a lot with me.

There are a couple of other reasons for heading back that way, but those are ones that I will keep under my belt for a while yet.

Till next time......