Brulog

Words of occasional wisdom from Bruce Oakley

With reservations

Posted by boakley59 on September 14, 2010

A long time ago, on a blog page that seems so far away …

I looked into the looming mist of 2010, preferring not to make resolutions, yet offering something more than observations. I called these not-quite-resolutions/observations my “reservations” for the coming year. I hoped they would turn out to be more like dinner reservations than like reservations about bungee jumping. I’m back to tell you that 2010 has been a feast of fun!

Yes, it’s been quite a year. The gloomy fade-to-black that brought a merciful end to 2009 has been chased into memory by the blaze of floodlights, the soft glow of candlelight and the refreshing joy of  laughter and a light heart.

A quick summary here, and then if ambition endures, expanded posts in days to come on the bits and pieces:

Look ma! No doctors! Well, almost. I made it nearly through August with no health issues this year. Our never-ending health watch had us making our regular checkups with all things holding steady and only lingering fatigue (arising far too easily) as a complaint. Followup in February from summer 2009 prostate concern brought an all-clear biopsy, and in general I learned to accept a slower pace and stretch my labors into manageable chunks. A baseline checkup with a new doctor in our new hometown (See? Lots to tell!) found all my chemistry in good order except mildly elevated cholesterol not aggravated by any of the other risk factors for heart disease. The doctor’s only other bit of concern was the long stretch since my only colonoscopy, 12 years ago at the onset of my Crohn’s.

You’d think a colonoscopy with no hint of abnormality would be an excellent side dish in this feast, but it seems the plate overturned in my lap. The day after the excellent report on my colon, I had to dash to the emergency room, doubling over in pain and unable to keep food down. Apparently the fluid flood and purging to clear the system for the colonoscopy knocked my system out of whack and left me with a kidney stone. A week later, when it hadn’t passed despite hours a day of doubling over with painful muscle contractions when trying to answer nature’s call, I had to have rush surgery to remove the stone. The urologist inserted a stent to keep the inflamed tube from collapsing during the recovery, so I had another 10 days of muscle discomfort with the stent lodged right where the stone had been. Now that too has been removed and aside from having one more condition to keep watch over, I am well.

About that new home, which I suppose is the main course in this feast of fun: Since the onset of my disability, Suzy and I have wrestled with a mortgage and bills beyond our reduced income and we have looked for the chance to move. In the best of our dreams, we would be able to move close to her family, but a job that would make it possible would be hard to come by. In time, Suzy got a better job with better benefits and hours in North Little Rock, shifting careers and relieving the stress of overwork while adding the milder stress of following a new path. Still a little too far from family, a little too tight on the budget. But there’s that old line about good things and waiting, and I guess we had waited long enough, because a job opened up out of town and the employer came looking for Suzy. She’s perfectly suited to the role by skill and personality, and the company’s immersion in the community and the day-to-day atmosphere makes for a very comfortable fit. We now live within a mile of immediate family in a smaller, more affordable house and we’re done with the basic moving-in chores of painting and such.

Of course, now we have a big house to sell in the midst of a down market, but we’ve got it painted and updated and well-kept, so we’re hoping it will go fast. That will lift a great financial burden and allow us to move forward with remodeling or grand dreams for the new place (or our retirement).

We’ve left behind one house, but we’ve reconnected with family — and we’ve been doing it all year long. My first job out of college was back on campus, running the night production equipment at the school daily newspaper. A couple of weeks before I returned to campus in those days, the paper hired a new office manager. As the only two full-time employees in an otherwise all-student enterprise, we became fast friends and guardians of the clan. I would say we were sort of den parents, except that while she was perfectly suited to the motherly role, I was more like the off-beat cousin who sometimes babysat but you’d never know when he would take you on a wild fling. Anyway, in time I moved on, but she stayed — for 30 years. When she retired this year, 30 years of adopted family returned to campus to say, “We love you and thanks for everything.” We got to relive warm days of uncertain yet exuberant youth, flickering love and dreams, and the sheer energy of creative, lovable people at the beginning of exploration. Such memories: Three of those fellows had been housemates of mine, I babysat for the office manager’s children (now grown and married and wonderful in their own right), how fascinated I was by so many delightful, talented women. Tying all that love and joy together at the head of this multigenerational family is Shirley, and it’s a testament to her strength and greatness that so many turned out so well yet never lost sight of their second home. We could come together after 30 years with memories and feelings so clear that we hardly noticed a day had passed.

I was able to reconnect with those housemates from post-graduate life, but also with my undergrad roommate. He is a former football letterman and got us tickets to the spring game, which happened to fall on that weekend. He biked in with his grown son on their Harleys to visit with us, 30 years since last I had seen him. Suzy got to take in the grand spectacle of Fighting Irish football and we made a tour of campus, though there are now two or three times as many buildings and I was not so efficient a guide.

It has been a year of reunions. Suzy and I also traveled to Tennessee for what has become an annual meeting with my Mom as my cousin flies in with her from California. My sister got to come down from Virginia, too, and another cousin I hadn’t seen in several years also made the trip from Virginia. Mom is showing her age and that’s hard to take, but we had a wonderful time. So good to see Mom, too far away for too long, and so pleasant to renew ties with my cousin after years and relive other summers of hopeful youth.

And hope has been a persistent theme of 2010, as Suzy and I began the year working with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America on the first Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis walk in Little Rock. We served on the organizing committee with a vibrant group of people committed to helping Arkansas patients in dealing with this disease that has taken so much out of me. Our walk raised more than $80,000 for research and programs, drawing more than 1,300 participants and giving the foundation a permanent presence in the state with a full-time worker. National headquarters had set our goal as a first-year effort in our population range as $30,000 and 300 participants. We are pleased that our hard work translated into such fantastic success. Our effort began in February and the walk was in mid-May, so we worked fast. We now have a walk scheduled Oct. 16 in Bentonville in Northwest Arkansas and next year’s Little Rock walk will be May 16 14. It’s good to meet people who share your struggles, and it’s even better to give hope and help to them and those who may follow in the fight.

That brings the circle back to health: Throughout 2010, I have been busy, though reluctantly learning to accept a definition of “busy” that goes about a third of the speed and volume of what once was just the natural order of things for an active runner with lots of friends in a high output deadline production business. These days, I’m taking it as a sign of progress to have returned to jogging/walking a mile and a half in 15 minutes, which the running snob in me finds terribly pedestrian. I have managed to stay healthy, or at least to avoid raging illness, but all emphasis on “managed.” I have had to watch my time and effort, reining back the urge to push as the Bruce of a more vigorous youthful memory has been brought to mind again and again by old friends newly met and as new challenges and dreams have graced my path.

So much on my plate. Won’t you share with me? There’s room and fare aplenty: I made reservations.

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One Response to “With reservations”

  1. Sarabeth said

    So good to be updated on all that is going on! Glad to hear that so much is going so well.

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