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Posts Tagged ‘Rosalie’

So—phase I is completed and I’m ready for phase II. I know I can manage life on my own the next question is what do I want to do with the rest of it? There are many societal issues that demand attention; families who are homeless for whatever cause, health care for all our citizens, equal opportunity, the ongoing fight against any and all kinds of prejudice, responding appropriately to natural disasters, saving Puget sound, maybe all the oceans, the list is endless. These problems are all so gigantic they become overwhelming. Can one person make a difference? I hope so and am determined to add my voice and support and personal involvement at every opportunity. The first step in any journey is to actually move, commit, do something. Maybe I can even convince others to join in.

This time of the year we are inundated with requests for financial support from all manner of worthy organizations, some more worthy than others, some just scams. How to decide? Should I donate enough to one or two to possibly make a difference or give a little to as many as possible? If I win the lottery could I make all of them happy? Not likely, especially since I don’t participate in that fool’s game.

Less altruistic than the above goals and resolutions Charlize and I are ready for the next phase. It is a good thing that she is such a people dog because I am considering “dating” again.

Rosalie and I used to tease each other. We would claim the only reasons we stayed together were family, laziness and the fact that dating would be just awful.

“I cannot imagine you keeping a conversation going and being charming for a whole evening,” she would tell me. “How could you possibly date someone?”

“Well, you wouldn’t have any trouble talking,” I would respond “but if you didn’t feel anything for the person you were out with could you really continue to be charming?”

“Probably not, not much patience for that,” she would laugh. “Guess we’ll just have to keep each other.”

It was, of course, just teasing. She was always talkative and charming and wouldn’t have had any trouble dating at all. She was also much too kind to hurt anyone’s feelings. Conversely I tend to be taciturn and especially bad with “chit chat”. I can maintain a conversation of substance, if interested in the topic, but cocktail party conversation eludes me. Rosalie could and often did initiate a conversation and charm complete strangers. I expect I will have to rely on Charlize to break the ice and serve as a subject of conversation.

The good news is that given the realities of the life insurance actuarial tables there are significantly more eligible ladies than men out there. The problem is how to meet them.

Rosalie and I didn’t realize until the twenty-first century came around that we had a relationship, we just thought we were married. Still not certain I am ready for a “relationship”, however that is defined. Doesn’t seem like that much of a challenge says me, tongue in cheek. I’m relying on Charlize’s stamp of approval, of course. Love my dog, love me, or is it vice versa?  What are you laughing at Charlize?

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My travels with Charlize will continue. She is, after all, a great travel companion and provider of comfort and attention. I have searched to discover how to live on my own after so many years of being married to the same wonderful lady. During this past year I made a lot of choices, some good, some not so good, all were important to the journey.

I thought having a camping trailer while traveling around the country was a great idea. It was something I thought about from time to time over the years but Rosalie was never interested. We lived in an eight by fifty foot house trailer when first married and she was not interested in reliving that experience or anything resembling it. Within a few of weeks of her death I went shopping for the trailer I named Frog. During our first trip it was a fun new experience but reality started to settle in soon after. Driving on the open road pulling Frog was OK but extra concentration was needed when parking driving in inclement weather, especially high winds or pulling into a crowded gas stations.

Finding a nice RV Park during was not as straightforward as expected and it took me about half an hour to set up Frog and about the same amount of time to disconnect and get underway again the next morning. It also wasn’t inexpensive, fifty-dollars a night for most of the commercial parks. Then there was the task of emptying the “black water tank”, sewage to the uninitiated. The final blow was gas consumption. My truck, Old Blue, essential for pulling the trailer, was averaging about eight or nine miles to the gallon costing close to or exceeding four dollars a gallon.

Old Blue, although a year old when I purchased her, was also a reaction to Rosalie’s death. I was driving a ten-year old pickup truck while Rosalie drove a year old van. After her death every time I got into her van I started to cry. I was already anticipating taking a long road trip with a camping trailer, so I traded the van and the truck for a year old, high end, Dodge Ram 1500 four-door crew-cab with four-wheel drive and over-sized wheels. Old Blue was built for tough, manly activities. I was anxious to get out of our house and separate myself and my newly acquired rescued dog Charlize from Rosalie’s memory and palpable presence in the house. I was not yet able to clear out her clothes and other things. I needed to escape all those memories associated with all that physical “stuff” of hers. So there we were, me, Charlize, Old Blue and Frog, off to find, what?

During that first trip we wandered for almost six weeks and I was not yet unhappy with my choices. The second trip we took seemed to involve added hassles with Frog and the RV lifestyle. I began to think that the cost of RV parks and extra fuel might cover the costs of a lot of hotel rooms.  Even with the renovations I made, Frog was not all that comfortable, especially without utility hook-ups. Several times I just left Frog someplace and discovered travel was less complicated, less expensive, more relaxing. Gradually I came to the realization that a travel trailer, or any recreational vehicle, was not the choice for me. It was going to be costly but sometimes one has to admit a mistake, pay the price and get on with life. Frog was sold and gone. It cost me, but what life-lesson doesn’t?

Another reality was in store. I really liked Old Blue, but even when not pulling the trailer gas millage was an issue. On the best of days, on the highway at modest speeds, even with “Eco-Boost” I could only expect sixteen or seventeen miles per gallon. Then there were the garages. After I got her home I discovered Old Blue was five inches too long to fit in my garage at home. When trying to park in the parking garage at the Harborview Medical Center or at the building where my lawyer’s office was in downtown Seattle I found that I sometimes had to stop and back up to get around some close corners and into a parking spot without clipping a post or a big car parked in a compact spot. I discovered the deciding factor preparing for surgery on my ankle. With the specter of twelve weeks of recovery and not being allowed to bear weight on my left leg, I practiced getting in and out of the truck using just my right foot. I found it all but impossible because Old Blue was just too high off the ground.

So Charlize and I went car shopping. We found a new crossover SUV that was easy for me to get in and out of using just one foot. The sales people probably thought they we dealing with just another weird old man when they observed my strange behavior testing this ability. The new vehicle, actually a computer with four wheels, gets excellent gas millage, has enough room for Charlize and everything we might need for road trips. It’s also easier to keep clean. Was trading Old Blue for the new car another poor choice, made too quickly? I don’t know yet, but I’m glad I’m not struggling to get in and out of Old Blue on one foot, or stuck in the house because I can’t. The new car also fits into my garage.

So—the journey continues, life’s journey that is. Steinbeck travelled with his dog Charley searching to define the America of that time. My Charlize and I will continue our travels but my search to find out how to live without Rosalie is resolving. I still miss her every day but am becoming more accustomed to making my own decisions and finding something interesting and worthwhile to accomplish each day. I am more comfortable with the philosophy that each person’s life is a journey. Inevitably we end the journey alone and along the way have to learn to deal with the loss of loved ones. Both Rosalie and I lost our parents’ years ago and we cane to accept that as a normal part of the journey. Losing Rosalie was much more difficult but also part of the same journey. Losing a child would be devastating, but many others have coped with even that, I pray I never have to.

Charlize, I realize, has an easier life to deal with. She lives only in the moment. She obviously has memories of some sort of abuse but they only intrude when something happening in the present brings back those memories, for example when I correct some behavior I don’t think appropriate. I wouldn’t ever think of hitting her but someone has, based on the way she responds when I raise my voice.

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Charlize and I are on the road again. We spent two weeks visiting my son and his family in their beautiful new home in Carlsbad, California. Rosalie would have loved the house and the neighborhood, both idyllic.

The trip south from Edmonds was made in two and a half days traveling I-5, fast but boring, even though the drive was a new one for us. Freeway speeds and heavy traffic don’t equate to enjoyment of the experience, at least not for me.

Coming home we left early Sunday morning and managed to clear the Los Angeles traffic before eight AM.  At Santa Clarita we left the I-5 and worked our way west to US 101 and Santa Paula. Then we headed north along the coast. At about ten in the morning we arrived in Gavita and joined CA 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.

In Lompoc we found a coffee shop and I got my two Splenda latte but only after Charlize found a suitable location for a long overdue pee. Since we were in no particular hurry I occupied a table in the sun outside the coffee shop. Charlize was content to lay in the shade I created. Within minutes a lady stopped and asked if she could pet Charlize, who is always open to new friendships. It wasn’t long before I found out she had two German shepherd dogs who were also rescues.

She noticed the Washington plates on Old Blue and it wasn’t long until I found out that her father, in his mid-eighties, lives in Edmonds where she was raised. Her Dad recently had a stroke and she had to move him from his home to a private elder care home. She said the family that owns the place is very nice, very experienced in caring for the elderly and that her Dad had his own little suite in the house. She told me he seems to be happy with his situation but I had the feeling that she was trying to convince herself. After she left us I turned to Charlize:

“You see what we have to look forward to girl? Hopefully you won’t be around when that happens to me. I need to keep my act together until you are ten or twelve, I suppose.”

Charlize looked at me with the quizzical expression she gets when trying to fathom what on earth I’m talking about but only responded with a tail wag. I suppose that is about as much as I can expect in response to a morbid thought. She was happy to leap back into Old Blue.

Back on the road we made our way, twisting and turning, rarely reaching speeds of fifty miles per hour mostly slowing to twenty-five or thirty for the curves. On our left were spectacular ocean vistas, one after another. We found a place for lunch in San Simon and Charlize made friends with an adorable four-year old sitting with her family at the table next to us on the patio.

Matilda’s mother told me it was impossible to keep her away from any dog, she just had to pet all of them. I offered some grandfatherly advice about being too trusting of strange dogs but it was clear that my warning had little effect on either mother or daughter. One more thing on the long list of things I have no control over.

It was a spectacular afternoon driving on the coast highway, stopping every half-hour or so at an overlook just to gaze at the waves coming in and the surf breaking. Eventually we arrived in Monterey. After settling in to the historic Munras Hotel Charlize strolled while I limped to Cannery row where Charlize introduced me to some more friendly folks. Charlize is impatient and fickle though. If the conversation lasts more than three or four minutes and nobody is paying sufficient attention to her, she is anxious to be off to find another new friend.

That evening Charlize and I ate tapas on the dog friendly patio at the hotel and she made friends with all the service staff. I was just along for the experience, and to pay the bill.

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Charlize has a new buddy, Chloe. I wrote previously about my Denver friend’s tiny dog. She, reportedly weighs five pounds, I doubt she tips the scales at much more than four.  My friend and Chloe recently returned with me to Edmonds in Old Blue. We visited Mount Rushmore, Great Falls and other interesting spots along the way. The two dogs, Mutt and Jeff, formed a bond along the way. Here’s Chloe in possession of her owner’s couch:

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Charlize likes Chloe and they play well together but she is also jealous. Chloe left her bed to peruse other interests and this was the result:

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The two of them invented a game involving one of Chloe’s toys, a hollow rubber ball with another squeaky ball inside. Chloe grabs the ball and runs all over my house daring Charlize to take it from her, hiding under chairs and beds where Charlize can’t reach.  Eventually Charlize corners her and takes possession, then teases by retiring to her bed and pretending she doesn’t want the ball, but snatching it up again when Chloe gets close.

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Chloe and my friend flew back to Denver a couple of days ago and Charlize is very quiet, almost depressed since they left. I have also been depressed, but for a different reason.  After eight months of procrastination I am removing Rosalie’s clothes from the four closets they occupied and bagging them up for transport to a charity that can put them to good use.  She was a discerning shopper and purchased good stuff, but rarely got rid of anything. I found some clothes I remember her wearing in the seventies. She must have thought she would be able to get back into them and/or the styles would regain their popularity. In any case it’s not an easy chore, but one I know I must face down.

I had a long talk with our oldest son last night, about how difficult it is for me to get rid of her clothes. He confessed that he still has emotional problems when he and his family visit me, too much of his mother is still in the house. He is still grieving too. When does it become easier?

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Won this award in the Memoir/Personal essay division of the Writer’s Digest contest this year for the following:8102-WD%20An-hires-AW-1

Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone

I was holding Rosalie close, cradling her head in my arms when she died. As I write this, it was ninety-four days ago. On April 23, 2013 we would have celebrated fifty-three years of marriage. I’m coping, sort of.

A week before she passed we were sitting next to each other on our recliners, not paying attention to the endless commercials incessantly interrupting the program struggling to interest us. “Well,” she said, pulling out the nasal tube flowing oxygen into her nostrils, “pretty soon you’ll be able to get a dog.”

Bear, our previous German shepherd died six years ago and we didn’t get another dog.  That was the only period in my life that I can remember, being dog less. Rosalie developed balance problems, the aftermath of a viral encephalopathy and a brain biopsy, and we were worried that she would trip or fall over a dog. Thus we were dog less. She knew I missed having a dog and her out-of-the-blue statement was typical of her dark sense of humor.

“Stop talking nonsense,” I told her, gruffly.

The last six months we had together I prayed that the end would be fast and with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Her diagnosis was stage four-lung cancer. It came on January 4, 2012 after we noticed she had trouble breathing after only mild exercise. I have to explain that she was an animal on our stationary bike. She routinely logged eleven to fourteen miles in fifty or sixty minutes and burned more than three hundred calories and did this four or five times a week.

Our oncologist at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance explained that the average statistics for her diagnosis were survival for three to six months. As a scientist I was, and still am, convinced that the brain can heal any disease of the body if we could only figure out how to invoke the necessary killer cells, or immunological responses or whatever other body defense mechanisms are necessary, by sending the correct messages from the brain. So I nagged her with all the determination I could muster about the power of positive thinking and prayer. I encouraged her to visualize her tumors and direct her body defense mechanisms to kill those nasty, unwanted and unwarranted growths.

With her typical quiet determination, Rosalie made it to six months, then eight, then ten and counting. She tired easily but appeared normal to all but me, and our two sons. She was a very private person and didn’t want friends, or especially acquaintances, to know she was seriously ill.

In mid-December she needed supplemental oxygen and on Dec. 27 the oncologist suggested home hospice care. The hospice people showed up and enrolled her on Jan. 2. She died two days later.

***

My first German shepherd was named Mister. He and I hooked up during the summer before my second year in veterinary school. His normal home was the back seat of my car. Before I met Rosalie all the girls I dated made a big fuss over him but he was a regal sort and mostly ignored them. When I held the car door open for Rosalie on our first date Mister was all over her. She gave him a perfunctory pat on the head but he would not leave her alone. He kept nuzzling her, pushing his head under her arm and hand begging to be petted. I twisted in the seat to order him down and to stay and noticed he had an erection. Mister was always very discerning and I decided then and there to not ignore his intuition. It wasn’t long until I agreed totally with his first impression.

***

Charlize, pronounced Charley, is a rescue dog, the third German shepherd I have been responsible for. She is about three years old and has been with me since January 15. We are two injured beings who need each other. The first two days she was apprehensive and distraught but every day since we have bonded more and she is now calm and protective of me. I keep her with me all the time. She is housebroken and vehicle broken (yeah), and fetches a tennis ball like a retriever, good exercise for her and saves my gimpy ankle.

The frustrations of the last four days before my obsessively determined departure date were over. Who would believe that a newly single adult male and his dog could experience so many last minute problems trying to get out of town?  But all came together and Charlize and I, comfortable in Old Blue and pulling the Frog, were the last to board the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

Old Blue is the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 in charge of making our journey possible. The Frog is my brand new, albeit slightly crowded with both of us in attendance, camping trailer. Frog pulls like a dream sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.

The purpose of the road trip was to try to figure out what I should do with my remaining years and how to do it. I’m seventy-six years old and was married to the only girl I ever truly loved for over fifty-two of those years. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own. Charlize is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.

Charlize and I traveled familiar roads, taken previously with Rosalie, to Port Townsend, Sequim, and Port Angeles. Once west of Port Angeles we were in new territory. We took a short detour to see what the destruction of the dam had wrought to the Elwha River, now flowing grey with silt and debris, but I hadn’t seen it prior to the return to a more natural state. Undoing our well-meant but destructive “improvements” to Mother Nature may take some time.

Decided, at the last moment to forego the civilized amenities of an RV park in Forks and pressed on to the Kalaloch campgrounds, where my Senior Pass to all the National Parks and Recreational Lands bought a night for only $7, there are some advantages to being “senior”.

We parked about fifty or sixty feet above the beach, where gentle breakers provided a soothing, monotonous background to my day of calm healing, away from the reminders of our house, her things and a previous life. Charlize kept close watch on me. She seems to need respite from her previous life as much as I do.

Half the campground was closed, the road barred by a red and white-stripped railroad-crossing-type gate. I suppose only those seeking solitude find their way to that place, normally rain soaked but now dry. There are thirty odd camping spots in the open half but when I went to bed last night only seven were occupied. Charlize and I walked the place before and after dinner and not a single person greeted us, everyone holed up in their campers. In the fifties my family used to do a lot of car camping, with a luggage trailer and big umbrella tent. The only type of vacation my folks could afford. Our sons and I backpacked and many momentous decisions were made about their lives while we sat freezing on a mountain. Rosalie wasn’t much interested in camping, preferring modern plumbing. I remember campgrounds as friendly places.

Thirty feet west of where I parked Frog there was a sharp drop off to the beach, guarded by a split rail fence. Relentless waves worked their way onto the sand. The sound they made was similar to a busy highway. A vez en cuando, (the English translation of this expression would be “from time to time”, but in Mexico in 1967 when we lived there for a year, it conveyed a connotation of inevitability, an inability for any human to change events) a wave much larger than its brothers breaks over, roaring its delight.

That night, about four AM, I woke up thinking about Rosalie’s last minutes and started crying. Charlize immediately came over to stick her nose under my arm, determined to comfort me. It worked. The next day in Old Blue she barked when a highway construction flagman approached to kibbitz about Frog, not that incessant barking typical of some dogs, just one sharp warning to let the person know she was on duty. I guess she decided I belong to her and am in need of both comforting and protection.

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I met Don in 1954 in Green Hall where all freshmen at what was then Colorado A & M were housed. He had a room across the hall from mine and neither of us cared much for our assigned roommates. I have no recollection of how we managed it but by the second term we were rooming together.

The short, slight rancher’s son, who grew up in the wilds of the Sandhills of Nebraska and the tall Jewish swimmer from Phoenix, Arizona were an unlikely pair. We were nicknamed Mutt and Jeff, of course. However, we found an abundance of common interest. We both grew up with fathers who rarely talked unless they were giving instruction or needed to say something important. We both loved our dads and were comfortable being with them all day without talking. With that background Don and I were never uncomfortable being together without talking and that persists to this day.

After that first year we shared an apartment with two other friends and the third year, my first in veterinary school, we shared a small house with two third year veterinary students. In all that time together I cannot recall a single argument between us.

I was far from home and the ranch was only a long days drive from Fort Collins. Don had a car and he invited me to spend Thanksgiving at the ranch. His folks were warm and welcoming, especially his mom. The holiday was memorable as my first experience on a working commercial ranch. I was invited and returned for several years and always felt welcome. I felt then and still do today that it is my second home.

Years past and we stayed in sporadic touch. Don graduated with a degree in agricultural economics and returned to the same ranch his great-grandfather started and his grandfather and then his dad continued to operate. He gradually took over the operation of the ranch from his dad. He got married, I got married and miracle of miracles Susie and Rosalie became close friends.

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The first of the ranch houses are in the distance, top left.

When we lived in Montana they visited us, and after we moved to Phoenix several times, then in Illinois. We visited them at the ranch or sometimes met someplace convenient to all of us. Each time we got together we picked up as though we had been together the day before, despite the passage of years.

Charlize is in heaven. She stays close to me in the house but outside has thousands of acres to roam and hundreds of wild critters and cows, calves, steers and bulls to discover. She hasn’t wandered far as yet, keeps looking back to make certain I haven’t left without her.

Here’s a view from the house, mother cows with their calves on the hill pasture. They were brought downs to the hay meadow in the foreground the next day prior to being moved to another pasture.

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It never occurred to me that it would be so difficult. In my book ANIMALS DON’T BLUSH I recounted the combined camping, honeymoon and travelling to my first veterinary job in Sidney, Montana. That was the first week in June of 1960. Rosalie and I spent two days in Yellowstone Park during that trip. I always considered our experiences an adventure. Rosalie used other, less positive, descriptors

This time I drove in from the town of West Yellowstone appalled at the destruction and amazed at the recovery following the forest fires of 1988. Almost eight hundred thousand acres, more than three thousand square kilometers, about thirty-six percent of the entire park were engulfed in flames.

I arrived early in the day, it was only seventy some miles from Ennis, Montana to West Yellowstone. Once in the park and driving along roads that were significantly wider and better paved than they were in 1960 I kept glancing at the stark skeletons of once proud trees, interspersed with a few fire-charred survivors, all them engulfed in a sea of uniform height young trees crowding for space.

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Some experts knew, many did not, that the Lodge pole pine, dominant in Yellowstone, drops mostly closed pinecones that do not open to release their seeds until stimulated by intense heat.  The forest floor was covered with these closed cones accumulated over many years and the fires must have moved swiftly enough to expose but not consume the seeds. Those seeds found conditions ideal for germination and the result is thousands, maybe millions of seven to twelve feet tall trees obviously started at the same time that, in the not too distant future will have to cull themselves for the required space and light to survive.

In 1960 I set up the old canvass umbrella tent that had served my family for years. Rosalie and I were two of very few occupants of the old Madison campground characterized by gravel roads, a hand pump for water, outhouses and in-the-ground garbage receptacles that did very little to discourage bears. Charlize and I set up Frog in the seriously enlarged, updated and improved Madison campground, now featuring paved roads, heated restrooms with running water and flush toilets. We arrived during the first week in May and some of the roads into the park were still closed, but the campground was at least a third full.

After Frog was situated I disconnected Old Blue and Charlize and I went to visit Old Faithful. The amount and character of new development and the number of people present, some arriving in busloads, was astounding, and depressing as I remembered our previous visit fifty plus years previous.

Rosalie and I always made a habit of not revisiting places we had been to, thus no return to Yellowstone for nearly fifty-three years. There were always new places to visit and explore. New places were more interesting and we did visit a lot of places in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. Those trips made great memories and travel disasters always make the best stories.

One of our wedding gifts was an eight-millimeter movie camera. We took endless footage of scenery, “wild” animals, geysers, steam coming from the ground and bubbling cauldrons of mud on that trip, but rarely looked at those movies. I was worried about losing those films to age so I had them converted to videotape and some years later to CDs. They are painful to watch but not nearly as painful as revisiting those places without my bride. So I gave up.

Charlize did not enjoy Yellowstone at all. They now have rules, lots of rules about dogs. Dogs must be on a leash at all times when out and cannot be taken out of the confines of the campground or parking lots. You cannot leave them alone tied up. Naturally you have to pick up after your dog. I understand the need for all those rules, too many people with too many dogs and the dogs could get into trouble with wild life and cause other types of ecological problems, but the last time I was here with Rosalie we were accompanied by my first German Shepherd dog and he was a hero. (Read the book to find out). He was always under voice control.

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Charlize’s demeanor tells it all.

Because of all her energy consuming appliances Frog sucked her battery dry by nine in the evening. The Madison campground still lacks electrical and water hookups, but I presume that will come, eventually. The smoke alarm beeped once a minute to let me know the battery was low, but had enough juice to keep the damn thing beeping until one or so in the morning. I got into bed when the power gave out at nine but, of course, the beeping didn’t let me get to sleep until it finally ran out of juice.

I woke up at six AM, got my clothes on in the freezing cold, no power no functioning furnace in Frog, and made a dash to the heated restroom. Our two sons and I used to do a lot of backpacking, frequently in cold weather, but we were equipped and dressed for it. With all the comforts of home in Frog, when the power goes out a warm restroom with a flush toilet on a cold morning does have appeal.

I returned to take Charlize for her walk then hooked Frog back up to Old Blue so I now had power from the truck’s battery. I boiled water, made coffee and some instant oatmeal, fed Charlize, took her for another walk and by seven AM we were on our way to the east gate.

The sage that said you couldn’t go back was correct. Too much change, too many memories, going back to Yellowstone was a mistake. Tomorrow I will arrive at Pass Ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. That will be moving forward.

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Charlize doesn’t know we’re home. For over a month at six-thirty or so each morning she pressed her cold nose on my cheek and uttered a soft whine to get me up. I let her out and then get on with whatever the day has in store. We wandered for over a month, asking questions without answers but gradually discovering that decisions can be made unilaterally after almost fifty-three years of collaborating with Rosalie. Of course I discuss everything with Charlize but she has yet to voice a comprehensible opinion, except for exuberant enthusiasm for walks and playing ball.

I went through thirty-nine days of accumulated mail, paid the overdue bills I couldn’t identify on-line and restocked the refrigerator. Now what? During my travels I rekindled some old friendships, now I have to work at keeping them viable and active that will require both time and effort.

Frog needs some repair and renovation to improve her ability to travel rough roads. I was disappointed with how she responded to the rough spots we hit along the way. They are just minor things. She needs improved access to the storage space under the bed, clasps on cupboard doors and drawers to prevent them from coming open when I hit a bump in the road, a method of keeping the table from sliding and banging around loose and into the corner of the cupboard and the refrigerator. I should be able to get her in good shape for our next adventure planned for May.

I also have my writing projects. A novel, PSILOCYBE DREAMS, that I just finished editing for, I hope, the last time. Now I have to start submitting it to agents and publishers.

I am starting a new project that I am very excited about: Samuel Ha-Nagid was born near the end of the 10th Century. He was a Rabbi who wrote poetry of love and God and wine and war in both Hebrew and Arabic. Some of his poetry survives today. He became the Caliph of Cordoba’s right hand, his Viser, his Chief-of-Staff, the General of his armies. He was never defeated on the field of battle. They were a team, a Muslim ruler and a Jew in a time of enlightenment, education, literacy and tolerance that lasted over three hundred years. What happened? There’s a story to be told and a trip to Cordoba, Spain for research.

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We stayed in a KOA campground in Lincoln City, OR. The people were nice, the place average. Frog’s hot water heater didn’t work, nor did the combination radio, TV and DVD player. Frustrating.

Charlize has decided I belong to her and am in need of both comforting and protection. About four AM I woke up thinking about Rosalie’s last minutes and started crying. Charlize jumped off her bench and came over to stick her nose under my arm determined to comfort me. It worked. The next day in Old Blue she barked when a highway construction flagman approached to kibbutz about Frog. Not incessant yapping like some dogs do, just a sharp warning to let the person know she was on duty.

We stopped at a RV sales, service and parts store in Newport to find out why the water heater wasn’t working. It turned out to be just a case of my ignorance. There are two switches for the water heater.The one accessible from outside Frog, controls the propane gas flow. Another switch, inside the cabin, controls the electricity for the starter. While Frog is in use I am supposed to leave the gas switch on. When I am ready for hot water I have to turn on the electrical switch inside, under the sink. When the later switch is turned on a red light goes on that says: “reset”. I thought something was wrong and spent three days trying to read the owner’s manual and figure out how to reset the thing. It cost me twenty bucks to find out I was just too impatient. After awhile the burner ignites and the red light goes off. Now I have to find the manual for the DVD, TV and radio device and figure out why I can’t make it work. Before this trip is over I’ll be a qualified RV mechanic.

We stopped many times today to stare at the amazing scenery along the Oregon coast. Wave follows wave, long lines separated by time and space. Some break over, spilling white turbulence, before arriving at the rocks. Others crash against those stalwarts. Not all of the huge rocks constitute the shoreline cliffs. Some stand out in the Pacific, as outposts, forward observers, battered, ceaselessly battered, fighting against the inevitability of erosion. A few of the outposts defy reason. From those sprout one, sometimes more, ridiculously determined evergreen trees. I have no idea what kind of trees they are. Probably, as my ten-year old granddaughter advises, I can Google it, but where’s the fun in that? Too easy.

 

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The frustrations of the last four days before my obsessively determined departure date are over. Who would believe that a newly single adult male and his dog could experience so many problems trying to get out of town?  But all came together and Charlize and I, comfortable in Old Blue and pulling the Frog, were the last to board the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

Old Blue is the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 in charge of making our journey possible. The Frog is my brand new, excellent and comfortable, albeit slightly crowded with both of us in attendance, R-POD camping trailer. Frog pulls like a dream sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.

The purpose of this road trip is to try to understand what I will do with my remaining years. I’m seventy-six years old and was married to the only girl I ever truly loved for fifty-two of those years. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own and Charlize, my just adopted three-year old rescue German shepherd, is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.

We traveled familiar roads, taken previously with Rosalie, to Port Townsend, Sequim, and Port Angeles. Once west of Port Angeles we were in new territory. We took a short detour to see what the destruction of the dam had wrought to the Elwha River, now flowing grey with silt and debris, but I hadn’t seen it prior to the return to a more natural state. Undoing our well-meant but destructive “improvements” to Mother Nature may take some time.

Decided, at the last moment to forego the civilized amenities of an RV park in Forks and pressed on to the Kalaloch campgrounds, where my Senior Pass to all the National Parks and Recreational Lands bought a night for only $7, there are sone advantages to being “senior”.

We are about fifty or sixty feet above the beach, where gentle breakers provide soothing, monotonous background to my day of calm healing, away from the reminders of our house, her things and a previous life. Charlize keeps close watch on me. She seems to need respite from her previous life as much as I do.

Half the campground is closed, the road barred by a red and white-stripped railroad-crossing-type gate. I suppose only those seeking solitude find their way to this place, normally rain soaked but now dry. There are thirty odd camping spots in the open half but when I went to bed last night only seven were occupied. Charlize and I walked the place before and after dinner and not a single person greeted us, everyone holed up in their campers. In the fifties my family used to do a lot of car camping, with a luggage trailer and big umbrella tent. The only type of vacation my folks could afford. My sons and I backpacked. Rosalie wasn’t much interested in camping, preferring modern plumbing. I remember campgrounds as friendly places.

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