Tuesday, May 31, 2016


My youngest brother, Tim, is dying of colon cancer and I'm feeling so bad for him. We had a falling out last summer when things became testy between us while our mother was living out her last months in a long-term care facility in Northfield. There were several of us who broke ties with Tim or was it Tim who moved on. Regardless, he needs us now.

My sister Jackie has remained in sporadic contact with him and it was she that he confided in recently about the struggle he's in. She called me to pass along what he'd told her. I was out on a ride and listened while I pedaled along not quite sure of what to make of it and I'm ashamed to say, allowing our falling out to overshadow all of what Jackie was telling me. I returned my phone to my back jersey pocket, said a prayer for him and tried to find the rhythm I'd been enjoying before her call. But I kept thinking about Tim and what he might be going through and there's no way I could come anywhere close to appreciate any of that. I called Keith to tell him what Jackie had told me. Neither of us were ready to let our guard down just yet.

I sent Tim a text as I rolled into Northfield and told him I was sorry for what he was going through and that I was available to help him in any way he needed—all he had to do was ask. I didn't feel comfortable calling him, unsure if either of us was up for that.

I spoke with Jackie again last week and she told me of a recent visit she'd had with Tim while taking him to a doctor's appointment. She told me that he looks so ill and so thin that his clothes are falling off him because he can't eat and has lost so much weight. He has little to no money for necessities because he can't work in his condition but he's too proud to ask for help. She was crying as she encouraged me to reach out to him.

And I did.

I hung up from Jackie and gave Tim a call. He sounded tired on the phone but he was pleasant. He tried to tell me a little of what he was dealing with and how the word "overwhelming" doesn't quite do it justice. He said he's on a low dose of Percocet to help with the discomfort he's feeling although he's not in pain. It helps to take the edge off as well. He's incontinent and that adds another layer of difficulty to an already difficult situation. I stressed to him that I'm here if he needs me and to not consider me a last resort. He thanked me and I told him I loved him and that I cared about him as does everyone in our (at times all too dysfunctional) family. It was a nice conversation.

Jackie has been the main one in our family to help Tim with the myriad of appointments to be scheduled and forms to be filled out as he seeks to find out for certain what he's up against medically and what financial assistance may be available to him. Tammy and I will now be taking over from Jackie as it's simply easier for us considering Tim lives on our end of town.

I was going to take him to a doctor's appointment this afternoon but as I was driving there I called him and he told me there was a change of plans and that he wouldn't need a ride until this Thursday, two days from today. "No problem," I said, "is there anything I can get for you and bring it over?" I asked. He took some time to do a mental inventory of needs and mentioned he could use some laundry soap and Boost: a nutritional drink which is the only source of food he can stomach. I stopped at Walgreens on County Rd 11 in Burnsville and as I walked the aisles to find what I was looking for I tried to mentally prepare myself for seeing him again, thinking about what Jackie had said about how ill he looked and how she felt he should probably be in hospice care.

How can you ever put yourself in the shoes of someone going through something such as this? How can I begin to understand the emotion he must be feeling as he stands on the edge of this cliff called life and looks out over the edge, unsure of what to honestly expect when he loses his footing and leaves us. I can't begin to imagine what he's thinking and feeling, but I try.

I worked my way back along a winding road to the cluster of townhomes where he lives in the basement of one he was renting from a woman. He was waiting for me, seated in his truck in the driveway. I tried not to be too upbeat. I made sincere eye contact with him and whatever stupid small-talk came to mind.

Jackie was right. She hadn't overstated how bad he looked. I wouldn't have recognized him had we passed on a sidewalk. He's aged at least 25 years in the last 8 months and it's so incredibly sad to see. We talked a little before he began to cry. I embraced him and told him I loved him and that I was there for him. It was so sad. He doesn't deserve this.

I only stayed a few minutes. He wasn't up for this and I didn't want to stress him any more than he already was. I reached out to some siblings on my way home but I didn't realize my phone's volume was turned down and I couldn't contact anyone. Maybe it was for the better as I was still trying to process my time with Tim.

I texted Tammy and Rachel and Keith and Tracee when I got home.

I was out walking the dogs tonight when Tammy drove by on her way home from the club. She pulled over and with a most concerned look on her face, she suggested we offer Tim our spare room upstairs—to come and live with us. What a great idea! I thanked her for suggesting it and asked if it was okay if I called Tim now to let him know. "Yes" she said. There was no other consideration to concern ourselves with.

I gave Tim a call and did my best to manage the pups while we walked and talked. Tim was thankful for the offer but said he'd have to think about it. I told him he could stay with us and it wouldn't cost him a cent. He could make his room up however worked best for him and we'd put the rest of his things in storage and that this would allow him to remove so much of the stress in his life and fight this cancer. He thanked me again for the offer but said he'd need a little time to think about what would be best.

"I get that" I said.

We would love nothing better now than to make our home his home and give him all of the comforts he could want for, for however long he needs.

He deserves that.

Monday, May 30, 2016

IBUs and CO2, Among Other Things.

We got our gardens planted just in time for some much-needed rain to welcome our flowers to their new home. It's always nice to have that work behind us. Tammy is a big help but once they're in the ground I'm pretty much on my own when it comes to tending to them. I don't mind—I find it relaxing to be out there putzing in the dirt.

We've been enjoying our independence (I think I've mentioned that before here but it really is nice) and occasionally going out for a glass or two of wine or beer. It's nice but I'm finding that I have an allergy to the hops used in brewing beer, especially IPAs or those beers with higher IBUs. I have to be careful to order a beer with a lower IBU, preferably something less than 10 or I'll wake up with a pounding headache that will stay with me the entire day. When in doubt I'll reach for a Not Your Father's Root Beer. They're so good and they have an IBU of zero which begs the question: is it really beer? Hmmm.

We drove into Minneapolis on Wednesday evening to see The Book of Mormon at the Orpheum Theatre. Oh my but that was funny! It's a Broadway production that's touring the country. I was laughing so hard at times that I was worried I'd embarrass Tammy but she was laughing too. Yeah, there's some inappropriate stuff in there that caused me to wonder should I really be laughing or even clapping? But then another ridiculously funny scene would play out and I'd be laughing as hard as ever and looking over at Tammy to see her reaction. Go see it if you get the chance.

Tammy is taking an online watercolor class. Yes! I've been wanting her to get her paints out for the longest time and now she is. She's always been very artistic (as was her mother) and I'm happy to see her taking the time to dabble in this again. Here's a link to some paintings she did in college. I wouldn't mind playing around with it too.

I had my first flat of the season while doing my loop to Jordan last week and it was the first time I've used CO2 to fill my tire. No doubt my cycling friends are wondering how this can be. I have no idea other than I like standing by the side of the road looking like...oh, never mind. So, one thing I learned from using CO2 is that the next day your tire will be very deflated as a CO2 gas molecule isn't the same as an oxygen molecule and the gas will much more easily dissipate through the rubber inner-tube. And yes, I'm a convert and CO2 will now be my go-to method for fixing flats out on the road. It's amazingly fast!

Speaking of riding -- I've been slacking on my bike and with the race in Lutsen less than a month away, I need to get a move on. I went out today for a longish 94-mile ride (albeit on my road bike—I'll be using my fatty for the race) where I pretty much just went through the motions. My right knee wasn't all that happy to be out there and as I said in my comments on Strava "I think I left about 50 watts of power on the back counter when I took off this morning. I hate it when that happens."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Then and Now, 1984 Revisited

Scott came into town from the east coast last week.

Back in 1984, we were both working for the FAA in Huron, South Dakota at the Flight Service Station providing pilot weather briefings, filing flight plans and meeting the needs of the local flying community.  There were 3 golf courses in the city and 2 of them would become a main outlet of ours during the warmer months as we whiled away our time in exile, serving our penance for having come up short in our training at Minneapolis Center.

Scott and I both joined the men's golf league which gathered one night each week at the main public course on the north side of town near the airport. I will never forget the first time we took the tee in front of at least a dozen others waiting their turn to do the same. Scott proceeded to hit at least 4 balls out of bounds before getting off the tee. It was an embarrassing moment that needed no words at the time. It could just as easily have been me. I made a passing mention of it when we met at Columbia Golf Course in Columbia Heights last week as I ribbed him about that cringe-worthy memory from our past. We laughed. We had some fun times together and although decades have passed since we've hung out like that it still felt like old times teeing it up with him again.

We golfed with Scott's good friend Dan and Dan's father, Jim Hebert. Jim was once a controller at Minneapolis Center as well, having been fired in the PATCO strike of August 1981. He went on to become a mathematics teacher and an accomplished sailor having sailed across the Atlantic and all throughout the Caribbean. And now he's become quite the cyclist having recently biked to Colorado and back. I would love to have had more time to talk with Jim.

All the while we were out there I was trying to live in the moment, wanting the day to never end. It was so nice being together with Scott again. I didn't fully appreciate how much I've missed that. He's a good friend.

I made the mistake of golfing again the next day with Bill from our league team. I don't think my rib injury is fully recovered enough to allow me to do that. I made sure to stretch as much as ever before beginning our round but with a temp still in the 40s it wasn't enough and when I went to golf again on Thursday for league play I had to pack it in after 3 holes with the pain in my left side having returned. It's still there but not as bad. I'm hoping to be back on the links in a couple weeks. From what I can gather online, I've got a weak core. Tammy says she'll give me some exercises to do to improve it so I don't have to keep going through this.

Joe Konietzko has retired! Joe hosted a party to celebrate his retirement last Friday at Buck Hill in Burnsville. It's always nice to see the familiar faces at these get-togethers. Enjoy, Joe. You're gonna love it!

I usually go through my phone's photo gallery to get ideas about things to touch on for my blog posts and a lot of stuff in there gets left on the cutting room floor. Last week I decided to add a few of those photos to the end of my entry and I think I'll continue doing that.

So, without further ado—photos from this past week or so...

A family of ducks along the 4th fairway at Crystal Lake.

Out to lunch with some fellow retirees, Jeff Ofstun, Ed Whitman and Mike Deml.

Sweet ride!

Storytelling with Bruce Steeples at Joe's retirement party.

Shawn, discovering the joys of fat-biking and having more fun than is allowed at his age!

Finally sitting down to catch up on some online reading and blogging. My laptop has been collecting dust lately.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Not a Scam, Golf Talk and Part of a Week of Pics

I wrote a blogpost a few weeks ago about concerns that I was being scammed. It turns out it was all legit. I received a check in the mail one week ago and promptly deposited it. Some friends were rightly suspicious and voiced their concerns to me on Facebook where their words had me 2nd guessing my decision to pursue the offer.  That little video clip I stitched together paid for my Crystal Lake golf membership for the year. What a deal!

Speaking of which...

I was on the golf course the other day and I couldn't help but notice how much I talk to myself when I'm out there—encouraging sorta stuff. I hit plenty of poor shots but I don't see any reason for berating myself. I sometimes see that in others and it doesn't seem to help. I quietly go about my business using a voice that's only audible to me as I discuss the options of my next shot. If my game's going poorly, I'll often remind myself that I'm golfing and I'm retired. What's not to like?

I'm feeling relieved that I'm able to hit full shots again as my rib injury appears to be no more. I've been careful to do my stretches before I get to the first tee and all throughout the round. Still, I don't want to get too overconfident that this problem is behind me and let my guard down.

I'm using a Garmin S6 Approach golf watch to give me the accurate distance to layup spots as well as the front/center/back of the greens. It's super helpful. The game's technology has changed so much since I last played and because I'm a techy sorta guy, I'm all in. The new Callaway XR clubs are working well, too. Even though I'm well past my prime with respect to swing speed and such, I'm hitting the ball further than I ever have. It helps that one of the members of our men's league team won the club championship a couple years ago and is good about offering advice to me. He gave me some key tips yesterday that may have taken me months to stumble onto by myself.

Another thing that's also helpful is the amount of information about golf instruction and tips that are available online. I spent at least two hours a couple rainy afternoons ago watching this channel and absorbing as much as I could, excited to put it to use.

I've adopted a routine to my days that more often than not leaves me exhausted by the time I find my way to bed at night. I'm usually up around 7 and walking the pups by 8 before either getting on one of my bikes or heading out for a walk. It's been almost 2 months since I've taken a day off from working out. I'm not actually working on a streak but it's hard for me not to notice and I suppose it's sort of becoming one. Golf fits in there somewhere. I was at the course yesterday from 1:00 until 8:00. Tammy mentioned something about becoming a golf widow. Retirement is hard work!

I'll close this with some photos from this past week as well as a video from a recent ride with Reid.

Mother's Day at Perkins!

Walking the pups

Judicial Road in Lakeville

Minnehaha Falls

Mendota Bridge

A rainy walk

Men's league last night

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Renewed Connections and Back in the Swing!

Tammy was asked if she would like to work as a nurse for the company that owns the group home where her mother stays. It would involve going to each of the 4 homes they manage and setting up pills in addition to some other nursing needs they have. It's very part-time at about 4 hours each week. She told them she would.

Her mother is doing well in her new surroundings and we're very grateful for that. I don't know that she's able to grasp that she's in an entirely new place and that's fine with us. She's happy and content and that's all we could ask for.

I've re-established a connection with Joe, my former stepson. It's been so nice to catch up with him and to see that both he and his brother Dave are doing well. And we have some key interests in common—Joe likes golfing and mountain biking! He told me he watches "the PGA religiously" and tries to make it to tournaments when they're in the area. Very cool. He talked about coming out so we can get together and play some golf. I would love that!

The photo to the left is of Joe with his wife Susie and their family. What a beautiful family. I'm so happy for him/them.

Rachel has been roommates with RaeNelle since September. This living arrangement has been by far the best she's had since leaving home for college 5 and a half years ago. RaeNelle recently lost a dear pet cat, Margot, but she still has a kitten, Greta. What started out as a "therapeutic doodle" for Rachel became a cherished gift for RaeNelle when she presented the finished piece of art to her in remembrance of Margot. I love the imagination that went into this.

Rachel has become somewhat discouraged about trying to gain acceptance into a Physician Assistant program. It's so competitive with very few class seats in comparison to the demand. St Kate's program in St Paul receives close to 1000 applicants each year for 32 seats and is pretty typical of what she's up against. I don't blame her for being discouraged and beginning to consider other career options. I don't think she's given up on her PA dream entirely but I think she's looking at other options in the medical field which may also involve a more roundabout way into a PA program. She's sharp as can be and I have no doubt that she'll find her way to where she's supposed to be.

I met Reid at the trailhead in Mendota Tuesday morning to ride the river trails to the Bloomington Ferry Bridge. Our plans to race our mountain bikes in Lutsen in late June are still on and he's wanting and needing to get some miles in his legs for the 69-mile distance. It's one thing to finish it but you want to be able to finish strong. We'll meet again this coming Monday and increase the distance a little as well as the intensity.

My next-door neighbor Bob and I played 18 holes of golf yesterday afternoon and the rib injury that's had me only able to focus on my short game for nearly two months appears to be fine. I played the first 9 holes trying to hit 3/4 shots, being careful to not stress myself. I felt fine but I was playing terrible golf, scoring a 52. I was careful to continually do the stretches I need to do to avoid more injury. I felt comfortable enough on the back 9 to begin hitting more full shots. I scored a 41 and was very pleased. Men's league starts tonight and I wanted to have at least one round in me before we begin. I think I'm good to go!

This retirement thing is tough work! Between a walk I took yesterday morning and 18 holes of golf in the afternoon, I logged over 18 miles of walking.

Speaking of men's league—I better get a move on. I'm due on the tee in an hour.

Here's some video from last Sunday morning's ride along the Minnesota River trails.

Enjoy! I did!!