Got the OK from the doctor to resume my normal physical regimen. Good thing! I was going nuts sitting on my ass after 3 surgeries in two months. The good news is... no cancer! The other big news is that I'll be departing Woodstock, although the date for that is not yet set. I'll be getting un-Woodstuck.
"Woodstuck" is a term the locals have always used to describe somebody who moved to town, excited by living in the most famous small town in the world, only to become stuck with no way to get out.
I got Woodstuck over 40 years ago. Immigrated to the burg to immerse myself in the music scene, and to put my kids in safe schools. Got stuck. Long after there's any reason to be here, I'm still here.
Not moving very far away. Less than 20 miles, on the periphery of Kingston, but still out in the country and atop a mountain. A shorter mountain.
I will, however, be moving to an entirely different universe. I'll be living in an ordinary small town with no claim to fame, populated by people with a lot more sense and much smaller egos. No flocks of tourists.
The reason? I'm going in with my daughter and son-in-law to buy a house. They need all the help I can give them to care for my three grandkids, and I'm retired and happy to play the role of Mr. Mom. So, we'll be building an in-law unit in the basement of the new house for me. I'll be selling my house in Woodstock.
I've never lived in the town of Woodstock. That's too damned crazy. Town is full of rental houses for the transients, and shops and amenities for the tourists. The transients are artists, usually musicians or painters. An entertaining but addled bunch trying to continue to live the hippie dream.
No, I've always lived in isolation in the forest in the mountains to the west of Woodstock. That area belongs spiritually to Woodstock, isolated from the melodrama and mental illness. Every crazy artist and burned out far leftist must live for a while in Woodstock.
Another reason for the move is that I need somebody to look after me. I'm headed toward 70. No serious health problems, but living in isolation out in the mountains will soon be too much for me to handle. And, if I fall down or have a serious health problem, I will need to have somebody nearby to help me.
While I'm still completely independent, capable and mobile, I am old.
I'll be Woodstuck until my house sells. Might be a year or two. Or might happen in a hurry.
I'm ready. God has blessed the final chapter of my life... He has given me these beautiful and fascinating grandkids and He's given me a big role in rearing them.
I'll be commuting to my babysitting gig until the house sells. Then, Crazy Grandpa will move into the basement apartment. Happy days ahead, indeed.
Three surgeries in the past two months! Two months of enforced physical inactivity, opiate pain medications and not even being able to babysit my grandkids. I'm seeing the surgeon on Thursday, and if he gives me the OK, I will be able to resume my normal physical regimen of bicycling, yoga and weight lifting.
Kids fall down all the time. My grandkids, ages 1 through 3, are still learning how to control their bodies. The one year old twins fall down every 30 seconds or so. The three year old is starting to get her act together.
The worst part of my two month long struggle with health is that I haven't been able to get down on the floor with my grandkids to play and rough house.
Every aspect of my life is at a standstill because of the physical inactivity. Can't wait to get started again.
We all fall down.
Kids take it all in stride. If you don't get up when you fall and try again, you'll never learn how to walk. My grandkids fall down, scrape their knees, cry and show the boo-boo to grandpa. I kiss it and we start all over again.
I've been through this picking myself up and putting myself back together so many times. I no longer get depressed or angry about it. It just seems to be the reality of life. People get sick and die. Economic disasters strike from time to time. Completely unexpected problems overwhelm us.
My midwestern upbringing and Catholic indoctrination taught me stoicism. In rural Illinois in my day (the 50s and 60s), nobody wanted to listen to your whining, your excuses or humor your bitch. My family's background is hard ass Irish and German peasantry. I was taught from childhood that nobody was going to help me and that, if I wanted anything, I had better get it for myself.
This is quite a sensible philosophy.
I know how to put myself back together. I'll start out slowly with the physical exercise so that I don't hurt myself... the first consideration for an old fart. I'll get back down on the floor to play and rough house with the grandkids. Today, I got started playing music and drawing. (Even those things went by the wayside, since the opiates put me to sleep for most of the day.)
The biggest smackdown of my life was, of course, Myrna's death. Took me years to want to go on with life. It's still a struggle without her. 12 years ago, the money was flowing in from two big paychecks and we were thinking we were on the verge of retiring to travel the world in luxury.
Everything changed in a few moments.
Then the grandkids came along. I'm not ashamed to say that they gave me a reason to enjoy life and to be positive and enthusiastic again. Caring for them has become my full time job in retirement, and I'm happy with that. In a few months, I'll be moving into an in-law apartment in a new house I'm buying with my daughter and son-in-law so that I can be full time Mr. Mom to my grandkids. Goodbye, Woodstock! (A good thing. It's time to become un-Woodstuck!)
That will come to an end to, but experience has prepared me for that. I already know that the day is not so far away when my grandkids will have other things to do than hang out with grandpa.
Propelling tons of material into earth orbit or beyond is extremely expensive and very hard on the environment. Getting a single pound into low earth orbit can cost $10,000! Rockets are very expensive and dirty. Solution? A space elevator!
Something about this concept caught my fancy.
Liftport, the company behind this tech, is not as cranky as you might think. The concept is workable. Current holdup... materials tech. The string from earth to that great counterweight in outer space must be made of a single crystal of carbon fiber that is incredibly strong.
Back when this concept was first floated in science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke called this material "unobtanium."
But, carbon fiber tech is advancing rapidly. One day, unobtainium will probably be obtainable.
I am thinking all sorts of nonsense as I enter my second week of enforced rest after surgery. Next week, the surgeon will tell me whether I can resume bicycling, yoga, weight lifting and my other little physical fitness regimens.
I've even had to take a couple of weeks off from babysitting my grandkids. I can't pick them up. Doctor has forbidden picking up heavy things... and grandkids are kinda big now.
So, lots of hydrocodone and lots of sleep.
Political controversy is just too damned hard. I have to clench my teeth and hold in my gut for that stuff.
I am free now to imagine.
I wonder what kind of world my grandchildren will live in.
What a relief! My surgeon removed my appendix and a small part of my cecum in a laparoscopic surgery on Tuesday. And the verdict is... no cancer! Below, a video of a laparoscopic appendectomy.
The first surgeon I consulted before this operation, an (Asian) Indian, had wanted to do a laparoscopic procedure on my appendix, then open an incision to check my bowels. My GP vetoed that and sent me to a Chinese surgeon, who did both procedures laparoscopically.
Non-invasive surgery means less trauma to tissue, quicker healing and less pain.
Potentially struggling with cancer troubled me for a couple of months. The emotional weight of that worry has lifted. Three days after the surgery, I'm almost pain free.
My doctors advised me to sit and do nothing for a couple of weeks. No exercise, except perhaps for walking.
I'm facing a 3 to 4 week recovery, then I'll be able to care for my grandkids again. Doctors especially advised me against lifting heavy things during my recovery. My one year old grandkids already weigh about 30 pounds apiece.
And, my one year old grandson loves to use grandpa's belly as a trampoline.
Thanks to commenters for your support through this tough period.
One of the reasons I decided to drive cross country to Chicago last week... I'm facing serious surgery. I wanted to indulge myself with a little adventure. Might be the last time in my life that I'm physically capable.
I made it to 66 in very good health, so I'm lucky.
Today will be purge day. I'll be downing a solution of MiraLAX and water until I poop out my guts. Can't eat. Can't drink coffee. I'm restricted to clear liquids.
I learned from experience when Myrna was in the hospital that surgeons are far too impressed with their skills and tend to always predict positive results, so I'm skeptical of my own surgeon. What can I do? I don't have the knowledge to really evaluate his diagnosis. I've been through three doctors, all of whom disagree to some extent about possible treatment.
Oncologists tend to be much more blunt than surgeons, but I'm not yet at the stage of needing an oncologist. When Myrna was dying from cancer, we shopped around for an oncologist who was willing to treat her. The first was a woman who told us bluntly that Myrna would die in a few months and that the best we could do was to make her comfortable.
In desperation, we worked our way through several oncologists until we found one who promised to cure her, at least temporarily. That only led to what the surgeon described as "butchery." I had to pull the plug. The oncologist, who had been charging the insurance company $750 for each visit to Myrna's room, was furious.
Am I afraid? Worried?
Yes. I'd like to live long enough to see my grandkids reach adulthood. I don't know if I want to live with a colostomy bag, if it comes to that. My mother is almost 90. I just visited her in Illinois. She wishes that her doctor would recommend the colostomy bag no matter whether she has cancer. She's fed up with old age induced incontinence.
Yesterday at Mass, my priest anointed my hands and forehead and prayed for my recovery. I don't know whether that helps.
I retired four years ago, even though I could have continued working, to focus on doing the things I enjoy and to contemplate my mortality and my relationship with God. I've enjoyed this long period of rest and reflection, and I'd like for it to continue.
Only six weeks ago, I went through two surgeries for kidney stones. So, I know the drill. No much drama, really. You go to sleep and then you wake up, and somebody tells you the results. That's about it.
Both the diagnosis and outcome of my physical problems are unknown. CAT scans taken during my hospitalization for kidney stones revealed some abnormality in my appendix. All three doctors I've consulted disagree on what that abnormality might be. Everything from a cyst to a tumor.
So, my surgery could just be an appendectomy, or it could be major resection of the bowel. Won't know what happened until I wake up.
My 2011 Ford Ranger pickup truck's odometer read 101,240 when I departed Woodstock last week for a cross country trip to Chicago. My bicycle was strapped to its rack.
I'm going to drive the damned thing until it dies! No car payment!
Next week, I go under the knife for exploratory surgery. The radiologist found a little spot on my CAT scan. Might be nothing. Might be cancer. I brought along my bicycle because I'm trying to get in the best possible shape for a quick recovery from my surgery.
My mom turns 90 this fall and my sister is also facing serious surgery. I wanted to take the trip home to see them while I can. It's a fact of life, now. Every time I see loved ones might be the last time.
I've always loved cross country driving. Myrna did too. Back when we owned the Ford Expedition, we routinely drove the big SUV to Chicago. I've driven just about all the major routes from the West to the East Coasts.
I took my time on the way to Chicago. Even stopped at Hazleton, PA, hometown of Joe Maddon, the Cubs' manager. (Hadn't really intended that. I was looking for a place to stretch my legs and...) Madden is a small town boy.
The return trip turned into a relentless sprint. Hadn't planned it that way. I'd spent a night at the Super 8 in Brookville, PA on my way to Chicago. (Brookville is about halfway between NYC and Chicago. Here's an interesting webpage that calculates the halfway point between any two cities.) The prospect of another night in a Super 8 didn't appeal to me on the way home.
A lot of time to think during the 10 hours or so of driving in each direction.
I stopped in Detroit to visit a Facebook friend and take in a Tiger's baseball game. Saw a Cubs' game at Wrigley, too.
I'm ready now to face the surgeon's knife.
This was probably my last major cross country drive. I'm old. My eyes don't work so well any more. I suspect that the next trip home to Illinois will be for a funeral, and that doesn't leave time for dawdling.
Back in the glory days when Myrna was still here, we drove to Chicago to sit in with A.C. Reed, the great bluesman, at Kingston Mines. Here's his tune about pickup trucks:
That was so long ago.
27 years ago, I flew out to Portland to fetch Myrna. We drove her old Dodge Dart all the way to Woodstock. What an adventure! Every day with Myrna was an adventure.
The odometer read 103,464 when I pulled into my driveway. 2,044 miles total!
All three grandkids stopped by yesterday, a grand, hot summer day. I'm on grandpa vacation while my teacher daughter is off for the summer. No daily babysitting. So, I hadn't seen the kids in a few days.
That's a pic of the Peppa Pigs... my three year old girl's current YouTube favorite. The Peppa's are quite droll! Here they are, packing up, most likely to visit their grandparents.
I'm now the lonely old grandpa, waiting impatiently for the kids to stop by. I rushed home from Mass to put on the hamburgers and hot dogs. I finished most of the prep work before I attended church. Like my dad, I stood in the door and watched for my daughter and my grandchildren when they showed up late.
My one year old twins are moving out of the nursery into the big world outside. But, they are moving out slowly. They cautiously checked out the grass in my back yard. My three year old granddaughter will be ready for school soon. But, she still needs lots of mom and grandpa hugs to have the courage to navigate the world.
They'll need grandpa to nanny them for another four years. Then, everybody will be in school full time. Lately, it's occurred to me that I have to start planning for life after they all go off to school. Will I work again?
By the time the kids are all off to school full time, I'll be 70 and I'll have been retired for 8 years. Is it possible to return to work in light of that?
I thought that the picnic in the backyard would be kinda rowdy, but it was too hot and the kids hadn't seen grandpa for a while. So, my daughter and I spent most of the day holding the kids and reassuring them. Which is OK by me. Grandpa got his hugs.
The toddler asked if I would teach her to play piano! How can I do that and make it fun for her so that she continues to play?
For now, I'm deep in grandpa-ing. Next fall, the toddler will go to half day pre-school. She really needs the socializing with other kids, and the twins need to be able to do things on their own, without their sister lording it over them. I'll have all three grandkids half the day, and only the twins for half the day.
For the past three years, I've been enclosed in the nursery with the grandkids. A very quiet, slow and satisfying life.
The next four years will be their transition to school and social life. And, somewhere along that road, they'll need grandpa less.
Since my two surgeries to remove a kidney stone about a month ago, I've struggled to keep up my daily yoga practice. My prostate gland swelled to the point where I was conscious of it as an obstruction when I walked. And I was experiencing pain when I urinated and occasional incontinence. Just a few days ago, I successfully performed my full yoga workout for the first time since my surgeries. Pain, incontinence and swelling gone!
Note: the instructor in the above video: Yoga Exercises for Prostate is female! Yoga is female dominated to a degree that can be quite discouraging to traditional macho men who want to practice. I've met few male instructors. Classes are overwhelming female. Extreme leftist, pussified political views are common among women (and men) in the yoga world. Often, they won't even shut up about these views in class. Don't let this discourage you. Yoga is great.
I've been doing yoga for 15 years. Yoga provides all kinds of health and emotional benefits. I've was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate two decades ago. Quite by accident, I discovered that a certain combination of yoga postures caused my prostate to shrink. (This is something that I can actually feel.) No, my regimen is not like the one in the video above.
Yoga Journal publishes a Yoga Poses for Prostate Health page that, amusingly, features attractive women demonstrating the poses. I do some of these poses. Who wants to look at a hairy, ugly sweaty man, anyway?
Yoga is at the center of my fitness regimen. First, it rids me of any symptoms of arthritis. I have severe arthritis if I don't do yoga. So, even my ability to work on my fitness at any level depends on doing yoga first. Without yoga, I'd be crippled and sedentary.
I developed my regimen during a period of about 3 or 4 years of weekly lessons at Chelsea Piers, a health club in lower Manhattan built on piers over the Hudson River. My late wife, Myrna, and I attended classes together. I had been playing corporate league basketball for a few weeks. My entire body seized up and turned into a rock after one game. My doctor diagnosed me with severe arthritis the next day. I quickly looked to yoga for answers.
The instruction level in Chelsea Piers yoga classes is very good. Over the years when I attended classes I developed 30, 60 and 90 minute sets of poses that suited my needs. Although I do enjoy attending a class now and then, I don't feel that that is necessary for me. I do fine on my own.
I wish I'd discovered yoga when I was a kid. The benefits of yoga including greatly increased flexibility and improved aerobic strength. I was a very good three sport athlete when I was a kid. I would have been much better had I practiced yoga.
If you are suffering from an enlarged prostate, I recommend yoga. Start slow. Go to your local gym and get some good instruction. You'll need at least six months in a beginning course that meets once a week. Practice your lesson at home every day.
You'll sleep better, too. Yoga is a great relaxer and stress reliever.
Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles had always been one of my favorite paintings. I had a print hanging of it hanging on my wall for a long time. I think it's still up in my attic. This is my quickie felt tip pen version, done free hand.
I might do this again, this time with a straight edge. I might even take some measurements.
I'm trying to get back in the flow after a month of struggling with my health.