Friday, August 28, 2009

Hangin' with the Sisters

“I’m goin’ to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
I’m goin’ to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
They got some crazy little women there
And I’m gonna get me one”

So this year’s Sisters’ Weekend brought the sisters inland to Kansas (aka Kanas) City, MO during its second hot spell of the summer. (NOT Kansas City, Kansas (or Kanas).)

6 or 7 years ago, my sisters and I decided we were becoming a cliché. We saw each other at funerals and weddings. Sure, we live spread out across the states; that was our excuse. But we really like each other and even e-mail and twitter can’t compete woith face-to-face flesh.

So one of us, I’m betting it was Janis, got this organized and every summer, the four of us set aside a weekend to meet up, hang out and have some fun. We’ve met in LA, Charlotte, Winona Lake, and Salt Lake City. This year, with sister Jan in the midst of her latest adventure, that being seminary in KS, the choice was obvious.

The sisters include Jan, Lynne, Kris and Janelle. One of these gals is married to the baby brother but really, she’s so much more fun at these events than he would be.

Setting a date is tricky but once we agree on that, Jan goes to work with her travel agent. That lady labors to get the air travelers to the airport at about the same time and also coordinates departures in an efficient manner.

Jan remains the financial secretary. There was no election but really, no one complains. She lets us know what ¼ of the cost will be and we send her the money. If she has figured correctly…and so far, she’s batting 1000…everything is covered with that payment. If there’s a balance at the end of the weekend…and this is where it’s so good for Jan to handle this…it gets deposited for next year. At least one sister is uncomfortable with balances and would find something to spend it on…for the sisters, of course.

Speaking of ‘things for the sisters.’ We have amassed a few goodies that we share…bracelets with sisters’ charm, monogrammed tote bags, visors, frames, and SISTERS T shirts. Kris and Janelle were walking through the airport in these fine purple shirts when a woman asked them, “And where is your gym?”

Jan’s daughter, Sarah, lives in KS with her husband and two boys so we were off to their house for dinner and lounging around the pool. Then we checked into nice digs for the night.

Saturday, we toured the Nelson-Atkins Musuem of Art. Even the entrees in the restaurant were works of art. We also drove into the center of town for some shopping. Some of us are bigger on shopping than others. Some of us retreated into a coffee shop for a nice iced latte.

Then, someone in the car mentioned that she had heard of this place where there’s a 24/7 prayer meeting that’s been going on for almost 10 years. “It’s called the International House of Prayer, I think.”

“You mean IHOP?” asked the comedienne.

“Actually, yes. Its web site is”

So we fired up the GPS and searched. I will let the curious check out their web site. Suffice it to say that we entered a large auditorium with areas labeled and set aside for “Intercession,” “Healing,” “Praise,” “Worship,” and “General Prayer.” At the front, on a stage, a praise band was playing at a low volume. Through the doors came a steady stream of volunteers, sliding lanyards and ID over their necks.

We stayed only a short time but the gentle din of audible prayer continued unabated. According to their materials, the prayer service began in September 1999 and has continued uninterrupted. For a carload of life-time church attendees, this was a unique place in God’s landscape.

Lots of people link Kansas City and BBQ. Not the sisters. For Saturday night, we had reservations to Lidia’s Restaurant---fancy, Italian, and down by the river.
Sunday morning, three sisters drove to a small Methodist church whose current pastor is sister Jan. So we worshiped together, led by the seminary student.

Kris and Janelle had flown in on Friday and flew home on Sunday. I had chosen to drive, a 10 hour trip, all expressway. A young, cool friend of mine (I’m fortunate for an eclectic batch of friends) had loaned me a series of books on CD and all that time alone was a good time for me. Mike had thought I could bring him some ribs from KS. a car with barbecue sauce for hours? I told him, “They ran out.”

Like many penciled in summer activities, I wasn’t certain that I would be able to meet with my sisters. But like many dates in the summer, our current situation freed me to be with these special friends.

God’s goodness affords us gifts in many forms. This weekend, He surrounded me with my sisters’ love.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And on we go

So here we are, at the end of August, a busy month which culminates with the celebration of our lives.

Since early in April, we have experience the power of prayer in our home. So many of our community, locally and beyond, have been praying for us and continue to bring us to the Father's throne. Many have asked for miracles

Miracles come in many forms. We came home from the hospital and were afraid to look into the future. We know that fear does not come from God so this attack was from the other camp. And it was strong and real. Your prayers helped erect a wall that closed out the enemy. You can share in that victory.

Then, we ventured into the summer, months that we did not expect to enjoy. And, enjoy we did. We celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We have had a great summer; many sunny days at the lake, great times here in Kokomo, special time with special people like our grandsons.

Visitors have dropped by, to sit on the porch, to check out the Lotus, to tour the wood shop. Family, like brother Ken and his wife Janelle, have made the trek to our house.

Mike began the summer by creating a desk for me. He planned the project to be more complicated than anything he had made to date. It was a line in the sand that he needed more time to finish it. The desk is now in its place inside the house. He's begun the matching chair.

Then there was the treatment. We considered it prayerfully and God made it clear to Mike that he should undergo radiation and chemo whose goal was to slow the growth of the cancer. We spent the first week just sitting around waiting for him to puke and/or for his hair to fall out. When neither happened, we went on enjoying our summer and, yes, we know that your prayers have again been answered.

Now the treatment is done and Mike will celebrate his 58th birthday this Saturday. At the beginning of the summer, we didn't think we'd see this day together. And now we will.

I ordered a special cake from a local baker, The Cake Lady. She told me that her church has been praying for Mr. Mike. My mom arrives tomorrow from Florida. My sister and her son will stop by our home Sunday night on their way to Michigan, so Monday morning, we'll have a grand breakfast.

And what of Mike? At his latest appointment, his doctor told us to 'go and play.' We are not to come back until October, so a glorious month spreads out in front of us.

In mid summer, he asked our pastors if he could help out at the church and they asked him to teach a 3 week class on marriage, in October. His quick response was, "I won't be here."

He is now prepping for his classes. He will also rejoin his friends on the church music ministry for a second Beatles concert in October. When the bands put on the first show last year, Mike had said that he'd give anything to have a part. And now he does.

We marvel at the grace of our Father. We are humbled and grateful for the prayers and concerns of our friends. We are truly blessed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

From the wife of the chef.....

You know, the one who won’t cook what he wants so he is driven, by desperation and hunger, to venture into a grocery store and then into a kitchen, risking cut flesh (his) and ptomaine. I plead, “Not Guilty.” There’s another side, as is usually the case.

The chef was raised and fed from the hands of a gourmet cook. I mean it. In her heyday, when the house was full of hungry mouths, my mother-in-law was CEO of her household and her kitchen was only one of her mastered domains.

As mentioned in an earlier entry, she was and is amazing when it comes to ironing. She brags that she spends “7 minutes a shirt.” And it shows. Early in her marriage, I believe she ironed everything from sheets to undies. With all that practice, no wonder her work is on a level not to be reached by mere mortal women.

Her linen closets…as a guest, I was directed to open and search…have the neat appearance of magazine photos. Everything folded uniformly, sorted by color and use. Even the fitted sheets have been returned to their packaged shape. Um. My awe may betray some of my own lackings. I mean, if I never let anyone else open my closets, then they really only need to close, yes?

And then there is her culinary art. Oh my.

If you were to join her for lunch, you would find some sort of hot entrée, sauced with amazing skill, and presented on a plate that complimented the food. You would find tableware that matched (even the spoons) and a cloth napkin.

If you have tried to cook, you would appreciate the sauce, especially.

If you were a guest, the tableware would be silver, the napkins linen, and mostly likely you would dine sitting on high backed chairs in the high-ceiling dining room.

Breakfasts and suppers were equally grand. And did her family appreciate it? I don’t know but I know that they liked to joke about how they did NOT like it, certainly in the presence of future wife and daughter-in-law. The stories were often repeated with embellishment that grew with the retelling.

The favorite story was titled “Pepper Steak.” Apparently, the chef had prepared pepper steak and had peppered it with a heavy hand. One diner (do I believe this?) tossed his steak across the room and complained that it had been a perfectly good steak and why couldn’t they just eat plain food?

I thought pepper steak involved green peppers. Oh well.

At any rate, early in my wife training I was instructed by my skinny husband that he would not eat fancy food. He would remain underweight and it would be my fault, of course. He wanted PLAIN FOOD. Then I would listen to the pepper steak tale again as way of illustration of how this arm of the family handles displeasure at the dining table.

I was raised on pretty plain cooking myself, as that is what my dad liked. I know how to fix a great roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy and corn and salad and rolls, and I can get it on the table with everything hot except the greens. It was our family Sunday dinner and I learned this from my mom.

Personally, I think a great piece of meat, cooked correctly, needs only a little salt to bring out the best. But I ventured timidly into some fancy, usually with the pepper steak story in my mind. He could add what pepper he needed.

As our kids got to the sports/activity stage, I devolved into entrees that could be kept warm in the oven, waiting for the diner’s return. One such dish is my son-in-law’s favorite. Chicken and rice. Right, Jerms?

As for grocery shopping, that was my regular chore and it was a joyful time for me. I never took my kids along so for an undisturbed hour, I could cruise the aisles and spend money without a lot of guilt. My list was basic and it rarely varied.

Grocery shopping for our family changed abruptly one day when my husband went with me. He had not been inside a grocery store for a long time and I couldn’t help but notice that his face lit up like he was a child looking at a Christmas Tree.

To wit:
“How many kinds of apples are there? What are those green ones?”

“Chocolate milk? They sell CHOCOLATE MILK? How come you never buy chocolate milk?”

“Here. Get some good ice cream.”

And my personal favorite

I’m not complaining. It did help me see the mundane through new eyes. And is it hard to get him to run that errand? Uh, no. In fact, at the lake where the first chore used to be ‘check to boat,’ it is now ‘go to the grocery store.’

And yes, he has become a Food Network groupie and we DID travel to NYC to dine at Tony Bourdain’s restaurants. Tony was not in, alas.

And it is true, as I brag to everybody, that at the lake, Mike does all the cooking. From his signature breakfasts (Salsa Eggs with extras) to steaks and cobbed corn, the fare is good AND it is prepared by someone other than me. The chef usually handles clean up as well.

But, really, if the hub asked me to make that onion/tomato/mushroom thing, I would do it. However, without his touch in the fixing, it would lack something in the taste.

So, cook on, my dear. It is yet another of your talents.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chef Michael Shares a Secret

I would like to depart from my usual drivel and suggest cooking something. Some time ago, probably after watching too many Tony Bourdain shows on the Food Network, I decided to learn to cook. I have no delusions about being a foodie or a gourmet chef, although I have dined at both of Tony’s restaurants in New York City. I simply wanted to learn to cook what I like to eat. I know that this is selfish, but I admit to being selfish. I know what I like to eat and if I can’t get someone (my wife) to cook it for me, then I can cook it myself. If I screw it up then I take the blame. Also, if you can cook it yourself, then you can cook it whenever you want and you do not have to wait for dinner time. You do not have to share, either.

This recipe is not complicated. Anybody with a room temperature IQ can follow this recipe. Even a stove-shy man can cook this and I guarantee that it will come out tasty. Please forgive me if this piece seems to be directed toward men, but the recipe is so simple most women who are real cooks will turn up their noses at it. On the other hand, a smart woman will cook this for her husband, boyfriend or whomever and tell him that she made it especially for him. Serving it in bed might not be a bad idea, but we will not go there.

First of all, you men need to go to the grocery store. Now I am aware that that is a strange and uncomfortable place to most of you. Suck it up and be a man and go there. Personally, I find the grocery store to be my favorite store, next to the Ducati shop. Groceries are a lot cheaper. You might think about printing this out and taking it with you to the grocery store, as any clerk can help you find the ingredients if you are totally helpless.

Go to the produce section. That is where the vegetables and green stuff are located. Grab someone who looks like he knows what he is doing and ask where the onions are stacked. Buy one large sweet Vidalia onion. Look around for the tomatoes and buy one medium sized, red tomato. Look around again and get one lime and a container of mushrooms. Go to the check out and pay. It will not be more than $3.

A word about mushrooms is in order. You will find that you can buy them cut up or whole. Real men do not buy the already cut up mushrooms. The reason is that if you buy those, you cannot use your really cool, super sharp cooking knife. For what it is worth, I cooked this recipe last weekend and nicked myself with my Global knife. That sucker is so sharp that I was bleeding all over and didn’t even know I cut myself. Four days later, it still hasn’t healed. Some men should not be permitted to play with knives.

Anyway, go home with your purchases. Get out two medium frying pans and put each on its own burner on the stove. Turn on the burners to low. Put about 2 tablespoons of butter in each of the cooking pans and while it is melting, mix in a tablespoon of olive oil. Swirl the mixture around the entire cooking surface so that it is coated.

While the butter is melting, take out the onion and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Put the pieces into one of the pans. Take out the mushrooms and slice them lengthwise. You do not want equal amounts of onions and mushrooms. 2 parts onion and one part mushroom is about right. Take out the tomato and slice it into bite sized pieces. Put these into the pan with the onions. Do not put them in with the mushrooms, yet.

Another word about mushrooms is in order. When you cook them, there should be enough room in the pan for each mushroom slice to lay flat in the pan. I know this because I read Julia Child's book. The mushroom deserves respect.

Cook the mushrooms and onions until they are golden brown. It should take about 5 minutes. The tomatoes should not be brown. If they are, you burned them, you dolt. They should be red and squishy.

Take the pan of mushrooms and dump it into the pan with the onion and tomato. Mix it thoroughly. Put two more tablespoons of butter into the mix and melt the butter. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Take the pan and dump the contents into a bowl. Now, cut the lime in half, and using your manly strength, squeeze the lime until the juice runs down your leg. No, no, wait a minute, that was a line from Robert Johnson’s classic acoustic blues tune Traveling Riverside Blues.
I got carried away there for a minute. After all cooking is a lot like making music. Good cooks, like good musicians, are artists.

Squeeze the lime over the mixture and serve. This is enough for two, easy. However, if you are a selfish, sexist pig like me, you can eat it all yourself.

A final note. Some of you may be afraid of the lime. Trust me on this. DO NOT FEAR THE LIME. It makes the dish. If it is just too much of a stretch for your taste buds, the recipe still works without the lime. On the other hand, a little Tabasco sauce can perk it up. You make the call.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out.

Mike out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chalk Marks on the Walk

The boys have been gone for a week but they left a large tracing on our sidewalks and our hearts.

Sidewalk chalk is such a great invention. In their home of San Antonio, I don't know how long Drew and Noah can stay outside to create such art when the summer comes. Folks from down there say that for 3 or 4 months, it is normal to move from air conditioned rooms to air conditioned cars to air conditioned stores, etc. when the temp rises to the high 90's and 100's.

I know that when we were there in June, the heat was oppressive by 11 AM and life slowed down until around 8:30 as the sun was setting.

Here in the more temperate clime, the boys created great, lengthy pictures that told stories. Train tracks, great circles around what they IDed as cats and dogs, and the occasional D R E W, underlined. All in a rainbow of colors.

I walked over their work and marveled at its staying power. Then, Monday, we had a much needed rain shower and while the grass was relieved, the chalk art washed away. The last few tangible remnants of their time with us are fading. In our hearts, they are stamped forever.

Not to belabor the point with the heavy, obvious metaphor, our lives are described as a vapor. We need to leave more than chalk marks on cement. My dear husband will someday move on and in his place will be the many people he has touched in his life. They have had time to come and tell him themselves. They STILL have time to drop by. What a gift for Mike and for them.

Today, Wednesday, Mike finished his radiation treatments. The oncology center celebrates such events. There is a bell ringing ceremony and the staff gathers to applaud. Then hugs and thank yous and "Go and enjoy your life."

Zach captured it all on video and then we went out to breakfast. Time now to live, no tubes, no appointments for a while.

Next on our agenda: Mom arrives from Florida 8/28 and then we all get to celebrate Mike's birthday, 8/29.

God is good. His mercies are everlasting. Again (and again and again), thank you for your prayers for us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

End of Week 5

The big news is that we are done with chemo. Doctor decided that 5 weeks was sufficient so the hub is unplugged and anxious to get back to aerobatic flying.

He has three more radiation treatments; they call this ‘coning down.’ So, on Wednesday, when that is finished, the staff hosts a ceremony where the hub gets to ring a bell and they will all applaud. After that, Mike has new lab work and then a meeting with his oncologist on Monday, August 24.

The boys headed back to San Antonio on Tuesday, arriving late Wednesday. And yes, the house is quiet. It’s also a little less cluttered (not their fault…we just gave up) and now I’m going room to room cleaning. I mean serious cleaning…I’m scrubbing baseboards with a toothbrush and repainting chips. One room down and in the middle of the second room.

Over the years since we moved into our home, there have been times when we shook our heads over all the room we weren’t using. Then, there have been times when the house is full to overflowing and we’re thankful for the space to welcome. With the fall coming, we may be filling up again so this might be the last time for awhile that I scrub so deeply. I reason that I can’t clean around bodies.

At Mike’s doctors’ encouragement, we are actually looking at a few trips in September. Mike wants to go back to Gettysburg. Zack has never been there. Apparently, you can rent horses and a guide, and trot along the tree line. I’ll be waving from the car. That cruise may actually happen. There are a few still left in September.

The question on many minds is “How’s Mike?”

Right now, he’s good. No, make that great, with the tubes disconnected. He’s tan and busy, eating well, riding his mountain bike, finishing up the desk, starting on the matching chair. It’s so easy to slip into the fantasy that the doctors were wrong and he’ll continue to heal. Was it all a mistake? A dream? Alas, no. But for now, we can put the illness far away in the corners of our brains.

He and Zack were doing something yesterday in the garage with the transmission of the Lotus. “Something” involved hoisting part of it up with a cherry picker and then trying to fit another part to the bottom. They ended up with ONE piece of metal contraption so I guess they were successful in part. However, this thing is not ‘in’ the car now. It is resting sideways on the garage floor. Don’t know. Didn’t ask.

My mom, who lives in Melbourne, Fl, turns 86 on 8/24. She's flying up at the end of the month. Between our families, we have a bunch of birthdays that week. INCLUDING one Michael Bolinger, who will turn 58 on 8/29. Each year, on that date, I am no longer the older woman in his life.

Every January, I fill out our calendar for the year, noting birthdays and anniversaries. I’m not too good at sending cards but I do ‘think about’ the person/persons on the special day. In May, when Mike’s surgeon told him to come home and connect with hospice, we did not think we would celebrate his next birthday. Strange to type that.

SO, August 29 will be party day at the lake. We’re going to have a pitch in kind of thing around 7 PM, as even friendly Lake People don’t want to miss the sun. If you are within driving distance and want to come, come. I mean it. If we ‘plan’ (this is the lake you know) for 20 and 50/500 show up, we’ll just run to Kroger’s for more stuff. No presents, please. The Guest of Honor has been given the ultimate gift and you can’t top it.

If you are one of our friends from far away and/or you won’t make the lake, know that we will be celebrating and thanking God for His goodness.

If you would like to send the hub a card or note or something, you can mail (remember mail?) to our PO Box or if you know our home address, you can send it there.

Daughter Delight told me that I should be slow to share personal info on my blog. I guess that same caution should be used for our address, so the PO Box is in place should anyone wants to send Mike a note.

PO Box 0582
Kokomo, IN

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above all heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Mostly True Flying Story

Any one who aspires to learn to fly an airplane is soon exposed to flying stories usually told by pilots who got their licenses before Wilbur and Orville got theirs. It is often said that you can learn more useful information about flying than you would ever learn out of a test book or by sitting in a class, simply by sitting in an old hangar and listening to the local aviation legends telling their stories. You would be surprised how often a little tidbit that you overheard in the hanger helps you out of a tight spot in the sky later on.

I think that the best flying stories come from naval aviators. This is because the Navy doesn’t give those gold wings away to just anybody. A naval aviator has to be fairly bright, but not too bright, have superior hand-eye coordination, the ability to multi-task like a Cray computer, and have the absolute, naïve faith that nothing is ever going to go wrong, the airplane is not going to break, the weather is always going to get better, and if none of this turns out to be true, the superior skills learned by our intrepid aviator will allow a quick solution to the impending disaster.

Most naval aviator stories are told in a certain style and with certain mannerisms unique to the naval aviation community. First, the teller must never brag. In fact, the teller must be very careful to emphasize just how badly he screwed up to begin with. Then the teller must carefully outline how bad it really was, making sure the listeners are duly impressed with the hopelessness of the situation. Then the teller carefully goes over all the options that were available to him, setting forth the pluses and minuses. Finally, the clever, ingenious, not-in-the-manual solution is shared with the listener, the teller maintaining that it was all luck that he is here to tell the tale. The rapt listener is then impressed with the stupendous skills of the aviator and goes on to tell the story to any eager listener.

Now it is not surprising that some of the stories have been retold a time or two. The subsequent teller always being quick to say that “I wasn’t there, but I know Fred, who told it to me, and Fred heard it from Tom, who’s sister is married to the aviator, and she said he wouldn’t lie.” You get the idea. Fourth step hearsay. It is not surprising that some stories over time have grown to mythic stature.

Having said all this, I will tell you a mostly true flying story. I know it is true because I was the co-pilot on this little adventure. The pilot, of course, was a naval aviator to the core and was my dad.

A local businessman needed to get to the east coast because of a business emergency. He owned an almost new Cessna 340, which is a twin engine, eight passenger private airplane. The owner did not have a pilot’s license, relying instead on hiring charter pilots when he needed to go somewhere. On this particular day, his usual pilots were otherwise occupied, so the owner called my dad to ask if he would make the flight.

Let’s think about this for a moment. You get asked to fly a fairly new airplane, to somewhere fun, on someone else’s dime. Even better, you get to fly a bigger airplane than you normally fly and it goes faster, too. Hmmm. About 2 seconds later, Dad said he’s in and did I want to go as co-pilot? Hmmm. Get out of playing lawyer for the afternoon. Fly a neat new airplane. Go somewhere fun. Two seconds later we are out the door to the airport.

When we got to the airport, we both reviewed the pilot information manual, which is kind of like the little book you get when you buy a new car. I wrote down the approach speeds, stalling speeds and other info on the back of my hand. Combined we looked at the manual for about 1.5 minutes. Dad figured out the fuel system and the various adjustments to get the plane safely airborne. I preflighted it. As they say, we kicked the tires, lit the fires and off we went. After arrival, we had dinner while our benefactor made bags of money doing whatever he needed to do. As soon as he was done that evening, we launched westward to Kokomo.

Also, in true naval-aviator fashion, now is when the story really begins because it truly was “a dark and stormy night.” A check of the weather prior to take off revealed an unbroken chain of thunderstorms, severe turbulence, hail, sleet, possible snow and icing conditions over the Appalachian Mountains and that there would be no services provided by the flight attendants. In true naval aviator form, Dad had a mission to fly and a little water was not going to stop real men like us from completing the mission.

All was well for about an hour. We were cruising at 12000 feet on course. We were using the onboard weather radar to fly around the storm cells with help from flight service. We bounced around in the turbulence, but it was manageable. I wouldn’t say we were relaxed, we were way too cool for that, but we had been through this before and we had both been through worse. The autopilot was on and we were both monitoring the various instruments and gauges to make sure that all was well with the various systems. There we were – fat, dumb and happy, as they say.

That was when it happened.

There was a loud BANG and the airplane yawed violently to starboard. The airspeed dropped and the plane nosed over. Dad and I both instinctively stomped on full left rudder to correct the yaw without much success. Dad told me to put both feet on the left rudder pedal, hold it level as best I could and not to let it spin. He reduced power to the port engine, cut the fuel to the starboard engine and fished around in the flight bag for a flashlight. Pointing a flashlight beam out the window, we could see through the torrential rain that the wing was covered with engine oil and the prop was frozen in place. Not good. Bear in mind that all this took place in about 5 seconds.

It was then that Dad said calmly, “Well, I have never had that happen before. Very interesting." Incredulous, I said, “Let’s declare an emergency and get this bird on the ground”. Dad said, “Not so fast. We’re still flying and we’ve got a good engine”. I almost came unglued.

Dad called Philly Approach and said, “Philly Approach this is Six Niner Five Seven Five with you at 12000. We may have a little problem.” Yeah right, I thought. A little problem? Who are you kidding?

Approach: “State the nature of your problem Six Niner Five Seven Five.”

Dad said, “We seem to have lost our starboard engine. We have zero oil pressure.” His voice was calm, cool, with no distress.

Approach: “Do you wish to declare an emergency?” Definite tone of concern in the controller’s voice.

Dad then said to my astonishment “Negative. We request an ILS approach (instrument approach) to the nearest field with a repair facility… with a restaurant and motel.”

Approach: “Understand you do not wish to declare an emergency?” The previous tone of concern rose to incredulity.

Dad responded by saying, “We are not on fire and it’s still flying. I am not declaring an emergency. Just give me vectors to the ILS and I will put this bird on the ground.” His voice betrayed increasing impatience

The controller responded, “I need you to talk to my supervisor. He thinks you should declare an emergency. You have to talk to him.” (I think the controller wanted nothing more to do with these lunatic pilots who refused to declare an emergency with an engine out.)

Exasperated, Dad said, “You tell your supervisor that I am flying this airplane, not him. I am in command here. I am not declaring an emergency because I do not have an emergency. I have a minor equipment malfunction. Now give me vectors for the ILS approach.”

Properly chastised, approach complied with Dad’s request. He then proceeded to fly a perfect engine-out instrument approach to a field he had never been to, using an approach plate (a kind of map) he had looked at for all of thirty seconds, in an airplane he had never flown before, through a rain storm, at night, over mountainous terrain, and he made it look easy. And to him, it probably was. After all, it wasn’t a night trap onto a carrier deck.

You should know that I have made hundreds of flights with my dad. He taught me a ritual that I have continued to this day. That night was no exception. He shut the surviving engine down and said as he did after every single flight, “We cheated death one more time.” Even after Dad died, every time I got out of my airplane at the end of the flight I would say,” Well, I cheated death one more time.” For almost two years after he passed, I would stop by his grave and tell him about my flight and tell him that I had cheated death “one more time.” It seemed like the right thing to do.

I should tell you that I composed this remembrance in my head last week while I was riding my road bike on the Nickle Plate Bike Path in Cassville. The story just wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t figure out why it was bothering me. Then the answer came to me.

My remaining life has become like that flight. Health wise, my starboard engine is blown. It is a dark and stormy night and I am trying to get this bird back on the ground, so I can say, “I cheated death one more time.” Unfortunately, my doctors made it perfectly clear last week that they have no hope for my situation. To quote my oncologist, “This is going to take your life.” Not what one hopes to hear from ones physician. The only good thing about it is that I will get to see Dad again.

Then, we really will have cheated death, again.

Mike out.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

End of Week 4

Some of you have been with us since that first week of April. For others, if you want to gain some context, you could go back to early blogs.

Mike has surgery on April 6. The surgeon reported that the cancer has spread beyond the primary site. He gently encouraged us to return to Kokomo and enjoy what life we had left. “You’re not going to die this month. You’re not going to die next month.” So we looked toward June with a dark dread of THE END.

We cuddled and walked on egg shells, not wanting to argue about anything, not wanting to waste a moment on the trivial. We tossed and turned and our sleep was spotty. Mike had to heal from surgery and during those dark days, we thought we were seeing the bottom of the pit. We grieved for what we thought would have been our future.

We planned a funeral. We picked out the suit, the music, and the burial site. We fielded callers who droned on and on about how sorry they were. We cried.
Now within all of that, there were positives for both of us. God gently led us into scripture; friends ministered to needs physical and spiritual; voices and hearts from years past drew around us; we passed milestones – our anniversary, Mike’s retirement dinner, 4th of July at the lake – that we had not dreamed we would meet. And now, Mike’s birthday, at the end of August, will come and we will celebrate.

Week 4 of treatment was, again, not so bad. Mike is feeling a bit tired, to be expected. And he’s ready to lose the port, the tubes, the fanny pack. As for results, the doctor reports that they will reassess when treatment is over.

On the home front, we’ve settled into a routine that approaches normalcy. We’ve even begun to nip at each other occasionally when we get on each other’s nerves. And that has relaxed a lot of tension.

But emotionally, what a ride! It’s like a bad movie screenplay: the hero and his girl are trapped in an underground cave that is filling up with water. They realize and tell each other that the end is near. The water will rise and drown them. In the waning moments, it’s time to come clean, to speak honestly. In this case, they declare their love for each other. They confess that they are sorry, each, that they wasted so much time. They promise that if they had more time, they’d do it differently.

Then, there’s a brief quaking of the ground and the water recedes. Not all the way, just back to shallow. They look at each other, fresh from confession, and laugh. Then the water begins to rise again, faster.

Those quakes keep coming. So does the rising water.
And what we need to do is face each day, love each day, use each day, and stop dwelling on what’s ahead. We know, really we do, that we are in God’s hands and this time is part of His plan for us.

The week has been busy. We drove to friends’ farm for dinner. I thought I knew where we were going but I was wrong. In summer corn country, most intersections look alike. And, did I bring the note with the address and phone number? Well, no. (“So us,” my daughter would say.) Luckily for us, we were close and we were in a small community so when we stopped to ask, much of the town knew we were lost and were looking for us.

Two of my best buddies met me for breakfast and hugs.

There have been a few more Bakes consumed.

I have talked Mike into letting his hair grow. He looks like a golden lion. And, walking behind him, I notice that those great hair genes from his side of the family have brought out waves and curls.

Jeremy and the boys will begin their trip back to San Antonio early Tuesday morning. Then, we’ll be nearing the end of this treatment.

So that’s the news at the end of this week. I will spend this weekend in Kansas City with my sisters and the homestead will be all boy.

Again, we are so grateful for your prayer support. We’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

End of Week #3

3 down and 3 to go. Mike is doing well, feeling good, riding his bike and finishing my desk. While a layer of finish was drying, he knocked off another Arts/Crafts framed mirror.

A busy week at our house. Jeremy and Mike drove up to Chicago Thursday afternoon to watch the White Sox beat the Yankees. Jeremy worked some magic and got seats right next to the dugout along the 1st base line. Hiya, A-Rod!

They got there in plenty of time to watch batting practice. Mike has often remarked that the players “certainly aren’t skinny." This time he mentioned that he was amazed ‘how fast’ they are. He had hoped to see a stolen base and a home run. He got both wishes. These boys were seen on the Jumbo-tron although not by me. Apparently, someone considers 180 miles as “local” for black out purposes. The baseball boys arrived back home around 3 AM and both went to their next morning’s appointments. I think the crash came later.

While they were in Chicago, Zach and I took the other boys to our local pool, the Kokomo Aquatic Center, aka Kokomo Beach, for an annual fundraiser, The Duck Derby. We ate the free pizza and coke, and the boys got to jump in a Bouncy House. The race, alas, was going to take place about an hour after these very cute AND very tired boys could make it…as was also true for their caregivers…so we went home before the BIG EVENT. We DID get some photos for Mommy in San Antonio. Drew’s ‘rear view’ speaks loudly about how the night was going just before we decided it was time to go home and get to bed.

Saturday, Kokomo hosted the First Annual (I’m sure) Hope for the City Celebration in Foster Park, downtown. For months, we’ve all watched as the city Parks Department erected a new bandstand over what was once baseball diamonds. Saturday was the inaugural event. Many local groups and churches came, made music, passed out free food, signed up volunteers, heard words of inspiration and, basically had a good time with neighbors.

Our church’s band was first and, there in the corner playing rhythm guitar…who can that be? Is it? Yes! Zach Bolinger, by far the cutest guitar player I’ve ever seen, ever. Wait, second cutest. After that performance, The Cutest and I jumped up in the truck and headed north.

We continue to hear from friends, some local and quite a few from our past. Friends from my growing up church, First Baptist of Lincoln Park, are scattered, mostly at other churches, and they check in as well as share our needs with their friends. College chums are also circling us with prayer. Local friends keep dropping by for a chat. And we are so blessed to know that you are covering us, asking God to meet our needs.

Right now, some days are long. Some days are dark. Others get better if we stay busy. And it’s amazing how much we find to do. That’s a gift, also.

The week ahead will have special needs. Jeremy is winding down his job with Pioneer Seed and will prepare for the long drive back to San Antonio, around August 10. The grandbabies are having fun but they really miss their mommy. Zach continues to go with Mike out to his daily appointments.

It looks like an ‘eating week’ as I have lunch dates and we both have a few dinner dates. Then, on Thursday, I will be driving to Kansas City to meet up with three of my best friends, for our annual Sisters’ Weekend.

My sisters and I have made it a priority to set aside a weekend each summer and get together. We’ve rotated between various homesteads on both coasts and places in between. This year we’re headed inland. My dear sisters knew, as summer began, that I might not be able to come but Mike’s health is so good that my part of this is a go. To quote my eloquent guy, “If I’m puking my guts out, you’re going.” There’s been no puking but, well, OK.

God has allowed Mike and me extra time for planned activities. Mike has been able to share experiences with those that may live after him. Sweet memories of great times. So as we head into Week 4, we covet your prayers. I’ll keep you posted.