Today we pack – tomorrow we travel. We’re looking forward to the bright lights of Vegas and maybe some sunshine. Unfortunately, there is some rain in the forecast so we may not get away from the Portland weather after-all. I made our last dinner reservation yesterday for Edge Steakhouse in our hotel after a recommendation from a friend. A big dinner and a couple martinis should set the stage for my predictable nap during Barry Manilow’s performance soon after. It will be our final night of a week-long stay at the Westgate Resort and Casino. I’m sure we’ll be ready to get out of town and home to a more sedate life of retirement.
My wife has shifted her focus on finding our “forever” home to south of Sarasota from north of Tampa. She still wants to be as close to the beach as possible and prefers the builder in that area. I’ll just be glad when we finally make the decision and start to build. We still plan on moving a year from now with many trips planned in the meantime. Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas, Bali, San Francisco, Florida, Egypt, Kauai, Spain, Norway, and Russia have all been scheduled. My wife also wants to do a girl’s getaway to Savannah and Hilton Head. At that time, I’ll be headed to the Olympic Track & Field trials for a few days with the boys. We’re going all out on worldly adventures our first year of joint retirement.
On the boring, couch potato side of our lives, we continue to watch Grace and Frankie together, while I just finished both Season 2 of You and the 6th of Vikings. When we get back from Las Vegas, I’ll wrap-up the Season 7 finale of Curse of Oak Island and buy Season 5 of Better Call Saul. Even though both my wife and I were in the network television business for the majority of our careers, the only over-the-air programs we’ve viewed in months was the recent Super Bowl and post-game Masked Singer. Otherwise, it’s been a diet of cable or on-demand, our once-hated competitors. We’re both glad to be out of the business, as viewer ratings continue to diminish and performance demands grow unbearable.
Last night was Hak for “Date Night,” a welcome opportunity each week to abandon our tiny apartment. We went by streetcar, transferring to the other side of the river, our longest local rail venture yet. I did use the car yesterday to meet-up with a “coffee-group” that my high school friend invited me to join. “Leadership Meetings” are no longer a Friday lunch mainstay, so I’m seeking new friendship and a break from the indoor routine. My wife and I also got out for a Tuesday matinee showing of The Gentlemen via streetcar. All of these convenient, close-to-home activities will be left behind tomorrow once we pack our bags.
Punxsatawney Phil did not see his shadow, meaning that spring is quickly on the way. We’re waiting for Portland Zoo’s hedgehog to hopefully confirm this prediction. Also, today’s date is a palindrome, the first eight-digit, backwards-forwards reading identical numerical series in over 900 years. It’s also the day the Chiefs, once the Dallas Texans, return to the Superbowl in 50 years. They did win the fourth NFL-AFC World Championship game in 1970, the precursor to the trademarked modern day Superbowl. In fact, it was the Kansas City Chiefs owner, Lamar Hunt, in 1966 who “kiddingly” came up with the name to hype the annual battle. The media expanded on it using even more superlatives like “Super Week,” “Super Sunday,” “Super Teams,” and “Super Players.” It apparently became official after the first two AFC-NFC match-ups, as “Broadway Joe” and the Jets claimed the first AFC crown in Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts. This is the 54th (LIV) year of the distinctive roman numeral designation. It’s indeed a Super Day of football, shadow-hogs, and crazy numbers.
02022020 is where the craziness begins that ends with an LIV Champion. In the meantime lots of food and drink will be consumed. We’ll be having wings, the most popular of the Super choices. Speaking of crazy, as a pre-game warm up, I continue to watch the bazaar Netflix series, You. It reminds me of the twisted HBO program, Barry with Bill Hader. Looking out the two windows in front of me, there’s actually some blue sky today, although temperatures are in the mid-thirties. My run this morning was definitely not Super, with slow heavy steps through the trash-littered homeless camps of downtown. At least it was not raining, but the 3.1 mile route seemed endless. I was glad to finally arrive at my writing desk in front of the television between views of the rooftop next door.
Yesterday afternoon we went to see Uncut Gems with Adam Sandler, another Super strange story on this lazy first weekend of February. Then there was more butt-sitting as we finished Season 4 of Better Call Saul and started Grace and Frankie while feeding our faces with Chinese food. The Super Bowl will soon be over and while everyone else goes to bed with thoughts of work tomorrow, I’ll get ready for another Super day of retirement.
As I look back over the past 21 New Year’s Eve celebrations with my wife, 2 have been spent in the hospital, 3 with family & friends, 12 in fancy restaurants, and 4 at home with the dogs. Allow me to reflect on just this past year of memories that have been both good and bad, in no particular order of importance. Only two, including tonight, have ended with a relaxing night in a hotel room.
The Year in Review:
My son turned 45
Two of my wife’s daughters wed great young men, so I’m now twice a step-father-in-law, joining my expanded family of a daughter-in-law of now over ten years
The two very different ceremonies were at The Presidio in San Francisco and Powell’s Rare Book Room in Portland.
Both newlywed couples took gift honeymoons from us in Hawaii, while my son and his wife enjoyed our time-share condo in Orlando
We sold our stand-alone Portland condo in twelve days and at a profit.
My oldest grandchild turned 12 and he took up golf
My middle grandchild turned 10 and we help her with dance lessons
My youngest grandchild celebrated her first birthday and I started her college fund
My wife joined me in retirement just a few months ago, while I just enjoyed my third full year
We traveled together to Thailand, Florida, Phoenix, Tucson, San Francisco, Walla-Walla, New York, Indiana, Maui, Vancouver, Chicago, Steamboat, Seattle, and McMinnville.
We saw Elton John, Pink, Goo-Goo Dolls, and Train in concert
I grew my Ancestry family tree to include over 18,000 relatives
We helped free a Jeep stuck up to its front axle in deep Panama City Beach sand
I donated blood on several occasions
I finished with over 15,000 Buffalo Wild Wings points to use for future “Leadership Meetings”
We moved to a downtown apartment and started using public transportation
We lost cat Frankie and schnauzer Tinker to old age
We attended our 7th Outstanding In The Field in Vancouver, BC – our first international dining event
My wife’s mother sadly died at age 97
We saw Beetlejuice, Moulin Rouge, and Tootsie on Broadway
I missed my 50th high school reunion
I lost two college fraternity brothers
We saw the 60th annual Twilight Zone movie presentation on the big screen
I.U. soccer lost to I.U. Santa Barbara and failed to reach the National Championship like last year
We watched I.U. baseball win and lose in Seattle and Oregon State beat I.U. the same weekend. The Beavers were not able to return to the College World Series
I.U. football earned a spot in the Gator Bowl
I.U. basketball failed to make the tournament again
The Chicago Bears failed to make the playoffs
The Cubs did not win the Division or make the playoffs. The White Sox didn’t come close
The Portland Trailblazers enjoyed playoff success but fell short to the eventual champion Warriors.
I saw Oregon basketball beat Memphis at the Moda Center
Oregon earned a spot in the Rose Bowl
I’ve added to my Sherm Lollar baseball collection while drastically downsizing my Cubs memorabilia to accommodate our much smaller living space
I gave-up my once-framed I.U. jersey to its rightful owner Kent Benson #54
We had Portland visits from my wife’s Indy girlfriends, my wife’s youngest daughter, and our Decatur friends
We reconnected with many old friends around the country
We paid off all our credit cards and the balance on our Decatur, Illinois mortgage
We eliminated most of our wine club memberships
We invested in more Marriott Vacation Club points
We planned and paid for many trips next year including Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Spring Training, Alcatraz, the Great Pyramid, and Glacier National Park
We bought the Regal Unlimited movie pass for next year and can easily walk to the theater
My wife’s oldest daughter and husband bought their first house. They also adopted Falco to play with now lonely Tally, our 10-year old schnauzer
My wife’s youngest daughter took a new job with Stanford Hospital and moved with her husband to San Francisco
We’ll end the year and day #7,861 together with dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa and start the New Year with theme park visits with my grand children
We looked at retirement properties along the Gulf Coast of Florida
We celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary at Joel Palmer House in Oregon wine country
We met my cousin in Phuket, Thailand
I finished Game of Thrones
We went to the King Tut exhibit at OMSI in preparation for next year’s trip to Egypt
I completed the 11th consecutive year of my daily running streak
I had just one minor cold this past year
I just now finished my 1,178th blog post
Happy New Year to all!
In a few short weeks, we’ll be off to Florida and perhaps opening a new chapter of our lives. The New Year begins with both my wife and I in full retirement, as we begin the search for a final home along the Gulf. After 32 moves, I’ll be ready to settle down. We still have 15 more months here in Portland, and each day we shed more and more of our worldly possessions. With the loss of both Frankie our cat and Tinker our oldest schnauzer, we also have fewer responsibilities. It’s now just the three of us in a two-bedroom apartment. I’m also thinking about selling one of our cars since public transportation is so easily accessible. We now have to find ways to further reduce expenses as we start to rely heavily on our lifetime savings.
Without my wife’s employment income, our four-legged retirement stool is now down to three – social security, pension, and 401k. I think we have enough savings to last another twenty years, even with an aggressive travel schedule. However, there are so many variables in life. I guess that’s what makes it interesting! Besides, “all you need is love.” All my friends are now in the process of retiring as the Class of 69 approaches age 70. I’m only 20 months away from that monumental birthday. A mere blink of an eye from what I once thought was an ancient milestone.
More and more people address me as “sir,” and want to give up their seat. It’s a good indication that I’m older than I feel and certainly not what I see in the mirror every day. I still get up every day and run, but the deterioration in my stride and balance is clearly evident. I sometimes wonder how long I’ll be able to maintain the daily streak that is nearing 11 years. Today was day #3,995 and I ran 3.1 miles. If I calculate a conservative average of 2.25 miles a day over its duration, I have traveled over 9000 miles, or the equivalent of over 3 coast-to-coast excursions from New York to Los Angeles. “Run, Forrest, Run.”
This morning is quiet, as my wife tries to catch-up on a sleepless night. She’s taken the loss of Tinker very hard. She’s also trying to find her retirement legs in making that abrupt change from a stress-filled job to a leisurely lifestyle. She met a former co-worker for their weekly walk yesterday afternoon, and I’m sure there were some reminders of her abandoned career. It took time for me to settle-in to a constructive retirement routine. Writing this blog was the key transitional piece for me in shifting down from high gear. I’m now content with reflecting about the past. Over the course of time, she will too. Tally, Tinker’s younger sister, is anxious for her to wake up so they can cuddle. Tally is also a bit depressed, mourning the loss of her canine companion. They’ll be off on a walk soon, and I’ll catch-up on the unfolding chapters of my weekly shows like the Curse of Oak Island and Vikings.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Condo for a week in Las Vegas $330
Pet Sitting $800
For retirees who want to travel, pet sitting is the biggest expense. For our two dogs, it’s about $100 a day for someone to come into our home. A kennel stay isn’t much less, so we’ve always opted for the personal attention and security of having someone stay here. By next year, sadly, we’ll probably be down to just Tally, since Tinker is blind, deaf, and quickly losing her sense of balance. Tally will probably then enjoy the social interaction of boarding. At this stage, it would probably kill Tinker.
Tinker leaves the apartment every day by carriage. When we get to the nearby park I carefully lift her out to do her business. Six times a day it’s a never-fail poop, as even old age has not tarnished her dubious reputation as “The Poopingest Pup on the Planet.” There is little delay when her feet hit the grass, while sister Tally always takes her sweet time. My wife claims that she has many secret canine messages to “decode” with her nose. We miss our precious pups when we travel, so it’s worth it to have someone carefully looking after them. We typically rotate between two sitters, based on availability. One is a little less money than the other, so we tend to favor her a little more.
My wife’s daughter occasionally provides pet relief for us when we travel. This has been complicated by a recent marriage, a new house, and her new adoptive addition, Falco, a mixed terrier. Falco spent time with us during her recent honeymoon, but Tally had some adjustment issues with the new niece. She likes her time with “Mom” after I’ve left our bed every morning. Falco tried to hone-in on this treasured time. To be honest, I’m not sure if Tinker was aware she was even here. None of the dogs have much demand for me when their “Mom” is home.
All Tinker cares about is food, and needs the input to create the output. She has become persistently annoying in getting fed and has an incredibly accurate internal clock when it comes to dinner time. This is about the only movement that we see all day, as she begins to stalk us at about 4:30 p.m., in anticipation of the five o’clock feeding. She also begins to bark when I fail to feed her from the table, a habit that we have to change. Tinker, despite her lack of hearing, has an innate sense for an open refrigerator door. As far as both dogs are concerned, I’m just the guy that takes them outside and often interrupts their comfort in the process. At least, I’m no longer charged with kitty-litter duty, but I do miss Frankie that passed just before our apartment move a few months ago.
It’s ideal when we can take Tinker and Tally along when we travel. They’ve done a few day trips and recently accompanied us to Canada. Tinker has the most travel miles, with seventeen states and British Columbia under her belt, or should I say collar. Tally has been on road trips from Texas to Indiana and Texas to Oregon. They are both great car-riders, even when the cats joined us on major moves. We had hoped to get Tinker to California for a visit with my wife’s other daughter, but we’re not sure if her health with allow another state. We always save money when the dogs are along because there are no sitting fees and we tend to stay in the cheaper hotels that are dog friendly.
For the first time since I can remember, I just came home to an empty home. With the loss of our cat, Frankie, last week and the dogs at the spa for the day, I have the place to myself…temporarily. Soon, my wife will be home for the day following her meetings and I will have to share. I was joking with an old friend last night who is allergic to cats that he was now free to visit us again. About 18 years ago, he spent a miserable night at our house in anticipation of a flight out of Indianapolis. Dickel drinking was not the cause of his red eyes! (See Post #260). I think we had three cats at that time, and I don’t believe he’s ever been back after that bout of itchiness!
It’s been odd the last few mornings not to have to clean out the litter box or wake-to the nagging “NOWS” of hunger. (See Post #1035). Plus, the only “red-eyes” I’ve ever experienced have been overnight flights. In fact, I’m on one later this week to New York City. While we were in Austin, I had trouble with cedar allergies, but beyond that I’ve had little trouble with the associated sneezing and itching. My wife has constant issues with perfumes and related products that give her uncontrollable sniffles. I’m admittedly not as sympathetic as I should be when she struggles with an open faucet of snot. I sometimes think that she is allergic to me or at least my lack of empathy!
“Red eyes” are too often associated with getting high. I was once taught to keep the Visine handy – “it takes the red out.” This was because I wore contacts for many years and so my eyes were often irritated, perhaps mistaken for the effects of smoking pot. Now that it’s legal, I no longer smoke it. Excessive sniffling can also be associated with cocaine use. Say no to snot! The fact of the matter is that “Red Eyes” could all come down to cat allergies. Frankie’s Sinatra-like blue eyes were frequently red in photographs, revealing the allergic demon within her. Have no fear my friends, Frankie is sadly no longer near.
It’s a “Caturday” without a cat for the first time in our marriage. Frankie went peacefully to kitty heaven yesterday after 18 and 1/2 years in our lives. I’ve removed any reminders of her from the house that is now exclusively a dog’s world and feels a bit empty. Our two schnauzers wait anxiously for their “Schnauzerton,” as I wait for my wife to get ready this morning. After this family exercise ritual, our main goal today is to find an apartment. We have three appointments down in the A-B-C District to look at space.
I’m often interrupted to move or reorganize boxes, as we begin to plan for storage. I went to U-Haul yesterday to buy some bubble wrap and protective plate sleeves. It’s been a tough week and for now, I won’t elaborate. I’ll just say that we have more time for travel and plan to take advantage of it. We discussed renting a car and taking a trip down to Lake Tahoe last night during dinner. The pups could go with us, adding a few more states to their impressive list of dogcomplishments. For once, Frankie, now an angel, will not be left alone, although she also had her share of extensive travel in the car throughout our many moves.
Tonight, we’ll catch-up on “Movie Night,” after weeks of travel and wedding duties. We’ve yet to see Spiderman – Far From Home. I have some passes that need to be used. Our favorite theater will no longer be convenient, nor will our nearby Outback where we enjoyed ribs again last night. In fact, I expect that all my routines will change over the next few weeks. New running route, new restaurants within walking distance, new neighbors, and new retirement rules. Routine Interruptous!
Frankie, our apricot point, Burmese cat with blue eyes was born on February 8, 2001, just before my wife and I were married. She was our first joint purchase, spotted on our noon news show, and her oldest daughter thought that Frankie was an appropriate name because of the bright, blue eyes that reminded her of Frank Sinatra. She has moved with us from Indiana to Illinois to Texas to Oregon, crying “Mow” persistently every mile of our journey. We soon discovered that “Mow” really meant “Now,” an indication of her demanding personality. She could also hide like no other cat, even in a small motel room, where we once assumed that she had somehow escaped. We finally found her in the hollow behind a dresser drawer after literally tearing the room apart. A single “Mow” would have revealed her whereabouts, but also knew when to be silent.
I just served Frankie her last meal. She will be laid to rest this afternoon after 18 and 1/2 years of life. I’m shedding a few tears as I write this because she’s been such a significant part of our marriage. Unfortunately, she’s been very disoriented these past few months and the thought is that perhaps she suffered a stroke that caused blindness. I’ve had to clean-up around the litter box, lift her to the food perch, and even sometimes help her down. She eats little but the chicken broth we serve her twice a day, and is down to about 6 pounds on her skeleton frame. There was a time when she would was part of the pet-pack that craved a late night snack of ham. (See Post #699). She stopped grooming herself some time ago, and as a result her hair is full of stubborn mats. Yet, every morning just before the sun comes up, I hear her cry for attention. “NOW.” (See Post #1035). This morning she was quiet. Maybe she knows that today is her last?
It’s a major transition time for our whole family. The loss of my wife’s mother several months ago was the beginning. Tinker our 15 and 1/2 year old schnauzer pup is struggling with her health. We just sold our house and are about to move into a transitional apartment, as we prepare for retirement together. Soon, only 10-year old Tally will remain from the pet-pack. She’s still full of vim & vigor and will adapt easily to a new home. As pet care becomes less apart of our married life, extensive travel will be the next phase of our future. We will always carry fond memories of Frankie, as we have with her older sisters – Macy, Dimey, and Marilee that we once known as the kitty committee. My wife had many more cats in her life, but these were the critters that she shared with me. She also brought Chowperd Belle into our marriage that eventually led to the adoption of Tinker – hence Tinker-Belle. We also treasured our time with Roxie, Tinker’s other short-time pet companion. Her life ended tragically in a car accident. I wish I could have that sad moment back.
Frankie will undoubtedly cry “MOW” on her final trip to the vet this afternoon. She’s led a long kitty life and traveled through at least fifteen states. Tinker and Tally will miss her, as we will. Tally will no longer find chewy treats in the litter box and Tinker will not be able to steal pieces of ham (now turkey) from her. Honestly, I won’t miss cleaning her litter box every morning or when she wakes me up with her annoying “MOWS,” though small prices to pay for her beauty and company. Above all, we want to make sure that she’s not in any pain, but her constant disorientation is disturbing and can no longer be ignored. Rest In Peace, dear Frankie.
It was supposed to be a day of pet errands, but the groomer is sick. Now, I just have to get Frankie, our aging cat, to the vet for some fur maintenance. It’s rare when we take “old blue eyes” out of the house, but she badly needs a haircut. As a Burmese, she has a beautiful white fleece that is unfortunately all tied in knots. She’s no longer capable of grooming herself, so it has to be uncomfortable. We’re just trying to make her final days as pleasant as possible, since she has little interest in food and continues to lose weight. However, at over 18 years old, she still possesses a feisty attitude and a meow that sounds like “NOW” if her food is not delivered on time. Warm chicken broth is her favorite and she wakes us up every morning with annoying, persistent “NOWS” until we fill her bowl and lift her up to eat in a spot where the dogs can’t devour it first.
Frankie has little spring left in her step. She can no longer leap-up on the bed or to her feeding loft without assistance. After each meal, I find that little is actually eaten. Her internal time clock is still accurate in alerting us three times a day without fail. The last “NOWS” of each day are for “ham time,” a bedtime snack tradition for her and our two schnauzers. She has to have it “NOW,” but most of it sits untouched in her bowl come morning. “Ham Time” has become shreds of sliced turkey in the interest of heart healthy for the last few years. The nightly ritual dates back to a vet who suggested that the extra protein was key to a long life. (See Post #699) It certainly seems to have worked for Frankie and for our old lady schnauzer who’s approaching sixteen years. It has become all of our pets’ favorite time of the day.
As I prepare to load Frankie into our kitty carrier, I can expect non-stop “NOWS” all the way to the vet. On the other hand, our pups will have to wait for the groomer to reschedule and will look-on with both concern and curiosity as their feline friend Frankie heads out the door. She’s becoming very fragile with little meat on the bones, and I frankly don’t expect Frankie to be with us much longer. Although she’s led a long, happy, ham-filled life, I’m sadly just not sure how many lives or “NOWS” she has left?