The Year in Review

Things I passed as my raft continued to drift down the river of life in 2018:

  • Granddaughter Vera turned three this past summer and has became a little person with whom you can converse more broadly and deeply. Our time together is precious beyond description. She is coming over for a sleepover tonight. I can’t think of a better way of spending New Year’s eve.
  • Eldest son returned to California earlier this year, distancing himself from family. My greatest failure in life. He blames me for much. The distance between us has grown beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Despite all the joys of parenthood, sometimes I wonder whether it was worth it considering the pain.
  • Living near our other son and being a part of his and his family’s lives has been a blessing. They are such remarkable people. As is his brother.
  • Surgeries stemming from 2017 auto accident and restorative dental work were completed by mid year. Left with only minor stiffness in left arm from plate and persistent stiffness, numbness, and annoying feeling (sometimes pain, particularly at night) in shoulder from the plate and scar tissue (my best guess). I sometimes wonder whether my memory issues are connected to the concussion/brain injury, but it’s impossible to know. Perhaps it’s merely the product of an aging brain. I consider having the clavicle plate removed but am not sure its removal would fix the problem. Moreover, the bacterial pneumonia following my last surgery highlights some of the risks of surgery. But it’s the cutting of nerves and resulting numbness that concerns me the most.
  • Continued to feel like a foreigner in my own land. While fully cognizant of how lucky and blessed I am to live in such a place, I remain perplexed at how so many of my fellow citizens can possibly think Donald Trump is fit to be president. And I remain deeply concerned of other developments in my country, including the deep divisions, the vitriolic discourse, and our national politicians’ refusal to work together to solve problems and help make Americans’ lives better. Our demonization of immigrants and people of color is deeply disturbing as well. It seems we’ve stopped caring for each other. What could be worse? Nothing. When we stop caring, we’re nothing but animals in a jungle. People cannot flourish in such an environment.
  • Returned to Colorado in July to see friends and hike near Crested Butte, my favorite mountain town. Thanks to my younger brother, Randy, who took me on a short trip to Colorado some years back, I learned what a glorious place Colorado is, eventually culminating in living there for five years (Boulder and Loveland). What a privilege it was to have had that experience.
  • Spent a long weekend in NYC, where we spent some time with dear friends from West Chester (Pa.), saw a Broadway show, visited some sites and museums, and had a great meal at the Red Cat.
  • Other travel was put off to 2019 due to my continuing recovery from the 2017 accident (surgery and dental appointments) and other commitments.
  • Got back on the bike this summer. Only one major near miss (speeding car in a heavy rain storm nearly hit me). I continue to wonder if the two Dobermanns I pass about 15 miles north of here will ever jump the fence. They seem to want to get to me in the worst way and the fence isn’t very high. But it’s the speeding and distracted drivers who pose the greatest risk. Sometimes I wonder whether the risks are worth it, but I enjoy my time on the bike immensely and the aerobic conditioning is beneficial. So I ride.
  • Enjoyed volunteering at a local hospital for part of the year (in children’s hospital and with families of surgical patients). But I learned I’m not particularly well-suited for a volunteer role, at least not ones like this. Particularly galling is the way surgeons treat volunteers.
  • Passed initial tests and screening for organ donation this year, but had to step out of the process because of insurance complications and concerns over the local transplant center and ability to take pain relievers post-surgery (not an insignificant concern considering my bad back). Once other insurance is in place later in 2019, I’ll probably explore the options with Mayo Clinic, which seems to have a superior program and has more experience with these surgeries than any other hospital. Every time I deal with our health care system on a deeper level, I come away disappointed and concerned. Why do we accept such a system? Why don’t we do better? I may never understand.
  • Continued to learn more about being a good investor. I think I’m a better one today than I was last year at this time. As for yearly returns, I did O.K. — actually, much better than what was achieved by the standard 60/40 portfolio so many financial advisers recommend. And I didn’t have to pay those fees! My biggest impediment remains my risk-averse tendencies.
  • Decided in early December to retire more fully at end of 2018, concentrating on other interests and activities (only one small client and some transition matters remain). I am surprisingly comfortable with this decision. Transitioning to this point in my life hasn’t been easy. The perceived link between production/contribution and perception of self-worth has been hard to break.
  • My friendship with Larry, who resides in a nursing home just down the street, continues to deepen. We share so many likes, dislikes, and interests despite our vastly disparate backgrounds (he was a toolmaker, was married three times, and loves country music). Only recently did I learn that he played in the bands of a couple of famous country music stars (including Loretta Lynn) and knows them personally. I like the way this information came out only after I probed. Larry is the antithesis of a name dropper. How refreshing!
  • Spent both major holidays this fall and winter with my younger brother and his family (and our mother at Thanksgiving). Our nephew and niece, now teenagers, are neat kids. I look forward to seeing them transition to adulthood.
  • Read a lot this year, engaging some authors whom I had not encountered before. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose one’s eyesight. I hope I never have to learn.
  • Ended 2018 in a better place than I was when the year began. The September 2017 accident took a toll on my body, and the aftermath consumed a lot of my time and attention during the first half of the year. But the near-death experience turned out to be a life-changing experience — for the best — despite the pain and suffering along the way. I am looking forward to 2019, with the full realization I have no idea how the year may unfold. Which is fine. It will be what it will be. Peace and grace came to me in that crashed car and have not abandoned me.

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