Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Something personal

It's hard to believe I started this blog 16 years ago. I am not sure the title I came up with, "Mid-Life Thoughts from Bob," provides an accurate description of the blog owner anymore. 

But given the various quirks of Blogger, I am not going to try and change the name, even though I no longer fit the definition of "mid-life."

I started the blog as an outlet for writing, a longtime passion. A few years later I got a gig writing a weekly (mostly) column for a local publication. That became the main focus for my writing, although I continued my presence here. A couple of years ago, the column ended but I moved that effort to the Substack platform and was fortunate enough to take many of my column readers with me and gain some new ones. 

That is my main focus for writing today, but I still keep this blog. I do so because I made some friends here, and even though I know you only online (except for Kelly, who I have known my entire life and who urged me to start this blog), I feel a connection with the handful of you whose blogs are listed at the right. 

People have come and gone from here through the years. Some have left the blog world, and some have made their blogs invitation only. For the few of you who remain, as I said, I feel a connection and it keeps me writing here and checking in on your blogs. 

Because of that connection, I wanted to share something personal with you today.

As regular readers know, I have three adult children -- two sons and a daughter, with the daughter in the middle. My older son lives just outside Atlanta with his wife and two children; my daughter is in Huntsville, AL with her husband and three children; and my younger son lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife and two-month-old son. We are just south of Nashville, and everyone is within easy driving distance. 

I am a family man to the core, and those folks I just listed, along with my sweet wife, bring me far more joy than I deserve.

That brings me to the personal matter I want to share. Last November, the Monday before Thanksgiving to be precise, my son-in-law in Huntsville was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was 37 at the time, and 38 now. As you can figure out from what I wrote above, he is the father of three (adorable) children. They are 6, 4 and 2 years old. 

I can't adequately describe the kick in the gut I felt when our daughter called to give us this news. Sorrow, denial and anger are among the emotions I experienced. How is it fair that this awesome young husband and dad would be struck with a life-threatening disease? 

He was given a good prognosis. The cancer was detected early and had not spread. He soon started radiation and oral chemotherapy, and in early February he began periodic infusion chemotherapy. For the most part, he tolerated all of this well, with his most significant side effect being extreme fatigue the few days following infusion. 

My daughter has been incredible, caring for him and educating herself about his form of cancer and treatments. She is his biggest advocate. And oh yeah, she has maintained her job and taking care of the three children I described above. 

Through the generosity of friends, Wife and I were provided a guest house in Huntsville to use during the infusion weeks so we can be there to help with daily life while our son-in-law rests from the treatments. It's about 12 minutes from their house, so it's easy to get there and also nice to have our own place. 

His last infusion was May 14th. A couple of weeks later, their family headed to the beach for a week for some much-needed R&R, and a break from cancer and cancer talk for that brief period of time. 

He had an MRI and a scope in early June, which showed while the tumor has shrunk, it is still there. He will have colon resection surgery June 27th. Cancer is still confined to the colon and the medical team is confident the surgery will take care of it. 

In the midst of all of this, there have been blessings. I will share more later. 

For now, I would like to humbly ask my little community here for your best thoughts and prayers for the surgery next week and through his recovery time. Wife and I plan to be in Huntsville for about ten days and will make adjustments to that plan if needed. 

I will keep you posted. Thank you. 





Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Out west

Wife and I were home from our quick beach trip about three days before boarding a plane for California for a vacation we had planned before we even knew about the beach wedding. 

Some background is in order. 

As I have previously shared, Older Son and I set out on a quest in 1994, when he was eight years old, to visit every Major League Baseball home venue. This was after our first visit to see the Atlanta Braves play, at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, two ballparks ago for the Braves. 

There are 30 MLB parks and we have been gradually closing in on them, with much joy in the journey. As of last summer, when we visited Los Angeles and saw the Dodgers play at their home field Dodger Stadium, Older Son had made it to 29, lacking only Seattle. I was a little bit behind him, also lacking Seattle but also Oakland and San Francisco, which Older Son visited during a trip to that area a few years back. 

Along the way, Younger Son and my son-in-law started joining the trips. They still have to gain some ground to cover all the parks. 

Anyway, after last summer's visit to L.A., Older Son urged me to somehow knock out Oakland and San Franciso, so he and I could be set up for the grand finale in Seattle this summer. It has been 30 years since we made the first trip -- 30 parks in 30 years if we mark off Seattle's T-Mobile Park this year. 

When I floated the idea of a California trip to Wife, it was not long before she had a weeklong (plus a couple of days) adventure planned that would include, in addition to the baseball games, the wine country, and Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. 

We flew out of Nashville Friday night, May 24th. We arrived in Oakland late and saw the A's play the Houston Astros on Saturday afternoon the 25h. The ballpark, Oakland Coliseum, is old and, unlike the classics like Fenway and Wrigley, has not been kept well and very little updating has taken place.

The team has been fighting with the city for years, and after this season they will pack up and move. Their eventual home will be Las Vegas, but they'll have at least two seasons in Sacramento as they await construction of their Vegas home field. But, as the saying goes, they're getting the H out of Dodge! 

It certainly ranks near the bottom for me, but we still had a great time. There is simply never a bad day at a live MLB game. And getting to see Houston play was a big bonus for me. 

From Oakland we drove to just outside Sonoma in the heart of the wine country. We spent the next day, Sunday, enjoying the scenery, visiting wineries and sampling wines from the region. Monday morning, we drove down Highway 1 and across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, and that afternoon saw the Giants play the Philadelphia Phillies. 

It was at the San Francisco game, at Oracle Park, that I had my best meal of the trip -- a crab sandwich on buttered sourdough that was, well, to die for! A Coors Light came with the "meal deal." Certainly not my beer of choice, but still a good accompaniment to the delicious sandwich. Later in the day I tried one of the local favorites that was much better. 

The setting of Oracle Park is breathtaking, right on the water, with home runs sometimes making a splash -- both literally and figuratively. 

From San Franciso, it was on to Yosemite. I think we hit it at the perfect time, before the huge summer crowds. Yosemite is one of the most visited national parks in the country and while there were certainly plenty of folks there, it was manageable. 

The mountains and rock formations in Yosemite are beautiful, with stunning vistas and waterfalls. We spent a couple of days exploring on our own and went on a guided tour one day, which was well worth it. There were 15 of us on a small bus. All the other people were great, and the guide was informative and personable. 

Two highlights of the day with the guide were watching climbers scale El Capitan, the 3,000 wall of granite that's an icon of the park; and seeing a bear! 

On Friday morning we drove to Sequoia National Park, where the trademark sequoia trees were stunning! We spent the night in nearby Three Rivers. Saturday morning, we drove over to beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea for lunch and drove the famous 17-mile drive along the Pacific Highway 1, which includes the Pebble Beach Golf Links. 

We spent the night in San Jose Saturday night, June 1st, and caught a plane home early Sunday morning the 2nd. 

Another trip, another great time, and MLB #28 and #29 are now in the books. The stage is set for Seattle. 

Oakland baseball

Oracle Park, home of the SF Giants

Looking over the outfield wall at Oracle Park

Welcome to Yosemite

Tenaya Lodge, where we stayed near Yosemite

Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite

Yosemite 

Yosemite

"Tunnel tree" at Sequoia Nat Park: can't go around it, gotta go through it! 

Sherman tree, world's biggest by volume, in Sequoia NP

Pebble Beach









Thursday, May 23, 2024

The beach

 Wife loves the beach. Just about any time of year, if there is an opportunity, she will go. 

I am OK with it, but with lots of qualifications. The two most important: I don't like being hot. I don't like crowds. So, I don't want to go in summer when it is blazing hot, and the crowds are at peak level. 

About two months ago, a good friend from my law school days called and said his daughter would be getting married Monday, May 20th in Seaside, which is on Florida's Gulf Coast in an area called "30-A," so named because it is, in fact a beachfront road called Highway 30-A. Little communities, e.g. Seaside, Grayton, Blue Mountain, Alys Beach, Seagrove, Seacrest and Rosemary, have sprung up along this stretch of beach highway over the past couple of decades or so. 

We have gone there a number of times over the years, both with our family and just the two of us. 

But even in what used to be the offseason, it has become congested and crowded, so it violates my rules on crowds. 

When my buddy called, he said it would be a small wedding, only close friends and family, maybe 50 people at most. I offered him my congratulations. Then he said he had two questions: 

"First, will you come?" 

"Of course I will," I told him. He is one of my best friends and if he wanted me there, I needed to be here. 

"Second, will you play the piano?"

Different answer to this question. It has been a very long time since I have played for any type of public event, and I told him it would be far too stressful for me to do that. He said he would find someone else. 

Wife and I drove to 30-A last Friday, to Seagrove, a couple of miles from Seaside where the wedding would be, with a stop on the way in Birmingham to see our new grandson. (Who is quite perfect, by the way.)

We drove through horrendous weather to get there, with both of our phones giving us storm warnings. I thought of pulling over a couple of times, but we pretty much outran it and that was not necessary. 

It rained all day Saturday, so we did a lot of reading and watching the rain fall on the ocean from our beachfront condo. 

Sunday was beautiful, so we spent the entire day on the beach under an umbrella. The weather was perfect -- not too hot and a nice breeze -- so it was a good day for me. 

Wife went back to the beach Monday, but I stayed in and worked. (I managed to do this little trip without taking any time off, thanks to the miracle of modern technology. Even in the car, I could log in via hotspot. Because we are about to go on another longer trip that was scheduled before I knew about this wedding, I did not want to take vacation time if I could help it.) 

The wedding was at 4 p.m. Due to the crowds (and lack of parking places) we had already observed, we took an Uber both ways 

It was lovely, and my friend appreciated my being there. It was good to see him and be with him at this important event. 

Best of all for Wife, she got a beach trip out of it. 

I've done my beachgoing for the year, thank you. 

Sunset

Sunday
Saturday:  washout