Dan Loses His Mind While his World is Shaken, Rattled, and Rolled (part 6 of 6)

Prelude:  Many people have approached me in the three weeks since my temporary amnesia/aphasia event saying something like “It must have been scary.”  It was scary in 2002.  At that time, with similar symptoms, I had no idea what the future held.  It scared the sh%$ out of me.

Since it happened before, this time wasn’t so scary.   For the first hour in 2017, I had no idea what was happening.  Why would I be scared if I had no idea what was going on!

During the second hour I could sense I was remembering more and speaking a little more clearly.  I was not scared; I was encouraged, especially since I remembered that previously in 2002 I came out the other end just fine.

If it happened again in the coming year, now that would be scary!

So, what do we know with any certainty?   Not much.

Fact #1: On June 27, 2017, I had a temporary episode of amnesia (I didn’t remember squat) and aphasia (gibberish flowed from my mouth).

TIA or TEA are acronyms being thrown around as possible diagnoses.

TIA stands for a transient ischemic attack (ischemic relating to the heart).

Hitch D and H with paddles

Re: TIA.  My echocardiogram and carotid artery tests suggest that my ticker is doing just fine.  No surprise, my parents lived healthy lives into their 90s.  To cover all bases, the neurologist wants me to start taking baby aspirin daily, just in caseAspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. It can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

I have no limit on my physical activity; pickleball, ping pong, and working out at the gym top my agenda.

Next week, the neurologist wants me to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which will continuously record my heart’s activity as I go about my daily activities.  I’ll keep you updated.

But a TIA is not the neurologist’s first choice.

It’s the TEA.   TEA stands for transient epileptiform amnesia (which in my case might apply since the neurologist couldn’t rule out some form of epilepsy after reading my EEG (electroencephalogram).  So, there’s no certainty, but it’s the leading choice in the clubhouse.

YH bases

To cover all bases again, I have been put on a low dose (500 mg twice a day) of Keppra to prevent seizures, if some form of epilepsy is what I have.

The bottom line is that the neurologist doesn’t know what caused my temporary amnesia/aphasia.

YH safety net

So, a reasonably wide net has been thrown to cover a host of possibilities.  I get that and am thankful for the caution.

After such an event, by law I am not allowed to drive for three months.   I get that caution, too.  Not driving will be inconvenient but hardly a sacrifice.  I am retired.  Hannah and I regularly play pickleball and go to the gym together.   I have a modest social life (read: limited).

So, for three months, we err on the side of caution despite an uncertain diagnosis and no explanation for a cause.

YH dehydration

I wonder whether dehydration due to caffeine consumption and not drinking enough water (2002) and not drinking enough water (2017) might have triggered the temporary amnesia/aphasia.  The medical professionals never suggest such a connection.  And why this time, when I have been dehydrated many times before?

Without any explanation for the cause of my two events (2002 and 2017), I still wonder.


YH water

Whether dehydration had anything to do with my temporary amnesia/aphasia, I have become a zealot for drinking water daily.  Each morning when I awake, I drink two eight-ounce glasses of water.  Three more follow: mid-morning, before lunch, and with lunch.  Dehydration will not be the cause of any future such event.

I live in a town on the coast of Maine with a great community hospital and in a country with excellent Medicare health coverage for seniors.  I’d recommend York Hospital for its effective loving kindness health care.

YH David and Dan

David Stoloff, my department chair at Eastern, stopped by to check on me.

Since posting of these blogs, I have appreciated many people contacting me and wishing me well.

I heard from a childhood friend who referred to me as Brother Dan in his email of support.

Thank you, Brother Tom.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Norton Preserve in Kittery, Maine

Given a hot tip for hiking in the nearby town of Kittery by our friend, George Derby, Hannah and I have a free Saturday afternoon to explore the trails of the Norton Preserve. You see, our grandson Max’s seventh birthday party has been postponed one day due to unusually cold early May weather.  Though the trailhead to the conservation land of the Kittery Land Trust is unmarked, George’s direction are as solid as a full house over a kangaroo straight.

Driving down Route One from York to Kittery, we, after the Pig’s Fly Bakery, turn left on Lewis Road.  After a mile or so, Lewis Road ends at Norton Road, which is where we turn left down the dead-end toward the trailhead.

Large yellow house (to the upper left) is where the grassy path (below) begins.

Well, mostly grassy!

Down this country/residential road, we park on the right side one hundred yards from the road’s end in one of the six parking places.  Walking up to a wide grassy path past a country estate with its own tennis court, we, in short order, reach the sign showing the four color-coded trails at our disposal.

Let the white trail begin!

Hiking left on the white trail through a forest of oaks, pines, and trees long since dead and spread around like pick-up sticks, we have regularly spaced white blazes on the trees to guide us.  I never knew the origin of the term “blaze,” the colored markers on trees to guide hikers, until Hannah pipes up that we are blazing a trail.  One good thinker.

Reaching the junction of the yellow trail, with the wetlands to our right we head north towards the Kittery/York line. Stepping around a small creek where logs have been placed for us to cross without sinking into the gooey ooze, we soon notice that the yellow blazes have ended.  Entering the unmarked trails (as of May 2021) of the York Land Trust, we easily hike our way to Bartlett Road in York.

Trail rerouting by the York Land Trust

Returning the way we came, we eventually take a left on the orange trail that weaves in and out on a path parallel to the yellow trail.  

After an hour, we return to the trailhead pleased that a ten-minute drive from our home has us hiking in the woods of southern Maine. 

The next day the sun shines for Max’s seventh birthday party with both sets of his grandparents and local cousins.  We do so appreciate celebrating outside together after a pandemic year.

Max with his Omi and Poppa

Dinosaur Crunch is Max’s favorite ice cream from the local Sully’s Ice Cream Stand. It’s on his Omi’s chocolate cupcake with M and M’s atop cream cheese icing.

Later in the week, we add our Peace flag to our front yard.

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week #24 – Forgiveness

If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect and falling, you can now do it for just about everybody else. If you have not done it for yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others. 

Richard Rohr, b. 1943

Richard Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He saw a need for the integration of both action and contemplation. Click here for more information about the CAC.

Dan and His Random Coincidence – KGUA #47

For the May 3, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to freewrite about a random connection that was a total surprise.  This one blew me away.  Fasten your seatbelts.

When Hannah and I return to Arizona, our home for ten years as young marrieds, we seek out Sabino Canyon near Tucson for a hiking fix. 

Circa 2016 at Sabino Canyon

Five years ago, after nearly four hours of hiking on the Seven Falls Trail, we return to the visitor center for Hannah to buy postcards.  The volunteer ranger notices my ever-present Ithaca Bombers shirt and asks, Is that in New York?  Nodding yes, I listen as she mentions that she’s from nearby Rochester.

I point to Hannah and proudly beam, I married a Rochester girl.  Knowing that people often say that they are from the city of Rochester when they are, in fact, from a nearby small town that no one would know, I mention Hannah is actually from Fairport.  To my surprise, Julia knows it well as someone from nearby East Rochester.

Hannah comes over and talks with Julia of childhood memories of the area.  When I return to Hannah and Julia, who looks our age, I randomly ask, Did you know Dr. Kraai, Hannah’s dad?  

This is not as an off-the-wall question as it may seem since Dr. Kraai was the family general practioner for the town of Fairport who worked made house calls each morning, had office hours in their home til 10P, and delivered some 5000 babies. 

Julia is stunned and looks directly at Hannah, Dr. Kraai delivered me.  Hannah, whose dad died 30 years ago, tears up immediately and says, I have goose bumps.  Julia adds, I do too.

What do you know, randomness lives in Tucson, Arizona! 

Hannah and Julia in southern Arizona

The cast iron sign from Hannah’s dad’s medical practice that was in the family’s front yard. Kraai is pronounced “Cry.”

See below for the full story with cactus from our hike at Sabino Canyon five years ago.

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Brave Boat Headwaters in Kittery, Maine

The second of our daily double of short local hikes is just over the York line into Kittery.  (Click here for the first, the Fuller Forest Preserve in York.)  Travel south on Route 103 from York Harbor and on your right after two miles or so you’ll see the trailhead parking for this hiking jewel developed by the Kittery Land Trust.

This mid-April late morning finds women with their dogs and a mom with her three-month-old papoose.  The trail is often wide enough for the two of us to walk side-by-side through the forested land.

Crossing the little creek on wooden puncheons with roof shingles for traction, we are minutes from home but really away into the Maine woods.

Ever the Mr. Cool with his shades.

Having hiked this trail before with our grandsons Owen and Max, today we discover the new Sawyer Farm Trail spur at the far end of the loop trail; red plastic blazes on the trees guide us all the way to Bartlett Road near the York/Kittery line.

Without haste but walking steadily, Hannah and I cover the mile and a half or so of trail in forty some minutes.

Paired with the Fuller Forest Preserve trail not five minutes away, the Brave Boat Headlands trail gives those new to hiking/walking and those seeking the solitude of nature a double-barreled hiking experience.

Five days later we took our friend Karen to explore this same trail.

Dan’s Wednesday Quote of the Week #23 – Being Kind

Asked by his daughter if he had any regrets in his life, her 80 year old dad said,

I wish I’d been more kind.

Repeated by Jeanne McSorley, Standard, California

Ms. McSorley explains, I am impatient person (as was my dad), and as I try to improve myself as I move forward in life, the idea and practice of kindness have become my personal motivating force. Everything improves with kindness…I hope I will not have a similar regret if I’m ever asked question at the end of my life.

Dan and the Wizard of Oz – KGUA #46

For the April 26, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, I am asked to free write about the Wizard of Oz character with whom I most identify. 

It’s Dorothy. 

But first let me say that I saw the Wizard of Oz as a kindergartner at the local theater in Hawthorne, NJ.  Seeing the Wicked Witch of the West scared the beejeezus out of me.  Don’t get me started on the terrifying flying monkeys.  Who lets a five year old see such a horror show?  I’m guessing my parents wanted to just toughen me up.  You be the judge how that’s worked out.

Back to Dorothy.  First of all, she has the classic line for those dealing with the unknown, Toto, I have a feeling that this isn’t Kansas anymore. Problem solving 101: Acknowledgement the issue.

Dorothy Gale had the adventurous spirit that I wanted as a kid who was quite comfortable at the ballfields, gyms, and playgrounds of my youth. I saw no reason to get out of my comfort zone and leave little ole Fair Lawn, New Jersey. 

This is where my parents stepped up.  With my brother and sister, I was packed into their woody station wagon for the Tetons in Wyoming and the deserts of Tucson, Arizona.  Seeing that the West wasn’t such a dangerous place, I had the seed planted for an adventurous life. 

Marrying a homebody like Hannah, I drew upon my inner Dorothy Gale and planned our own family trips to the Mountain West and later driving 4500 miles to Alaska to set her free and let our kids know that we weren’t in Maine anymore.

Our kids have since been to Iceland, China, Colombia, and Afghanistan (in that case, thanks to Uncle Sam) and little do they know that they can thank a young girl from the Heartland, one Dorothy Gale, for that inspiration.

Words – 287

Cast. Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale. Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel/Gatekeeper/Carriage Driver/Guard/Wizard of Oz. Ray Bolger as “Hunk”/Scarecrow. Jack Haley as “Hickory”/Tin Woodman. Bert Lahr as “Zeke”/Cowardly Lion. Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch. Margaret Hamilton as Miss Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West.

Release date: August 25, 1939

Dan and Hannah Hike the Taughannock Falls Trails near Ithaca, New York

For the first time since June 2020, Hannah and I have come to central New York to see our eleven-month identical twin granddaughters, Reese and Charlotte, and their nearly three year-old big brother Brooks.  Due to Covid, we have not been able to support in person our son Will and his wife Laurel in caring for their brood.

Reese, Brooks, and Charlotte

But this last weekend in April 2021 we have come to Ithaca to be of some modest support.  Bringing Hannah’s homemade chili and cornbread and treating them to Mexican take-out with, listen to this, take-out pitchers of margaritas, as well as treating us all to Wegman’s monster subs for lunches, we hope to feed their bodies and souls. 

Brooks flying on the Omi Airlines

Raising our game, each afternoon we watch the kids while Will and Laurel go for a drive, take a long walk, or shop for garden supplies.  Taking Brooks for the morning to the South Hill Elementary School playground and wheeling Reese and Charlotte in their stroller around the neighborhood, we are giving it our best to support them in dealing with the exhaustion of parenting young’uns.

Charlotte and Reese

Like father like son

Heading out of town after four nights in Ithaca early Sunday on Will and Laurel’s sixth anniversary, we drive north on route 89 on the westside of Cayuga Lake (pronounced Cue-ga) for the roaring falls trails of Taughannock (pronounced Ta-gon-ick) Falls State Park eight miles from town.

Let the hiking begin

Parking for free before the season starts, we hike the South Rim Trail with few others.  Master craftsmen from the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) of the 1930s built the stairs that we take to the upper reaches of the gorge.

(The white spots are from the rain the previous night.)

With 400’ feet of elevation gain, the South Rim Trail and its sibling the North Rim Trail are high above the flowing gorge river that is wide enough for two to walk the walk and talk the talk.

It’s Gorge-ous

The Upper Falls

Crossing over the river above the Upper Falls, we follow the well-marked North Rim trail back to the trailhead.  Again, the trail is wide and easy on the feet.  The North Rim has the one view of the falls from high above.

The Taughannock Falls from the North Rim

Roughly two and half miles later, Hannah and I complete the Rim loop trails in 70 minutes.  Fact is, we are just not stop-and-smell-the-rose hikers, we move and we groove. 

Upon completion of the Rim trails, we take the level Gorge Trail to the falls that is filled today with hikers ready to break out after their Covid winter of isolation.  With a trail wide enough for fifteen people, we easily skirt the masked and unmasked as well as the washed and unwashed.

The Taughannock Creek through the gorge

With more people vaccinated, we abide by the park rule and easily maintain six feet of separation with other hikers. See above. 

The thundering Taughannock Falls

The falls are roaring like we’ve never experienced before due to the winter run-off and recent heavy rains of spring. 

Known for being unable to take a successful selfie, I give it my all at Taughannock Falls.  It’s a start.  Let’s try to find something positive to say or say nothing at all.

In less than two hours, we crush our 10,000 Fitbit step goal. Do I hear 20K?

Dan and the Voices in His Head – KGUA #45

For the April 19, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about what that voices in our head are telling us. 

Yo, Danny Boy.  Sup?

I gotta say it’s been a tough year.  All this coronavirus stuff.  But, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

What!  That’s the best you can do, that tired old cliché.  There’s got to be more stirring around in your noggin!

Okay, here’s a thought.  In the main, I think too many Americans don’t give a rat’s patootie about other Americans dying from the coronavirus and that’s why they bristle at the restrictions.

Whoa.  You know, over half million have died.

Oh, no question.  But after 14 months Americans have done the math and like their odds.

Back up.  Explain that one to me. 

Think about it. There are 340 million Americans.  If 600,000 die from the coronavirus, that’s less than two-tenths of one percent who go to the Great Beyond.

And if that’s the calculus, people think why mask, avoid restaurants and concerts, and miss out on big weddings?  They just don’t care because they think it just ain’t going to happen to them.

While I chew on that, got anything lighter to end on?

No, I don’t.  Can you believe that Americans were really paying that much attention to their seventh grade math teacher!

Words – 201

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Fuller Forest Preserve in York, Maine

Finding outdoor alternatives to working out at our local gym, Hannah and I discover the Fuller Forest Preserve right here in town.

From the center of town, take Lindsay Road, cross Sewell’s Bridge by the York Golf and Tennis Club.  Take the gentle right onto Southside Road.  After a half mile, take the first left onto Bartlett Road, and voila, the extensive trailhead parking is to your right within 0.3 of a mile.

Thanks to the generous donation of the Fuller Brown family to the York Land Trust, York has the first stages of a forest trail at its doorstep.  As a conservation area, this 220 acre parcel is part of 1300 acres of contiguous undeveloped lands in southern York County. 

Let me give you a little background of how this land came to be set aside for the public.  In 1986, Marion Fuller Brown founded the York Land Trust.  In 2017, her heirs sold this acreage at a bargain rate to the York Land Trust and then donated some of the proceeds back to the YLT.  They are our local version of Warren Buffet and MacKenzie Scott (Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife).

This trail stump was criss-crossed by a chainsaw to let precipitation in to help decompose it.

Evidence of a recent wind storm that fell conveniently to the side of the trail

Currently, the Red Oak Trail is 0.75 miles through forested wetlands and remnants of coastal agricultural of a bygone era.  With new wood plank puncheons over swampy areas which are fed by seasonal vernal pools, we hike among the oaks, maples, and firs just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.  For you Ice Age buffs, this land was under a mile of ice during the last Ice Age some 11,000 years ago.

With Hannah in the foreground, volunteers build another wood plank puncheon over low lying wetlands.

Encountering pickleball friend Gary working on a new set of puncheons with another volunteer this mid-April Tuesday, we see the beginnings of a new trail all the way to Dolly Gordon Creek.

The next trail is beyond the two volunteers.

In April 2021, the less than a mile trail takes just twenty minutes of ambling.  Come back this fall and surely next spring to see the fine trail work of the volunteers of the York Land Trust.

Hannah is a real cut-up.

For more information about the Fuller Forest Preserve click here.

Returning to the trailhead.
Check out the twists in this pine.

Five days later we hiked the Red Oak trail with our friend Karen. The picture below is of the same tree that trapped Hannah.

More Hannah and Karen on the same puncheons where the volunteers were building the day we hiked.

Karen and Hannah on the trail after an all-day rain storm two days ago.