Dan and What He is Holding On To… – KGUA #65

For the November 1, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: “What is Something You Hold On To?”

I am holding on to the belief that this seventh decade of my life is the best ever.  Who’d a thought being a geezer, an old goat, a codger would make these past ten years my my crème de la creme, my pick of the litter, and my cream of the crop.  I have my health, I have a flexible schedule where I don’t have to squeeze things in as I did when I was in the work force.  We have the resources to travel and be generous.  We hike and pickle.  Life is good.

You must be thinking, surely there are other decades in your prime that are contenders.  Well, let’s examine the facts,

The first ten years as a kid in suburbia were fine but the details escape me.  Let’s chalk those years up as challengers to the past decade.

Teenage years?  Dead last.  Though good high school friends, my insecurities just ran amok. 

Twenties – I got to say this might earn the silver medal.  Going to Arizona State changed my life for the better and I wooed and married the girl of my dreams – One Hannah Kraai.

Thirties – By far, our three kids are what Hannah and I are most proud of.  But parenting young-‘uns is just exhausting.  We survived.

Forties – Teaching middle schoolers!  Nuff said.  Didn’t make my top ten.

Fifties – I’m thinking I have the bronze here as I got my dream job – teaching at the university.

The above roll call has not changed my mind that these past ten years remain numero uno.  Time, health, resources,  and choices.  Oh and one more thing, I’m still doing it all with the girl of my dreams.

Words – 278

Dan and His Example of Resilience – KGUA #60

For the September 13, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on Resilience: What’s Your Definition or Example of?”

Resilience personified

What if your voice was silenced? 

Imagine that you couldn’t be heard in a group.

Imagine that you couldn’t read to your grandchildren for more than five minutes.

Imagine being tired of not being heard so that you just choose to listen.

Imagine needing your spouse to finish your stories when speaking with others.

Imagine having to repeat everything.

Imagine playing pickleball or any sport and not being able to communicate with your partner or teammates.

Imagine people routinely saying to you when you speak, “What? Say that again.

Imagine when talking on the phone your voice sounds crackly to others.

Imagine you can’t speak up enough to talk to a friend across a room?

Imagine your humorous quip at just the right moment can’t be heard.

It’s not hard to imagine that you might just want to stay home and hide.

But Hannah hasn’t.

Twenty years ago Hannah found herself unable to project her voice and had trouble speaking words that started with an H or an S.  Diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, of which there is no cure, she has chosen to stay engaged with her world.

This voice disorder causes involuntary spasms in the muscles of her voice box or larynx, which in turn causes her voice to break and have a tight, strained or strangled sound. 

She works through reading with her grandsons.  She finishes more and more of her stories, albeit the shortened version.  She makes the phone calls when she must, though she prefers texting and emailing.

Still she can’t be heard in a group and appreciates her friends and family who give her the time to tell what’s on her mind.

As her husband, I have been witness to twenty years of her resilience personified. 

Words – 293

Dan and Where He Gets His Strength – KGUA #56

Mt Major in New Hampshire with Lake Winnipesaukee in the background circa 2021

For the August 9, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on Where we get our strength?

To say that my wife of 49 years, Hannah Banana, is the source of my strength seems so cliché, so trite, so “of course you are going to say that.” But my dears, it’s true blue through and through.

In the late 1960s at the College of Wooster in Ohio, she saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself, something worth pursuing and learning more about.  As for me, I saw a personable, so much fun, and very good looking, athletic young woman.

Looking back, we were two insecure kids who fortunately matured at a similar pace (we met at 19 and married at 24 with a few breaks along the way).  We were two rough pieces of coal that with tender care could become, dare I say, even diamonds.

Taughannock Falls in New York circa 2020

Growing up with two highly visible fathers who loomed over of their communities (hers the family doctor for the entire village in upstate New York and mine the high school principal right in town in north Jersey), we knew that to spread our wings, in fact to learn that we had wings at all, we had to get away.  In fact, 2500 miles away to Arizona turned out to be just the landing spot in our search for the monarch butterflies we could be.

Through the years, we leaned on each other as we grew individually and together – when her brother Doug died in his mid-fifties of brain cancer, when I wondered if teaching was really a lifetime career for me.

Arm in arm, we’ve become a pretty good team.

Words – 260

Dan’s Tiny Love Story

Ithaca, New York

Each weekend, I go to Mr. Mike’s convenience store on Route One in York, Maine for the Sunday New York Times.  A favorite section of ours is Sunday Styles.  Within it, there is the Modern Love essay, a personal narrative about love, loss, and redemption.  Their words, not mine.

In 2018, the Times added a 100-word mini called Tiny Love StoriesTell Us Your Love Story.  Just Keep It Really Short.  We’re looking for all the emotion that’s fit to print — in no more than 100 words.

I thought I’d try my hand at one.

Montecito, California

We had the time of our lives sophomore year.  As juniors, we broke up; she needed time and space, I left for Arizona with my broken heart.  A couple of years later she came west, we married, eventually to return east to raise a family.  In retirement we spent winters in California.  All set to go again this Covid year, we learned that California was under a Stay-at-Home order.  Technically, we could have gone if we quarantined, but Hannah didn’t want to go.  I did.  It was my Covid valentine for her.

Words – 92

I submitted my Tiny Love Story to the Times earlier this week.  They asked for pictures so I included these two. I’ll keep you updated. 

Click here to read past Tiny Love Stories. Click here for the guidelines for the Tiny Love Stories

Dan on Hannah Circa 2021

Hannah turns 73 today.  Here are thirteen highlights of the Life of Hannah.

One, she’s been a tremendous support to her younger sister Leni who moved to Maine just over a year ago.

First Covid vaccination

Two, she is the reason we wisely didn’t go to California this winter.  Until she helped me see the light, I was blinded by the vision of warm California. We also wouldn’t have been vaccinated if we had been in the Golden State.

Three, birthdays are her favorite holidays – yours and hers.

Four, she’s been going to our local gym six days per week during the global pandemic, rocking the elliptical and rowing machines.

Five, there isn’t a morning that goes by when Hannah isn’t writing a letter, mostly birthday cards, to someone. She also writes for the KGUA radio (Gualala, California) Writer’s Hour. And she does it all with her left hand!

Six, she continues to demonstrate such courage facing her Spasmodic Dysphonia speech condition.  She recently wrote a piece for KGUA. Here is an excerpt.

 I would love to make phone calls without my husband’s help. I’d love to be able to sing more than four notes in a row. I’d love to read to our grandkids without hyperventilating. I’d love not to have to think ahead to avoid certain words that cause my vocal cords to close down or open up too much. I’d love to be able to call the score in pickleball.

Always in the ready position

I’d love to talk across the road to a neighbor, not just wave hello. I’d like order at the deli without being asked to repeat myself every time. I’d love to be able to use inflection in my sentences rather than use all my energy just to get the words out – and often still not be heard or understood. And masks – much as I believe in them – have just made matters worse.

Seven, almost daily for lunch she toasts an everything bagel that she lets cool, then lightly butters for the full experience.

Eight, she never misses a morning with oatmeal sprinkled with chia, sunflower, and flax seeds, walnuts, protein powder, and cinnamon.

Nine, in 2020, Hannah had two successful bunion surgeries (May and September) which has her fired up for the outdoor pickleball season come April.

Ten, in the past year, she has loved these series on Netflix:  Money Heist, Madame Secretary, Imposters, and Virgin River.

Eleven, she would not choose to travel as much we do, but she puts her whole self into it when we do hit the road.

Dan and Han among the redwoods of Big Sur California

Twelve, we’ll have been married 49 years this July 1, 2021.

Thirteen, for her 74thbirthday, next year she will resume the tradition of breakfast out at the Summerland Beach Café near Santa Barbara with friends Nancy and Duncan.

A post script: click here to read the one paragraph addendum to Tuesday’s blog on the snow plows manhandling of our mailbox. 

Dan and Hannah’s Bunion Surgery Numero Dos

All summer long, Hannah knows that surgery on her left foot bunion was coming on September 23, 2020. In the week prior to her surgery, Hannah makes the most of her time.

Getting in a few last serves at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth
Enjoying the Atlantic Ocean at Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth with our friend Genny
Hiking the Green Belt Trail in Cape Elizabeth with our friend Alan
Teaming up in mixed doubles pickleball with our friend Fran

Finally, this past Sunday, we drive north to Scarborough for Hannah’s Covid-19 test, which is necessary for her to have the bunionectomy. Afterward, Hannah and I take one last shoreline walk at nearby Pine Point Beach since it’ll be mid-November before Hannah can walk our Maine beaches again.  By the way, her Covid test was negative.

Covid Test, a swab up both nostrils, that was described as if a bug flew up your nose
Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, Maine mid-day Sunday

Come Monday morning, Portland Foot and Ankle ask Hannah if she can move up her appointment from 1045A to 730A.   Hannah is all in. Let’s get this show on the road.

Then Wednesday morning, arriving at the Scarborough Surgical Center at 610A, we are given new paper masks; fearless, Hannah awaits her surgery by Dr. Juris who successfully performed surgery on her right bunion four months ago (May 2020).  Click here for that blog.

610A in the waiting room at the Scarborough Surgical Center

Unable to accompany her to pre-op, I skip out and drive to the nearby sandy Pine Point Beach to walk the shoreline for the next 90 minutes, all the way to the pier at Old Orchard Beach and back. 

Morning at Pine Point Beach

Throughout the morning, I get text updates from the team working on Hannah’s bunion.

7:28 AM (Procedure Update) Your loved one is in the operating room and is being prepped for surgery. We will begin the procedure soon.

8:41 AM (Procedure Update) The procedure has ended, your loved one is now in recovery.

Heading back to the surgical center, I stop at Dunkin’ for coffee and a muffin.  It’s the least I can do to support Hannah.

Once back at the outside tables of the surgical center, I soon am called to come to post-op to see the ever-smiling Hannah. 

Wheeled out, Hannah smiles beneath her mask.  Can you tell?

During her seven week rehab, Hannah will be on crutches for five days, wear a surgical boot for two weeks, and then tenderly walk for the following month before she can resume physical activity in mid-November.

Outdoor pickleball season in New England will be over by then, but she can already hear the pickleball courts of Santa Barbara calling her name.

Let the healing begin.

Afternoon of Hannah’s surgery

Dan and Museum Artifacts – KGUA radio #17 (Hannah’s Fall)

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For the August 31, 2020 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are told that the museum wants to set up a permanent display case for each writer.  They want us each to pick three artifacts to showcase and free write about them in 200 to 250 words.

My artifacts would be a plate, a dime, and a boogie board.  Let me explain what happened last Saturday (August 22, 2020).

While I am driving to pick up our grandsons, Owen (8) and Max (6), for an overnight at our house, Hannah falls harshly from her bike, landing with no padding on our paved driveway.  She has abrasions on her shoulder, left side, and leg, a baseball-size bruise on her left knee, and throbbing pain in her bruised left elbow.

Omi mandy plate

Mandy’s plate (alternative spelling)

On our way to Urgent Care in town, I know we need a back-up for our grandsons while I tend to Hannah.  Immediately, I think of Mandy.  Without delay, Mandy meets us at Urgent Care and offers to watch the boys.  At home, we have a plate that was made by Mandy and a reminder of our friendship.

Omi Owen's dime

Owen’s dime

Hannah finishes up at the Urgent Care with a cast on her fractured elbow.  Off to the pharmacy at Hannaford’s, she needs her meds for the grimace-inducing spasms in her elbow.  For support, Owen eagerly goes with his Omi while I stay in the car with Max.  Protective, Owen leads Hannah to the pharmacy and signs for her meds since she cannot.  Owen finds a dime in the store on the way out.

 Despite all this, Hannah still wants, as planned, for us all to go the York Harbor Beach with pizza, boogie boarding, and digging moats and castles in the sand.  And we do.

 My museum artifacts celebrate an extraordinary summer afternoon on the coast of Maine.

Omi Max boogie

Max

Omi Owen boogie

Owen

Words – 248

Update

Omi at beach 2

Omi at twilight at the Harbor Beach with her grandson Owen at low low tide

One, I was not allowed to accompany Hannah into the York Hospital Urgent Care because of safety and health concerns from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Two, her fractured elbow is clinically described as a closed nondisplaced fracture of the head of the left radius.

Three, three days after her fall, her brilliant orthopedic surgeon Dr. Eberhart of Atlantic Orthopedic cut off her bandage and cast.  To insure that her elbow doesn’t stiffen up, he instructs her that motion and more motion of her am is the key to her recovery.  She just may be playing pickleball next week.  You all know that motion is lotion.

Come September 23, 2020, her pickleball season will officially come to an end as she will have her left bunion surgically removed by the equally brilliant Dr. Juris of Portland Foot and Ankle.

Note bene – Consider commenting to this and every blog.  I respond to every comment, I mean every.  After a day, two, or three, look for my response beneath your comment.  It’ll be there.  You can take that to the bank.

Dan and Hannah Get the Marriage Question

DNH ithaca

My Ithaca shirt comes to Taughannock Falls in Ithaca, New York

During these Times of Corona, Hannah and I make it a point to avoid crowds.  Hey, we are 72 and reside in the danger zone, age-wise.  Fortunately, we live in Maine, a less populated place to live through a pandemic.

So, it can be no surprise that in the early evening of July 1, 2020, we come with subs and drinks to a distant part of the beach at York Harbor to celebrate our 48th anniversary.

As we sit looking out to the Atlantic Ocean, a mother and her college age daughter pass by.  Earlier when I had passed them on the beach, I had commented about their playing Bananagrams (a free flowing variation of Scrabble that I recommend), which brought a smile of recognition to their faces.

Now, 30 minutes later, the two women pass between us and the incoming tide.  I say to them, Hannah is celebrating her 48th wedding anniversary.  Never knowing what off-the-wall thing I might say to draw attention to myself, Hannah just smiles.

DNH montecito

On a mountainside in Montecito, CA

Mom smiles back and says, What’s your secret?  Hannah and I each have no quick answer but get out that we were just lucky.

After, I think that I want a better answer than that so I can articulate and reflect on the marriage Hannah and I have.

Meeting as first-year students at the College of Wooster, we dated off and on for five years.  In February of 1972, I proposed to her once I got my first real job as a fourth grade teacher at Holdemann Elementary School in Tempe, Arizona.  Married the following July as 24 year olds, we had much learn about being a couple.

So, what’s our secret?

DNH sc

Pickleball in South Carolina

One, we did get lucky as the stars aligned; for she as an upstate New Yorker and me as a Jersey boy happened to go to the same little liberal arts college in Nowhere, Ohio.  So, good fortune certainly got the ball rolling.

Two, we learned how much we enjoy an evening glass of wine together.

Three, we learned that we love being active together.  Be it hiking the canyons and mountains, walking the beach, biking country roads, or pickleballing.

Four, we don’t shop together.

Five, we are learning that we are not in competition with each other; we don’t need to be better than the other, be it in parenting, generosity, or service to others.  Hannah is Hannah, I am me.

DNH with m and o lime kiln

Omi and Poppa with Max (above) and Owen

Six, we are learning to assume the best about the other’s intentions, comments.

Seven, we learned to kiss each time one of us leaves the house.

Eight, I learned when someone compliments Hannah to me (say about her generosity or sweetness), I never joke or am sarcastic (by saying something like, if you only knew!) but respond with some variation of, You got it.  She’s the real thing.

Nine, Hannah cooks, I do the dishes.

Ten, I’m not sure what this means, but in conversation when Hannah is not around, I never refer to Molly, Robyn, and Will as my kids.  They are always our kids.  I sure as hell didn’t raise them on my own.

CR girls Omi and Poppa with Brooks and girls

Omi and Poppa with Brooks (center) and Reese and Charlotte

Eleven, we’ve learned to let the other one spew without offering advice.  Listening is what the spewer wants more than anything.

Twelve, we agree that we found gold living two winter months in Carpinteria, California.

Thirteen, I hang the laundry while Hannah is the problem solver around the house.

Fourteen, we learned that we both have a common interest in reaching out and making connections with many of the people we meet.  We are relentless.  If we were to have headstones, they would say, They tried.

Fifteen, we learned not to take our good marriage for granted.  We have learned to speak up when we are wondering what the other is thinking or has done.

Sixteen, we agreed that our family was a priority over our careers.  We valued experiences together over things.

This is no recipe for others, just what we do.  As you can see, there was a whole lot learning going on.

Maybe that is the secret.

Granddaughters, Bunions, and Courage – KGUA prompt #9

KGUA icon 2

This week’s KGUA radio writing prompt comes from the repeated words in last week’s submissions.  The words that kept coming up again and again were: trust, passion, peace, end, love, give, life, free, youth, kindness, nature, faith, walk, time, courage, ammunition, people, conviction, black, drown, and potential.

Mark Gross, the KGUA writing leader, asked us to time our free write for ten minutes, limiting us to 200 words.  We were to edit just for spelling and grammar, and send in the draft.

His directions were similar to what I did with seventh and eighth graders in Kittery, Maine and while leading the Teaching of Writing courses at Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of New England.  I would have a discussion, read a passage, or come up with a group activity.  From those activities, I would have my students write for ten minutes to see if they found a topic to take through to a final draft in our writing workshop.  Head down and trusting they’d write, I wrote along with my students.

Mark has given me a taste of my own medicine this week, and for that I thank him.  I chose three words below to run with.  The Walk draft aired on the KGUA Monday Morning Writer’s Hour on June 28, 2020 .

Walk

For the first time in six weeks, Hannah walked with me at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  You see, six weeks ago to the day, Hannah had bunion surgery.  First she was on crutches, then two weeks in a walking boot, and then wrapping her foot with surgical gauze twice a day in a hiking shoe.wa

words - ogunquit beach

Ogunquit beach on the southern coast of Maine

Oh, she could move around the house, then our yard, but walking for more than twenty minutes…well she just didn’t want to risk screwing up the operation.  It turns out she was walking on the side of her foot to protect her big toe.  A no no.

But this morning, we woke at five, stretched, then a little after six drove to the wide sandy beach here on the Atlantic.  Being low tide, we walked where the waves were rolling softly to the shore.  She thought she’d go halfway, but then…distracted by the fog, stepping in and around the pools of salt water, we were thirty minutes down the beach before she knew it, nearly to Wells.

Pumped, she headed back into the wind full speed ahead.  I’ve been listening to podcasts as I walk alone during Hannah’s rehab, but this was much better.  Both the conversation and the silence.

 

Youth

Hannah and I are just back from Ithaca, New York where we met our granddaughters for the first time.  Yes, granddaughters!  Reese and Charlotte are our identical twins.  In this crazy Time of Corona, we didn’t know if we’d even see them for six months or even a year!  But when our son and his wife, a nurse no less, invited us to visit the girls three weeks after their births, we were all in to drive 400 miles to be with them.

CR girls nose to nose

Charlotte and Reese

When we arrived, mom and dad hugged us!  Do you know how long it’s been since we hugged anyone else!  Yeah, you do, it’s three months going on a year!

The girls mold together as they lie in their bassinet, just like they were in the womb.  As I sat on the couch knees folded together, I held Reese as she lay sleeping.  Yeah, they sleep a lot.  Then they cry, then mom feeds them, sometimes at the same time, and then the girls sleep some more.

But after three days, they were looking around more and more, checking out their new world.  I look forward to being a part of their lives for a long time.

 

Courage

I have to admit I never really got the white privilege stuff.  As a kid, I was just a kid.  What did I know?  We did live in Radburn, a privileged part of Fair Lawn I learned later as a young adult, a pretty much all white community in north Jersey.  We did take two family car trips to the West Coast.  I just figured lots of kids did that.

words - map of maine

In tiny print, York is on this map

My goodness, I played tennis!  Is that ever a white man’s sport, even though the Williams Sisters took charge of the women’s game for the last twenty years.

I was just going through life.  Living frugally on a teacher’s salary while Hannah stayed home with the kids.  But then we moved from multi-cultural Arizona to white bread Maine.  As such, there were not many families of color here that I knew.  Without a second thought, our kids went to college, had careers.

Of late, I am aware that my white comfort is compromising the lives of so many fellow Americans of color.  Now is the time to have the courage to admit my privileged status and do my part to even the playing field.

I’m listening.

 

Dan and Hannah’s Bunion Surgery – Part Deux

As driving partners in the Bunion 500 for Foot Health, Hannah and her surgeon Dr. Juris are, in the far turn, pulling away from her pathetic little right foot bunion.  Her bunion seems ready to wave the white flag.

Let’s back up, despite how much fun I’m having with the racing metaphor.

On May 13, 2020 Hannah had bunion surgery on her right foot at the Scarborough (Maine) Surgical Center as a day patient.  Both walker and crutches proved beneficial for her rehab.

Bunion2 Hannah with boot

During her first five days, the crutches were valuable in getting up and down the one step from our living room to our outside deck or maneuvering through the small doorway from our bed to the bathroom.  On the other hand, the walker was easier on her arms and wrists as she navigated around the dining room/kitchen area; though it was cumbersome in the hallway turns of our quirky home.  Though, for steadying herself in the shower, the walker takes the pole position!

In time, the crutches threw a piston and crashed into the far wall as they hurt her hands.  Fortunately, five days after surgery, she was put in a walking boot.

Scooting around effortlessly, Hannah regularly rocks seven to eight thousand steps on her Fitbit.  You just can’t keep a good woman down for a long pitstop.

Bunion2 the walking boot

Even so, she is revving her engine in neutral ready to walk with me on the beaches of York and Ogunquit as well as bike our country roads to Mount Agamenticus together.

Hannah did take the recommended Naproxen every twelve hours for the first two and a half days.  But what about the narcotic, Oxycodone, the calling card of opiate abuse?  Hannah was advised to keep ahead of the pain.  So she took a half tablet the first night, then the next morning another half to stay ahead of the pain, even though she felt no pain.

Wondering, then calling the good Dr. Juris, she learned from him to take only the Oxy if she needed it.  She didn’t need it; it wasn’t that she toughed it out, she just didn’t have the pain.

A little later the following week she was slacking by not elevating her foot often enough. She paid the price of some throbbing briefly in the night that went away with her return to elevating, elevating, elevating.

Bunion2 Portland Foot and Ankle

Just two days ago (May 28, 2020) at her second post op appointment at Portland Foot and Ankle, Hannah had the surgical sutures removed (yes, they were painful to even our kids’ tough mother).  For the first time, she saw the five inch surgical scar from the bunionectomy.  Still, she has four to six more weeks of rehab of circling the damn track.

With the warmth of the May sun, friends have stopped by for coffee or tea on our front deck.  People who stayed for an hour or so helped beat the tediousness of being basically quarantined times two!  (Both bunion rehab and Covid-19.)  Others dropped off dinner knowing my culinary skills are limited to take-out chicken burritos from Loco Coco’s Tacos in nearby Kittery.

She’s doing well, ready to take the checkered flag and cruise down victory lane.

Metaphor complete!