Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Random Thoughts (A Dog Named Jack)

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Today is day 65 since Brandon's second stroke. He is still improving, little by little, everyday with therapy sessions 3 times a week for 2 hours per session. Our hopes remain high for continued improvement. But, life continues to march on. 

Brandon has 6 dachshund dogs. Last Sunday, that number increased by 5 as Sophie had her litter.

Five brand new puppies

These 5 will find good homes in about 6 to 8 weeks. This is not Sophie's first "puppy-birth". She gave birth about 1 1/2 years ago to a litter of 5. One of those puppies had a tough birth. While he was only partially delivered, Sophie surprisingly got up and began to walk away. This caused damage to the puppy as it was literally hanging on for dear life. Brandon stopped Sophie from walking and helped the puppy complete its birth. The puppy would stop breathing and Brandon pumped its little chest until it would start breathing again. Eventually it began breathing on its own and Sophie began cleaning it as she had done the others. Jack was the name Brandon chose for that puppy. 

As Jack matured, you could tell that everything was not right with Jack. He had difficulty walking, barely able to run if at all and could not fully bark. Against all hope, his condition did not improve over time, in fact it had been on a continual decline since his birth. Without getting into his complete medical condition, a decision was going to have to be made soon because pain was creeping more and more into Jack's life. His favorite position was on the warm concrete patio where the heat seemed to give him some relief. 

Brandon was faced with a difficult decision and he needed to make it quickly. This type of fateful decision was not new to Brandon. Anyone who allows dogs to share their lives must face this decision eventually and Brandon has made it a few times. It doesn't get any easier, no matter how many times it happens. He made that decision less than a week after Sophie gave birth. The beginning and ending of life within a week; not good. 

Jack rode in Brandon's lap in the car and in his wheelchair. He seemed to sense what was ahead for him and was facing it head on. Three of us were there; Brandon was within inches of Jacks face and bravely comforted him by looking straight into his eyes while telling him it will be OK until Jack slipped away from this world for a place where he could run and play as complete dog, free from pain. It was a sad day.
Brandon with Jack a few minutes
before the end. We were there to
see Jack take his last breath knowing
he was finally getting some relief.

    The following poem has always provided me with some solace at times like this. 

    The Last Battle

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this -- the last battle -- can't be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We've been so close -- we two -- these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

-- Unknown

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya you down the road.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

More "Wows" (part 3 of ?)(9/11/2014 to 11/30/2014)

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Today is day 51 since Brandon's second stroke. He mowed the back yard today which is a great achievement. That, combined with his ability to drive his truck is pretty good news. He still goes to Physical/Occupational Therapy 3 days a week for 2 hours per day. He will also begin with Speech/Swallowing Therapy 2 days a week at 1 hour per day. Everything is all good news and he is improving a little bit each day. Thanks to all those who sent prayers and good thoughts. 

I'm continuing with my series of "wow's" that I've experienced since beginning my full time adventures. It is a great way for me to summarize my travels in just a few blog posts. It makes it easier for me to locate a post or campground from the past. This post will be from September of 2014 in Northern Minnesota to Louisiana for Thanksgiving 2014.

Travel route between 9-10-2014 and 11-30-2014

I didn't write a post about this because I fell behind on the blog and just never got around to it. This is the Kensington Runestone located in a museum in Alexandria, Minnesota. It was discovered by a Swedish farmer in 1898 while clearing trees. The inscription is supposedly detailing an exploration of Scandinavians in 1362 which predated Columbus by 140 years. It was a good visit.

This picture is of large boulders that were moved to this location during the last ice age that covered Minnesota. This rock is from as far away as Canada. As you drive around Minnesota, you can see such boulders scattered around. It is a fresh reminder of the impact of nature on our country.

This is from Pipestone National Monument. The prized stone is the pinkish material on the bottom of the excavation. These mini-quarries have been in existence for 3,000 years. The Indians use the soft stone to make pipes and other things. The stone has been found all over the U.S. from the trade routes of the Indians over the ages.

This was a big Wow. It is the junction of the Mississippi River on the left side and the Missouri River on the right side. It was a pleasant day as you can see from the calmness of the waters. It was an amazing feeling standing in this spot with such power being so close on each hand. It is located after miles and miles of travel through farm fields, but well worth the trip. 

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I took the trip up to the top and it was a great experience. If you are even a touch claustrophobic, the trip is not for you. I had to clear my mind and not think about the size of the "contraption" used to get people to the top, but it was still nice.

Daniel Boone's grave located a few miles outside of Marthasville, Missouri. It was a great visit to the grave of a man who explored parts of the country at a time when Indians controlled everything around. A great American that is not given his true credit for opening up the country. 

This is Tom Sawyer's Campground in West Memphis, Arkansas. It was a great place to sit and watch the barge traffic pass by as if in a parade. The "wow" moments were at night. I was there when the nights were pitch black. The tows would turn their searchlights on to find navigation buoys then turn them off. It was spooky and exciting at the same time. Very nice. 

A nice visit to the Tobasco plant in Avery Island, Louisiana. This the General Store next to the plant. If you haven't tried their new Chipotle Sauce, you're missing out. It's great on most everything, especially scrambled eggs. 

The Gulf of Mexico. It's not as powerful as either of the two oceans, but no matter how many times I see it, it will always be a "wow" for me. 

Galveston, Texas and the Bolivar Peninsula. They are two of the places where I feel as if I've "come home". I don't know why because I never lived there. It is just one of those special places that immediately gives me a peaceful feeling as soon as I get to the peninsula or the island. 

Sunset over Galveston Bay

This was an extra special "wow" moment. My daughter asked if I would come talk to her 3rd grade class about my travels. They had been following me on the map behind us. The title of the map? "Where is Mrs Mc's Dad?" Very nice visit with the kids.

The family, all in one picture. It doesn't happen too often now a days. 

Family Thanksgiving in the house where the kids grew up. Excellent !!

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Random Thoughts (Silent Echoes)

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Today is day 45 since Brandon had his second stroke. He is still going to Physical/Occupational Therapy two hours per day, three days a week. It really is brain therapy as the brain needs to be rewired due to the damage caused by the stroke. After therapy on Monday, the 23rd, Brandon said something "clicked". He couldn't explain it when I asked about it. He just said things were "different". I took that as a good thing. The good thing happened a few days later on the 30th, Memorial Day. Brandon wanted to try driving his truck around the neighborhood. He did it with ease, so he drove into town while his mother and I stayed behind and worried. His improvement continues daily and his positive attitude remains high. 

Random Thought:
I've been thinking a lot lately about "silent echoes" and "shared memories". What are silent echoes, you say? They are our individual memories, the echoes in our minds. As we experience things in this world, we create memories. We store them away in our minds for recollection in the future. When we recall them, it is like echoes in our mind. 

One form of memory is when we learned the 3-R's in school and were expected to remember them on a test. The surprising thing is that everything we have learned over our entire lifetime is stored up there just waiting for us to retrieve it. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it's as if we "don't know _ _ _ _ from shinola". (You younger ones out there may have to ask a seasoned citizen for the missing word.)

Silent Echoes are more than just memories. They are what makes us who we are. That is why Alzheimer's is such a devastating disease. It takes away those silent echoes and without them, we are a stranger to ourselves and others. It is just plumb sad. I remember my father suffering from it. His memory loss would come and go as if it was an evil trick being played on him. My mother passed away after 51 years of marriage to my father. There were times after her death when he would ask, "Where's Sue?" as if he thought she was outside or in the other room. We would have to tell him she passed away. He would look at us with a quizzical look on his face and scrunch his eyebrows down a little as he searched through his "silent echoes". Suddenly, the memory would be retrieved and he would go through the heartache and pain of losing her all over again. There isn't many things I can think of that is worse than having to relive a tragedy like that time and time again. I know the day is coming, if I live long enough, that I will go through that same passage of life. I hope life is kinder and allows me to keep some of my silent echoes.

As I said, "silent echoes" are individual memories. I've created a lot of those since my divorce and even more so since I started traveling around the country solo. The trouble with silent echoes is you can't share them with anyone. Oh, you can tell stories about what you've seen or done, but it is never the same. It's true in that, "I guess you just needed to be there." There are some silent echoes that will die when I die. They will never have been spoken or written about and will simply fade away. They will go where memories go that are no longer remembered by anyone. 

The sights, sounds and scent of canyons reaching to the horizon or the waves of the Pacific crashing against the rocky shores, or the snow covered trees along a mountain pass or the dozens of sunrises/sunsets over deserts, mountains, lakes and oceans or a cool breeze blowing through the valleys of the Smokies, or the bright and brilliant blue color of Crater Lake and Lake Huron or the peaceful drives along empty highways with the smell of freedom hanging heavy in the air, or the somber and humbling walk among the Stone Gardens of Arlington. These are just some of the silent echoes created by me over the last couple of years. They live inside of me, with the other echoes from my life.   

There is also something called a "shared memory". That's when someone else is there to experience the same thing you are experiencing. Ain't those good? Those are the ones where you can look at somebody and say, "remember when ,,,,,,", and then you both get the same feeling of being back at that time. A good example of a shared memory is child birth. When the mother and father first see a new life come into this world, together. I have had the privilege of sharing that memory with the mother of my children, twice. Many times, shared memories are taken for granted. It is like most things. We think they will last forever, but sometimes they don't. When the person you shared a memory with passes away, then your shared memory has turned into a silent echo. Losing those shared memories is sad.

I will end with one of my Silent Echoes that came to mind as I was making this post. 
Freedom towing Liberty across the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass. Very, very little traffic, temperature in the low 30's after a snowfall the previous day. The air was crisp and clean. It was something to behold. Now it is just a silent echo ringing in my mind, but it sure can cause me to relive that peaceful feeling on that day.  
I've rambled enough. And to answer a question in some of ya'lls mind, "No, I'm not on drugs." Well, caffeine is a drug, but that don't count. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.