What's been going on the last 2.5 years?
Shortly after publishing my first "Living Kidney Donor" story on 10/12/2016, my youngest daughter Michelle completed her Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Lee, Virginia and was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington. Michelle and I loaded up her Ford Escape and drove cross country to set her up in an apartment near the base. It was a great adventure spanning 5 days, 10 states, 40+ hours of driving, and an amazing ride thru Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Certainly one of the best road trips ever. After we got Michelle settled in, we drove halfway up Mount Rainer in our third National Park of the trip. Another highlight was Snoqualmie Falls.
A month later in November, my second granddaughter Hattie was born. This helped make the 2016 holidays even more enjoyable as the family continued to grow.
At the close of the year, my mother was diagnosed with dementia after a long bout with an infection. Mom had to be moved to a memory care facility after a month in the hospital and another month in rehab. My sister Gloria and brother Ted spearheaded the visitation schedule as we all spent more time keeping her company and assisting in oversight of mom's regular care. Fortunately, she loved her apartment.
The year 2017 was filled with many hours of daily exercise as I began to track my steps on a regular basis. My wife Kathy and I enjoyed several hikes in the area and hours of play and sleepovers with grandchildren.
My mother turned 90 years old on the 9th of May. We had a very nice family celebration at the memory care home where she has been a resident since February. Her brother Richard came up from Florida.
In July 2017, Kathy and I spent two weeks in the Tacoma area with Michelle. After a few cold days on the beaches of Ocean Shores, we retreated to the warmth inland. Hikes in Olympic National Park and around the Steilacoom area, ferry boat rides on Puget Sound, and lots of quality time with Michelle. Just a couple of weeks later, Michelle moved into a new apartment in Dupont, WA.
August came and my first trip to the Drum Core International World Championship Finals in Indianapolis, IN with my wife Kathy and her family. Kathy's brother Rob is an instructor for the Canton Bluecoats, and also participated in the 50th anniversary performance by the Santa Clara Vanguard. I figured it was about time I joined Kathy for one of these, since she has already seen 7 new ballparks with me over the years.
We returned to Washington in September for another visit, and resumption of my quest to see a baseball game in every current Major League city. We saw the Cleveland Indians beat the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. At this point, I have 5 ballparks left with no plan for the next one.
In late October, my stepson Matt was married to Allison in a cold but beautiful ceremony near Lake Erie. As Matt became a stepfather to Allison's two daughters, Kaylynn and Hailey, Kathy and I became grandparents of now 6. Lots more birthday parties and widening of our family sphere.
Entering 2018, after 2+ years of retirement, I decided it was time to look for volunteer ideas. I joined the Cleveland Metro Parks volunteer group and became a Golf Ranger at their Mastick Woods Golf Course. This was the first golf course I ever played in July 1969, and now I work here! Two 5 hour shifts per week from May to October and my reward was free golf at all eight Metro Park courses. Dream job for sure!!
Prior to starting the volunteer assignment, I traveled to Arizona with my longest tenured friend Mike Fry. I was only four when we met on our first day of kindergarten at Willard School in Cleveland, in 1957. On the first day we drove 4 hours each way for sightseeing at the Grand Canyon. We did some hiking, an ATV ride in the desert hills, and a Chinese Buffet with Mike's college friends on day 2. On Sunday Mike and I went to an Indians Spring Training game at Goodyear Ballpark. The next night we saw the Indians play the Arizona Diamond backs at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. Beautiful area and very fun trip.
Phoenix was so much fun that I talked my wife Kathy and daughter Michelle into a Mother's Day weekend trip. Kathy and I drove 4 days each way and Michelle flew in from Washington. On the 2nd day of the drive in, Kathy and I stopped over in Denver, CO and attended a Colorado Rockies game. Now I was down to three cities to get to, and Kathy had been to 9. A couple of mountain hikes, golfing, swimming, a canyon boat ride and we were back on the road for a southern route home. Another great trip.
Kathy and I spent the better part of the 2018 summer hiking trails and completing the Cleveland Metro Parks Trail Challenge. We walked over 10 Metro Park trails and increased our daily step count considerably. I was able to play golf two or three times a week into October.
Mike Fry and I planned a "business" trip to Minneapolis, MN for early August and we saw the Cleveland Indians beat the Minnesota Twins twice. In Tuesday and out Thursday. Two ball games and a trip to Minnehaha Falls on the commuter train. Now I'm down to the two stadiums in Florida.
When the golf season ended in October, I checked out a few volunteer jobs with the Metro Parks for the winter. Not seeing anything I liked, I decided to contact the Sandusky Ohio Veterans Home to see what they had. In November I started my role as a "Friendly Visitor" and was assigned two veterans to meet with. I go out there two days a week and have thoroughly enjoyed sharing life stories and learning about the military experiences of now many Ohio veterans. Having a daughter in the US military inspired this idea.
Kathy and I made another trip out to Washington in late November to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter Michelle and her new roommate. That is her brother Tony, who decided to move out west and take a job in trucking. They rent a beautiful home with views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Gorgeous!!
January 4, 2019 was a very sad day as Mom succumbed to another series of infections and passed away. She was 91 years young and was truly the matriarch of our family. We will miss you forever Mom. I spent more time with her in these past two years, than I had since I moved away from home in 1976. We had many long talks, she was happy in her home, and able to remember our names when we came to visit.
My nephew Wyatt gave me a classic Christmas present that was two tickets to a Tampa Bay Rays game scheduled for March 29 in Florida. Kathy and I drove to Redington Beach, FL with a layover in Huntsville, AL to meet with Wyatt and his family for an in-person thank you. We got to meet his youngest children Andrew and Emersyn in addition to seeing Vanessa, our niece Sara, and Wyatt's older son Anthony.
Michelle and I went to the game while Kathy hung out on our condo deck looking for dolphins in the bay. We did a dolphin cruise, beach combing, and some nice restaurants to round out the spring break adventure. On the ride home, Kathy and I stopped to visit her brother Rob and his girlfriend Deana in their Mountain City, TN rental home. We did a mini hike on the Appalachian Trail and spent the night there before driving home the next day. Beautiful scenery but no major league baseball in sight.
A month later, my friend Mike Fry and I then flew down to Naples, FL and drove the next day to Miami for a Cleveland Indians versus Miami Marlins game. The Tribe won 4-2 and Mike took me to the Customer Service booth where they awarded me a button for my 30th ballpark. At this point I have seen a game in each of the 30 major league cities in existence now. I have 8 cities with two stadium visits already, and another 10 cities with a new stadium since my first visit. Mike and I are gonna try and hit 3 of those this summer.
With my Golf Ranger job resuming next week, I will reduce my Ohio Veterans trips to once a week for the summer months. Kathy has also signed on as a volunteer there and we are helping out veterans during the Memorial Day parade next Monday.
So with all of this going on, I decided I needed to get more active with something related to kidneys. I joined the National Kidney Foundation as a volunteer. Kathy and I are signed up for the National Kidney Walk on June 2, 2019 and will participate as fund raisers. I am still a member of the "International Living Donors Online" and have been published on the "Rock 1 Kidney" site. It has been 42.5 years since my kidney donation to my sister Carol, and I intend to remain active in volunteerism as long as I am healthy enough to do it. I exercise daily and have increased my daily step count average to over 12,555.
Today I watched both of my grandsons play their first Little League baseball games. Max is 8 and Joel is 6. I look forward to sharing my baseball stories with them while enjoying their experiences as a fan. I hope to take them to their first Cleveland Indians game after school is out in June. No telling where that will lead.
Lots of volunteering, golfing and hiking this summer and another trip to Washington state are in the plans.
Ahhh … retirement!
May 17, 2019