Monthly Archives: September 2016

At the Dermatologist

I have a long medical history. But for modern medicine, I would be dead several times over.  Pneumonia, bleeding ulcer, knee ACL and PCL, serious butt stuff, on and on.
Most of my life I went out in the sun without sun protection. That was a bad idea, growing up at  some altitude in a desert. I have done a good amount of outside work as well. The only  precautions I ever took was wearing a hat, usually a ball cap.
A few years ago I started regular trips to the dermatologist to have patchy pre-cancerous areas  on my face frozen. There were always new spots to be treated. Not long after the last visit I  noticed my razor scraping a place on my cheek. It didn’t heal, so I called.
Early Stage Squamous Cell Cancer

Early Stage Squamous Cell Cancer

This morning my Dermatologist took one look and said cancer. She started with a biopsy and  saw it was deeper than she thought. She scooped out a chunk about the size of a dime. No  stitches, just a band-aid and Vaseline. Squamous cell cancer.

I have always been aware of the risk. A rancher and the game warden in Fruita died from skincancers they ignored for too long. A guard at one of the water plants where I worked had a sore  on his face he was ignoring. I yelled at him so much he finally went in and had the cancer cut out.
A friend at work, blonde with fair skin, grew up in Brooklyn and spent his summers at Coney  Island. He travels to the Caribbean to scuba dive several times a year. He goes to his  dermatologist every quarter to have more cancers cut out. He has a pretty good sized gouge  out of his nose.
I thought I was probably safe because my skin is not that fair. I have hardly ever used sunscreen, but have almost always worn a hat, especially after going bald. Usually it was a ball cap.  I have used a boonie hat more lately. I think my ball cap days are over. I will also start  using sunblock. Once again, modern medicine is saving my life.


Quakies on Kebler Pass Pass, Colorado

Quakies on Kebler Pass Pass, Colorado

The seasons they are a-changing.  Back when I was a hunter, dove season started on the first of September.  Here in eastern Colorado, the first cold front of the fall happens about that time.  Hunters hope it comes after the first, because the cool down sends the resident doves south.  The birds available are migratory birds, with different behavior and less numbers.   The Japanese Beetles also  burrow into the lawn.

I no longer hunt, but I miss our neighbor city doves and their calls as soon as they leave.  It’s harvest time as well.  We didn’t do well with squash this year, but the kitchen is full of tomatoes.  Tomato salads, tomato sauce, and tomato soup.  Tomato soup is the easiest, throw some tomato sin the Vita-Mix, add whatever zip you want, put the milk in, and whomp it up.  The Vita-Mix has enough power to heat the soup.  Carol makes a great baked frittata with sliced tomatoes on top.  .  

The other  wonderful thing about fall is the color.  Our maple tree leaves are getting a fringe here in mid-September.  In some parts of the high country, the Quakies are reaching their peak about now.  Peak season for the yellow and gold display varies around the state, so there are several weeks of viewing available. 

Squaw Pass

Squaw Pass

My favorite area near Denver is Squaw (The USGS needs to rename this pass) Pass between Evergreen and Echo Lake on the Mt. Evans road.  From the summit the view to the north is spectacular.  One can get a feeling for the sheer expanse of the Rocky Mountains.  Probably the most intense area for yellow trees is Kebler Pass from Crested Butte to Somerset, near Paonia.  There is good camping in the area, and fewer people. 

Probably the most popular color viewing drive from Denver is the Peak-to-Peak highway from Clear Creek Canyon to Estes Park.  I make the trip every year, usually coming up one of the canyons and back down BigThompson Canyon.  I drove it over the weekend.  There are some aspens, but not a lot.  I think there were more people in Estes Park than quakies along the Peak to Peak.   

I am so lucky to be a Colorado native.  The Colorado Plateau, with the red oak brush (Gambel Oak) to the cottonwoods in the canyons and the hardwoods in the towns, you go east into the mountains with more brush and those quakies.  Out on the plains, the creek and river bottoms have a display, a relief from the relentless tan of the prairie. 

I plan a prairie trip soon to go to the North Platte, Chimney Rock, Scott’s Bluff, and Fort Laramie, important spots on the Oregon Trail.  Our history is more recent compared to the old country, but there is a lot of it, much of it tragic.   

Fall is, to me, the best time for travel.  Last year it was I-80 from New York to Denver with all that eastern hardwood color, this year it is running around my home country, bounded by Ely, Nevada; Winslow, Arizona; Albuquerque; Springfield, Colorado; North Platte, Nebraska; Ten Sleep, Wyoming; and Vernal, Utah.  More or less.

Next week we are headed to New York for a visit.  Central Park will be pretty.

Declining and Arising

The Quarter Moon

The Quarter Moon

A few years ago Carol, my wife, her sister Judi, and I wrote a blog about caregiving for aging parents.  The aging parents are gone and so is the blog, but one piece I wrote sticks with me.  Watching the decline.  I wrote the piece about Frank, Carol’s and Judi’s dad who went into a serious decline in his ’90s.   

Frank is gone, so now I am watching my own decline.  I had it come home to me when I forgot where I parked the car in downtown Minneapolis and spent three hours searching for the damn thing. By the time I found it I was tired, relieved, and a bit ashamed.  Not finding the car has always been a problem for me, a function of my ADD.  I keep a little yellow ball on the radio antenna of my pickup so I can see it in the parking lot.  Losing the car for three hours is a new one, however.  Yes, I have a GPS in my cell phone. 

Losing the car is only one symptom.  My knee, wrist, shoulder, and back hurt.  I fall down.  I can’t remember names.  Carol and I make a plan every week, and I forget what I am supposed to do.  I go downstairs to get something, do three other things and end up back upstairs without what I went for.  Three times. 

I will be 74 in October.  What do I have left?  Ten, maybe fifteen years?  Aging is reality for me.  Usually I take these things in stride.  After all what is important is the moment, which is almost always pretty good.  The trip to Minneapolis threw me into something of a funk.  I got scared when I couldn’t find the car.  I went to help my brother-in-law, who is facing some aging issues as well.  I still haven’t recovered from the trip. 

My life is good.  We have a nice home and garden, good things to do, travel some, and have fun together.  I can write, which I was unable to do until the last few years after getting diagnosed and treated for ADD.  I have gone places and done things.  I can ( )meditate which I could not do for most of my life.  I have found an important role as family caregiver. Caregiving is especially meaningful because it didn’t exist in my family. 

The meditation has opened up a spiritual life I have sought since I first asked “Why?”.  I now  know the answer: Because.  The secret to because is becoming.  The sun is up every morning.  The birds sing, even if I have trouble hearing them.  The new in my life outweighs the difficulties.      Most of the time.  I get myself in trouble when I stare at that unknowable wall out there.  If I stay where I belong, here and now, I’m fine.  Events, however, sometimes present that wall-my brief time on this world and in this body.  I’ll get through it.  Writing this has already helped.


I recently went to Minneapolis to help my brother-in-law.  He was on his bicycle returning from doing some volunteer work when he was hit by a car.  His leg was broken, and the ambulance took him to the Hennepin County Medical Center, a huge facility, where he had surgery on the leg.  There he was, in the hospital then in a nice rehab facility, immobile.   

I traveled from Denver to serve as legs.  He need his mail and things from his place and the police report for starters.  The mail and things was no problem.  He lives in one of Minneapolis’ hip neighborhoods.  Lots of bicycle shops and pizza joints.  The police report was another matter. 

Minneapolis City Hall

Minneapolis City Hall

The City website gave a wrong address.  I asked around, and was sent to City Hall next door.  It is quite an edifice, a big pile of brown brick meant to be in some architectural style.  There is nothing on the outside of the building to identify it as City Hall.  I found the right office and was told I had to have written permission from Jim to obtain the report.  So, back to the rehab center for the note, and back downtown.  A little later in the day, I had to park a few blocks from City Hall.  I said the location out loud to myself so I would remember.   

I got the report ($0.40) and headed back to the car.  I couldn’t remember where I parked the damn thing.  I walked around for three hours with no luck.  I even had to stop for something to eat as I was getting tired.  I asked for help at a police station and got nothing but sympathy.   

I finally got a cab and we found the car in ten minutes.  I was looking on north-south streets and the car was on an east-west street.  Later it dawned on me I could have pinned the location on the GPS in my phone.  I guess I will have to learn how to use the thing after three years.  I was as stressed out as at any time in my life.  I just felt old and clueless. 

I stayed in a hotel down by Mall of America and the airport, not wanting to stay downtown.  It is easy to go back and forth if it is not rush hour.  Minneapolis highways seem more congested than Denver, and the streets are in worse shape. It’s an older city and the winters are worse.   

The hotel restaurant was an Outback Steak House.  It was entirely too much noise for me.  I ended up at the Denny’s (!) down the street.  After running around an unfamiliar city, I was too tired every evening to even turn the TV on. 

Lots of years ago I spent some time in Minneapolis Searching For Truth.  I don’t know if I found truth, but I came to appreciate the city.  It is also where Carol went to high school and the University of Minnesota, so there are connections other than the one with Jim.   

As in every big city, downtown emphasizes the diversity of the population.  In Minneapolis, I expect to see blonde Scandinavians.  Nope, African Americans and Somalis.  The city has the largest Somali population in the country.  I don’t think they are Lutherans.   

The only complaint I have about Minneapolis is the climate.  It rained.  Several times.  Once, a lot.  This child of the desert can tolerate some rain, but not much.   What happened in Denver when I got home?  It rained.  Where is the justice?