Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016: Year's End (A Bit Belated)

Dear George,
Aside from various national and international catastrophes, we had an up and down year in 2016 in our household.  The most memorable event occurred in early April when a pipe burst in our second-floor bathroom while we were out for the day and flooded our kitchen, dining room, and half of our basement.  Fortunately our insurance covered the $40 thousand restoration costs, but it took a full six months from start to finish and was thoroughly stressful.  We emptied the first floor of our house and lived like captives on the second floor.  We have been back to normal for several months, but it left us with an unpleasant feeling of vulnerability.  

This also was the first year that we’ve been without our beloved sheepdogs, Mike and Duffy.  I’d say we’ve gotten past the grieving stage, but the loss of the dogs has left a big hole in our lives.  They were a great source of pleasure and affection, and they were an important emotional focus that Katja and I shared with one another.  When the vet’s office called to offer us a pair of labradoodles, our hearts skipped a beat, but then we thought better of it.   

One of the year’s highlights was our early August trip to a family get-together at my parents’ Farm in Birch Creek (just north of Menominee).  Our son J, daughter-in-law K, and grandkids L and V had flown up from New Orleans, and our niece Jessica had brought her one-year-old twins, Maya and Peter, up from Detroit.  The Seattle contingent included Greg, who manages Farm, and Jennifer and Win and their sweet kids, Vincent (13) and Ingrid (9).  Our cousins, Ann and John B., who live in the Twin Cities, also joined us several times.  Katja and I stayed at Bob and Lois A.’s wonderful house on the Green Bay shore.  As always, our visit to Menominee had a comfortable, nostalgic feeling.  We enjoyed meals at Schloegels, Jozwiak’s, The Waterfront, the Rail House, Culver’s, and the Wild North Tavern, as well as an enjoyable visit to the DeYoung Family Zoo in nearby Wallace.  

Much to my surprise, Katja said she’d like to take a camping trip through the Upper Peninsula after our Menominee visit, and we headed up for Munising where we enjoyed the Pictured Rocks sunset cruise (highly recommended).  We followed that up with a boat trip through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie.  After a stint in St. Ignace and a trip across the Mackinac Bridge, we drove down the Lake Michigan — Petoskey, Charlevoix, Traverse City, Manistee, Muskegon, and others.  We’ve done that trip several times in recent years, and it’s always a treat.  Katja was a hardy camper, even though her air mattress kept going flat.  

I had bought a pair of hearing aids at the big box store just before leaving for Menominee, and, just my luck, I lost one in the forest on our first day of camping.  Because the store guaranteed one free replacement, it wasn’t a complete disaster, but it left me feeling nervous and guilty.  I’m not a completely enthusiastic user.  According to available research, they correct about 25% of hearing loss (but that leaves an annoying 75% to struggle with).  Katja had nagged me for several years to get hearing aids, and one of their best benefits is that they reduce about 80% of spousal complaining.  

Katja and I have reached an age where hearing losses are among the more manageable health disasters possible.  Two of my friends from work died in 2016, as did several of my high school classmates, and too many of our friends and acquaintances have struggled with dire, distressing health problems.  We have been fortunate to date, but I keep my fingers crossed and spend more time at the fitness center than I otherwise would.

For me, the worst part of 2016 was Trump’s nomination, election, and post-election actions.  We’d followed the primary season closely, and I was initially pleased with Trump’s selection since it seemed to guarantee a Hillary Clinton victory.  That, of course, didn’t work out.  My personal (admittedly subjective) opinion is that Trump has irretrievably damaged America’s standing in the world in his first two weeks, and it’s difficult to project how much more destruction he’ll cause.  My worst fantasy is that I’ll spend the remainder of my life in complete misery from a Trump presidency.  

On a cheerier note, we celebrated Xmas with our friends the Minkarahs and then flew down to New Orleans to join our family.  Our grandchildren turned eight in September and are wonderful kids, bright and spirited.  I can’t think of a happier way to wind up the year.  

Katja and I did a number of OLLI classes in 2016, my favorite being poetry writing.  We celebrated birthday dinners at the Chart House and Jean Robert’s Table.  We’ve taken in lots of music (symphony, opera, chamber music, musical theater) and art exhibits (Cincy Art Museum, Taft).  Though we’re not sophisticated fans, we watched lots of Bengals and Packers games, as well as all the Grand Slam tennis tournaments.  I do line dancing on Tuesday nights, Dayton flea markets throughout the year, lots of TV offerings (e.g., Ray Donovan, Homeland), and Katja, Donna, and I regularly go to Friday night movies.  All in all, our lives are punctuated by various pleasures, major and minor.  I hope 2017 will be still better for us all. 


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