March 11, 2016, Prescott- Today’s been rather a fine day. The AARP Tax-Aid Center did the honours, this year, and I gauged things properly, as it happens. It was a fine thing to watch a noble send-off for Nancy Reagan. Shortly, I will head to a Spaghetti Dinner/ Drum Circle, at the home of some Chino Valley friends.
I want to address the single most challenging decade of my life, a bit differently than I have the others. The high points/low points are getting a bit tedious, and I have mentioned people and places in the heart, to the point of repetition.
The major feature of any time of great challenge is: “What have you learned?” Here goes:
2000: 1. Pundits make poor prognosticators. 2. The wealthy can be quite down-to-Earth, especially when hosting. 3. Taking a southern route doesn’t always result in avoiding snow.
2001: 1. Troubled people can sometimes network, and bring about calamity. In fact, they can be very surreptitious about it. (Mingus Mountain Academy, February and the Wayward Planes, September). 2. No matter how shattering a calamity in my life, I will find a way forward. (Forced out of work one day, in a new job three days later.)
2002: 1. Everyone’s child is precious.(In this horrific year of assaults and kidnappings of girls, this was especially vividly accented.) 2. Girls can be spot-on, in getting the drop on their abductors (Think Kyla Pratt, Philadelphia and the two teens in Los Angeles). 3. Just because the landlord says so, doesn’t make it so. (Mid-lease attempt to up our pet rent was shot down by the City of Phoenix.)
2003: 1. Never take your eyes off someone so precious (Penny fell, when I was momentarily distracted by talking to another friend). 2. No matter how noble an effort one is making to save others, focus on family first. (She fell a second time, while I was occupied with fighting serious bad actors on the Internet. This time, the gig was up and her decline began.) 3. Honouring one’s elders is always a good thing. (Mom’s 75th was a bright spot, in this dark year. 4. Working close to home is not always the best course of action. (Palo Verde Middle School)
2004: 1. People are beginning to feel a disconnect with government, even down to the lowest level, i.e. school administrators. (The parent of a white student, who felt victimized by a black classmate, voiced the sense she was being dismissed out of hand, by the principal, at the school where I was working.) 2. There is, related to that, a serious gap in communication, between different population groups. 3. Never take a job, out of expedience.
2005: 1. People, who are uncomfortable with physical disability, are not above bending the truth, or exaggerating, to get rid of a disabled employee. 2. There is magic,still, in a full formal wedding, set in the mountains. (My eldest niece was married in the Mount Washington Hotel.) 3. Justice, deferred, is still justice. ( A Justice of the Peace, who ignored the testimony of a deputy sheriff, in favour of well-connected people, who caused the accident that totaled Penny’s car, was himself removed from the bench, by the Superior Court, six months after having fined my wife.)
2006: 1. As excruciating as it is, for the person being retired, there are some people who do their level best to offer a dignified retirement to a disabled worker. (Penny’s retirement was achieved in dignity, thanks to school district office personnel.) 2. The advancement of knowledge is always amazing. (She moved on, and began working on her third Master’s Degree.) 3. Having pride in one’s child graduating in summer is perfectly natural, and essential. (On his 18th birthday, our son showed that persistence was part of his nature, as well. We honoured him fully.)
2007: 1. Putting together a Virtual Field Trip is an amazing experience. (We flew to Atlanta, attended my oldest nephew’s wedding, then drove to various places, between Atlanta and Saugus, taking photos along the way. These were part of Penny’s technology education project.) 2. Even the most reserved family members come through, in a pinch. (My taciturn sister-in-law put together a lovely 25th anniversary gathering for us and Penny’s gruff brother-in-law repaired her rickety wheelchair. We got it replaced, once back to Arizona.) 3. Driving in the pouring rain is probably not the best practice session for a teen driver. (The poor girl was in tears, after pulling out in front of me, on a South Carolina highway. No harm was done, except maybe to her confidence. The man in the passenger seat didn’t look very happy, perhaps a stern father.)
2008: 1. Arrogance can lead to overreaction. (The CEO of an automotive design company busted out laughing, at a poorly-designed electric car prototype, offered by an environmental action student group to which Penny belonged.) 2. Even in a period of declining health, the mind can accomplish great things. (Penny completed most of her coursework by December.) 3. Honesty always leads to vindication, when coupled with persistence and attention to detail, even if it takes a while. (A school worker was rough with a Kindergartner, then embellished a tale about me, when I comforted the girl. I voluntarily took a leave of absence, but was vindicated, after three weeks. The other person was terminated.)
2009: 1. Even mental health workers can have a blind spot, when it comes to the disabled and their families. (I was let go, after three months, because of “conflict” between my work for the agency and being Penny’s caretaker. I found out later that it was all about my not generating revenue for the agency.) 2. Driving, cross-country, with a disabled passenger was slowly getting easier, rest-room wise. More states allowed opposite-sex caretakers to go with their disabled person into the restroom, and several were starting to install Caretaker-friendly “Family” restrooms. (We had a relatively easy trip, to and from my third nephew’s wedding.) 3. If acting as caretaker, do take time for one’s own well-being. The greater selfishness comes from pretending that one must be full-on, 24/7. 4. Never, ever, try to outpace credit card debt by just pulling more money out of investment funds. (Yes, we ended the year in Chapter 7.) 5. Most importantly, when given a major task, involving a loved one, see it through, no matter the obstacles.
The decade ended with me still substitute-teaching, Penny having earned, and received, her third Master’s Degree, and she increasingly spending more time asleep than awake. As those who followed me, then, on Xanga and Facebook will recall, there would be 14 more months of struggle and decline. The decade which followed, and which is now well past half-finished, would sharply distinguish between light and shadow.