Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Friday, December 25, 2020

2020: When It's Mentioned in the Future, We'll Just Smile Nervously and Change the Subject

 At Thousand Trails, Willis, Texas...

This year just keeps on giving, doesn't it?  I mentioned Sandy's foot surgery in the last post but, since then, things haven't gone so well. Five weeks after the initial surgery, it had to be redone because a screw came loose from the straightened array of bones, and one of the bones broke. The surgeon replaced the screws with metal rods to hold the bones in place. He said this was the old, tried and true method, although it is more painful, obviously. The ends of the metal rods are exposed outside the foot, so they can be removed when the bones have fully fused.  This means, of course, that five weeks of recovery have been lost, not to mention the added pain of metal rods inserted into her foot. Sandy calls them "swords," which probably gives you an idea of her discomfort. Yes, she has painkillers to help, but she refuses to take opioids. I never cease to be amazed at her lack of complaining. I can guarantee you that I wouldn't have handled it as well.  But then, I think God gave pain tolerance to women for a reason:  They are the ones who have babies; if it were left up to men to have them, the population would eventually fall to zero.  I admit to being a resentful whiner when I'm sick or in pain; when I get a cold, I think Sandy considers hospice care for me. When I have my upcoming knee surgery (I'm putting that off for a while), she'll probably trade me in for a new model.

If that weren't enough, Sandy has also been having worsening shoulder pain and immobility, and a recent MRI showed that she is going to need shoulder joint replacement surgery. That will happen after her foot heals sufficiently. Yet she takes it in stride, merely eager to get it all behind her. I simply can't match that; I think I would be looking for a cliff. Well, not really. All we need to remember is that these things are all fixable. When we think not of ourselves, but of so many others whose medical conditions are much worse or hopeless, our problems become small by comparison. But how fitting that all this would happen in 2020.

Well, I have strayed a good bit from the subject of RVs, but I want these thoughts recorded in this blog for that time when the memory isn't as sharp. The year of the plague and the masks will not soon be forgotten.

Getting back to RV life, we think it was perhaps Providential that we happened to be in this fulltiming lifestyle at this time. As it happens, we can easily be isolated and move from places where virus hotspots develop, and that's what we have done, mostly. We were able to stay in lowly impacted areas for months and, after we left, many of them turned into hot spots. Look at California now, for example. When we were there, the virus was almost unknown. We spent the winter, spring and summer in areas of very low population, and we felt quite safe. We wouldn't be here now near Houston if it weren't for the chance of finally seeing the kids if we can get vaccinated and, oh yes, Sandy's surgery.  Thank goodness there's now a vaccine and life, hopefully will get back to normal one of these days.

We are beginning to notice that a surprising number of new RV parks are being built in this area of Texas. I think the park builders are finally beginning to catch on to the great proliferation of RVs in the past few years--especially during the pandemic. It is really hard for me to keep up with the good ones that would be worthy of listing on my 'Best of the Best' page.

Obviously, we're not going to be mobile enough for a while to do much reconnoitering of the 'part time' digs we have in mind. We are looking for a 55+ community of small houses--larger than park models--that are located in inland Texas, not too far from the kids, but not near the coast with its humidity, hurricanes and mosquitoes. There are hundreds of these communities in Arizona and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas that are beautiful and well-landscaped, but they are too far away from where we want to be. We've looked at Del Webb, Robson Ranch and such developments that are within our budget, but their houses are too large. If we wanted that, we would have kept the house we had. We're accustomed now to minimalism, and we like the simplicity of a small space; however, we're nearly convinced that what we're looking for in a 55+ housing community doesn't exist outside the hellish heat areas like those we've seen in far-away Arizona and in south Texas. 

It was nice to see old friends when we returned here at TT Lake Conroe. We even met some new ones--new to us, not our other friends--and we have been in (safe) contact, as in this outdoor lunch at P. F. Chang's the other day in The Woodlands:

Clockwise around the table, starting with Sandy-- Janice (new friend), Ed, Rick (new friend) Dave, Janice and Debi. Sandy was in a good deal of pain during this lunch, but it wasn't going to prevent her from having such a good time among dear friends.

I think I'm going to toss into these posts a favorite photo from our travels while we're grounded. Maybe that'll make it a little more interesting for newcomers. I know we'll enjoy seeing them again. By the way, if you're new to fulltime RVing, I urge you to keep a journal of some kind. Our blog helps us remember so many things we've forgotten. When you get older, you'll understand. 

Here's a nice view of the Grand Canyon at sunset:

We'll keep you posted on Sandy's progress. In the meantime, please include her in your prayer list.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



Sunday, December 6, 2020

In a Painful Holding Pattern

 At Pearland RV Park, Pearland, Texas...

I suppose it's about time to publish an update, something I don't do often when we're not traveling. In our case, we're not traveling for two reasons: First of all, we're hoping for a Christmas visit with our "kids," as we call our daughter and her husband and our grandsons. As I mentioned before, this has to be under careful circumstances due to our daughter Mindy's occupation as a nurse in a major Houston hospital with Covid patients.

Besides that, Sandy has suffered a setback in the foot surgery she had five weeks ago. After the surgeon's rebuilding of her foot, the stresses thereof apparently caused a bone to break in the area of the repair. This was allowing the repair to come apart, so it had to be done all over again, this time with some hardware installed in her foot to stabilize the bones in their new paths. As I noted in the last post, the surgery is brutal, and now, we are starting over with the healing process, the five weeks we had behind us being lost, of course. Radical foot surgery is among the most painful, and I feel so sorry for her having to endure the painful recovery all over again.

My arthritic knees have improved via the injections I have every six months, so I really don't have any complaints, compared to poor Sandy. I won't even be considering knee surgery until my condition becomes unmanageable. 

As we have had healthy lives for so long, it is a little difficult adjusting to the maladies that age brings upon us. Fortunately, our problems, so far, are fixable with modern medicine, and we are remaining positive about our prospects after we are past these bumps in the road. What this has done, however, is to force us to face the reality of aging, although we may not have wanted to do that. We have had five fabulous years of fulltime RV travel and pretty well checked off our bucket list, so it seems prudent to think of our exit plan, as we explained in previous posts. However, because of Sandy's lack of mobility, we can't do much in that regard for a while, so that's why I mentioned we're in a holding pattern.

We have had some nice visits with fulltiming friends Dave and Janice--who have left the fulltiming life now--and Steve and Jackie, who have not. Steve and Jackie stopped by to visit us on their way to Florida for the winter, and we're so glad they did. The following photo shows us at Pappas' Seafood House in Webster, where we had a great meal and good times together:

As you can see, Sandy's left foot is in the chair (the white thing is my mask) to lessen the pain. Her repair surgery was only a few days away at this point.

I know you hear these kinds of stories all the time, but our friendship with Steve and Jackie was totally a matter of fate. In an RV park in Austin, I had pulled Phannie into a parking spot next to a couple (Steve and Jackie) who were sitting outside their fifth wheel next door. If I see occupants of an adjacent site outside, I have a habit of going over to greet them in a friendly way since we'll be in such close proximity. When I went over to chat with them, they were extraordinarly friendly and invited me to sit in a nearby chair--a bit unusual, since we had never met. But I sat, and we began to talk a bit. Meanwhile, Sandy wondered what had happened to me, as I hadn't even begun to set up the coach. She eventually came looking for me, was drawn into the conversation, and our friendship has blossomed ever since. Steve and Jackie even switched their planned purchase of a new fifth wheel to buying a Phaeton motorhome, based on what they saw and liked about Phannie. 

There are similar stories about dozens of RV friends we've made, and that's part of the mystique, I suppose, of this type of living. We became friends with Dave and Janice, for example, in Idaho, of all places--merely by their recognizing through RVillage that we were both Texans in the same RV park. We met, the chemistry was right, and now we're friends forever.

I can't mention all the stories here, but there are many similar ones. This phenomenon--of RVers being some of the nicest people we've ever met--has been an unexpected benefit that, in our view, eclipses the grandness of all we have seen and experienced in our travels.

We are staying here until we can get back into Thousand Trails in Conroe. Most of the parks seem to be quite full these days, and reservations are required far ahead in some cases. After our three-week stay there, who knows? We've not been hobbled like this before, so we're sort of making it up as we go along.

Thanks for reading--more later!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood