Color My World

Robin and I are presently traveling to outposts of the Empire to visit some of our children. We’ve chosen to travel by car, even though gas prices are unpleasant most everywhere we go. For those of you who are new to this outstanding literary effort of mine, ours is a blended family. Robin brought three children into the new mix, as did I. Her kids live in Colorado and California, while mine have found Minnesota to be irresistible, and occupy dwellings in Mankato, St. Paul, and Eveleth.

We started out on Monday Oct. 3 by traveling to the Denver area, where we rendezvoused with son Justin for supper. It started to rain while we were eating, and that continued as an off/on drizzle for the next 36 hours.

Next stop was Mankato, where we bunked with daughter Sarah, husband DJ, two dogs, and a cat. Congenial company all, and excellent hosts.The 1100 mile drive to this point was outstanding. Autumn’s colors everywhere and either at their peak or two days from it. So far it has been a gentle Fall, without windstorms, ice storms, snowstorms, or any other climatic mischiefs, so the foliage has been allowed to slowly gather its reds, oranges, golds, and browns without being disturbed. The leaves are 99% still still hanging in place, and we gawk at them as we do each year. Somehow each autumn comes as a brilliant surprise, taking our breath away at the beauty Nature can provide, if we are wise enough to let it do so.

Robin, Sarah, DJ and I took a walk Wednesday afternoon, on a footpath that ran along the Le Sueur River. When you drive past forests you get the larger picture, but for me it is perpetually fascinating to take individual leaves and study them up close. Pick up a sumac leaf and realize that if you could take that home and preserve it as it was you could look at it for years and still be filled each time with a sense of the magic that is at work here.

Autumn Leaves, by Eva Cassidy

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A trip like the one that Robin and I are on puts me in a reflective mood, a dangerous one for a senior citizen to be in. I am visiting my three daughters, one at a time, and there are occasionally waves of memory that come along, some big enough to carry me off if I forget to set my anchors properly.

In AA there is much talk about not regretting our past, but using it to remind us where we can improve, where we might help others who are still drowning. While I accept that using my mistakes as father, husband, friend, physician, citizen (you pick the category) can be helpful, I have never found that phrases like “we don’t regret the past” to be anything but poppycockery of the first order.

Of course I regret parts of my past. Great chunks of it, to be honest. In all of the categories I listed in the previous paragraph I have made serious mistakes and the ones where I fell shortest were the personal ones. The ones where being a good husband and father called for someone who had a very different skillset than I was granted. That’s not a proper alibi nor is it an excuse, but simply an observation.

Let me provide an example. A recurring stressful situation for any pediatrician is during a “code,” or cardiorespiratory arrest. The stakes are high and the possibilities for error are everywhere. For the healthcare workers present in the room, working in a coordinated fashion is mandatory. My emotional makeup was such that I could enter that room, join the hastily assembled team, constantly reassess what was happening and what was needed, and do this without any sense of panic. In other words, I rarely “lost my cool.”

And in those situations it was a kind of behavior that worked well, so if everyday life was one code after another I might have done better. But there were so many times when that clinical and analytic approach, that keeping of an emotional distance that served me so well in the ER or delivery room was ill-suited to what was called for at home. Where I provided logical (to me) but often useless suggestions instead of the caring hugs and expressions of concern that might have been better choices. My strength in one place was my handicap in another.

But like Popeye the Sailor, I yam what I yam. Try as I might over the years to become a more thoughtful human being, I realize that my default positions haven’t changed as much as I had hoped.

Cat’s In The Cradle, by Harry Chapin Jr.

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Question for the Day, October 6, 2022

On CNN today, a panel of three talking heads were discussing the fact that an open mike had caught President Biden uttering an F-bomb. The context was not clear.

My question for the panel is: Is this news? Really? With half the world under water and the other half parched and withering, with all the things that are seriously amiss in American life, with the cost of Cheetos rising almost daily, does his use of a coarse word in a private conversation need three experts to discuss it to absolute death?

Holy s***! There go my political aspirations right out the f****** window!

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I don’t know if you all are ready for Amythyst Kiah, in fact I’m not sure that I am. But the lady doth bring the news.

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On Thursday we moved on to St. Paul which is where daughter Maja now lives. We were able to get together with her for an excellent lunch on Saturday afternoon. The weather had changed for the chillier and the windier. We are staying in a BnB on the north side of town in a very small older home. We have the entire house, but I’m guessing it is no more than 600 square feet in area. It’s a one-bedroom that would have worked better as a studio-style cabin, I think. What it didn’t have was laundry facilities, which by this time we needed. The first laundromat we checked out was in a dismal part of town, appeared not to have been swept since the Roosevelt administration (Teddy’s), and the change machine was broken. Exeunt Robin and Jon.

The next one was its opposite in nearly every way. Change was available, machines would operate with credit cards, and it was obvious that someone with a broom and dustpan in their hands had come by … say … in the 70s sometime. The name of the place was “All Washed Up Laundromat.” That’s a reassuringly modest name, non?

There was an Indian restaurant nearby, where we had supper. I tried a dish that was new to me, aloo matar, which was potatoes and peas in a thick sauce. Pretty delicious. Robin was happy with her palak paneer, which is a favorite dish of hers.

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We have suffered many disappointments in restaurants, but both agreed that, to date, no Indian establishment we’ve visited has ever let us down.

Famous last words, eh? Having now uttered that which was better un-uttered, I suppose I can look forward to a plateful of gutpunch vindaloo somewhere down the road.

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