Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Sunday Morning to Remember

This morning (Sunday) I woke up very early, as I described in my last post. I got up, got dressed, and logged onto the laptop to do some e-mail, blog posting, etc. But about 4:45, I decided to go out for a walk to get some exercise. Of course, it was still quite dark, but I jogged/walked from our motel near the pier, up Ocean Avenue to 6th street, over to the public beach access stairs, down to the beach, then back almost to the pier, but I stopped when I got to our motel.

I finished up just before 6 am, and was interested in getting a coffee and something to eat. I had planned to go to Kelly's Espresso Bar, but when I showed up there a little after 6, they were still closed. As I was walking away from Kelly's, I noticed a man leaning out of a second-story window across the street, talking to a woman in a truck down on the street. So I yelled up to him: "Excuse me sir, do you know when Kelly's opens?" He said they may not open at all today (!!). But then he told me that "O'Neil's" coffee shop was just about 3 blocks down the road, and he knew for sure that it was already open. So I set off for O'Neil's.

As it turned out, it was less than a block from our motel, so it was actually very convenient. I went in, and there were just a few customers at this early hour,
and a woman working behind the counter. I ordered a coffee and a muffin, and sat down at an empty table to look through some of the local newspapers.

But then I noticed a man talking to the person working behind the counter. (They seemed to be old friends, as did most of the people in O'Neil's; maybe there is a confederacy of "6 am coffee drinkers.") I overheard him mention that he had had some health problems, and that they caused him some problems with movement.

That sounded pretty familiar to me, and I wanted to know what the nature of his health problem was, and whether it was anything like mine. So I did something pretty out of character for me: I said to him "Excuse me, sir, but I couldn't help overhearing your conversation about some health problems you have; personally, I have Parkinson's Disease (diagnosed in 1998) and Brain Cancer. Would you mind telling me what your condition(s) are?" I've found that "Brain Cancer" seems to get people's attention, and among others with health issues confers a certain respect or credibility -- this is not the flu we're talking about here!

Without a moment's hesitation, he told me that he had had a couple of strokes, and has continuing movement-related issues as long-term side effects of the strokes. Very soon another customer, who was sitting nearby at another table and seemed to know the first guy very well, told me that he has severe back pain, and is getting Workman's Comp, but has a lot of problems with the "bureaucracy" and rules of the California Workman's Compensation program. For example, he is learning guitar (blues, rock, ...) and is willing to play through considerable pain in order to keep up with his lessons. (I can relate to that...) The problem is "guitar playing" is something that people in his condition aren't supposed to be able to do, according to the Workman's Comp guidelines. So the conclusion is that if he can do this, he must be cheating, and can be kicked out of the program. What the guidelines don't take into account is that he absolutely loves making music, and is willing to put up with considerable pain to do what he loves.

A woman who seemed to be a good friend of his and was sitting at a nearby table told me how happy she was to meet me, and she thought I had a very good, positive attitude about the Brain Cancer. The three of them were all permanent Cayucos residents; I told them that I was not a local, and was only here for 3 days, although we have been to Cayucos every summer for several years. Then she happened to mention that she was originally from Carmichael! Of course, I immediately told her I grew up in Rancho Cordova, and went to Cordova High. (Carmichael and Rancho Cordova are both Sacramento suburbs, not far from one another at all. We often played the teams from Carmichael in high-school football and other sports.) So then we talked a bit about high schools, etc. She graduated in 1969, I graduated from Cordova in 1975, and the other guy graduated from somewhere else not in Sacramento (near Cayucos, I think) in 1977.

All three of the people I talked to had faced health issues themselves, or had had friends with serious health problems. But they all had put aside feelings of depression, or anger, or other negative feelings, and were trying to focus on the positive.

When I had to leave, they gave me a sticker that said "Live in Peace," and had a peace symbol on it. Apparently it had something to do with the 40th commemoration of the "Summer of Love" in San Francisco in 1967 - of course, none of us were old enough to have actually participated in the Summer of Love. (I was 10).

I promptly went back to our motel room, and applied the sticker to my Mac PowerBook.
The people I talked to at O'Neils were very, very nice, and the thing that struck me is that they had all faced significant health-related adversity, but had come through it with a positive, peaceful attitude. It was a real pleasure to meet and talk with them, and they said that they enjoyed meeting me too.

A great way to start the day!

Note: although all 3 introduced themselves to me, I am not using their names because I didn't mention the blog to them (I forgot!), and so don't have their permission to appear in the blog.

A Good Place to Be

Ah--- Cayucos, that's the place to be. It is supposed to be 102 degrees here today. We just returned from having lunch at the Apple Cafe. That is up past Placerville just before you get to Apple Hill. Now we will stay in the house with the air conditioning for the rest of the afternoon.

Cayucos is a good place for a vacation, whether it be short or long. I know we have enjoyed all the times we have been there. It is great that you gave Beachfront Rentals credit for refunding the money you paid for the rental of the house there that you had to cancel. Not every company would have. They deserve a gold star.

I am going to post a couple of pictures of our stay in Cayucos last year just to see if I am smart enough to figure out how to do it.

Well, I think I did it. It would be hard to say which the kids enjoyed more, the video gaming/pool hall or boogie boarding. Anyway, have fun for the rest of your Labor Day weekend.

To Sleep - Perchance to Dream?

Saturday night I got to bed just after 9 pm, which meant, as usual for me, that I would be ready to get up and start the day 6 hours later: about 3 am. Sure enough, just about 3 am, I woke up, got out of bed, and got dressed. I was not in the least sleepy, had no desire to sleep any longer, and wanted to see what was new outside or on the internet. To most of you, this must seem very odd, but that's just how sleep is for me. When my head hits the pillow, I am usually out very quickly. I hardly ever have any memory of lying in bed trying to get to sleep. It feels to me as if I almost immediately go into a dream, and when I wake it often seems to be directly from a dream. Most people have 4 stages of sleep, and dream only in stage 4. But I seem to either skip right to stage 4, or else dream in all stages. This has one annoying side-effect: sometimes I have a hard time telling dreams from reality. I've even asked others how they know what's a dream and what's real. Is the dream in black and white? Or is there a flashing subtitle saying "Not Real! Don't Try This at Home!" How do you do it?

I think for most people, their dreams are so wacky that afterwards it is very clear that it was a dream, not reality. But lately I've been having dreams that are very similar to real life. For example: many old friends have called me once they heard about my health issues. Then I have had dreams in which other old friends called, or in some cases came by the house. So afterward as I think back on these visits or phone calls, it is really not so easy to figure out who really called and who didn't...

I've concluded that I need to start collecting tangible evidence of where I have been or who I have talked to. For example, in the next blog post I'll describe a conversation with several people on Sunday morning. I know this conversation really took place, and was not just some dream, because they gave me a sticker that says "Live in Peace" that now graces my Powerbook. If it were a dream, then where did the sticker come from? So I'm going to try to get a business card, or something tangible, each time I meet with someone. This will then serve as proof to me later that the meeting really happened...

Hopefully, all of these problems of distinguishing dream from reality are a temporary side effect of the recovery from the surgery, or the radiation or chemotherapy, and will not be a permanent problem...

Maybe I just need to get out more, so that I have MORE INTERESTING, less-realistic dreams! Unfortunately, not much chance of that for a while...