The Year is 2000.
My century is done with. Not my life, for awhile yet, but certainly the active years of it. Seventy-three rounds have gone by since I joined the parade.
I have no complaints or misgivings about that. For the last three decades of it, I've lived pretty much exactly as I wanted to -- a rare grace, in this complicated world of too many temptations, too many obligations and frustrations, and too little time to think about it all.
I took a desperate gamble, back then, that life could be freely lived on an insecure basis, without courting disaster. And I discovered that it's not such a gamble, after all -- that it simply opens the door to whole new ways of getting along in the world.
Rewarded to deepening levels by that discovery, I've shared the elements of it as well as I could, as a way of thanks -- to those who made my own path workable, and to the great wide Universe for its bountiful beneficence. This web site is my further way of doing so.
I dedicate the site, then, to all who cannot accept the status-quo ... who rebel at the conventional way of doing things and the burden of expectations laid on them -- expectations that they've been too long at pains to fulfill.
I dedicate this site to all who would re-claim their lives -- whatever their age, and however the circumstances that denied it to them -- by responding to that inner spring of selfhood that insistently makes them aware of such necessity.
I dedicate this site to those whose misplaced sense of responsibility has kept them too long in toil, at the millstone of commitment and obligation -- long past the realization that they should never have bought into it, to begin with.
I dedicate this site to those who want to believe that middle-age is not life's peaking moment, and that the years beyond can be so rewarding as to weigh the balance in their ultimate favor (because I found it so!).
And on a more personal level, I dedicate this site to the several hundred folks who have already shared my trail, and blessed my life with their presence in it . . . and particularly to those few whose love I've counted among my greatest treasures . . . and to that certain one whose love I squandered, for the choice I finally had to make.
I dedicate this site, thusly, on April 14, 2000.
And I shall return to increment this page on each successive anniversary (which happens to be my birthday), so that it will act as a marker, that all can know I am still around
(or not, as the case may be).
Anniversary updates, on each such occasion, will follow this dedication.
Thank you for attending this ceremony
- Irv Thomas
Yes, I am a day late on this update. The activity in my world, at 74, is quite marvelous to note! On the morning of the 14th, I hosted a combined meeting of our neighborhood disaster preparedness group, and some elements of our push for a community center in an adjoining building. Today, I sent off a 5th week's assignment to three high-schoolers I'm tutoring in English, in Chengdu China! And before the day is out, I hope to provide a friend in Budapest with some web material he requested of me on pharmacy franchising in Hungary.
And that hardly touches the range of active concerns that I am looking after, as this amazing year opens. Innocence Abroad is in the mill for republication, before the year is out; AfterLife.org is formally underway at last - with me on the inititating Board of Directors; a late-summer voyage to South America is in the works; Ripening Seasons #40 recently went out; I'm auditing a class at the UW this quarter, on Pasolini's films, and next week I help out at the local Friends of Library booksale (and take my booty therefrom). Life is FULL!!
An Aries to the core, however, I am lagging on the work to get this site filled with the material intended for it. Staying current with Ripening Seasons is just about all I've managed since late summer of last year, when I just seemed to run out of energy, following a summer burst of it and an auto accident (see Ripening Seasons #38) - which didn't injure me. Then came that foul election, and winter's normal letdown. I'm not yet sure when I'll be doing more than staying current with Ripening Seasons; but it will come, before the year is out and life once again simmers down. I'll be back here (I trust) next year!
Second Anniversary marker: April 16, 2002
What a year, what a year! On the personal scene, I never did take that voyage to South America . . . my Joy developed a life-threatening bout with cancer, just a month after I wrote the above, and I chose to remain close by. She has come through it beautifully, and appears clear of it now. But meanwhile, "that certain one whose love I squandered" -- my wife of long years ago -- came to the end of her own life, at 77 years, and cast a pall of sadness over my winter; for love never dies, only people do.
Add those to the general upheaval caused by the 9/11 event (and the political travesties that have followed), and you can understand that it's been a rather challenging year. For counter-balance, the new edition of Innocence Abroad finally came out (almost 11 months in process), and one of the most absurdly rewarding things of this recent life: my own listing in Who's Who in America!
So the year has had both highs and lows, and I am moving strongly into the final quarter of my century . . . which is my most positive outlook on turning 75. Took a pair of CHID courses at the U, this past quarter, which dovetailed quite nicely toward the memoir writing I need to get into. They put me in touch with an unrealized 'patron god' of mine: Hermes, who exemplifies the Trickster nature that has been so much a part of my world. Up to now, I had identified that aspect only as puer aeternus, but Hermes deepens it for me.
I am still pulling back from activism, though it catches me now and again; as with joining in a weekly 'Conversation Cafe' up the hill -- but that is partly to compensate for the absence of any other healthy discussion of what is going on in today's world. I need the balance. Thoughts of travel, again, are ever in the back of my mind. But having gone thrice to California in recent months (and another time likely soon, as my friend Rachel may be dying in Eureka), I'm not particularly prospecting anything more, this year. Maybe next.
Third (and late!) Anniversary marker: August 21, 2003
Well, I certainly bobbled this year's birthday anniversary. I hope no one has gone away thinking me dead. I just, plain and simple, forgot the promise of observing it, which speaks to what aging is all about. As a result, what I have to leave with you here has more to do with this year's process than any of the rest of last year.
But it was before my birthdate that I made the most significant shifts in my world, for the whole period. I've totally backed off from not only involvement in political affairs, but even letting them into my headspace. No news from any source, whatever. Not even a read of the headlines. I figure that's what keeps me locked into the passion, the hope, the anxiety and the depression of it all. I am not recommending this attitude for anyone else, but it's right for me, for a number of reasons, mainly my age and the consequent urgency for writing of personal memoir. But also, and to a surprising extent, I have lost faith in what was once the promise of this country. The course of events has discouraged me once too often; I really feel, this time, that we have lost it.
To a large extent, it felt like that made Ripening Seasons irrelevant to people's lives if I should continue it. So I announced the closure of it with June's issue. I have also stopped taking UW classes, and intend to end that 'umbilical cord' very soon. The result has been a huge difference in my sense of time going by -- a very advantageous difference. Coupled with the effects of twice-monthly chiropractic treatment that I've been getting for all of this year, I am feeling quite revitalized, both physically and in my whole attitude to life.
The latest touch has been a huge change in my diet -- one that was forced on me by the deterioration of my lower denture. But, as if in a typical Taoist tale, the overall effect (by way of the diet change) has been incredibly salutary! I'm now down to 188 pounds, a weight that I haven't seen in a dozen years! So I am in the midst of a wonderful rejuvenation, all the way around.
And I'm well on my way, with the memoir writing: I've projected two books for it, and am about 30,000 words into the first (a fifth of the way?). I'm also preparing a book of hitch-hike tales, a mid-size book, most of it already done. I did a 60th anniversary hitch-hike to Portland, this June, and got written-up for it in the Portland Oregonian, with a lovely large photo. That's about it.
There was no Fourth Anniversary Marker (2004) at all! I entirely blew it off, and only one good soul has called my attention to the omission. Of course, I have no idea how many have gone away thinking me dead!
My Fifth Anniversary Marker was posted a few days ahead of time, on April 11, 2005
It was unusually long and ungainly, however, so I have since tightened it
After many more months than I thought it should have taken (though I'm starting to see it as my own naivette now), My second book titled: Derelict Days . . . 60 years on the roadside path to enlightenment, is now out. I wanted to use the Portland Oregonian photo, but they wanted more than I was willing to pay, for it, so I instead designed a new one entirely myself -- which I think I prefer. I 'inserted' myself in an old advertising photo, and it stands out nicely. At the last minute, I also turned up an original 1916 article on one of America's earliest true hitch-hikers, possibly the first of record.
Came out late in the year, just in time for showing at a 60th Lowell High School reunion, just about the last outgoing/active thing I did, capping a packed year, which included cataloging and disposal of 55 old MGM studio disks, that had turned up for me the previous year in an Oakland basement (after I had assumed them lost for 35 years!). There was also a year's-end rush to save the library's Bookmobile system that serves my needs. Almost entirely successfull, our efforts.
After 12 years, I ended my umbilical connection to the UW system: classes, library, and email address &emdash; prompted by many sensed changes. I am not reading nearly as much; a new iMac had made the old email connection more problematic; and the old iMac has merely become a dedicated word-processor.
And then there was the great dental concern . . . I finally succeeded in arranging for an implant denture, a trial and tribulation which is close to being complete (after being without any chewable food since July of 2003). But it is costing me somewhere around $3000. It is also bringing me the gift, as noted on an earlier annual report, of a shorter, trimmer body. I bragged last time, of being down to 188 lbs . . . well, the new me is more like 170; but also on a 5'8" frame, which was shocking to discover! There are other 'self-image shocks' I've had to accept: poorer eyesight, and my hair seems to be thinning.
All the recent outlay has put me deeply into credit-card debt, but I prefer the discipline of paying my way from income rather than reserves. I also added a $500+ turntable (and other components), because I got tired of hassling my assortment of old equipment -- though I hardly ever use any of it. I seem to have lost any sense of 'balance' I may have developed over the years. So I am just sitting tight, as it were, to try and get the fat debt paid off by the end of the year.
As to current developments . . . First, and ongoing, is the continuing work on my life story. I have just about completed the Spring Season portion; it lacks only two fully finished 'septide interludes', and possibly a satisfying opening preface, as there remains some uncertainty about whether to write a book for each season or one for each half-life. Two circumstances are persuading me to make four books of it. For one, I can't be sure I'll survive through the (writing) completion of my entire first-half life; and secondly, an initial 'private issue', with no ISBN#, could incorporate the CD I'd like to include with it. That's what I'm now feeling.
But something else, entirely new and unexpected, has come into my world, sort of by the back door, as it were. It came in the form of a rather typical 'sprout' -- to begin with. Without providing all those oft-repeated indicating details, let's just say it was a sprout, until I made the very unusual discovery that it was more than a 'typical' sprout: I came to realize it qualified as a never-before-seen Septide Sprout, something I hadn't even suspected the existence of.
So here I am, on the very threshhold of my life's final septide, and I pick up on its sprout! A very important happening, methinks, and one that I cannot possibly ignore. If nothing at all else, it means that there is more for me to do, in these final few years of my anticipated lifespan, than I had supposed -- which otherwise had consisted of little more than getting my life-story done. That's how I've seen these last few years ahead of me, anyway.
The new twist is that I have gotten into the blog world, on something called LiveJournal, a format that I am still getting used to, but feel fairly comfortable with, as it is shaping up. Except that it is 99.9% composed of youngsters, as near as I can tell . . . and I don't think I exaggerate! I am still exploring the possibilities of what there is to do there, so it is still an open matter. But it certainly appears that it's to be my late-life venue, and that I am going to be having things to say!
So there it is . . . and here I am . . . as we jointly bring this 'annual' dedication page up, at last, to where it should be. I'll be back again, with you, in another year (trust me, he fecklessly says!). And have a good one...
Sixth Anniversary marker: April 29, 2006
Yes, a couple weeks late this year. . . but it's still April!
A very active year it has been. With some difficult losses, but some definite gains . . . oddly (or maybe not) in parallel to the condition of the country, itself. And equally so, I might add, with a rather unsteady opening to this year, itself.
I was shocked to the core, early in June, last year, when my longtime best friend, Joy Cutting, in the Bay Area, was suddenly stricken with a metastatic cancer condition that had already invaded her brain. I managed to get down there for a very brief deathbed visit, for which she was hardly conscious. She died two days later on her 76th birthday. She had so much vitality, for her age, that it still seems impossible. We had visited every time I was down there, so it deprived me on that level, too, of a regular hosting spot (and frequently an airport pickup, too). Roger Pritchard has at least offered to become my east bay cornerstone.
My entire year's energy was put into getting the Spring book done, and particularly toward finding the right publishing house for it, recognizing that I was not satisfied with either of the places that had done the earlier two books. This fantasy idea evolved, of taking a cross-country trip just to check those places out, and then a third that had struck me as a possibility. It was a fantasy up to the point where I happened into an amazing bargain airfare from Boston to San Francisco, hardly over $100, and I could not let it go by. So the dream was turned into a crazy plan, with stops in Indianapolis, Kalamazoo, Philadelphia, Boston, and S.F. I tried to get upstate New York into it, too, to visit the Nature Institute, but that one part didn't jell.
In the meanwhile, my Seattle Joy had pointed me to a local printer, a kind of halfway print-on-demand outfit -- that is, they were entirely focused on the printing end, not the marketing, which was okay with me. Particularly so, since they could guide me along the path to making my own pdf for the book! That meant that I'd have full control of its type and layout. And amazingly, it meant also a much lower cost for it all. In one sense, it took away the need for the journey I was making; but it also -- thanks to a concentrated month of work on my part -- gave me a proof copy that I could take along with me, as a means of making my points of comparison (and complaint!) with the other publishers. So it all worked to perfection: a tight journey, a (rather mixed) weekend spent at 'great niece' Tracy's near Indianapolis, a dinner (and ride) visit with Glenn Rouse in Michigan, three wonderful first-time Hospitality Club hosts, and a superbly relaxing long weekend on Cape Cod with Barbara Stafford and her hosting friend, Laya. (Not to forget a visit with Joy's son, Paul, and a long-awaited return boarding of 'Old Ironsides', after 72 years!)
It was several months down the line before I finally finished correcting the proof and adding a cover, along with doing a very lengthy Thanksgiving letter to all points along my friendship list. And I finally settled on what I really wanted to do with this book: give it as a gift! No strings, except that I could already tell that folks wanted to donate. So I made the provision that they could donate (only if they wished) for another of my books or the CD (of my Spring 'hit parade'). In the end, hardly more than half my mailing list asked for the book -- my one requirement. So I printed 200, at $5.65 apiece ($1130). They went out in March, together with a half-dozen here at Ravenna and another several to Paula's writing group (which conveniently met to celebrate Charlotte's book) -- a total of 120 before I was done. And then the real surprise: Enough donations came in (including those in advance) to cover my entire printing cost!! Several were checks for $100; my old high school buddy, Frank Corcoran, sent two checks totalling $150! Along with the wonderful feedback, it just totally blew me away.
And more . . . John Gorman encouraged me to send a book to the Writer's Digest self-publishing contest . . just under the deadline (cost: $100), and the woman leading Joy's old writing group suggested I submit a workshop proposal for an October writers conference in Edmonds, also just under the wire. Who knows?
There's one more gain to report, for the year. I'm proceeding very slowly with the LiveJournal business, but I started a group discussion segment on it that I've called _nuffism (the underline in place of an apostrophe), which stands for the philosophy of 'having enough'. With virtually no intentional publicity about it, the group has attracted about a hundred participants so far, and there is a low but reasonable amount of discussion happening in it, mostly on its own.
But I said there was an unsteady opening to the year: Shortly into January, I was completely thrown when Joy decided to end our 12-year-long partnership. Her reasons make no sense to me. But she is fighting a third round with ovarian cancer, and I can only continue to support her, and her expressed needs. It hits hard, though. But we are trying to preserve the friendship we have, and so far seem able to do so. I did seriously consider relocating, but that got bumped down to simply taking longer winter breaks; but when I tried to do that, with three weeks in the Bay Area early this month, I got slammed back with the worst span of rainy/sunless early spring weather that I've ever enountered down there. As thorough a come-uppance as the Universe has ever slung at me!
Well, it has given me pause for a good deal of reflection. I think it is the sobering seriousness of life's final septide coming home to roost. I cannot take it lightly. With equal remarkableness, these recent Spring mornings right here in Seattle have been regeneratively sparkling. And I see it all as a full syndrome, marking my need to take this time -- these remaining 5 years or so of this septide -- with all the gravity that is their due. I need to stay at home and stick to my task of finishing this seasonal series that tells my life. I had a kind of stress attack, one night, about a week after Joy's pronouncement, that has led to the discovery that I have a modest level of what is called heart disease. So all of it adds up: a time of losing the Joy in my life (at both poles of my world), and the need to focus my energy on my most serious and demanding concerns. Everything else has to be secondary, from here on out.
I've made a start on the Summer book, and charted its organization; and it is really all I want to be doing. Maybe I'm growing up, at last. Or reaching for it.
Seventh Anniversary marker: April 29, 2007 (two weeks beyond my 80th birthday)
Again, a couple weeks late . . . the same date on the calendar as last year's was!
As difficult as last year's ending was (see above entry), it was simply the priming for what became the most agonizing year since my return from Europe and the depression I went through in late '92, before I connected with Joy. Maybe even worse than that. I think everything good about the year as a whole was packed into its early months, prior to my 79th birthday, and included in the annual report above. For all the rest of the year, everything revolved around Joy's steadily deteriorating condition. I worked as I could on the second book in the Seasoned Life series, managing (over the full course of the year) to bring it only as far as chapter three. I did produce the CD of my Spring Favorites, sending out several dozen of them, mainly to those who had sent contributions for the Spring book.
Thankfully, several of Joy's kids began putting in major time, staying with her and seeing to her needs. Mainly it was Mary and Michael, but others would fly in and spell them for significant periods. And it is hard for me to be exactly sequential with this, since the time has already become a blur. The turning point, as far as Joy's awareness and acceptance was concerned, was sometime in July, when an unresolvable condition of fluid in her lung cavity made her approaching death inevitable. Michael was doing 'energy treatments', and she put up a really courageous fight to overcome it, but it was then apparent that someone would have to be there full-time for her. Right at the end of July, I stayed with her for three nights getting little sleep, and I suddenly developed a case of Shingles, not knowing what it was until I had waited nearly too long for the prescribed treatment, which meant many months of slowly decreasing pain on my right-frontal ribs area.
I had managed to mostly neutralize the impasse in our relationship that had begun in January, but because of it I couldn't help feeling awkward with her family &emdash; I mean, we no longer had a real relationship. But I hung in with it as well as I could, reading to her two or three hours most evenings in order to allow Mary a bit of time off. Joy really appreciated it. Her son, Paul, was fortunately on hand when I had a major computer issue (everything turned magenta) that had to go into the Mac store. He helped me in doing that; and then a rare (for the year) piece of good fortune: I got the @$500 repair at no cost, due to some weird fluke!
For weeks, I had been planning a major celebration for September 1st, a triple-septide (seventh year) observance clustering around that date: five septides since I turned my life around, three septides since arriving in the northwest, and two septides since my first contact with Joy. The first of September seemed the perfect moment for the observance. I invited all my regional friends, and even those in the building, brought in seven big pizzas, along with sodas and ice cream, and did it up with appropriate journal readings and gift giving. Most of my friends managed to make it, but not all of them. And Joy, bless her, put in a brief appearance, in some of her finest attire. It was just three and a half months before she passed away.
I felt good about being invited to join in the pre-Thanksgiving dinner that her family put on for her. And then at the very end of November, Joy relented on her 'break-up' with me, allowing me to resume addressing her as "Sweetie." That took place on the very evening of the 50th anniversary of my old marriage to Viv! (What a strange conjunction). About a week later, the family got her into a hospice, and the end arrived on December 15th, along with a record-setting electrical storm that knocked out power in half the metro area (including the hospice).
Needless to say, it was a very difficult time for me. Within four years, I've said farewell to the three most significan women of my entire life. It left me feeling like there wasn't much reason for going on with it . . . until I realized that I had to go on, at least long enough to finish the season-ordered autobiography. It seemed, now, my main reason for remaining here. I again thought about leaving Seattle, but only briefly, realizing that I'm too well-grounded here to live anywhere else.
But good things began to happen. The article about my reconnection with old buddy Ray Clark, that I'd sent to Reminisce Magazine a year and a half ago, was finally appearing, and it arrived in my mail exactly in time to become a surprise 80th birthday gift for Ray. I had put out a very troubled six-page newsletter, just before the Septide celebration, figuring it was time to let everyone know of all the agonies I'd been going through ever since the year had begun. Now, I decided it was time to get out a capstone to it, to bring it all into further perspective, even softening it a bit with the hints of recovery that I was already beginning to feel. I sent it as a Valentines Day letter, illustrated with pix of Joy and of me and my apartment, taken in June by Lowell Smith, out here for a visit. Joy looked pretty good in it.
And I was already preparing for another Bay Area visit. I had received, by this time, a thick alumni register from SF State, and found in it at least a dozen old friends whom I hadn't been in touch with. So letters and/or Spring books were sent out, and some marvelous responses had come back. I arranged to get with two of them, and also a nephew of my very first date (Mitzi), along with two of the children of my boyhood friend, Jack Bik (I had found one of his daughters in the Seattle area, and she had sent them copies of my book). And finally a gamble on giving a gift of the book to the daughter of my onetime high school crush, Rita . . . a personally risky prospect, for reasons too involved to go into here. On the strength of an advance weather estimate, I took virtually no rain gear with me (after last year!!), and I took off for nearly three weeks down there. And it all worked! Hardly a drop of rain the full time, superb people connections all the way, and additionally, overnight visits with two old flames of mine. Madelynn was a surprise for me, in the sense of warmth I felt from her and the fact that my visit was arranged on the basis of a chance phone call from her just the day before my departure. (I can't help wondering what it all means.) And then came the 80th birthday parties: one held for my 'twin', Al Bettles (and me, of course), in a Montclair (East Bay) park, and one for me alone, given by Gordon and Darcey, with some friends. My cup truly runneth over! The entire visit was a seamless rejuvenating experience.
I'm still involved with LiveJournal, though struggling to keep up with it; and now part of a small senior social group, almost more active in it than I bargained for. (I am the only fellow in it, so far, with a half-dozen women . . . and they all seem so young to me!). And physically feeling remarkably good, for being 80; doing more walking than I've been lately into. And of course, the shifting political sands are looking more promising than they have in years. For awhile I was even submitting writings to OpEdNews, until I realized that I really haven't the time for just exercising my ego needs that way. I am more and more content to just stick to my writing, and where it all ends up be damned! Maybe that's the true enlightenment for me, after all.
You can now move on to the Staging Area