The Last Post? – The Silent Eye

I was so moved by this blog post, I couldn’t help but reblog it. I urge you to take the time to read it. It’s worth your investment of time, believe me.

I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

This may be the final post that I get chance to write for the Silent Eye… that decision has been taken out of my hands. I spent much of last week in hospital, having, as many of you know, been diagnosed with incurable small cell lung cancer last September. It has been an interesting and…
— Read on

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At seventy years of age, I have a veritable Library of Congress-size collection of memories to draw on. I can remember episodes of my life from the point my memory banks became operational to now. My memory provides comedies, dramas, documentaries, and a plethora of mental theatrical productions that Hollywood can in no way match for entertainment value. That old saying about seeing your life flash before your eyes when you’re about to experience a tragic accident couldn’t possibly be true. How in God’s name could all that I’ve experienced be flashed in a few seconds.

The year 2020 put a damper on so many memory-generating opportunities for people worldwide. Think of the number of weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries of all kinds, events of countless varieties we look forward to in the normal world, a world of predictability. Our chances to experience many of the fun things were removed from the menu and replaced with the darkest of experiences one couldn’t imagine before the pandemic came upon us.

The pandemic has in just one year changed things for the worse for so many people. It has caused us to access memories of events that happened not so long ago. For example, my family had one of the best family reunions in the summer of 2019. I blogged about it Familial – oldblessedwordpresscom. Many of us at that event, gathered for a Christmas celebration in Sierra Vista, Arizona at the end of 2019. My cousin Hansel lives in Sierra Vista. He and his wife Martha retired from California to Sierra Vista. They had been talking up the virtues of Sierra Vista for quite some time. It seemed like the perfect location to spend Christmas away from home. If you’ve been following my blogs, you know that Hansel and Martha were part of the gang of five family members who made the trip to Ghana, West Africa this past Christmas holiday season…another great memory-generating event.

Unfortunately, events that birth memories aren’t always joyful and pleasant to draw on at some point in the future. Scenes of bodies covered in temporary morgues, where the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll, are memories I would rather not draw on; however, they are in my memory banks and they will flash images on the screens within my head whether I wish to see them or not. The death of some of my own family members from the attack of Covid-19 on their frail bodies reminds me that all of us are probably in the crosshairs of this horrendous virus. What’s that old phrase? But by the grace of God go I. That phrase was quite personal a few weeks ago. Both Chris and I contracted Covid-19, but we’re now doing fine and I’m happy to report we don’t seem to have any long-lasting effects so many victims experience.

Memories. They contribute enormously to our lives. They allow us to rewind images in our minds, to review the building blocks of our character, to see much of what has made us what we are right now. A few days ago, the media started to report that the United States had reached a dark milestone. Five hundred thousand people had succumbed to Covid-19; 500,000 of our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and other family members who have ceased to contribute to the precious memories of far too many of us. Considering all this darkness, I’m hopeful that you are, at the least, having those micro experiences that are loaded with joy. I am. When I see the faces of my grandkids; realize that Chris and I still here; or have a brief phone conversation with one of my siblings; my memory banks are charged with fun stuff.  Think often about the good stuff that has happened!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Am I just too old?

I remember a few years ago when I first started to think about writing a blog. I was somewhat hesitant to start because I didn’t think I had anything worth saying. After much contemplation, however, I thought I would give it a try. After all, I had read many books that didn’t quite reach the level of quality I thought necessary for publication. If some authors were brave enough to deposit their work in the public domain for others to read, why shouldn’t I blog. Deciding on a handle for my blog wasn’t hard at all. I was in my mid-sixties at the time, and I had undergone a health challenge that many folks I knew didn’t survive. Old and blessed just seemed to fit.

If you follow my blog, you know I live in the state of Arkansas, United States. We have nice springs, hot summers, nice falls, and short winters that often don’t provide an opportunity to wear heavy, movement-restricting outerwear. Although I’m not qualified to offer a scientific opinion, I do think our winters have gotten a lot warmer since I was a kid. I distinctly remember wearing heavy jackets and coats in October and having them readily available for use through the middle of March. My grandfather had a rule: Don’t take off your long handles (underwear with long legs and sleeves) until the first of April.

As a kid, I welcomed with joy the snow days of winter. A good snow-day, with six inches of the white stuff meant no school and the opportunity to play outside. The warmth of the inside couldn’t hold me back from going out to frolic with wild abandon. I always applied my undeveloped skills at sculpting a snowman. He never looked that good, but the joy of playing in the snow was the point, after all.

Now, let’s move forward to February in Arkansas 2021. Today is Wednesday February 17 and it’s been snowing since Sunday night, except for the sunny day we had yesterday. Although the day was sunny, the temperature remained frigid, not allowing for any significant melting of the powder that had fallen before. It’s common in Arkansas for snow to fall one day and be gone the next, after being exposed to some of that good Arkansas winter sunshine. That hasn’t been the case this week though. It started snowing again last night, and it’s still snowing all day. The stuff is covering everything, and it’s forecasted to keep coming right on through midnight.

View from our back deck over the fence, across the creek

Unlike when I was a kid, I’ve been secured in the house praying that our electric utility company won’t have to start rolling blackouts. Arkansas just isn’t equipped to deal with this type of weather for extended periods. Neither I nor my dog wants to venture outside. I’ve noticed my neighbor’s kids just across the creek in back of us have been enjoying this strange weather anomaly. I think they enjoy the benefits of wild abandonment in a winter’s wonderland. What a difference a few score make. I think I really am too old to enjoy this winter’s blanket. I prefer the electric one we have stored somewhere. I hope I won’t need to look for it.

View from front window of yard and street

Old and blessed…hope you will be too.

I saw no elephants, no lions…

Accra is the capital city in Ghana

I remember as s boy, growing up in America, watching Tarzan movies. Movies about this white guy, raised in the wilds of Africa by apes, who somehow developed into this wise fellow. A fellow, who had smarts beyond those of all the dark-skinned natives who occupied the land with civilizations going back for millennia. Africa, as presented by Hollywood back then was this dark, uncivilized place with no demarcation anywhere; it was just Africa. There were wild animals everywhere. As white people on safari meandered through the bush, you would hear exotic birds making noises that would challenge those on safari to even hear each other.

Well, I just made my first trip to Africa, Ghana, West Africa to be specific. Having a keen interest in my ancestral home, I knew that even today the media doesn’t portray the continent of Africa in her finest. We often see images of animals in their habitats running freely. We also see people on safari experiencing the wonders of viewing animals that they might have seen before in zoos. Occasionally, we’ll see some image on the internet of some rich guy from somewhere in the West standing over the carcass of an elephant or some other precious large beast that had no chance of escaping the high-powered projectile from a high-tech weapon deployed to kill it. Images of Africa, so many images are yet distorted even today as they were during the 40s and 50s of the last century by Hollywood.

Kumasi is the second largest city in Ghana

While visiting Ghana for ten days, I toured urban areas, traveled over long distances in rural areas. Guess what?  The only wild animals I saw were birds. Of course, when it came to animals, I saw countless numbers of stray dogs, cats and many goats roaming freely. However, big game wasn’t even observable from the highways as we traversed miles and miles of rural Ghana. I think I’ve already mentioned in one post that even my tour groups trek through the Kakum National Park to access the canopy walk produced no sight of wild animals. We were told before we arrived at the park that there were elephants and other animals in the park; however, they stayed away from the view of visitors to the park. Walking up the trail to reach the canopy walk was deafly quiet to the point that effectual meditation could be had at any point along the way. No. There weren’t this chorus of bird sounds as heard on old Tarzan movies.

I have a friend from Ghana, who has become a naturalized American citizen. She mentioned to me some time ago, as we were having a conversation about countless misrepresentation the western media presents about Africa, that her only chance, as a child to see elephants, lions and other large animals was for her family to take her to the Accra zoo. Unfortunately, my ten-day tour of Ghana didn’t include visiting any municipal zoos, so I missed seeing any elephants, lions or other large beasts in Africa. I did see lots of people; people who were actively involved in the day-to-day challenge of working hard to provide for their families in much the same way as we do in America every day. So much for Tarzan.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The greenery of Ghana

Ancient Forest in Kakum National Park

I’ve got a sizeable number of pictures and a few videos of our trip to Ghana, December 25, 2000 through January 5, 2001. It’s been of a challenge trying to figure out what to write about and what pictures to share. I suppose I just need to do it. I think I’ve already started over the last day or so?

Ghana is a beautiful country, especially outside of the urban sprawl of its two largest cities Accra and Kumasi. Accra is the capital city located on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea. Kumasi is in south central region about 300 miles north of the Gulf of Guinea.

Somewhere on the road between Elmina and Kumasi

During our ten-day tour in the country, we took three relatively long bus rides: one from Accra to Elmina/Cape Coast; another was from Elmina/Cape Coast to Kumasi, and the final long ride was from Kumasi back to Accra before boarding our plane for the return trip to the U.S.  via Amsterdam. These road trips gave me an opportunity to see the powerful imagery of the greenery that colors the country. Our bus trips took us on long stretches of rural areas. Although the areas were what I would consider rural, people were everywhere. It seemed every other mile of the roads we traversed had some small town with people on the roadside selling fruits and vegetables. Not only fruits and vegetables, but just about any other kind of items you could imagine. The Ghanaian people are quite industrious, making the best of any and every opportunity for commerce.

Tree on the grounds of the Ashanti Palace Museum in Kumai

Let me get back to what the main purpose of this post is: to show you some samples of the Garden of Eden like quality of the countryside in Ghana.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Adventures in Kakum National Park

A few of the brave souls in our tour group and I posing for a photo after completing the canopy walk at Kakum National Park. Many of our crew decided to remain at Africa One Resort back in Elmina. The walk extends for more than 300 meters and includes a viewing platform and seven bridges up to 35 meters above the ancient forest floor. We were told that the forest is alive with animals; however, they stay away from the human invaders.

Is Covid-19 an eventuality for most of us?

I haven’t posted anything in a while. For those of you who follow me, you might find that interesting since I just returned from Ghana, West Africa the first part of this month. The trip was fantastic! Chris, my oldest child (Felicia), my cousin Hansel and his wife (Martha); we all had a great time. It was indeed the journey of a lifetime. I did one post, dated January 9 and you haven’t seen anything from me since. The reason covid-19.

There were twenty of us on this ten-day tour of Ghana, excluding several tour-company staff who worked hard to make this a wonderful experience. We returned home on January 5. It was great to be back home. Except for the free covid-19 tests Chris and I had at our local health department to board the plane on our way to Ghana, we spent a significant amount of money for testing: $300 upon arrival at the Kotoka International airport in Accra, and $240 at a private lab to board the plane for our return trip to the U.S. All these tests were negative, giving us a false sense of security, as we spent hours flying and waiting in airports.

A few days after our return to the U.S., Chris and I started to have cold-like symptoms. It was our plan to have another covid-19 test a week after our return home. And so, we had tests done on January 12 at a local drive-in testing site provided by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). The technician who performed our nasal swabs, informed me that there would be a rush on my tests because I have multiple myeloma. I’ve written about this before. Multiple Myeloma is cancer of the blood plasma cells. I know, it sounds horrible; however, I’ll be a twenty-one-year survivor as of March 12. There are tens of thousands of myeloma patients who haven’t been able to make that statement.

As I wrestled with persistent fever of around 99 to 101 degrees, I got a call the day after the swabs were performed from my primary care physician, who is on the faculty of UAMS, as well the director of the UAMS Family Medicine Clinic. Of course, I knew why she was calling before she explained. My covid-19 test was positive. Chris received news of her positive test later during the same day. Both our primary care physicians (UAMS docs.) recommended we have an infusion of Bamlanivimb. This is an investigational drug, being used within the first ten days of the appearance of covid-19 symptoms for patients who aren’t hospitalized. It works to lessen symptoms and prevent hospitalization.

As of today, January 26, both Chris and I are doing much better. Her experience has been far worse than mine, however. She has spent a lot of time sleeping, not eating, and drinking sufficiently, and just not feeling worth a darn overall. I’m happy to say though that as of today we haven’t had fever in the last tree to four days. Chris is still coughing. I, on the other hand, took a short ride on my bicycle this morning. The light is glimmering strongly at the other end of the tunnel.

In case you’re wondering about others in our tour group. We’ve been in touch with all of them, and none has been infected with this horrible disease. I’m not convinced we contracted it in Ghana, instead somewhere during our travel time. We won’t be taking anymore trips until this pandemic has faded from the planet for the most part. I’m still glad we took this trip, though.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

We made it to Africa!

On July 2, 2019, I posted a blog titled Africa is Calling. I followed that up with one titled We’re going to Africa.  And on January 13, 2020, I posted another blog titled I’m visiting my ancestral home. With several unforeseen circumstances, the most prominent of them being Covid-19, my trip to Africa was disappointingly delayed. However, good fortune smiled on Chris, my daughter Felicia and my cousin Hansel and his wife Martha; we made the trip Ghana, West Africa over the holiday season. We left the U. S. on December 24th and returned on January 5th.  We spent 10 activity-packed days in Ghana, which included four days in Accra the nation’s capital, and the surrounding area; three days in Kumasi (The Ashanti Region); and three days in Elmina and the Cape Coast Central Region.

Our tour guide told us that the population of Accra and Kumasi probably far exceed the Wikipedia numbers of 2,557,000 and 3,490,000, respectively. The population of the country is well over 31,000,000. I share these numbers with you, because I want to make the case for why we went to Ghana during the pandemic. Consider this: my home state Arkansas, has a population of 3 million. As of January 8, Arkansas has 249,239 confirmed cases of covid-19, 3,926 deaths and 218,386 recovered. Compare those alarming statistics with the entire nation of Ghana, with a population of 31,000,000, 55,461 confirmed cases, 337 deaths and 54,164 recovered.

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park

My primary care physician expressed more than a little concern about this trip. She told me about malaria, yellow fever and a host of other communicable diseases generally associated with Africa. Of course, much of her concerned was because I have Multiple Myeloma, a serious underlying heath condition that could cause significant problems for me should I contract covid-19. I can’t take the yellow fever vaccine. The only medicine I could take was malaria pills. My response to my primary care physician was that I had more concern about getting to Ghana than being there for a 10-day tour. When we got there, my concerns for areas in the West were amplified with the emergence of the new strain on Covid-19 and the surge of the virus in the U.S. Ghana was quite uneventful Covid-19 wise. We dined in restaurants, attended public areas, and had little fear of Covid-19. There were no unreasonable protests on the part of members of the public to wearing masks when required and, to be honest, there was no huge display of people wearing masks anywhere. We had to have a Covid-19 PCR test to get on the plane to Ghana, and another test upon arrival. On the return, a Covid-19 test was also required to board the plane coming back to the U.S.

Now that I’ve mentioned a few challenges we faced getting to Ghana, I’ll be sharing stories and images of our glorious journey. Please stay tuned. Oh, by the way, we all made it back okay, and we’re cocooned, as before to keep ourselves from the monster called Covid-19.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.