Thursday, June 14, 2012

 Frank Denney, Bill Symon, Urmas Kaldveer, John Erving......friends!

This blog is all about friendship. Some of you have seen these guys before in previous posts. They are my closest male friends from my youth. These are the men I grew up with, played sports with, discovered “girls” with, and the men whose friendship during all that time was always available like a deep, deep, well of loyalty. I wasn’t a particularly confident child/adolescent and these men were the ones who stood by me, hurt with me, and Lord knows, laughed with me.

The above picture was taken less than a month ago when we got together for lunch at a restaurant in Half Moon Bay, in Northern California. The one on the right was taken 57 years ago, that's me on the left, Frank Denney and John Erving on my right. I was in The Bay Area to have cataracts removed from both eyes on the serious recommendation of two Ophthamologists I had seen previously. I knew it was going to require a fairly lengthy stay in The States and I wasn’t quite sure just where I would have it done, how I would afford it all and where I could stay.

Even before leaving Baja my dear friends Alan and Marilyn (you have certainly heard me mention them before) after hearing my situation, immediately suggested I use their Doctor and stay with them in Alameda for the duration. I cannot even begin to describe the enormous relief I felt after this offer and I could not but accept. Those of you who know Alan and Marilyn can understand the joy with which I accepted this incredibly generous offer. 
Alan and Marilyn Pomeroy

As soon as Alan got back to Alameda in April he set up a pre-op appointment for me, and the date for the first operation (the operations themselves are nothing). Turns out his doctor is a Dr. David Bui (Vietnamese), nationally renowned for his work in this particular field…..and was willing to see me and do all he could do to get me back to Mexico asap. Nevertheless, even if all went well, it looked like a three week sojourn at least. That’s a lot to ask of your friends, to put you up for three weeks, whoa. I began considering ways to break up that period by moving around a bit between the pre-op and first operation and between the first and second op, and then maybe head down the peninsula to see my buds while waiting to make sure the second op went well.

In the meantime my daugher Kersti and her husband Bill also offered to put me up, but Sacramento was out of my comfort zone for transportation etc and they were just in the midst of a move.

I arrived at SFO on the 13th of May, took BART to West Oakland where Alan picked me up for the drive to Alameda. Their home is on a quiet, residential block near the lagoons…..a sweet Victorian with private bath and a dynamite bed. Altogether the perfect place to deal with the coming events. To say that they are the consummate host/hostess is a ridiculous understatement (I won’t even begin to mention the food), they made me feel like family right away and I knew I was in the right place. I’m talking friendship here.

The pre-op went fine on the 15th and the first op was scheduled for the 22nd. Dr. Bui was extremely kind and offered to cut the cost in half for one of my eyes (I entertained him with whale stories). He said he could make me 20/20 WITHOUT glasses and that’s when I began to laugh. He was a bit miffed at this outbreak and when I asked how long it would take he said 15 minutes per eye, which started another gale of laughter. I explained how I had worn glasses since I was 14 and they had been a nemesis all my life (sports, social etc) and now he was telling me he could alter all that reality in 15 minutes!! He got it, and we then laughed together…..and that’s friendship.

In the meantime my bud Frank Denney heard about my situation and suggested I visit he and his wife
Jackie in Redwood Shores before my 1st op. Perfect! I called my son Zack in Oakland and arranged to stay with him two days, take The BART back to SFO where Frank would pick me up and take me to his home for a couple of days.

Zack came to Alameda to pick me up and we went to his place near Lake Merritt. He then not only gave up his room to me but had the apartment totally together, made me dinner (this was new and damn good) and we watched 2 documentaries he wanted me to see. He was a great host and as always we had a wonderful visit together…..and that’s my boy.

Late afternoon the next day I caught The BART to SFO where Frank picked me up. By this time I had seen more people, cars…..stuff, than I had seen since visiting my sweetie in Charlotte last July. In a very real sense I was in culture shock (I have lived in Baja for three and a half  full time years now). Frank and Jackie have a nice condo in Redwood Shores with the Bay lapping up on the rocks, Canadian Geese walking about and a gym nearby. Frank had me at the gym early the next two mornings and I was thankful to get some serious exercise in after the past few days of lying about and eating. When I went to the pool for laps, there were no open lanes but the lifeguard said I could share the one she pointed to. I got in and prepared to launch as soon as my lane companion made it to the other end. Since he swam kinda slowly I waited until he was half way back. As he approached he got bigger and bigger. I mean this guy was a balloon, he totally floated, almost his whole body was above the water! I figured I could slip by him and did, but each time we were to pass, I moved WAY over….he was huge! Hanging out with Frank and Jackie was delightful….and once again the food was superb, including dynamite shakes made by Jackie in the mornings.....and that's friendship.

Frank & Jackie Denney

Frank suggested we get together with Bill and John at the restaurant in HMB and like the great friends they are, they came the next day and we were once again together, four really, really dear friends. It was a wonderful meeting as you can see by our faces in the first picture. Remember these guys are all 69 and 70! I love these guys, I owe them so very much. The next day Frank and Jackie took me to the special brunch at Scott’s in Jack London Square on the 20th and OMG did I eat. It was incredible, absolutely incredible. Once again remember, I am a tortillas and beans guy from a little village in Mexico, this was amazing and I had such a great time (over) eating. Three plates…..THREE! They took me back then to A/M’s in Alameda and I mentally prepared for my 1st op.

The op was interesting. My eye was seriously dilated, I was given a mild sedative, a drip put in my arm and after just a bit walked into the op room where I lay down, given more sedative (really liked that part), a local anesthetic, the Doc came in, lots of bright lights, some suction noises and 15 minutes later I am up on my feet, given some juice; another 15 minute rest and out the door. For the first time since I was 14 I was 20/20 in my left eye (and we’er talking one bad eye here)! Of course this made the world weird for me, but I was IMPRESSED! Because of a little bleeding the next day (no biggie) I decided not to venture to Ukiah between ops and instead stay with A/M in recovery and prep for the next op….the 29th. Those sweet, sweet people just said, “stay as long as you need”. Where I come from that’s called friendship.

The day before the 2nd op was Memorial Day and I was, as well as my son Zack, invited with The Pomeroys to an Italian BBQ nearby. Yet again….OMG, the food. I was experimenting with life without glasses so things were all a bit weird visually but the tri-tip and the people…..great afternoon!!

The 2nd op was another breeze and I walked out now with 20/20 in both eyes! The next day the post-op showed all good so Dr. Bui said I was clear to go home. I decided to leave on the 4th of June just in case there were any complications. On Thursday the 31st my brother Peter and his wife Julie came to Alameda for a short visit (we hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years) and then Zack once again picked me up so I could stay with him for a night before heading to Palo Alto…..and yes, other dear friends, Bill and Gloria Symon, invited me to stay with them until time to fly out and Bill would take me to the AP besides….and that’s friendship.

I was feeling a bit queeze on Thursday but had no idea what was in store. Whether because of the ops, the food or the culture shock I was on my way to major stomach problems. It didn’t really hit until I got to Zack’s that night but oh man, way bad. Zack took on the roll now of provider. He got me special food, meds and let me lie around his apartment like a zombie. On the 2nd I felt up to taking BART down to Millbrae where Bill would pick me up. The trip from the BART station in Oakland to the BART station in Millbrae was uncomfortable at best and involved two “accidents”….Jesus! When Bill picked me up I just said, “I’m not feeling good at all” and he got me to his home and for the next 48 hrs Bill and Gloria nursed me back to health… that’s friendship! Bill just said, “here’s your room, lie down, anything you need”? Gloria went out and got some homeopathic medicine, electrolyte water and started the chicken soup. Am I blessed or what?

Gloria and Bill Symon

I felt so good the next day we went out to lunch at The “O” (The Oasis, a favorite hamburger place in Palo Alto we all used to frequent) with Frank and John and had another wonderful meeting of FRIENDS.

The next morning Bill drove me to SFO and I flew home. But it didn’t end there….Alan picked me up in San Jose (he had flown there a few days before), we had dinner at Tio Pablo’s in Los Barriles, got groceries at Chapito’s and drove the road back to El Cardonal….and Shangri-La.

Long story, all about me, but more importantly about friendship. Thank you my FRIENDS, I am blessed to have you in my life!