89

Down in Petersburg again for Superbowl. When I’d last visited my friend at Thanksgiving, I noticed he’d slipped abit both mentally and physically. He’d had a car accident over a year ago, and I was hoping he was still recovering from that. I was hoping, perhaps naively, that it wasn’t just a function of approaching 90. Two and half months later, I was pleasantly surprised. He is getting around much better. He was now walking every day and his balance is much better. Likewise, his mental state was very good. His state of confusion is gone. He was back to his old self.

My friend lives on a rocky beach overlooking a long a channel leading to the mouth of the Stikine River. There’s a mountain range on the other side of the channel. He’s got a small flock of resident gulls, and some resident diving ducks. On the other side of a sliding glass door that leads to a small deck, he has a bird feeder. He told me that he is missing one of his pet gulls (Jonathan) and a particular kind of song bird with an altered tail whose species I forget. They had become like family and he misses them. He has a journal next to the window he’s kept for decades, and denotes things like when the first first geese arrived in the spring, and when the first sandhill cranes flew south in the fall.

Another friend was just back to Petersburg. His brother suddenly passed away recently, and he was returning from the funeral. He and another retired teacher joined us – our usual foursome for Superbowl.

The man who lost his brother related how hot it was where the funeral was, and all the traffic. We each in turn concluded how much we all like the winter season here. One liked to have the quiet time to work on his model airplanes. I enjoyed the skiing and the snow. The retired teacher told of going to his place up in the Yukon Territory with friends from Petersburg for a week of skiing during the day and drinking beer and telling lies at night.

This morning, another retired teacher video called from Mexico and told of taking a neighbor who was not in good health and a vaccination denier to the hospital. It took 12 hours to find a hospital who would take her as she had Covid. As he was talking, my friend and I looked across the bay on a flat calm day in February at the snow covered mountains, with the sea gulls out in front, each picking a rock to sit on to enjoy the sun. My friend related on how good it was to be here in his Senior years, where he had care when he needed it, and where he knows everyone. I thought – this was a view I’d want to have if I couldn’t get out for awhile.

At 89, he still has lots of stories to tell that I haven’t heard. He grew up in his early childhood in Montana. His father was a lawyer, and one way or another, ended up being a lawyer for then Brigadier General Eisenhower. Yes. THAT Eisenhower.  His parents wanted to travel overseas to work, but Eisenhower wasn’t having it, as he’d come to depend on the dad’s counsel.

When his dad had to go overseas with Eisenhower, my friend was sent to relatives in Nebraska during his middle school years, where his grandfather was a professor at Wayne State Teachers College. He had always enjoyed running places. Just running. He also stuttered, and that made him keep to himself to avoid teasing. When he got to Nebraska, he and his classmates were lined up to do some sort of a run- maybe for a fitness test or something. It was something like a run around a quarter mile track, and he said he came in first by 200 yards. This got the notice of the track coaches, and he went on to set records in Nebraska and later in California, where he finished high school  More importantly, it allowed him to gain much needed self esteem, and eventually he cured his stuttering. He went on run track at Cal, and he still closely follows track and field.

This morning, we talked for a couple hours before I had to be at the airport to head back to Juneau. His mother was Ms. Montana in 1934 (I think it was 1934). His grandfather in Montana was a plumber, and would take his young grandson to the saloon for a soda pop. He saw Crow nation Native Americans come to the saloon on horseback, and tie them up outside the saloon. It sounded just like the movies.