WARNING: Christmas letter.
Kickass, the doorstop dog, seems to take on more and more of the day-to-day chores as the keeper and Phyllis pare down their activities to just the things they really want to do, which explains why I—Kickass, am writing this Christmas letter for the two of them. Phyllis and Bill—I refer to Bill as the keeper– apparently feel their time is better spent exercising the joys of their newlywed status as it moves through its second year, rather than in composing obligatory communications for their dear families and friends. If that marks them as self-centered and lacking in social responsibility, the keeper explains that–considering their ages–they have a right to be that way, and anyone who doesn’t like it can…….
As may be noted by those who regularly see the keeper’s daily Kickass blog, Bill may have developed something of an edge over the past few years, which is, of course, due in part to political circumstances, but can also be attributed to things more or less forced on him and Phyllis as a result of their no longer being comfortable thinking of themselves as “just out of high school.” They are, in fact, growing old—the keeper more so than Phyllis–and life is forcing decisions on them that are unthinkable until they become thinkable. So last spring, they began the painful transition of moving out of the beautiful house that Bill and his family built 20 years ago on the Mazomanie ridge, to an independent living apartment on Madison’s west side. The move became necessary when grandson Andy and his wife Ari bought the house from son Rick who had bought it earlier as an “investment.” Unlike Rick who said Bill could live in the house as long as he wanted to, Andy, having sold his house in Kohler, said he needed to move into the Mazo house and would Bill and Phyllis please get the hell out of it. Actually he didn’t put it that way, and was really quite reasonable as long as we were talking weeks and not months. But for a whole bunch of reasons, it made sense for Bill and Phyllis to relocate and downsize: proximity to UW medical and VA facilities, a difficult Mazo winter driveway, and the general house and yard maintenance load.
Getting rid of the boundless heaps of junk Bill had accumulated over the years proved nearly impossible, but after an “estate” sale, and many trips to St. Vincent’s, and family members agreeing to move the remaining debris, Phyllis and Bill found themselves living on the 4th floor of Coventry Village in a two-bedroom apartment with a fireplace and a rooms big enough to give them computer working space and room for Bill to set up a small woodworking operation, and with lots of wall space where Phyllis could display the output of her exceptional photo-artistry.
There was also the matter of Boo, the small mouthy Schnauzer type dog that Bill had adopted some years ago when son Mike and Mike’s daughter Sarah vacated their house on Windflower. Boo went back to Sarah, now living with Jessy in Chicago, in what was a seamless adoption reversal, and she—Boo, has become a mouthy big city dog. Phyllis and Bill miss her, but nighttime dog pee-calls from the 4th floor were not in their Coventry cards.
Phyllis, having endured and recovered from the ravages of chemo, continues to respond well to immunotherapy treatment for cervical cancer, and tolerates neuropathy as well as it can be tolerated. None of this prevents her from daily phone involvement with friends and family, and from working at her photo art. She won awards in a number of art competitions this year, and does what she can to market her work in the Covid19 restricted circumstances.
Phyllis, being a seasoned hiker—every National Park in the country, leads Bill on short hikes on segments of the Ice Age Trail, and they have an ongoing project of driving all of Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads.
All of their activity was interrupted last March when a driver swerved into their lane in Cross Plains and the head-on collision totaled out the car they had recently acquired, broke ten of Phyllis’s ribs and one of her vertebraes and nearly severed one of her fingers. She was hospitalized for three days. Bill suffered three broken ribs. They had been on their way to get a preliminary report from the Carbone Cancer Center at the time of the accident, and there was a period of time when they were not having a lot of fun.
Bill gets out of bed early each morning to do his daily Kickass blog, after which he sometimes goes back to bed and sometimes works briefly at other writing and sometimes gets out his woodworking tools and whittles. He would write a sequel to his novel “Margaret’s War,” which he and Phyllis spent last summer promoting at 50 or so libraries across the state, but he is lazy and would rather whittle.
The over-riding circumstance in the lives of Phyllis and Bill is that they are together, and they marvel at this fact on a daily basis. How could love of such boundless intensity possibly occur at their advanced ages? They have no idea, but they will take it, and thank the gods for Phyllis’s impulsive and out-of-the-blue Facebook inquiry from her comfortable Arizona home to Bill in Wisconsin, asking him if he would be her “Wisconsin boy friend” when she came to visit her Wisconsin sons.
Both Phyllis and Bill are currently receiving regular Covid19 tests at Coventry, and have been told the vaccine for them may be here as soon as next week. Once they have developed immunity they are comfortable with, Phyllis and Bill plan extended visits to the homes of family and friends, and intend to stay longest at those locations where the food is best. To facilitate their planning they are requesting that friends and relatives send prospective menus of at least a month’s duration, as well as the condition of the mattress where Phyllis and Bill will be sleeping.
So, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS from Phyllis and Bill……and from Kickass, who recognizes that this Christmas letter is disorganized and too long. But what can you expect from a cast iron dog!