Nov 15 - Dec 4, 2011: North Dakota/Minnesota

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Sudden Departure from Trinidad

We were one day away from leaving Trinidad for Grenada when we got an email from Chuck's sister Zona with the sad subject line: "Mike is gone."  Regular readers will remember that Zona's husband Mike some four years ago had surgery for bladder cancer.  His regular checkups at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN had been increasingly encouraging, as they continued to indicate no sign of recurrence.  But then, only about ten weeks ago, he began having health problems.  There was a wrenching delay, but soon enough the dreaded diagnosis came: the cancer had recurred and was in the liver.  His children in the Minneapolis area: Susan and Erik and Jessica, immediately began a pilgrimage to Bismarck almost every weekend, accompanied by their respective families and/or significant others.  Cathy and Jon, as Bismarck residents, saw Mike even more frequently, of course.

Mike's decline was surprisingly rapid; perhaps thankfully so, since cancer is no picnic.

We flew to Bismarck the next day, November 16.  The funeral was on Friday, November 18, with services in Trinity Lutheran Church to a large crowd.  Beginning as soon as the word spread of Mike's illness, and continuing past the funeral, the amount of support that Zona's friends and neighbors provided was nothing short of amazing.  Casseroles and hams and soups and caramel rolls and fresh cookies and pies and fresh breads and sandwich spreads and cases of soda, etc.  Truly amazing, and very touching.  And oh so welcome, since the house was filled to the overflowing with offspring and friends of offspring and other relatives and friends of Zona and Mike.  Daughter Susan created a beautiful memorial video that was shown at the end of the funeral service; she has subsequently made it available on the web; you can see it here.

Here are a few pictures taken on the day of the funeral and the following weekend:

Mattie, Jessie and Susie flash their buns!

Cathy (right front) and friends

Erik (right) and friend

Jerry, Jon, and Jon's dad Al

Jessie (middle) and friends

Zona and cousin Ken

Mattie and Katie

Marvin and Erik/Cindy's new baby Sophia

Thanksgiving in Minneapolis

Erik and his wife Cindy and their new baby Sophia Evelyn lingered in Bismarck after the funeral, but it was eventually decided that they would return to Minneapolis and that we (Zona, Mom, Barb and I) would follow them and that we (mostly) would have Thanksgiving with Cindy's parents Mitch and Karen Hanson.  (The exception was Mom, who instead stayed with Susan and her family.)  Erik prepared the turkey at his place, and Barb and I provided four pies we had baked before departing Bismarck, but the rest of the delicious spread was provided by the Hanson's. 

We visited Susan and her family a couple of times during our stay in the area; here is are pictures Barb took of Jessica presenting Susan with a birthday cake:

Barb took advantage of the Black Friday sales to purchase her very own iPad2 3G, which she is thoroughly enjoying.  Since that model has a GPS, we look forward to using it and a low-cost app for an anchor alarm down in our stateroom (the one in the pilothouse can be hard to hear on a windy night).  She has been busily shopping for other apps, so it will certainly find many other uses. (Including "Angry Birds" :-) )

Back in Bismarck

As we were leaving for Minneapolis we succeeded in getting a Bismarck appointment with a rheumatologist for Dec. 1, so when we returned from Minneapolis we did not immediately return to the boat in Trinidad.  In the appointment, after reviewing the results of all of the blood tests that had been ordered by other doctors in my quest to get a diagnosis, and after an exhaustive interview and a painstaking examination of each of the affected joints, she made her diagnosis:  simple osteoarthritis.  "Final Answer", as they say on TV. So now I know I should be taking simple pain relievers and getting as much exercise as I can stand, in an effort to keep the joints flexible.

In other news, Cole helped his grandmother Zona decorate the house for the holidays, and Zona got a new "rescued" dog named Belle.

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