I finished up in Haiti about the last week in May
and returned to my condo in Cape Coral. I soon got established on a
regular round of data entry every morning at ECHO (except Wednesdays,
when I did the same kind of work for EPC). But the 40-mile round trip
to ECHO began to get me down, so I asked our publicity manager Mike
Sullivan to look out for a suitable place for me to live near ECHO.
Less than 15 minutes after I left his office, he came to my place and
told me that a local man, Mike Wall, had just called him to offer a
two-bedroom house his son had been living in, but now worked in Punta
Gorda. I took this as an act of the Lord, and very soon made my
deposit and arrangements to move in the first of July. The place had
been only partly renovated. The left half, which comprised an open
space of half of the building, with kitchen in front and dining and
living space toward the rear, had been completed. But the right half,
containing the bathroom, a fairly large bedroom, and a smaller bedroom
and storage closet, was only partly finished. The larger bedroom was
having new wall board installed, and I arranged for two ECHO interns
to paint it.
The move was made on a Friday (July 2, 2004) and my friends in EPC did all my packing and moving, gratis. Bob and Pam Johns came out Saturday morning and spent four hours getting everything organized and ready to live in. It was the easiest move I have ever made. What a blessing to have such loving brothers and sisters in Christ!
My nearest neighbors were 17 cows and a bull, with a calf or two until weaned. They were all around me, coming right up to my living room windows. One night soon after I had moved in, several of them come around to the north side of my house (the bedroom side) at 1:30am and began to carry on as though attacked. I got up and opened the door to the laundry room just north of my bedroom to see what all the fuss was about. But I forgot there were two steps down and fell flat on my face on the concrete floor. And I didn't even have telephone service yet. I soon found out that beyond "strawberries" on my face, elbows and knees, the only serious injury was a deep cut on my left hand that was bleeding like mad. I managed to get up and get the bleeding stopped, and went back to bed. I had to visit a doctor twice to get the cut attended to.
Margaret had visibly weakened in 2003, so much so that Mary Jo and I thought she should give up her house where she lived alone, and move to an assisted living facility. We found one nearby, and came almost to the point of making a deposit, when Margaret's daughter Lynne came to Englewood to help her pack her things and get the house ready for sale. The two of them spent over a month reviewing Margaret's sizable collections but finally got the house ready. It did not take long to sell, and I believe she got a fair price for it. Meanwhile Lynne had decided to take her mother to her New York City apartment, and care for her as she got that apartment ready for sale. So Mary Jo and I rather lost touch with the two of them, except to hear of Margaret's rather frequent hospitalization as she continued to weaken. She died on March 7th, 2004, at the age of 95 plus. Since we were to have a family reunion in June, Lynne decided to postpone the memorial service until then so that the whole family could attend. It was a fitting service, described in more detail below.
The sixth family reunion was held June 25-27 at
the Raddison Hotel in Annapolis MD. Part of the
agenda was a memorial service for Margaret, who had died in March,
but by having the service at this reunion, a much larger group of the
extended family could attend.
I had the condo appraised and advertised it at the
appraisal price of $135,000. (I had paid only $60,000 for it in 1999,
completely furnished.) I soon had a buyer and we went into escrow
before the end of July. Then along comes Hurricane Charley on August
13th! Although the eye passed ten miles or more west of us, our condo
building got the east end of its roof torn off. The two easternmost
apartments (mine and the one above me) got drenched, and the center
two got severely drenched on their eastern walls. Since it took five
days to get electric power restored, all wet "drywalls"
were quickly covered with mold, and had to be torn out. That meant
stripping my condo down to the literally bare outside walls. The sale
had to be canceled, although it would have been final just ten days
after Charley. I wondered why the Lord had allowed this to happen to
me, as I had promised to give the entire proceeds of the sale to
Christian organizations. I found out seven months later.
I learned that Earl Jordan (see left) did repair and update work of any kind, so engaged him to move my appliances and cabinets to safe positions in the living room (see right), then to supervise the men who cleaned out the debris, installed a replacement air conditioning system, ducts and all, applied all the city code changes required before reinstalling the dry walls throughout the apartment. All this took six months! With all the damage the five hurricanes that devastated Florida caused, repairs were slow to be made, and insurance slow to be paid. I had to put up my share of $2,750 of the insurance deductible for our building insurance, which largely paid for the removal of the moldy dry wall, but I also had to pay my friend Earl Jordan for his considerable work in removing the kitchen cabinets, refrigerator, stove and bathroom cabinets and facilities. What a blessing that the Lord had me move when I did, with all my possessions, as I had no insurance, and would have lost everything I owned except my car and the clothes on my back.
Meanwhile power was off for five days in the country as well, but Martin and Bonnie Price's home only a mile from ECHO had power the next day, and they invited me to live with them until my place had power again; it had suffered practically no damage, and Mike Wall's other buildings had only minor roof damage on some. The Prices were compensated to some extent, as my phone continued to work and they used it every day.
Life was soon back to normal in Cape Coral, but Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte just north of us had hundreds of homes destroyed or badly damaged. Charley was the only hurricane to damage our area, but Wilma did much damage just to the east of us in central and southeastern Florida. Of course Katrina was the worst hurricane that year, ruining most of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana (especially New Orleans) to the western Florida panhandle.
Life in the country was not that ideal. The summer
was a very wet one, and several times the pastures around me were
miniature lakes. When this happened, the septic tank was
automatically cut off to protect contaminating the ground water, and
I could not flush my toilet. Fortunately for me, ECHO's facilities
were only five minutes away, and I managed to survive those periods
by using them.
Cleaning was quite a chore. The rug in the left half of the house had a rough surface, and straws, lint and other objects clung to it so fiercely that only the high suction of the hose would remove them. That became a back-breaking job every Saturday morning. Also, living so far from stores made it necessary to limit my diet to certain staples that I ate every day — not much variety. But it was nice to be so close to work that I could eat lunch at home, and it became my principal meal of the day. Will came down every three months to visit me, and called me every Saturday morning, where his week-end free minutes allowed us to converse an hour or more. Each time Will came, he found ways to improve my living situation, and do the tasks I kept putting off. What a blessing to a lonely old man those weekly calls and quarterly visits were!
There is little more to tell of my life in the country, except to note that I had begun to weaken, increasing my shortness of breath until I had to limit my walk to a series of tenth-mile segments, with stops to regain my breath in between them. I still did my mile every morning, but it got harder and harder to do. ECHO still had plenty of work for me to do, and I had full days, but very short evenings, as I began to conk out soon after supper. My affliction of swallowing air as I swallowed food and particularly liquids grew much worse, until I went to Dr. Gladding to see if he could help me. He had me consult a specialist, but when he verified that I did indeed swallow air every time I swallowed anything else, he could do nothing for me. I did have CAT scans and and an endoscopy to see if there was any problem with my digestive system, but the results were all negative. I just had to learn to live with the discomfort of belching sessions lasting from five to fifteen minutes several times a day and particularly at night. Such is life as one reaches 90!
The year ended with a delightful two-day visit with Emily and her
family in the Orlando area. She had brought them down as a Christmas
present to visit Disneyland and several other famous entertainment
spots, including the one near her motel which included me. She had
already divorced Mike Rhode for abandoning her, and her new future
husband, Kyle Clayton, had not only won Emily's heart, but Brynn
Ellen's and Evynn Anne's as well. It was great to have the girls get
to know me better, particularly Evynn Anne. And I was far more
impressed with Kyle than I had been with Mike.
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