Back to the US

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's Death

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

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.

At the Gravesite of Margaret and Mary Jo

Since the Mitchell family burial plot is in Baltimore, some of the family went to the grave site before coming to Annapolis, to see both Margaret's and Mary Jo's tombstones. Here we see (at left) Mary Jo's and Margaret's tombstones, and (at right)) part of the group that visited there: (left to right) Dana Wright, Lois Cashell, Lynne Caruthers, Cristina Mitchell, Judy Mitchell, Morgan Huff, Mark Mitchell, and Will Mitchell.

At the reunion itself, there was no picture taken of the whole group, so we have many pictures of small groups — over 75 pictures to choose from. In the seven groups below, hopefully all of the attendees will be shown.

The Balch Family

Whole Balch Family; Andrew, Alan, Valerie, Anna; Laura & Thomas Sloan

The Balches (see left) got together for this picture (left to right) Alan, Mark, Graham, Ryan, Valerie, Alison holding Lauren, Chuck, Laura, Simone (friend of Graham), Thomas holding Anna, Carol, Steve.

The Caruthers Family

Jim & Becky Shaw, Morgan, Elliott; Gregory, Jeanne Shaw, Michael; Tim, Seran Fee, Peyton; Caroline Fee

The Henney Family

Henney Family; Barbara & Chuck; Brenda Parker & Margie (housemates); Thomas Wright & Chuck

On the left, we have some of the Henney family (left to right): Margery, Chuck, Glenda, Margie, Barbara, Dana and Thomas Wright.

The Huff Family

Huff Family; Jennifer Johnson, Rachel Eason, Gregory Huff; Kelly & Michael Parker, Kimberly

On the left are (top row): Mike Parker, Evelyn Huff, Kelly Parker, Rachel Eason, Morgan Huff, Benjamin Johnson, Gregory Huff, and Morgan Johnson; (lower row): Jessica Johnson, Kimberly Parker, Jennifer Johnson.

The Mitchell Family

Evynne, Evelyn Huff, Brynn, Cristina, Mark; Will; Judy; Emily & Herb; Brynn & Evynne (at Easter)

The Memorial Service for Margaret

Margaret's Memorial; Lynne & Caroline; Matt & Kerry Hare with son Mitchell; Gregory Shaw, Susan Fee with Julia

Saturday Night

Mark's "Show"; Brynn Rhode, Anna Balch, Morgan Shaw; Judy Mitchell, Carol Balch: Cristina's "Show"

On the left: Carol Balch, Mark Mitchell, Alan Balch, Chuck Henney, Barbara Wright, Cristina Mitchell. On the right: Cristina Mitchell, Judy Mitchell, Mark Mitchell, Lynne Shaw, Dana Wright.

Hurricane Charley

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

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!

The Rest of the year 2004

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!

Christmas Visit with Emily and Family

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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