It is New Year’s Eve, 2014, and Nancy and I have are blessed to have this roller coaster of a year behind us. She has been through much this year with the loss of her father, the resulting business obligations, and now, the dedicated support she has offered me during that past three months. She is indeed a remarkable and loving woman.
The year began with me regaining some strength after a severe case of Acute Pancreatitis and the subsequent removal of my gall bladder. By January, I was able to attend NAMM and visit with some musician friends. I had also received word of a significant honor awarded me by the California Alliance for Jazz, an organization that supports and provides for Jazz Education in California. The election to the CAJ Hall of Fame was certainly an unexpected pleasure which placed me in the company of some very talented Jazz educators, performers and composers.
In February, I received the award at the CASMEC convention in Fresno, CA. Nancy was unable to attend as she was very ill with flu-like symptoms. I had the opportunity to meet some wonderfully talented Jazz Educators and eventually I was appointed to the CAJ board as “webmaster” which is interesting since I have very limited experience with web design and maintenance. The next several weeks I spent “learning” about WordPress and web design!
Since my retirement, I have had three main activities to occupy my time: Directing the San Dimas Jazz Workshop Reading Band, directing and performing in the San Dimas Brass Ensemble, and playing trains. In March, my dear friend Tim Whalen came to visit in our home as he often does on Spring Break and again in November. It was always an opportunity to play, talk, tell lies, and generally have fun with our train hobby. We had been collecting, building, trading but mostly buying trains for over forty years since the early days of our teaching careers as roommates in Albuquerque. He brought me some miniature die cast vehicles, and I gave him some Lionel rolling stock. We had this tradition ever since I moved to California in 1977. It just so happened that this trip fell on the weekend of my SDJW Reading Band rehearsal and Tim attended with me taking several wonderful pictures during the afternoon. It was a glorious time together.
April and May were mostly un-eventfull and my routine was mostly one of web maintenance, arranging, rehearsing and performing. The brass ensemble was to have performed for Easter in Covina, but on good Friday, Nancy’s father passed away leaving us to help make arrangements, take care of business and generally try to cope with the loss of a good man. Nancy took up the challenge of seeing to her father’s affairs and for the next several weeks she was involved with that task.
In June, it became apparent that I needed to see to some more health issues as my PSA count was elevated. During my visits to the doctor’s office, it was obvious that I should have a biopsy and see what was going on. Nancy and I took a short trip along route 66 since we had never visited with Tim at his home in Albuquerque. The road trip took us to Flagstaff, AZ where we found a couple of terrific spots to eat. I took tons of photos all along the mother road. Although Tim still had duties as principal of the small Catholic School, we had a great visit in the evenings and had a chance to visit some of my old “stomping grounds”. A highlight of the week was a visit with several of my former Hoover Middle School band members. When I left town in 1977, they were twelve and thirteen years old. This year they were in their early fifties. It was so good to see them. I had a chance to tag up with Tony Lujan, a former trumpet student who has become quite the trumpet artist over the last 40 some years. That meeting at Tim’s house was most gratifying. I did not know that the next day would be the last time I would see Tim alive!
July and August were devoted to band business, personal business, medical business and generally too much business!
In early September, I called Tim to begin planning for his trip to our home which was to occur in November for the big train meet in Ontario. Everything was set for the trip, and we even had a chance to begin planning a road trip to Pennsylvania to be taken in 2015. WE would finally take that trip to York, Pennsylvania to attend the largest train meet in the world! What a glorious time we would have. In the meantime, I had that biopsy and it was determined that I indeed did have Cancer. Something needed to happen before any plans could be finalized. The 50th reunion of my Highland High School graduating class was to take place and I decided at the last minute to not drive back for the reunion. Then I got the phone call. My dear friend Tim had had a heart attack and was not expected to live. Nancy and I drove back to New Mexico where I had the honor of being a pall bearer at his funeral. We stayed overnight in his home one last time and I gave his railroad one last run.
October and November were centered around preparing for Cancer surgery and recuperating. I was not allowed to have the surgery until I could be cleared by a cardiologist, so several weeks of tests at the City of Hope along with an angiogram in Arcadia finally cleared me to schedule the surgery. I needed to work around my SDJW and SDBE performances and rehearsals so the surgery was scheduled for December 22nd. That enabled me to conduct my brass choir on the 6th, have my big band rehearse on the 21st and perform the Hallelujah Chorus on the 21st. I did not attend the November train meet. It would not have been the same.
As the year comes to a close, I can once again reflect on the many things Nancy and I have lost…family, friends, former students, and fine musicians who have passed on…health issues that are on going for us both…and activities, trips, getaways and celebrations unfulfilled, but there are also the good things that remain…
I am lucky and blessed to have a wonderful wife who loves and cares for me. I still have an old “Italian” mother who, while declining, is still a mother at 91. A multi talented brother who, while having health issues of his own, still manages to teach, preach, perform and compose at a very high level. Nancy has a sister and a niece that give her some sense of family as well. I am so lucky to have my SDJW and SDBE professional musicians as friends and to have the CAJ board and the San Dimas Senior Commission Board members as colleagues. I have well over 1300 Facebook friends who support me online daily, most of them former students from New Mexico and California. I have the renewed drive to arrange and compose musical compositions for my music groups and my website. Today, I received a phone call from a friend from my UNM years. I had not spoken to him in 45 years. We talked today for two hours by phone. It was a great afternoon of remembering good times. The year has been a roller coaster of emotion, physical challenges and activities, but I can once again state without reservation…Life is good. God bless and have a tremendous 2015!