This has been an unsettling year for me as I settle into Cuenca. I seem to have been simultaneously bombarded by an incredibly larger than normal time-consuming share of problems with bureaucracy that have truly tested my patience and continue to demand a high level of perseverance. Not to mention a major computer hacking at the same time as everything else was happening, which took a month to resolve all the problems. There is a thin line between perseverance and stubbornness. Possibly because of circumstances and probably by my own way of approaching things in life, perseverance for better or worse has been a hallmark of my existence.
This year has also taught me that you would not want me to be your investment adviser, and some minor health problems have also added to the aggravation, not to mention family concerns back in the states as well.
Spanish had proven much more difficult to learn than I first thought it would be, and I have thirteen years of college and university training, not to mention an almost entire career in academia at the secondary and university level. I have learned greater tolerance for expats who lose interest in learning Spanish once they approach the irregular verbs, and decide to settle just for business street Spanish. I am learning Spanish, but not as quickly as I thought I would, and will continue to persevere, and hope eventually to at least become competent in the use of the language if not fluent.
My goal was to write a novel this year. However, that effort hardly saw a launching. I found that along with trying to learn Spanish and write a novel, I was beginning to feel like I was back into endless hours of school again, whether studying or creating curriculum and lesson plans. My mind became too absorbed with the themes, plots, and character developments of my proposed novel with which I was obsessed, until I was living my life in my mind. I also am not the type to ego-trip over the claim I had a book published. If I wrote an e-book, I would want a compensation of a few thousand dollars for the effort. I realize with the democratization of publishing today, I didn't have any pipe dream that I would make a six figure income from the book, and that my chance of even modicum financial success was as likely as becoming a NBA player.
My biggest dilemma now that I have fulfilled my dream of moving to Cuenca and have gotten settled in after two-and-a-half years is what do I do next with my life? I enjoy socializing with friends more than anything; to touch bases with many people here in Cuenca, to spend hours conversing over a meal with close friends, and to be a part of the families of some of my Ecuadorian friends as well. These human relationships have for the most part been my greatest joy and satisfaction. I have had some friends and relatives here in the states amazed when I tell them how easy it is to meet people and how rare in a city of half a million I don't by happenstance meet someone I know as I make my way about Cuenca.
This year I have not ventured out of Cuenca, except for a couple of side trips to Giron to visit a friend of mine there. Traveling back to the states in early September was the first time I had been home since Thanksgiving period of last year. When I made my plans, my brother and his wife, Carla, and I planned to spend a week and a half with my mother in the Chicago area, take a road-trip to visit the relatives on my mom's side of the family, and then spend another two weeks with mom before heading on another road-trip to Nashville, Tennessee, and New Orleans from where I would return to Guayaquil. Once my flight plans had been arranged in my two later Skype conversations with my mother, I could tell her health was deteriorating, and my family warned me that mom would not look the same as she did when I last saw her. She was quite fragile, when I arrived home. We decided to follow-through with the road trip visiting relatives in Iowa and Wisconsin, and I knew my remaining time in the states would be spent with mom, and not on another road trip.
Unfortunately, as we were returning as still on the road last Sunday evening, my brother, Ron, called to inform us that mom had fallen on Wednesday evening, and fractured some of her ribs. She had not punctured a lung. Everything from the tests indicated mom was fine and she was released. On Sunday mom fell again. When my brother called as the three of us were in our final hour of travel returning home, mom was doing fine. The doctor was going to keep mom in the hospital overnight just for observation. At three in the morning, the nurses checked on her and they said she was awake, lucid, and even joked with them. Half an hour later, there was a change in her status and she was moved to the ICU. By evening she was no longer with us, and test indicated she had suffered some old small strokes that could have been days, weeks, even months old. It helped to explain to us why she had more difficulty walking and seemed increasingly disoriented the last few weeks. The doctors believed that mom had most likely suffered some additional strokes to the brain during the middle of the night which resulted in her movement to the ICU.
It was a beautiful week. The weather and sunshine could not have been more ideal, which from the day mom passed until her funeral that Saturday allowed many of her out-of-state relatives to attend. Everything was ideal, went like clock-work, and moved in a harmonious way. The staff at Munster Community Hospital was so attentive and empathetic. I thank all of you who sent condolences and/or traveled long distances to pay your respects to our many memories of our mother, and to be of consolation to us. I also thank those of you who attended her ninetieth birthday party last year. She was slipping then when I saw her a week before the surprise party, and she had little appetite. The party by being surrounded by so many friends and relatives completely rejuvenated her and no doubt kept her going for another fourteen months before she began to slip away again.
Mom at ninety-one, was tired, and she was more than ready to go. She would not have been more pleased with how the week unfolded, and the entire atmosphere of the week was one of sweetness and tranquility. God also granted her wish, for she feared nothing more than to be placed in a nursing home. My father died on December 15,1996, Not a day has gone by that he has not entered my mind, and not a day will go be that my mother will also be a part of my memories and counsel.
Fate and destiny brought me to Cuenca. Fate and destiny brought me home at a time when I could spend some final days with my mother; at a time when my dad's nephew wanted to give us all a gift of having all the surviving members of my dad's family gathered for an official portrait while his mother of ninety-five years was still alive and well, and fortunately my mother was able to be a part of that photo and our family afternoon together. Fate and destiny allowed for us to visit with my mother's family members who have always meant a great deal to us. I meant one cousin in Dubuque, Iowa who I had not seen since my maternal grandfather's funeral in 1967. Little did any of us on our road trip and my cousin, Cindy, in particular, know after all that time that had passed since we had last seen each other, that we would be together again less than two weeks later.
We have had the beauty of being part of an extraordinary family, we had the opportunity to share so many memories, and we had the opportunity to be there for one another. What a history the Weber family of nine children and their parents make. This generation of the Great Depression and World War II. Now only one brother and one sister survive. One generation passes away, and another takes its place as all four great grandsons were on hand at the funeral, Leo's grandsons, Joshua and Toby, and I myself got to meet my currently one-and-only grandchild, Jack, who was born this past April. I held him for the first time on the same day that my mother died. The circle of life continues. Mom had the opportunity to see and hold them all, even Bryce her latest great-granson who is two months old.
As for me, I will return to Cuenca in late October sometime. I may now plan some long-range traveling for next year. I've always wanted to spend some quality time in Italy. Life, however, has always taught me repeatedly that man makes plans and the gods just laugh. So despite whatever plans I make, I will attempt to learn all over again in the very marrow of my bones and not just as an intellectual proposition "to go with the flow." I don't know when I am laying a Yankee guilt trip on myself that I have got to be doing something meaningful and productive even at my age, and when I just need to learn that the time spent savoring each moment of life, living life with kindness, genuinely loving those who matter for they will be in our lives for such a short time, and giving a sincere hug to those which costs me nothing, may very well be all that I need to expect of myself. I shall see as I leave my supposed dilemma to the ebbs and flow of life.