Mark’s Christmas Letter 2020

Dear family member / friend

Keep up lad!

At my regular optician’s appointment in December of last year the optician made the pronouncement; my eyes had degenerated off the seeing end of the spectrum and I needed cataract surgery, i.e. I was officially ‘Old’. At the consultation at the Whitewater Eye Cenner the surgeon explained the cataract procedure which involved liquidation of the occluded lens, sucking out the resulting colloidal suspension, and squeezing in a folded prescription matched lens. Wow! The actual process took mere minutes including local anesthesia. However, no anesthesia was available for digesting the financial implications which were a great deal more painful! Even though we paid up front we still got reams of paperwork labelled “THIS IS NOTABILL” where few of the numbers added up or made sense to me. But now I can wear sunglasses in the car and safety glasses when riding my bike!

effect of Mohs surgery

The next expensive encounter with the ‘Health’ System was the consequence of a regular yearly checkup with ‘skin woman’ at the Whitewater Dermatology Center in March. She discovered a nasty looking blotch on my forehead which after biopsy examination (more expense) turned out to confirm her diagnosis of Basal Cell Carcinoma. She was pretty laid back about the prognosis; apparently, skin cancer is quite common in older men (OLD AGAIN!). Accordingly, I booked an appointment at the Dayton Skin Care center for the end of June which called for a procedure entitled ‘Mohs surgery’. Here again, the surgery was excellent; Dr Heidi carved a crater in the side of my head and effectively removed all the cancerous cells. However, convinced that I would heal up quickly I opted for no stitches; the hole did fill itself in, but it took three months of care and covering with ‘band aid’ (plaster) to completely heal. I expect that I will get more occurrences of this kind – skin woman warned me of that eventuality – so I dutifully apply sunscreen whenever I remember so to do.

What excitement for retirement, eh? Two surgeries in 6 months! And no mention of COVID yet. Like any aspiring intellecktural, when the panic first hit the States in late Feb/early March I researched the phenomenon at depth. Tracking the news about SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus became a consuming hobby for this entomologist wannabe epidemiologist. I followed “semi-mechanistic Bayesian hierarchical models” of the potential impact of the COVID-19 disease and potential effects of “non-pharmaceutical interventions” until I got weary with the whole thing and cancelled my subscription for daily COVID updates from USA News. By March the epidemic had become a ‘pandemic’ (at least here in the mid-west USA) and the worst happened, namely, church services were severely restricted.

In a ‘normal’ year by March we would be beginning the Lenten cycle of services; choir rehearsals, retreats and preparation for Pascha (Easter). In the early part of the year however, church attendance was restricted to our new priest – Fr Gregory – and his wife, Miho, who did all the singing. But technology came to the rescue and they were able to setup a primitive video streaming system via the noxious FaceBook. So it was that the midnight Paschal service which would normally have seen the nave of the church packed with parishioners and sundry visitors and cars overflowing parking spots was eerily empty with only a one-person choir (Miho) and Fr Gregory as priest present. But the situation improved greatly over the summer and attending church services has been a lifeline since I have been able to receive communion twice a week (Thursday & Sunday) which has been great. Sometimes I look after the Ealy girls, Nino (5) and Mila (3), but they are generally very good, and we have lots of fun in the grounds after church playing chase and swinging on the swings.

Family news has rolled on this year irregardless (a favourite mid-western word soon to be inducted into the Dictionary) of the pandemic. In February, Megan and Michael ‘Sterner’ got officially married (hooray!) at a friend’s house in Pennsylvania. Among the animal guests were two Alpacas (and their handlers) who graced the proceedings and were very well behaved. Erica & I stayed at an AirBnB in Harrisburg which was a fun experience. Later in the summer we took a lightning VayCay of three days and two nights at Turkey Run State park in western Indiana. This had extensive hiking trails some of which were quite demanding; we managed to complete about 80% of the trails even though there was torrential rain during part of the time there. Needless to say, I took dozens of photos. During the summer when pandemic panic lifted for a while we had visits from Megan & Sterner and we also drove down the road to Columbus to spend a sunny time with Will & Erin who have also announced a ‘Save the Date’ for their wedding in June of next year! HURRAH!

September found me fretting about resurfacing the wooden deck at the back of our house. Having repainted only 3 years ago it was starting to peel and blister badly and I knew I needed to have it fixed before the winter weather descended. After investigating any option which could relieve me of actually doing the job myself, I arrived at an inescapable conclusion that the deck needed sanding down to the wood and that I had to accomplish this myself. So, I purchased an industrial grade belt sander offof online and some sanding paper and set to work. A few hours later and only a couple of planks sanded I realized that I needed knee pads to prevent my knees from disintegrating. And a dust filtering face mask. And decent gloves. And then I discovered that a coarser grit paper was needed. And a lot more of it. So, yes, sanding and repainting the deck was a huge stress for such a house klutz as myself. But with the painting help of a mate and my wife, I got the wood primed and two coats applied before cold weather set in and leaves tumbled down to carpet the newly painted wood.

After Erica had met with a friend who subsequently contracted COVID I had to quarantine for a couple of weeks and get my first COVID-19 test which was surprisingly straightforward. I also discovered some new terms for the dictionary; COVID tests are “resulted” apparently (so ‘to result’ is now an intransitive verb) and in this instance mine was negatory (I made that one up).

Also, I’ve been managing to get out on the bike; my iPhone ‘Cyclemeter’ app tracks where I go and at what speed so that I can see how slow I really am. During this pandemic period I’ve been able to get out on two wheels whenever the weather has allowed and my legs feel capable. Pootling through the Indiana countryside on a sunny late afternoon is wonderfully cathartic. Here I am with ‘Feathers McGraw’ in mid-October when harvesting has been mostly finished. An intermittent record of my rides is here on this very blog! And here are some photos!

I’ve done lots of photography too, but few shows, and as Erica says, my ‘happy place’, besides church, is faffing about with fotos on my twin screen desktop.

All best wishes from post-Trump mid-America. No more politics for a while – HURRAH!

Mark Isaac

One reply on “Mark’s Christmas Letter 2020”

Great to read this, Mark, and nice to see the family and cycling photos. Good to hear you are doing well, and keep applying sunscreen!
I’ll write something myself soon, but all is going well here in Perth. Rash got Covid in March (always the trailblazer!) and made a full recovery. I just kept taking a daily dose of Famous Grouse, and never had any symptoms at all ..

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