Thursday, November 17, 2011


Ed is hunting and cell reception is unavailable. I feel sad to not be able to speak with him, and worried about his well being. I am his nemesis right now as he in his frame of mind and thinks I am trying to control him. He does not seem to grasp the gravity of trying to protect him and us for future care, and keeps telling me he is not "goofy" yet. Of course his behavior warrented the diagnosis without him having a recognition of it, and in the present he cannot see the changes within himself either. As a partner it leaves you feeling lonely, angry, scared. As a caretaker you have to continue to do what is right, and try to disregard his anger. Tough time of this disease when your loved one is not quite "there" but enough to have to manage things despite their objections. I remind myself to just do my best and its only the ad that makes him so pissed off at me! I am in hopes that he is having a wonderful time with his friends and enjoying being at his hunting camp and will come back feeling a little lighter. We'll see....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What you don't know

What you don't know from reading Ed's blogs are the changes we see in him. He is a very good writer, and expresses himself very well through the written word. What you don't know is that he spends hours alone in his office, not working just reclusing. He has had total personality changes and is often, hate to say it this way, but just plain weird. He says bizarre things and often engages with our 2 year old grandson like he is another child ( a conversation about farts comes to mind). He is very angry that I am "controlling him". He says he's not "goofy" yet.He jokes that he "forgot" over and over...cute the first couple times...not so much on the 1000 time. He truly does not see some of this, God love him, and it scares me to death. Will the boys at hunting camp see it? Or will he ralley and they will relinquish and let him in the tree stand alone (Pat promised not to). He couldn't open a laptop the other day or count out 20 dollars...will he remember how to use his gun if he choses to shoot a deer? It makes me crazy...but I have to let him go. This is a tough time for us as a family and we miss his steadfastness. That's what you don't know from reading Ed's blogs...and apparently he doesn't know either!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Leavin' On A Jet Plane...

"How the hell are you, you old son-of-a-bitch?"

Next Tuesday, I’ll board a plane that will take me on a round about journey to the north woods of Wisconsin and to the door of the Deer Camp I have  shared with the rest of the boys most Novembers since 1994.  I board the plane in Phoenix about 8 AM... ride the five hours to MSP... in an MD 80 this year, layover an hour which is about the time you need to walk across the vast Minneapolis  airport up there to the commuter jet terminal.  I then board a CRJ for the short up and down hour ride back down to La Crosse, WI.   Most years there is already snow on the ground and we fly low enough to admire it in the farmer's fields as we parallel the mighty Mississippi south to LSE.    Patty will meet me at the airport about 3 PM with the pick up already loaded, the ATV in back and my rifle and gear already packed and we'll ride the three and half hours north across the Wisconsin dairy and cornfields through towns that get smaller and smaller the further north we go into the darkness...  we'll stop along the way for a cup of hot, steaming coffee and maybe some homemade apple pie at a favorite truckstop... and we'll get there well after dark, in the cold, to open up the shack and to get that wood fire's a ritual we have repeated together many years...

I  almost didn't get the ticket this year.   Despite having been around firearms all my personal and profession life, my doctor had some understandable reservations about my being at hunting camp this year.   Finally, after some discussions with Patty about being closely supervised,  Mindy agreed that I could go…

I know some of you reading this and some in my own family don't understand why anyone hunts  and I've tried to explain it to others in some years past.    It's not about the  thrill of the kill anymore... it's long since  been way past that... (though I did see the biggest buck of my life last year... but at a distance too long for a good, clean shot.)   Deer hunting is part of the culture  where I grew up in a small town in the wilderness  of central Maine.   It's about being outdoors.   It's about mediation,  reviewing life and reflections from a treestand.   But most of all... it’s about friendships.    Since I joined the this group in 1994, some friends have come and gone, and new younger faces have replaced those who have departed… RIP Jim K…  and I know now my time there will be limited too… and this year could be my last…

But no, I bought the ticket after  reading the two essays below.

Perhaps they will help you all understand why we come back every year... until we don't.

Field and Stream

Why We Love Deer Camp

by David  Pezal

Technically, a deer camp is any place where a group of people congregate to hunt deer. I've been in a great many of them, starting in 1968, ranging from a dilapidated canvas tent in New York's Adirondacks to a trophy whitetail establishment in south Texas that was more like a sheik's villa in Brunei.    Let me describe a real deer camp for you so you can see why it is what is and why deer hunters keep coming back to it, season after season.

It's in northern Maine, just a few miles south of the Maine -Quebec Border, very, very far from tourist Maine.   This is hard country... too rocky to grow anything, too cold for too much of the year for most people to stay.   In November the skies turn grey and stay that way until May.  It's the Great North Woods, pines and birches and hemlocks that extend all the way through Canada until you reach the tundra.

Deer season in rural Maine has the same effect on daily existence as the World Series once did in America.   Life doesn't exactly stop, but it certainly changes for a while.  The most interesting thing around is found in the local general store -- a blackboard listing who got what, where, how, how much it weighed, and how many points it had.

In Maine, they pronounce the word "dee-ah",  and if you get a whitetail in this part of the world, you have got yourself a deer no matter how you say it.  This far north, high body mass equals survival, so the deer grow huge.   If you look at the weights on the blackboard, you'll see many poundages that exceed 200, and some that hit 300 or more.

The antlers are neither particularly big nor particularly handsome, but when you look at the meat pole and you can see something hanging head down that is big enough to pull a plow, who cares?

You drive to the camp on logging roads, a combination of potholes, mud, dust, and puddles so deep that they come up to you rocker panels.  It's a half hour off a paved road.   There are no power lines, and no planes in the sky.  Not much can live here.  The deer are scarce in the best of times, and an extended winter takes a terrible toll.   Moose are probably more numerous than deer --- they do better in the deep snow.   There are grouse,  and big coyotes that interbred with wolves, and black bears, and beaver, but not much else.

The camp was, for many years, a resort that catered to hunters and fishermen, but a few years back, it was bought by a wealthy individual to entertain his friends.   After the resort was sold, some of the past guests --- a group of regulars who had hunted there every year during the third week of November--- got together with the former owners, and together they convinced the current owner to open the camp for that one week.  

These men, ten in most years, are cut from the same bolt of cloth.   They are all New Englanders and all lifelong deer hunters.   Most are retired, or close to it.   They come up here for seven days of hunting to get up at 4:30 in the morning,  freeze,  fight to keep from falling asleep on the tree stand (-try it when you are 70) and maybe shoot a deer.

I say "maybe" because the odds of killing a deer here are not high.  One of these men went 13 years without filling his tag.   If there are three deer on the pole at the end of the week, it's been a good week.   Two years ago, after a frightful winter and spring, not one person saw a single deer in the entire seven days.

Most of the men live long distances apart, and all the contact they have in the 51 weeks between seasons is a couple of emails.  But they all come back.   They come back because they get to spend a week in the woods, and not shave, and argue, and share in one another's successes and failures.   They come back because of the unspoken acknowledgement that for any of them, for any number of reasons, this may be his last season.

The cover story in this magazine this month is about developing skills and outwitting a buck on its own turf.  And  that's fine; in fact, that's terrific.   But that's only part of why you come to deer camp.

The 10 men who congregate in Maine each November know the real reason.  It's the same thing that draws war veterans or college classmates together after they've parted.   It's shared experience, and a brand of friendship that occurs nowhere else.

You'll understand what I a talking about when you're hauling your duffel bag out of the pickup and a fellow whom you haven't seen in a year comes up to you, unable to hide the joy on his face, and says:

"How the hell are you, you old son-of-a-bitch?"

When that happens, you'll understand.  Whether you are old or young.

Or a son-of-a-bitch.

Welcome to deer camp.

I had a friend or two in the last couple of years give up hunting too...  like me, one of them made a long trip to do so...  but when the personal dynamics of his hunting  group changed...  I understood his decision...   like below for example... 


July 25, 2008
Why We Finally Stop Hunting
I have an unnatural fascination with prehistoric man and, like a lot of paleontologists, spend time wondering what killed off the Neanderthals. They were around for 260,000 years in the face of some of the worst weather the earth has experienced, but 2,000 to 10,000 years after Cro-Magnons showed up, they vanished. Neanderthals lived in small family groups, and bit by bit, the groups ceased to exist. Finally, it probably came down to one man or woman, and that must have been the loneliest death imaginable.
I'm sure that last Neanderthal's last thought, just before his (or her) heart stopped was "Screw it. Why bother anymore? There's no one left."
And so it is with hunters. Hunting and shooting are intensely tribal. Only another hunter or shooter can understand what we do, and we tend to hang around with hunters and shooters of our own age. The pissant punks who can't remember before GPS and Gore-Tex and laser rangefinders will never understand how older generations view things.
Eventually, you reach the point  where you look around and there is no one left who remembers the things you do. Unlike the poor damned Neanderthal, you may not decide to die, but you very well may decide to hang up your guns. If you have no one left to share your sport with, why bother anymore?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Famous Last Words...

"OH WOW!...  OH WOW!...  OH WOW!"

According to Mona Simpson, the sister of Steve Jobs, those were his last words as she described them in a moving eulogy about her brother recently published in the New York Times.    See:

I've often thought about what my final last words might be, but it's unlikely I'll be lucid enough to remember them.

One thing I do know is that I do not want to be all hooked up to machines and IVs with a tube down my throat in some hospital as I struggle to get the words out, whatever they might be.  Just give me the "happy kool-aid" and I'll be on my way...

You should think about that too...   So... if you have not as yet created a "Living Will" with a medical directive, I would urge you to do at once.  Having one should help you avoid the uncontrolled hospital exit described above.   Mindy and I have updated ours in the last several weeks and you should either think about one or review the one you have...

In a related segway, let me also recommend this book to those whose loved ones may be dying in hopes you might better understand the concept of   "nearing death awareness"  which should not be confused with a "near death experience" with which most people are more familiar.

The book review said...

"Final Gifts has become a classic.  In this moving and compassionate book, hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelly share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years experience tending to the terminally ill.

Through their stories we come to appreciate the near-miraculous ways in which the dying communicate their needs, reveal their feelings, and even choreograph their own final moments:  we also discover the gifts - of wisdom, faith and love- that the dying have for the living to share.

Filled with practical advice on responding to the requests of the dying and helping the prepare emotionally and spiritually for death,  Final Gifts shows how we can help the dying person live fully to the very end."

I'll also post the link to this book in the Related Thoughts and Resource section in the menu to the right.

It is very beautiful over there.
~~ Thomas Alva Edison, inventor, d. October 18, 1931