As I woke up this morning and realized that the year 2016 had arrived, thousands of thoughts flooded my mind. The first was that it was only 6:30 and, since Mary and I had not gotten to sleep until about 1:30, I wondered if I should not try to sleep a bit longer. That thought was soon displaced by the crowing roosters in the distance and dogs barking at the end of our street. I realized that Nakita (the beautiful Siberian Husky we are babysitting) would not care if we humans had to follow some rituals involving lots of pyrotechnics last night. She would be looking forward to getting out on her morning walk.
But that got me to thinking about dogs. One of my favorite short poems by Robert Frost goes something like, “The old dog barks backwards without getting up. I can remember when he was a pup.” It wasn’t the old dog I was envisioning barking backwards though. I realized that I turn sixty-five years old this year and I can remember when I was a pup. I considered just barking backwards and remaining in bed. Anyway, I got up.
After that, the flood of thoughts continued as I looked back on the year 2015 and all of the years preceding that. Of all of the many gifts that God has granted me, one of the most rewarding to me personally is that I have a good memory. That could be a gift or a curse I guess, but most of my memories are good and I have learned from the bad ones, so my memories are a gift!
This last year has been no different. In total – many more good memories crowd my mind than negative ones and I would be an ungrateful soul were I not to take a moment to thank God and those others responsible for granting us another great year.
For one – Mary and I are blessed to live well on a limited pension here in San Clemente, Ecuador where the weather is always pleasant and the Ecuadorian people make each day a joy. We have two beautiful Garcia girls (Luna and Sol) visit in our home each week learning to play the piano on our little keyboard. Mary teaches them, but we both feel blessed to have these youngsters brighten our home with their smiles and enthusiasm for learning. Thank you Ramon and Nura for raising such loving girls and allowing them to be a part of our lives. And thank you to all of our other neighbors for their love and friendship which adds depth and meaning to our lives.
Our big trip for the year was planned for July and Mary worked for months searching for the best flight rates, hotels, rental houses, rental cars, and planning activities that we could afford so that we could travel for the month in the United States to Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida and have room to allow all of the family that could make it to Florida or Ohio to come visit. She did a great job! Thank you my sweet Mary.
But, I almost ruined the entire plan by getting rear-ended by a motorcycle while riding my bicycle on June 10th. My entire left upper cheekbone, eye socket, and nasal cavity was crushed tearing the skin that used to cover the left side of my face away. Even as I stood up to retrieve my damaged bicycle (and to coax my eye back into what was left of the socket), I was silently assured that I would heal in time to make our planned trip.
The doctors discovered (to their amazement) that I had no concussion and no spinal cord or other nerve damage. My face healed with a piece of titanium replacing my crushed cheekbone, I was afforded the very best medical care, our insurance covered all costs, many friends stepped up to help Mary and me, I was able to make the trip and participate in all of the planned activities. I have almost no scars of marks to memorialize the accident. Thank you doctors, friends, Mary, and a gracious Savior for my life and restored face. And thank you to my friends in San Clemente who “stole” my damaged bicycle and returned it to me good as new – Muchísimo Gracias
While we were on the trip, many family members changed their plans and took vacation time to come and stay in the rental homes in Florida or accompany us to Kennywood, Lake Erie, snorkeling trips, and many other activities. Thank you Bob and Lori, Missy and Brian and kids, Jimmy and Scott, Jimmy and Chris, Johnny, Kristine and kids, Billy, Carrie, Doug and kids, and countless others who helped us have one of the best vacations ever. We love you all.
We learned that our nephew, Ryan was planning to be married in Southern California in November. At first we thought that, with the big trip to the U.S. in July we would not be able to afford another trip to attend the wedding. But, Mary did such a good job getting us great deals on flights (partially made possible because of some free airline miles we got after a snafu in Miami while we were returning from the July trip) that we found we could make the second trip.
We witnessed a blessed wedding, traveled around San Diego and Orange County as camera toting tourists, enjoyed many hours with Missy and Brian’s family, and once again had a great time with Mary’s family. Thank you American Airlines for messing up our July flight (which did not seem like a blessing at the time!) and thank you to all of the family for many more great memories.
This Christmas season we worked to save up a bit more money than we had in previous years so that we would be able to contribute more to the various children’s Christmas programs. We got generous donations from other expats and people from as far away as England!
We used that money to provide some Christmas cheer to more of the area children extending even out to Santa Teresa. I was also asked to step in as Papa Noel (Santa Claus) at the big children’s Christmas party in San Clemente. Even though the heat (especially felt while wearing a full Santa suit better suited for Canadian Christmases) and extra work left us tired, the smiles of grateful children and parents will be etched eternally into our memories.
Thank you to those who contributed funds and effort to make this possible (you know who you are!). Thank you Mary for getting the ideas and pushing them through to fruition. And a big thank you to the hundreds of smiling happy children who made it all worthwhile!
These and many other thoughts envelope me in a peaceful state of bliss as I reflect upon a year that has blessed us in so many ways. May God bless you all this year we pray from here where…
Life is good in Ecuador!