As has become my custom, I take a look back at the previous year, the good and the bad, the surprising and the obvious, and reflect on the year as a whole. Many would agree with me that 2016 was not a great year. It saw turbulence across the globe, in all aspects of daily life. From the unfortunate events leading to Black Lives Matter, to the impossible-to-predict effects of the Brexit vote, the huge political upset in the United States where a TV reality star and business mogul won the Presidency, and technology became not just an effect on everyday life, but became responsible for affecting actual change. It has been a year for the record books, and not necessarily in a good way.
As for myself, I’ll be happy to put 2016 in the past, and move forward into the future.
This year, looking back, it was clearly about one thing for Jenny and I: my parents. By the end of this year, I was feeling the effects of the stress and weariness of the pressure of dealing with my father’s deteriorating health, and my mother’s need for assistance with the same. It’s never easy to see your parents getting older and dealing with their age; I’m learning how difficult that is first-hand.
Still, I’m gratified by the fact that Jenny and I are in a position to provide the assistance they need; things would only be more stressful if we weren’t.
So breaking down this year falls into a few distinct categories: Mom and Dad; Mom’s Health; Dad’s Health; and Jenny and I. I’ll also throw in the Things That Changed category, where I detail all the things that changed in our lives (other than the clearly obvious ones).
Mom and Dad
By the end of 2015, it was clear that Mom and Dad needed to move closer to family, whether that be myself, my brother Don, or Dad’s family in San Antonio. Their secluded property in East Texas was not healthy for them, and they could no longer rely entirely on each other for their daily needs.
On January 8th, we paid the deposit on an apartment for them in Houston, and the move was officially on. Over the next few weeks, I would make nearly weekly trips up to the property to help pack, and prepare things for the move.
On January 24th, during one of those trips, we nearly lost Freckles (one of our two dogs) when she got loose during a bathroom run. There was an enormous open field that she could have run for miles and miles, and she was not at all interested in returning to us. Fortunately, there was another man walking his dog nearby, and she decided to run and bark (and torment) that dog, rather than run off, or run the other direction into traffic. The man helped us capture Freckles, and we were able to get her back into the car, and ultimately, home. We were upset with her for several days afterward, but she wormed her way back into our good graces with her cuteness. Hopefully we never experience that again—it was frightening.
On February 5th, Mom and Dad officially put the property up for sale, as it was clear that they would no longer need it, and would need the money at some point in the future.
On March 5th, the movers arrived at the property, and loaded up the majority of what Mom and Dad needed for the apartment in Houston. We got everything into the apartment, and settled enough for them to spend their first night back in Houston that evening. Of course, the next few days (and weeks) were spent getting them all settled into their new home.
On April 16th, I was able to take Dad out for lunch for his 75th birthday. While we were out, we drove over to the old neighborhood and looked at the house we lived in for so many years.
On May 7th, I took my mother out for lunch for her birthday, and just kind of enjoyed an afternoon with her. The very next day, on May 8th, Mom, Dad, Jenny and I all went to an Astros game at Minute Maid Park, where we had fantastic seats in the Crawford boxes. The game was played on Mother’s Day, so the Astros were decked out in pink. Sadly though, I was not able to get a ball.
In July, Dad took a trip to Michigan to stay with Don and Saundra for a couple of weeks. He left on July 16th, and returned on the 31st. It was kind of a miracle that he was able to go at all, as he was in the hospital up until the day he left—more on that in the Dad’s Health section.
While Dad was in Michigan, Mom adopted a new dog named Honey. Though he’s got his issues, he has helped fill a void in Mom’s life, since the passing of her dear dog Buddy, in late 2015. Honey has become a full member of the family, for sure.
On August 19th, Mom and Dad were having some issues, and Mom moved in temporarily with Jenny and I, giving her some time to have space from Dad. She didn’t intend on staying that long, but surgeries, and other issues prevented her moving back until October 22nd.
On August 29th, Dad decided to take the Mini out for a drive, just to see if he could still drive. He couldn’t. He hit a tree and got lost, and ended up calling the police, who took him home. Mom and I retrieved the car the next day and returned it to the apartment.
As a result of many factors, Mom and I broached the topic of assisted living with Dad on September 7th. He wasn’t completely against the idea, which surprised both Mom and I, and so we began a search for a place for him in earnest.
The very next day, September 8th, my grandmother, and Dad’s mother passed away, at age 94. She had been suffering from dementia for years, and had been on her deathbed for quite some time, so it was not surprising to anybody, really. Still, it was a sad day. All four of us traveled to San Antonio on September 12th to attend her funeral. We let Dad stay for a few days to visit with family afterward, and I returned to pick him up later in the week.
Later in September, on the 24th, Mom and I toured a place named Brookdale Shadowlake for the first time. It was immediately obvious it was at the top of the list for assisted living for Dad. We would look at some other places, but none of them were as nice or helpful as Brookdale.
While trying to make plans to get Dad into Brookdale, Mom’s wallet was stolen on October 3rd, while she was shopping at Walmart. Then, on October 6th, when trying to get the Mini fixed, we found out the car was totaled, since the repairs would cost more than the car was worth. This would lead to an actually positive result, but at the time, was less than ideal.
As a result of Grandma’s passing, the inheritance allowed Mom to afford a brand-new car, which she purchased on October 15th. It was her first-ever brand-new car, and she absolutely loves it. She purchased a Kia Sportage, which is large enough to fit Dad’s wheelchair, and easy enough for him to get in and out of. It also happens to have some very nice features, like an enormous sunroof, and leather seating.
On October 30th, we moved Dad’s belongings into Brookdale (he was still in a physical rehab facility during this time). His new home was settled, and all of us eagerly awaited his arrival there. We were excited for him, as he would get the help he needed, as well as some social interaction with people other than Mom and I. He officially moved in on November 7th, when he was released from physical rehab, and was much stronger and more alert than when he arrived there. The very next day, on November 8th, we brought over a replacement TV stand for him, as he fell and destroyed the existing one after less than 24 hours in his new place.
Mom moved in with Jenny and I officially on November 4th, and we spent the new few weeks cleaning up and removing items from the apartment, before turning in the keys by the end of November.
In all, it had been a whirlwind year, but finally, things have begun to settle down to a new normality, which we all need desperately.
Mom was really quite healthy all year, but had several surgeries, and a couple of mishaps during the year.
On May 20th, she had a tooth removed, which required some minor surgery.
On July 7th, she had surgery for carpal tunnel in her right hand.
On August 18th, she was admitted to the hospital for observation, after I took her to the ER for chest and neck pains. She was discharged the next day, but it was never clear what the cause was, other than low magnesium.
On September 15th, Mom had a major surgery for a hysterectomy, which required quite a bit of recovery, and limitations to physical activity. This was one of the main reasons she stayed with Jenny and I, rather than returning to the apartment.
On September 20th, Mom and I returned to the ER believing she had internal bleeding, as a result of the surgery. Fortunately, this turned out not to be true, and she was sent home without being admitted.
On October 7th, the day we were clearing out the Mini, Mom fell and hurt her knee rather badly. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but the swelling and bruising was quite considerable, and took several weeks to clear up.
Lastly, on December 8th, Mom had her other carpal tunnel surgery, this time on her left hand, which will hopefully allow her to live pain-free in both hands.
Over the past couple of years, Dad has suffered from numerous UTI’s, leading to hospitalization several times. 2016 was no different, and like clockwork, he suffered from the same conditions.
On March 12th, less than a week after moving to Houston, he was admitted to the hospital with a UTI.
He was back in the ER almost exactly 2 months later on May 13th with another UTI. He was not admitted this time, but sent home with antibiotics.
Almost exactly two months later (again), he was admitted to the hospital on July 14th with a UTI. This was just a couple of days before his scheduled trip to Michigan, and we feared he wasn’t going to be able to go. Fortunately, he was given a good bill of health, and released on the 16th, just in time to get to the airport and make his flight.
On October 3rd, Dad had his first visit with the VA doctor, who is his Primary Physician now. It was a great visit, and something that we should have done sooner. The VA has been great.
Unfortunately, on October 15th, Dad was admitted to the hospital once again for a UTI. This one was nearly 3 months to the day since his last hospitalization for the same. This also happened to be the same day we were out with Mom buying her a new car. We had to go straight from the dealership to the hospital, as his condition noticeably worsened over the course of a couple of hours. This was the worst UTI he’s had in quite some time, and resulted in his being sent to a physical rehab facility to help him get his strength back.
On November 1st, Dad had an appointment with the VA hospital in the Houston medical center for a mental evaluation. It was a chaotic and stressful day, and not one of Dad’s finest. He was officially diagnosed with Dementia, which Mom and I had suspected for some time, but was finally confirmed.
Now that he’s been in Brookdale for over a month, he’s doing much better, though the cost of the facility (which is increasing January 1st) will prevent us from keeping him there indefinitely. Already, Mom and I are having to look at alternatives.
On November 8th, the check for the property arrived, closing the door on that chapter of their lives. The trailer was (literally) buried and gone, and the next chapter for Mom and Dad has begun.
Jenny and I
Though 2016 was a rough year, it wasn’t without its moments. As is usually the case, Jenny and I had our own things we wanted to do this year, and were able to accomplish some of them.
On January 16th, I hosted my first LAN party at the house. This is a party where my friends and I get together and play computer games. It takes over the whole house, as it’s filled with men, their computers, and lots of swearing and yelling, but it was a lot of fun, even if I’m getting too old to play games for hours on end without sleep.
On March 1st, I flew to Dallas, TX to receive my performance review. It was nice to get to meet some of my co-workers in person for the first time there. I got a good review, which I’ve come to be proud of, and overall, it was a nice day-trip.
On March 8th, Jenny got into a tiny car accident, causing minimal damage to her car, and none to the other, so no insurance claim was filed by either party.
On March 12th, Jenny and I went to the Livestock Show to visit with some friends of Jenny’s, who were in town.
Later, on March 19th, I was the ‘official’ photographer for Jenny’s Aunt Beth’s 90th birthday party. I got some excellent photos, and the family was very appreciative of my efforts.
April 7th through the 10th, Jenny and I traveled to Memphis, TN for a trip we had been looking forward to for quite some time. We rented an Airbnb for the first time for the trip, which worked out pretty nicely. Unfortunately, Jenny had a severe migraine for most of the trip, so it wasn’t as enjoyable of a trip as we’re used to taking, but we still had a good time. We visited the Lorraine Motel, and the Civil Rights museum, as well as walked along Beale Street, and ate once again at Rendezvous, which was just as good as I’d remembered.
On May 31st, I headed out for a trip to Chicago for work, where I got to meet several of my colleagues from Canada, who were in town for their annual meetings. We had a large group that went to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, which was very fun. The Cubs won the game, too, which was nice.
On June 26th, my brother Don and his wife Saundra came to town to visit Dad. They stayed with Jenny and I and were around through July 4th, so got to take part in our first fireworks display at our house. It wasn’t much, but was still fun.
While here, we went for a road trip with Don and Saundra to Waco, TX, where we visited the Magnolia Silos, made famous by the TV show Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines. Neither Jenny or I had seen the show before going there, so it didn’t mean all that much to us, but Don & Saundra were excited.
Later in July, on the 24th, we got a group together to go see the new Star Trek Beyond film, but shortly before the movie started, the power at the theater went out, so we ended up having to take a rain-check. We would end up seeing the film the following week.
On September 23rd, I began an epic teardown of all my LEGO modular buildings, in preparation for putting my my annual LEGO Christmas village. The only place we had to put it up this year was in my office, and so I had to make room somehow.
Jenny went back to Waco on October 7th, along with her dad, hoping to get copies of a book written by a family member decades ago. Unfortunately, it’s still under copyright, so only 30 pages or so could be photocopied. There are only two known existing copies of the book—one of which is in Waco, and the other is in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
On October 22nd, history was made when the Chicago Cubs won the NLCS and advanced to the World Series for the first time in 71 years, and went on to win the World Series on November 2nd, in an epic Game 7, giving the Cubs their first championship since 1908 – a 108 year wait. Needless to say, the city of Chicago, and all Cubs fans across the country went nuts. The fact that I was able to attend a game at Wrigley during their winning season helps me feel a part of it.
On November 8th, the country took to the polls, and Mom and I watched the returns closely for most of the night. When it was all over and counted, Donald Trump had won the electoral college (though not the popular vote) to become the next president of the United States. It was one of the biggest upsets in modern history.
November brought other things to our home, like a baby shower for Jenny’s cousin, Tamara on the 12th. We spent a lot of time preparing the house, cleaning, and getting things ready. Once that day arrived, I left the house to avoid all the ladies, and went and visited my dad at Brookdale.
On November 13th, I finally convinced Jenny to let me get a drone. I’ve been wanting one for a long time, but since my ‘helicopter’ accident back in 2010, Jenny wouldn’t let me near anything that flies. I got an insanely good deal on a DJI Phantom 3 Standard, which I couldn’t pass up, and so we bought it. I was immediately hooked by how awesome drones are, and am a huge drone enthusiast now. I’m always on the lookout now for places to fly it. I even used it at Thanksgiving for a family portrait. Speaking of which…
Later in November, we celebrated Thanksgiving at home, with many family members, including Mom and Dad. We had about 19 people at our house for the holiday, and it worked out pretty successfully. It wouldn’t be the last holiday we hosted this year though.
Moving into the final month of the year, there was still a lot on the agenda. On December 7th, Jenny got her early birthday present, the Cozmo robot, which is a nifty little piece of technology. We went out for her birthday on the 10th, eating at The Melting Pot for the first time. It was quite the experience.
On December 17th, Mom, Jenny, Grandma Phyllis, Zach and myself went to see “Star Wars: Rogue One” on IMAX 3D. It was an amazing film, and I would go on to see it a couple more times in theaters.
On the 22nd, Don and Saundra flew in to Houston for Christmas. I picked them up at the airport.
On the 23rd, I had an eye exam, and I ordered a new pair of prescription glasses, as well as a pair of prescription sunglasses (my first ever.) I haven’t really had a pair at all since September, when my existing pair got destroyed by one of the dogs.
On the 24th, we brought Dad to the house to have Christmas with us, and we opened our gifts, ate some fantastic food, and just enjoyed the holiday. Everyone really enjoyed their gifts, including myself.
Don & Saundra’s visit came to an end on December 27th, when I took them to the airport. They were headed back to Michigan to enjoy a few more days off, before having to return to work.
Jenny and I also took a much-needed vacation to Austin, leaving on the 28th, and staying at the Lakeside Resort Spa, where we relaxed, and enjoyed a top-notch hotel. We tried eating at Franklin Barbecue, but long lines prevented us from doing so, so we went to our old standby for great Austin BBQ, The Salt Lick. On the way home on the 30th, we hit up Round Rock Donuts.
Finally, we capped off the year with a New Year’s Eve get-together at our house, where we played Cards Against Humanity, drank alcohol, and I took my drone up before Midnight to capture the fireworks from up high.
Things That Changed
On February 6th, we ordered all-new living room furniture, including a couch, love-seat, recliner, coffee table, and entertainment center with piers and bridge. Most of it got delivered on February 11th, but some of it didn’t arrive until March. Overall, it’s a very nice addition to our home, and feels a lot more ‘grown-up’ than our other furniture.
On February 24th, I once again started using Mint for my financial software. I’ve had problems with Quicken, and was never all that crazy about YNAB. Mint has always had its roadblocks for me too, but I finally gave it another shot. It seems like I am constantly looking for a decent financial software.
On May 5th, I made a big change to my daily to-do lists, abandoning Todoist, and switching to using Outlook (for work) and the Apple Reminders app on my iPhone/iPad/Mac. The ability to add tasks hands-free by voice was the main reason for this, and I’ve been very happy with it since making the switch.
On June 21st, I found out I was getting a new boss at work. This was mostly an organizational change, as one of my colleagues was getting promoted, whom I got along with very well. This didn’t really change much from a day-to-day basis.
On July 12th, I bought a set of Philips Hue light-bulbs for home. These were the color-changing bulbs, which are actually pretty unnecessary. Still, being able to automate lights, and voice-control them is pretty nice.
In August, I finished a project I had been working on for some time, getting all our movies digitized, so we could watch any of our films without having to dig through boxes of DVD’s.
On September 9th, I pre-ordered the new iPhone 7 for Jenny and I. I chose to go with the larger model this year, the iPhone 7 Plus. It took some getting used to the larger size though.
On September 28th, I got my new LEGO Christmas set, and our new iPhones arrived the same day.
On October 22nd, I painted Mom’s room (what used to be our guest room). She picked a nice purple color, and the room turned out quite nice.
Jenny had a lot of problems with her new iPhone 7, and so we took it into the Apple store on November 13th, where they exchanged it for another unit. Unfortunately, the problems would reoccur later in December.
And lastly, with the new data limits ISP’s have been placing on home internet connections, we were entering our 3rd month of going over the limit. As a result, I upgraded us to Gigabit internet through AT&T, which comes with unlimited data, so bandwidth isn’t a concern any more. Unfortunately, the 1Gbps speeds are a bit underwhelming. I get about 500Mbps (at most) through a hardwired connection, and only about 90Mbps via WiFi. Still, it’s a lot faster than the previous connection of 24Mbps I was getting, so streaming 4K video is an actual option now.
All in all, 2016 was a stressful and event-filled year, where I was going full-tilt for most of the year. I was glad for things to finally stabilize a bit in December, though. 2017 looks to be interesting for any number of factors, including the inauguration of a new president; our 10th wedding anniversary, Dad’s continued health deterioration, and settling into our new normal, with another member of the household.
Still, I can’t help but feel immensely grateful. Grateful for my wife, who is understanding, supportive, and puts up with my and my quirks. Grateful that my parents are close-by now, and regularly able to be a part of my life. Grateful that I have a great job that allows me to afford both the type of lifestyle that I’ve become accustomed to, and presents me with the challenges to keep my engaged and occupied by my profession. Grateful that my health is still reasonably good (even though I could afford to lose some weight, and learn to eat healthier).
Here’s to putting 2016 behind us, and moving into the new year. Here’s to 2017.