By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 10/21/2017
Posted: 1/5/2016
Topics/Keywords: #AnnualLetter Page Views: 1015
A brief review (with lots of photos) to bring you up to date on the year just passed.
Paul in Christmas cap

It's been a few years since I've done one of these year-end letters. It's not because I tired of doing them; it's just that I've been recovering from my bout of flesh-eating bacteria from 2011 and, frankly, this is the first time since then I've felt up to doing one.

New House, New Spouse

Which is not to say the year began on that happy a note, as Mary, my friend, ex-wife, and mother of my children, had passed away from cancer on November 23. What's more, since I'd been living with her as her caregiver, I found myself needing to move out in just a week.

Knowing I would burn out quickly if I tried to be a caregiver 24/7, I had carefully scheduled a day or two off a week (while our kids took turns making sure their mother was all right). A guy I had met online, Keith Jim, turned out to be a terrific camping companion. Towards the end of Mary's illness, he started staying over with me. And, although I had absolutely no intention of ever getting into another relationship—Keith wore me down by making no demands on me whatsoever, and by being helpful with Mary even though he had nothing to gain by it, other than to show himself to be a quality person.

So, Keith (who was also looking to move from his own apartment) and I moved into the condo previously rented by my son, and owned by my dear friends Barbara and Peter, who had lived there before John. (I had also rented another of their houses, years ago.)

Living room Yoshi

Keith and I only need one bedroom; and our incomes couldn't really afford the rent. So Keith located a guy, Yoshi, from a Gaymer group to which they both belong, who needed to rent a room. In fact, our respective situations made this a perfect match; and, indeed, our first year as Yoshi's roommates has been awesome.

So, despite the sadness of Mary's passing, 2015 began with a new home, new boyfriend, new roommate, and new life.

Gianna

Gianna

Another ray of sunshine came from my granddaughter, Gianna, who at the beginning of the year was barely 4 months old. Her mother (my daughter, Jenny) lives in nearby Chandler, Arizona, with her husband Jimmy and my grandson, Zach. I want to make sure Gianna knows and is comfortable with her grandpa, so I've made an effort to go down and visit once a week, and to play with the little darling.

Keith and Paul with Gianna

By the time Gianna celebrated her first birthday, she could already walk.

Hiking

I've also managed to shed the excess weight I'd accumulated over the past few decades. (This was accomplished, primarily, by undergoing medically-managed detoxing and then letting time pass, taking the excess weight with it.) The weight loss has been going on for about four years, and so far I've lost 90 pounds from my high water mark.

Me, slim, at Dreamy Draw.

Keith and I also have developed the routine of going hiking three times a week. This is our version of other people going to the gym. We are fortunate to live very near a number of regional parks with miles of hiking trails; so we can hop in the car, drive less than 4 miles, hike for 30 to 60 minutes, and go back home.

So, while other people are in gyms, staring at the panel of their StairMaster (or, worse, a wall-mounted TV screen), Keith and I are out in nature, uplifting our minds as well as toning our bodies.

Paul and Keith are building up their hiking endurance.

Just kidding! We've actually made major improvements to our ability to hike up and down hills, which of course shows in higher energy in general, a strengthened immune system, and a more positive outlook on life.

And, yes, it's far too hot in Phoenix to hike around here in the Summer. So we switch to swimming in our pool for 40 minutes, three days a week.

Wedding

Chris and Alex's Wedding

On February 15th, Keith and I were privileged to witness the wedding of Keith's twin brother, Chris, to Chris' fiancÚ, Alex.

Cailey

Zach, Gianna, and Cailey who visited from West Virginia.

I had a very special birthday present, in my other granddaughter, Cailey, who came for an unexpected visit. She lives in West Virginia, so I rarely get to see her. And she has grown up to be such a lovely and sensible young lady!

(That's her with my other grandkids, Zach and Gianna.)

Jason

My partner of two years, Jason Economo-Yates, passed away from liver failure in April of this year. I had only seen him once since we broke up in 2012; he had married but could never stop the drinking that had destroyed our relationship. Although, as his partner, I had gotten the brunt of his illness, he was nevertheless a wonderful man who was beloved by all his friends, and is sorely missed.

Me with Jason in 2012.

Engaged

Keith and Paul are engaged!

And then, on May 16—one year to the day from when Keith and I decided to date each other exclusively—Keith and I proposed to each other. We have not yet "set a date" but we are engaged.

Timmy and Ashley's Wedding

Timmy and Ashley's Wedding

In May, Keith and I drove out to Riverside, California, to attend my nephew, Tim Mikan's, marriage to the beautiful Ashley. We camped while there and got to visit the beach!

Keith at the beach. Louise meets Gianna; Mikey photobombing.

After the wedding, Timmy's parents (my sister, Louise, and her husband Mikey), who had driven their camper from Florida to the wedding in California, came back by way of Phoenix and so was able to stop by Jenny's to visit with us and to meet the baby.

John

John

My son, John, who had been living in Texas, moved back to the Valley of the Sun in Spring, providing Jenny with a steady babysitter (John moved nearer to her than I am) and me with someone to help with home improvements. (Just kidding! We are most happy just to see John more often!)

John and Keith on a visit to Goldfield.

Father's Day

Father's Day with Zach and Gianna.

Father's Day was spent at Jenny & Jimmy's pool. Everyone had an awesome time!

Go, Bernie!

I have a fascination with politics. I don't find them scary or offensive; I find politics to be hilarious.

However, when I saw a photo of a senator from Vermont, who'd been making some statements I knew, from my research, to be true—that our political issues, our wars, and nearly all our domestic problems were due to Wall Street having abandoned all pretense of humanity in favor of unsustainable profits—the thought popped into my head: "This man will be our next President." This thought felt exactly like all the accurate information I've received psychically, and just the same as the similar thought I'd had eight years ago when I first heard of Barack Obama. So I was very excited when Bernie came to Phoenix for a rally in July; Barbara and Peter and Keith and I attended.

Rally for Bernie

This was Bernie's first political visit to Arizona, and the arrangers had originally chosen a modest venue. But thousands of Phoenicians showed up, and they had to move to another room. Because of the short notice, there weren't nearly enough chairs and many (including us) sat on the floor or stood. The excitement was palpable.

Kelly's Birthday

My son-in-law, Jimmy, has awesome sisters (and an awesome brother). His sister, Kelly, lives in New Jersey but has made numerous visits out here, including one with her husband, Donald, that coincided with her August 28th birthday.

Standing, left to right: Keith, me, Jimmy, Gianna, John.

Seated, left to right: Jenny, Kelly, Donald, Michael.

September Birthdays

An unusual number of birthdays occurs amongst our extended family in the month of September; so John (whose birthday is in November) hosted our annual September Birthdays party. And I (whose birthday is in April) got the best present: A surprise visit from my daughter Karen, who lives in Virginia.

Jenny and Karen Jenny and I Me and Keith, with Kelly and Gianna

Camping with Zach

Zach at Fossil Creek

In October, Zach went on a camping trip with Keith and me to Fossil Creek, one of our favorite places. This was the year Zach shot up to be taller than I am. He drove his own Jeep which managed to break down before we even got to the campsite. No worries; the Jeep got towed to be repaired and we still had a terrific time.

John's Birthday

John celebrated his birthday in November, and Karen (with her fiancÚ Rob) made another visit to the Grand Canyon State.

Group visit to Grand Canyon

And then Michael, Zach, Keith, I, Karen and Rob actually visited the Grand Canyon itself (which Rob hadn't previously seen).

Visit from Keith's Sister

Also in October, we received a short visit from Keith's beautiful sister Rene, and her two boys Alex and Danny, as they flew into Phoenix to visit Keith's parents and the rest of his family in Shiprock, NM. Rene lives in Germany, so visits from her are rare and precious.

Earlier in the year, Keith's folks and sister visited us, but it was a short visit and there are no photos. Next time there will be for sure!

Website Redesign

My 2004 website design.

When I went into the hospital in 2011 with my leg, I was given very strong pain and anxiety medications, including Atavan which, it turns out, has a permanent side-effect: Memory loss. It has affected my short-term memory, manifesting as momentary blanks during which I can't remember what I was saying or even doing. They only last about 10 seconds, now; but I was unable to do any computer programming, website design, or even any significant writing.

However, this summer I began to work again on my personal web site. When I first created it, it was state-of-the-art; but as you can see, its appearance now seems really quaint. I had updated it since then, but by 2015 it was painfully clear that I needed to do a top-to-bottom redesign, to allow the site to work and look as good on mobile and tablet devices as it does on a full-size desktop computer.

And I accomplished it! Granted, the job took me most of the summer, whereas before my hospitalization, I would have finished it in a couple weeks, along with working on my programming job. Still, I'm very pleased with the results, which you can see before you.

I have christened the ASP (Active Server Pages) code that makes this magic work, CilwaWeb. Currently it is powering this site, but also the ONA Foundation site, and my ex-husband's massage site; I also was able to do a little work for an author friend; and her website is also powered by CilwaWeb. If you want a website done, thanks to the code I wrote, I can do it in a short time.

I've always been plagued with Attention Deficit Disorder, but since I was in school before they started medicating kids whose attention wandered, I had to learn to make my ADD work for me. I did it by working on some five projects at a time, switching to the next one when I got bored. So I'd be writing class notes, and a short story, and a cartoon or drawing, and perhaps editing a yearbook page or writing a poem or song. And one of the things I started working on when I became a programmer was creating libraries of computer code that simplified tasks I found boring or too complex to deal with. CilwaWeb is one of those.

Zach

Zach on the guitar

My grandson, Zach, didn't let getting tall prevent him from achieving other things as well. He's been taking guitar lessons for awhile, now; but this year it all coalesced. He's decided to become a professional musician, and is well on his way. Not only is his guitar playing better than mine ever was, but his keyboard and compositional skills are awesome as well.

Thanksgiving

Jenny also hosted us for Thanksgiving. We had it at a local resort so no one would have to, like, cook.

Thanksgiving.

From left to right: Michael, Yoshi, Keith, me, Gianna, Jenny, Layne Luty (a friend of Zach's and ours), Zach, and John. (Jimmy was working in Prescott and couldn't make it.)

Christmas

While still tinged with sadness over Mary's passing, I have to say that this Christmas was really enjoyable. We had a Christmas Tree-trimming party, attended by Michael, John, Zach, and Zach's friend, Cat as well as Yoshi, Keith and myself.

Christmas at Jenny and Jimmy's

Christmas Eve we attended Jenny and Jimmy's traditional Sicilian dinner (five kinds of fish, plus pasta), cooked by Jimmy's other sister, Dawn. Then on Christmas Day we returned with Michael's sister Surya, for a traditional Christmas dinner.

Left-to-right: Gianna, John, Surya, Zach.

Of course, all the straight people were engrossed in "the game".

Left-to-right: Brian (a friend of Jimmy's), Joe, Jimmy, Dawn.

…and, afterwards, went to Michael's for yet another one!

Happy New Year!

So that concludes the highlights of 2015. Keith and I wish each and every one of you a 2016 that is more wonderful, prosperous, and amusing than any you've ever experienced.

Bring it!

2016