Tuesday, September 16, 2019
I drove across town to meet my friend Buzz for coffee and to return a couple items of ham radio equipment he had loaned me. A couple years ago, I became licensed as a ham radio operator by passing three very difficult paper tests and achieving the FCC’s highest-level ham license. Knowing little about ham, I acquired a used radio set and joined the two local ham clubs. Members were very supportive, and one of them, Buzz, loaned me a handheld radio unit and a Morse Code tapping device (yes, I intended to learn!).
I had searched for an inside project to take me through a very cold and snowy winter, which by the way had terminated at last a huge destructive wildfire west of town. That fire’s threats had made me interested in emergency communications. Knowing about ham radio only that users must be licensed, I found that one can study online for the tests. During those cold winter nights, I studied sample tests and memorized bunches about electronics. Each study level consisted of 500-600 multiple-choice sample questions, from which 30-50 randomly selected would comprise the real test.
I studied and managed to pass all three tests for top licensing, which allows access to all FCC’s ham air waves. The ham community was as shocked by my success as me. I joined the two local clubs, but never was “able to get it, being on air”. Hams speak in short, rapid, symbol-laden and technical, often mumbled language, and experienced hams understand and enjoy it all. Most hams learned radio basics while young, usually from their active-ham dads, and most are men with a few women in the mix.
Anyway, that’s a background to my connection with Buzz. After dismantling my unused radio set, I wanted to return borrowed equipment to a kind and generous friend. We did discuss radio briefly, and when I asked Buzz about himself personally, he sighed and said he’d recently been diagnosed with early symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. He was articulate while describing having noticed his hands occasionally shaking, and sometimes other differences, too, related to eyesight and physical balance. He’s very proactive, is practicing for the future–like hiking uphill and using poles which he’ll eventually need for all walking. And, as a ham, he’s beefing up radio equipment for future hours of indoor activity.
We shared views of how “life happens”, the differences between what we perceived while young about the future, and what possibilities actually become real experiences. I considered my gratefulness for being physically and mentally able to play with horses. But as Buzz is experiencing, living circumstances can change to alter one’s life.
My takeaway is huge admiration for his openess–and proactiveness, his pursuing knowledge from disease experts and survivors of Parkinson’s. He’s participating in a group and learning about others experiences with the disease. He’s identifying and practicing the use of eventually-needed tools.
Another takeaway is a renewed recognition of what must be the “human spirit”–an innate drive to avoid adversary, but when confronted with the inescapable, a courageous ability to interact with fate.
And I’m thinking about my elderly sister, whose once gradual decline appears to have become more rapid. I consider the “younger her”–a lifelong ferociously independent individual. It seemed impossible, after being diagnosed with the onset of dementia, that against her every impulse, ego-need, and screams about my having brought her to Bend, she has managed to adjust to a group environment, assisted by caretakers. Finally now, she appreciates all that her living arrangement offers a weakened geriatric.
Whether we’re Baby Boomers, Millennials, X-Gens, or whatever, we learn through many years of trials and tribulations what living is about. When we’re finally able to assess our lifelong acquisitions of knowledge and skills, increasingly we begin to appreciate our fundamentally shared and individually unique humanity.
Dear Friends: It’s about knowing to embrace aging by planning ahead and well. Diana