Monday, December 16, 2013

Annual "Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukah, Blessed Solstice or a wonderful Kwanza" Newsletter

Little Dale, Britnye and a politically-incorrect guy in a red suit

Happy, ah, oh, Merry, ah...boy it gets tricky. Okay, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukah, Blessed Solstice or a wonderful Kwanza. Or whatever. We are "Merry Christmas" folks, but very tolerant of other religious views (unless you express them through violence), so want all our friends and family to enjoy themselves, and be blessed now and throughout the years, as we have been, regardless of your traditions.

As seems to be the norm, this year brought big changes. Bonnie discovered a cure for cancer, growing right in our refrigerator, (though we misplaced it) and Bob received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but they took it back when he told them it was all true.

He did publish three new books, with the proceeds going to charity, as usual:

Eddie Grabowski's Gift: A Marine Christmas Story

The Old Jarhead's Journal: Random Thoughts on Life, Liberty, and Leadership (

Advice for Boys: From an Old Marine

On the down side, about March Bob's pulmonary fibrosis took a steep dive, and he was forced to put in for retirement. So his successor, Mike Zarski--there cannot be a "replacement"--came on board October 1, and Bob worked from home as Mike's advisor through November 30. He was very pleased they hired Mike, a solid association professional, to continue the good work. During his 5.5 years as Executive Director, the American Association of Hip an Knee Surgeons increased membership over 80% and assets over 151%, very similar to the growth of his previous association during his five years there. His detractors call this "dumb luck."

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons had a very nice retirement lunch for him in August, gathering his fellow execs, so Bob had what he likes best--an audience! Though his illness prevented travel, AAHKS held a wonderful retirement ceremony for him in absentia at their Annual Meeting in November. They presented him with the President's Award, had a video of his acceptance, showed pictures of him in Vietnam and had a Marine Color Guard on stage. They are great surgeons, classy people and used to getting things right.

Thus we sold the Des Plaines condo, contributing more than our share to the lavish lifestyles of Jim Johnson, Franklin Raines, Angelo Mozilo and the other one-percenters who got rich on the housing bubble. We had too much stuff there and too much here, so now we have three times too much in Madison. If you come visit, Bob will distract you with a coughing fit, while Bonnie sneaks some items into your back seat. As of October 3, he is very high on the list for a lung transplant (they said it was likely by January 1, but no guarantees, as you are waiting for spare parts that match). He goes to pulmonary rehab twice a week at the VA, where they put him on 100% oxygen and give him PT like boot camp, which has made him stronger. There we met new friends, John and Donna Payne, from Louisiana. John is another Marine Vietnam vet waiting for a lung for PF, so we have been palling around with them, and we both wait for the phone to ring. As long as he's sleeping, or reading/working on the computer (and not coughing) with O2 running, Bob feels fine.
Bob and John at Rehab

Update: My friend and brother Marine John Payne got the call for a new lung at about 8:30 am this morning (Tuesday, December 17, 2013). He is now scheduled for surgery tonight about 11:00 pm. We are both O blood type, but I'm not surprised. I told the transplant coordinator that I thought John was weaker than me, and should go first. Personally, I think John arranged this to skate out on PT this morning. If you are the praying type, say one for that good man. ~Bob

Update: The operation for John Payne's lung transplant started at 2:30 am on Wednesday, December 18, and at 7:30 we heard from Donna that he came through fine. ~Bob

Update: As of Saturday, 12/21/13, John is talk, walking short distances, off oxygen and getting ready to move Monday from the UW hospital to the VA hospital (they connect). We have visited him twice and are thrilled--a real blessing.

238th Marine Corps Birthday Ball, Madison, WI November 2, 2013

Retirement, Bob says, is when every day is Saturday, but no day is Payday. Bonnie loves having him around all the time--there's no accounting for taste. She has continued volunteering at the VA, and works part time from home for the US Bone and Joint Initiative, her former employer in Rosemont, IL. And she takes Britnye places and babysits for the other grandbaby, Dale. Her son, Big Dale and other grandson, Austin, still live in Pennsylvania, so we don't get to see them much.

Caramel retrieving a ball from under the stereo cabinet

Britnye's 11-pound Teddy Bear pup, Caramel (AKA Hinky Dink), who lives with us, is still a delight--usually. He had his first birthday in September and has become much more mellow, as the Teddy Bear website promised. We still have one cat, Marmalade, who is not at all fond of the pup. The other cat, Tommy, went to live with Britnye, who turned 13 in September. However, Tommy has been sick lately, at the vets, and as I write is back with us to give meds and food via a feeding tube every four hours. But he is a loving, sweet cat and well worth the expense and trouble. We are hoping he pulls through.

Britnye is living in Waterloo, about 20 miles away, with her mom, Julie, step-dad, Lupe, and baby brother, Dale (22 months), a real cutie who turns two in February. Britnye was in her first dance competition this year; we were proud of how well she did, but frightened by her photo in costume--she looks 19! But she loves the school and seventh grade and has made a lot of friends.

Britnye at 12! Scary.

We had a flash vacation in early July, driving down to visit Bonnie's school friends and cousin Carla in Freeburg, IL, where we stayed at a great B&B, Katzenhaus, owned by her friend Melinda. Bonnie graduated from high school with the same kids she started kindergarten with. In addition to Melinda, she saw Ruth, Mary and another Bonnie, who arrived in town from London, UK for a surprise visit. The school mascot is the Freeburg Midgets. Really. She can't understand why they only won one basketball game in her four years of high school.

We did a one-day side trip to Columbus, MO for a memorial service for Claire Rajewski, the late wife of Bob's Marine friend Bill, a wonderful person and great artist. In addition to Bob and Bill, John Pointer, Mike Shearin and Dave Pienta were all there from their Radio Relay Repair Class at MCRD in 1965. Five of 17 was a great turnout after 48 years! We toasted A. J. Turner, KIA in Vietnam and Harry Surette, who died a few years ago, both good guys. There are only four classmates we haven't located. Managing oxygen for trips is, shall we say, complicated, and we had only a couple of days, so we missed other friends down that way--sorry. We had hoped to take Britnye to Scotland about then, but Bob's health didn't permit.

Bill, Dave, Mike, John & Bob from Radio Relay Repair Class 12-65, MCRD San Diego

Though we can't travel again until after Bob gets a new lung, we are open to visits. Check first to be sure he isn't in the hospital. We are on 24/7 "Come Right Now!" call.

So from our home to yours, all the joys of the season--and a wonderful New Year. Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes.

Bob & Bonnie


  1. Merry Christmas! God Bless you and I'm praying for your transplant in the New Year!

  2. Merry Christmas to you and yours Bob. We wish you the very best of 2014.
    Semper Fi

  3. Cathy and I look for your yearly updates. We are so amazed of how the kids have grown, god bless them. Our prayers continue daily for Bob's much needed lung, lets all pray for it to happen soon. The both of you look fabulous, retirement agrees with you as it keeps you busy without the least we would hope so, lol. Holidays here are progressing along nicely, Cathy continues her fight daily as we take one day at a time. Happy Holidays.

  4. Merry Christmas to you, Bob and the rest of your family! May the new year bring that new lung! Hoping to see you at our high school reunion in the summer! Your life is so full, busy and fun that I'm tired just reading about it! Yes, I'm a bit jealous as I still have a little over a year before I can retire. Again, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!!!

  5. Christine Van Hillo-BabineauDecember 22, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Merry Christmas Bob and Bonnie! Here's hoping for a transplant for you...soon. I'm still researching my Scottish genealogy. Found out my Great Grandmother Christine Ann Maclean was born in a small town called Christmas Island Nova Scotia...plan on taking trip to Canada to get her birth certificate...and so it goes...all is well my family...and I hope all is going well for your loved one.....TTYL Love, Chrissy