Part IX………fun and games in El Paso’s Lower Valley……..
We then drove around the neighborhood looking for the thief, but saw nothing. Later that morning, we learned that some neighbors – who had also been burglarized – did chase him down, and beat him up before letting him go. They did recover their stolen items, but we never did see the missing car stereo. The police speculated that he had someone waiting nearby with a car, and they likely got away clean, albeit the one guy had to take his lumps.
During these years, we still struggled, but we had a good time. I learned/taught myself how to work on cars, as I had to do my own maintenance, and many repairs. In reality I became a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, and an all around handy man, as I replaced water heaters, evaporative air coolers, electrical things of all kinds, and pretty much kept up with all of our homes, over the years. I also continued with electronics as a sort of paying hobby, repairing and installing car stereos for friends and family for many years. We also, from the time we lived on Valley View, made many trips to Chihuahua, Mexico, where Blanca still has a lot of family, and where my best friend lives.
Our kids all remember the rush to load the car with them, an ice chest (for the beer, of course), a few clothes, whatever we were taking to whoever had asked for it, as soon as we got off work on a Friday afternoon. Then, four hours on the road, where the kids had to listen to Dad’s tapes of the Beatles, Billy Joel, Atlanta Rhythm Section, etc., while I smoked my head off, all the way to the home of our friends, or Blanca’s Aunt and Uncle, or a cousin, and a weekend of partying.
We lived on Moses from June of 1986, until we sold it and moved to Tom Ulozas Drive, on El Paso’s East Side, in December of 1993. By this time, our two oldest had left the nest. Arthur graduated in 1989, and went off to UT - Austin, never to return, except, of course, for visits. John, Jr. graduated a year later, and first went into the Army, then moved to the Denver area, before returning to the El Paso area, in late 1993. Since Blanca was teaching in the Ysleta District, all of our children were able to continue their schooling in the same district, so that they were able to stay with their childhood friends. Blanca, Jr. (AKA, Ikis) graduated from Ysleta High School, then took classes at UT, before coming back home to attend El Paso Community College, and work at a number of jobs. Andrew, our baby, changed schools in his senior year, to Hanks High School, which was much closer to home, and then graduated from that school.
We were very happy in this house (me, mostly because it had a swimming pool, so a lot less grass to cut; never could get any of the kids to help me out with cutting the grass…), and our first grand daughter was born while we were there. Bryan, our oldest grandchild, spent most of his weekends with us, and a lot of his summers, after his parents divorced. After he started school, while he lived with his mother, I drove across town every Friday afternoon to pick him up, and he spent his weekends with us. There were some job changes during the years we spent on Tom Ulozas, for both of us, until Blanca reached a point where she felt that she could not find a decent job in El Paso.
So, in the summer of 2004, we went to visit Blanca, Jr., in Arlington, and while there Blanca landed a job with the Dallas ISD. I didn’t really want to leave El Paso by this time, but while in Arlington, I went online and found a job during the four days we were there. So, I returned to El Paso, gave notice at my job, packed a few things, and returned to Arlington, where we both began new jobs in the first week of August. Once we were there, I first worked as a Telephonic Case Manager, with a commute from Arlington, all the way up the Dallas North Tollway, almost to Plano (nearly forty miles, one way). This was doable, but I really didn’t like the work, and hated the commute and the odd hours (I went in at 10:00 AM, and got out at 7:00PM), so after only four months there, I changed to doing a Medicare fraud investigative thing for the insurance company that serves as third party payer for Texas Medicare. This still involved a long commute, in very heavy traffic, but the hours were a little bit better. While there, I was approached by a head hunter to go to work for a company that wanted a bilingual RN Case Manager.
I had never been recruited for any job, and have to say that I did enjoy the experience. I kept refusing, and they kept raising the offers, until I couldn’t say no. Meanwhile, Blanca was doing fine with her job, but then, she had a fall on MLK Day in early 2005, and she broke her left wrist. She received pretty crappy care, and had to go to a second specialist after coming out of her first cast, because the first Orthopedic Specialist never set the broken bones. The break healed crookedly, leaving her wrist with a permanent disfigurement. She had to have an Open Reduction, Internal Fixation procedure in March, after coming out of the first cast. The surgery by this second specialist involved placing pins and plates, and some metal screws, and of course, then they put her in a bigger cast. All together, she spent something like five months in casts, and then had many weeks of Physical Therapy, with the end result that her wrist has lost a lot of movement, and even looks crooked today, more than five years later.
By making the move to Arlington, we were able to immediately accelerate our retirement plans. We stayed with our truly darling (yeah, I know. I don’t talk this way, do I?) daughter and her girls for just over one year, then bought a house in Farmers Branch, located between our two work locations. We stayed there until our move to Costa Rica, in early 2009.
I began drawing a small pension from the state of Texas when I turned sixty, and that income became the basis for our application to live in Costa Rica as pensionados. Blanca then retired at the end of the 2007-2008 school year with something like 21 years service as a classroom teacher. I continued working mostly because we had a mortgage and knew that this was not a time to be trying to sell a house. This part of our life all ended rather abruptly when I was suddenly laid off on Jan. 5, 2009. I had been very ill, in bed over the New Year holiday, and I remember at one point, sometime around the first of the year, in the midst of all the sneezing and coughing, I got up to go to the bathroom, and discovered that I had developed double vision. This was, to say the least, a bit off-putting, which is just a way to avoid saying that it scared the podwaddin’ right on out of me.
I had to wait a day or two, until Friday of that first week of the new year, to get to the doctor, and he immediately arranged for me to see an Ophthalmologist (that same day), and scheduled me for an MRI, which was then done on Tuesday evening, the 6th of January.
The Ophthalmologist said that something was causing pressure on the fourth cranial nerve (a condition usually associated with high blood pressure, or Diabetes, but I had neither), and this pressure was causing the double vision (dipoplia). This condition usually lasts for six to eight weeks, and then gets better on its own, depending on the root cause. The temporary fix was that I had to find a pair of glasses with plain lenses (after four years of no glasses), not an easy thing to do, and then, upon returning to his office late that afternoon, his staff affixed a plastic ‘prism’ lens to the inside of the clear lens (I later learned that this is what is known as a Fresnel lens, and if you want to know a little something more about a Fresnel lens, read Jimmy Buffet’s charming book, Salty Piece Of Land).
The weirdness was just beginning: It was my Right eye that was focusing wrong, by the way, but it was to the left lens that this prism was affixed. This bends the light before it gets to the retina, causing that eye to match (more or less) the weak eye. Not comfortable, and not really clear vision, but it is better than double vision. I could at least watch a little TV, but reading was pretty much out of the question.
Now, comes the bad news part of this little episode: I called my boss on Monday morning, January 5, 2009, to let her know what I had learned, and to bring her up to date with what I considered a potentially serious personal health issue. Coincidentally (I’m with all those TV detectives, in that I don’t believe in coincidence in situations like this – and, yes, the pun is intended), not two hours later, I received a conference call from the big boss, my boss, and a third party, informing me that at an unspecified point during the previous year a ‘business’ decision was reached in regards to the “Texas Market” (blah, blah, blah, blah, yada yada yada yada), and my position had been eliminated, effective Jan. 16. It was supposedly also decided that previous year to hold off on informing me until after the holidays, so as not to spoil my holiday. Very generously, they “offered” me a three month extension of COBRA, in addition to paying me through the end of January, provided that I sign a waiver saying that I wouldn’t sue them, or talk about them. Well, the company is called Coventry Health Care, so I guess you can easily surmise that I did NOT sign their frickin’ chicken$hit waiver.
Well, I got over it (obviously), but it was still a very low blow. In the wake of this sudden job loss, I decided it might be the better part of valor to just go on ahead and move to Costa Rica at that time, rather than to continue working for a couple more years. So, in February I put in for my Social Security, since I was already 62, and arranged for a mover, and we got everything packed, took a final, farewell tour of Texas to say goodbye to kids, grandkids, and family, and flew on down there on April 29. The rest, as they say, is history. OMG, that was more than eight years ago! And, that is just about where I began writing my Blog, aptly (I thought so, anyway) named "Grumbles From Arenal."
Basically, if you want to know what came next, you can go back through the links in today's Blog, and find all of my entries from our three years in Costa Rica, through to today.