• My Guitar Story

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    SIR MARTIN & MOUNT SOPRIS, ROARING FORK RIVER VALLEY, COLORADO

    INTRO: Five Dollars and Harmony to Go

    Someone once asked me how to learn to play the guitar. My answer has remained the same for the fifty-plus years I’ve been playing: “Find someone better than you and play with them,” which is what I did and have done throughout my Guitar Story. There are actually two other ways I’ve used, one can be expensive and the other embarrassing: Get a better guitar, and find yourself restricted to your room with nothing else to do but play. The latter method is a “Sidecar Story” in itself, which I may or may not get around to telling in more detail. It’s found in my unpublished manuscript about my time in the Air Force, entitled, “It Always Grows Back.” But that’s a story for another time.

    My Guitar Story was inspired by a book I was reading in December of 2005, the year I retired from 30 years teaching public school and began my 16-year stint as a private school teacher (sadly ended by another story in this collection, “The Long Haul Covid Train”) called, Guitar: An American Life, by Tim Brookes. The author is a near-50 professor in Vermont who used to live in England. He divides his life into halves – with his English-made folk guitar, a Fylde – perhaps played by Bert Jansch, John Renbourne, Pentangle… and a custom-made concert jumbo that 50-ish recreational guitar players can finally afford: $2,500.

                This book got me thinking about the guitars in my life… when he brought his damaged guitar to a “luthier.” As the guitar maker looks at his guitar, he holds his breath “expecting veiled insults to the guitar, to me, to my bad taste, and worse sense in buying such a guitar, to my irresponsible ownership in allowing it to get into such a condition… I notice nicks and gouges I’ve never seen before” (Brookes 10).

                I recall  feeling that way when I took my old Minolta camera (bought the same year as my Martin was built, 1969) into a shop for repairs.

                The luthier seems distasteful of “dreadnaughts” — big, country & bluegrass guitars with flattened bottoms (reducing acoustics) and no mid-range sound —  the ‘D’ in my D-28 stands for dreadnaught.

    Here’s my inventory:  the first, a guitar lesson guitar; the Harmony; the Kalamazoo Epiphone; the Martin; the Gibson ES-335 electric, the (foster) 12-string; the Yamaha (campfire) classical; the banjo (I know, not actually a guitar); Mom’s Yamaha steel-string; the Rodeo, Alvarez 12-string…  All of which, except the first and foster guitar, I still had, until the summer after Covid, when encouraged to move with the hope of lower altitude giving my damaged lungs a better chance of recovery, we began selling many of our possessions.

    It never occurred to me to sell any of my guitars; that would be something like selling one of my children, wouldn’t it?  But one of my colleagues at the Garden School (now Liberty Classical Academy), contacted me about buying a guitar as a special present for her oldest son, one of my former students. I thought, what a good resting place for my “Chapel Guitar,” the Epiphone, so I named a bargain price for it, she accepted, and Epi now has what I hope will be a cherished new home.

    On with the rest of my Guitar story, from the beginning.

    The First Guitar

                A $30 special… rented from a music store along with 6 lessons for $5/week that went towards purchase — after 5 lessons, the store closed, so I got a deal @ $25 – and learned songs like: ‘Red Sails in the Sunset.’

                It was a no-brand, less than a “Stella” — the bottom line… cheaper than what I’ve seen labeled these days as a “campfire special” — whitish top, fairly easy to play — no sound to speak of — don’t know what happened to it.  I was a student at CSU in Fort Collins, so I had it somewhere between 1965 and 1969… replaced by…

    The Harmony

    PLAYING THE HARMONY ON LULU STREET IN WICHITA, KANSAS

    This really was my first  guitar — mahogany-colored body with strings so far from the fret board that I could just about get my hand under them.  But it went everywhere with me.  The first guitar in my memory was my cousin June’s — left with us on her way to Hawaii when we were living at Travis AFB in Northern California from 1962-1965.  Was it the Harmony? Or was it a gift from my fraternity brother at CSU who sang like Paul McCartney and looked like him too — but I can’t remember his name.  He and Arlen Fennel, another frat brother who had a band — they’d do silly knockoffs (“Listen, would you like to use my Secret? Do you promise not to smell, whoa-oh-oh-oh, closer!”) and I remember their sax player would “snake” across the dance floor to the theme from “Peter Gunn.”  Arlen let me sit in at a gig in Vail they played once, and I did “Feel a Whole Lot Better” by the Byrds. 

    THE HARMONY IN THE MUSIC ROOM AT WEST ELK IN COLORADO

                Arlen and “Paul” would play Buddy Holly songs with me late into the night at the fraternity.  Nothing better for kindness and learning than someone who’s better than you willing to “jam” with you – so you can get better trying to keep up.

                It was the Harmony that I took to California with me while living in Venice and going to UCLA, then to Wichita when in the Air Force and began writing songs with it in 1970-71

                I took the Harmony everywhere I went, hitchhiking up the coast and from Aspen to Bremerton, Washington… it went to Altamont with me to the Stones’ free concert… the night before, I’d go from campfire to campfire playing songs — I remember being given a piece of chocolate cake — was that the first time I was “paid” to play?

    THE HARMONY HANGS IN MY MUSIC ROOM IN LAWRENCE, KANSAS, TODAY

    My roomie in Venice, Steve LaDochy, would get us gigs around the area — I remember the “Golden Bear” in Huntington Beach, where he’d do his comedy routine and I’d play a few songs.  We didn’t get asked back.  I also tried to get on at The Troubadour — people like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell played there.  I made a badly recorded tape and tried to get it to Doug Weston, the owner, but wasn’t successful.

                This guitar still hangs in my “music room” today.  It has a Joni Mitchell, “Ladies of the Canyon” sticker and faded “Blind Faith” decal from the album shrink wraps on the front and an orange “ALL TROOPS HOME NOW march in S.F. Nov. 15” bumper sticker on the back.  What year? probably fall of 1969 or spring of 1970 — that was the Kent State protest time.   One of my journalism professors at UCLA told our class anyone with positions “in the movement” following the Kent State massacre (four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard) didn’t have to come to class anymore that spring and would receive a ‘B’ for the quarter.  I asked if my job (as photographer and concert reviewer) for the “Freep” — the LA Free Press, an “underground” newspaper — counted, and he said, “yes,” so I didn’t go to that class anymore.  Also on that guitar was my address sticker from the IRS : 2106 Pisani Place, Apt 3, Venice, Calif (no zip).

                After I graduated — my “educational delay,” issued by the Air Force when I joined ROTC  instead of being drafted, was over and it was off to McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kansas.  My guitar and I reported in July, 1970.  I lived off base for a while, and started writing songs: “Or Am I Dreaming” and “Only What I Am” are a couple I still play once in a while… lonesome, prairie songs.  In February of 1971, I took two weeks leave and hitchhiked up to Bremerton Island, Washington, down to LA to visit old friends, out to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where one of my Venice buddies was living, and finally back to Wichita – by the time I got back, I was a week late, so I was confined to the base for the rest of my duty tour.  This proved beneficial to my relationship with my guitar, as I had hours of practice time with nothing else to do after my day in the photo hobby shop was done.  This constant practice led to my really becoming a guitar player — a significant part of who I am today.

    The Epiphone

    MY “CHAPEL” GUITAR, THE EPIPHONE, WITH FRIEND MARY, 2011

                My recollection’s a little fuzzy about when and how the Epiphone entered the picture… so I’ll guess and say it was No Name Canyon, just outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado… which means the Harmony was still with me as I left the Air Force and headed for Aspen where a couple of my college buddies had opened a health food store called “The Grainery.”

                I stayed in a shed in back of the store, living out of the frame back pack and in the sleeping bag I bought in 1969 in Ft. Collins — Sierra Designs, both light blue.  Bought the Minolta camera at about the same time, and still have all three (though daughter Jennifer was using the camera, so I’m not sure of its status any more).  Writing a few more songs, still playing the Harmony, I think, as I gradually worked my way down valley… to Basalt, then to No Name, where about ten of us divided up the $220/month rent.

                At some point, a guy passing through the No Name house just gave me the Epiphone; someone gave it to him, he said, and he was just passing it on . It was an original Kalamazoo, Michigan, model — narrow neck, some cracks in the top, but much easier to play than the Harmony.  Three things make a guitar player better, as I’ve mentioned… the first is practice, the second is playing with someone who’s better than you, and the third… playing a better guitar.  I’d had the benefit of all three ingredients at different times and became the Troubadour of the No Name house… writing more songs, and wooing my eventual life-partner, Linda Sue Escott with some of them. 

    SERENADING MY LINDA LOVE

    I would sing songs to her in front of the huge rock fireplace that divided the living room from the kitchen… where we shared our first kiss, in fact.  And in December, I would follow Linda to Cincinnati, where she was visiting her girlfriend, who, looking upon my scruffy beard and long hair disdainfully, at first wouldn’t let me in her house, but relented on New Year’s Eve, and Linda and I have been together since then.

     Next – GUITAR STORY PART II: Kalamazoo, from Mardi Gras to the Classroom Tune in next time for the second part of My Guitar Story, for further adventures with the Kalamazoo Epiphone and brief “Sidecars” of some other stringed instruments in my life. If you’ve not read The Long Haul Covid Train and would like to, it should be around here somewhere (or go to covidtrain.wordpress.com). Subscribers, I’ll send you word when Part 2 is posted, and thanks for your interest in my stories.

  • LONG HAUL COVID TRAIN

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    By Jack J Jabbour

    Chapter Ten: The Wedding, The Sequel

    Thanks for tuning in for the final chapter (or at least TTFN: Ta-ta for now) of my Long Haul Covid Train story. If this is your first time here, you might want to start at the actual beginning, with the Intro, which tells the story of how my wife Linda and I celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary in a Covid ward in a Glenwood Springs, Colorado, hospital. Scroll down to the bottom of this post (and follow the arrow to the next page) for the first installment and read your way up.

    THE JULY WEDDING

    So,,,,Legend has it that “Tomorrow never comes.”
    Well…Tomorrow did arrive.

    The mountains had been moved between the planned July wedding of David Porter and Jennifer Anne Jabbour and the result was the heart-warming family gathering that turned from wake to celebration on January 17.

    In the days following the Family Wedding, I expected the CO2 suffocation that precipitated it to rise up any moment. Every evening when I went to sleep, affixing the bi-pap over my nose and mouth, I wondered if I would wake up the next morning.  When I did, I gratefully thanked my Lord Jesus for another day’s breath. That “simple” act, breathing in and out, none of us give a moment’s thought to, until it becomes central to your existence. I began to notice how many of my favorite worship songs contained some variation of the word “breath,” most especially the old Vineyard favorite “Breathe” (by Marie Barnett) and a “new” song I’ve been learning, “Goodness of God” (by Jason Ingram & Jenn Johnson), which contained the line, “With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God.” Amen to that.

    At the urging of an old high school friend, now a retired Air Force officer in Florida, I pursued the possibility of a lung transplant with several clinics, but for various reasons, it turned out not to be a viable option. During this time I wrote a song called “Living on a Prayer,” not related to the Bon Jovi tune of the same title.

    Toward the end of February, Galina moved into her own apartment and called to let us know there were only eight stairs to it. “I can do it!” I announced in my daily log, and we made plans to visit her in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Galina originally went there to study musical theatre at Nebraska Wesleyan University. She had been an excellent student in my class and throughout high school, but once away from home, her diligence waivered. She got a job that often kept her up past midnight and the motivation for morning classes and homework waned. She let us know that she wasn’t going to return for the second semester, but was just going to work. She went through training and became a manager at the Raising Cane’s (“step above fast food,” in Galina’s words) restaurant, but became disillusioned and found another job as a bank teller with Wells Fargo. Linda and I were pleased with this change as it seemed more stable and also offered insurance benefits. She has made the three-hour drive down from Lincoln several times to visit or help when needed, and she and boyfriend Aaron were present at both the Family Wedding and (dressed in wedding colors) for the Sequel. I’ve mentioned Galina in this saga without telling her story, which really deserves a tale of her own. Suffice it to say a California family adopted her from a Russian orphanage at the age of six, but the adoption failed, and our former West Elk Creek neighbor Nancy Thomas, who’s a world-wide specialist in attachment disorder, found another placement for her. After that second adoption effort didn’t last, Nancy called us, saying something about “a girl worth saving” and asking if we’d consider adopting her. We did, and continue to claim Jeremiah 29:11(“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”) for this young lady who now has been a part of our family longer than her ten years of age when we first met her. Will I get to walk Galina down the aisle? Well, we’re finding out that all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27).

    GALINA & BOYFRIEND AARON

    In baseball, there is a phrase used to describe an injured player’s status: “day-to-day.”  When legendary Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully passed in August at the age of 94 (67 of those years at the microphone of Brooklyn and LA teams), many tributes came from persons in all walks of life, touched by his humility and mastery of his craft. A line of Vinny’s, among many that have remained with me, is when he listed a particular player as “day-to-day,” then paused and said, “Aren’t we all?”

    Yes, Vin, I am gratefully day-to-day, so Linda and I decided that, because we had no idea how many of those days we might have together, we’d take a trip somewhere we had always wanted to go: Graceland, the home of my all-time favorite rock ‘n roller, Elvis Presley.

    “I’M GOING TO GRACELAND”

    Our only granddaughter, Joslin Eleanor (my mother Ruth’s middle name), like many of her thirteen year old peers, is a whiz on the computer – more precisely, her phone. A digression for a moment: There were no individual phones when we were raising our two eldest girls, and the decision not to get one for Galina was made easier because there was no reception at our home, so why incur the additional expense? Really, it was more the questionable content that the internet opened up to a girl who’d been through a rough first ten years of life, that influenced our decision.

    But now, nearly all ten year olds have phones jammed in their back pockets. It’s reality, and for good-or-ill, there’s no changing it.  But Joslin has a gift for “Googling” and had been “planning” our holiday scenarios for years, complete with a written, chronological syllabus.

    So it was no surprise, when we invited Jen and Joslin to come with us to Graceland, that an expanded agenda, complete with hotels, came from Ja and her phone.  Since we were headed south, why not go to the beach?

    Ever since my parents moved to Solana Beach in Southern California upon my Dad’s retirement from the Air Force in 1973, I have made regular pilgrimages to the Pacific Ocean. It became a necessity for me to “dip my toes in the ocean” prior to each school year resuming in the fall.  Since my Dad’s passing at the age of 96 in 2016, making the trip west had lost some of its flavor and we hadn’t done so for a few years, so the idea of getting to see the surf at least once more greatly appealed to me.

    ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA, CREW

    Going south to get to the beach seemed strange, but there it was in our agenda: Orange Beach, Alabama, and a beachfront hotel on Perdido Beach Boulevard. Hospice lined us up with sources for oxygen and a contact for each place on our trip, so we were all set in case an emergency should arise. We even ordered a fat-tired wheel chair for the beach.

    Three days prior to our trip, a mobile concentrator arrived from Hospice, and on March 12 we loaded up our Highlander, picked up Jen and Ja, and headed for our first stop, Jonesboro, Arkansas. A potentially major hiccup occurred when we discovered we’d left the battery charger for my scooter at home. Ta-da! I ordered one to be mailed to the Guesthouse at Graceland, hoping the timing would work out.

    The next day we went through Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi, on the way to Orange Beach.

    DOES LYNARD SKYNYRD GET ROYALTIES?

    Our hotel was right on the ocean and my beach buggy was waiting. Handling it was a little tricky, but made it so I could maneuver across the sand.

    WITH LINDA & MY BEACH BUGGY

    It did rain one morning so we explored Flora-Bama, but our last day there was perfect sun and sand.

    TRAVEL AGENT JA & HER GRATEFUL JIDDOO

    Because of my portable oxygen concentrator, I couldn’t actually go in the water (though I did manage a hot tub later on), but I was on the beach, and the waves were breaking right in front of me, as close as my toes could get. Thanks to Joslin, whom we call “Ja,” for this gift to her Jiddoo, Lebonese (grandparents on my Dad’s side) for grandfather.

    TOES CLOSE TO THE OCEAN

    We headed for Tennessee the next day, where Graceland, the home Elvis bought in 1957, remains virtually untouched and visited daily by a multitude of his fans.

    I first heard Elvis Presley when I was ten years old and living near Liverpool (home of the Beatles), England, of all places. My best friend had a 16-year-old brother who was an Elvis fan, and I can remember stacking his 45’s on a record player in their living room. I recall going to the BX (Base Exchange, military equivalent of a department store) and buying a couple of his LP’s, the beginning of my 500-plus album collection that I still have to this day.

    THE GRACELAND CREW AT THE MANSION

    Graceland itself looks as it did when Elvis died there in 1977. His daughter Lisa Marie still owns it, with her mother Priscilla, who opened it to the public in 1982 and is still on the board of directors of Elvis Presley Enterprises.  I actually found the features located in exhibits a mile or so from the house of more interest than Graceland itself. There is a museum with all sorts of artifacts including clothing, guitars, gold records and movie posters. I was fascinated by the exhibit entitled “Icons: The Influence of Elvis Presley,” where entertainers from John Lennon to “The Rock,” and Kristen Chenoweth to Carrie Underwood have donated clothing on mannequins with a quote about Elvis’s influence in their careers.

    THE ELVIS EXHIBIT NEAR GRACELAND

    I posted this update on March 19:

    After leaving Graceland, we headed for Branson, Missouri, on the way back home to Kansas. On this trip we drove through Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee. Mississippi, Alabama, and barely nudged into Florida (“Flora-Bama” on the border). God be praised, no car or scooter trouble, the concentrator in the car and my mobile one functioned perfectly (and the battery charger arrived in a timely fashion at the Guesthouse at Graceland), and my loving family loaded and unloaded all those items every time we arrived or departed from three different motels, went to dinner or to an activity on our nine day Graceland Adventure Tour. I’m so thankful for the two month extension I’ve been granted so far since my mid-January intubation. God is good, people, all the time for His glory!

    After returning from our Graceland trip, the focus turned to the wedding – what I called, “The Sequel” to the Family Gathering back in January. This was the event I didn’t think I’d be alive to attend, based on what seemed the inevitable increase of the CO2 level in my lungs.

    When I had to be intubated in January, the level was 93.8; I was released to Hospice two days later with a CO2 count of 65.9. Three weeks later the percentage had increased to 72. But my doctor had since assured me that this was not progressive, and there was a chance I could be off oxygen in six months. This was the first time anyone involved in my treatment had offered anything resembling an optimistic viewpoint. I was coming to believe, despite the prayers and well-wishes of so many faithful friends, that my condition was permanent, so to hear this was encouraging. But given the “long haul” assessments I’d heard since beginning this journey in December of 2020, I was cautious, but hopeful. Throughout the year of 2021, my theme verse had been Romans 15:13.

    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    As we continued on our Long Haul, another verse from Romans, 12:12, came to the forefront for 2022:

    “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

    Helping with our Joy factor was getting to spend so much time with daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Joslin, and we were especially blessed to celebrate Easter together in April.

    EASTER FAMILY PORTRAIT

    In May, I had another arterial blood draw. The nurse said if we’d remain in the lobby, she’d have the results for us shortly. Linda and I held hands, fearing an increase, yet trusting God for His peace, regardless of what was to come. The nurse returned, saying, “It’s a little high,” and we waited nervously to see if the percentage would be approaching the critical mark: “Sixty-three point two.”

    Linda and I looked at each other with what could be counted as joy: Yes, the level was above the “normal” range of 35-45, but it was down nearly nine points in the three months since the previous draw.

    With that news, we decided to stretch the limits with a three-day trip to Colorado for one of our No Name crew’s memorial service at the end of May. This would be a good test, to see how returning to altitude affected me. 

    Just a few days before we left for Colorado, we moved out of our apartment in Topeka into a townhome on Coving Court in Lawrence, home of the Rock Chalk Jayhawk National Champion Kansas basketball team. In a rather serendipitous moment, or God-wink if you prefer, we spotted an “open house” sign after a failed attempt to view another home nearby.  We really weren’t looking to buy, but upon viewing the house the next day, decided to make an offer, which was accepted. In addition to being just the right size for the two of us, having a wonderfully large kitchen, and airy, vaulted ceilings, this house was just ten minutes from the Farm instead of thirty, commuting from Topeka. The HOA was reasonable and covered lawn care and snow removal, which were critical factors no matter where we landed. After we sold our house in Colorado, I didn’t foresee us owning another home, but here we are, homeowners again.

    COVING COURT LADIES (Linda, Joslin & Jen)

    We moved in on May 25th and, two days later, left for Colorado. As we reached the state’s eastern plains, around Brush, I became aware it was getting a little more difficult to draw a breath – not critical, but noticeable. We switched over to the car concentrator and increased the oxygen level from two to five, as we discovered the elevation had crept up to over 4,000 ft. without any geographic indication that we were climbing.  

    I had to keep the oxygen level at 4-5 liters, compared to 2-3 in Kansas, so that was confirmation that the move east was beneficial, but there were no more incidents in going over Loveland Pass (6,791 ft.) or Vail Pass (10,662 ft.).

    We stayed with dear friend Betty Collins at her house on Silt Mesa, and before the memorial, we had back-to-back nights where friends came to eat and pray, resembling the monthly worship gatherings we used to have at our Morning Star Studio on West Elk Creek. I sang my wedding song and a couple other tunes I’d written in Kansas.

    COLORADO WORSHIP GATHERING

    While there, we debated going by our home on West Elk, and finally decided we’d wonder with regret if we didn’t, so we made the familiar drive up Harvey Gap, where we had the view of the red hills above our old home.

    THE RED HILLS ABOVE OUR HOME

    I cherished the response of our girls to a photo I posted, showing the red hill, looking across the sheep grazing near Harvey Gap:

    Jen: There’s our red hill!! We sure did have some fun growing up, playing on that hill! Thanks for giving us the best childhood, Mom and Dad!

    Amber: I agree Sister, best childhood there!

    As for the house itself, there were no evident changes. All the outbuildings, the barn, chicken house, horse and alpaca shelters were still standing. Even our mailbox with our name on it remained untouched.

    The next day’s memorial was for David Coddington, who had found the No Name house for us, where a base of about ten people lived outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and Linda and I met in 1972.  Members of that crew came from as far as California and New Jersey to remember Codds, as we called him.

    We rejoiced to see so many of the old No Name Crew again, all of us 50 (fifty!) years older than we were then, save for those who have departed. There is a noted difference between a service for someone who’s known to belong to Jesus and one that primarily looks back at the good memories. Rather than get into the doctrinal differences, I’ll just share this note in response to these Long Haul chapters I received from the widow of man I respected greatly who taught Galina at LCA for two years:

    “Dear Jack and Linda,

        I am privileged to know you. Thanks for all these chronicles. Thankful for the amazing wedding w/family.       When Stan was leaving us, he said, ‘I am going between two different worlds. Look at those beautiful mountains. Look at that wonderful island covered with flowers!’ And finally: ‘Up! Up! Up!’ Then he entered Paradise.

         I will not be weary in prayer. It is not a waste of time. Believe God works out our lives for His and our good, even through the weariness of sadness, grief, trauma.”  

    The setting for the service was in the unique mountains outside of Fruita, Colorado.  I had to keep my portable oxygen setting up around five and my activity at a minimum, but had no ill effects from the altitude of 5,278 ft. Codds lived in the spectacular mountains near Grand Junction’s National Monument, where some people have made unique homes out of the caves carved in the rock.

    UNIQUE HOME NEAR FRUITA, COLORADO

    Returning to Kansas, the altitude reduction was clearly noticeable, and everyone’s thoughts turned to The Sequel. The month of June was dedicated primarily to getting ready for the wedding, July 9th, which would be held outside at The Farm in Lecompton.

    DAVE & JEN

    Amber and Ryan came from Wyoming ten days before, providing invaluable help in preparing the grounds. With too much to do from dawn to sunset, no one had any energy to go anywhere to watch fireworks, but we did gather at the Farm for Independence Day.

    INDEPENDENCE DAY, LECOMPTON, KANSAS
    (Joslin, Linda, JJ, Dave, Jen, Amber & Ryan)

    Finally, the “Tomorrow” I didn’t think I’d see had arrived.  The Farm was a flurry of activity, as Jennifer, known at various times as Jenny, Little Jenny Fu Fu (hopping through the forest, scooping up the field mice and BOPPIN’em on the head.” C’mon, you remember), Jenny again when there were two other Jennifer’s in her class, Fu, Jenfer, Jenn, and finally, Jen. Streamlined for action, from Mesa College soccer player to Portland, Oregon, wheatgrass-selling graduate student to Whitefish, Montana, soup maker at the base of Big Mountain, to mother of our only grandchild to Alaskan high school English teacher… well, you get the picture… and now a bride to be on the plains of Oz with eight bridesmaids from the varied places and spaces of her life.

    JEN’S 8 BRIDESMAIDS FROM ALASKA TO ARIZONA

    They came from Alaska, Arizona, Virginia, Wyoming, Western and Eastern Colorado, Missouri, and of course Joslin, now from Kansas. Dave’s family and groomsmen, while not as numerous, also came from far and wide.

    There was a live band, wine tables, feasting in what used to be the barn (thanks Amber & Ryan, for hours of clean up and prep), and I was to sing the song I wrote. There was some debate as to when I should sing it. Dave was thinking Jen would burst into tears (as she had when I played it for her the first time after writing it in May), so maybe we should wait until the reception, but Jen wanted it during the candle lighting, so that’s when I would sing.

    Linda, Mother of the Bride, and Amber, Matron of Honor, looked lovely, as finally, all the preamble and preparation was over, and they could just smile, laugh, and cry.

    LINDA & AMBER

    Before the ceremony began, Jennifer and I had a moment on the porch of her house, when I saw her in her wedding gown for the first time, and she made sure I was ready for our walk down the aisle. Yep, you better believe I was more than misty-eyed,

    PREPARING FOR OUR SECOND “WALK”

    Amber’s husband Ryan drove me down to the freshly mowed hayfield in front of massive oak and hickory trees that formed the backdrop for the ceremony. I waited in a chair at the back of the audience while, first, the moms were escorted by Dave down from the house.

    DAVID PORTER WITH HIS MOM, JUNE (LEFT) & LINDA

    Next came four sets of bridesmaids, each escorted by a groomsman, looking dapper in their western hats.  Amber and Joslin were together, neither of them looking their age. I had performed the same duty with Amber, 21 years before on June 10, 2001, the day before Galina’s birthday.

    AMBER & JOSLIN, WITH THEIR ESCORT

    Jen made her way down from the house, beautiful, smiling, no doubt with a little moisture in her eyes as did her Dad.

    At the Family Wedding in January, I had escorted Jen down the aisle in the house, riding my scooter. This time I was determined to walk, and had been practicing with Joslin when she came over to our house. She, of course, knew the exact distance we would be walking, and I had been able to do it, carrying my portable oxygen provider.

    HERE COMES THE BRIDE

    It was the moment I was not sure I’d ever see, going back as far as that first trip to the hospital, December 7, 2020, through my discharge January 25, 2021, to our move from Colorado to Kansas, my CO2 crisis in January of 2022, and the Family Wedding, January 17th. When Jen reached me, I stood up, offered her my arm, and we began our walk together, down to where Dave, the minister, and all the bridesmaids and groomsmen awaited.

    At the fulfillment of our long-awaited, much anticipated walk down the aisle, I made my way to my seat next to Linda and turned up my oxygen. Any extra effort, such as walking, depletes my oxygen reserve, usually dropping my level below the 88-92 percent range the doctor prefers, sometimes as low as sixties though it usually recovers in less than a minute. I didn’t measure it, just savored the moment, taking long, slow, deep breaths as I listened and watched. When it came time for my song, I easily moved to the chair set up for me and took my guitar out of its stand.

    SETTING UP TO SING TO THAT “GIRL OF MINE”

    I can’t sing like I used to, although my voice is slowly regaining some of its range. It still feels like I have a handful of gravel making its way down my throat, but it’s come a long way since I had to pause between syllables, and I made it through the song, again thanking God for each breath.

    The ceremony continued, and in just a bit of irony, the minister, who was the same one who performed the January wedding, said, “I present to you, for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. David Porter.”

    I suppose for the majority of those attending, it was the first time being introduced to the wedded couple, but for our family, it was a beloved and thankful Sequel.

    MR. & MRS. DAVID PORTER

    As I write this, I am still aboard my Long Haul Covid Train, uncertain of its final destination. Romans 12:12 still applies, as I rejoice with those faithful prayer warriors who continue to lift up and encourage us as we patiently put our trust in God. Do I wish for a miraculous, instantaneous healing? Yes! Though I agree with the statement that “God is in the waiting,” and since I do trust Him, my only response can be to joyfully hope, while faithfully praying for His will and strength and guidance for Linda, and patiently walking with Jesus through this shadow of affliction. My last appointments with three of my care-givers have all resulted in positive statements, the most recent of whom, upon seeing my latest blood draw results, remarked, “Your CO2 level is very, very good news!”

    I am thankful for those of you who have come aboard this train with me, and rather than send anyone just getting aboard all the way back to the beginning (though I do encourage you to do so when you can make time), will conclude with this (slightly updated) summary, which I posted to supporters between the CO2 event and the Wedding Sequel:

    Good morning friends & family,                    

             In the margin of my Bible reading in Isaiah this morning is this note, which I wrote on 11/29/20:

    “Day after returning from Thanksgiving in Steamboat. I have a cold.”

    Updated: “Tested positive (12/2);

    Linda (12/4) first quarantine day.”

           Those were the last days before the onset of my Covid Long Haul Journey. On December 7th, I would begin a 50-day stay in the hospital that meant the end of my 46-year teaching career as well as broadcasting high school sports on the radio and leading worship in our church due to Covid’s ravaging my lungs and forcing me to be on oxygen constantly and essentially wheel-chair bound. Eventually, it would lead to selling our West Elk Creek, Colorado, home of 40 years and moving to Lawrence, Kansas.

             Yet, I am grateful for many things in this journey. First, that Jesus has walked every step with me, from those wakeful nights in the hospital, through the intubation two months ago that led to a farewell family gathering. And grateful also that we now reside so near to our granddaughter Joslin and her mother Jennifer, who, along with fiance David Porter, lovingly moved her wedding from July to January so I could be part of it.

            I am thankful that that January crisis, which led to the doctor releasing me to Hospice care, has thus far not proved to be the end of a “Short Haul,” but I appear to be returning to Long Haul status.  We were even able, with the help of a mobile concentrator, to take a trip to Orange Beach, Alabama, and fulfill a dream by going to Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee.

             My pursuit of a possible lung transplant was denied at every turn for different reasons, but I am inclined to trust God and the prayers of His people for healing instead. Yet another recipient of our gratitude are the many folks who have prayed for us and contributed to our continuing medical expenses (Go Fund Me: gf.me/u/zisu3i). 

      My most recent tests show my CO2 level is still high, but not at the lethal level that caused January’s hospitalization, has been coming down since February, and all else is stable.  I encountered this appropriate Scripture passage this morning from 2nd Corinthians 4:

     “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.(v. 7-9)”  Doesn’t that describe the last twenty months of this journey? 

      Verses 16-18 continue: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

      So, I conclude with a line from a devotion that sums up my hope this way: “God’s peace isn’t defined by our circumstances, but by our trust in Him.”

    Yep, that’s where I’m living these days. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

    Thank you for joining me on my Long Haul Covid Train journey. I will continue to publish “Sidecar Stories” from time to time. If you subscribe, you will receive email notification when they arrive.

    A special thank you to my lover and companion and caregiver, Linda. I would not have survived this journey without you and our wonderful girls. Thank you for blessing me for the last half century.

    This story is dedicated to my father, “The Colonel,” Nick Jabbour, who went to join his beloved mother and be with his Savior Jesus at the age of 96 in 2016. Dad, in your words, you were always “Ninaross, the kickin’ hoss with the golden hooves” in my life. Thank you.

    THE COLONEL

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter Nine: Two Weddings and (almost) a Funeral

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Thanks for tuning in; if this is your first time here, you might want to start at the actual beginning, with the Long Haul Covid Train Intro, which tells the story of how my wife Linda and I celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary in a Covid ward in a Glenwood Springs, Colorado, hospital. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the first installment and read your way up.

    THE TREES WERE SAPLINGS WHEN WE BUILD OUR HOUSE IN 1980

    Growing up in an Air Force family, in my first 17 years, we never lived anywhere longer than three years (and that only happened twice).  I attended ten different schools, including three high schools in four years.  So once I didn’t have to move, well… I didn’t.

    After getting out of the Air Force myself in 1971, I found a couple of Colorado State University fraternity brothers who had started a health food store called The Grainery in Aspen. They let me spread out my sleeping bag in a shed behind the store until I found a place to live in Basalt. From there, the infamous No Name Crew (a “Sidecar” story is being written) rented a house at the bottom of No Name Canyon outside of Glenwood Springs (where I met Linda, thanks to a hitchhiking 16-year-old runaway from New Jersey – another Sidecar), and we eventually wound up in a little house on Main Street of the old mining town, New Castle. Each move west meant cheaper rent.  We paid $60 a month at 514 W. Main, and had our first child, Amber, in the back room just before I began my first year of teaching in 1975.

    (A brief side story: my Dad happened to be visiting when Linda went into labor and was pacing the front room and finally asked, “When are we going to the hospital?” I said, “Dad, we’re not,” and he opened a pint of brandy and resumed his marching.)

    The rent was going to go up, so we started looking around for a place to buy. We found a house around the corner for $22,000, but the ceilings were low, and it really wasn’t what we were looking for.  We thought it would be nice to buy some land out of town and found 40 acres up Main Elk Creek for $1,000 an acre., but there was no way we could come up with $40,000 on my starting teacher’s salary of $8,100 (with a masters).

    Then Linda saw an ad in the paper: 9 acres on West Elk Creek with a well for $9,000. The teachers’ credit union would loan each of us $4,000 on our signature, and we could come up with the extra thousand, so we decided to buy it.

    I was telling Scherry Simonson, our school secretary, about our plans one morning when the principal, Jim Truax, an old fast-pitch softball buddy, called me into his office. He told me because of a reshuffling of curriculum, the 6-7-8 English classes I was teaching would be combined with reading next year. And since I was a first-year teacher, the position would be going to the reading teacher. He wanted me to know before I went into debt that I wouldn’t have a job the next fall.

    Linda and I discussed it and decided that if I didn’t have a job, no one was going to loan me $8,000, so we might as well go for it now and trust everything would work out in the fall.  So we did, and it did.  We purchased the land, moved a trailer onto it, and that fall I got a job teaching 7th grade English and coaching football at Rifle Junior High. 

    I transferred to Riverside Junior High (later, Middle School) in 1983, but remained a teacher in the RE-2 district until retiring in 2005, after thirty years.  In 1980 we built our house on our land, and that’s where we raised our two daughters, buried our son Isaac, a premie who lived only 12 hours, and brought ten-year-old Russian orphan Galina to be part of our family in 2011.

    All that to say, again, that once I didn’t have to move, I just didn’t. Same address, same phone number for 40 years.  So, this decision to pack up and move to Kansas, because its 866-ft. elevation appeared to give me a better chance of recovery than the 6,500-ft. at 8420 County Road 245 on West Elk Creek, was monumental.  Coming down with Covid was life changing for me in yet another way.

    OUR LAST DAY TOGETHER AT WEST ELK CREEK, 8420 COUNTY ROAD 245

    Amber, from Wyoming, and Jennifer, from Alaska, both came to help us pack up and clean out 40 years worth of living, as did Galina from Nebraska and so many of our friends from New Hope Church and Liberty Classical Academy.

    The church held a farewell gathering, which I attended via zoom on Saturday, August 7, and Sunday evening we had one last worship gathering at West Elk Creek in our front yard, set up by Thom and Dina Jones.  When we built Linda’s Morning Star art studio on the lower end of the property in 2008, we determined to use the upper floor of the studio for ministry and over the years hosted many events, families (including three summers when the Jones family was home from China on furlough) and individuals for a myriad of ministries. My favorite activities were the monthly “Worship Gatherings.” They began as a way for members of our worship team to grow together and learn new songs, but quickly took on a life of their own, with anyone and everyone welcome to attend the pot luck cookout and time of worship afterwards.

    THE FINAL WEST ELK CREEK WORSHIP GATHERING

    So my first New Hope pastor, Thom Jones, and a young worship leader whom I mentored, Stephen Piker, brought their guitars and led a group that included old Vineyard mates from as far as Grand Junction, as well as several local friends and church family. It was a sweet way to say farewell, and I couldn’t think of a better one than singing praises to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    From there, events moved rapidly. August 10th was our last night in the house, as Betty Collins invited us to stay at her house on Silt Mesa so Linda and long-time friend Carol Terrell could clean the next day, with the movers coming on the 12th. On Friday the 13th of August, we headed east. Betty volunteered to drive our second car in tandem.

    The trip was uneventful, the oxygen converter working perfectly with the proviso that during any stops (including for gas), we kept the car running so the oxygen would continue to flow. We packed oxygen tanks along with our suitcases in case any emergency should arise, but never needed them.

    Once we got over the two passes, Vail and Loveland, and through Denver, it was nothing but flat. But in keeping with Friday the 13th, just as we were getting off the highway to head for the Farm, the car Betty was driving quit on her. We noticed it was low on oil and got it started, but it died again about five minutes from our destination.  We parked it and packed everything and everyone into the car we were driving and arrived at Jennifer’s, sixteen hours after leaving New Castle. The next day the movers were arriving and Galina, who was now just a three-hour jaunt north in Lincoln, Nebraska, was coming down to help unpack.

    Our first full day in Kansas, my morning devotion was Job 2:10: “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”  After a few days at the Farm, we spent our first night in the apartment we had rented sight unseen (mainly because the waiting lists were so long everywhere else), August 17.  Three days later was Amber’s birthday, on the 20th, and that brought home how far we were from her now.  But Jen and Joslin visit us often after school and Galina, who started her new job as a bank teller, has come down several times, and we’re settling into our little apartment in Topeka.

    OUR TOPEKA, KANSAS, APARTMENT

    I wrote a new song, called “Change My Story (For Your Glory)” and played it on my Facebook Live in Kansas debut, August 27.  Three days later, the school year began at LCA, and I realized I wouldn’t have a first day of school for the first time since 1975.

    Shortly after Joslin and I celebrated our shared September 2nd birthdays together, I posted these thoughts:

      “It was very odd not starting school this fall, but there are so many things I either can’t do or struggle to do that it didn’t make me sad because it’s just not possible. We are settling in some, but really miss all our friends. Galina has come down from Lincoln three times, so that’s been one benefit, and of course, Jen & Joslin are here. They often stop by after school, and we grilled steaks at their farm for my birthday, which was a special treat.

    SHARING A BIRTHDAY WITH JOSLIN

      “I’m operating on half the oxygen output as in Colorado and am hopeful of being able to use a portable pack one day. We sure do miss our home and friends though, so thanks for staying in touch. It means a lot to us.”     

      A major highlight of the fall was passing a test determining my suitability for that portable oxygen concentrator, which the increased demand in Colorado never would have permitted.  

      December 7, 2021, marked one year from the day I was taken to the hospital, beginning my fifty-day stay that saved my life but also changed it dramatically.  A week later the portable oxygen pack arrived, eliminating the need to carry the bulky oxygen tanks everywhere, which was very freeing and exciting.

      Instead of Christmas in the Parking Lot, we got to attend a live Bethlehem Experience at a nearby Topeka church with visiting friends from Colorado, and poised on our 48th anniversary, on December 30th, I penned these words:

    “Fifty years my love and I have been together. We began as serendipitous seventies hippies and along the way were rescued by Jesus. His presence has been the third strand that’s given strength to our unconventional union. We’ve been blessed with Amber, Jennifer, Isaac, and Galina, and are thankful for the 40 years of living up West Elk Creek outside of New Castle, Colorado. Now we ‘have this treasure in jars of clay,’ are ‘struck down, but not destroyed.’ (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) ‘Therefore we do not lose heart(4:16).’ I am so grateful for my love, companion, and caregiver, Linda. What began with hitchhiking from a hippie house, carried on through the Colorado snow, and is now seeking healing on the plains of Kansas, ‘these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:13)

    ON OUR 50-YEAR JOURNEY, THE LAST DAY AT OUR COLORADO HOME

      Just two short weeks later, everything nearly came to an end. I had been falling asleep frequently during the day, and had sent a message to the girls, saying: “Keep on praying for your old man. Took me forever to type this. Headed for a doctor tomorrow. Not doing so good. O2’s low and am functioning slow.”

      The afternoon of January 13, Linda noticed my oxygen was dangerously low and somehow got me into the car and to the Emergency Room, where they found my CO2 level, which should be in the 35-45 range, instead was 93.8.   

    I woke up two days later to see my family all around me and hearing a doctor say, “This is looking better,” reading my CO2 level as they eased the ventilator out of my mouth. Still in the danger zone at 65.9, but much better than before. The way I understand it, my damaged lungs weren’t capable of pushing out the CO2, but the ventilator procedure was successful in getting the level down. Tests showed I was negative for Covid or its various strains, but the doctor theorized that some other virus had reduced my capacity still further, and if it continued, they advised Linda to get my family here quickly if they wanted to see me.

    So Amber and Ryan came from Wyoming, picking up my brother in Denver. His son flew in from Los Angeles, and Galina drove down from Lincoln.  I told Jennifer my biggest regret was I wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle on July 9th when she married David Porter.  Her response was, “Dad, we’re working on that.”

    The next day, while still in the hospital, I asked Jen what she meant by that. “When are you getting married?”

      “Tomorrow,” she said. 

    She and Dave had somehow found a photographer and a pastor for the ceremony, someone to make a cake, and the bridal shop that was doing alterations on her dress for July had a beautiful “loaner” that Jen could use.

    The hospital released me to Hospice care on Saturday, January 15. In my experience, someone being on Hospice had always meant there wasn’t much time left, so each morning I awoke, grateful for another day, and especially happy the morning of the 17th when the wedding would take place in front of the large rock fireplace at the Farm. I rode my scooter down the aisle next to Jen and we got to do our daddy-daughter dance. My cup was full.

    OUR DADDY-DAUGHTER DANCE

    Basking in the glow of love from my family, I still had reality to face and started “putting my house in order.” I wrote letters to each of the girls and to Linda, and also wrote out a plan for a grand worship celebration (including several selected songs) to mark my passing. I made a list of necessary things to be done, phone calls to make, key passwords, so Linda or Amber (as the eldest) could access important sites and accounts.

    To a close family friend I wrote:

    “I’m coming to grips with this possible end of life thing. People are writing some impossibly nice things, but it’s beginning to seem like I’m at my own funeral. I don’t feel any different, but it’s kind of like a countdown with this CO2 thing. Maybe God will work through a transpant, but an awful lot has to happen pretty quickly for that to be a reality.”

    I pursued a transplant in several hospitals from Minnesota to Arizona to Florida without being accepted for various reasons, and finally decided even if we did what one hospital said we needed to do to get on their list, the actual procedure that a transplant would entail wasn’t worth it for the quality of life it would likely produce.

    Three weeks later I was still breathing and went to the hospital for an arterial blood draw. This is the only way to measure the CO2 level and must be drawn from an artery, not a vein, so it requires a specialist.  My level was 72, seven per cent higher than when I left the hospital. I resisted doing the math to calculate how much time I had left, but did decide to do a “Farewell” Facebook Live session, singing, as best I could in my gravelly imitation Johnny Cash growl.

    FAREWELL LIVE SESSION FROM KANSAS

    Generally my live sessions had drawn somewhere between 300 and 500 views, but this one generated a thousand, in addition to 240-some comments and 13 shares. I also started receiving messages from friends and former students, not only in response to the video, but via email, cards and letters, and texts. This was where it was almost like being present at my own funeral! I was particularly touched by this comment from Glenwood Springs High School girls basketball coach Rhonda Moser:

    “The Lady Demons are praying for you, Jack. We are amazed by your grace and steadfast faith. We talked a lot about you at practice today. We hope you can feel our love all the way in Topeka… We are playing our game tomorrow in your honor. We hope we make you proud. We miss you!”

    GLENWOOD SPRINGS GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM HUDDLE “FOR JACK”

    The Glenwood girls and their coaches had done a painting session at “Create Art & Essence” while we were still open, and of course, Ron Milhorn and I had broadcast nearly every game in coach Moser’s career with Glenwood. But this really touched me. The girls wrote my name on their wrists before playing a game with Steamboat Springs. They also sent me a picture where all three teams (freshmen, jayvee, and varsity) lay down on the practice court and spelled out, “We (heart) Jack.”

    I wrote a more detailed response to the coach, but posted this for all to see:

    “Whoever thought a bunch of demons could bless me so! Thank you, Coach Moser and Lady Demons.”

    GLENWOOD BASKETBALL COURT “HEART” MESSAGE
    LOVE FROM THE DEMONS

    Among a multitude of messages I received, particularly moving was a three-page letter from a current student, who had been in my class the past two years, another from a former student who later became a teacher at our school, and heart-stirring letters from another teaching colleague and a young musician who grew into a worship leader himself.

    Should any of you happen to be reading this, please know that your love and care and support touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Hearing from so many of my students, some who are now teachers themselves, was humbling and so, so appreciated, especially you long timers. How you even remember back to junior high days is beyond me. However, some of you admitted it was because I played the “Dead Skunk” song on my guitar, not my story-telling or teaching.

    A doctor’s appointment with the lung specialist overseeing my case provided the first hopeful analysis I’d had since reentering the hospital. He said that the CO2 percentage was not progressive. So even if I’d done the math on a seven per cent increase in three weeks, it wouldn’t have provided a countdown on how much time I had left. He suggested it was a random virus not connected to Covid that had caused the near-lethal uptake in CO2 retention.  So maybe there was a chance I wasn’t on a slow march back through the Shadow of the Valley of Death. But another significant event was already in motion.

    You’ve perhaps heard of the effect of so-called life changing events:  marriage; child birth; serious illness; loss of a loved one; divorce; loss of a job; moving. So, in addition to my trip on the Covid Train, and the loss of my occupations, both paying (teaching and broadcasting) and in ministry (worship leading), we had added moving, and more than that, the decision to sell our home.

    THE LILACS WOULD NO LONGER BE BLOOMING FOR US AT WEST ELK CREEK

    On February 8th, we signed the papers sealing the deal. In a letter to a friend, I put it this way:

    “We’re feeling a little sad because we signed papers to sell our house today. Now, if God miraculously heals me, we have no place to go back to… I always thought we’d find a couple to (live in the studio and) do the heavy lifting (maintenance). Man plans, God laughs, eh?”

    On Lincoln’s birthday, I finally finished sending out our annual “Christmas Collage,” and we prepared for our “Critique the Commercials” Super Bowl Party. The next day my team, the Rams, whom I had followed before they left LA for St. Louis, there and back again (with apologies to Bilbo Baggins’ autobiography), won.  The day after was Valentine’s Day, and  February 15, we closed on the sale of our house.

    I wrote the girls:  “The house is officially sold. I’m sad.”

    Jen responded: “My earliest childhood memory (she was two) is racing down into the foundation hole dug for the house. I would run down the steep side and see how far my momentum would carry me up the other side. It is so vivid because of the multisensory memory. The soft, cool earth between my toes—I was barefoot. The incredibly rich, earthy smell. The temperature change when I would make it back to the top.“

    Amber added a couple of stories of her own, then said: “It was the perfect place to grow up. It served its purpose. It kept us all safe and watched over us while we grew up. Now its come has come to do the same for another family. The cool thing is, no one can ever take our memories, but they get to create some of their own. That makes me smile through the happy tears. I am thankful for it all and for you all, my family.”

    After an exchange of funny stories, I replied: “Thanks for making me laugh, you two. I want to hear more stories! My favorite part of living there involved all of you girls and Mom, and we have each other still. Thanks for lightening my sad meter.”

    ALL MY GIRLS AT JENNIFER’S WEDDING, PART ONE

    Next  – Chp. 10: The Wedding, The Sequel

    Thank you for joining me on my Long Haul Covid Train journey. Tune in next week for the final installment… If you’re a Long Haul passenger, know someone who is, are reminded of a related story, or just want to leave a comment, please do. Subscribers will receive email notifications when a new installment is posted as well as my “Sidecar Stories” from time to time. The next one is about the guitars of my life and the adventures I’ve had with them.

    Thanks to you faithful readers and prayer warriors for your encouragement and support. Thanks also to those who have generously contributed to our medical fund (Go Fund Me: gf.me/u/zisu3i); you are living out Matthew 25:40 for us.

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter Eight – Coming Home at Last… and Leaving. By Jack J. Jabbour

    If you’re just tuning in, you might want to start at the actual beginning (scroll to the first entry, at the end of this thread and read upwards) with the Long Haul Covid Train Intro, which tells the story of how my wife Linda and I celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary in a Covid ward in a Glenwood Springs, Colorado, hospital. Here’s the next installment in what I hope will become a regular exchange with other Long Haulers, covid or not, and those who care about them.

    HOME SET-UP

    After 50 days in the hospital, going home was a complicated combination of technical logistics and loving care from an awful lot of wonderful people.

    • The mother of one of my students called Habitat for Humanity and they donated a twin bed, which we set up in the living room so I wouldn’t have to go up the stairs to our bedroom.
    • A former student, whose daughter is on oxygen, gave us a 5-liter concentrator they no longer used.
    • Several families from church brought us meals.
    • Another family gave us a “shower chair.”
    • A computer-knowledgeable friend performed several IT services.
    • The owner of the Silt feed store not only brought what we needed in that department, but plowed our driveway with every fresh snowfall.
    • My KMTS buddies opened a Medical Expenses Donation Fund at a local bank and promoted it on the air.
    • Churches we had never attended, but where friends had shared our story, sent us substantial checks to help with our expenses.
    • Vanden High School classmates from Travis AFB, CA, started a “Go Fund Me” account for our medical expenses  (gf.me/u/zisu3i).
    • Another friend ran our snowblower as needed.
    • Several individuals broomed the snow off the north side of our roof and broke up the ice there, so it wouldn’t back up and leak.
    • One of the respirator techs who’d stop by my room to listen to music and chat as well as check on me, visited & brought canolis.
    • In the spring, one of my nurses from Valley View not only came by for a visit, but also mowed our lawn, as did our longtime friend and pastor, Eddie Piker.

    Many people have asked me how I remain positive and avoid the “why me” questions that might seem natural in my circumstances. First, I would say because of my faith and many scriptural promises I continue to trust; but a very close second reason is the multitudes, including those listed above, who have shown us their care and love through their actions, prayers, encouragement, and financial support.  I have also found strength in the responses of countless folks, including hundreds of former students. It’s humbling to be remembered by students past and present.

    The key factor in my coming home was a machine called a highflow that would supply me with oxygen at night. In addition we had to rent an oxygen concentrator as well as individual oxygen tanks to be used in the car when traveling. The “Stay at Home” edict was still in place, so the only traveling we’d be doing was to the doctor’s office, and even those were limited to “Zoom” sessions, called “Teleconferences,” at first.

    THE HIGHFLOW

    Arrangements were made for a “Home health nurse” to visit weekly and draw blood so we could continue to monitor those vital statistics.  Here’s where they stood upon admittance to the hospital (12/7/20), just before New Year’s, my exit day, and the first of March:

       (Normal range)        (12/7)       (12/27)       (1/26)              (3/1)           

    CRP (inflamation)  (0.05-0.50)          207          58              8.1                   0.81

    Ferritin (lung inflamation)(3-244)    2093        1310           343                   35

    D-dimer (blood clots)  (0-400)       1340         710           528                  582

    White blood count   (4.8-10.8)                                             11.5                   8.2

    A new concern was my white blood cell count, which would later land me back in the hospital for an overnight stay, but upon my release was 11.5, just a little above normal.

    The goal now was reducing the use of steroids, which had elevated that white cell count, and paying attention to my glucose levels. In a teleconference with Dr. Kilhani two weeks after going home, he enthused, “You look so much healthier than when you left the hospital,” and a few weeks later, “I cannot believe how your numbers have come crashing down.” He instructed us to turn the concentrator down to six liters from eight, and the high flow to 12 from 13.

    I was also uplifted by a photo from “my room” and message sent from some of the Valley View angels who cared for me in my extended visit there:

    THUMBS UP MESSAGE FROM MY “OLD ROOM”

    We did have a few hiccups. Once my oxygen level (monitored regularly by a device placed on my finger) dropped to 60, and we called Dr. Brett Hesse with concern, only to discover it was from a pinched hose.  The power went off, causing us to scramble for the oxygen tanks. We had purchased a generator for such ocassions, and soon had the concentrator going again, so we didn’t have to use up all the tanks. Worst case scenario, we had a converter installed in our car with a concentrator plugged into it, so we could get in the car and drive to a friend’s  where the electricity  was still operating.

    Then there was the night I “stole home.” I don’t generally dream much, and when I do, it’s usually just a setting with someone I know in it. However, one night I found myself at first base, looking toward the plate, and all of a sudden dashing “home” as if first base was third. I slid in head first and woke up on the floor.  Linda heard the crash and came downstairs to find me with just a scrape on my nose and a crazy story.  Obviously, it was time to step up my activity, and twice a week a physical therapist came in to supervise some low-grade exercises, primarily concentrating on my legs and toes.

    MY VALENTINE, IN HEALTHIER DAYS

    For Valentine’s Day, I made a covert call to the grocery store and ordered dark chocolate and flowers to be delivered for Linda. We were surprised that the City Market in New Castle would deliver eight miles up the Buford Road to our house, but delighted that they did. Linda was happily surprised, and I was glad to bring some extra sunshine into her life with all she was doing: cooking, cleaning, monitoring my oxygen levels, checking my blood sugar and getting my insulin ready, along with taking such amazing care of me. I was receiving supportive phone calls and emails as well as texts and messages, but would constantly remind people that Linda needed prayers for strength, health, and her spirits lifted as much as I did.  It’s natural to focus on the one needing care, but the care givers are so easy to take for granted. My faith in God has been my foundation throughout this Long Haul, but Linda has been my heart and soul.

    Ten days after Valentine’s Day we received a heart attack in the mail: a “This is not a bill” message from the hospital for $424,817.46. Just the rooms and medication. No doctors or X-rays or radiologists.

    Linda and I have been members of a Christian health coop called Samaritan Ministries since I retired from public school teaching in 2005, and it had served us well. So well that when we became eligible for Medicare, we decided to stay with the coop and just get the Medicare free part, which fortunately for us, included hospitalization.

    Samaritan required us to pay costs up front, submit the itemized receipts, and we would receive cards, prayers, and checks from all over the country, reimbursing us.  When I needed surgery several years ago, paying cash reduced the cost from $30,000 to $9,000. Quite a mark up for going through insurance.

    We weren’t going to be able to come up with 400K, but Medicare’s Part A covered most of that. Also, there is a Covid Medical Fund that’s applied to any direct Covid medical costs, so our share of the bill ended up being $1,408. Whew!  Of course all the other costs (X-rays, doctors costs and visits, prescriptions, blood draws) began to filter in (including the ambulance ride), but Samaritan and our friends’ generous donations to our medical fund helped us manage to pay those as they came.

    Because of the Covid shut down, the high school football season was divided, with some of the local teams playing in the fall, and the rest, including Glenwood Springs, whose games our radio station covered, were starting their season in late March. I got a call from the son of a good friend of mine, who was going to take my place as “color man” for the broadcasts. I invited him over and showed him some of my statistical strategies, but mostly encouraged him to use his own experiences and natural interest in the sport and “be himself,” not try to be me.  I must admit it was a reality check to realize that I wouldn’t be calling games anymore.

    Speaking of postponements, major league baseball’s owners and players haggled so long on how to make the season work, they wound up settling for a 60-game season (102 less than scheduled), which began appropriately enough on April Fools Day. So, as I had done so many times over the years, I headed to my good buddy Ron Milhorn’s house to watch the Dodgers opener. It’s something we’ve done for the 20-some years since we started doing games on the radio together. Despite the fact he went to USC (as a walk-on, long-snapper, he played for John Robinson’s Trojans) and I went to UCLA. We put aside those differences as lifelong Dodger fanatics.

    ONE MORE OPENING DAY AT RON’S

    Opening week of  baseball season also saw an end to my “hospital room” setup downstairs. Some friends moved the twin bed down to the studio, and each night I made the trek up the series of steps to our bedroom.  

    On Sunday, April 18, by request of our pastor at New Hope, Cody Fulk, I shared my Covid story at church via zoom, along with a couple of songs I had written.  Because of my shortness of breath and lack of oxygen reserves, singing was quite a challenge, but I managed it, though I found my range was quite limited and had to adjust the keys I usually sang for certain songs.

    In mid-May, my school, Liberty Classical Academy, or as it was known the first ten years I taught middle school Humanities there, The Garden School, held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to help with our expenses. I was still feeling apprehensive about public appearances, so they set up a 30-minute zoom connection and groups of students, parents, and faculty dropped by to say “hi” during that time. It was so good to see all these people, and I was awestruck by the size of the resulting check our administrator/secretary/heart of the school Jo Hendrickson sent to me.

    That fundraiser provided more evidence that God provides, in His timing, when not a week later, my oxygen plunged into the 40’s and my doctor ordered two blood transfusions due to my low red blood cell count, which required an overnight stay in the hospital. 

    While I was still in the hospital, our middle daughter Jennifer floated the idea of a “trial run” at the lower altitude in Kansas because she was planning to move there to her fiance’s farm. We had never given serious thought to moving before, but being down to one cat and a few chickens, the possibility of doing so was at least on the table. Whew! Never thought I’d be going back to Kansas, where I was stationed in Wichita while in the Air Force. I’ll have to tackle those adventures in a subsequent “Sidecar” story.  Several things I remember clearly from my time in Kansas: the humidity; fireflies; living on Lulu Street, and all my friendly neighbors; who pronounced the Arkansas River as the Ar-Kansas River.

    SECOND LOOIE ON LULU STREET, WICHITA, KS, 1970-71

    We decided to take an exploratory trip to Lecompton in June where Jennifer and our granddaughter Joslin had moved after finishing their school year in Alaska.

     Whether we decided to move or not, Linda and I came to the conclusion that we needed to downsize. Friends came to help her sort through 40 years of accumulated “treasures.” Youngest daughter Galina came out from Lincoln, Nebraska, for what would turn out to be her last visit home and helped with the sorting and hauling.  During this time, I had a doctor-advised echo cardiogram to see if there had been any damage to my heart through all these events. Thankfully, everything came out looking fine.

    On June 4th, having outfitted the car with an inverter that would permit use of one of the oxygen converters as opposed to constantly switching oxygen tanks, our big adventure began. We were off to see the wizard in the Land of Toto.

    The trip east went smoothly and there was a 20 per cent improvement in my oxygen level after activity, which seemed fairly significant. Once arriving in Lecompton, we found we could turn down the converter from 8 liters to 4, with no ill effects. We were giving thought to a longer trial and out looking at houses and apartments when the inverter in the car blew a fuse and would no longer run the converter. We sent out the word for our prayer warriors to pray about our finding someone who could figure out what was wrong and how to repair it.

    After trying various Toyota places, an RV lot, and several parts stores with no success, a phone call back to the shop that installed the inverter in Colorado led to our going to a music store, of all places, for the fuse. Sure enough, they carried all sizes for use in tube amplifiers. 

    We returned home after a week, and I could really feel the altitude difference. Enough that we decided to give living in Kansas a try and needed to pray about renting or selling our house. This exchange of letters in late June from some missionary friends of ours living in Mexico gives an insight into this process:

                “Also, exciting update. I opened a small campaign through our home church in Boulder to help with some of your medical bills and just got this email saying the campaign has been fully funded at $5,300.”

    My reply:

                “That’s humbling news… thank you! This comes at a time when our spirits have been ebbing due to the overwhelming task of getting our house ready to rent or sell. We have leased an apartment in Topeka with a move-in date of August 13.

                “We have been praying for wisdom on rather to rent or sell, and thought we’d reached a decision (to sell, with no real reason to return due to the altitude’s ovvious ill-effects on me contrasted to our time at lower altitude) until we found out using a mover would cost as much as my most recent hospital stay ($17K). That had us second-guessing ourselves, so your funding gift will free up some of our savings for the move, clearly God at work in His perfect timing.”

    Here is part of the thank you note we sent to this generous church, who only knew us through what our friends had shared:

                “We had been despairing that we’d made the wrong decision (about whether to move), but God has shown us through your generosity that He was indeed working through the waiting.

                “Thank you for bringing Matthew 25:40 to life in our lives.”

    That scripture from Jesus’ account of the Final Judgment reads: “And the King will answer…’Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

    Here’s my Dodger brother and broadcast partner Ron Milhorn’s response when we shared our decision to move:

                “Sounds like Kansas may be the answer, Toto! Bummer. I hate to see you move away and I know you dread the thought of being uprooted, but God has got this in His mighty hands. You’re always in my prayers, brother! If you move to Kansas, that’ll raise the Dodger fan base in the Jayhawk state to 12!”

    The day before Father’s Day, I posted a letter on Facebook to my Dad, who passed away at the age of 96 in 2016:

                “Hey Dad, I think of you every day in little and large ways.  In July would be your 101st birthday – Mark and I really thought you’d reach 100, but 96 was a great run. To those facing their first Father’s Day tomorrow without Dad, it does get a little easier, but the ‘missing you’ ache seems to just get deeper.

    THE DAPPER COLONEL AND HIS “NUMBER ONE SON”

    “A story: for I don’t know how many years, I’d gotten in the habit of writing my Dad a letter on the 15th of every month. A lost art, letter writing, but my Dad would often write back, and after he passed in October of 2016, just one of the many ways I missed him was the realization: we can’t exchange letters anymore. One more part of him missing from my life. Then I had an idea, why not write letters to my three girls on the 15th instead? I have done so ever since, though when I was hospitalized, I switched to emails.

                “So here’s a thought. When something reminds you of your Dad who’s no longer with you, see if there’s a way to modify that activity to bless someone else. Happy Dad’s Day to you fathers out there, and may God wrap you in blessed memories if you’ll be missing giving him a call, card, or visit tomorrow.”

    We had a work day where at least a dozen friends came to help Linda pack, sort, and haul away several truckloads to the dump. The most precarious item to be moved to storage was her Dad’s 1929 Model A Coup that she had ridden in when she was a little girl.  When Linda’s Dad, George Escott, passed away, it was the only thing she wanted, so we had it shipped from Seattle to New Castle.

    Linda had signed up for an adult education class held at Rifle High School’s auto shop and rebuilt the engine herself. But it had sat in our garage almost as long as it had in the Escott garage in Washington when one of my Bible study buddies saw it when it was my turn to host our group.  Jack Ouland had been a VW mechanic before retiring and after, as he put it, some prodding from the Holy Spirit, he felt moved to help get the Model A on the road.

    So, for the past couple of years, once a week, they worked on it, sometimes in stocking caps, gloves, and layers.  Finally came the day when they got the engine to start, and not too long after that, took it for a test run – 50 years after it had last been driven.  With the help of Jack and others, Linda got it loaded onto a trailer and parked it in a storage unit in New Castle, along with another full unit of boxes that weren’t going to make the trip.

    THE 1929 MODEL A, HEADING TO STORAGE

    With the help of friends, Linda also held yard sales, prompting me to post this Facebook message toward the end of June:

    “Feeling disconnected. Tethered to my oxygen as I am, my earthly “treasures” vanish almost without my knowledge, sold or hauled to the dump…. such as my daily companion of 35 years, the Universal weight machine, the old ‘55 Chevy truck, and my beloved ’92 Red Stealth (purchased 20 years before from my son-in-law and Stealth afficianado, Ryan). One day, they’re just not here any longer, like us as we prepare to leave our home of 45 years in hopes that a lower altitude will help my recovery.”

    And just as I was talking myself into a pity party, in came two LCA colleagues with hugs and words of encouragements.

    LAST FAMILY PHOTO AT WEST ELK CREEK, COLORADO

    My ever-wise elder daughter Amber cheered me with these words as we neared the time to leave the only home she and her sister had ever known:  “I know it’s tough, Dad. You will forever have the most precious of possessions, your memories, with you always.”

    Jennifer added: I love you to all the constellations you taught me about as a kid AND back, papa! It will be a good move. I know it’s going to be hard to leave your home. “Home is where your heart is,” and Ja and I are excited for your heart to be near us!!!”

    For my final Facebook Live from Colorado session, I sang one of my Dad’s favorites, “The Red River Valley,” with its appropriate opening line, “From this valley they say you are going.”

    And once again, Amber with the last word: “Home is not a place, Dad. Where you and Mom are will always be home.”

    Next  – Chp. 9: Two Weddings and (almost) a Funeral

    Thank you for joining me on my Long Haul Covid Train journey. Tune in next week as we make the move to Kansas after nearly half a century in Colorado. If you’re a Long Haul passenger, know someone who is, are reminded of a related story, or just want to leave a comment, please do. Subscribers will receive email notifications when a new installment is posted as well as my “Sidecar Stories” from time to time. The next one is about the guitars of my life and the adventures I’ve had with them.

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter 7 – Changes: “You will be on Oxygen forever.”

    SUNSET VIEW FROM MY NEW ROOM

    The New Year, 2021, began on a promising note: what it was going to take for me to go home. I have mentioned how much I appreciated the many nurses who cared for me and made my stay as comfortable as possible. I also had several different doctors rotating through, besides Dr. K’s consistent visits, and the one I most enjoyed seeing was Dr. Susan Inscore, a compassionate woman whom I found easy to talk to and even better, who responded to my questions in a way I could understand. She told me my oxygen levels were holding steady, and I needed to be in the 6-to-10 per cent range (meaning that’s how much additional oxygen I needed to breathe easily) to be ready to go home.

    She told me this the morning of January 1st, Linda’s birthday.  I celebrated with a shower, Linda came for lunch. The next day, for the first time, I spent the day in the recliner in my room instead of mostly in bed, where I’d been for the past three weeks.

    The biggest change came on January 3rd after Dr. K delightedly cried “Oh, ho!” and gave me a fist bump after seeing my oxygen was in the 90’s. “You have been such a good patient,” he said. “You’ve done everything. That’s why you’re getting better!”

    DR. K: “OH, HO! YOU’RE GETTING BETTER!”

    My CRP (inflammation marker) was steadily going downward, from 58-to-31-to 15 (it was 207 on my first day in the hospital); the Ferritin (showing lung inflammation) which had been 1310, went up slightly to 1336, today was 875, the first time in 3-digits (2093 upon admittance); and the D-Dimer (blood clots) had shrunk from 8.4 to a miniscule 1.96 (20, at first measurement).

    My reward was a move to Acute Care room 424. The nurses told me it was the best room in the hospital. It had three large picture windows, a fire place, and was large enough to hold a good-sized country line dance.

    THE VIEW FROM MY NEW ROOM

    The next day, Monday, January 4th, another change took place. Jacqui Edelmann, whose seventh grade students I had absorbed into my eighth grade class the previous January when she had to attend to a family health situation, in a stroke of irony, would now be taking over my class at Liberty Classical Academy. Most of my students this year were the ones who had moved from her class 12 months ago.

    So, changes at the hospital, at school, and also at home. Realizing that when I did come home, and this was seeming like a probability now, taking care of our animals, AND me, as well as all the other responsibilities of our five-acre homestead, would fall solely on my wife, Linda. The first to go to a new home were the ducks, Taffy (named and brought on board by Galina, but now she was living in Lincoln, Nebraska) and Licorice (Linda thought Taffy was lonely after a hawk nabbed his original mate, Thyme.

    We thought it might be hard to find a good home for the alpacas, but were delighted when a couple of my former students who had married thought their children would really enjoy them.

    THE PACKIES HAVE A NEW HOME

    January 7th was a day of mourning for followers of Dodger Blue, as Tommy LaSorda, long-time manager and goodwill ambassador for the team, went to join, as he had phrased it, “The Big Dodger in the Sky.”

    Four days later, my Dad’s alma mater, the Crimson Tide of Alabama, won the National College Football championship, and the day after that, I used a walker in PT (physical therapy).  My nurse practitioner, Julia Williams, laid out a plan for my going home, which would involve a high flow oxydizer that I would use over the weekend to see how I did on it. I had, by this time, been in the hospital for forty days.

    In an exchange with a former teaching colleague and good friend of our middle daughter, Jennifer, the phrase “being warmth and light,” was used and the spread of those being part of this idea, which came to me: “There’s a reason I’m still breathing.”

    I had been listening to online church services, our own at New Hope in New Castle, of course, but with my plentiful bed time, I’d also begun listening to Lou Gigleo from the Passion City Church in Atlanta, where worship leaders such as Chris Tomlin and David Crowder had risen to nationwide popularity.  His message on Sunday, January 17, particularly struck a responsive chord in me, and as is God’s way, I’ve found, was to prepare me for what would come the next day.

    Gigleo’s message was entitled, “Fear on the Microphone,” a catchy way of saying we are to beware of whose voice we’re listening to in our heads. He mentioned fear of the pandemic as one “voice” attempting to govern our lives, and also, in the spiritual realm, Satan, who preys on our weakest, most fearful thoughts. Of particular danger for me would be the “Why me?” voice, comparing my circumstances with the many people I’ve since come to know that have had Covid for a week or even a month, then gone back to their lives, virtually unchanged.  The next day, Monday, January 18, I would be told, for the first time, that would not be me.

    Dr. Brett Hesse, whom I’ve identified before as the son of one of my former public school principals, set up a meeting with Linda and me in which his goal was to be as forthright as he could about my health situation and future.

    Here are my notes from what he told us:

    From the CT taken Dec. 7 (my admittance, 43 days ago), the X-ray looks worse, from inflammatory to scarring; lungs are severely compromised due to Covid and won’t improve. The burn scar won’t go away. We did all we could with steroids. YOU WILL BE ON OXYGEN FOREVER. The hope is that minimal activity doesn’t destroy you. No further treatments can reverse it. Nothing you could have done differently. The severity of illness, pulmonary disability, remains. Your heart is strong. Usually don’t go home needing this much oxygen. Usual is 5m, you’re on 9-10. The window for recovery is closing.

    Linda and I had discussed and wondered about all of this, but for the first time phrases like “You’ll be on oxygen forever,” … “We did all we could…” and “The window for recovery is closing” were spoken from a source we weren’t prepared to argue with.

    On Tuesday, I wrote in my journal: “1st day as permanently disabled.”

    A CT scan showed a clot in my lungs, but I was told this could be a good thing because, when it dissolved, that would leave a little more room for oxygen reserve. An interesting perspective, but we were in a place where anything positive, after Monday’s declaration, was something to be grasped greatfully.

    Another boost came from an unexpected source. I received a large packet of uplifting, hand-written messages from each member of Glenwood Springs girls basketball coach Rhonda Moser’s players. When our Create Art & Essence studio was open, Coach Moser had brought her players and coaches for an evening of painting and team-building. Since learning of my hospitalization, this team I had covered for the local radio station, KMTS, was now covering me with good wishes and even dedicated their most recent game to me. This brought tears to my eyes and a lift to my spirits.

    As an additional step towards leaving the hospital, I was shown how to give myself insulin shots. I hadn’t needed them prior to hospitalization, but the high doses of steroids, I’d been told, had the effect of making me a diabetic.

    Wednesday, Dr. K’s enthusiastic message was, “You’re doing this!” meaning I was doing what was needed to be able to go home. We were thankful for his ever-present optimism.

    On Thursday, NP Julia came by with discharge paperwork, and we purchased a converter for our car, so we could use an oxygen concentrator in it.

    ALMOST THE LAST VIEW: NEW SNOW

    Saturday there was five inches of snow. I had a wonderful view from my first class suite. Sunday would be my last full day in the hospital, and so I had myself a praisefest in my room much of the night, playing many of my favorite worship songs through my JBL speaker. During my stay, many nurses and technicians told me they’d come by my room to check on me and listen to the music, which played constantly, waking or sleeping. I was glad to inject some “warmth and light” into their routines.

    Sunday morning, Lou Gigleo warned about “Comparison on the Microphone” – I was glad I’d had this insulation prior to Dr. Hesse’s proclamation of reality.  But Monday morning, my 50th and last day in the hospital, Dr. Khilnani came for a final visit and declared, “You’ve done it!”

    On the message board in my room, Nurse Taylor had written, “Today’s the day. Have a safe trip home, Jack!” As she wheeled me out of my room for the last time, I was stunned to find the halls lined with nurses, technicians, and other hospital workers, cheering.

    ANGELS OF MERCY FROM VALLEY VIEW HOSPITAL

    After fifty days in the hospital, I was going home to a life that had been irreversibly changed, if the doctor was to be believed.

    • I didn’t know it at the time, but when I’d finally summoned the strength to finish grading my students’ essays, submitted online as I was succumbing to Covid, the first semester grades and comments would be the last I would enter in my 46 year teaching career.
    • My 22 years of broadcasting high school sports with my partner Ron Milhorn for KMTS radio ended with the final Basalt girls softball game.
    • No longer would “Jumping Jack” leap with delight across the stage, leading a roomful of worshipers into God’s glorious presence with vocal, guitar, and harmonica.

    But I came across a scripture from Romans 12:12, that encouraged us and would become the theme of the New Year for us as we faced the challenges ahead:

    “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

    2021 THEME VERSE

    Next  – Chp. 8: Coming Home at Last… & Leaving

    Thank you for joining me on my Long Haul Covid Train journey. Tune in next week as we struggle to decide whether to leave our home of the past 40 years for lower elevation. If you’re a Long Haul passenger, know someone who is, are reminded of a related story, or just want to leave a comment, please do. Subscribers will receive email notifications when a new installment is posted as well as my “Sidecar Stories” from time to time. The next one is about the guitars of my life and the adventures I’ve had with them. If you would like to help us with our ongoing medical expenses, you can do so at the Go Fund Me site started by my Vanden High School friends: gt.me/u/zisu3i. Thanks, and I hope you’re enjoying the ride.

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter 6: Doctor Long Haul & Christmas through the Window

    (Author’s note: my first attempt at publishing chapter six resulted in repeating the first portion of the installment. This version contains the conclusion. I apologize, readers, for any confusion this may have caused and hope you enjoy this revised version.)

    Though I had different doctors and nurses, depending on their shifts, there was one constant throughout my hospital stay, Dr. Suresh Khilnani. Dr. K, by which he was known, was head of the Lung Center and the primary physician in charge of my case. He was not very tall, and garbed, head to foot, as was everyone who entered a “Covid room,” in protective hospital gear.

    I saw him almost every one of my fifty days in the hospital. I discovered that he also was supervising patients in Eagle, and on the rare occasion when he didn’t make an appearance, I got a phone call from him. Because of the Covid apparel, which included a shield, hood, and mask, mixed with his middle eastern accent, I would generally understand about a third of what he’d say to me. There was no mistaking his enthusiasm however: he was clearly rooting for me and seeing my efforts to follow his instructions, he became my biggest cheerleader in the hospital, often saying things like, “You’ve got this!” or remarking on how the numbers from the blood draws were improving.   

    Dr. K

    He did, however, make it clear that, as he repeated fairly often, I was facing a “long haul” to recovery. He used this phrase so frequently that I came to refer to him as “Dr. Long Haul.” But he would also exhort me to spend some time each day on my stomach, which he emphasized was a key to recovery. Every day he would ask me about that along with other questions concerning my appetite, levels of pain, nausea, or other symptoms. Fortunately, I never suffered anything more than a headache, and, once they determined I needed more “fat” in my diet, I actually looked forward to the meals.

    The nurses had a way of weighing me where I didn’t need to get out of bed, and early in my stay, I was actually down to my high school weight of 155. When I first arrived, I was ordering breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a menu, but received word that several kitchen employees had come down with Covid, and all patients would be receiving the same meals. This almost always included the a Sahara Desert dry main chicken entrée, contributing to my weight loss, as I could barely eat it.

    Noticing I was appearing undernourished, I was encouraged to add a substantial amount of fat to my meals and once again allowed to order from what was a pretty varied menu. I rotated between my “favorites” (steak and meatloaf, with mashed potatoes and extra gravy) and doubled up on dessert.  Fairly quickly, I said goodbye to my high school playing days weight.

    As the Christmas season approached, my family began arriving also: from Alaska, Jennifer with granddaughter Joslin and fiancé Dave Porter, along with his mother June McAfee from Kansas; Amber and husband Ryan from Wyoming.  Jennifer and Amber both followed their parents into the teaching profession, so Christmas break allowed them time to return home.

    Our adopted daughter, Galina, who was in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she attended Nebraska Wesleyan for musical theatre for a semester, had to turn back because the interstate was closed.

    My family sent me a mini Christmas tree for my room and on Christmas Eve, perched on the steps of the parking lot, so I could see them. They sang several boisterous Christmas carols through my speaker phone.   The next day we set up a Zoom Family Christmas, which included Galina in Nebraska, so I could watch everyone open presents. I was very grateful to be included.

    Christmas Eve from the hospital parking lot.

    Two days after Christmas, in yet another ironic event, the teacher whose class I had absorbed in mine last January due to a health crisis in her family, agreed to take over my class for the second semester until I was able to return, which I still thought was a possibility.

    As 2020 wound down, I reflected on how different this Christmas season was from the 46 previous ones Linda and I had spent in our married lives together. Always before I had shopped for a triple header: Christmas, our anniversary on the 30th, and Linda’s birthday on January 1st.  As I wrapped the gifts, I’d make the decision which of the occasions each one was best suited for in my opinion and label it accordingly. Having been hospitalized since December 7th, my prime shopping times had been spent on the cycle that was hospital life. I hadn’t even the strength or concentration for on-line shopping.

    But it was wonderful to see my family, even if it was through a hospital window or a laptop screen. So when the nurses came in on December 30 without their protective Covid gear and announced that Linda would be allowed to visit me in person for our anniversary, I was overjoyed. What a blessing! How could I feel that way in view of all the deprivations I’d endured? I can’t really answer that. I was just extremely happy and grateful for the anniversary dinner my nurses brought us, and to hold Linda’s hand after all this time was a treasure, beyond expectation.

    We began a routine that would settle into her visiting me about every other day, including her birthday, January 1st, which we would normally celebrate with a New Year’s Eve kiss as the countdown concluded. 

    There was a joke going around the internet that the word “2020” would become a catch phrase for “everything messed up and bad.”                  

    “How’s your day?”

             “A total 2020.”

             “Say no more…”

    Little did we know that 2021 was going to bring new strains of the virus, more division on treatment and prevention, and no relief from the pervading fear. But as the old year rolled into the new one, I still had hope I would resume teaching and broadcasting, but changes were coming.

    Next  – Chp. 7: CHANGES: “YOU WILL BE ON OXYGEN FOREVER.”

    Thank you for joining me on my Long Haul Covid Train journey. Tune in next time as my 50-day hospital stay comes to an end. If you’re a Long Haul passenger, know someone who is, are reminded of a related story, or just want to leave a comment, please do. Subscribers will receive email notifications when a new installment is posted as well as my “Sidecar Stories” once a month or so.

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter 6: Doctor Long Haul & Christmas through the Window

    MY FAMILY MADE SURE I FELT INCLUDED AT CHRISTMAS

    Though I had different doctors and nurses, depending on their shifts, there was one constant throughout my hospital stay, Dr. Suresh Khilnani. Dr. K, by which he was known, was head of the Lung Center and the primary physician in charge of my case. He was not very tall, and garbed, head to foot, as was everyone who entered a “Covid room,” in protective hospital gear.

    I saw him almost every one of my fifty days in the hospital. I discovered that he also was supervising patients in Eagle, and on the rare occasion when he didn’t make an appearance, I got a phone call from him. Because of the Covid apparel, which included a shield, hood, and mask, mixed with his middle eastern accent, I would generally understand about a third of what he’d say to me. There was no mistaking his enthusiasm however: he was clearly rooting for me and seeing my efforts to follow his instructions, he became my biggest cheerleader in the hospital, often saying things like, “You’ve got this!” or remarking on how the numbers from the blood draws were improving.   

    DR. K

    He did, however, make it clear that, as he repeated fairly often, I was facing a “long haul” to recovery. He used this phrase so frequently that I came to refer to him as “Dr. Long Haul.” But he would also exhort me to spend some time each day on my stomach. Every day he would ask me about that along with other questions concerning my appetite, levels of pain, nausea, or other symptoms. Fortunately, I never suffered anything more than a headache, and, once they determined I needed more “fat” in my diet, I actually looked forward to the meals.

    The nurses had a way of weighing me where I didn’t need to get out of bed, and early in my stay, I was actually down to my high school weight of 155. When I first arrived, I was ordering breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a menu, but received word that several kitchen employees had come down with Covid, and all patients would be receiving the same meals. This almost always included the a Sahara Desert dry main chicken entrée, contributing to my weight loss, as I could barely eat it.

    Noticing I was appearing undernourished, I was encouraged to add a substantial amount of fat to my meals and once again allowed to order from what was a pretty varied menu. I rotated between my “favorites” (steak and meatloaf, with mashed potatoes and extra gravy) and doubled up on dessert.  Fairly quickly, I said goodbye to my high school playing days weight.

    As the Christmas season approached, my family began arriving also: from Alaska, Jennifer with granddaughter Joslin and fiancé Dave Porter, along with his mother June McAfee from Kansas; Amber and husband Ryan from Wyoming.  Jennifer and Amber both followed their parents into the teaching profession, so Christmas break allowed them time to return home.

    Our adopted daughter, Galina, who was in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she attended Nebraska Wesleyan for musical theatre for a semester, had to turn back because the interstate was closed.

    My family sent me a mini Christmas tree for my room and on Christmas Eve, perched on the steps of the parking lot, so I could see them. They sang several boisterous Christmas carols through my speaker phone.   The next day we set up a Zoom Family Christmas, which included Galina in Nebraska, so I could watch everyone open presents. I was very grateful to be included.

    A PARKING LOT VISIT FROM MY FAM ON CHRISTMAS EVE DAY

    He did, however, make it clear that, as he repeated fairly often, I was facing a “long haul” to recovery. He used this phrase so frequently that I came to refer to him as “Dr. Long Haul.” But he would also exhort me to spend some time each day on my stomach. Every day he would ask me about that along with other questions concerning my appetite, levels of pain, nausea, or other symptoms. Fortunately, I never suffered anything more than a headache, and, once they determined I needed more “fat” in my diet, I actually looked forward to the meals.

    The nurses had a way of weighing me where I didn’t need to get out of bed, and early in my stay, I was actually down to my high school weight of 155. When I first arrived, I was ordering breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a menu, but received word that several kitchen employees had come down with Covid, and all patients would be receiving the same meals. This almost always included the a Sahara Desert dry main chicken entrée, contributing to my weight loss, as I could barely eat it.

    Noticing I was appearing undernourished, I was encouraged to add a substantial amount of fat to my meals and once again allowed to order from what was a pretty varied menu. I rotated between my “favorites” (steak and meatloaf, with mashed potatoes and extra gravy) and doubled up on dessert.  Fairly quickly, I said goodbye to my high school playing days weight.

    As the Christmas season approached, my family began arriving also: from Alaska, Jennifer with granddaughter Joslin and fiancé Dave Porter, along with his mother June McAfee from Kansas; Amber and husband Ryan from Wyoming.  Jennifer and Amber both followed their parents into the teaching profession, so Christmas break allowed them time to return home.

    Our adopted daughter, Galina, who was in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she attended Nebraska Wesleyan for musical theatre for a semester, had to turn back because the interstate was closed.

    My family sent me a mini Christmas tree for my room and on Christmas Eve, perched on the steps of the parking lot, so I could see them. They sang several boisterous Christmas carols through my speaker phone.   The next day we set up a Zoom Family Christmas, which included Galina in Nebraska, so I could watch everyone open presents. I was very grateful to be included.

    Next  – Chp. 7: CHANGES: “YOU WILL BE ON OXYGEN FOREVER.”

    Thank you for joining me on my Long Haul Covid Train journey. Turn in next week as my 50-day hospital stay comes to an end. If you’re a Long Haul passenger, know someone who is, are reminded of a related story, or just want to leave a comment, please do. Subscribers will receive email notifications when a new installment is posted as well as my “Sidecar Stories” from time to time (Be sure you’ve sent me your email address).

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter Five – PING PONG: FROM ICU TO ACUTE CARE & BACK (TWICE)

    Home-made cookies one of the Star Wars garbed nurses gave me.

    The first morning after being taken to the ER for the beginning of my Long Haul Covid experience, another small irony presented itself in the person of Dr. Brett Hesse, who came to see me.  He was the son of George Hesse, who was my principal when I transferred back to teach in New Castle. For the second time.

    Here’s an email update I sent out on December 8, my second day in the hospital:

    Good afternoon everyone, and thanks for your prayers and concern. 

      The doctor says I’m stable, neither improving much but not declining either. They’re aggressively attacking the Covid filling my lungs with steroids and antibiotics as well as an anticoagulant to prevent clotting. They’re closely monitoring my heart, lungs, and oxygen level, which has come up each day I’ve been here (progress!) from 50% when admitted to 90% now (of course it’s being continuously pumped in through one of several tubes I’m connected to, in which I’m constantly entangling myself and having to call for assistance). 

      The nurses and doctors (mine is Brett Hesse, son of a former principal at New Castle Elementary) are wonderful and I’m gratefully sharing the book I’m reading with my class this month with them, the true story of a WWI nurse, Edith Cavell (A Cup of Cold Water), who was inspired by her Christian family and Florence Nightingale. Two of the nurses have asked for the author & title so they can read it! 

      Just had a call from Loren Martin, hospital chaplain, who has spoken at our New Hope men’s breakfast. Small world. 

      Again, thanks for your prayers and please pray also for Linda, who is recovering at home from the virus. She’s doing alright and we appreciate the many folks who have helped with my LCA classes, bought & brought us supplies, as well as run items to me here in Valley View ICU. Doc says at least 5 more days and then we’ll see where we are.

     God’s blessings, favor, and good health upon you and yours. I love you all!

    After three full days in ICU, my numbers had improved to the point where the decision was made to move me from ICU to Acute Care, the difference being I supposedly wouldn’t need as strict monitoring. The numbers refer to a series of phrases and initials coming from blood draws (which were frequently made at 4 a.m. for a reason I don’t remember) that measured what was going on the inside of my battle with Covid.  Here are a few of the ones I became way too familiar with (the first number is my initial reading upon admittance to the hospital, the second is the first time I recorded the key indicators, December 27 – a day shy of three weeks):

    D-Dimer (20 > 8.4): This one they seemed very concerned with, as the higher the number, the more likely blood clots would form.

    CRP (207 > 58): inflammation markers.

    Ferritin (2093 > 1310): showed my level of lung inflammation, again, doctors and nurses indicated this reduction was significant, though still alarmingly high.

    At this point, I had no idea what normal levels were, I just began to write the numbers down whenever blood was drawn in a daily record I kept in my phone.  Initially, I was just trying to understand what was happening to me and what it would take to get home and resume my normal life.

    For a number of years, I have coordinated an email prayer group, primarily from members of New Hope Church in New Castle, though it’s expanded over the years and many folks, even after moving away, wanted to continue receiving the emails. I was sending updates to these prayer warriors every few days. Here’s an entry from December 11, my fifth in the hospital:

    Kind of a rough night. Not much sleep. Blood draw at 4, couldn’t go back to sleep so did my Bible devotion, then at 6:30, they took another set of X-rays. Hoping my lungs will show less Covid— they were full last time (dang asthma!). So that would be good news. Still no other symptoms other than not generating enough oxygen on my own (due to Covid in lungs). That’s the key to going home. Otherwise, I’m feeling pretty good, if weak, and losing the hog-tie battle with the 4-5 tubes and wires that wrap me up whenever I try to move! Thanks for the thoughts and prayers and the help for Linda!

      Glad my kids are able to return to the classroom. Got to get on lesson plans for my sub, whom I really appreciate, and also get caught up on the work kids have turned in. I’m really missing being with them. Hopefully, next year (after New Year’s that is)!

    I was still operating from a belief that this was like every other illness I’d experienced in my life. After treatment, I’d be well and go back to teaching my class and covering high school games for KMTS.  I found it difficult to find the energy and stamina to grade the papers I’d brought home prior to Christmas break. I settled into a routine of about two after breakfast each day.

    I also began to spend time talking to the nurses who rotated through my room, and started to record their names. They were from different parts of the country and I was interested in how they’d wound up where I was, providing all manner of assistance in addition to their regular duties.  Some were “locals,” and I discovered various connections, either through my teaching or broadcasting high school sports. One of these was Taylor, the head nurse in the ACU ward, whose sister-in-law was a good friend of our daughter’s and whose husband had played for the Glenwood Springs football team I’d covered for the radio station

    In conversing with these dedicated individuals, so vital to my daily existence, it became important to me to let them know how much I appreciated their efforts on my behalf.  I soon got the sense this wasn’t something they encountered often, and sometimes they were the verbal targets of just the opposite response. I recall expressing my amazement that anyone would feel anything but gratitude towards individuals who were playing a part in “saving my life,” I said.  The nurses invariably said something like the patient “was in a lot of pain,” or “I’m just doing my job.”

    They were going way beyond just their duties in my experience, offering reassurance, medical explanations I could understand, a listening ear, reheating my breakfast if it was cold, homemade cookies (!), and on Christmas Eve, when I was feeling very low, a nurse from Georgia prayed with me.

    My Christmas tree.
     

    By this time I was used to sleeping with a mask on that provided extra oxygen for me. I even opened it a couple of times when I had to blow my nose or apply some chapstick and was able to reattach it without calling for help.  My overconfidence betrayed me in the early morning hours of December 14, a week into my stay.  I tried and failed to make the connection the first time, and rather than buzz for a nurse, I tried again, and my oxygen level dropped too severely causing me to pass out and fall. An alert nurse quickly discovered this and it was decided to move me back to ICU to be more closely monitored.

    That evening I alternated between chills and fever until it broke and I wound up getting a good night’s rest.  A day later, Taylor from ACU, taped a cheery note to the outside of my window, and by December 20, I was moved once again to an ACU room, and this one had a shower!  For the first time in two weeks, I graduated from shampoo caps and sponge baths.

    Next Week – Chp. 6: Doctor Long Haul & Christmas through the Window

    Tune in next week for chapter six in my journey on the Long Haul Covid Train. For subscribers, very shortly I’ll be sending you Sidecar #2 – the story of how my dreams of being a rock ‘n roll star morphed into a 46-year teaching career. If you’re a Long Haul passenger, know someone who is, are reminded of a related story, or just want to leave a comment, please do.

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter Four – THE SHADOW OF DEATH

    Greetings, Earthlings

    After spending some time in the Emergency Room, I was moved to a section of ICU reserved for Covid patients. I recall lying on my stomach (a technique to prevent liquid settling in the lungs, which could lead to pneumonia, I was told) and having a doctor quiz me on my “Scope of Treatment” options.  With oxygen pumping through my mask and being face down, it was difficult to understand what I was being asked, but essentially, it was whether I wanted my life prolonged by artificial means.

    I remember telling the doctor that this was something I’d like to discuss with my family, but he indicated the decision was urgent under the present conditions. This raised my already anxious level of concern, and I replied that I’d heard most people, once being hooked up to a ventilator never came off it. I understood him to say that was the case, so I said I didn’t want that, and he went away.

    It was a rough first night, and as I lay face down, masked up, Psalm 23 came to mind.  Feeling far from green pastures and still waters, I concentrated on verse 4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (ESV)

    I felt like I was in that valley, under that shadow, but I wasn’t afraid, because I felt the presence of my shepherd.

    Next Week – Chp. 5: Detour: School Days

    This was a really short chapter, I know, but it sets the stage for everything that comes later. Even before we go there, another of life’s ironies led me to wander down a side path and share how I got into teaching — a profession I had no interest in at all. Speaking of side tracks, I’m offering the occasional “Sidecar” essay to those who subscribe to my story. The next one might be related to something I’ve referenced often, the No Name story, or at least my part in it. I’m waiting on input from others to try to put the whole thing together, perhaps when the Covid Train pulls into the station. Speaking of No Name, my brother and I made the journey to the fantastical mountain forms outside of Fruita, Colorado, for a memorial for one of our compatriots. Read Mark’s story here: https://markedwardjabbour.com/2022/06/03/memorial-day-down-by-the-river/

  • Long Haul Covid Train

    By Jack J. Jabbour

    Chapter Three – DISRUPTED, DERAILED, AND DAMAGED: COVID STRIKES

    Steamboat Springs Admonitions

    Though the strict “stay at home” quarantine was lifted as the number of reported Covid-19 cases diminished through the summer, the cautions in public places continued. Some restaurants began to open for indoor dining, but customers were to wear masks except when seated to eat. If you got up to use the restroom, the mask should go back on. The exhortations to wash hands and use hand sanitizer for were everywhere. I had gotten into the habit of using paper towels for the soap dispenser and to turn faucets on and off. Even opening a bathroom door presented fears as to what might be lurking on the handle.  Churches were opening after only being online for months, but congregations were cautioned to use “elbow bumps” instead of handshakes and avoid hugging.  Interaction in society had been severely disrupted, derailed, and (likely) forever damaged.

    We attended a wedding in Vail for one of our former students where the bride and groom wore masks while reciting their vows and even when they began their first dance together as husband and wife.

    One wish I had been waiting more than thirty years for came true in October when the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, held in a controlled, neutral site with a limited number of fans, practicing social distancing, spread throughout the stands.::Dodger buds.jpg

    World Series Celebration Party

    Despite the restrictions and the accompanying fear of crowds, when I received an invitation from the mother of one of my former students to attend his sixteenth birthday blessing, I felt I should go. These rites of passage were practiced regularly in our church for boys and girls, where mentors, family, teachers, and friends gathered to share words of wisdom (and gifts for the girls’ hope chests) with the teen.

    I remember Linda cautioning me that perhaps I shouldn’t go since we had been avoiding any kind of get togethers and limiting exposure to the public (even ordering groceries online to be delivered), but as the young man’s mom was a teacher at our school, and we were close to the family, I decided to attend.

    No one wore masks and hands were shaken in greeting, and I later discovered that one of those present came down with Covid shortly afterwards. I have since concluded that this was where I encountered it.

    I didn’t know this at the time, of course, and had no immediate symptoms, so despite the challenging circumstances, our oldest daughter’s family in-laws were gathering for Thanksgiving at a time share in Steamboat Springs.

    Linda made use of some of our “Create” shop materials in providing a painting lesson for all who wanted to participate as one of the activities.

    After four days in Steamboat, we returned home Saturday, and by Sunday evening I had “the chills.” They had cleared up by Monday, however I learned my school colleague had come down with Covid, so I decided I should get tested, which I did on Tuesday, December 1st. ::Covid+.jpg

    My positive Covid Report: December 1, 2020

    The next evening I got a phone call saying the test was positive; we immediately took Linda for testing, though taste loss was her only symptom. I contacted  our relatives from our Thanksgiving trip, urging them to be tested, and thankfully soon received replies that all were clear.

    On Thursday, via zoom, I conducted what would turn out to be the last full class of my 46 years of teaching – 30 as a middle school English teacher for the Garfield RE-2 district, and since “retiring” in 2005, another 16 at The Garden School, now known as Liberty Classical Academy, where I taught “Humanities,” a combination of History, Reading, Writing, Speech, and English.

    Throughout that night, I had a wracking cough, and Friday we got word that Linda’s test was also positive.  On Saturday, my fever was up and down, and the hard coughing continued. Linda’s only symptom remained a loss of taste.

    With a sense of foreboding, I wrote “Farewell” letters to each of the girls and to Linda. On Sunday I sent lesson plans for Monday and Thursday to Jo Hendrickson at LCA.

    Monday, I passed out at home, and Linda called for an ambulance, because she couldn’t get me in the car by herself. I recall vaguely being helped into the back of an ambulance by two EMT’s and having a mask strapped to my face. It was a sensation with which I’d become very familiar in the weeks and months to come.

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