Some of you are aware that I periodically assemble and print my posts into large format full color books. These are not for general distribution but are given to our children (and to our parents when they were alive) as a record of our post-retirement lives.

I am currently working on the 8th Volume, A “Speedbump” in Our Retirement Highway, We Pause to Face Mortality. When completed these 8 books will total over 1,500 pages. Whether or not appreciated during our life, I am more assured that they will be cherished when we are gone. Normally the “Foreword” to each volume is not shared publicly. However, I thought it appropriate to share this one:

Foreword to Volume 8

Dear Children, Grandchildren, and someday Great-Grandchildren.

At birth (actually a few months before birth), Fate assigns us a finite number of heartbeats. Rarely do we consider the “finite” in that statement as we blithely live our lives as if there will be no end. But the truth is that the number of heartbeats is ever in decline and will never be more than the beat that is occurring at this second.

About 35 years ago a routine annual physical and blood test revealed that I had a significant genetic condition that would end my life within 5 years. There was no cure.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross declared that there are 5 stages of grief and dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I was not in denial as I accepted the diagnosis and started notifying family members and co-workers. However, my thoughts and actions were purely from my head and not my heart. The emotional fallout had not yet occurred.

I elected to get a second opinion and found that the University of Utah specialized in testing for the diagnosed condition. They forwarded testing vials and instructions and I arranged for the blood to be drawn through my doctor’s office.

The return of test results took about a month. It was a month that found me and Christine contemplating a more limited life going forward, with me suffering a steady decline in health, activity, ability, and ultimately an early death. There were discussions about life in family Schloss without me. Still, the discussions were largely “academic” and not at a gut emotional level, but they were moving in that direction.

Even with a perceived future that would not see me to age 50, the finiteness of life did not grip my soul. Oh, the results of the special blood test from the University of Utah established that the first test was a false positive. Life was still finite, but I again had license to pretend otherwise. So it goes.

Fast forward to 2023. The year began with the excitement of travel and shared experiences with Christine, family, and friends. The year ended in much the same way. However, between those highpoints there was a very deep and dark valley.

I voluntarily underwent surgery on June 2nd to treat a worsening life-long tremor. An electrode was implanted in my brain, connected to a device in my chest that would counter the erratic nerve impulses issuing from the thalamus on the left side of my brain. By all accounts the surgery went well and I was released from the hospital the following day.

On June 7th I suffered a sudden hemorrhage in the left hemisphere thalamus of my brain. I found myself immediately confronted with the inability to walk and talk as most people do. Unlike my response to the false diagnosis of 35 years past, on June 7th the horizon of my life had suddenly shrunk to “now”. The future was concealed by an impenetrable mist of the unknown. It was terrifying. Sleep often eluded me as I lay in bed feeling the walls and ceiling closing in on me. At times I felt the air being sucked out of the room. These were physical manifestations of the emotional shock I was enduring. Through it all Christine was a master of calm and understanding. She accepted me wholly as I was regardless of whether this was who I would now always be.

Unlike 35 years ago, the emotional impact I suffered in June, 2023 did not allow for any “what if” discussions. We were too consumed with the immediate confrontation of our mortality. “In sickness and in health… until death do us part” were no longer vague insubstantial promises that looked infinitely into the future, they were the definition of our “now”.

As you will see in these posts, there was a silver lining. The surgeon explained that a brain bleed is a rare complication of the surgery, but in her considerable experience it only occurs at or near the time of the operation, never 5 days post-surgery.

There was more. I not only recovered from the brain hemorrhage, but as the result of the brain bleed the activation of the DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) controller has thus far proven unnecessary. The hemorrhage and its effect on that portion of my brain which is the source of my tremors has significantly reduced the shaking in my dominant hand. Again, this was unique to my neuro-surgeon’s experience. This was the beneficial result hoped for from implant surgery and activation of the DBS controller on June 2nd, just not in the way that anyone could have foreseen.

I now know the difference between confronting mortality with one’s head versus one’s heart. I also know the incalculable value of having a partner at my side who embraces without hesitation the words of our marriage vows. I pray that each of you have such good fortune and love in your life, lives counting down one heartbeat at a time…

Love, Your Dad, Grandpa, and perhaps someday Your Great Grandfather.



In 2022 my posts to this site from the Portuguese Camino took the form of open letters home. These were well received and provided me with a natural, conversational, way to communicate that hinted at the relationship that Christine and I share. I was writing to her, yet aware of the larger audience. A side benefit for me was that I felt her presence as I penned each word. It was a relief from the shadow of being alone.

This coming June my 15-year-old grandson Britton and I will depart for 6 weeks in France and Spain. Life and fate willing, we will be hiking the 500+ mile “French Route” of the Camino de Santiago. This will be the longest time that I have spent away from Christine and the longest spent with any of our grandchildren. It will be the longest that he has spent apart from his mother and siblings. Britton is one of three surviving quadruplets. He has been with brother Simon and sister Delaney 7 months longer than he has taking breath in life. (Their births came very early, and they were very tiny.) Think about it. There is also his 6-year-old sister, Lennon, who will certainly feel his absence.

I have no doubt that he is up to the physical challenges. Britton is nearly 6 feet tall and is a muscular 190 pounds. However, the trials for both of us go beyond the physical requirements of walking many miles, day after day. We are separated by 58 years and 2 generations. He must learn and adjust to my peculiarities and I to his.

It is my hope that Britton might contribute an occasional paragraph to his grandmother and mother, giving insight to his own unique perspectives. However, recalling the focuses of my own teenage years I will not hold my breath.

Peace Everyone. Pete

I don’t send Christmas cards but with a smile I do think and dream about seeing you someday and wondering about what is important in your life. So, without naming names and in hopes that I cover all of you who knew and know me from Kansas City, Crete, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, West Virginia, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Connecticut, Arkansas, California, Maryland, Washington, Thailand, Canada, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Switzerland, Poland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Lebanon, Morocco, Jersey, Puerto Rico, Belize, Argentina, Japan, Finland, Greenland, …throughout the United States, …on the ocean, during my working and retirement years… MERRY CHRISTMAS and love to you. You are in my thoughts and held close to my heart.

Peace Everyone. Pete

Written November 23, 2023, at Kansas City, Missouri.

In 2013 most of our grandchildren were barely beyond being toddlers.

The grandchildren in 2013 (including 2 visitors), each wearing the Camino shell I had made for them. Christine displays our Camino guidebook.

One was not yet a “twinkle in our daughter’s eye”.

The grandchildren today, including Lennon, the “twinkle in our daughter’s eye”.

Christine and I were consumed with preparations for walking the Camino de Santiago, over 800 kilometers from southern France, across the Pyrenees Mountains and west across Spain.

Our enthusiasm brought curiosity from the “grands” such that we often needed to explain the adventure in terms that they might understand. “Spain is on the other side of the world.” “Wow!” they would exclaim. “Grandma and I are going to walk so far that it is like walking from your house to St. Louis or Springfield and then back!” They had been on drives to both cities and in their little minds knew that it was VERY far. There were gape-mouthed expressions, eyes wide with awe, and more “Wows!”.

On our first night in Barcelona Christine thought of another way to impress upon them the grandness of what was ahead for us. Using her cell phone, she called each household for a video chat with the “little people”. Directing her phone out of our upper floor room to the evening panorama of Barcelona, she explained that we were so far away that while it was daytime in Kansas City it was nighttime where we were. The images held their attention and wonder.

4-year-old Britton, one of the three surviving quadruplets, broke the silence. Seeing the rush of evening traffic and the street below us he exclaimed, “Grandma! They have CARS in Spain!” “Yes Britton, just like in Kansas City.” “Then why are you WALKING across Spain?!!”

Delaney, Britton, and Simon. The red lips are from Easter candy.

From the mouths of babes…

Yesterday, now 15-year-old Britton, a muscular high school freshman nearing 6 feet tall and who plays football and wrestles, eagerly anticipated the day’s mail.

Minutes after the mail arrived Britton sent me a text message and picture with the captions, “Yay!!!” and “My hair looks so bad!”. His passport had arrived!

Britton, Simon, and Delaney today along with their little sister Lennon.

Next June, life and health willing, an odd couple will join thousands of other making the 800+ kilometer trek across Spain. One age 72, in the evening of life, and one 15 with life’s lottery still spinning its wheel. One searching for his future through the telescope of imagination and the other reflecting upon his past through the bifocals of what cannot be changed. One with the experience of three prior Caminos, and one brimming with the excitement of tackling his first. Who is the teacher and who is the student?… well, that depends. What is certain is that there will be marvels each day for both of them, but only one person will have to polish the tarnish of years from his child-like wonder.

I will observe that there are still cars in Spain. “So Britton, why are YOU walking across Spain?!!”

Life comes full circle.

Peace Everyone. Pete

P.S. For those who have walked at least the last 100 km in a continuous journey to Santiago a reward awaits at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office. First, one must produce evidence that they have completed the requirements of the journey. This is done in the form of a Pilgrim’s Credential (“Credencial del Peregrino”) upon which the stamps from lodgings, restaurants, churches, etc. are acquired each day to prove the journey.

Second, the trekker/pilgrim (“Peregrino”) gives their reason for undertaking the journey. If for religious or spiritual reasons they are awarded the “Compostela”, suitable for framing.

If, however, the journey was undertaken for some other reason such as health, pursuing a physical challenge, or just checking off an item on one’s “bucket list”, then the award is in the form of a “Certificate of Distance”, also suitable for framing.

Thus, the question, “Why have you walked across Spain?”, is actually asked of and answered by each of the thousands of pilgrims arriving in Santiago each year.