Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Christmas Letter

2013 Christmas

Dear Family and Friends,

We hope this finds you celebrating the Christmas Season with blessings and joy.

This past year has been an interesting one. 

At this time last December, we were enjoying Edisto Beach State Park, in South Carolina. We spent the month of December there, taking advantage of a "snow bird" special and taking pleasure in walks along what the locals call the shell beach.

Sunset in SC, 2013

From South Carolina, we ventured into Florida, where we spent the first several nights of the New Year in Mike Roess State Park.

Mike Roess State Park, FL

We then proceeded to Largo, Florida where we spent two nights in a very cramped, Carefree Resorts Rainbow Village, before deciding that we should seek out a different park. We ended up at Encore's Vacation Village, also in Largo. We stayed there for a month, and really enjoyed our time there.

Sunset in Largo, FL

Our site at vacation Village in Largo, FL

Greyla, enjoying our site at Vacation Village

In early February we had reservations at Fort Pickens, in Gulf Islands National Seashore. On our way there, we stayed at another couple of Florida State Parks, Manatee and Fallingwaters, both of which we enjoyed.
Sunset at Manatee State Park, FL

Fallingwaters State Park, FL

The resident work camper at Fort Pickens

Sunset in February at Fort Pickens

Raymond and Greyla along a trail in Fort Pickens

We were looking forward to our two weeks at Fort Pickens. We had stayed there for only a few days the previous year and were excited to have gotten reservations for the the oceanside campground. While at Fort Pickens we were planning our trip to the National Seashore in Texas, as well as our plans to travel the Rio Grande valley and stay in Big Bend National Park. 

On Valentine's Day, I called my brothers & Dad. I wanted to wish my Daddy a happy valentine's day. Instead, my brother shared the information that Daddy had been sick for a couple of days. The old guy was refusing to go to the ER. So, after talking to both my brother & my Dad, it was agreed that Daddy would go to the ER immediately. The days that followed included phone calls explaining that Daddy would be having emergency surgery for a hernia repair and possible bowel obstruction. Then came the news that upon admission, when he had a chest x-ray, there was a mass discovered in his lung. After surgery, they would proceed to scan and biopsy the mass. Days later it was discovered that the mass was a small cell cancerous lung tumor.

My reaction to this news was to travel back to Pittsburgh, which Raymond supported. We left Fort Pickens on a Wednesday morning in late February, heading north on I-75. We spent one night in Chattanooga, where it was cold, but not nearly as cold as it would become as we headed farther north. Through Ohio, we were trying to keep ahead of a projected storm. We slept in rest areas and truck stops for a few hours at a time, all the time continually checking weather, so as to be ahead of the predicted snow.

We arrived in Pittsburgh in the predawn hours of Friday morning. The only Campground open at that time of the year was Mountain Top, in Tarentum. Since it seemed unlikely they would be open at 4AM, we choose to hang out in the local Walmart till around 9AM.

The view from our dinette, of Mountain Top Campground, Tarentum, PA

Daddy in Feb 2013, shortly after his release from the hospital

JeanMarie, Feb 2013

Jimmy, Feb 2013

Joe, AKA Vinny, Feb 2013

We stayed at Mountain Top until the first of May, when another campground, Indian Brave, in Harmony opened. In the meantime, Daddy was slowly recovering from his surgery and hospitalization, and seeing an oncologist. Daddy had decided that he didn't want to aggressively treat his cancer, so his visits to the oncologist were only every 6-8 weeks to track the growth of the tumors. I spent several days weekly at my brother's house, with Daddy. In June, he asked me: "Why are you still here?" 

Sunrise over Zelienople, PA at Indian Brave Campground

So, in July, we moved to Raymond's brother and sister-in-law's driveway for three weeks. Then we planned a trip through upstate New York, into Vermont and New Hampshire, and then into Maine. Our adventure was to culminate in a return to Ron and Barb's driveway for about 10 days before we headed of to Florida for 5 months. Our stop was in order for me to visit assorted doctors for my yearly tune up, and to celebrate Daddy's 88th birthday.

 Mya, the dog at our neighboring lot at Lazy Days Campsites, NY

Sunset in upstate NY

The Amber Waves Band, a full timing family on wheels

Driving thru the Adirondacks

Looking down on Lake Ontario from Evangola State Park, NY

Old Selkirk Light, NY

Driving along Lake Champlain in Vermont

Ray & Grey at  Lake Champlain

Ray being a really good sport on the Moose sighting excursion in Gorham, NH
Finally meeting Anick after being online friends for many years

Finally meeting Prin, after being online friends for many years
West Quoddy Light, ME

Lobster, cooked and delivered to our campsite at Sunset Point Campground, Harrington, ME
Portland Head Light, ME

Happy 88th, Daddy!

However,one of my doctors' appointments was with a surgeon regarding some issues I was having with my neck. My original plan was to put off surgery until the spring. However, as my symptoms progressed I realized that putting it off was no longer an option. 

Visiting with Nick and Anamaria before my neck surgery

JM, apparently on drugs, after surgery :)

JM's surgical scar

However, this change did not sit well with Raymond. He was entirely sick of being in Pittsburgh and the prospect of being stuck there for at least another two months was extremely distasteful to him. In the end, however, he made the sacrifice, and I cannot begin to express my gratitude to him, Ron and Barb, my brother Vinny, and my friend Laura. All of them made the process bearable.

Vinny driving JM & Ray along the turnpike to go visit Daddy

Nicky on Nov 10, coming to visit JM
The view from Ron and Barb's on 11/26/2013

Brothers, Michael & Vinny and niece, Hannah 11/28/13

Our dear friend, Laura on 11/28/13

My Daddy, Bill Balkovec, and me, JM, on 11/28/13

Jm & Raymond on 11/28/13

Greyla on 11/28/13

Brother, Dave, on 11/28/13

So, finally, on November 29, we left the Kleppick homestead, headed to Florida. 

We are currently ensconced in Crystal River, Florida, until March 1. 

It was a trying year, yet one in which we discovered, once more, that God is in control. For that, I am grateful.

Raymond, Greyla and I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.  


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