to ..

                         Dick John’s place

It's August, 2013, and I'm writing from my home these days in North Richland Hills, Texas.  A couple of the kids. Ric and Fran, took me under their wings a few months ago when I couldn't pull out of the tailspin I went into when Ramona died. 

She's been gone for a year and a half now, and while the fifty years we spent together will inform my days for as long as I live, the kids love and support have shown me exactly how to move on. These days, the sound of her name makes me smile. And, much as I miss her, I still thank God each day that she doesn't hurt anymore..

I'm 83 now; there can't be just a whole lot more of me left. But, life is good and I'm in better shape mentally, physically and emotionally than I've been in years.

My email's the same and Amy and I would love to hear from you.

dick at dickjohn dot com

Ramona and I lived in Oklahoma City when we were married in 1962. The  years that followed found us in Pittsburg, then Los Angeles. In 1967, we traveled to Houston, where we put down some roots, signed a 30-year mortgage and then took all three decades to pay it off; longer than either of us had ever lived in one place before. We watched Houston grow from a big Texas town to cosmopolitan, world-class city. We loved the place, and our dozens of friends; it was home and the thought we might someday leave never entered our mind.

Then 9/11 happened. And, three months later, we'd not only thought about leaving; we'd left. Moved. North, to Crowley, on the south edge of Fort Worth, where we'd be able to spend serious time with the three of the four kids who'd lived in North Texas for years.

909 Rose Street in little Crowley was a happy choice. It was only 20 or 30 minutes, instead of six hours and 30 minutes, from the kids.

It was a sea change, of course, from Houston's size and pace, and though we adapted very quickly to our new, slower life style, which we absolutely savored, it came with a price. We had so enjoyed the years in Houston, and our wonderful friends down there ..

.. and we never stopped missing them.

Nobody gets it all, though, and being within easy "come on over .." distance from the kids and their families has been and remains a Godsend; the right move at the right time.


The years on Rose Street were, for the most part, busy and happy; the time passed quickly. It also marked the beginning of Ramona's steady decline.

One day in January, 2007, suddenly, the Rose Street life required more than we had to give and it was time to retire.

We found just the place, less than an hour up the road, with small, duplex cottages that somebody else maintained,

and, if needed, a nursing and rehab facility right on the grounds.

As it turned out, we needed them much sooner than expected. Within a few months, I could no longer physically provide the care Ramona now needed and she was moved into the nursing home.

We were devastated. We put the best face on it we could, but with the rarest of exceptions, traffic at a nursing home is one-way.

She was soon transferred to hospital where she spent months in and out of a coma, finally undergoing a procedure to remove pressure on her brain. The doctors said later she apparently suffered several small strokes during this period. Finally, back in the nursing home, she had lost the use of her left arm and still couldn't as much as change her position in bed without assistance. Pain management became a major issue at this point.

With my impeccable sense of timing, this was the time I picked to get very ill, myself. It began one day, when, right out of the blue, I was stricken with sudden severe, abdominal pains. A couple of hours later, a surgeon discovered that my intestines were all "twisted up." He had dutifully un-twisted and re-sectioned, but I didn't come around properly and three days later he went back for another go. This time he discovered a new hole in my gut, apparently caused during surgery number one, and he found a tenacious staph infection in full bloom. Now we were dealing with what was considered serious trouble. I remained in hospital, in isolation and on multiple IVs, for almost two months.

Fortunately, I didn't become one of the 300,000 who die each year of just such infections they caught while in the nation's hospitals. But recovery from this event was a disappointment; I lost 35 pounds during the experience and my new permanent weight remains a very skinny 125. I cannot walk unassisted for more than a few feet and now depend on a powered scooter to conduct my occasional business around town. I still have no idea how my insides got so mixed up; one doctor told me it was a common occurrence among horses...

We lost two canine members of our family while Ramona was ill.

Greta, who was showing her years at the end, died in the late Fall of 2010. One day, she simply lay down and couldn't get up. I couldn't lift her. The vet said her legs and hips, weakened by dysplasia over the last couple of years, along with the pain, would only get worse. This sweet, dearest friend and constant companion deserved better, and we let her go.

In the early Fall of 2011 Jake was ill for several weeks. Fluid in his chest blocked x-ray pictures that might have determined what was wrong. Those fluids, which returned almost immediately each time we drained them, also made it very difficult for him to breathe while he was lying down.

There came a morning when I awoke to find him leaning against the wall, no longer able to breathe at all while lying on the floor.

A couple of hours later, while my old pal munched on one handful of bacon and I rubbed behind his ears with the other, and despaired, Doc Warren gently sent him on his way, too.

For more than half a century, our dogs enriched our lives beyond measure. If you've been thus blessed, you understand our grief at their deaths. As Will Rogers said, "I don't know if dogs go to Heaven, but if they don't, I want to go where they do go."

I don't know if Mr. Rogers meant it ... but Ramona did ...

.. and so do I.

I'd be out of business were it not for a scooter and trailer mentioned


While she lived, they meant I could not only visit Ramona, but the grocery, Wal-Mart; whatever a day served up. Until they died, the scooter also meant Jake, Greta and I could do Fort Woof, the local dog park, several times a week.

I've had several surgeries during my lifetime and was always back to 100% within a few months. But, as someone said, ".. this time, it ain't gonna happen. You're 83 years old .. I also am dealing with emphysema. Have been for years, and it isn't going to get any better, either.

Jake, especially, loved riding in the car and being "scootered" on an extra-long leash on those days he wasn't running free as the wind at the dog park. He and I were really tight at the end, ever since his lifelong pal Greta died so soon after "Mom" had moved into the nursing home. Until he died, he joined me each day on at least one of my visits with her.

Jake and Greta would expect, knowing Ramona and me as they did, that another of their kind would soon fill the empty place they left.  They would be right.

Her name is Amy, a little orphan who can tell you first-hand how important it is to finally find yourself in the right place at the right time!

Amy's another rescue, like Jake. And, she's a survivor. Like Jake, who was scheduled for euthanasia at the Burleson shelter, Amy was running out of time at the shelter in Fort Worth. Nancy and 'Retta spotted her one day while quietly keeping their eyes open for a new dog for Dad, and next thing I knew, she and I were getting acquainted. She was so ready for family of her own again .. and now she has one.

Amy and I hit it off and I don't know what I'd do without her now.

(And, the feeling seems to be mutual!)

There's another happy note to end on, an event that Ramona so anticipated, but didn't live to see.

Son Mike has returned to North Texas and settled in Fort Worth.


He arrived just in time to join us, me, brother Rick and sisters Judy and Nancy,  for this year's Father's Day. It was the first time in 24 years that we'd all been together for the occasion. To say that his decision to return south, after years and years in far off northern Michigan, was "welcome," would be, hands down, the understatement of the year!

That's enough for one sitting. If you have the time, and are so inclined, I'd sure like to hear from you .. I’m right here, at

dick, at "dickjohn dot com"