The purpose of our Phoenix roundtrip was not to give me the chance to photograph southwestern sunrises and sunsets at the turning of the year. Nor to photograph my kids, trains, nor saguaros. The photo opportunities were side effects: unexpected but pleasurable.
We were driving to the Phoenix area to spend some of the holidays with Phyllis’s parents, Barbara and Kenneth D. “Ken” Hopper. December 30th was also Ken’s 80th birthday.
The photo above shows all of us on Ken’s birthday: Barbara, Ken, my family (Harold, Phyllis, Julian, Nicky, and Mathew), and Phyllis’s brother Chris’s family (Chris, DeJonghe, David, and Steven).
Ken belongs to the “greatest generation.” He survived landing on the beach at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and a stint as a German prisoner of war. He was stationed in Barrow, Alaska for several years in the 1950s and has tales to tell of Polar Bears and surviving arctic winter.
Ken’s own elegant and moving words (from Ken and Barbara’s 2005 Seasons Greeting letter) tell why it was important for us to be with him this year:
About 2½ years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thirty-eight radiation treatments and injections of Lupron [which continue] slowed the cancer but did not eliminate it. A few months ago there was evidence that the cancer had got very “busy” and is now much more extensive. … Where this will go is very uncertain. Barbara has had much additional work placed upon her and has been wonderful. No greater love could I ask. Consider that I am 80 years old, have had good health most of my life, have had a loving, caring wife, two great children, a job I enjoyed and sincere, good friends all over the world. What more could a person want? I have great faith in God and know His will will prevail. I thank all of those who have included me in their prayers, and those who have sent their good wishes. I love you all.
Despite his illness, Ken keeps active with his ham radio station and patrolling his property in his deluxe golf cart. He’s shown here giving a tour of the Rancho Hopper with Barbara, Phyllis, Julian, and Mathew (Nicky’s there but you can’t see him!):
On my very enjoyable golf cart ride, Ken showed me the signs warning that we were entering a rattlesnake den area. As he said with a chuckle and a twinkle in his eye, “The signs may even be true, and they certainly cut down on trespassers!”
So three cheers for Ken! When my time comes, may I accept it with such grace, and be able to look back as happily on the blessings of my life. Happy birthday, birthday boy: