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Mychal Wilmes: Will the old stick in the mud get itself unstuck?

October 9, 2018

A recent Mayo Family Clinic Kasson appointment included a surprise trip to Nepal, a nation uncomfortably wedged between Pakistan and India and coveted by both.

The journey began when the young doctor mentioned he had just returned from an educational exchange that included a Nepal hospital. He shared photographs and talked about the experience before our attention shifted to arthritic hips and possible treatment.

A cortisone shot has the potential to relieve pain almost immediately, and its effectiveness might last for a few weeks or even a couple of years. Cortisone’s effectiveness eventually would end and leave a hip replacement as the next treatment. The issue will be revisited, but until then, I will put up with what I have been putting up with.

I returned home wanting to learn more about Nepal. The Encyclopedia International, a haven for a curious mind before the internet, was of little use because of its mid-1960s publication date. Nepal is landlocked and dominated by the Himalaya Mountain range. Its Mount Everest was conquered first by John Hunt and Edmund Hillary in 1953. (It was a big deal then, but Everest since has been climbed so many times environmentalists say discarded items have polluted the mountainside.)

The nation’s secular government balances the interests of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths while struggling to make financial ends meet.

I’ve never stopped at Nepal, despite becoming a world traveler at a young age. My wanderlust began when Mother brought home a colorful globe after redeeming a Green Stamp book or two. The index finger that stopped the spinning globe pinpointed the country on my itinerary.

It wasn’t exact happenstance the index finger most often stopped at East and West Germany. The divided nation had become ground zero during the Cold War. The communists sought to force West Berlin to submit by blockading the roads leading to it. The American-led Berlin airlift delivered tons of food and medicine and the blockade failed.

The Berlin Wall came to symbolize the difference between freedom and tyranny.

A grandpa whom I never knew had come to Minnesota from Baden Baden, a beautiful area of forests, streams and lakes in southwestern Germany. The ship that brought him across the Atlantic Ocean docked in New York City and Grandpa made his way west with all his possessions in a trunk. Sister Jean has the trunk and a few German-language newspapers he received from back home.

I would like, if it were possible, to ask him why he left his native land, how it felt to leave the comfort of the known for the unknown and if he ever thought about going back. In the absence of knowing, poetic license is appropriate. He might have left because of a painful failed romance or because of a foolish petty crime. Mother spoke a little low German and talked little of Grandpa.

I had the opportunity to visit when daughter Sarah’s German language class headed to Europe and chaperones were needed. The itinerary included Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria.

I decided against it with great regret. It was, Sarah said, a trip of a lifetime. I will not miss the next reasonable opportunity.

I also would like to visit Ireland, mostly because of “The Quiet Man,’’ a John Ford-directed movie masterpiece starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and memorable character actors. Most thought the movie might be a big-money bust, but it has become a classic known for the longest fight scene ever filmed.

To that end, Kathy has acquired “Ireland’s Wild Coast,’’ a PBS production that describes itself as a “unique and personal journey along one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world.’’

I haven’t watched it yet. Perhaps belts can be tightened enough that we can afford to go. An old stick in the mud is most comfortable stuck in the mud. I just might give the globe a good spin and see where the index finger takes me.

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