9 years ago
and vulgar invective that I'd rather skip, but I may still have a
few friends here from back in the day so I'm posting this update.
Movin' on here means movin' on after spouse loss. I lost my Mary back
in 2011. Some will recall my postings, and some were grateful for
them as they provided some insight to what they might expect if they
are so unfortunate as to not die first.
I really am movin' on. It's been a long low crawl up a hill of sharp
rocks, that's how it goes. Grieving for a lost beloved spouse is
never "done" but we can learn to live with the loss and find joy in
life going forward. Some never do; it requires more than a little
determination to avoid getting "stuck" in grief.
I wrote this for a group that very recently spun off of the grief
support group that we all attended. We're calling it the movin' on
group, a group of fellow travelers that have become very good friends
and are now far more interested in pursuit of growth, joy and fun than
in sharing tears and sad stories. The latter is absolutely necessary
and hugely healing for those in early grief, but we do NOT want to
"tell our stories" yet again, nor hear more sad stories of others.
Been there, done that, we're ready to move on. There don't seem to be
any groups for those ready to move on so we're creating one.
We have expressed interest and willingness to "be there" for newbies.
Rejected: either we're in the fold or we're not. Roger that! Bye!
We were told by the lead facilitator of the grief group, and her
psychologist advisor, that we will fail because other "movin' on"
groups that have been attempted always failed.
Perhaps it hasn't been tried before by a group like ours. We don't
think we'll fail.
I make no attempt at brevity here, so feel free to skip if it is
uninteresting after a paragraph or twenty lines; I won't be offended.
It is a movin' on story, a minor triumph and milestone for me that
has me grinning. I hope y'all find a grin here too.
I have always enjoyed tinkering, inventing and making things,
particularly working with metal: welding, machining, etc. Metal
always seemed challengingly intractable so I enjoyed accquiring skills
and tools with which to impose my will upon it and alter it to suit my
purpose. One very useful metalworking skill is welding. In about
1975 I started accquiring tools and skills, teaching myself as I went
along. One very useful welding technology is known as TIG which
stands for Tungsten-Inert-Gas. The source of (intense) heat is an
electrical arc between a tungsten electrode and the workpiece. The
molten metal in the region of the arc is protected from oxidation by a
flow of inert gas, helium or argon. A very neat thing about TIG, once
known as "Heliarc", is that it makes welding of aluminum easy to do.
I was thrilled that day in the late '80's when I finally found a used
TIG machine that I could afford. I'd been looking for years. I set
out to teach myself TIG welding. Part of the joy was (and is) the
journey; learning and improving at a useful skill and enjoying an
ability to make or repair metal things that I had previously been
unable to do. That always seemed more useful to me than pursuit of
excellence (or even marginal competence) in playing golf. Life is
full of little surprises.
All was going nicely -- until, after a heart attack and quintuple
bypass, my cardiolgist decided that I should have an ICD (implanted
cardioverter defibrillator). Yeah, OK, whatever -- until the
pre-implant briefing about a week before the procedure, when the
rather brusque electrophysiologist who would do the implant informed
me that by the way, I must stay away from powerful magnets -- and any
form of arc welding.
WHOA! SAY WHUT?
He looked at me oddly. He said that if the ICD were erroniously
tripped it would feel like being kicked in the chest by a mule. I was
inclined to doubt that said little twerp --uh, esteemed Dr who would
be operating on me and messing with my beating heart -- had ever
been kicked in the chest by a mule, but I managed to skip mentioning
that. I said that welding was something that I did and wanted to
continue doing. He looked at me like I was nuts. "Are you a weldor?"
"No, I'm retired" "So, is welding a quality of life issue with you,
or what?" The obviously expected answer probably was "well, no, I
guess not". But I thought about that for a bit, then responded,
"yes, I think it is. It's part of what I retired early to have time
to do and greatly enjoy doing".
His response was, essentially: "too bad. You will have to give that
I was not inclined to give up quite so easily. I had one week
between that meeting and the scheduled procedure to learn what I
could, so I got busy! I learned from some incredibly helpful and
caring people at Boston Scientific what technical parameters about
arc welding might affect an ICD, in quantified and measurable terms. I
got a phone call from one of the top technical people at Boston
Scientific, who was at the top of a ski lift in Colorado at the time,
who said, "I heard that you have a question I might be able to
answer". Tawk about caring support!
I designed and made instrumentation, and had one lab instrument flown
in from a good friend in PA. Overnight air shipping was $150 each
way. I didn't care. I did measurements and tests. My dear late wife
Mary helped me as I sat on a lab stool, instrumented like a crash
dummy, doing research in my shop. She'd said that she would take a
course and learn TIG welding if I was unable to do it, and I knew she
meant it and would have been very good at it -- but dammit, I WANNA
DO MY OWN WELDING!
I found that I'd be OK with other forms of arc welding but things
looked a bit iffy with TIG. Darn!
When they wheeled me in to the O.R. on a gurney, there was a crowd at
the door to the O.R.: several physicians and several technical reps
from both Boston Scientific and Medtronic. They said I'd become a bit
famous around there because of my determined inquiries and
crash-project research. I'd challenged the paradigm from "you cannot
and must not do arc welding" to discovering how I might do arc
welding safely -- and I made my research methodology and data freely
available in public domain.
I subsequently found that, though I'd previously used my TIG at least
twice a week, I was able to get along without it OK most days. Part
of that was that I'd determined that other forms of welding I knew how
to do and was/am equipped to do would be unquestionably safe if
practiced with due diligence to certain precautions. That worked most
Then Mary unexpectedly died and my life blew apart as only we fellow
travelers can even begin to understand. I didn't care about doing
stuff in the shop anymore. Just getting out of bed was a major
milestone some days; some days I didn't bother to do so. We all know
the drill. I was surprised to notice a few days ago that I'd made NO
drawings in 2012. (Mary died in 3/11) I have annual folders of
drawings going back to 1999 and old ones preceeding that, but there is
no 2012 drawing folder on any of my computers. I guess I was
focussed on other activities and explorations in preparation and
process of "movin' on", discovering my "new normal" and "reinventing
myself" (Urp, retch, barf, gag, I HATE those undefined and diaphonous
Then, recently, a project came up that said to me, "Foreman, it is
now high time for you to find out if you can again enjoy using your
TIG kit and skills as part of your movin' on, or just politely lay
down and die". I'd thought I might be able to do that safely if I
wore a garment that would shield me from electrical fields but I'd not
had the courage to try it. My measurements back in 2010 showed that
I'd be OK with the magnetic fields, but the electrical fields near my
manly chest from my TIG exceeded what the top technical people at BSC
regarded as safe. Gotta pay attention to that, but any conductive
enclosure theoretically should provide a "Faraday shield" against
electric fields. No data extant proving that but no expert opinion
disagreed. Movin' right along, Foreman en pointe here...
I'd found some conductive cloth from which a shielding garment might
be crafted, and Mary (accomplished quilter and exquisite crafter with
fabric) said that she'd sew me such a garment with one of her seven
sewing machines. I know it was on "her list" because I found
sketches in her sewing room. Hey, we were together for a day shy of
30 years, I probably had a few projects I "owed" her when I got
around to it. We'd made a point and a priority of enjoying each
other every single day. That was job 1 even before my heart attack
(and recovery) and her later terminal illness, right up until the day
before her unexpected (to me) departure. I am so glad that we did
that! We were a small team all the way.
The project is rather mundane, but it purely hollered "TIG" to me,
possibly because I've "moved on" to the point where I was ready to go
for it. The job: repairing an aluminum sliding screen door, patio
sized, from cabin out to deck overlooking lake.
I was quite happy to hire the rescreening done; I HATE repairing
screen doors. Been there, done that, happy to hire it done. But the
Bozo at Wagner Hardware in Glenwood barfed up my patio sliding screen
door when I had them re-screen it. After he'd thoroughly botched the
job, he wouldn't make it right saying "your door is junk!" Well
yeah, thanks to him it was in kinda tough shape. He'd managed to
bend or break internal corner pieces. Idiot! I'd attempted to
design another repair approach that required no welding, and even
machined a bunch of parts to do it, but subequently discovered that it
ain't gonna work --and now that I must remove and scrap that bungler's
screen anyway, I may as well take the door apart and do it right.
The inserts are made of .049" aluminum; pretty thin stuff. I guess
that'd be about 3/64", about like a cheap aluminum cookie sheet. They
had welded miter joints but Bozo of Glenwood managed to break the
welds. They were rather thin welds, sufficient to get the door sold
I made mending plates of .090" aluminum, considerably more substantial
Hokay, moment of truth: do I fasten it with rivets -- or man up and
TIG it? I don' have no steenkin' rivets, and I need the back side to
be smooth as a baby's bottom.
I went to the shop and sat on the stool by the TIG welder. No
observer would ever have imagined the thoughts going thru my head: "oh
shit or dear, Foreman, do you really think this is a good idea?" "Yes,
Foreman, it is a good idea. Life is partly about TIG welding, so
suck it up and get to it." "Wull wull wull, gulp....." and so on.
I draped myself with my conductive cloth serape and Faraday shield.
Note to self: need a snap or something on the back of the serape.
Mary was going to sew me a vest from the material but she never got
around to it. Suitably prepped, I started rooting around in my
little tackle box of tungstens and collets and whut-all; gotta
prepare, right? Geez, do I use lanthanated or zirconiated tungsten
on aluminum -- it's been almost 4 years! Maybe I should go look it
up on the web ... ("Foreman, quit farting around. You know it's
zirconated for allie, lanthanated for steel, find some self-confidence
and get to it ya jackwagon!") Thank you R. Lee Ermie, roger that,
getting with it.
Got everything all set up: 1/16" tungsten oughtta be about right for
this job. Maybe about 125 amps. I haven't totally forgotten
everything, I guess. I clamped and jigged the job.
Eventually the moment of truth became inevitable. I opened the valve
on the argon bottle. The supply-side gage came up to 1000 PSI; lotsa
plenty inert gas, no excuse there. I turned on Mr. Miller the
welder, heard that familiar hummmmm as it eagerly awaited my bidding.
My foot hovered over the foot pedal current control. I did a
preflight check of the controls. Preflight, is that an ominous
intuition, oh shit oh dear? Is there a mule lurking behind Mr.
Miller waiting to kick me in the chest?
I stepped on the pedal lightly so the gas could purge the lines. That
turns on the high-voltage high-frequency start. No problem, I'm still
on the stool smiling smugly. YAY! The HF arc-start is what produces
the electric fields I was concerned about so I was grinning.
Aw, hell, let's go! I went.
Disuse and advancing age have eroded my skill a bit in the years since
I last did any TIG welding, but I haven't forgotten how to do it.
These certainly aren't "pretty" welds, but they're definitely sound
welds and they're in a place where they won't show anyway.
The next three pieces will be considerably better. The last one
might be a work of beauty to thrill the hawrt of a weldor. (Ed note:
a welder is a machine, a weldor is a person who does welding) I used
to be pretty good at this, perhaps I can be again.
I'm a happy camper either way, movin' on.