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This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.

The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.

Merry Christmas 2009

I write this letter sobered and somewhat saddened, and yet greatful for the gifts of life. So, I continue with my traditional holiday biopic.

My mother, Lorene, died on January 17 of this year. She was 95 the previous October. I was with her when she died, and her children were resigned that it was indeed her time to depart this planet. I owe her so much in so many ways, and I do miss very much our regular phone conversations and occasional visits. I also take this occasion to thank my sister, brother and their spouses for all they have done to provide mom with excellent care throughout her long life and especially in the last few declining years.

Two other aspects of this year's life have been exceptionally difficult, so I might as well get the bad news out of the way. My dear friend of 30 years, Gil Fisher, somewhat mysteriously, developed an ataxia that progressed during the year, and finally took him from us on September 14. I was very much involved with Gil's care the last two months. He was much beloved at Trinity Episcopal, where there wasn't any job he hadn't put his efforts into. We mourn his loss.

Stephen also has had a series of very challenging health issues. First a hip replacement in May, then a drug reaction in June, complications, and now lower back degeneration, pain and mobility problems. Still, we are comfortable here at home, and have been able to develop a good life around the challenges. I am blessed with the strength and determination to assist him through this difficult time. It has been especially hard for Stephen to give up his voice performance both in the River City Pops and the Trinity Choir, as well as his lessons.

We pray that Stephen regains some of his favorite activities in the future. We are indeed thankful for Stephen's medicare and supplementary health insurance, and the generally fine string of nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and home health care professionals. Doctors, B-, health care support, A+. (That last sentence contains about 10 paragraphs of bewailing.)

Stephen and Jim in Lacrosse, WI in August of 2009.

I must quickly add that we have been able to continue some of the things we enjoy, a bit of theatre, concerts, opera, here and there. And we did manage to take a week's vacation by car in Wisconsin in August, when we saw friends and explored for the first time Door County. Unfortunately, we have not seen Stephanie, Dawn and Zander for over a year, although we stay in touch through phone, email, and now facebook. Alexander, Stephen's grandson, continues to please, amaze and challenge his moms, and we love hearing from and about him.

This year I have also been dedicated to home improvement, and yes, Tim Allen has always been an inspiration to and a chuckle for me. Starting in January, we designed and I executed a renovation of the den on the second floor. Except for the new carpet and drapes, I did all the painting (11' 8" ceilings) and reinstalled the home theatre. Stephen also has an automatic chair that he much depends on, and we have a new couch.

Then starting in August, and using some money left to me by Lorene, we are completely redoing the bathroom, and making it more accessible too. Brian Smith, our contractor, has just been great. We have a new shower, sit-in tub, vanity and mirror, beautiful tile, and now my job is to paint the upper walls.

Since this is the season of hope and forgiveness, I will refrain from any refrain of political or moral discontent, and instead, with my dear Stephen, wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I also offer my sincere appreciation for all of you who have stayed in touch and/or helped in one way or another. It has made all the difference.

Jim Andris, and for Stephen Nichols