Category Archives: Family & Friends
The people in our lives that make everything worth it and possible.
Here we are, the final day of thanks for the month of November. I think every day, in my normal life, I say a mental and emotional thank you for something… the way my honey laughs, the excited way the pups greet me every time I walk in a room, the smiles of my grandsons, the beauty of the sky or the day or the soul of a friend. I appreciate things. Even so, this has been a lovely exercise in purposed thankfulness. Being cognizant of what I have in my life. I have a lot.
30. I am thankful for love. Love of all kinds. Love from friends, family, my pups, the grandsons, the kids, my Mom, my siblings, and most of all my honey. I am blessed to have so much love in my life. More love and more joy from that love than I could ever dream possible. I feel it like a wave sometimes, immense and overwhelming in a totally good way, and other times it’s presence is like a vast and endless calm sea supporting the weight of this tiny ship. Most importantly, I feel it. Always. I’m lucky, fortunate, grateful, thankful, honored, blessed, graced, and humbled by the magnitude of it. I am loved, and I love. It’s beautiful.
23. I’m thankful for my grandparents. Bill and Martha were the best. They gave us all, and there are a lot of us, such a great sense of family and fun and strength and curiosity and acceptance and love. I’ve written about them here and here and here and so many other times on this blog before, but I can’t say enough about how thankful I am to have come from, and been able to spend time with, such amazing people. I see them everyday in my Mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and myself. We are their legacy, and if you ask me, they did good. I feel them every day and I’m so thankful for that.
The photo below is courtesy of my uncle, Tom.
19. I’m thankful for the kids. I never had my own children. Never really wanted to, until I met K. By then we were old enough that we decided having them wouldn’t work. Lucky for me K already had children. They were grown, but she had them. It meant, and means, that I get to be a step-parent to some great kids. When I met K her daughter was in college. She visited in the summers and we went to visit at various times of the year. In the years since she graduated, met her husband, moved to England with him, started having babies, and moved back to the states. K’s son graduated from college and moved to Japan, lived there for several years, and is now back in the states. We live near K’s daughter, her husband (who I also feel is a kid to us), and the grand boys, and we get to see K’s son when we visit Portland or he visits here. I’m lucky. Before K there was just me, my family, and my friends. It was a good life, I enjoyed it. But now, wow. My life is so much richer, so much more full and lovely because I get to spend time with the kids and the grandsons. We enjoy them, have fun spending time with them, have had big adventures with them, and we love them tremendously.
12. I’m thankful for my friends, near and far, who are the best people I could hope to know. Each of you has brought such depth and joy and fun and meaning to my life. I’m blessed, honored, lucky, and humbled beyond measure by the quality of my friendships. I have so much love for you and am so thankful for the love you’ve always given me.
Here we are, day eight.
8. I’m thankful for my second family. When K and I got together I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be gaining a whole new set of people to call my own. People who in turn would call me their own. People who made me a part of the family and have accepted and loved me ever since. They are amazing and I’m so fortunate to have them in my life.
Day seven and these feelings of being thankful are still going strong.
7. I’m thankful for my brother, Kevin. We’ve been through so much together. No two people have the same experiences he and I share. But more than that, he’s a fantastic brother, and a gentle soul. He’s also famously the best hugger in the family. In fact, when someone gives someone else a big hug they call it giving a Kevin. Funny, but true. He’s my partner in dorkiness and has one of the best belly laughs I’ve ever heard.
I didn’t call yesterday. Since 1999 I’ve either been there or called. She was not at home for the weekend. I didn’t want to interrupt her fun. Now — I feel bad. Or better yet, maybe not bad but sort of off about it.
1998… Mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. She’d had the lump, the biopsy, and then the news no one wants to hear. I was there when that diagnosis came. It was storming that day. I remember it vividly. What followed is what typically follows. Surgery, then chemo, and finally radiation. I was there for the surgery and then after for a few days, then again for her first chemo, and on and off throughout. Of course I was, she’s my mom and I adore her.
My mom, as I’ve written here before, has so much strength and grace. She also has the best smile, the warmest heart, and the most mellow of dispositions. Not that she doesn’t occasionally get angry or frustrated, she just handles that stuff pretty well most of the time. We’ve experienced so much together, she, my brother, and I. The three musketeers in a way. Lots has happened in our lives. I of course remember all the tough stuff, as a person does, but I also have memories of moment after moment of laughing until I cried with her, with them. Mom has a great sense of humor and loves to laugh. She knows how to be silly. How to have fun. I think I got some of that from her and I’m so grateful I did. We have even managed to laugh and smile our way through some hard things. That’s part of her strength. I admire her so much for it.
Every year, on diagnosis day, I’ve shown up at her house with brownies and mocha almond fudge ice cream. Both particular favorites of hers. She loves her chocolate. I’ve shown up and lit a candle commemorating the number of years since the diagnosis. An anniversary of sorts. A victory dance. The year she went to Hawaii with my sister I colluded with my sister to provide the goods, I called, and we sang to her together on the phone. Since my move to Illinois I’ve colluded with my brother to provide the goods, I call, and we sing to her. K has been a part of this since she’s been in my life. It’s been something that’s always been important for me to do. The funny thing is that Mom usually forgets. She’s busy with her busy life and when I’ve shown up, or my brother has provided the goods and K and I have called her, she is surprised that it’s that time again. She’s not a person to dwell. Something else I admire.
So yesterday was the anniversary. I believe it was 15. A biggie. Every year we get to feel that celebration a little more because it’s another year she’s cancer free and here and living a great life. I kept thinking of her yesterday. K and I were out exploring a nearby state park, new to us, and even though we were having an adventure, Mom kept popping into my head. I knew she was up visiting some of her siblings this last weekend so I knew she was having fun, as they do together, and still I kept thinking of her. I’m blessed to have her. Blessed. I know this.
I contacted my brother a couple of days ago, just to check in with him about the whole thing, and was reminded she wasn’t going to be home until today. She’d told me she wasn’t, but I didn’t really put the two together — she’s not going to be home and it’s the anniversary. But there it is, there it was. So I didn’t call. I should have. Though knowing Mom she won’t be upset and she probably didn’t even remember what with everything that was going on up with the family. I’m sure she enjoying herself too much to remember it. My bro and I, during our email exchanges, planned on doing it today, when she gets home, which is fine and dandy. We’re not going to forget it all together, we just delayed slightly. I guess it’s OK. It is OK. It’s just that this was the first time I didn’t call or see her on the day. First time. But here we are, I remind myself, 15 years later and life has moved forward. Those facts in and of themselves are fantastic things. Moving forward, living life. All good. She’d say so. It is so. So I guess not calling is just part of that whole living life thing.
2013, yesterday… It wasn’t stormy out. In fact, it was beautiful out. Sunny, a fall-ish coolness in the air, but warm none the less. Leaves changing color, falling, crunchy under our feet. A beautiful day. What follows from here is what always follows… love, smiles, laughter, lots of hugging, talks, and more love. And, later today, brownies and mocha almond fudge ice cream. Victory.
Halloween, it’s nearly here. For me Halloween, though enjoyable (mostly for the candy and occasional small party), hasn’t been my number one holiday. I know people who live for this little snippet of time in the year and I love how they love it. I envy their enthusiasm for it. I wish I could share it. I think I’m just lazy.
Corn mazes (I finally went through one two years ago — made fun by the fact that we made it a game and had teams competing to see who could finish first — mine didn’t), costume parties, candy corn, leaves falling, spooky houses, apple bobbing, rascal ghosts and goblins, and carved pumpkins. My enjoyment of this particular holiday nowadays mostly consists of taking photos of the cute grand sons in their costumes and maybe going along to watch the trick or treating. Some years we leave our porch light on, like last year, so we can open the door multiple times and give out loads of candy to the nicely dressed munchkins, and some years we just leave the light off and hunker in. Our one Halloween decoration is a plastic pumpkin that is lit from within. We put it in the window and plug it in, then we take it back downstairs to the storage room. I know, I know — bah humbug.
When I was a kid Mom made our costumes. We were ghosts, Batman and Robin, and other regular stuff for kids of our generation. A favorite of mine was the year I wanted to be a Lucerne carton of milk. Yes, a carton of milk. Mom somehow made that happen. A box, some shoulder straps, and a nice paint job — I was milk. Quirky. It goes along with my personality I guess. When I was older, in college, I went to a party as the unknown guest. This was a play on the unknown comic, who was popular during that time. He used to wear a paper bag over his head when he did his shtick. I made a huge paper bag out of other paper bags and put it over my head. I had eye holes. The bag went to my waist. I remember it being hot in there. I hardly knew anyone at the party (big parties aren’t my thing, they make me kind of uncomfortable), and after being asked a few times “who is in there?” I took the thing off, went outside, and smoked cigarettes. Then I left. Once, when I was a kid, I think it was the year I was the milk, I went to a kid’s party. At some point during this party some girl hit me in the leg with a caramel apple. My pajamas got all sticky and gross. I ended up leaving. I guess parties and me really don’t mix. I can’t recall one I’ve been to, of a large size anyway, that was fun for me. Smallish gatherings with several friends or family, or both, no problem. Big parties with loads of people I don’t know — torture for me. Maybe it was the apple incident that threw me over the party edge. I’ll never know.
But enough of my insecurities and foibles, back to Halloween, the day of scares and dares and tricks and treats. There is a thing I loved, and love, about Halloween, other than it being in the fall, which rocks for me (I love fall), and that thing is my mom’s carved pumpkins. My mom — so creative. She has loads of creative talent, way more than she realizes. That woman can draw, play music, sew, fix most things around the house, and she can carve, or sculpt if you will. I always looked forward to what she would do and was always so proud of her creations. She didn’t think much of them, you know, just something she did, but man were they cool. We have loads of photos of them, year after year, and not one was the same. She used to do one or more every year and take them to my step-dad’s office or other places. She usually did at least one for us at the house as well. Those pumpkins had loads of personality. That’s what made them so great. Each was a definite character unto itself. They were amazing.
She doesn’t always carve them anymore, but when she does they are as spectacular as ever. I always bragged about them, and still do I must admit. My idea of carving is a very crude triangle-eyed, triangle-nose, jagged mouth sort of creation. Not very inventive or attractive. But Mom’s pumpkins — Wow. While mine appear to be some sort of freakish trick, Mom’s pumpkins were, and are, always a definite treat of the season.
Ever find yourself sitting in the garage after you’ve pulled in, unwilling to get out of the car because the song that’s playing is making you feel something?
That was me just now, and damn, it is great to be alive.
Every once in awhile I find myself, because of a song, or a video, or a thought, or something my honey or the grandsons or the dogs do, just loving being alive. And not just loving it, but being so overwhelmingly grateful that I’m here, enjoying whatever it is that’s making me feel so much at the moment, I cry.
There’s a story behind this. Yeah, yeah, isn’t there always?
The story is a tad long, but it’s mine, and today I’ve decided to tell it. Here goes…
At the end of 2009, November it was, life was moving along just fine. Work, home, friends, family, dogs… a good life. Then, unexpectedly and out out of the blue, my honey got sick. Not just sick, but really sick. Sick as in we went to urgent care, they said oh, you have pneumonia, and here … have a shot in your bum, and go home. Only to be called by an emergency room doctor a couple of hours later who, after reviewing the blood work, told me to get her in immediately. He even told me all the other hospitals along my route in case she lost consciousness. Seems she was sicker than we were originally told. She went into the cardiac critical care unit. One of her lungs was completely full and the other was half full of stuff. This was effecting her heart as well, hence the cardiac critical care unit. She was delirious, literally. I didn’t know what she was saying half the time and she didn’t know much of what was going on. The nurses repeatedly told me she was the sickest person on that unit. She was there in critical condition for a week, before they were able to downgrade her and then finally send her home. I stayed with her at the hospital, never leaving. How could I? She’s my everything. It was the worst week of my life. Which, after you hear the rest of the story will mean even more than it does right now.
Fast forward to May 2010, six months after her illness, and I started not feeling that great. Looking back now I wasn’t feeling great for a little while, but by the end of May 2010 I really wasn’t feeling good. On June 1st we had yet another fateful trip to urgent care. Some blood work results, and they sent me directly from urgent care to the hospital, by ambulance. Seems I was so sick by then that if I’d gotten in a car accident on the way to the hospital from urgent care I would’ve bled to death. The EMTs took me directly to the oncology unit. A couple of transfusions, a bone marrow biopsy (my first of three) with the results a couple of days later, and what we feared had come true. I had leukemia. I was told that it was the deadliest form, but if I lived through the first month, it was also the kind that was curable. Scary, but… good? Yes. Good. If I lived, I thought, I might live.
I spent a month in the hospital… multiple transfusions, multiple tests, and my first round of major chemotherapy. I say first because though I got out of the hospital a month to the day that I went in, I had to go back in later in July for a second round. I was in for a week that time. Then again in August, for another round and another week. And then, in September, I got to do my last round, which was only two pushes (the last of which was on my birthday), outpatient. Unfortunately I ended up getting a neutropenic fever after that round and ended up in the hospital again, for another week, anyway.
By October I was done with the major chemo and starting on maintenance treatment. Which would last for two years and entailed me taking rounds of ATRA (the thing I started right in the beginning that really saved my life), low dose chemo in the form of pills, and a shot, every week. I had to go into the infusion center every week for that shot. It was my life, our lives, for two years. My first, and diagnosing, oncologist, who was an amazing guy, told me that the maintenance treatment was akin to sweeping the floor. Done to make sure we got anything that could be lurking. I was all for it. My attitude, during the whole thing, was let’s go. Whatever we have to do, let’s do it.
In November, of that first year, I had the third of my bone marrow biopsies. They did a molecular scan and I was cancer free. No aberrant cells found at all. Yay! I cried, my honey cried, my Mom cried. I think I might have breathed deeply for the first time since the ordeal started.
Here I am, three and half years later, no longer on maintenance treatment, still getting blood work and seeing an oncologist every three months. Leukemia free. I will do this for another year or so before, once again, my protocol will change and I will only have to go once every six months, and then, at some point, maybe once a year. Who knows. I’m OK with whatever the schedule is.
I chronicled part of this journey here, on this blog. Not posting during that initial time in the hospital, except maybe right in the first few days, but posting here and there during the months that followed. I posted about things that happened, but I never really posted about how I felt.
Damn, I’m so glad to be alive.
I was, as maybe you can or can’t imagine, scared as hell. Scared doesn’t even cut it really. I was terrified. When you hear the words, “your body is chalk full of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia” everything sort of freezes. Slow motion starts and you look at your honey and your Mom and your brother who are all there with you and they all start crying at once. You look back at the doctor and he’s looking at you, and you say something that seems like it comes from you, and from someone else all at the same time. You say, “OK, what do we do, let’s go”. I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at all. Everyone else was crying, but I just felt this thing come alive in me. Will. An amazingly strong will. It was there, nuzzled right up against the terror. I would be so determined and yet I kept thinking about things like, oh god, if I die my honey will be alone, my Mom will lose a child (which is unthinkable), my brother will lose his sister, that my grandson won’t know me, that my honey won’t have any more adventures with me, that my dogs won’t understand if I don’t come home. I was so worried about everyone else. Interesting. I kept rehearsing the speech I would have with my Mom if it looked like I was going to take a bad turn. The speech where I tell her to be with my honey, to help her through losing me, to comfort each other. I wanted to live, I was fighting to live, but I also had to prepare myself mentally for the other thing that could happen.
I went through some awful things while I was sick. After the first round of chemo, while I was still in the hospital, I got so sick I don’t remember much, thank goodness. I had to be helped to the bathroom (by my honey or my mom), someone (my honey or my mom) had to shower me, I would throw up and have diarrhea at the same time which the nurses would have to clean up. During this time I also had to have a test (one of many), I don’t remember which one, and part of it was that I had to drink some stuff. I remember my honey, who spent only one night away from me during that entire time (working from the hospital, sleeping there, taking care of me) having to try and talk me into drinking it because I was getting so sick from it. I was sick anyway, and having to drink that stuff didn’t help. She convinced me and encouraged me to get enough of it down so I could take the test. She also had to talk me into taking my pills every day, and trying to eat, and taking a shower. She was my champion.
Everyone talks about the chemo, but no one talks about the other things… weird little side effects from basically having no immune system, like yeast that develops on parts of your body that you can’t get rid of, and other just as lovely things. I had a reaction to one of the transfusions and had to have a major dose of benadryl shot directly into me. I had neutropenic fevers followed by loads and loads of IV antibiotics (two at the same time), which didn’t help with the nausea. I had a pic line put in that was very difficult for them to get in and three weeks later an infection from that pic line which resulted in them having to take it out. I had ultrasounds because I had so much scar tissue in my veins in my arms after pushes and lines and blood draws and IVs that a couple of times they wanted to make sure I wasn’t clotting too much in there. I ended up at urgent once, during those first few months, because I got a hemorrhoid from all the laying and sitting, that started to bleed. Gross. But, so it went.
I think the worst of it though, ultimately was, and is, the anxiety. I’m a person who never had anxiety before all of this. I’m pretty laid back. Pretty care free and pretty full of joy. Anxiety was something unknown and foreign to me. But during this I developed anxiety. So much so that leaving the house, after I had been allowed to go home, was scary for me. My body would just react… feeling like I couldn’t breathe, heart pounding, panic. When I was neutropenic, which was a lot during those first months as every time I’d have a round of chemo my numbers would crash, I had to be so careful. When I was in the hospital the precautions for neutropenia were major. Gloves, masks on everyone who came in, no flowers in the room, no fresh veggies or fruits on my food tray (and if there was, even a sprig of parsley placed there accidentally, they had to remove it quickly from my room and get me a whole new tray), restricted visitation, basically creating a germ free zone. It wasn’t just that I might get sicker, it was that I could die. My body couldn’t fight anything off when I was neutropenic. An infection became life threatening, as did a cold. So I got anxious about a lot of things. When I was permitted to go home my honey had to remove all house plants from the house (there’s a fungus that can be in the soil that could kill me if I inhaled it), we couldn’t have fresh fruits or veggies, no one could see me if they had even been around someone who might have been sick. I was weak and tired and nauseous most of the time. And just when I’d start feeling better, just when the numbers would start to rise, I’d have to have another round of chemo. My life became very boxed in and small. Hospital for treatment, then home where leaving the house (I’d have to wear a mask when I was outside the house) was not worth it or even possible sometimes. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t do anything really. My honey didn’t even sleep in our bed during this time. She slept on that same air mattress she’d used in the hospital, next to our bed, with the dogs, who couldn’t sleep with me either. It’s not just that things were dangerous to me, I was dangerous to them. I was leaking poison out of my pours most of the time. No kisses, from my honey or the dogs, no using the same toilet even, because I was toxic. All of this created anxiety in me. I still get it actually. Less and less all the time, but I do. I have pills for it. I got them a lot in the hospital, and used them a lot during those months of chemotherapy. They help. And thank goodness for them. Sometimes my mind would go and go, worrying, and worrying. A loop of worry and fear and anxiety and sometimes, panic. As I said, I’m better now, but I don’t know how many times my honey has had to look me in the eye and say to me, “it’s OK my love, you aren’t sick anymore, there’s no leukemia in you… none”. And the rational me then sort of wakes up, comes to again, and knows it’s true.
And damn, it’s amazing to be alive.
I guess I’m recounting all of this because I never have before, and it’s time. Time for me to say it aloud, as aloud as this is. But I guess it’s also because all of this is the counter point to what I was feeling just a bit ago sitting in our garage after having come home from running some errands. Nothing big happened while I was out. I just went to the library and then to the coffee roasting house and then drove home, sipping some coffee and listening to music really loud in the car. It’s sort of gray outside today and the leaves are falling. But as I drove into the garage, and shut off the car, staying in there to listen to the rest of the song (Change by Rascal Flatts, for anyone who’s wondering) I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because the leaves are falling, and the dogs were barking in the house knowing I was home, and I knew my honey was in her office working, and earlier today we’d gone swimming with our grandson, and the music was so beautiful. I started to cry. Crying from a place of overwhelming happiness and a feeling that life is so big and wonderful, and so fully felt.
Damn, it’s so so good to be alive.
I am grateful and I’m humbled by the quality of my life.
The thing I learned from my honey’s illness, and then mine, was something I already kind of knew anyway, but it got reinforced big time. It’s something, a feeling, I wish everyone could feel and something I wish everyone could know, without having to go through something so major, so awful. It’s the surety of knowing that there’s nothing important in life save for the people we have in ours. That is, period the end, the only thing that matters. Stuff, problems, annoyances, possessions… none of it matters. Not really. The time we spend having adventures and experiences with the people we love and who love us, that’s what matters. That’s what you think of, what you fear you’ll miss, if you think you could die.
It’s so damn good to be alive because I have so many fantastic people in my life. People, and dogs that is. People I love to be with, who love to be with me. People who I miss when I don’t see them, who miss me right back. Dogs who love me unconditionally and bring me so much joy I can hardly stand it sometimes. People who I laugh with, and get angry at, and cry with, and am silly with. People I have adventures with. People. There is nothing more important than our relationships and the experiences we create together. It’s the journey we’re making, with each other, that matters. It’s what matters most to me.
I am so happy, so thankful, so grateful, and so overwhelmed to be alive. Life is so beautiful.
Missing people just plain sucks.
I’m sad. I just finished watching a video about the School of Piano Technology in Vancouver, Washington. And no, pianos themselves don’t make me sad, just in case you were wondering. What just made me sad was missing my dad.
My relationship with my dad was… complicated. My parents divorced when I was a young pup. Knee high to a grasshopper. My dad, who didn’t want it, didn’t handle it well. My mom, for her part, wishes she would’ve done the whole thing differently, but we’re human, and we handle things the way we do. Better or worse. Life is messy, and so was this.
After the divorce my brother and I lived with Mom full-time. Dad had visitation and Mom, who still thought he was a great guy, wanted us to have him in our lives. She talked kindly and fondly of him and often encouraged us to call him. Dad, who was a person filled with light and joy by nature, couldn’t handle the separation and his best defense was to ignore that it happened, and consequently, to ignore my brother and I. Simply put it was easier for him to pretend we didn’t exist than it was to actually be engaged with us on a part-time basis. The whole situation was made more difficult by the fact that he remarried and after a few short years together they moved to Montana. Being so far away just put further distance between us. My dad had a great life there. He and my step-mom had five children together and were happy. It was good for them, for him. But he was still my dad and though I loved him, and knew he loved me, he dropped the ball in the being a parent to my brother and I department. He dropped it big time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
There were hardly any calls to us, and when we did talk to him it was because Mom had asked if we wanted to call him. And when, finally, we were on the phone with him, after we’d made the call, he would cry, say he missed us so much, and ask how come we didn’t call more. We were pre-teens, he was the grown up. Who should have been responsible for keeping in touch? Apparently, according to my dad, the pre-teens. I think I only ever got one or two birthday cards from him. He never wrote a letter.
Missing people just plain sucks.
When he first moved to Montana we didn’t see him for four years. Not because Mom stopped us from going, but because Dad didn’t ask us to come. I remember our first visit there, I was 12 when he moved and 16 when we went for the first time. My brother and I went by train. It was strange suddenly being with him, with his new family, and feeling outside of it all. Feeling apart. He tried to make us feel like part of the family, but he was a tad clumsy with those things. I have memories from that visit all clouded by this feeling of us all being a bit uncomfortable. The weird thing is that when we were with him we were his everything. In person he was fantastic. Showered us with attention, talked as if nothing was off, as if we hadn’t just spent four years not really communicating at all. We were his light, when we were there with him. I’m sure that then made it strange for my step-mom and for my younger siblings. Suddenly he was all about us. Wanting to introduce us around town, spend all his time with my brother and I. He would say things to us like, take this to your mom, referring to our step-mom as our mom. It didn’t feel right, to us or to her. He wanted one big happy family when we were there. Like I said, he was awkward with things like that. Then, when we weren’t with him, when we were back in Oregon, it was as if all the lights shut off. All communication once again stopped. Like a switch. A switch I wasn’t very good at understanding for a long long time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
This happened every time we went to Montana to visit, or my dad and all came to Oregon, which wasn’t a lot. After I was a bit older I drove out for my little sister’s high school graduation and then for my younger brother’s high school graduation. Same thing. Switch on. Switch off. It’s something K saw first hand a few times after we got together and she never understood it. She always said it was so strange that he didn’t communicate at all with me and then when I was with him he couldn’t get enough of me, showered me with attention and affection. Switch on…. switch off. It was actually kind of nice to get her opinion about it. All those years feeling that way, to then have her confirm how odd it was, was comforting. Made me feel a little less off kilter where the Dad situation was concerned.
My brother and I handled this whole switch scenario very differently. When we were younger my brother had Dad on a pedestal, way up high, something porcelain and delicate and beautiful and not to be disparaged or messed with. Dad was the end all and be all to him. For me that wasn’t the case. I was angry. I remember my brother and I having big yelling matches about Dad. He defending him as I screamed about what an ass he was for not caring, for not talking, for not being there, for basically abandoning us. I wrote Dad letters I didn’t send. Made mixed tapes for Dad that, unfortunately, I think I did send. Embarrassing, and yet not embarrassing. I was a teenager who desperately wanted her father to love her. To acknowledge me when he wasn’t right there looking at me. To be my father, my dad, whether or not he was standing in the room with me. Because honestly, I adored him too. I wanted desperately to have his attention. After we were adults, my brother and I did a swap in this regard. Me, having come to grips with who Dad was as a person and who he would always be, and my brother having an experience with Dad in regards to my brother’s wife at the time that would make him so angry he didn’t see or speak to Dad for six years after. Dad didn’t really do anything, but he didn’t stand up for my brother or his wife and my brother couldn’t make excuses for him anymore. I think all the anger he hadn’t allowed himself to feel over the years came out because of this incident. And I think the amount we love and adore someone informs the amount of anger we can feel for that same person. He was bitter and enraged. For a long time. Just as I had been bitter and enraged for a long time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
Later, after we got older and Dad and his second family moved back to Oregon, it was really too late. They lived not far from Mom, probably only 20 minutes or so, but I never thought of visiting him. It wasn’t a vindictive thing, it was just that it didn’t occur to me. He had made himself so absent in my life that he was absent in my thoughts. By then I would see him every couple of years and that was about all. I didn’t even think of seeing him. Didn’t think of making that effort. Strange. It’s amazing how someone can be gone from your life for so long that they are no longer a part of the every day culture of it. You think of them sometimes, and those thoughts and feelings are usually warm and tender and genuine, but during the course of a normal day they don’t even enter your mind. It’s sad, but that’s what happened with Dad.
Missing people just plain sucks.
Several years ago now I got a call from one of my younger sisters. She told me Dad had had back pain and had gone into the hospital. Everyone always teased him about how he whined about his pain or an injury, or whatever. This time he wasn’t whining. He went into the hospital and 11 days later, having gotten out and been sent home on hospice, he died in that house 20 minutes from my mom’s place. I was there. During those last few days I spent time with him at the hospital, listening to him writhe in pain as the cancer that was attached to his spine grew so quickly it broke his back. I was there telling stories from my childhood with him and our visits together over the years. I asked him questions, he asked me questions. I was there at their house, one that had never been mine, watching the stream of well wishers from their church who brought food and spoke so fondly of him. I was there to talk to him about music, which was his life’s blood, and laugh with him about some silly thing or another. I was there standing by his bedside with my brother when our dad apologized to us for not being the father he should have been. I was there to forgive him and to tell him I loved him. I was there when his breathing slowed and then stopped for the last time.
Missing people just plain sucks.
I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot after watching the piano hospital video, which made me cry and cry. I was thinking he was such a joy-filled, emotional man, and here I am, a joy-filled and emotional woman. I’m blessed to have been his daughter. He didn’t always do it well, being my dad I mean, but he did do some things right. Most especially when I was with him. In person he was awesome. He was passionate and joyful and silly and fun and so warm. He was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known. Honestly himself regardless of the situation. He loved to laugh, and that laugh was so infectious anyone hearing it had to laugh right along with him. He had music in his blood. So talented and effortless, able to play pretty much any instrument, though he stuck with the pedal steel guitar because it was the hardest thing to play and he loved that about it. I loved to listen to him play. Loved it. I loved watching his face when he was playing and singing. I swear light shot out of him in all directions when he was sitting at that guitar. Getting to see he and his band play together, live, was always awesome. I loved his mis-matched outfits and his love of sweets and his gray hair and how when he walked places he moved fast. He never moseyed. He was blind, but that guy could move. I remember watching him do single axle jumps while Ice skating and can picture him floating the river with us. I can see him playing frisbee at my step-grandparent’s house, leaping in the air, and I remember fishing his glasses out of the river after he, my brother, and I went into the water when the raft ripped down the middle. I love how he loved his coffee, with loads of sugar and cream, and how he was always the first to lend a hand when someone needed it. I loved how he smiled and I loved his laugh. I remember being a tiny girl visiting him one night at the gas station he worked at at that time, and how he walked over and bought us hot chocolates at this diner next door, and then lifted me up so I could clean someone’s windshield. He made things an adventure. I remember feeling like I was having an adventure almost every time I was with him. Not many people do that, give that feeling. He did. It was a gift.
Missing people just plain sucks.
Now, thinking about him, the all of him, I’m proud to be his daughter. I had, long before he died, come to grips with who he was. The guy who wasn’t the greatest of dads, yet was. I’d wrapped my head around the fact that he was who he was, and that he would never change. He wasn’t emotionally mature where my brother and I were concerned, but that was what it was, and it was OK. I came to a place of accepting him for him and accepting and forgiving myself for putting him in the place I ended up putting him in my life, which was sort of on the side, just out of reach. And I learned a great lesson from him. I learned to be there for the people I love. I learned that the hard way from him, but I learned it. I think he’d be proud he taught me that lesson, even though I know he wasn’t proud of the way he taught me. I’m also proud that he passed on his dorky sense of humor, his ability to be light and silly, and his love of all things coffee. I’m grateful for those gifts, and for the gift of having had him in my life, even the little amount I did. I’m grateful he gave me my younger siblings; my brother from our mother, and the younger five he had with my step-mom. They are fantastic, and even though we don’t spend loads of time together, not nearly as much as I’d like, when we do it’s wonderful. They are, simply, great people. Each with a great smile. I have a great smile too. My smile came from both of my parents. They both, Mom and Dad, have and had great ones. Smiles from the inside. Smiles that light the eyes. It’s the thing most people notice about me, and it comes from them.
Missing people just plain sucks.
It just does.
I miss Dad, and I love him, and sometimes, when the light is just right or my mood is, I see him in me. Smiling.
We’ve been home now for a few days. Getting home after being away for a month is a process. Check the house, clean up the yard, re-set your air and take the long hose off the de-humidifier in the basement, spend significant time with the kids and the grand boys, do laundry, and settle back into our life. All of which we’ve done, including re-organizing our garage and buying our second car, a scooter.
Life is beautiful.
The trip was fantastic this time. We both kept commenting on how relaxed we were. No house in Oregon to deal with, other than visiting the rentals, no running around like crazy people. We made the conscious decision to spend most of our time at Mom’s place helping out on the farm and just being there, hanging out with her. It was lovely. Dinners on the patio, sleeping in the tent trailer she’d so nicely set up to be “our space” while we were there, helping her do some projects at the house, going to the movies with her and my bro, playing chuck-it with the pups under the walnut trees, and generally just being mellow. We spent 13 days driving, in total, there and back which was also fun this time. And we spent a few days at the beach with the kids and the grand boys who’d flown out so Mary could be in a wedding. The time at the beach was also wonderful. Sebastian’s first time seeing the ocean and walking on the beach. Pure magic. Every little thing a new and exciting adventure for him, and in turn for us, watching it through his experience. We got to see some of our friends, and help one celebrate turning the big 5-0. Some even came to visit us at the farm. I got to spend time with the other six. So great to see them all. It’s not often all seven siblings get together. I love them.
We didn’t see everyone we would’ve liked to, and we didn’t hit all of our favorite restaurants, but what we managed we loved. Every single minute. Somehow the time flies by and though a month was a long time to be away from here, it seems as though it’s never enough time there. It’s amazing how a person can be ready to go home, but not want to leave all at the same time.
Without rambling on and on too much more I’m going to do what I did the last time we took a major road trip… I’m going to list the highlights. Fun for me, and hopefully fun to read. Here goes…
- 6475 miles put on the rental car. It had 7900 when we picked it up. We almost doubled what it had. Nice.
- Animals spied… Big Horn Sheep, Coyote, Cows, Antelope, Sheep, Cranes, White Pelican, Turkey Vultures, Horses, Buffalo, and your regular dogs and cats.
- The Boardman Plantation… 24,000 acres of Pacific Albus… wow.
- Watching Sebastian collect rocks at the beach.
- Music played on the road… sometimes loud with us singing along.
- How gorgeous this country is, most particularly Colorado and Western Wyoming… wow.
- The decision to take the roads less traveled and see places we wouldn’t normally see. Hwy 20/26 is worth the drive people. So is Colorado highway 114. Just gorgeous.
- Best coffee… Mud House in Springfield, MO and the Coffee Trader in Montrose, CO.
- The surprising beauty of Northern Nebraska.
- World’s Largest Fork, Springfield, MO.
- Huge legs in Amarillo… nowhere to be found. We looked, but apparently we looked in the wrong place.
- Walking the fishing docks in old town Newport and hitting the aquarium with the kids, grand boys, and Thomas. K spending time with both of her kids was a joy to behold. Amazing what can happen when they both, the kids I mean, are finally living back in the U.S.
- Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX…. as expected, and not. Used up spray cans everywhere, people spray painting them as we walked around the big dirt field they were in, big crowds, iconic, cool, strange, a tad zany, and worth it for the photographs.
- Seeing friends and spending some time.
- A fun and fine 5oth birthday party.
- Sleeping in the tent trailer while it rained.
- Craters of the Moon National Monument. Strange and beautiful and other worldly.
- Signs on old bars, restaurants, gas stations, etc. on small highways = awesome.
- Air conditioning in a car and hotel room when it’s hot as hell outside.
- How great the dogs were during this trip. They traveled so well. The water bowl we were able to have for them in the car helped a lot, as did their comfy beds.
- Realizing we both like motor lodges better than fancy hotels when traveling across country. Fancy/expensive definitely isn’t always better.
- Trailer shopping with Mom and Kev. We ended up finding the Hood River model of the R-Pod Trailer we will be purchasing next year. Whoop!
- Finally getting to visit Santa Fe, NM.
- Being able to check off two more to-visit U.S. states on this trip…. New Mexico and Texas. Had been to airports in Texas before, but I can’t count that as an actual visit to a state. Leaving only Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Next road trip through the southern states perhaps?
- Selling Dent, the Toyota Tacoma truck I’d had for 15 years. Sad, but I was ready. The sale afforded me the ability to buy a scooter here in Illinois. Moving forward is a good thing.
- Yelp. I use it all the time when we travel to find funky coffee shops and restaurants for dinner. It rocks. I recommend it.
- Spending the day with my siblings. The seven of us rarely get together and it was wonderful hanging out with them for a drizzly day at the beach. I’m lucky to have them and to be part of such a great group of peeps.
- Deciding to not stop and sit in the saddle of one of the World’s Largest Jackalopes in Douglas, Wyoming. We should have gone back and done it. We did see it however. It was big.
- Deciding not to stop at Hell’s Half Acre because the road construction made it slightly difficult and we were only 40 miles from our destination for the night. Next time.
- Time spent alone with my honey. We love being together, all the time. It was wonderful getting to have yet another adventure with her. Nothing like traveling with my best friend and the love of my life.
- Laughing until we cried several times as we both attempted to take photographs from the car going 65 miles an hour. Sometimes we got what we were after, many times we didn’t. Either way we had fun. Getting it was victory and celebrated, not getting it became a recurring joke. We find fun in the smallest of things.
- How many times two people can say, “this is beautiful, wow, look at that” in a one month period.
- Wandering the Portland Saturday Market with our friend Vicki. It was raining slightly on and off, but it was also loads of fun. Plus, we bought soap.
- Ruby Jewel Scoops Ah Joy sundae. It is the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever had and whenever I’m in Portland it’s a must have.
- Pasta and dinner with Thomas at Piazza Italia in Portland. My honey dreams of their lasagna. It’s perfectly wonderful. Plus the company of Thomas was so very cool. What a great kid (sure, he’s 27, but you know… a kid is a kid) he is. International Patent Law here he comes.
- Sunshine and no humidity. The weather was pretty much perfect while we were traveling. Only too hot and humid a couple of days on our way back to the Midwest.
- Being so relaxed. It was awesome.
- Love of friends and family we got to see, missing the family and friends we didn’t get to see.
It was a wonderful trip this year. Stupendous. Terrific. Really great. So good we’re already planning our trip out next year.
I started writing this on Father’s Day and was, as can happen, distracted by actual life events. Visits from family and then traveling can do that. I had nearly forgotten about this post until I noticed it idling there, the red “draft” sitting beside it in my post queue. It was important to me to get this piece of writing out there, so here it is… late, but no less important to me.
I’m sentimental, empathetic, and very in tune with the feelings of others. Always have been. It’s the thing that makes me cry during silly commercials, sporting events, and when I hear a song on the radio that makes me think of someone I love. I feel things deeply. All things. Sometimes this makes it hard, I’m sure, to live with me. When I’m upset I’m emotionally upset, which I myself don’t always understand, and when I feel love I am so full of love I sometimes fear my body won’t be able to contain it. All of this emotion comes from the same well deep inside of me. It is at times overwhelming, explosive, warm, joyous, and all consuming. I don’t always appreciate these deep feelings I have, and have sometimes wished I didn’t have them at all, but honestly, I’m glad I’m like this. I’m glad I see, and feel, the world this way, through this blanket of empathy and love.
Earlier today I watched a Youtube video of a man using a flash mob, in Central Park, to help him propose to his boyfriend of many years. It was beautiful. Simply put, love is love. There can’t be too much of it in the world, in my opinion. So while I was watching this video I started to cry. It was moving, and as noted above, I’m a crier. I felt for them, was happy for them, happy for the people watching, happy for one of the guys Mom’s who was there to see it and crying herself. My honey looked over at me, we were both in our office, and said you must be watching something emotional. I had headphones on and tears streaming down my face. She’s used to this.
I watched the video and listened to that song and thought, once again, of my honey and how lucky I am to have her. It’s really, I think, why I was crying today. I was overwhelmed by the love I feel for her. I am difficult to live with. Difficult to love sometimes I think, but she is always right there, loving me as if it’s easy for her. Making me feel as though it’s easy for her, as though it’s something she has always done, something that’s natural and true. I am so blessed and lucky that she somehow manages to understand me and love me for all that I am, good and difficult. For 10 years. 10. I can’t express how much I love her. It comes from a place so deep inside that deep well of mine that I don’t think there are actually words. Just feelings so big and strong and true they defy articulation.
Honey… I have loved you for a thousand years and will love you for a thousand more….
I love my Mom. It’s not just loving her though, I admire her. When I think of some of the best qualities a person should have… truth, trust, honesty, integrity, acceptance, humor, a non-judging attitude and spirit, honor, fun, smarts, strength, an ability to keep moving forward no matter the circumstance, and grace… she has all of that in spades. I have known this, and looked up to her, my entire life. She’s a fantastic role model, someone to aspire to be like, and then on top of that, she’s also my friend.
Mom and I sat at a restaurant I like while I was in Oregon this sad month and she said to me she was glad we could talk to each other about most everything. I agree. The truth is Mom and I have been friends most of my life. I’m lucky. I watched her while I was there for those 19 days and I, again, was amazed by her. She is no stranger to sadness and heartache and yet she shines. She keeps moving, keeps making sure those around her are OK as well.
I saw Mom with Don’s kids, who are fantastic people by the way, and I loved her all the more. Was so proud to be her daughter, yet again. Mom has a way about her. A way to calm and make you feel like you matter and that you are important. She does this effortlessly. She does this naturally. She does it with everyone she’s around. It’s why people love her. My friends, throughout my life, have loved and do love her. And over the past three weeks she was these things for Don’s kids, without even trying. She probably doesn’t even know she has had this effect her whole life. The feeling she instills of calm and peace combined with that smile, the famous smile that beams light and love, it engulfs you. Her presence says everything will be alright.
Somehow, through tears and sadness and heartbreak, she manages to keep that wonderful smile. She manages to see that there is still beauty and love and hope and reason in the world. This doesn’t mean she hasn’t been hurt and sad and angry in the last three weeks, or at other times in her life, it just means she knows how to feel that and still see the love around her. She looks at the world with the best eyes… eyes of hope and love and possibility. She doesn’t let circumstance weigh her down, change her outlook, make her cynical and hard. She never plays the victim and has never been one. It’s spectacular, really spectacular.
Mom has had her share of sadness and loss. My heart aches for her now, as it has in the past, as she deals with this heartbreak. But I know something, something she knows too, something she said to me herself, I know she will be OK. And she will. Knowing that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of her many many times a day and trying to will my love to her over the miles between us, I am and I do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hug her and tell her over and over that I love her and that even though I am miles away I’m holding her. I think she knows this. I hope she feels it. But knowing it helps me, and her too I think. Because it’s true. As she gets through the hours, and days, and the next few months, she will keep her life moving forward. She will love and be loved, she will have happiness and joy, she will laugh and have peace again. She will be OK because she is grace under pressure. She will be OK because she knows there’s more good than bad in the world, and that light always shines it’s way into dark spaces. She will be OK because Mom is strong beyond measure. She’s stronger than even she is aware of I think. She will be OK because it’s who she is.
I love my Mom. But more than just love, I admire her. That admiration causing tears to stream down my face and my heart to swell with pride. I love you Mom.
I can’t believe it’s been a week. A week. Time goes so fast, or slow, or fast again, depending on how you look at it, and how you feel. To me, and in talking to Mom, to her as well, it seems as if the last week has stretched out creating the illusion that oh so much more time has actually passed than has. Yet all in slow motion… stretching. It’s strange.
It’s strange what emotions do to you. Sad ones anyway. A week ago today Mom called me early early in the morning to say her husband, Don, has died suddenly, and what everyone believes is pretty peacefully, in his sleep. She woke to strange breaths, tried to wake him, called 911, did chest compressions until the ambulance arrived, and watched as they worked on him both here at the house and then again at the hospital. He couldn’t be revived. She was sitting with him when she started making calls.
I couldn’t believe it early that morning and still I don’t know if I can believe it. I was just here visiting a month and a half ago. Just here at the house hanging out with them. Here chatting with him, loving that occasional mischievous grin he’d get sometimes when he thought he was pulling one over or getting your goat a bit. I really liked that grin. I really liked how he made my Mom happy. Gardening, traveling, spending time with family, trying new Vegan recipes together, reading the paper over good espresso in the morning, and watching the news at night.
Don was a passionate man. Passionate about seeing and exploring the world, passionate about his grandkids and kids, passionate about my Mom and their life here on the farm. He loved trying new gardening techniques and recipes and finding just the right mix to make a suet the birds would like and eat, mixing it up in big batches and devising a plan of delivery so the bigger scrub birds couldn’t get it all.
Sitting here helping Mom go through some of his papers I discovered he was a bit of a poet and philosopher at heart, eloquent when he wanted to be in writing his thoughts down. Snippets here and there of things he’d experienced while traveling, feelings he’d had as kept moving forward through life.
He was an amazing guy, and though I didn’t know him nearly long enough, or know him as well as I would’ve liked, I really only need to know this… he loved my Mom well, he loved his children, and he adored his grandchildren. He had friends he cared about and who care about him. He knew what life is all about. He lived his life using that as his guide… it’s about the people you love and who love you. And because he lived his life that way, because he knew it was all about loving his people and them loving him, he made such and impact on those people… he made an impact on me. I can see him in the beauty of his grandchildren, in their smiles, their sense of fun, in their determination. I can see him in his children, how they are as parents, who they are as people. His legacy is vast and far reaching. His memory, his impact on everyone, so lasting and strong.
Don… you loved well… and you are so well loved…
And if you can hear this… hear me… I hope the fish are bitin’ where you are, and I hope they look out because Fly Fish Don is coming.
“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”
― Ellen Bass
Don, you will be missed.
It’s Christmas Eve and our house is quiet. We just arrived back home after spending the day with the kids and our little gent. Four adults, five dogs, one grandson, and loads of family togetherness. Our now traditional Christmas Eve pierogi and sausage dinner followed by the boys nightly routine and bedtime followed by the four of us loading all the presents under the tree. Sebastian will be so excited. It will be awesome to see him lay eyes for the first time on the tree and all those gifts.
It’s Christmas afternoon now. Gifts opened and food cooking. It smells heavenly in here. The little boy had a fantastic time opening gifts today. A tad overwhelming at times and sometimes it was more fun opening than playing with his new stuff, but that will come later. Opening IS half the fun!
It’s been a grand great day so far. A lovely Christmas in Illinois. Family time.
Here’s a wish out to all the people we love that your day has been as good as ours and that your year to come is filled with more love, joy, and happiness than you can take in.
Peace on earth goodwill toward man….
Wow… Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Can’t believe it. Sometimes these things sneak up on us. Not that we aren’t prepared, we are. It’s just that I can’t believe it’s already that time of year. We have entered the holiday season. And again I’ll say… wow.
Now that I’m getting over my shock at the time of year it is, I want to give some thanks, as has become my tradition here at the think tank every year. I am thankful for so many things….
First, as always, I’m thankful for my honey. I just spent a couple of weeks away from her and let me tell you, I’m no good without her. I mean this in a metaphorical sense people so don’t go making assumptions about my lack of self esteem… my self esteem is in tact. It’s just that I don’t like being without her. As I explained to my Mom and my brother, Karen is my home. A house is a structure that, if done correctly, reflects who we are, feels cozy to that end, and shelters us from the elements. A home, on the other hand, is where our heart lives. Mine lives with Karen. Hers with me. We are simpatico in this. Which makes it all the more real and heartfelt. My home is with her, no matter where we live, and I am beyond thankful for that. I’m blessed to have met her, lucky to have snagged her, and honored and humbled by the fact that she continues to love me, and love me more every day. I can’t begin to express what this means to me, and really I don’t think there are words to describe it. She is my breath, my light, my warmth, my love. She is my split apart, and I am hers. I whisper, thank you thank you thank you, out to the universe every day for her.
Mom and Kev… We are, and have been for a long long time, the three amigos. Having spent time with you these least three weeks (one here and two there), I appreciate you even more, if that’s even possible. There is a magic that happens when we are all in the same room. I’m so lucky to be a part of that. So lucky to have you… I feel love and gratitude for you every day.
Mary, Martin, and our little man… Thank you. Thank you for allowing me into your lives, into your family. As I’ve said before, I never had my own children, but nevertheless I consider you mine. I feel a part of a family, with children, and grandchildren, that I would never have without you and your acceptance and love of me. I love you guys and am so very grateful for you every day.
My family and friends… I tear up thinking about all of you, near and far. For one person to be blessed with such an outstanding group of people in my life… I am so humbled. You bring the zest, the encouragement, the support, the fun, and more love than I thought possible. I’m amazed every day by the depth and quality of the people in my life. Not only the sheer numbers of you, but by the people you are. Each and every one of you is a stellar human. I mean this. Family to friends, each of you brings something so uniquely you to my life. I treasure that. I treasure how individual you are, how loving you are, how fun you are, how many smiles and laughs you’ve given me over the years, and I feel so fortunate to have all of that with you. I am blessed beyond measure for knowing you, for having you in my life, and for continuing to get to spend time with you when I can. No matter the distance it seems we always manage to pick up where we left off, be that a year ago or yesterday, and I am honored by that, by your presence in my life. I feel you with me every day and I’m so very thankful for you.
The pups… I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but they are so important to me and every day I’m so loved by them, and grateful to them for their little selves in my life. They are my home as well, and I am so lucky to have them. They love without condition, without pretense, without judgement or agenda. They’re always excited to see me, even if I’ve only been outside for a moment, and they are always completely genuine. I love them more than I can measure, and am so very thankful for them. They bring a joy to my life, our lives, that can’t be measured.
I always say the only thing in life that truly matters are the people we love and who love us. I mean this. Everything else is set dressing, though nature, in all it’s glory, is a wonder and something I’m also grateful for every day. To that end I’d like to include the following poem by e.e. cummings. He’s my favorite poet, and I’m humbled by and grateful for his words, words that have helped, at times, me to get through periods of struggle. Words that have at times helped me to better explain the world to myself. This is one of my favorites of his… and it pretty much sums up the rest of it, the rest of what I’m grateful for…
i thank You God for most this amazing
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Wow. And wow again. I think I may have started more than one blog entry with that word and here I am using it once again. Oh well, I’m getting older and that means repeating myself repeatedly. I’m OK with that.
Wow. It’s been a whirlwind of activity and adventure since we left our little hovel in Urbana, Illinois for places west on July 5. Here we are on August 14 and I have no idea where the time has gone. Day after tomorrow we pack up Thor, our tried and true Volvo, our two pupinos, a bunch of crap, and ourselves for the trek back home. Six days later, and some 2500 miles we will once again be back in the Midwest. Where has the time gone?
When we were planning this sojourn we thought, OK, six weeks (including two weeks driving) would be plenty of time, but then again how can there ever be enough time spent with the people you love. There are so many people here who are in our lives it’s been tough to see everyone. We haven’t seen everyone. That’s a hard one. To leave without seeing everyone. Seriously though, how could we? We’ve been so busy. Let’s recap…
Six days driving here, get here and have appointment with Oregon oncologist, start treatment in Oregon, see Stan and Connie who drove to Salem just to see us (you guys rock), drive up to Portland to meet my cousin and his family after he finished the STP bike ride, eat pizza, have yogurt, drive up to Burlington, WA (and Marblemount, WA) to participate in the spreading of my grandparents ashes and next day check out the estate sale put on by my Mom and Aunts and Uncles at my grandparents house, from there take off for three days in Long Beach, WA (after a 5 hour drive to get there), enjoy the beach, drive back to Salem, drive back up to Scappoose, dinner with friends who invited us over (thanks SJ and Angela, your house is awesome), trips back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week so I could get my shot in Salem, helping Mom sprinkle some of grandpa and grandmas ashes at Willamette University, work on the yard in Scappoose, and more work on the yard in Scappoose (thanks to Mom and Kev for helping us out with that one of the days… you two are amazing), dinner out with friends (thanks Maggie for taking us to dinner for our birthdays), dinner with friends from Urbana who happened to come to Portland for a wedding while we were here (great dining with you Evelyne and Natalie), showing our friend Jen (who also hails from Urbana) around Portland, and the farm, for three and a half days, the treat of breakfast out at the Screen Door courtesy of Vicki (thanks girl, the chicken and waffles there can’t be beat!), a few walks in parks both in Portland and Salem with the pupinos, one of which included a piano solo by Karen, a trip on the river with Stan, dinner at Stan and Connie’s place for us with some of our good friends (so great to see you guys), a walk at Cathedral Park with Liz and Jake and Ilsa and Indy followed by a tour of their new house (love it you guys!), a stop by my old office for some chat (Stacia, I love ya girl) and lunch with some of my old work mates (I miss you Josh, Linda, Chris, Liz and Stacia!), packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week (oh, I think I said that already), our annual walk through of one of our rentals with the renters and a drive by of the other, a couple of barbecues thrown for us by POD members, one including splashes in a pool and the other including a tasty salad made with home grown veggies, a couple of trips to the Portland Saturday Market (Sundays too!), a zoo concert (Melissa Etheridge) with some of the POD, dinners out at various places we didn’t want to miss while we were here (Piazza Italia, Little Big Burger, tacos at The Varsity, The Stepping Stone, Ruby Jewel for ice cream, chicken and waffles at The Screen Door, Mississippi Pizza, a food cart or two, Pok Pok, E-San for thai, burritos at Muchas, etc.) all of which made us each gain about 10 pounds, breakfast with my sister Kay, time spent at the farm with Mom and Don, time spent in Scappoose with Kev, packing up the car and driving back and forth between Salem and Scappoose every week like gypsies, sun, fun, and loads of love.
It’s been an amazing time. We’ve had so much fun. Though, seriously, I think we’re ready to be home again. Not that we don’t love it here, and love everyone here, but we’re ready to be home. Sleep in our own beds, be in our own house, see and spend time with the kids and our little man, who we have missed very much. I guess that’s what happens when you live in two places. Live in two places in your heart I mean. You are always missing something, someone. That’s the nature of how life works sometimes. We moved to Illinois to be a part of of the kid’s lives, to be in Sebastian’s life, and we are glad we did. We wouldn’t change that at all. It’s just that this is home, and always will be. The people here and this place make it so. We are torn, but that doesn’t make us any less happy to be there when we are there, or here when we are here.
That bit there being a few moments of reflection.
So we are heading home on Thursday morning. Leaving early to get a jump on our longest driving day of the lot. 10 hours the first day. We’re going to Boise, Idaho by way of Bend and Hwy 20, then Driggs, ID near the Tetons, and from there a drive through the Tetons and Yellowstone and then stays in Sheridan, WY, Chamberlain, SD, La Crosse, Wisconsin, and home. We’ll get there just in time for the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. Yum!
We’ll miss you Oregon, and everyone in it. It’s been a flash, and now we’re almost out of here. A month, poof, just like that and it’s gone. Keyser Soze has nothing on us. We love it here, and we love the people here. This wonderful adventure has flown by, and been fantastic. But be rest assured… we will be back. It’s time for us to go back home, to more people we love, but we will be back. We will miss you while we’re gone. But be rest assured… we will be back.
This last weekend these people, my mom and aunts and uncles, had a gathering up at Marble Creek Campground near Marblemount, Washington to spread my grandparents ashes. My grandparents spent many days and nights at that campground. All of us, children and grandchildren alike, have memories of staying up there with them. It was fitting they should have their ashes scattered in a place where so many family memories were made. In a place they loved and spent so much time. In a place as lovely as the woods of Washington State. The next day there was an estate sale at my grandparents house, all proceeds going to the Burlington Edison Alumni Scholarship Fund. They were all there. Very cool.
So many times I’ve said my grandparents, my mom, my aunts and uncles, are the best people I know. I’ve described them that way to everyone I’ve ever talked to about my family. And it’s true. When a person goes along, having a life, they meet many people. I have. Some of them fantastic and some of those I’m still lucky enough to have in my life, or lucky enough to just have met. But there’s a special thing about coming from a family of people you respect so much, love so much, and are so proud of. When I say these seven people are the best people I know, I am proud to actually mean it. In fact they have been jokingly and not so jokingly referred to as the angel children by us, their progeny. Not that they are without fault, just that those faults are honest and have not hurt anyone. They are good people, from good stock. Again I will say, they are nice human beings.
This was never more evident than during the events of this past weekend. When parents die there can sometimes be bickering, nastiness, and divisiveness between siblings. Not these people. There are seven of them and they have managed, at least to my eye, to get along through this process. And maybe that’s not a huge feat as they get along so well anyway, but still it’s a wonderful thing. This ability they have to get along, to enjoy each other, no matter the event, to work out the process of it all, among the seven of them… pretty spectacular. I was impressed by them, yet again.
To me this ability to be these people they are even under these circumstances, the scattering of the ashes, the deciding how to handle the estate, etc. is a direct reflection of who they are. It is also a direct reflection of who grandma and grandpa made them. It’s a direct result of a good upbringing, of who their parents were to them. And it so honors their parents, my grandparents. These fantastic people… wow. My grandparents would be so proud of them. They always were proud of them, of us, but they would also be proud of this. Proud of how well their children have handled this sad time, of who their children have been through this process, how well they have been there for each other and for their own children. My grandparents would be so very proud. I know I am.
When a person grows up in a place and spends their whole life in that place, I think they don’t really realize how much they love it. If they do love it that is. I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve always said no matter where I’ve been, and I’ve been a few places, the Northwest is/was the most pretty. I said that, and meant it. It’s just that I don’t think I realized the depth of the statement, of my feeling for it, until I moved away. I realize it now.
We have walked the streets of the city we love the most, spent time in the woods, helped to scatter my grandparents ashes, walked on the beach, spent time with family and friends, and slept in my childhood room so far during this visit. All of that in less than two weeks. I guess we’ve packed it in. Everything we’ve done, everyone we’ve spent time with, everywhere we’ve been has reminded me, further instilled in me, how much I love this place. How much it is in me, a part of me. How much I am, we are, of this place. It’s in our cells. I feel that. And it makes me know that I will never take this place for granted again. It makes me appreciate, even more, what the Northwest means to me.
Oh Oregon my Oregon… I do love you so.
A couple of days ago Mom called as we were driving home from Oklahoma City. Karen answered and I could tell by her response that it wasn’t good news. Not entirely unexpected, but not good news just the same. My grandpa, William R Atwood, had passed away.
What to say about Grandpa. First and foremost is that he was the center and origin of joy. We are lucky in this family, the Atwoods, to be a group filled with joy and curiosity. It’s part of our genetic makeup, a part that most certainly came from Grandpa. Where Grandma was the inspiration and adventure and mischief, Grandpa was the happiness with a good natured easy going manner. This was never more evident than when anyone entered his space. He would light up at just the sight of someone. A truly genuine and amazing thing.
Grandpa had no pretense. No agenda. He wanted to be right where he was, saying right what he was saying, enjoying everything you were saying and doing, without a thought for anything else. He knew what it absolutely meant to live in the moment. Always did. From teaching me how to tie my shoes and play backgammon, to walking in the woods, enjoying a laugh with family, making pudgy pies while camping, and just smiling from the eyes as he listened to you tell a story about this or that thing, he was there with you. Full mind, body, and soul. A lesson, always, in being present. You always felt listened to, heard, loved, and adored with Grandpa. He had that kind of magic.
I used to watch him with people, I loved doing that. The way he seemed almost giddy at whatever one of his 19 grandchildren or 7 children had to say. The way he loved, and always went along with, Grandma’s ideas to take off and roam around the country. His response was always… sure, let’s do it. He was the same with everything. Ready, available, open, eyes always on yours.
Grandpa knew how to have a good time. For him that usually meant whatever he was doing at the time, with whoever happened to be around. A special quality that allowed him to truly enjoy himself and those around him, no matter what. This all sprang, I’m sure, from his uncanny ability to be at ease. He was so good natured, so mellow. I don’t know, in all my life, if I ever saw him mad. Maybe slightly miffed a couple of times, but never really mad. He knew how to put things in perspective. Another gift.
Grandpa and Grandma had an enormous, loving, amazing family. Seven children, 19 grandchildren, a passel of great grandchildren, and now some great great grandchildren. Grandpa liked to say that he had 70 progeny, and if you include all the people he touched throughout his life via his music, work as an educator, friends, and extended families through marriage, there were many more than that who were touched by his spirit for living, his warmth, and his ability to include everyone.
I smile when I think of him. I always have. He had that kind of effect. Still does. I think of him playing the piano in only the way he could, with an almost childlike exuberance not often seen. I think of dancing with him, keeping up with Grandpa rhythm, the rhythm only he had. I think of talking to him about life plans and hearing his non-judging acceptance and encouragement. I think of watching he and Grandma interact with each other… Billth and Marth. I think of walks in the woods and lessons about life and spontaneous runs for ice cream and plays put on in the barn on the farm and I smile a big ol’ smile. I think of Grandpa’s smile and that makes me smile all the more. He had a one of a kind fantastic smile from the eyes kind of smile. A smile with a twinkle.
He was, to the very core, a stellar human being. An honest, genuine, fun loving, real, true man who always made me, and anyone in his presence, feel special. That’s the kind of man he was, who he was to me. He made me feel special and loved and his being able to do that, to be that for me and for all of us… that was another of his magic gifts. Just as he was a gift to all of us.
I love you Grandpa. I love you.
I love words and this is a great one. Pronunciamento. Meaning… pro·nun·ci·a·men·to [pruh-nuhn-see-uh-men-toh, -shee-uh-] noun, plural pro·nun·ci·a·men·tos. a proclamation; manifesto; edict.
I came across this one today as I was looking around the dictionary. Or more precisely, in this new age, dictionary.com. It’s a wonderful word found in a wonderful place. Dictionaries are exciting, to me anyway. I’ve been reading them since I knew what one was and found one in our house. Words. Wonderful.
I used to play word games with some of my work mates. Emails going around with sentences made up of words with the same letter. Peter picked pickled peppers. Like that. We’d start with A and work our way to Z and back again, or we’d rhyme, or be cute some other way with wonderful wacky words. Fun, to us anyway. We’d stretch our minds, our vocabularies, and we’d laugh and laugh. Words are good like that.
Today as I looked around I came across this great word. Had never heard of it. And now I love it. I am also, I think, going to use it here. Make a pronunciamento about things I’d like to do this summer… a proclamation of sorts. Here, publicly, live and “in person”. Maybe if I put some things down here I will do some of them… maybe I already have. Maybe I would anyway. No matter… it’s a fun exercise.
(Riley is playing with her Uncle Kevin right now… he’s rubbing her belly, she’s growling, barking, and jumping up to wiggle around and play bite at him. She’s like popcorn. It’s cute. They missed each other.)
Anyway… back to the pronunciamento.
100 things to do this summer… and in life.
- Be present.
- Act with grace.
- Ride my bike around town.
- Use the frisbee golf set I purchased.
- Play with Sebastian.
- Eat grapes.
- Get my photos better organized.
- See an opera again.
- Hold hands.
- Be patient with people.
- Sing loudly in moving vehicles.
- Eat more whole food, less processed food.
- Play guitar again.
- Travel to foreign places.
- Be silly.
- Dance suddenly and randomly at home, and sometimes in public.
- Be child like.
- Hug my honey more than I already do.
- Use the library more than I do.
- Make pudding.
- Sleep outside.
- Be less afraid.
- Live more sustainably.
- Don’t buy anything for myself, including music, clothes, videos, etc. unless it’s second hand. (related to previous point)
- See a few movies in the park.
- Stop and listen to live music (street corners, festival bands, etc.)
- Paint something.
- Go to the drive in.
- Take photographs that inspire me.
- Continue to evolve.
- Give more than I get.
- Show respect to strangers.
- Buy meat from a farmer.
- Write and send actual letters.
- Study other cultures and ideas.
- Honor my ancestors.
- Swim in wild waters.
- Walk in Central Park in New York, eat lobster in Maine, watch hot air balloons in New Mexico.
- Use the crockpot to make dessert.
- Put my feet in lakes, oceans, rivers, puddles, tiny wading pools.
- Do another paring down of my clothes and shoes.
- Eat tomatoes from our tomato plant.
- Sit quietly outside in the wind and sunshine listening to the trees and not talk or play on the computer or phone or any other man made thing.
- Live responsibly.
- Worry less.
- Try new foods that scare me a little.
- Use hairbrushes and wooden spoons as microphones.
- Give the pups even more attention than they already get.
- Go snorkeling.
- Take random day long road trips with my honey to nowhere in particular with good music playing and great conversations.
- Embrace my dorky nature.
- Go to museums.
- Dinners with friends.
- Be in awe.
- Make people laugh on purpose.
- Make and eat pudgy pies.
- Talk to strangers.
- Laugh at myself and things that might irk me, but shouldn’t.
- Be the nicer version of me in taxing situations.
- Do things I love more than things I should do.
- Make and drink naturally flavored sun tea.
- Make a fort out of blankets.
- Smile often and only from the eyes.
- Camp in wild beautiful places.
- Put my toes in the sand.
- Eat more fruit and less bread.
- Read at least two books a month.
- Make stuff.
- Take care of my honey like she deserves.
- Skip, hop, and jump.
- See the AFI top 100 films.
- Know what’s going on in the world.
- Read poetry again.
- Play games and cards.
- Volunteer my time.
- Be passionate in life.
- Always look people in the eye.
- Wear funky hats.
- Write random and unexpected emails to friends and family more often.
- Get paid for being creative.
- Take the dogs to parks and on walks.
- Be an agent of positive change.
- Travel to new places.
- Take the train more often.
- Ride a bus to Chicago or maybe some other random place.
- Sit around our chiminea with good company.
- Make a s’more or two.
- Say what I mean and only that.
- Smell flowers.
- Live free.
- Eat handcrafted ice cream.
- Help out friends and family.
- Be kind to myself.
- And lastly, though I could go on, laugh laugh laugh at why WordPress has famous nuns and Saint Peter as recommended highlighted links down below this as I type. Hmmmm….