Monday, August 31, 2009
Chris started out the month with his move to Gig Harbor. Having both kids home for a good chunk of the summer was great but all good things come to an end and other good things begin. "The Harbor" is lovely and the new rental home spacious and inviting. We've made several trips down I-5 south this month to enjoy a meal out with H and C and to update ourselves on how the "house fixing" is progressing.
The Blue Angels flew over that first weekend of August as they always do and rooted out the stray cobwebs in my brain. Always clears out my head to see and hear them perform.
Mid August found us celebrating Mom's 92nd Birthday with a 1940's style swing band trio, cake, and 4 generations of family. I caught this video of Mom entranced by the music, conducting right along to the beat. She still talks about putting together another Christmas choir sometime; the choral director in her shines through. That and her love for the classroom; she'll always be a teacher.
Twas the time of blackberry picking, cobblers and sorbet as the sun ripened vines in Discovery Park offered up their bounty. Twas the time of major disgorging and cleaning of this home of ours; thank goodness for a lovely place that recycles computer parts for FREE! I've made a half dozen trips this summer with monitors, hard drives, cables, computer casings and all sorts of other ugly stuff. We are getting lighter all the time! Thanks Chris for your cooperation!
And then, late August and the day when my Birthday rolls around; the "two nickels" birthday as D likes to call it. Trying to ignore its existence didn't work and I'm glad. Our new family of five had a great meal at home and shared blackberry cobbler and chocolate cake. What's not to like about 55 anyway?
August 31, 2009. Our house is quiet. Our street is quiet. Laura is back at school Summer isn't officially over for another three weeks but it might as well be. The light is different. The leaves shimmer on the trees. We keep moving forward.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
This morning she called and before we could exchange any pleasantries said, "Mom, I'm registering my car with campus security and need my license plate number."
"Well, you have the vehicle with you; just get it off the car!", I said.
"Can't, Mom. The car is parked a half mile away and I'm here in line trying to register. Can't you look it up?"
Oy. Look it up? Look it up? So, I told her to wait a second and I scrolled through my camera and miraculously found the zoom feature. Worked like a charm. On top of that I came off looking super organized. She didn't bother to ask how I managed find her tab number; she probably thinks I keep a file with all our numbers listed. Ha!
Have a great year, Laura. Senior Year is the best!
Friday, August 28, 2009
1. full size sheets, mattress pad and comforter; the new on campus apartments for upper class (wo)men no longer sport the extra long twin size beds. What will we ever do with the ones we have hanging around?
2. an extra pillow
3. matching throw
4. bed risers
5. under bed storage bins
6. trash basket
7. kitchen stuff
8. prescription medication
Now I'm helping her pack. What I'm not doing is driving across the state tomorrow. She and her Dad are making the trek together by prior agreement. It's all good. I hate to see her go but I know both she and I are ready. Her summer started in late April. It's time to get back to the the books and her last year of college.
Senior year should be wonderful. I know mine was. Those college years whiz by, don't they?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I was last at this spot in 1994 with my children and husband and close family friends to celebrate my 40th Birthday. We stood at this very spot and busted open cold beer and toasted life. Fifteen years later, I suspect this view looks exactly the same. Comforting.
What made my day today was receiving this email from my brother, 9 years my senior who was a rambunctious kid in Aruba, enjoying the last bits of summer vacation, on the day I was born. His memory for detail has always amazed me and although he's recited this story many times, he's never written it down and in doing so, it's all the more precious to me. I'm compelled to share it here. It brought tears to my eyes; certainly the most wonderful Happy Birthday greeting I could hope to receive today. Thanks, JT.
It was a sunny Saturday. Breakfast as usual on the “Tank Farm Road” (the northern most street in the “400 row”) across the street from Slim’s Garage was prepared as usual by Mom. Dad was already off at work as he did the 7 am to noon shift like all staff at Lago did in those days rounding out the 45 hour work week. I believe Lago had an acronym for its foreign staff management team labeling them “CR” or as defined: continuous responsibility. Soft fried eggs and toast and I usually had coffee with lots of cream and sugar as had been served to me at a very young age by Gramma T. MM would only eat hard boiled eggs and very seldom at that!
Then it was off to a morning of what we kids always did in Aruba—running about bare footed taking care not to get burned on the blacktop streets with the other kids and often going to the beach (by ourselves at age 9 and with no life guard!). Often our trail was on the white stripe down the middle of the street as it was cooler than the rest of the surface.
I don’t know what possessed Mom that morning, but she made doughnuts (Mattie Burbage’s oft used recipe) after I had left for the morning of activity. I got home in time for lunch which was always moments after noon and found the doughnuts and Mom was gone. Nora told me that you were on the way and the rest is history. My baby sister arrived that afternoon in a delivery room showered with sun (Mom indicated that all of the ladies in such circumstances wore sunglasses!). Wow, and that was it!
Enjoy yourself and do something special for yourself!
Could there be anything nicer today? I doubt it.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Me: Well, it's that time of year again, Ma. My Birthday's coming up. This week as a matter of fact.
She: Oh, God. (pause) Time got away from me. (Smile)
Me: That's OK. No big deal.
She: Well, it is and I'll make you a cake. I'll make you a Brown Sugar Cake*. It's so rich and delicious.
Me: (pause/thinking) Oh, OK. That's really sweet, Mom.
I know this conversation of ours went out of her consciousness within a few minutes. She won't remember my birthday and I doubt Dad will remind her unless he remembers to glance at the date on the NY Times and makes the connection. I won't remind her either. She'll just feel bad that she didn't bake that cake, or buy a card, or do something. But, I tell myself, it's OK.
I haven't actually had this brown sugar cake in some time; maybe thirty years or more. It's quite good although the recipe is so like all those oldies but goodies in her recipe box. Important details like how long to bake the cake are left out (guess nobody really worried about this; they just knew) and "butter the size of an egg" was a common way to add shortening to the batter. Who needed a stick of butter conveniently wrapped in paper marked off in tablespoon increments? I love these old recipes so I'll share it below. Check out the icing...better make 50 percent more than the recipe calls for or you'll not have enough to frost the cake! Oh my.
2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/8 cake (or square) bittersweet chocolate
Dissolve the chocolate in 1/2 cup boiling water. Beat egg yolks and egg whites separately and then add egg whites to the yolks. Mix all ingredients together and bake in 3 layers at 325 degrees (for how long???) Who knows?
2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
butter the size of an egg
Cook slowly together until mixture forms a soft ball in cold water (238 degrees on candy thermometer). Remove from heat and beat until spreading consistency. Can be diluted with a little cream if it becomes too hard to spread.
Now the kicker: make 1 1/2 times this amount to frost the cake recipe above!!!
....recipe comes from Mrs. Herrick who was the organist at the Methodist Church in Bolivar, NY in 1943. She gave the recipe to me (my Mom) and we use it for birthday cakes. Very rich and delicious.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Today I'm reflecting back on these two years. Two years is not much time in a life already lived over half of a century but I must say, these particular two years seem "heavy" with moments to be remembered. Maybe it's because I've written about many of them. Maybe it's because I have pictures. Who knows?
I started blogging about the Danskin Triathlon in 2007; an amazing experience that launched me into a writing frenzy even though I haven't participated in another triathlon since. Crossing the finish line was my peak moment for those 24 months, without a doubt. That's why I feature my Triathlon photograph on my home page. I'm hoping to get back there again whether it be through participation in a similar event or finding a new passion that boosts those brain endorphins in a similar way. It's all about finding passion for one's work and one's life. Work Worth Doing; I've written about this before.
So, in between wondering and writing about what I want to do with the second half of my life, musing and lurching 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, learning to surrender to the wave, lots of "things" have happened in the two years since I started this blog.
My son graduated from college and got a good job. My husband graduated from law school and passed the Washington State Bar Exam. He also got a job. My daughter spent a year studying abroad in Europe. She returned home safely with amazing experiences.
My son met a wonderful young woman and asked her to marry him. She said yes! The wedding will take place in November this year.
I've been traveling; to Italy, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Vancouver Island, Portland, Spokane, and the pine-y forests of the Cascade mountains in a tent. I've eaten wonderful meals and shared countless bottles of white wine with the man I love.
I've also helped move my parents three times in these 2 years. I've driven hundreds, if not thousands of miles in the car to and from, to and from, to and from and spent many nights sleeping in Mom's room when things were not going well. Doctor visits, hospitalizations, deteriorating physical and cognitive abilities, never ending needs and requests, bills and paperwork are tenaciously adherent to my existence. Of this I am bone weary. Things are certainly better now but all the "help" in the world can't take away the emotional pain of watching dementia run off with a loved one bit by bit.
What else in the last 2 years??? More good things: Our street is quiet now that construction on our new neighbor's home is complete. We treated ourselves to a new furniture in our family room this year; lookin' good after 15 years of tired old stuff. Last summer we had eight gorgeous Leyland cypress planted along our fence line in the backyard; baby trees that have grown enormously in one year and delight us with the promise of shade and a wall of green. We've had more blooms from our night blooming cereus plant in the last 2 summers than we've had in 18 years in Seattle.
I've written some poetry. I've laughed raucously. I've cried like a crazy loon. I've wasted time. I've been productive and obsessive. It's been 2 years of blogging and living. I have no idea what comes next.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
"Oh my", I whisper to myself, "do they have any idea what taking them to an hour long service, including a 30-40 minute commute each way by car all by myself entails?" The walkers, perhaps a wheelchair for Mom, the parking, navigating the 3 steps at the side entrance to the church (better than the main entrance with the 10 steps), getting over to the pew they like to sit in, making it through the service, sitting on my own version of pins and needles, and then breathing a huge sigh of relief when I get them safely back home without a mishap, a slip, or a fall. If they had only asked once and forgotten about it, my conscience wouldn't be eating at me. But, the subject has come up at least a half dozen times from Mom and twice from Dad independently. So, it's on their minds and therefore important. I've got to make it happen and I will. They haven't been to church in a long time, a really long time and the church community used to be a regular part of their lives.
What's at the root of my dread and the not-so-good memories?
I'm hitting the rewind button and heading back in time almost exactly three years to a fine Sunday in September 2006, the last time the three of us were at a church service together. That was a rough day and one for the memory book, one of those experiences where hindsight reads 20:20 and shines a spotlight on how a doctor-daughter's diagnostic skills can be overwhelmed by circumstance and relative blindness. Mom and Dad had just moved from their home into a 2 bedroom retirement apartment in Queen Anne, a rather traumatic transition as they left the majority of their things behind and downsized to live in a place where meals were provided along with other extra services. Dad surrendered his driving rights, dropping both the house and car keys on the dining room buffet as he left with Mom, ready for the next stage of life as an elder.
Within a week of moving into the retirement community, Dad's disposition started to change dramatically. He became suspicious, short tempered, and irritable. One day he insisted on taking a walk alone, got lost, and ended up taking a taxi back home, only able to remember the name of the apartment, not the street address. This was not street savvy Dad. His confusion escalated relentlessly. I had no idea what was going on but was so caught up with my own issues that I had little time to think about what might be happening with him. Mom kept pointing out his behaviors to me, especially his inability to sleep and I remember suggesting things like Tylenol PM. Not so good.
They wanted to go to church on that lovely September Sunday in 2006 so I met them at their apartment with my car. Both were nicely dressed when I arrived to pick them up. Dad had his cane but wouldn't use it; "I just carry it to ward people off", he commented. He had been up most of the night Mom said and had been talking about seeing things and people. I brushed it off as a symptom of exhaustion. As we pulled out of the parking lot he asked me where we were going; he couldn't remember. We made it through the service. People came over to greet them and were friendly. Someone advised my Dad to use his cane, that his gait seemed fragile, but he refused and carried it like a night stick. Odd, I thought. Something wasn't right but I had no idea that four days later he would be hospitalized.
My Dad spent over 3 weeks in the hospital and then was in a nursing home for another 6 weeks literally getting back on his feet from an acute,wickedly debilitating mental illness that nearly took his life. To this day he barely remembers any of what transpired during this time and that's probably good.
Although hindsight shows me that his life had started to unravel long before that last church service we attended together 3 years ago, I still associate taking them to church with that last experience when the shit started to hit the fan and life as we knew it up to that point began to implode. Things with my parents, first one and then the other, have been imploding in one or another way ever since. Three years is a long time.
I told them today that we'll wait until September comes; when church is back in "full swing", when the choir members and their director are back from vacation and ready to perform and the organist is ready to play. Mom wants to hear the music. Dad wants to greet his old friends and the pastors. It's the right thing to do. Neither of them, guaranteed, has any memory of the last time we were there 3 years ago. Just me.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I finally understand why [some] people arrive at the unfortunate point where trifocal eye wear becomes a necessity. Trifocals provide three distinct focal lengths to allow for accurate navigation through daily routines involving close up paper work, mid-range computer work and far off distance vision.
Once upon a time I had eyes that managed to maneuver between all three ranges perfectly (sigh) but somewhere in my mid to late 30's (yes, it started early for me) I noticed the dreaded blurring of objects close to my field of vision. Reading glasses were the short term solution but after going through oodles of pairs and constantly losing them (on/off/on/off), I went for a contact lens, in just one eye. One eye for close up vision, one eye for distance vision; it was great while it lasted. Gradually though, I began to need stronger and stronger magnification on my close up eye and then my distance eye started getting blurry. Yikes! So, for awhile it was a lens in each eye, just different strengths; still one eye for up close and one for distance. And that worked for another few years.
Finally the dry eyes and relentless escalation in need for more powerful lenses necessitated a switch to glasses. So, out with the contacts and in with the eye wear! At least with progressive lenses, bifocals no longer sport those dreaded lines. I've been quite happy with my glasses for the last two years until.......
I started noticing ever so slowly (isn't it always this way?) the mid range vision used for desk top computer work becoming fuzzy around the edges. Suddenly my neck was in a spasm of flexion as I strained to focus on the screen through the lower half of my glasses. Do this day after day and it becomes clear that bifocals alone are not going to cut it. Trifocals? Really?
If I had 3 eyes, I could get a 2.5 power for my reading eye, a 2.0 for my computer eye and a 1.5 for my driving eye. Sweet.
In the meantime, I stick with my progressive bifocals and use my cutsie pair of leopard print 2.5's for my as needed computer use. Oh, and I use my 1.5 sunglasses for the highway (I literally have to wear readers to drive). On/Off/On/Off. Here. We. Go. Again.
To those of you who've had to deal with myopia and corrective lenses/contacts all your lives, I know I'm whining about small potatoes. Forgive me. For those of you who've enjoyed pristine vision all your life....it's coming. And for those who have had good vision and are now in my boat, I know you get it. It bites.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
This year my work schedule has me off every Monday. That's probably the first reason why I like Mondays so much. After an on-call weekend, to wake up the next morning and know that the day unfolds before me unencumbered is pure sweetness. Having made the trip to visit Mom and Dad both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend, I don't have to go again today. The day is all my own. My conscience is clear.
The family across the street has finally moved into their new home. Construction has ceased! The noise, congestion, and mayhem is finally over after nine months. Hooray! We have some sense of civility restored in these parts. Nice.
The inside of this house of mine is quiet too. Denny is at work. Laura just left for her job. The hours are mine. I have no specific plans and that's just fine. I've taken to watching Netflix-on-demand on my laptop, eating ice cream, and napping with cat.
One other wonderful thing about this particular Monday is that it's not only TRASH DAY and YARD WASTE DAY, it's RECYCLE DAY too. Think of all that STUFF that is leaving our house. We're getting lighter and lighter. I like that. Sweet Monday.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I love you, Mom. Happy Birthday to You!
**photo taken by J. McGrady
Seems as though seeing a pile of mulch has got to be a good sign that they're winding down to the final bit of business; landscaping. Please, oh please, let that be the case.
Meanwhile because of this monstrous garbage bin (named Re-Nu) that gets switched out several times a week by an enormously noisy, smelly, obnoxious truck, I can't park (safely) in front of my own house anymore. I have to drive up onto the grass parking strip to allow vehicles to pass in the street. More than once I've come close to a dinged fender by a someone trying to maneuver between this garbage receptacle and my parked car. Sigh.
Let's get a move on neighbors. Enough already.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Today is also the day I take Dad to get a few dental extractions; not exactly the best timing but oh, well. Coordinating schedules is a challenge. Poor Dad. Yet he takes all this nonsense in stride and is far calmer than I would be were I him facing the needle and a pair of glorified pliers today.
Tomorrow is the day we've set aside to actually celebrate Mom's 92nd Birthday at the Adult Family Home. I'm hoping our cake-ice cream-punch party warms her heart as the Seattle clan gathers to sing, eat, and play in her presence. If all goes according to plan there will be young ones, five and under in attendance to liven up the show. Glen Miller big band music playing in the background; what more could we want?
Summer days move forward. We are well into August.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Granted the bill is for two month's usage but to my memory, is a record high. Do we have a water leak? Apparently not. D. says it's the sprinklers which have been ON this summer dutifully watering our front and back yard three times a week. I'm not so sure. Our lawn still looks like it's dead. We've had that sprinkler system in place for years and unless the system is on overdrive and the water rates have gone up considerably, something else is happening. We've done a lot of laundry; two kids at home generate a lot of dirty clothes. Extra showers this summer, beyond the norm. There have been more cycles of the dishwasher; more meals prepared, more mouths fed.
Now I'm mad again. That's a lot of money. It isn't the kitchen tap water that's the problem. In fact, considerable savings come from drinking that sink water instead of buying bottled water. I quit the bottles over a year ago after investing in a Brita water pitcher. Of course I could drink directly from the sink water but......"baby steps". I'm working on it.
D. "adjusted" the sprinkler system last night; he cut way back on the watering time which is fine with me. We'll wait for the rainy season to return and pour sink water on the potted plants to keep them going. As for laundry, showers, and dishwasher machine cycles? I dunno (yet). I'm thinking. But I'm pissed and that usually leads to some changes.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This post is gorgeous. My sister posted it today on her blog Second Seating, a chronicle of her upcoming show scheduled to open in Houston in September 2009. I'd like to be feasting at this table, literally and figuratively. Seems it's the infusion of iron for the anemia of my body and soul.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I remember back to our early days of marriage in Houston; we were lucky to be able to purchase a small, two bedroom bungalow from my brother at a great price. Denny had a lot of furniture and kitchen "stuff" having lived on his own in an apartment so we had most of the things we needed. We did have to buy appliances though; a refrigerator, stove, washer and dryer and thankfully our parents helped us out as we were still in medical school and well, rather broke. We loved that little white clapboard house with the single car garage and the big backyard with the wild rosebush. Sweet memories.
I hope the energy in this jump for joy propels these two forward into many wonderful days ahead.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
SeaFair weekend draws to a close for another year. The Blue Angels were spectacular as always. Saturday, Denny and I watched the show from our favorite (relatively secret...shh..) vantage point above Lake Washington along with a growing legion of other spectators (not quite so secret anymore). The sounds and the sights were enough to turn my blood to icy chill on a hot summer day. That's always my criteria for a good performance. Love it I do. Love it I do.
We'd have returned for the second show today as we often do but elected instead to visit Chris and Heather in Gig Harbor to check out their new home. Love it we do. And more on that tomorrow.
This has been a good weekend.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
In this month many things happen.
Chris moves out after a two month stay at home. This is the the big move out; engaged with wedding plans for November, he journeys out to a new "home base". In fact, his "bags are packed" and he's "ready to go" so to speak as of today although I suspect that this will be a move that occurs over stages and days. He's borrowed this van and the help of some buddies to haul most of his stuff down I-5, the 40 miles or so to his new rental house on the "the Harbor" as he calls his new hometown. We are excited for his future in Gig Harbor, his plans with Heather, and his new life ahead but the move itself brings out the bitter with the sweet. One chapter closes, another opens. It's all good.
Laura heads back to school later this month for her senior year at G.U. Our house, once again, will be very, very quiet. There will be only two "big people" around here after three months of what I call "big people" (my term for grown up) and "big people's" friends populating the rooms of our home. That will feel strange indeed. Quiet and strange.
The days will grow shorter. The nights will grow longer.
This is Birthday Month. I will try to honor (note: not celebrate) my birthday. This is not a milestone birthday but an important one because it ends in a five. Two of Denny's sisters will celebrate birthdays in August; one shares the same day with me. My Mom will turn 92 and one of her great grandsons will turn 5, also celebrating on the same day she does.
My Dad will have 2 teeth pulled.
I will continue physical therapy for this frozen shoulder of mine.
I will go to work and take on call duties two weekends this month.
The Danskin Triathlon will come and go. I won't be participating this year.
These are the things that I think I know. Plus, there are many more things that stay locked in my head. What may be waiting for me as a nice surprise or a not-so-nice-twist-of-fate are things beyond my control. In fact, even what I think I know is beyond my control. Sigh.
I suspect September will come; the days will start to cool, the longer shadows and the hint of autumn may work a kind of subtle magic, consuming August and its 31 days into a mist of memory.