Monday, March 11, 2019

Before and After

My first blog post of the year. I've been meaning to, of course. Christmas. My brother and his sweet wife flew up on Christmas day, in time for dinner, and stayed til Saturday, and we had a marvelous time. Books read in 2018 (or not read -- my reading hit a road block and only staggered along after). Mom's first "missed" birthday, then the first anniversary of her death. And also the plays we went to, the dinners with Dad and Ann, and general life stuff. Lots of "posts" written in my head that never made it to the keyboard, but things were going along the way they do.

Then. Monday, March 1st. Ed's birthday. Breakfast. He opened a gift from my dad and Ann -- a set of dvd's about classic cars -- nice! I made his favorite spinach quiche for lunch. Afternoon, a little after three o'clock. I was puttering in the bedroom when the phone rang. Ed walked in, holding the phone, looking anguished. My dad, on the phone. My little brother. A tractor-trailer, pulling out, making a left turn in front of my brother in his little red Tesla. The car he'd told us all about at Christmas. The car he babied so much that he now drove to work early so he could get her the safest parking spot. The world fell apart.

The next morning my dad and Ann and I flew to Florida and gathered with my sister, my brother's four kids and their various spouses, their kids, and my sister-in-law at my brother's house. My sister-in-law's house. The beautiful house they just bought and are still settling their things into. My sister-in-law gave me the tour, and as we walked through the house I heard my brother's voice telling me about how the dogs leap down the stairs, and about the crazy big master bathroom, and about how he was sewing curtains for the little movie theatre he'd created off the garage. We talked and cried and drank. We ate meals and laughed over stories, old and more recent, of my brother. He was a force of nature. Bursting with ideas and plans, and with the intelligence, energy, and ability to implement them. He was funny. Mischievous, but never mean. Tremendously affectionate. Gentle. In the last photo I have of him with my mom he is playing the guitar for her. Smart. So smart. He was a computer programmer, and was relishing his job with a company that finally offered him the scope, resources, and opportunity to stretch himself and have fun.

On Monday the rabbi came and performed the funeral service. He recited the prayers that Jews have read as they mourn their loved ones for so many generations. Words of grief and faith and hope. My sister-in-law couldn't speak, so rabbi read for her, the vows she and my brother had made to each other before this rabbi, on their wedding day. The children spoke, telling stories of their father. Of training for and running in marathons, of lessons in auto repair, of computer projects, of trips. My dad, my sister, and I spoke, telling stories of his childhood. Old family stories of an adventurous kid who wasn't inclined to look before he leaped, who climbed rocks and trees, who kept my parents on their toes (and in emergency rooms). Of a son who, after watching his dad rebuilt an MG sports car, went out and bought his own MG Midget to work on (the beginning of a career as a very proficient mechanic). Of radio controlled boats and planes, built and enjoyed and crashed and rebuilt together. Of a brother who was a companion in exploring woods, building dams, riding ponies, sitting through repeat showings of "Star Wars"(in 1977, before it was "Episode IV"), playing "Asteroids," and so on. Of later years when he became the trusted friend I went to for advice on all-things-technology, tips on investing, commiseration in child-rearing, and tips on cooking and booze.

On Wednesday I came home. To hugs and laundry. To my Finny, who didn't know why I left him, but who is now sticking to me tighter than ever. To a life that looks the same but has a gaping hole. And my loss pales next to that of my father, my sister-in-law, my brother's children. Last night was the last of the seven days of shiva since the funeral. His name was read in the synagogue on Friday, and will be read for the next three Fridays to come. His affairs will be worked through and settled. But our grief won't proceed so neatly. It will ebb, then surge back like a tidal wave. We will forget, momentarily, what has happened, and reach for the phone to tell him something. To ask a question. And then remember. And keep remembering. He was too brilliant, vital, loving, to ever be forgotten.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Pancakes and a Movie!

Travis suggested this morning that we should go out to the IHOP for Grinch pancakes, and then go to the movie theatre to see the new Grinch movie. We haven't done much in the way of family holiday stuff, so we did. And it really was fun!

Travis was the only one to actually order the green Grinch pancakes, but he says they were very good.

And the movie was cute. I'll admit that I had my doubts about a Grinch-remake -- the Boris Karloff cartoon has seemed perfect to me -- but this one has its own charms. It is too long, and I could have done with less of Cindy Lou and her gang -- a bit too much of the "Hallmark Holiday Special" element -- but Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect, and Max is just wonderful. As Katie said, the problem with the "old version" is how unkind the Grinch is to Max, and this version fixes that problem nicely.

(See! Katie Does smile!)

As I said, we hadn't done much in the way of holiday activities as a family, but last night Ed and I went to see the play, "An Old Salem Christmas Carol," for what has become our monthly "play night." That is, we've been going to plays. There are several community theatre groups in the area, and so far all the plays we've been to have been well acted and produced. Last night's was, as you'd guess, an adaptation of Dickens' Christmas Carol set in Old Salem, and it was really nicely done. I did notice that the actor playing Scrooge developed an "English" accent over the course of the play, which made me laugh. Apparently an English Scrooge is just too much a part of our mental furniture to be thoroughly altered!

In other news, Finny is making an excellent recovery. His ears are almost down to their usual slender floppy selves, and his nose is steadily de-puffing. He still has some skin irritation around his nose and mouth, but for the most part he's looking his regular sweet self. The benadryll that he's now taking along with prednisone is making him pretty sleepy, but the weather has been rainy and awful so he wouldn't be getting much outside play time anyway. And I'm delighted with our new vets' office (I think they have five or six vets, and we've met two so far), where he was diagnosed in a snap and treated effectively and with love. 

And speaking of treating animals with love, Katie bought Gus her very own sweater. Poor Gus seems to be having a bit of an allergic reaction to ... something. Either the tree or the tree stand or maybe her plastic claw caps. We're working on it, but in the meantime she's lost quite a bit of fur on her sides, so we figured she might be cold. She actually likes wearing her sweater, and she looks awfully cute in it.

And, just so they don't feel neglected, here is Kali lying on the stairs (and she does Not move when people go up and down the stairs, either), and Livy on the couch. A bit spoiled, but they really are nice cats.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Danger Lurks in the Snow

Poor Finny's dear nose and ears are swollen and disfigured, and the vet says she thinks he probably stuck his nose into the hiding place of some spider or snake that was trying to escape the snow. 

We didn't go to the vet until today because, when his ears blew up like balloons on Monday, I assumed it was a reaction to the cold and that they would just deflate. But they got bigger instead. So Ed googled and we thought maybe an ear infection, so we got fancy ear drops from the pet store. No improvement, but his nose started to look all scratched up and the skin under his eyes got puffy. This morning, Thursday, I noticed sores around his mouth, and his nose, as you see, ballooned up to match his ears. 

The vet took one look at him and said it all indicated some sort of venomous bite (turns out he is also running a fever), and that the poison was circulating through and causing the various symptoms. She said he Might improve on his own, but recommended IV solutions and drugs. So they took him back and filled him full of Healing Tonic, and we will take him back this evening for another round. That and some pills ought to put him right, she says!

So, crisis averted before weekend vet rates kick in -- yay! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

We Got Snow.


Lots of snow. A bit over a foot, I'm told (according to my rubber boots it was even more than that, since it came in over the top of them, and they are pretty tall, but I was probably wading through drifts and apparently those don't "count").

I'll admit that snow is pretty, coming down and on the first day or two. But, like fish and houseguests, three days is plenty. Our Big Snow was Sunday, so we are now on day four and even Finn, a true snow-enthusiast, is giving it the side-eye and wondering if it isn't forgetting an appointment it has somewhere else. But he has had a wonderful time with it.

Katie has been off school all week (Travis only missed Monday), and it's been nice having her around. And snow does set the proper mood for holiday preparations. Which has been helpful. But the snow is slowly melting and Finny and I will be glad to get back to walks in the park.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

A Season for Mourning Our Loss and Appreciating Our Blessings

It's been a long time since I posted last. I really thought I had put up a post in September and another in October, but it looks like those never got beyond the "composed in my head" stage. So. Here we are in December. Everyone is fine and fat and feisty here, but this fall is full of painful memories of the last, of Mom's suffering and our helplessness, and of the fact that she's gone. Sad stuff.

Still, Mom didn't approve of moping or carrying on over what couldn't be fixed, and, aside from mourning Mom, we are truly fortunate! Our new home is all we dreamed of, the kids have adjusted well to their new schools, and my dad has brought his new partner to North Carolina and she is a lovely person.

I took this a couple days ago when they dropped by our house on their way out to dinner to celebrate Ann's birthday. She is a restaurant aficionado, an Anglophile, and a (retired) biologist (some sort of neurobiology), and she and my dad get along beautifully together. They met through a dating site this summer and are now engaged. They are negotiating to buy a house a few miles away from us, as a new "winter place," so we're especially glad she is both intelligent and charming. I hadn't expected to see my dad so happy again, and, while the swiftness of their romance was startling, I'm delighted and grateful that he's found such a lively, agreeable companion.

Looking back a bit...
here is a picture I took late summer at a book festival. This place has so much to Do! The bookstore that organized this festival has Loads of events, book clubs, and so on. I've only made it to one book discussion so far, but I hope to manage more now that we're settled.

And we've been going to plays! There are several theatre companies, and Ed and I have found that we both love going!

Our garden is all frozen now, but before it got cold it looked well on its way to being really satisfactory! I hope most of my little plants survive the winter.

And here's a silly picture of Finn looking longingly in at the window from the sun room. He was out there because it was my birthday and he eats wrapping paper, silly thing.

And here I am wearing the beautiful rubber boots Ed got me. They are Perfect for pulling on and going out in the cold and damp to fill bird feeders.

And here is our yard looking very soggy when a hurricane passed through. We still have what looks like a sandbar in the back, where sand from the creek washed up into our back yard.

This one is from Halloween. Katie and I filled treat bags for trick-or-treaters. Not Nearly enough, though. We made seventy-five bags and I think we got around a hundred and twenty-five kids. Fortunately we had some back-up candy, but by the time we turned out the lights we'd given away all our packaged snack foods too!

This werewolf was Travis's project, and lots of our neighbors admired it.

Here's Billy Bones. He was my favorite.

Katie and her friends helped give out candy.

After Halloween, Billy (and his bird sidekick, on the shelf) came inside. Billy seems to have gotten comfortable in the library.

And Finn, of course!

Also the cats. Here they are watching television, though they are pretending not to be interested.

Dad and Ann came over for Thanksgiving, which was really nice. Katie made her specialty pies -- chocolate and coconut cream. They were the first to go.

(My cheesecake wasn't bad either.)

Finn and Kali were devoted kitchen assistants.

And today we had a tree taken down! I love big trees, but this one was bowing up the driveway and dropping hickory nuts all over and leaning somewhat precariously. I'd have left it, but Ed, who is more cautious about such things, hired someone to remove it. I got to watch, and it was Astonishing the way they did it. Tied a rope around the top, cut it off in one cut at the bottom, lifted it right up in the air, rotated it around to the street, and chipped it all up. Not a scrap of log or branch left, and the azalea bushes right on either side were completely undisturbed!

It was the sort of thing that some of the little boys I've know would have gone wild over, and I was a bit sorry that I was the only audience.

So, that's what we've been up to. I hope you've been enjoying a nice fall too, and that your December is off to a good start!