Thursday, March 01, 2018

Time, like an ever-rolling stream...

 Today is Ed's birthday (he's 58, and just getting more lovable with each passing year), and we've had a good day! Cake, presents, and lemon chicken for dinner.

(Katie thought Gussie would like to wear a sweater to chase ice cubes in. Gus says the sweater is a little big.)

Happy birthday, sweetie pie!

February was a tough month and I'm not sorry we're through it. It was wonderful to see the family and friends who were able to make it for Mommy's memorial service, and the service, though small, was lovely, but losing Mom is a heck of a thing (and she would have enjoyed having everyone together so much).

My brother found a video clip that one of his kids had made with her from 2002 -- it's all swoops and shakes and footage of carpet -- and Mom is talking about how time goes so fast once you get older. He sent it this afternoon, and I've watched it over and over, delighting in hearing her voice again -- she was unable to speak for such a long time -- and watching the lovely expressiveness of her face. I wouldn't have wanted her suffering to go on, but I miss her so.

My brother and sister were able to stay a while after the service, and we got in some nice hikes.


And now we're on to the new "normal," without Mom.

Katie got this one of me and my heater cats.

Gus is warming to Finn. Well, not in this picture, but earlier today she jumped over the babygate to hang out with him in the back room and she was rubbing her head against his face, so we're making progress!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018


How do I write a blog post about Mom? One that conveys any sense of her kindness and thoughtfulness? Her eagerness to make the world a better place, not just for her family and the people she knew, but for everyone, everywhere? Her intelligence, knowledge, and depth? Her humor? Her stories? Her interest in everyone she met, and the way she remembered the things that were important to them? Her brilliance as a cook and baker and the graceful, seemingly effortless way she had of making everyday meals and events special? Her modesty and incredible selflessness?

I can't, really. I can just say that she was amazing, as a woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a grandmother. I was so blessed to be her daughter.

She had such confidence in the people she loved (When I was in high school and wrote a short story that she thought was good enough to be published, the magazine she chose to send it in to was "The New Yorker"! When they didn't snap it up she just told me to keep writing!). Even when we couldn't live up to her high expectations, her example of kindness and faith in people was always an inspiration.

She loved books and music, gardens and birds, long walks, and good meals. She and my dad were married in 1964 (September 5), and their marriage was the sort of happy partnership -- complementary gifts and dispositions supporting a loving mutual regard -- that people have in mind when they venture into the matrimonial state. They read together, gardened together, hiked together...

Mom suffered increasingly over the past few years with a form of Frontotemporal dementia which robbed her of the ability to speak, read, or write. She was progressively losing the ability to eat, walk, and so on, and things were already pretty dire when, in early November, she was diagnosed, out of the blue, with an advanced metastasized lung cancer. The doctors quickly determined that "treatment" would be ineffective and cause pointless suffering, and referred us to Hospice. We were very "lucky" in that Mom had written a very specific Advance Directive, expressing her wishes in such a situation. With the assistance of the wonderful team from Mountain Valley Hospice, Dad was able to care for Mom at home, as comfortable as possible and cherished to the end.

She cared for us and others with such devotion her whole life, and we did what we could, in her last days, to please her with the music she loved, and with tender, tasty foods to tempt her failing appetite. And we read to her. I actually had a whole list of old favorites I hoped to have time to read to her, but I only got a chance for a few. We read Understood Betsy, Letters from Father Christmas, Summer of the Monkeys, The Secret Garden, and Winnie-the-Pooh. Tuesday morning my dad called me to say that Mom was not looking at all well. I hurried over, and she wasn't. But she was still quite aware of us, and held my hand. We had a couple chapters left in The House at Pooh Corner, and so we finished them.

In case you don't remember, at the end of The House at Pooh Corner, Christopher Robin is on the brink of leaving his "nursery" days, and he is spending a last happy afternoon with Pooh, doing Nothing together.

"Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out "Pooh!"

"Yes?" said Pooh.

"When I'm - when --- Pooh!"

"Yes, Christopher Robin?"

"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."

"Never again?"

"Well, not so much. They don't let you."

Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again. "Yes, Christopher Robin?" said Pooh helpfully.

"Pooh, when I'm - you know - when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"

"Just me?"

Yes, Pooh."

"Will you be here too?"

"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh."

"That's good," said Pooh.

"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."

Pooh thought for a little. "How old shall I be then?"


"Pooh nodded. "I promise," he said.

Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh's paw. "Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I - if I'm not quite --" he stopped and tried again - "Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"

"Understand what?"

"Oh, nothing." He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come on!"

"Where?" said Pooh.

"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.

* * *

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."

That's an ending that chokes me up a bit in a normal reading, but this time...  But I read it and didn't sob. And I believe that she really will still be with us. And I know we won't ever forget about her. Ever.

Mom passed away on Tuesday night, at 10:20. I had been sitting in the living room with her, giving her medication every half hour to ease her breathing, and my dad was trying to rest a bit in his room, as we were planning to spell each other through the night. When the pattern of her breathing changed I got my dad, and we were both sitting with her, holding her hands and telling her how we loved her when she died. She went very peacefully.

That's it. She was brave and kind and generous and funny, and we loved her so, so very much.

Monday, February 05, 2018


I thought it would only be fair to allow 2018 time to right itself before I commented, but now that we're into February I suppose it's time to face facts. 2018 appears to be on the same rocky trajectory as its predecessor. So it goes.

First, Mom. She's not doing well at all, actually. Stuck in the bed that Hospice provided, breathing with some additional oxygen, and heavily medicated for pain and so on. But she's Home, and Dad and the Hospice team of nurses and caregivers are doing a good job keeping her relatively comfortable and, I believe, free of pain. She's surrounded with flowers and classical music, and we read to her a lot and hug her and tell her how much we love her. Dad tells her stories about the good times they've had together, and I've been reading her some of our old favorite stories.

And she's had visitors! My sister came for a couple days at the end of December, and my brother in early January. And his kids came in groups of two after that (which reminded us of the dwarves coming to see Beorn in "The Hobbit"). Seeing them all, and watching the recognition in Mom's face and the warmth light up her eyes when they spoke to her was lovely. She's lavished so much love on all of us over the years, and I'm so glad they were all able to come see her one last time.

Aren't my brother's kids cute? They've all turned out to be really fine young people. Which this world needs!

Now for something completely different...

Last Tuesday Katie was walking, after school, from the school to the library when she found a battered cardboard box by the side of the road. A mewing box. Being a compassionate soul she opened the box and found... well, exactly what you would expect to find inside a mewing box. When Ed picked her up to take her to her dance class she sent the kitten home with him. To me!

We initially thought kitten was a boy, and, thinking of names, Ed suggested that his coloring was much like that of Gustaf's Licorice Rockies. So we named him Gus. I liked "Gus" because it makes me think of Gussie Fink-Nottle, who was a famous newt fancier, and I'm sure our little Gus will fancy newts too. But then we did some googling on "sexing kittens" and began to suspect that "he" was a "she." Which, actually, is my preference in cats after our experience with Harry's waywardness regarding litterboxes in the basement. The vet confirmed our suspicion the next day, when Gus went in to see him. So our "Gus" is a "Gussie." Or, when feeling particularly on her dignity, "Augusta." Which still brings to mind Gussie Fink-Nottle, but also is a family name, in that my dad's mom sometimes went by "Gussie" among her friends.

Anyway, Gus is healthy and sweet and fits in very nicely. Finny is wild about her, but she is not at all wild about him. But I'm sure she Will be. She and Livy have already made friends. Kali doesn't like her one bit, but I expect she'll come round. And it turns out that Three cats is just what we needed around here!

(This is from December, but it's the only one I've got of Kali!)

(Finn's nose has become almost entirely pink!)

Daddy gave me this box. I had to explain to him about cats and boxes. Livy was ready to drive her new train the Minute I set it down on the floor! Choo choo! Those funny Amazon people.