Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Before I forget...

On July 17, 2010, Jim and I were married at our home, in our well-loved back yard, surrounded by family and friends. Although I've waited way too long to post this, there are so many things that I'm afraid I'll forget about the week leading up to our big day if I don't get them down!

Actually, the first thing is something I'd like to forget: Martin (my oldest son) calling to tell me he'd overslept and missed his flight to Portland! Thanks to a lot of help from his dad, he made it here that same day, but very  late at night. Oh, well, at least he made it!

I love remembering going to the airport with Ben and Addison to pick up Jason, Lisa, and their boys. Addison was SO excited to meet his cousins - Aunt and Uncle were poor seconds, I'm afraid! - but especially Matthew with whom he shares a fixation on the movie "Cars." As soon as they met each other they began comparing notes. It was so fun to see two four-year-olds so deeply into their conversation!

I loved seeing my two oldest grandsons, Andrew and David, and how much they'd grown. They're such wonderful boys and gave their Gran big, happy hugs!

On Sunday, my sister, niece, and daughters-in-law threw a party for me which was supposed to be a surprise. Except no one could figure out how to get me to d-i-l Christina's house on a ruse; so my sister called and said, "We're having a surprise party for you, so come to Christina's!" I loved it! After eating and lots of talking, we watched "Annie Get Your Gun," which had arrived at Christina's with help from Jim. After almost 60 years of watching it with my sentimental eyes, I was treated to the funny, sarcastic, and spot-on comments about its corniness by the above-mentioned relatives. It gave me a whole new point of view and I'll never again watch it without thinking of our laughter and mimicry. Thanks, Ladies. Really!

Monday afternoon brought the fun of a full-family barbecue at Mike & Christina's (intrepid souls that they are), where everyone got together for the first time. Being family, there was lots of laughter, some tears, old memories resurrected, and new memories made. I loved seeing my boys all together - something that happens too seldom - and introducing Mike - an only son - to the horseplay of brothers. He didn't seem to mind - too much! It was also fun seeing the older cousins reacquainting themselves with each other, and the next generation of cousins meeting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Having Jenn and David and their two kiddos was perfect!

I definitely don't want to forget that Tuesday morning brought a phone call from Ben that they thought Drew had come down with chickenpox! Oh, no! A quick trip to the doctor garnered a diagnosis of roseola, and Gran spent the day with Drew while the rest of the fam made it a day at Oaks Park Amusement Center, with rides and general hilarity all 'round.

On Wednesday the whole crew - sans Mike & Christina and their kids, as well as Jim and me - took off for the Coast. Martin also stayed in Portland, and he and I had a chance for some time together - an infrequent occurrence. We went to dinner, had good conversation, and excellent Margaritas.

Thursday afternoon, Peggy & Steve hosted a backyard barbecue and we had a chance to get a group photo of all of my mom's descendants - except my brother Martin, who couldn't be here - the first time ever that all of her kids (except Martin), grandkids, and great-grandkids have been together! Steve took the photos, which had to be retaken after we realized Addison was missing from the first set. He'd been in the house reading (big surprise - NOT!) and was brought outside to complete the picture.

Friday was rehearsal day - and final preparations for me, since I was spending the night at Ben & Briana's house. After rehearsal (and a brief appearance by Bridezilla!) the whole crew went out for pizza and general hilarity. One memorable minute was when Uncle Martin got a video game prize of earrings, and promptly put them on! His nephews, nieces, and cousins loved it - as did his mom!

Saturday dawned lovely - sunshine and comfortable temperatures. Since we'd had horrible heat the previous week, and rain the week before that, it was a glorious gift to know we'd have a perfect day. I put in an early appearance, and was charmed by Mike's reception of me in bride mode. I'm so lucky to claim him as a stepson.

Jim walked in with his family: son Mike, daughter Katy, d-i-l Christina, and grandchildren Gigi and Felix. When my turn came, I was preceded by d-i-ls Briana - carrying Drew - and Lisa, with Andrew and David. Then our ringbearers, Matthew and Addison; flower girl Ada; my sister and matron of honor, Peggy; and escorted by my three handsome sons, Martin, Jason, and Ben.

We had forgotten to warn Ada, Addison, and Matthew that there would be lots of people waiting when they made their entrance, so there was a bit of consternation on their part when they saw their reception! I treasure the picture of Mike when he saw Ada coming toward him with her basket of rose petals!

We had a lovely service, using the New Zealand prayer book, and lots of laughter and love. It was a joy to be surrounded by our families, neighbors and good friends, and to have them join in our celebration. It was a perfect day, and I am so proud to be Jim's wife and share our happy day with those we hold dear.

I know I've left things out, so hope those of you who were part of this wonderful event will share your memories in the comments!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Looking back

Saturday evening, a phone message at my sister's house was the first hint I had that our return to Miami might be different this time.

Ben and I were wrapping up a week in Portland which my sister and I had spent going through our mom's personal items following her death the previous February. It had been a bittersweet time, filled with both sadness and hilarity, seasoned with nostalgia and hard decisions. Claudia's phone message was something about a hurricane that was headed for Miami - "a bad one" - due to arrive Sunday night just a few hours after our own scheduled arrival.

I wasn't particularly concerned; it had been many, many years since Miami had taken a direct hit - never in the 23 years I had lived there - and most hurricanes tended to wander off course and not be nearly as awful as they were predicted to be. Still, we turned on the weather and watched as the meteorologist briefly mentioned it. We got to bed way too late, but still managed to make our early morning flight with its plane change in Dallas/Ft. Worth.

To our surprise, the flight out of DFW was packed - mostly with news people from everywhere, along with their cameras and other equipment. We were told that it was the last scheduled flight to Miami until after the hurricane danger was over.

It was an uneventful flight. Ben and I talked about our just-completed vacation in Portland, and I worried about the boxes of my mother's memoirs and how they were faring in the baggage compartment. As we approached Miami International, it was a shock to see how empty the expressways were! It had been a long time since I'd seen them without bumper-to-bumper traffic.

My then-husband met our flight, gathered up our luggage, and drove us home through a ghost-town-like city. He stopped to get cash from an ATM, but it had no money in it! People had cleaned out ATMs, grocery stores - wherever they could get cash. Stores were closed and shuttered, and Ed told us that he had put the hurricane shutters on our house. It was becoming real.

After we got home, Ed took Ben with him to his office at the airport to check on his crews and be sure all of the planes were safe. I started laundry and took a much-needed nap.

By the time it struck that night, we were prepared. Jugs of fresh water, all outdoor furniture, hoses, sprinklers, etc., were put away, and we were watching nonstop weather reports on the television.

We went to bed at our usual time, Ben crawling in bed with us because the wind was so loud and scary - not just to him, but to Ed and me, as well. When the power went out, I remember turning over to finally go to sleep, hearing the wind rushing past the house, branches snapping, things flying through the air - and the double front doors blowing open and slamming against the interior walls!

In a flash, we were out of bed and in the entry. There Ed and I spent the next five hours holding the doors shut, bracing ourselves against wind that gave us no rest, while Ben kept our pets and himself safely out of danger's way and periodically brought his dad and me cold drinks. We didn't dare let up our force against the doors - each time we did, they blew open again, once knocking me back about ten feet before I recovered and forced it shut again.

When finally - finally! - the wind died down, we carefully ventured outside to view our neighborhood. Where, just the evening before, had stood lovely homes with mature trees and manicured lawns, we now saw what appeared to be a war-torn neighborhood. Roofs were gone, fences were flattened, trees were either blown completely over with roots exposed, or snapped off completely. Roof shingles were embedded in tree trunks, plywood sheathing lay scattered around the neighborhood, garage doors were unhinged; it truly was a disaster.

We were without power for two full weeks. We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas living in a trailer in our front yard, and it was the end of January before we could move back into our house. It was a time to be thankful for so many things - mostly that we were all safe. We lost nothing that couldn't be replaced. We had good insurance, and they paid quickly. We discovered the value of real friends and community.

It was eighteen years ago today that Hurricane Andrew reminded the people of South Florida that nature will have its way, and that we are presumptuous to think we have all the answers. In the years since 1992, the southern US has felt the force of many hurricanes stronger and more costly than Hurricane Andrew. But he was the wake-up call.

In a way, Ben and I both still treasure the memories of that day and the ones that followed. It was hard, but we all pulled together, and there is a good feeling in recalling that. As I've often said, it wasn't the worst thing that happened to me that year - my mother's death was - but it was the event that taught me the most about myself. And that's not a bad thing!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Once upon a time...

... a long time ago, there lived a young girl whose greatest dream was to be a mother. This little girl loved to play with her dolls and imagine they were her children, and she always stopped to peek at new babies and say, "hi," if their mommies didn't mind.

Over the years, she occasionally set her sights on other careers - always ones that were appropriate for girls, since she lived in a time and place where girls had fewer choices. Sometimes she wanted to be a nurse, like Cherry Ames, who also got to solve mysteries! Sometimes she wanted to be a teacher, like Mrs. Slough, or Miss Jones, or Mrs. Emery, who were her very most favorite teachers ever! Sometimes (though she knew she couldn't really do this), she wanted to be Annie Oakley or even Dale Evans, singing those old songs and riding horses and married to Frank Butler or Roy Rogers.

But always and forever, her dreams came back to being a mother.

As little girls will, this little girl grew up - too quickly for some, but hardly fast enough for her! - and met a handsome young man with whom she fell in love. There were obstacles to overcome, and there was a war going on, but over the years they stayed together, and eventually they were married.

Life wasn't easy, as it isn't for any young couple, but they managed. And still this former little girl - this new wife - wanted more and more to be a mother.

Then one day - an upset stomach that wouldn't go away... a trip to the doctor... and happy news, the news she'd waited to hear for almost her whole life: a baby was on the way! The time - as time always does - alternately dragged and sped by. Some days it seemed the baby would never arrive, and other days it seemed it was passing all too quickly.

Preparations were made; furniture, clothing, books - oh, so many books! - to read and learn from! And, finally, one Sunday morning, a trip to the hospital, a short (but painful!) labor. A baby boy! My child, my son, my dream realized.

Forty years ago today, my Marty-boy, you were placed in my arms, and I cried (as I do now) from the sheer joy of knowing you and loving you. Through the good and bad, the ups and downs, the tears, laughter, anxiety, fear, sorrow, and joy, I have loved you and always will love you.

Happy Birthday to my oldest son! May you be blessed - may I be blessed - with many, many more.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The winds of change

In 2002, shortly after I moved into Jim's home, we heard (and felt) an enormous crash in the wee hours of the morning that signaled "Taps" for the 250-year-old oak tree around which our patio was built. In falling, it took our chimney, our fence, a cherry tree, our neighbors' second-story deck, and issued a reminder about impermanence.

This morning I looked at my youngest grandson, wearing a shirt that just a few short months ago hung below his bottom, with sleeves half-way down his arms. This morning, it fit him.

In 1998, I few to the Midwest to meet my first grandchild and to marvel at where the years had gone since his daddy - my middle son - was a sweet, sleepy baby in my arms. Next January, Andrew will be a teenager.

In 1970, I held my first baby in my arms, marveling at the perfection and beauty of this long-awaited child. This month, Martin will be 40 years old.

My younger sister and I spent our growing-up years alternately playing together and fighting with each other. We shared a room and taped a line down the middle over which we dared one another to step. She took all of my dolls under the dining table and pulled off their arms and legs. I either ignored her or treated her with disdain through most of my teenaged years. In a few months, my baby sister will be 60.

On Monday, Jim & I stood gape-mouthed, staring up at one of the three tall old fir trees that stand next to our deck. We were sick with the realization that the abundance of fir needles in our yard this Spring is due to the death of this beautiful old tree. A phone call will have to be made, the tree will have to be felled. We will benefit from it one more year as we burn the wood during the winter. And we'll still have the other two to enjoy for a few more years.

Change. Transition. Uncertainty. Of such is life made. But no matter how hard I try to remember this, no matter how many times I promise myself that I will appreciate each minute, each day, each event, as unique and transient, I continue to fail. I take things for granted, whether they be trees, seasons, relationships.

Perhaps that is the nature of humankind.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blueberries are the best!

Originally uploaded by cher_ware
What else is there to say?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring, maybe

Here we are again, sort of... almost... maybe... it's going to be Spring!

I think...

Mr. & Mrs. Duck have returned for their fourth year of enjoying the fine cuisine served in our back yard: cracked corn spiced up with a stray insect or two. They've become quite fearless, and will even venture up onto the deck if we aren't outside. They've taken to flying in at least twice a day in the afternoon - and once they arrived in the morning.

I guess even ducks know an easy mark when they find it!

Our Neighbor From Hell has erected an all-but-invisible fence to a height of 12', and into which Mr. Duck accidentally flew on Saturday. He toppled pinfeathers over bill into another neighbors' yard, but was able to fly away. We spent the next day worrying about him since Mrs. showed up by herself, but by the afternoon he, too, was at the trough. We have noticed, though, that they now give the neighbors' yard a wide berth when they leave!

Addison spent Friday and Friday night with us, and Ada came over for the day on Saturday. Jim and I had carefully strategized for the weekend, given that clear skies and sunshine were forecast. We figured that the two kiddos, being much closer to the ground than Gran and Grandpa, could be bribed hired to pick up the copious quantities of fir cones that bury themselves in the ground around here during the winter.

At 5¢ per cone, we figured the incentive to work hard would be darned near irresistible. And we were right; the little rascals lightened Grandpa's wallet to the tune of $12.00 EACH! We've since had people from all over the U.S. offer to come out and pick up fir cones!

But it was all worth it; we had some fun with the grandkids, moms and dads got a break, and the kids got some sunshine, exercise, and spending money! (I'm thinking we should make it an annual event; Grandpa is thinking it could get really expensive!)

Sunday was another lovely day and Jim & I both worked hard getting things ready for our garden wedding in July. We've reset the steps through the arbor, planted dahlias and ranunculus, and finished setting a redbrick mow strip around the deck.

Our rhodies are beginning to bloom, as are the azaleas, and spring is definitely arriving in our garden.

I'm certain spring-like temperatures can't be too far away!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Give peace a chance

For the past several weeks, Jim and I have been watching HBO's series The Pacific, based on events in the Pacific Theater during WWII. I'm not really a fan of war movies (although Saving Private Ryan is one of my all-time favorites!), and I hadn't intended to watch this series. My plan was to read while Jim watched, but the story and the acting are both so good that I was pulled into it, almost against my will.

There's plenty of gore - after all, it was a war - but not gratuitous shots of viscera and body parts (although they both are shown as incidental to what's going on). Mostly there are young men who are uncertain, frightened, and - by turns - both brave and not-so-brave. I keep reminding myself that these characters are representing US Marines who are now in their 80s and 90s; the age my father would be if he were still alive. And, indeed, he did serve with the Navy Seabees in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

Lately, too, I've been thinking about my generation's war - Vietnam - and the young men who saw battle in other jungles and in other times. I remember how painfully young so many of those sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines were, although all of us certainly thought of ourselves as quite grown up at the time. I remember two years ago at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in our nation's capital. As Jim and I began our walk along the path adjacent to The Wall, unexpected and uncontrolled tears began streaming down my face. I don't recall that I was sobbing, but my eyes seemed to just be leaking copious tears. Jim asked, "Did you know anyone here?" and I replied, "I knew all of them." They were my classmates, my friends, young men I had dated, the fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers of my friends. Someday, there will be an HBO series about Vietnam, I'm certain.

Someday, too, there will be series covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More young lives forever changed by the horror that is war. More minds damaged beyond repair - both physiologically and emotionally - coming home to a world that cannot comprehend how truly awful war is.

Following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, I made it my daily practice to read the brief biographies of each of those who died as they were printed in my local newspaper. It was an act of respect for those lives lost, those who, in a sense, were stand-ins for me and my loved ones - for all of us in this country. And so, although it's somewhat outside my comfort level and I have to take frequent breaks because of the intensity, I watch The Pacific. I feel that, in some small way, I am honoring those who served in time of war, who fought for our freedoms, who came home changed - or who never came home. By extension, I am also honoring those who serve today - young women and men who probably never thought they'd really be on foreign soil facing deadly attacks by people who hated their way of life. The older I get, the younger they seem, until even those who are approaching great old age seem like children to me. Lives interrupted in the midst of becoming.

My only thought, my only prayer: No more, dear God. Please! No more!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Getting away from it all!

Last weekend, Jim and I took a long-awaited trip in our 5th wheel just to get away from it all. Between holidays, family, and some legal issues, we hadn't made an out-of-town trip since last summer.

We left on Thursday night for the Oregon Coast - our refuge of choice is just north of Tillamook at the Barview Jetty County Park - and arrived, along with the wind and rain, late in the evening. We didn't take time to set up since it was cold and wet, but had a bite to eat and fell into bed, rocked (quite literally at times) by the lullaby of the wind and rain.

Next morning, we got fully set up and drove over to the jetty to watch the waves crashing as they entered Tillamook Bay from the Pacific Ocean. There is nothing peaceful about this great body of water, but I do love the powerful forces of water and wind as the waves break across the jetty and on the shoreline. It's a far cry from the truly peaceful Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico that were the experiences of my youth.

I could watch these forces of nature for hours, and some people do - we always find cars parked facing the ocean when we make our trek to the jetty, and many of them are still there when we leave.

We made the obligatory trip to the Blue Heron Cheese Company where we purchased delicious Brie and bleu cheeses, and then drove up the coast to Rockaway and Flamingo Jim's for a little early Christmas shopping!

On Saturday, we drove South to Munson Creek Falls, where a short hike provided us with some of the incredible scenery - including some old growth forest - for which the Northwest is known. 

I do love this gorgeous state and feel so fortunate to live here!

We managed to visit a few local restaurants and enjoy the fresh halibut, clams, and other local delicacies (Oregon has some delicious wines!), but mostly we just relaxed and were thankful for some time away from the cares of the world!

But it's always good to come home.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Last week was Spring Break here in Oregon. Addison and Drew's mommy took a couple of days off and we planned for a week that was a bit different - one that involved Drew's first overnight with Gran and Grandpa!

Briana - my d-i-l - thought it would be nice for her to have a special day to devote to Addison - the first day just for him since Drew was born last June - and I thought it would also be nice to have a chance for Drew to spend the night. Funny how it all works out sometimes!

Jim and I were very excited to have a baby in the house again. It's been so long since Addison and Ada were all cuddly and needed holding, and we both have missed that. So, I dusted off the Pak-n-Play, picked Drew up, and off we went!

She's a very good baby, and enjoyed having new sights to see and new things to explore. She had a bit of a cold and woke up a couple of times during the night, but always went right back to sleep. Needless to say, Grandpa and I thoroughly enjoyed having her over, and hope we can do it again soon!

Oh, and Addison had a glorious time at Oaks Park with mommy and daddy!

We then had the joy of having Ada with us on Friday and after dinner we all went to the hospital to welcome our latest addition to the grandchild team, Felix William!

Isn't he cute?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A mothering moment

This morning, as is usual on Wednesdays, I arrived at Ben & Briana's house to spend the day being Granny Nanny to Drew. She and I have developed a routine to our days that satisfies both of us - most of the time! At almost eight months, she's very interactive and loves to laugh and play. She has a prodigious appetite, and makes noises the whole time she's eating. And when she smiles - well, as I described it to her mommy and daddy - it's as if her whole face breaks out in a grin! I love being with her and watching her grow, in the same way I've loved the time I've been with her big brother. I hope that Drew and I will share a closeness similar to what I have with Addison.

Watching these two grow frequently puts me in a nostalgic mood, and I sometimes recall the growing-up years of my own boys. Oh, there were lots of frustrations - anyone who's raised kids knows exactly what I'm talking about - but the frustrations were outweighed by the joys, and I'm always amazed at how quickly the years passed.

Ben, who is my youngest, fell victim to the lousy economy last Fall when he lost his job. He's a graphic designer, and incredibly talented. But we live in an area that is replete with talented men and women who are looking for work, so that makes it both more difficult and more likely that he will find a good job. In the meantime, he's had quite a few freelance jobs come his way, and coupled with Briana's resourcefulness, they're managing just fine.

This morning, though, well it was pretty special for me. Ben had an interview schedule for an actual employment position - hopefully with benefits - and he didn't have to leave as early as usual. When he was ready to go out the door, he kissed me goodbye and I wished him good luck. I looked at this wonderful young man - almost 30 years old now! - and my heart swelled with such pride it almost burst. He stood so tall and handsome in his suit - not the usual jeans and sports shirts graphic design-types usually wear, but a real suit with dress shirt and tie! As I watched him leave, I thought about how lucky I am to have had that moment with him.

Oh, I wish he hadn't lost his old job, of course. It was a good one and they tried very hard to keep him on, despite the economy. But I sometimes take his role as husband and father for granted, and - truthfully, now - I sometimes still think of the little boy who looked to his mom for comfort and reassurance, and I miss those days. Now he finds - as he should, and as I want him to - his main support and encouragement from his wife, and she's his rock. But this morning, just for that fleeting moment, when he said, "Wish me luck, Mom," I was very thankful to be there, to say all the things that you say to your kids when they're venturing out into a world that isn't always kind and welcoming. "Good luck, son," I said. "Try not to be nervous, and just be yourself. Who you are is the best advertisement for your work."

And it's true, whether he gets this job or another one. He is a genuine person, and I'm very proud of that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Does this mean I'm OLD??!

I wasn't going to do this. I. Was. Not. Going. To. Do. This. Period. I just wasn't. Not ever. Oh, c'mon, you know what I'm talking about: discussing my aches and pains. It's just too darned old-personey. But since I know you're wondering where I've been, I guess I'll just have to give in and tell you.

The day after I returned from a weekend with my sister, I started having pain in my left leg. First of all, you should probably know that, in our family, the left leg is always referred to as "the polio leg." A legacy from my mother's bout with polio in 1950. Her left leg bore the brunt of the disease and the ongoing affliction. So my mom had a "good" leg and a polio leg. After many years of hearing it referred to that way, it just sort of rubbed off. Yes, you're right: we are odd.

Anyway, this pain in my polio leg was harshly reminiscent of the sciatica that I had suffered in my right leg (also know as my "good leg") until I had back surgery in 1998. The main difference this time was that the sciatica wasn't accompanied by back pain, and - after 24 hours of nonstop pain - I was starting to consider amputation as a viable treatment. See, the pain of sciatica is similar to what it feels like when you hit your funny bone; you know there's nothing funny about it. It's kind of electric and painful, all at once. But the sciatic pain doesn't stop - or at least not long enough to notice. And this time - another difference - the pain was starting mid-hip, radiating all the way down my leg, and going out - I'm not making this up - at my ankle. It really, truly, felt as if I could still feel it about three inches into the air around my ankle.

It hurt. A lot.

So, being quite adept at self-diagnosis and self-medicating, I decided that it was probably inflamed and I needed an anti-inflammatory. The best (non-prescription) anti-inflammatory I could come up with was aspirin. To my generation, aspirin still qualifies as a miracle drug. This, despite the bad rep it's acquired over the years. Those childhood lessons die hard! Yes, I know the dangers of giving it to children, and I am militant about that. But I personally have never had a bad experience with aspirin.

Since I fill the role of Granny Nanny to my 7 month old granddaughter three days each week, and add her 4 year old brother to the mix on Thursdays, I knew I needed to be able to function. I also knew I probably ought to go to the doctor, but could probably put that off till Friday. By Wednesday, the only way to keep the pain abated was with three (yes, you read that correctly) aspirin, every three (that, too) hours. Around the clock. I know it was around the clock, because when it wore off at night, the pain woke me up. So I just took three before I went to sleep, put three more on my nightstand for when I woke in the night, and then took three more upon awakening. Around the clock, like I said. Wednesday and Thursday. It was the only way I could keep from crying with pain.

Thursday I noticed that I wasn't hearing very well. When people spoke, the letter "s" didn't sound sibilant; it was as if it was being swallowed. And the blinker signals in my car were muted. But Jim had a cold that had gone into his ears, so I thought maybe I was catching it, too. All I really cared about was the pain, and I continued treating it.

Friday morning, I called my doctor's office. I must have sounded pretty bad, because they got me in right away. Normally it takes a day or two, but the scheduling nurse sounded really sympathetic. When I arrived, the nurse practitioner (superior to a doctor in many ways, in my estimation!) listened to my tale of woe and pain, asked all the pertinent questions, and began to prescribe. She asked me what I'd been taking, and I told her. I learned a long time ago not to lie to my medical professionals! Almost offhandedly, I asked her to please check my ears, since my hearing wasn't so good. She looked at me and said, "NO MORE ASPIRIN!" My ears were clear, but my hearing was shot. There really are warning signs on the aspirin bottle about that. But I'd ignored them.

So she fixed me up with Flexeril, Vicodin, and prescription-strength Aleve, told me to go home, take the drugs, and go to bed. And she handed me a sheet of exercises to help with the sciatica. I spent the next four days in a drug-induced stupor, mostly in bed, waking only long enough for bathroom, food, more drugs, and back up the stairs to bed. By late Sunday, my hearing was almost normal and the pain was mostly gone.

I stayed on a modified regimen of the drugs all of last week - taking only enough to take the edge off so I could take care of the grandkids - and did my exercises. Over this past weekend, the pain was relieved enough that I was able to prune my roses and even do a little shopping. Today I feel great!

I'm still taking the Aleve, since it's only twice a day and I have to take it with meals. I think today will be my last day with it, though. Oh, and I got rid of all the aspirin.

There, I've done it. I've gone public with old-age behavior. I hope you still respect me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The gift that keeps on giving

Each year, my sister and I try to get away for a weekend at the Oregon Coast. It's just sister time - no boys allowed - and we always have fun. We do have the occasional opportunity to rub each other the wrong way, but it's always fleeting and a whole lot less damaging than some of what we inflicted on each other as children!

This year, we chose to go on the weekend that encompassed the 90th anniversary of our mother's birth. In one of my more blonde moments, I commented to Peggy, "Ninety years! I'll bet she never thought she'd live to see this day!" And, of course, she didn't, having died 18 years ago. But it's a tribute to her that not only could the thought pass through my brain and out my mouth, but that my sister and I had a good chuckle over it. Mom was never one to mince words. You didn't "pass" or "pass away," you didn't go to "eternal rest," either. You died. And we knew what she wanted to be buried in ever since we were quite young. As it turned out, she was cremated and didn't get the ecru nightgown, but that was her choice. Ecru was so 1960s by then.

We played on our computers, watched Harry Potter movies, ate junk food, drank a little wine, a little Bailey's, a little Kahlua in our coffee. We had hot chocolate, popcorn, and I took along homemade clam chowder and some delicious biscuits my son had made. We watched the waves break, and the people and dogs on the shore. We went in the pool and the hot tub, and just generally had a high old time.

Then, Saturday night late, we each got a message on Facebook that our half-brother - from our dad's other family - had posted some photos and had tagged us. So, of course, we had to look!

All of a sudden, a little cloud crept into our cozy getaway. There, on Facebook, were two photos of our very own mother that we had never before seen. Our half-brother had scanned and posted them as "Old Florida pictures," and they were from our dad's photographs that Rodney has been kind enough to go through since dad died last October.
Also among the many that he posted were pictures of Peggy, our older brother, and me. Pictures that dad had kept for all these years - the most recent were taken in 1972, 38 years ago.

After my first reaction of stunned silence, and a momentary flash of anger that this should intrude on what was otherwise a perfect weekend, I shed a few tears and went out onto the balcony to let it all sink in. This man, this biological contributor, had cared enough at some point to keep these photographs of his children. The same children he abandoned and left to be raised by a crippled woman who was old before her time because of the long, hard hours she worked at physically demanding jobs. This man who had allowed our home to be foreclosed on, who had moved from Florida to Alaska and thus out of the reach of any enforced child support, this very same man had kept these photographs of his children.

Peggy thinks the keeping was not deliberate, but simply the lack of any need to weed out those things that weren't important to him. Perhaps she's right; she often is about things like this. But for a fleeting moment, it passed through my mind that maybe he had loved us after all. That maybe - despite vast amounts of evidence to the contrary - he felt proud of us and kept those pictures as a reminder of us.

Had he not avoided us on occasions when we could have seen him, and had he not shown his disregard for us in so many other ways, maybe I could eventually convince myself that he cared. Once again, I have proved to myself that being old doesn't necessarily equate to being wise!

Anyway, Happy 90th Birthday, Mom. We (mostly) enjoyed the party.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where did I come from?

One of the blogs I read regularly is authored by my online friend (and follower of my blog) JD. Although we've never met, JD is from my home state of Florida and he writes fairly regularly about places I'm somewhat familiar with. He also writes from time to time about his genealogy research.

Now, I am a woman of many interests, and genealogy is one that has occupied me for many years. I love the connection I feel with my forebears, and when I'm lucky enough to find an old photograph, I might inspect it for a while to see if there is a family resemblance that has survived the generations. I have a membership at Ancestry.com, which isn't cheap, but it does allow me to "connect" with others who are researching common ancestors. There's a certain thrill when I find a distant ancestor's information in a census or in an old story, as well as the occasional famous person. (I recently discovered that I'm a descendant of Simon Bradstreet and Anne Dudley; quite exciting!)

One of the dangers, however, is that it's easy to be led astray by connecting with folks who aren't as diligent (read "compulsive") as I about keeping the family lines straight! That's where the family connection comes in.

I've recently been contacted by a fellow genealogist whose own family tree intersects with mine in an oblique manner: My great-aunt was married to a man named Jasper Black; my online friend's grandmother was half-sister to Jasper. So we share no blood, but do have an interest in where our family lines brush up against each other. In her research - which is more linear regarding the Blacks than is mine - she discovered that I had connected with incorrect ancestors. Now this may not seem like a big deal to those of you who live in the here and now, but what it means to me is that I now have a better chance of finding other connections for those family members who have remained elusive.

Via email, this friend and I exchanged phone numbers and she surprised me with a phone call a couple of days ago. It was pleasant to discuss Great-aunt Vesta with someone who shares an interest in the family, and since she still lives in Florida, it was nice to hear again the slight southern accent that she still carries. (My accent has all but disappeared until a few glasses of wine or an encounter with someone from the South revives it!)

By indulging in this kind of research, I know of the long family tradition of interest in things political, in our family's service at sea over the generations, and have a glimmer of where the family interest in writing has coursed its way across the centuries. I already knew that my grandfather was something of a genealogist (although he apparently had no qualms about revising the unpleasant!), and I know that it continues in my middle son as well as a few of my cousins.

My own personal religious beliefs lead me to embrace the idea of an afterlife, but regardless of what might eventually prove to be true, the Johns and Vestas and Fenns and Annes and Simons live on in my research and my desire to know who they were and where I came from. And, perhaps, so shall I in generations yet to be born!