Archive for February, 2009

Ode to Dad
February 27, 2009


(note, the final items on my “25” list have been put on the back burner this week)


And when did you last see your father?

-W.F. Yeames (1878)


Dad slipped away peacefully and headed home this past weekend. It was just as we’d hoped and prayed for; there was no pain, fear or struggle. Mom was by his side, which was immensely comforting to her, because she saw for herself that it was so.


It had been 8 days since he’d refused any more food or beverage. His body was telling him that it was time. I spent hours by his side and watched as they would offer him something by mouth, but he would not respond. He would alternately breathe deeply and then shallowly. The hospice team had predicted it would be 3 to 5 days, but I guess he showed them!


Interestingly enough, I awakened very early the day he passed. It wasn’t that I had a premonition as much as it was that I realized that I’d left my cell phone in the kitchen overnight after telling Mom to call me at any hour if something happened. It bothered me to think that she might have called in the night, so I just had to get up and check.


As it turned out, she had not, but even though it was before 6 a.m. for some reason I decided to just stay up and go through my usual morning routine. I took care of the dogs, walked them and even took a bike ride before showering a little before 8 a.m. Right as I was finishing my “ablutions”, the phone rang. It was Mary who alerted me to the fact that she’d just called Mom who reported that she “thought” Dad had just passed. Mary told her to call a nurse in and then called me. The very instant I hung up from talking to Mary, the phone rang, and it was Mom telling me the same thing.


I said I’d be right there, and because I’d gotten up so early, I was ready to roll, all clean and fluffed. Mom demurred, saying there was no reason for me to come, but of course I needed to be there, so I insisted! I arrived about 20 minutes after Dad had passed and was comforted to see how serene he looked. He already was “pale and wan” (an old phrase from my poetry studies), and as time elapsed, he proceeded to become more so. But his face was absolutely mesmerizing to me.


Dad had always been fit; he’d watched his weight and exercised all his life. As he declined into Alzheimers and became wheelchair bound, he actually put on some weight, which would have appalled him. But that extra weight cushion is what allowed him to last as long as he did. At the end, his facial bone structure was angular, but I wouldn’t describe it as gaunt. Because he’d never had any cavities, he still had all his teeth, and that helped to keep from looking sunken in. I thought he was beautiful. Chiseled is a good word to describe it.


While we waited for the folks from the Neptune Society to come remove Dad’s body, Mom called various folks and received visitors. I decided to keep my hands busy and proceeded to pack up Dad’s personal effects and all the items we’d decorated his room with. I folded all his clothes, cleared out the medicine chest, removed all the photos from his bulletin board and stacked his hats.


Mary arrived at that point, so I took my leave to attend to the few things I needed to do that day. Later I worked on his obituary that I’d written months ago, and when Mom came over for supper that night, we finished it up and e-mailed the paper to start the process of getting it posted.


It was a day of mixed emotions. On the one hand, the finality of losing a parent is huge. They are our buffer against our own mortality! And of course, I mourn the loss of the person my dad used to be. But even in his final years, there remained an essence of that man; I would never know when I would stop by to visit if he’d be alert, smiling and responsive or totally unconscious. No matter what, I always came away hopeful that somehow he sensed that someone who loved him had stopped by.


One of my favorite memories was from seven months ago when I brought him a flag for July 4. He was awake and alert that day and brightened considerably as he said, “Oh boy!” I LOVED that.


I will miss him with all my heart. But having said that, we celebrate his release into glory; he would have hated his invalid status if he’d been more aware of it. I cherish the thought of his flying free, laughing and dancing, enjoying his homecoming with all the loved ones who have gone before and to meet Jesus face to face. I know he is in a far better place, and I am grateful to God for finally calling him home.


More Randomness
February 20, 2009

What’s done cannot be undone.

-Shakespeare (from Macbeth)


Continuing down the list of 25 random things about me, here are the next eight. Next week the final nine.


9. If I could take back a day in time, it would have to be August 25, 1961, the day I rode my bike with no hands and did a face plant in the street, badly cutting my chin and chipping my newly emerged big front teeth. As a result, over the course of my life, I’ve endured several root canals, a number of crowns and as recently as last summer, surgery. The repercussions of that day have followed me for 47 years and counting. My dental consolation prize is that I’ve never had a cavity in my life (neither has my dad!).


10. I am grateful to my parents for my good genes (good teeth, healthy as a horse), but more importantly, I am grateful for their raising me up in the church, specifically St. Luke’s, which I love whole heartedly. This gift to me is one I hope to pass down to my daughter, and from what I can see, my love of St. Luke’s seems to have taken root in her. Of course, I had a whole lot of help from many other people at SL as she grew in her faith, but the one who has had the most influence on her is Sid Davis, who was a mainstay through her teen years, and hugely appreciated by all of us whose children have experienced the Pure Sound phenomenon.


11. My most interesting adventure was riding a mule named Spud to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 1998, along with Shannon (age 12), Joel and 8 other folks from around the country. We spent the night down at the bottom of the canyon at Phantom Ranch, an old 1930’s camp. The Grand Canyon looks very different from the bottom looking up…  Eating family style in the bunkhouse with folks from all over the world was quite an interesting experience; we were ravenous, and the food was excellent! Everything that goes down (food supplies, linens, etc.) goes by mule, and vice versa, trash, etc. goes up by mule. I was surprised the next day after we rode back up to the top that I wasn’t saddle sore. Something about a mule’s gait makes a difference.


12. My most influential teacher was Margery Berndt at Lamar HS, who was my “Major Works” (i.e. advanced) English teacher for three years. She was a stickler for grammar, spelling and punctuation and introduced us to the classics, her favorites being the works of Shakespeare. She was not my favorite teacher at the time. Far from it; she was formidable! But I learned so much from her and appreciate the love of writing she gave to me. I regret never telling her so. I hope she would be proud of me.


13. I majored in Art History in college (Randolph-Macon Woman’s College) and thought I wanted to be an art critic, which was what I was trained to do and enjoyed. But I never pursued it and ended up being a medical administrator (that’s what a liberal arts degree will do for you!). I don’t feel like I wasted my degree, because I have used it all my life with my love of the visual arts. I just don’t get paid to do so.


14. One of my pet peeves is people who drive below the posted speed limit. And those who enter the on-ramp of a freeway going about 45 mph.


15.  Growing up with five brothers and sisters, there was always a menagerie of pets. My first very own pet was a rabbit named “Wiggles” who was like a little dog that would follow me around the yard, come inside, etc. Wiggles lived in a chicken wire pen with a dirt floor out in a corner of the “dog yard”, our side yard that was enclosed by a chain link fence. While I could see that Wiggles dug holes, what we didn’t realize that she had an elaborate tunnel system under our neighbor’s flower bed, which one day simply collapsed into itself. Oops.


16. I put great stock in dreams. I dream vividly in color, using all my senses and can usually analyze why I dreamt what I did. The trick is to think about first thing upon awakening. My most famous anxiety dream had to do with a triceratops waiting for me at the bottom of a long stairwell. Ask me about it sometime.

A Random Look
February 13, 2009

Time for a little something.

-A.A. Milne (1926)

With the onslaught of blogs, facebook, twitter and such, it appears that the latest trend is to open one’s life for all the world to see.  A recent fad is to make a list of “25 Random Things About Me”, which prodded to do, I did (for no other reason than to have something to put in my blog during a slow news week!). It’s a rather long list, so I am breaking it up into blocks, so you’ll have something to look forward to! (or not, as the case may be) If you’ve already read this in my facebook notes, then see you in a few weeks.

1. I didn’t have a middle name growing up, unlike my 5 brothers and sisters. Nor was I given a family name like my 5 brothers and sisters were. My mother claims that they were expecting a boy and that since I arrived a month early (checking in at 9.5 pounds), they were totally unprepared. She says the nuns (at St. Joseph Hospital) pestered her to come up with a name, and so she did. Sounds fishy to me. Note: you may scoff at the notion that I was premature, as much as I weighed, but my other siblings weighed 11.5, 11.0, 10.5, 8.5 and 12.5, so I believe it.

2. My favorite aroma is that of mimosa blossoms. It recalls happy days climbing in the tree outside our house where I spent my childhood years. Too bad they’re such messy trees, otherwise I’d plant some in my garden.

3. I never had a car until I got married, and so I didn’t know much about how to take care of one at first. Joel sent me to get some oil for “George” (the Grenada), and I told him to write it down, which he did. I went to the gas station and asked the man for some “Low 40” oil He said, “What?” I repeated myself and showed him the note, which of course, said “10w 40” oil.

4. We always thought we’d have 3 kids, but things didn’t turn out that way. After 4 miscarriages, the doctors figured out what was wrong and fixed it, which enabled me to happily carry Shannon to term. After that, we lost 3 others, the saddest of which was a son who almost made it. I often wonder what my life would be like now if Joseph had lived. He’d be 20 years old. I wonder what a different place the world would be with his presence.

5. As a follow-up to the above item, I am at peace with having had just one child. Shannon has been such a delight to us, a sunny, sweet, smart and thoughtful daughter. We were blessed beyond measure when God sent her to us. If we’d had more children, I might not enjoy the close relationship that I have with her now. My only regret is that she doesn’t have sisters, like mine, who mean so much to me. Happily, she has some precious cousins who fill the void!

6. I find this new fangled frugality that has swept the country amusing, because I guess that means I’m back in style! When I read that people are again buying Levi’s instead of fancy pants label jeans, I actually laughed out loud. I don’t think I’ve ever worn any other brand of jeans… I used to buy them at the old Warp and Woof Clothiers in the Rice Village. Now Academy is my favorite place to get them.

7. The first time I laid eyes on my husband, we were in Sunday School at St. Luke’s and all of thirteen years old, that lovely, awkward scrawny age of braces and weird hair. Then in the 10th grade at Lamar, he sat in front of me in math, but I was too busy flirting with Bill Doubleday to notice. Only when I volunteered to help at a debate tournament our senior year and watched him slice and dice his opponent, all the while looking very cute in his handsome gray suit, did I think, BINGO! Cute, smart and funny. And we lived happily ever after.

8. I am a creature of habit. I eat the same thing for breakfast (cheerios) and lunch (tuna on crackers with raisins) every day and still enjoy it. I read recently that this is a weight loss tip. Who knew!? I am so trendy! Boring, too.

So there you have my first eight random things. It was actually kind of fun to do this, although I wasted a big chunk of time doing so. Next week, numbers 9 – 16.

February 6, 2009

You cannot fight against the future. Time is on our side.

-W.E. Gladstone (1866)


OK. I finally did it. I joined Facebook after being nagged by so many friends to join that I caved in. Can’t beat ’em, so might as well join ’em. It has become increasingly clear to me that I was being left behind in the electronic communications department, particularly at a recent retreat (at St. Luke’s) where talk was of how to use Facebook as a publicity tool. The group discussed making a Facebook network to communicate with each other, and I realized that I was going to have to enter the 21st century (e-mail is just so 20th century!).


But still I dragged my feet. It was only this week that I received (via e-mail) so many invitations to be a “friend” that I just decided it was time. So I logged on to see how to do it. And then I proceeded to spend WAY too much time fiddling with it. I added a headshot, then stuck some photos in an online “album”. Some of my new friends sent me greetings, so I responded. I clicked around to explore my new site and then kept checking on it to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.


Shannon said I wouldn’t like it because it takes a lot of time (i.e. wastes time), and I can see her point. I think I’ll  just check it maybe once a day? Famous last words, I dare say!




I remember when I was reluctant to have e-mail, but when those in my volunteer community (both school and church) began communicating in this fashion, I knew I had to get with the program. And now when the tone indicates I have a new e-mail, I must go see! A Pavlov’s dog I am. (and so is Shadow, the perfect dog, who used to get up when he heard the tone, because he knew I would get up from the sofa and go to the desk. But sadly, now he can’t hear it anymore)


E-mail has become somewhat addicting to me, although I’m not nearly so rabid about it, now that I’m “retired”. Still, when my internet connection is down, I get really grumpy!


So I figure that once I get the hang of this new “toy”, I’ll eventually have it up and running all the while I’m working at my desk. When that notice of a new posting appears in my e-mail box, maybe I’ll take a look at my Facebook page. Maybe, maybe not. We shall see!


It’s been fun to hear from all sorts of people who want to link to my page. I’ve been heartened by requests from many of the youth choir alumni I’ve loved through the years who have now chosen to be my “friend”. I swore to myself when I made this giant leap that I’d not intrude into their spaces, and I mean to honor that pledge. However when they choose to include me, I love it!


I predict that the younger generation will soon come up with a new way to communicate amongst themselves that us old folks won’t have access to, at least for awhile. Facebook will become passé, and I’ll have to learn another new trick. Nobody wants to be a Memaw!


Say, do you want to be my Facebook friend? You know what to do!


(just curious… what ads do YOU see when you log on to Facebook? All the ones on my page have to do with Botox and wrinkle cream miracles. ha! or rather LOL!)